Quick note before you delve into the world of the Twelve: You may have noticed this cover art is different from what you're used to. We're honored this week to have Jake Mahr, an artist living in Barcelona, add his work to our story. He has contributed not only his graphic design but a beautiful soundtrack to go along with this chapter. 
You can read more about him here.

Hiding out in Icelandia by Jake Mahr

The mornings passed slowly as Pyat hid in the doctor's apartment. Why Eva let her stay, Pyat could not say. The doctor mostly ignored her unwanted guest, trudging by the couch where Pyat slept before the soldier got up. Eva would make coffee and fry a protein slab for breakfast, then hurry to work. She always printed a bit of slab for Pyat and left her the dregs of the coffee. They had created a quiet routine, one Pyat felt comfortable with. More than at the Academy. She typically enjoyed spending time on her own, yet the addition of the doctor to her life felt… Normal.
Pyat spent her mornings strengthening injured body parts through indoor exercises. For the rest of the day, she would pull up files about the runaway in New York. She felt her body growing weaker. She told herself that she needed to take the time to heal, despite the obvious decrease in her muscle mass and joint strength. Pyat knew the longer she stayed, the less likely the mission would be successful. 
The main issue, she predicted, would be the incomplete runaway’s modifications. The runaway’s name was Dvenadstat and she had finished her surgeries to become a Caeca, an elite spy class, ranking far above Aerial. However, she had managed to run before the Academy could install any tracking or suicide mechanisms in the girl’s brain. Not only would she be difficult to catch, but close to impossible to find. Hence why the Academy had chosen Pyat for the job. She was one of the best trackers for the Academy, and was slowly honing in on possible locations. 
One afternoon, after shoveling some fish flavored protein down her throat, she pulled up one of the girl's memories that had been extracted during modifications. She fiddled with her cantrils until the memory appeared in a hologram in front of her. The Academy always extracted memories prior to modification in order to determine the best warrior class. They then determine which memories to keep. Some memories would be kept to affirm the Academy’s class choice. For Pyat, her only memories from childhood consisted of her leaping off buildings and playing with hoverboards. All the Elementals knew their memories had been carefully selected for their success. Only now did it feel so uncomfortable. Pyat shrugged, releasing tension from her neck. This was mostly done for runaways like Dvenadstat who had managed to evade the Academy’s clutches past recall age. Pyat’s mind was mostly unmodified. But how could she really know?
Pyat cracked her neck, imagining the treasonous thoughts to float away. She flicked her fingers. The cantrils chirped and began playing the memory. The runaway’s thoughts echoed in her ear implants. 
Dven did not need school. She was too smart. She could read, write, subtract, multiply, add, divide, argue successfully, and steal. All the things that let a person survive. It was the year 2194. Dven —was her name Dven?— was running from the Ultimate Supremacy and the Scholastic Act. The Scholastic Act, her father taught her, had been made law in 2150. It declared that all children the age of eight and older must attend the Academy of Young Scholars. Aka a prison for training children to kill, or spy, or whatever to the 
highest bidder. Usually the Alliance or Альянс.
She had sacrificed so much to get away. It was all for nothing: her mother, her father, her chance for a normal life. Just because some sumer reported her for stealing bread. She had not even needed the stupid bread. She had a stash of canned food, water, and stale munchkins back in the apartment. Regret filled every part of her body as she sat, cold seeping from the metal wall through her thin shirt. 
The vision flickered. A brown skinned woman was —Mother?— packing clothes into an old Teslord outside. There was grass. Dven watched through a window, four years old, fingers scratching at the peeling paint, as bonhs appeared out of nowhere. Dven—is her name Dven?— sobbed as they beat the woman when she put her body between them and the door. She fell to the ground. One bonh lifted an energy gun and placed it on her mother's forehead. Her father grabbed her head and shoved it below the windowsill before she could see anymore. He dragged her sobbing body into the basement and shoved her into a secret compartment. 
Hours passed. Dven sat there, shivering — as she sits now— until her father eventually returned. He carried her from the basement. He held her as they walked out of the house, the three bonhs missing. Or were they in the kitchen?
