The Runner

Kay is an eighteen year-old girl living on the streets of the city. Stealing from the rich and wreaking havoc against the plans of the tyrannical King, she has earned a name for herself as The Runner.
For the last five years, she has used her speed and street smarts to outwit the King's guard and remain under the radar, until a handsome stranger appears and offers her the opportunity of a lifetime.

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7. Chapter 6

Will’s grey eyes light up as he leans in towards me.

“At this moment, we have a few people inside the Palace whose job it is to assimilate and keep tabs on the day-to-day activity, reporting key information back to us.”

“So you have spies inside the Palace.”

“Essentially, yes.” He looks a little annoyed at the interruption.

“Alright,” I snatch up another piece of cheese, “I just didn’t understand why you have to explain it in such a complicated way.”

Will doesn’t say anything but I can feel him watching me as I eye the remnants on the table.

“I need you to take this seriously.” He says eventually, “Because your role in all of this will be of the most vital importance.”

I roll my eyes. “Look, maybe we should get something straight.” I lift my bandaged knee out of its reclined position on the couch and place it on the floor, surprised at how much stronger it feels. I stand up, gingerly shifting my weight and taking a few tentative steps.

Will may possess an excessive amount of self-righteousness, but I’ll give him credit for knowing something about medicine. I continue my lap of the room and Will turns in his seat to follow my movements, looping his arm over the back of the chair as I walk behind, stopping by the window and crossing my arms in front of me.

“I don’t work for you, I work for myself. Your cause sounds promising but I don’t know the full breadth of it, I don’t know if you intend to put one of your own in power and how you plan to run the City if you can seize it. You can ask a favour of me and I can choose to help you or I can choose to leave at any time. Don’t think you can impress me with your lofty ideals and fancy plans, I have been running the ring around this monarchy for a long time now and I have never needed anyone to help me.” Feeling my cheeks warming at the length of my speech and the heat of Will’s gaze, I fight the urge to turn and look out the window instead forcing my eyes to lock with his.

Will lifts his hands from where they drape over the back of his chair and claps them slowly together. “Well said. Allow me to alleviate your misgivings. Please, tell me what you want for this City.”

I ignore his sarcasm and continue my lap around the room to buy myself some time, returning to the couch and sitting back down, careful to keep my body forward instead of slouching.

“What I want…” I start, making a conscious effort to avoid his steely gaze.

“I want everyone to have the right to the same education. I want my people to be able to earn enough from their trades to be able to support themselves, and I want the rich to give up their unnecessary luxuries and have that wealth distributed to help take care of the people who can’t take care of themselves.” I think back to the sea of hungry and wretched faces I walk by each morning.

“Well I know we could…”

“I’m not done.” My voice comes out more loudly than I intended. “I want reparations paid to every family of a man injured or killed in our mines. I want the safety of those men guaranteed, and I want our women given the right to take any job that is available to a man.” Lara shouldn’t have to go out at night, rattling her jewelry.

Will seems to be waiting for me to say something else.

“Is that it?” He asks, after a beat.

“I am sure I will come up with some more later.”

“Undoubtedly you will.” He scratches the stubble on his chin, a thoughtful grin tugging at his lips. “I can tell you’ve given this some thought.”

“The ideas, yes.” I say slowly. “But not the execution. I supposed that’s where you come in.”

“Well, I will tell you that no one can speak to the needs of the people better than you. It seems that what you want is fairness and equality, which is exactly what we want as well. I can promise you that, in the new City, no one will want for an education or for the basic necessities. We will all have the same opportunities.”

He is an idealist. I’ve grown up with this type, the kind who believe that the removal of the monarchy will allow for us to rise up as equals. While I admire the idea, I have always failed to see the way in which an angry, under-educated and abused group of people can achieve a thriving nation.

My father always impressed this fact upon his children. He taught my brother and I that strong leadership with an ear and voice of the people was what our City needed, and that it was our responsibility as citizens to keep our hearts open to the trials of those around us. My mind momentarily drifts to the snippets of conversation I would catch as he spoke, huddled with his friends around our kitchen table. That was the first time in my young life that I heard whispers of revolution.

I stretch my knee again. Under these circumstances I should be weary, but against my better judgement I find myself trusting Will. There is something about him; the way he speaks, his sureness and perceptiveness. Somehow, when he talks of the possibilities, I believe him.

“I have no doubt that you have a great many questions about who we are and what we are doing.” Will’s voice breaks through my thoughts. “There will be enough opportunity for you to meet some of my comrades and consult with us on our plans. Does that help alleviate some of your doubts?”

“It does help. Some.”

“Can I finish explaining to you what your role would be in all of this?”

I try to scowl but it slips off my lips. “Yes, please continue. You have my full attention.”

“All right, then. Now, as I was saying, we have several spies in the Palace already but what we don’t have is someone who is close enough to the royal circle to achieve any kind of real confidence.”

“The royal circle?”

“Excuse me; I thought there wasn’t going to be any more interruptions?” Will teases. He reaches forward and tosses me the last slice of bread off the table. I make a show of taking a large bite and silencing my questions.

He grins and leans back. “Yes, the royal circle. By that, I mean that we want someone to assimilate as one of the Princess’ ladies-in-waiting, earn her trust and report back to us anything of importance.”

The bread seizes in my throat and I choke, coughing loudly. I lean forward over my knees in an attempt to catch my breath, spying Will’s dusty boots making their way towards me as he crosses to the other side of the table and pats me sharply on the back.

“Th- thanks.” I rasp. I take another sip of water as he returns to the couch and leans back, chortling.

“You want me to pretend to be a lady-in-waiting?” I ask when I can finally fill my lungs properly.

“No, I want you to be a lady-in-waiting.” Will replies calmly. “It will be a breeze for you; there’s nothing to it but a sense of self-importance and some shiny hair.”

I smirk, fingering my own mess of curls, more knotted than ever thanks to our tussle in the alleyway.

“It will be very straightforward. We’ll dress you up, tell you all the right things to say, and you just need to use that natural stealth and charisma to exact any and all useful information.”

Sighing, I give up on pulling the knot out of my hair and instead push the whole mess back off of my forehead. I glance up when I feel the weight of Will’s hand on my arm, but he seems to change his mind quickly and instead brings his fingers back to rub his chin again, his steely eyes regarding and imploring all at once.

“What I am offering you, Kay, is the chance to be a part of something bigger than yourself. Before this, your acts of rebellion have been annoyances, enough to slow the King down but by going inside, planting yourself right in the middle of the hive, that is where the real changes will happen.”

It’s when his voice takes on that low, burning intensity that I can’t help but find myself believing anything he says.

“So, I would have to wear dresses.” I wrinkle my nose at the thought.

“Yes.” He chuckles, “And wash your face, and brush your hair.”

“Fuckin’ eh.” I groan. “I can’t run in a dress.”

“And you’ll have to clean up that mouth of yours.” Will raises his eyebrows in mock seriousness. “Don’t be so worried about the dress, though. The idea is that if you’re good enough at playing the part, you won’t have to run.”

The afternoon sun is waning in the small room and I can see particles of dust floating through the air, bouncing off Will’s dark hair and reflecting in his earnest gaze.

I sigh, a smile slowly creeping over my face. “When do we start?”

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