Resist

RESIST is the sequel to the brilliant and compelling BREATHE. Sarah Crossan is the Carnegie short-listed author of THE WEIGHT OF WATER.
In a world in which the human race is adapting to survive with little air, the stakes are high. Resistance to the Pod Leadership has come apart. The Grove has been destroyed but so has the Pod Minister. Quinn, Bea and Alina separately must embark on a perilous journey across the planet’s dead landscape in search of the rumoured resistance base Sequoia.

2Likes
0Comments
1008Views
AA

3. RONAN

I’ve been a prisoner in my own home for two days, and I don’t know how much more of it I can take. When we got back from the battle at The Grove, Jude Caffrey bundled me into a buggy with armed stewards and sent me home instead of letting me help contain the riots. He said it was for my own protection, but never bothered to say what I need to be protected from and, anyway, I hardly think the stewards commissioned to protect me could fend off an attacker better than I could.

The only reason I haven’t given them the slip is because I don’t want to leave my sister alone. Niamh was hysterical when I got home. She’d been in her bedroom with Todd something-or-other when the stewards barged in. They frogmarched them to the basement where they kept them until I got back. And when I did, she asked me about a thousand questions – where had I been? What was happening? When could we leave? But I couldn’t answer her. The mission to The Grove was classified. And even if I could have answered I didn’t want to talk about it. I went straight to my room and ripped off my uniform and dirty boots, throwing them against the wall. We’d been told we’d be fighting terrorists. Well, that was the biggest crock of crap I’ve ever heard in my life.

Neither my nor Niamh’s pads have worked since then, either. The screen’s nothing but static. Every so often raking shots are fired outside or a voice booms through a megaphone. And, strangely, no one seems to know where my father is. I’m not his biggest fan, but I am beginning to feel uneasy.

‘You married?’ Niamh asks the steward on duty guarding us from the perils of our own kitchen. She twists a piece of hair round her finger until the tip is bluish. Todd is elsewhere.

‘Give it a rest, Niamh,’ I say. The guy must be forty and Niamh’s only flirting because she’s bored.

‘Just making chit-chat, Ronan. You might want to try it some time,’ she says, lifting herself up on to a bar stool and leaning forward against the stone island, her head resting on her hands.

I go to the window. The stewards surrounding the house look like a human fence, and beyond them the road is deserted. ‘How much longer is this going to last?’ I ask.

‘Please step away from the window,’ the steward warns. He’s shorter than me and thin as a whip. But I do as he says and take a jug of juice and a handful of strawberries from the fridge.

‘Want something?’ I ask. Normally our housekeeper, Wendy, would see to guests; but she’s been banished to her annex, and Niamh and I have been feeding ourselves for the first time in our lives.

‘No,’ the steward says curtly, then tilts his head in the direction of the hall. ‘Wait here,’ he whispers for what must be the twentieth time today. He slides along the kitchen wall until he’s out of sight. I pour a glass of juice.

‘Those dirty subs do nothing but cause trouble. I hope Daddy’s dealing with them,’ Niamh says. She pauses. ‘Do you think Daddy’s all right?’ She has an arm outstretched, admiring her polished nails. She’s pretending she isn’t worried too.

‘He can take care of himself.’ I don’t know anyone who’d dare cross my father – I certainly wouldn’t. But it is strange that he hasn’t called when we’re on lockdown.

Niamh takes her pad from a drawer in the kitchen island. ‘Why won’t this thing work?’ She bangs it on the stone top. ‘Hell!’

The steward reappears at the kitchen door followed by Jude Caffrey who pulls off his face mask, unbuckles the tank from his belt, and dumps everything on to the floor. The steward spins round and stands with his back to us. ‘Ronan. Niamh,’ Jude says. He’s wearing the same soiled clothes I last saw him in, and his knuckles are grazed. He hasn’t shaved in a long time.

‘Why are you here?’ Niamh asks rudely.

‘Take a seat,’ I say, and tap a stool.

When he comes into the kitchen, I see Todd is standing behind him. Todd rests against the arched doorframe with his T-shirt in his hand. His chest is bare and his hair is standing up like he’s been wrestling.

‘Is it over?’ he asks.

