‘Do you know him?’
I glance to where Ethan is looking. At the top of the stairs that lead to the gardens, a squat man is watching us. Just as I look up, he clicks a picture and then walks away.
‘No,’ I answer. ‘I’ve never seen him before.’ Or maybe I have and I just don’t remember him?
‘Probably a tourist,’ Ethan says. ‘Usually they just visit the mission—not way down here. Or maybe Father Rico sent someone to check up on us.’
‘Maybe,’ I say.
Sliding into Ethan’s truck, I remember.
It’s the gray leather.
I had a car.
But no license. I di
dn’t have a license.
Mother and Father wouldn’t let me get one.
Why would they give me a car
but not let me drive it?
I remember racing down the road in my car.
And Kara and Locke were with me.
A Hundred Points
I slide across the seat of Ethan’s truck to make room for Allys. We are picking her up from her community project before we head back to the village charter. We’re outside the offices and labs adjacent to the Del Oro University Medical Center. Besides coming here for therapy, she also volunteers for the Del Oro Ethics Task Force. She gathers materials for review and helps process the numerous checks and balances that monitor their research activities.
‘Grunt work,’ Ethan called it when he described it to me. How could it be any more grunt work than spooning dirt? And I remember the way Allys spoke of it a few days ago. It’s important to her. She is passionate, and I think she would do it even if Rae did not require a community volunteer project. She has accepted the loss of her limbs but blames an out-of-control medical system for the outcome. She thinks if someone had regulated antibiotics long ago, when they first knew about the dangers of overuse, she and millions like her would have had a different fate, and now she seems determined that no new medical injustices will be unleashed on the world.
When he talks about Allys, Ethan’s voice takes on an edge I hadn’t heard before. Like he feels her injustices, too. Does he care about her? How much does he care? Or does he have injustices of his own? I know nothing about him, really. Why is he at the village charter? Ethan said they all had their reasons for being there. Allys talked about her physical limitations. Gabriel said he had an anxiety disorder and the small environment was more comfortable for him, but Ethan never revealed his reasons.
‘Can you take these?’ Allys hands me the braces that still steady her, and she slides in next to me. ‘Two more weeks, and these will be gone. At least that’s what they tell me.’ Her eyes sparkle, and her words come out in a continuous excited stream. ‘They uploaded some new technology that will help the prosthetics anticipate my own balance system. It will supposedly read nerve signals from my brain and learn from them. They said to walk as much as possible to speed up the learning process. Imagine that—I’ve got smart legs.’ She shoots a warning look at Ethan. ‘Don’t say a word.’
‘Me?’ Ethan says sweetly.
‘I thought you were here for your volunteer project,’ I say.
‘That, too. But the therapy and the ethics offices are in the same complex, so I get it all done at the same time. How’d your project go?’
‘She’s a horse,’ Ethan says, repeating his assessment of me.
‘I liked it,’ I tell her. ‘It is not exactly a mental challenge—well, except maybe for Ethan—but Father Rico was very grateful.’
Ethan jogs the steering wheel to register my point, and Allys laughs. ‘The mission’s a good cause. They don’t have funds, so without volunteers they’d never be able to keep it up. It has a lot of history that’s important. It was my second choice right after the ethics office.’