Jimmy opened his eyes. He was in a house. It was dark and messy inside. A loud rattle of dishes shifted his focus. His aunt stood in a kitchen nearby, her back towards him.
"Aunt Syl?" he croaked from where he lay on the couch.
Lily swiveled around, drying her hands on a dishcloth and tossing it aside. She came quickly into the living room and after a moment's pause, decided to kneel.
"Hey." She made her best attempt at a warm expression. "You're awake. Are you feeling alright?"
Jimmy became aware of a throbbing pain in his head. "What did you do to my head?"
With thin fingers, Lily slid a tendril of hair off her face. "The real question is, what did you do to your wrists?"
He smiled weakly. "I cut them."
"You're an Outsider," Lily pressed, "you really thought you could get the binds out just by digging for them?"
Jimmy shook his head no. "I knew I couldn’t hack them. But I just wanted…" He took a hoarse breath. "…to talk to you again." He released the air slowly. "And I thought… if I acted out… someone would come." A small grin escaped. "Fast."
Lily couldn't help but smile. "Well… we technically don't need samples alive for extractions."
"Then why do you go to the trouble…" He shifted on the couch with a dull patch of pain. "…of keeping us in such nice little cages."
Lily smiled uncomfortably and shifted in place. Then she took a deep breath and began, as though she'd been rehearsing this speech for days. "You should've been released as soon as we learned you were an Outsider. We only –"
" – instead of what, a Pure?"
The sudden sharpening of Jimmy's focus made her alert. The truth was, she still didn't know who he was. If he was an Outsider, what was he doing here? On the wrong side of the Line? She cleared her throat. "I don't know why you were detained, or selected for sampling. I thought maybe you would have some ideas. Maxin's the type to hold a grudge. Was there anything you might have done, to –"
"Maxin?" Jimmy interrupted, "Is that the guy who Fritzed me? The one with the big evil nose?" He shook his head and felt a shot of pain. "That nose has got to be a few Dexler points off the norm…"
Lily stiffened. "You know the Dexler norm?"
Jimmy's eyebrow arched. "Not by heart, no, but parts of it. We study it in the EIU. I'm not much for memorizing. More into history." He winced. "I'm serious though, why does my head hurt so much?"
Lily's lips formed a grim line. "We went through a lot to get you here in one piece." She thought back to the shipping crate she'd struggled him into; she thought of the blood, the panicked car ride.
"You and I." She looked at him. "You don't remember anything?"
Jimmy shook his head.
"Might be better that way." Lily massaged her cold hands together. "So you're from the EIU?"
Jimmy slowly raised himself on one arm. She was listening. "Yeah… I am…" he began.
Lily felt the word form on her lips before tumbling out. "How?"
"Well…" Through the throbbing in his temples, Jimmy fought to decide how much he should trust this woman sitting before him. Was she really his Aunt Syl? Barb would slap him if were here. Barb. In a moment of clarity, he realized he had, at the very least, a perfect jumping off point. "The collapse," he began, with wonder that it had happened at all. So much had gone on since then that he'd almost forgotten about it entirely. "You know the collapse." She nodded. "You know, it's crazy up there. Right above your heads." He watched her face to see if she might reveal anything. She didn't. "A lot of people – kids – died up there. We heard about it on the Outside – Box Office broke it. And the EIU – sounds like you've heard of it – was asked to go in."
"Asked by who?"
"Um, I guess…" Jimmy fumbled, realizing he'd never formally asked this question himself, "The Puritan House? I'm not sure. I wasn't even listed when it happened; I got called up from the reserves. I was in the middle of a test."
Lily eased into a more relaxed sitting position, pensive now. "So a lot of you crossed over? The Herald said you were just sending drones…"
Jimmy paused. She was attentive, and even though he wasn't telling her the whole truth, he could sense that she had an eye for fact. Barb had told him about the Herald. Hadn't she said that most Pures didn't believe it? Wasn't that the whole reason the Diggers existed? All this went through Jimmy's mind before answering, "Well, do you really believe everything the Herald says?"
Lily's eyes darted to him, lips puckered. They flattened again. "No, but I also get Box Office News."
"And the most recent headline was about an EIU defector. A woman named Monica Davis who ran the team leading the excavation. It didn't say anything about the EIU sending in any actual people on the ground. Just drones. And it didn't say anything about how. How they crossed the Line."
"You call it the Line," Jimmy observed faintly. Lily didn't flinch. It wasn't an accusation. "You read the Herald," he went on. "You live Inside," he said, looking around. "So do you consider yourself an Outsider or a Pure?"
Lily deflected his gaze. The question wasn't an easy one, and it wasn't one that had ever been asked of her, or likely anyone at DOMO. If she could've guessed, no one's answer at DOMO would have been the same. "I don't know," she said finally. "But I do know that I'm not your aunt. Maybe you think I was burned, but there's no way, because I have all my memories since –"
"You're not my aunt," Jimmy said quietly.
"You're nothing like her. I see that now. But I swear you look exactly her."
Lily swallowed. "I know. I ran our samples. Yours and mine. And they matched. We're related somehow, anyway." She extended one cold, thin hand. "So I guess we should officially meet. I'm Lily. Lily Armistad."
Jimmy's hand, still weakened, embraced hers. "Jimmy Saguto. But you already knew that."
The two smiled, and for a moment felt a special bond.
"I understand – you don't trust me," Lily declared. "You're not ready to tell me how you got here, or why you crossed the Line. Or, should I say, the Divide." She retrieved her hand from his. "But I trust you, for better or worse. So let's talk about how we think I, your good ol' Aunt Syl, got here instead."
Jimmy's jaw clenched as he thought back on everything he'd seen in the last 48 hours. "Well, you're gonna have to tell me what you're doing here," he said plainly. "To Pures."