‘The pod’s been pumped with halothane gas,’ Jude says, sitting on the stool. He addresses me as though Todd hasn’t even come into the room. Todd squints and steps further into the kitchen. He’s waiting to be acknowledged. Or at the very least noticed.

‘And what does that mean?’ I ask.

‘If you go outside without a tank, you’ll black out,’ Jude says matter-of-factly. But I’m not stupid; he knows that isn’t the question I’m asking.

My mouth goes dry. ‘Jude, is this a coup?’ I ask. ‘Where’s the old man?’

‘You haven’t seen any coverage of the press conference on the screen?’ he asks, his tone reproachful.

‘The screens have been tampered with,’ Niamh snaps. No one but Cain Knavery’s daughter could get away with speaking like this to the general of the pod’s army.

He arches an eyebrow. ‘You, leave us,’ he tells Todd, who’s finally found his way into his T-shirt.

‘So, I’ll get an air tank from the basement, yeah?’ Todd says. Everyone, including Niamh, ignores him.

Jude closes his eyes and massages the lids. ‘Go help your boyfriend, Niamh,’ he says.

Excuse me?’ Her jaw drops and she takes several moments to be deeply offended. ‘You’re in my house.’

‘Please, Niamh. Let me speak to Jude.’ I dip my head to one side, and she stomps out of the room after Todd.

Jude stands up, slides his hands into his pockets and rocks back and forth, side to side, in his dirty boots. The creamy marble floor is covered in muck he’s carried through the house. ‘It’s important you’re safe. We’ll keep snipers on the roof for another couple of days, and I strongly advise you to stay indoors,’ he says. Jude is broad and tall, but he looks unusually tired and defeated.

‘Do you think I need a babysitter?’ I ask.

‘I don’t doubt you’re able to take care of yourself. It’s a precaution, that’s all.’ I’ve been training under Jude Caffrey with the Special Forces since I was thirteen and he knows I could take down an assailant with two fingers. And I did – just days ago at The Grove.

Jude moves to the sink, turns on the tap and puts his neck under the running water. He shakes his head and stands up straight, the water running into his shirt collar. Then he pushes his thinning hair out of his face with wet hands and clasps them behind his back. He’s stalling, I realise, and my gut aches. What is he so reluctant to tell me?

‘The pod’s gone mad. You know the auxiliaries have rebelled,’ he says.

‘They have every reason to,’ I snap. I’ve never questioned what the Ministry stands for, but that was before seeing the trees at The Grove, before destroying them at Jude’s command.

He looks like he’s about to say something, then changes his mind. I take a short breath. ‘Where’s my father?’

He pinches the bridge of his nose, and I brace myself against the wall because it’s obvious why Jude’s so nervous. My ears ring. ‘Your father’s dead, Ronan,’ he says.

I wince at the words. My muscles tense. ‘What?’ I say. I’ve heard him; I need time to take it in, that’s all.

‘I’m sorry,’ he says.

‘Yes,’ I say. I stay on my feet, which is more than I managed when Wendy told me my mother was gone. All I could do back then was moan into the kitchen floor. Today I retain my balance. And my composure.

But I’m so damn thirsty. My mouth is dryer than ever. I return to the fridge, get the jug and drink straight from its lip, juice spilling across my mouth and all over my shirt. Jude takes the jug from me. His jacket is missing a button. A loose thread hangs where it should be. I focus hard on it. I have to focus on something. Maybe the button was ripped off at The Grove.

‘You’re in shock. Sit down,’ he says. He’s probably right. And if I’m feeling like this, how will Niamh take it?

She doesn’t know, and I’ll be the one to tell her. The air seems to have thinned. I pull at my collar.

Jude leads me to the kitchen table where he lowers me into a chair. ‘Breathe slowly,’ he says. I push him away. I don’t want his hands on me.

‘I knew something like this must have happened,’ I admit. I take large gulps of air as the words dead and for ever spin in my head. I wasn’t my father’s favourite, and we weren’t friends. Still, I didn’t want this.

‘At the press conference, Quinn started a – well, your father was mobbed and attacked, but it was a heart attack that killed him. By the time the medics arrived, it was too late.’

‘What should I do?’ I ask. I need him to tell me what life looks like now – what comes next.

But Jude is an army man; he thinks I’m asking how we catch the perpetrators. ‘Well, you know we’ve been chasing the Resistance inside and outside the pod. We’ve nearly got them all rounded up. You can help with that.’

