Ignition Point

Ignition Point by Kate Corcino

Book: Ignition Point by Kate Corcino Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kate Corcino
stars?”
    He nodded. “Some don’t like them. They remind us of how small we are. And alone.”
    Lena chuckled. “I’ve had a long time to get used to the idea of being small,” she said, referring to her child-like height, “and I prefer being alone.”
    “Why are you alone?” He stared, waiting.
    Lena used her index finger to trace star swirls into the sand beside her. “I was always alone,” she finally answered, “even when I was surrounded by family. They knew I was different from the beginning, I guess. In the relo-cities, different is dangerous. When they sent me for my testing year—” She glanced up to be sure he understood. “They send us to be tested when we’re five years old, to see if we’re Sparks?”
    He nodded in understanding.
    “When they sent me,” she continued, “I was supposed to pretend to be weak.” She looked down at the shapes she’d drawn into the earth. She drew the side of her palm across them, wiping them away. “But I couldn’t. I forgot. So my father made me hide, instead. I lived like that, hidden in the house, until he died. After that—” Lena shrugged. “I left. And there is nothing that could ever make me go back. No one will ever tell me who to be or how to live ever again.” Her voice had risen, but the wind snatched the remembered fury and helplessness, carrying them away. She could feel Ghost’s eyes on her. Sheepish, she shrugged. “I got tired of hiding.”
    “I can imagine.” He shook his head. “But it’s good that your family was able to resist the blood price. I didn’t think your kind—city dwellers—had that kind of loyalty. So that’s something to be grateful for, at least.”
    “Blood price?”
    “The blood price the Council offers for girls like you?”
    Lena swallowed. The wind chilled her cheeks. “What are you talking about?”
    “The Council sends people out to the tribes every year. They offer a blood price for any girls like you. They ask about our little ones. Have they learned to Spark? Can they do things they shouldn’t? They remind us that they will pay to raise them.”
    “Pay to raise them? The girls? Just girls?” In the cities, it was the strongest of the boy Sparks who were taken from their families and sent away to the Ward School to be raised up into the Council’s elite agents. There weren’t any strong girl Sparks. None except for Lena. That was why her father had hidden her. He’d told her the Council would take her. But if she was the only one, why were they searching the Neo-barb tribes for more? Were they searching the cities, too?
    Lena was too thunderstruck to sort through all of the questions his revelation raised in her head. It wasn’t the wind cooling her cheeks, though, it was the blood sinking down to her heavy stomach. She grabbed at the easiest question her brain produced. “But—the Council pays citizens in C-Notes. Everything comes back to how much they value electric charge. I didn’t think your people had any interest—”
    “Not charge, no. They pay in food. They offer medicine. They tempt us with what we need most, and wait for us to hand over our own.”
    “Wait! Are you saying there are girls in your tribes who can do what I do?”
    Ghost shook his head. “I’ve never seen anyone who can do what you do. I’ve heard stories.” He shrugged with one shoulder. “Probably the same stories that bring the Council to our villages.”
    Lena settled back, her mind racing. She could feel Ghost’s eyes on her, but he didn’t speak again for a while, allowing her time to think. Were there other girls like her? Had her father known of these searches? Of course he had, he had been an assistant to Councilor Three before he was killed. Was this the reason he’d hid her?
    They’ll take you and send you away to the Ward School, Lena. He’d told her. But not for learning. For disappearing. He’d known something. What were they doing?
    “I should go back,” she whispered. “I should try

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