The memory flickered. Her father drove the Teslord deep into New York City, a place where it was practically impossible to find anyone, much less a child. The buildings rose into the thick cloud of pollution about the city, disappearing. 
Dven thought about him, her father. He had disappeared a few weeks earlier without saying anything. He had just stood up and left. She had suspected he was working with the—the— She wondered when, and if, he would return to their small apartment. Find her gone. He had been telling her since her mother died to not leave the tiny apartment they had found. "It's not safe out there, my love." His white face was so different from hers, but the worry in his eyes told her that he was her father. “There is sickness and violence, Takwaahson,” he had said, kissing the tip of her nose. —Wasn’t he her father? —She groaned and buried her head into her hands.  
"Don't you have cantrils to listen to?" A shy voice interrupted her thoughts. Dven—no that wasn’t her name yet— looked over at the boy sitting next to her. He was holding out his palm, a blue disk implanted in his palm.
"What's a cantril?" She inquired and slid closer to the boy. His face flushed as he saw her hands bound together with wire. He stood up and walked quickly from the compartment without a word. She filled her mind with nothingness like her mother had taught her. 
Dven tried to escape the train twice on the way to the New York branch of the Academy. The first time, she had stopped the entire train and tried to leap from the window, but an onlooker had grabbed her at the last second in an attempt to save her life. The second time, she tried to escape inside a food container being sent to the Academy. She attempted to push it overboard with her inside, but a bonh found her and stopped her. He had bound her hands and thrown her in a compartment with two others of his kind, who were guarding other children. All the other children had left, too scared to attempt escape or to be associated with Dven — no, that was not her name. The bonhs blank faces looked ahead, unseeing. But if she tried to flee, one of them would snap her wrists in less than a second. The Academy wouldn’t care if she was broken.
One of the soldiers was middle-aged, just a little younger than her father. The other soldier was barely a soldier. He looked hardly older than her. Bonhs were trained very young, once they were determined to not possess the skills needed to become an Elemental. Boys were rarely chosen as Elementals, her father had told her. The child soldier was talking continuously to the older man, who looked indifferent. Dven —what is her name?— felt sorry for the boy and responded to one of his stories about ice skating in Central Park. The boy looked over at her with a gleam in his eyes. The older bonh smacked him over the head. Dven yelled at the older man for his cruelty and he slapped her. She cried out in pain. The remainder of their trip was in silence.
She woke up to the boy shaking her. "Get up, miss," he whispered. The sky outside was dark, the pollution blocking out the moon and the stars. The older bonh was nowhere in sight. She realized this might be a test for the boy. She decided to behave. As they walked down the sleeping train aisle, the boy whispered to her, "We have to go." She looked at him strangely, and noticed the fear in his eyes. "You're in danger. We all are," he breathed, fear lacing his voice. Dven spotted the older soldier, who was keeping watch at one exit
The boy slipped her a knife. Dven stared at the blade. The metal was dull, barely visible in the low light. The child bonh was trying to get her out, but why? She tried to give the knife back to the boy, but he refused to take it, slinking into the shadows and disappearing. She clutched the knife in her clammy hand, trying not to cry. She did not want to hurt him, yet she felt her hand moving to the older man's shoulder. He spun around, and she held the knife to his throat. "You can't leave," the older bonh snarled. "You're too important."
She took the hilt of the knife and slammed it into the man's head. He fell to the ground like a crumpled plastic bag. Dven threw the knife out of the open door. She glanced back at the soldier and noticed his chest was not moving. How hard had she hit him? How had she even reached his head? She turned to the blurry snow that whipped by her. It might cushion her fall… She pushed herself from the train, and fell.
The fall occurred in slow motion. Snow whipped her face — where did the snow come from? — and she saw her mother lying on the ground, black hair spread across the grass. No one had looked for her body. She saw her father’s pale face turn slack as he rose and left her. She could see the lady who reported her for stealing with a look of disgust on her face. She could even smell the fresh bread, yeasty and sour. She saw another face, like her mother’s but too young. It was watching her in horror. 
She hit the icy snow and only saw a deep, infinite darkness.
What are your thoughts on the chapter or art? Let us know!
Thank you for your thoughts on the chapter!
Back to Top