‘Me? No . . . I want nothing more to do with the Special Forces.’

He squints. ‘Let’s talk about this tomorrow.’

‘I don’t want to talk about it tomorrow. I want out. Those people weren’t terrorists. They were gardeners, Jude. And most of them were my age.’ I’ve tried not to think about those we killed, but it comes back to me now: the faces of boys and girls, only a handful of them wearing bulletproof vests, not one of them holding an automatic weapon. They had rifles and shotguns. It wasn’t a war at all – it was a massacre.

‘Those people are responsible for your father’s death.’

He knows the only reason I joined the Special Forces was for my father’s approval. But strangely, now he’s dead, I couldn’t care less if he rolls in his grave. I have no interest in working for the Ministry and spending my life subjugating people for no good reason.

‘No. The Ministry’s lies are responsible for that riot, and I won’t be a part of that any more.’

‘You don’t really have a choice. Do you know how much your training cost?’

‘I’ll pay back whatever it cost. We have money.’

Jude sighs. ‘None of us have money, Ronan. This house, the buggy, your housekeeper . . . dammit, even your air supply . . . who do you think pays for it all?’

‘But my father had shares in Breathe. A pension.’

‘Perhaps,’ he says. ‘But Special Forces soldiers don’t quit. You’re one of the Ministry’s most dangerous weapons. They aren’t going to let you loose. Who’s to say you won’t defect?’

‘But you can cut me loose.’

He smiles. ‘If only that were true. I’m as much a slave to them as anyone.’

‘I’ll refuse to fight,’ I say. They can’t make me.

‘Get real. What do you think they’ll do to you . . . and to your sister? Have you forgotten what happened to Adele Rice?’

‘She was killed by . . .’ I stop and stare at Jude, who nods slowly. It was all over the news: Adele Rice, Special Forces elite, went missing and was suspected dead after a mission to The Outlands. The Ministry blamed the ‘terrorists’. Were any of the supposed terrorist attacks true?

My stomach tightens and bitterness against my father, the Ministry and Jude Caffrey surges. I swallow hard and have a desperate urge to go up into my studio and throw paint. Why didn’t I stay up there years ago and do what I love instead of trying to be the soldier son my father wanted?

‘The ministers have invited you and your sister to the chamber next week. They’d like to pay their respects,’ he says. He stands, puts on his coat and retrieves his air tank from the floor.

‘Right,’ I say.

‘It’s protocol,’ he says flatly. ‘And again, I’m sorry, but my advice, if you want to stay safe, is to stay useful. The Special Forces is a prestigious group and we’ll need you to clean up the mess in the pod. If I were you, I wouldn’t give up on us just yet.’ He turns to the door as Todd and Niamh stroll into the kitchen. Niamh’s red lipstick is smeared across Todd’s neck and white T-shirt. I grip the edge of the table to stop myself from jumping up and knocking him out.

‘I’m taking this.’ Todd holds up an air tank. Niamh comes into the kitchen and flops into a seat beside me. ‘Listen, Niamh, I’ll see you at school, yeah?’

Niamh chews on a thumbnail. ‘OK,’ she replies, and smiles.

‘Should I wait for you to call me, or should I –’

‘Just get out,’ I say.

‘Huh?’

‘Leave,’ I bite out.

‘Why are you being so rude?’ Niamh asks.

‘I’m going anyway. No worries,’ Todd murmurs, and steps out of the room.

‘I’m telling Dad,’ Niamh says. We’re both practically adults, yet when I look at her I see my baby sister – the six-year-old who, wearing a yellow knit dress, was told her mother was dead ten years ago and clung to me for weeks. She would’ve clung to my father if he hadn’t spent every day either in his room with a bottle or at the Ministry. He was never the same again and committed himself completely to work.

I sit back down and gaze at Niamh, who is glaring at me. How can I be the one to tell her our father is never coming back? Why should I be the one to destroy her world?

‘Please tell me what’s going on,’ she says.

Jude looks at me seriously. ‘I’ll go and let you two talk,’ he says.

Niamh frowns. ‘Talk about what?’

Join MovellasFind out what all the buzz is about. Join now to start sharing your creativity and passion
Loading ...