But I’m not a child anymore.
“You’ve seen Emmaline,” my father says. “But you haven’t seen her recently. You don’t know what state she’s in.”
“She’s dying,” he says. “Her body isn’t strong enough to survive her mind or her environment, and despite Max and Evie’s every effort, they don’t know if there’s anything else they can do to help her. They’ve been working for years to prolong her life as much as possible, but they’ve reached the end of the line. There’s nothing left to do. She’s deteriorating at a rate they can no longer control.”
Still, I say nothing.
“Do you understand?” my father says to me. “Do you understand the importance of what I’m saying to you? Emmaline is not only a psychokinetic, but a telepath,” he says. “As her body deteriorates, her mind grows wilder. She’s too strong. Too explosive. And lately, without a strong enough body to contain her, she’s become volatile. If she’s not given a n—”
“Don’t you dare,” a voice barks, loudly, into the room. “Don’t you dare say another word. You thickheaded fool.”
I spin around, surprise catching in my throat.
Supreme Commander Ibrahim. He seems taller than I remember him. Dark skin, dark hair. Angry.
“It’s okay,” my father says, unbothered. “Evie has taken care of—”
“Evie is dead,” Ibrahim says angrily. “We need to initiate the transfer immediately.”
“What?” My father goes pale. I’ve never seen him pale. I’ve never seen him terrified. “What do you mean she’s dead?”
Ibrahim’s eyes flash. “I mean we have a serious problem.” He glances at me. “This boy needs to be put back in isolation. We can’t trust any of them right now. We don’t know what she might’ve done.”
And just as I’m trying to decide my next move, I hear a whisper at my ear.
“Don’t scream,” she says.
I’m running for my life, bolting down hallways and up staircases. A low, insistent alarm has gone off, its high, piercing sound sending shocks of fear through me even as my feet pound the floor. I feel strong, steady, but I’m increasingly aware of my inability to navigate these snaking paths. I could see—could feel—Emmaline growing weaker as I left, and now, the farther I get from her, the dimmer our connection becomes. She showed me, in her memories, how Max and Evie slowly stripped her of control; Emmaline is more powerful than anyone, but now she can only use her powers on command. It took all her strength to push past the fail-safes long enough to use her strength at will, and now that her voice has retreated from my mind, I know she won’t be back. Not anytime soon. I have to figure out my own way out of here.
My power is back on. I can get through anything from here. I have to. And when I hear someone shout I spin around, ready to fight—
But the face in the distance is so familiar I stop, stunned, in my tracks.
Kenji barrels into me.
Kenji is hugging me. Kenji is hugging me, and he’s uninjured.
And just as I begin to return his embrace he swears, violently, and launches himself backward. “Jesus, woman— Are you trying to kill me? You can’t turn that shit off for a second? You have to go and ruin our dramatic reunion by nearly murdering me even after I’ve gone to all the trouble of f—”
I launch myself into his arms again and he stiffens, relaxing only when he realizes I’ve pulled my power back. I forgot, for a second, how much of my skin was exposed in this dress.
“Kenji,” I breathe. “You’re alive. You’re okay. Oh my God.”
“Hey,” he says. “Hey.” He pulls back, looks me in the eye. “I’m okay. You okay?”
I don’t really know how to answer the question. Finally, I say, “I’m not sure.”
He studies my face for a second. He looks concerned.
And then, the knot of fear growing only more painful in my throat, I ask the question killing me most:
Kenji shakes his head.
I feel myself begin to unravel.
“I don’t know yet,” Kenji says quietly. “But we’re going to find him, okay? Don’t worry.”
I nod. My bottom lip trembles and I bite it down but the tremble won’t be killed. It grows, multiplies, evolves into a tremor that shakes me from stem to sternum.
“Hey,” Kenji says.
I look up.
“You want to tell me where all the blood came from?”
I blink. “What blood?”
He raises his eyebrows at me. “The blood,” he says, gesturing, generally, at my body. “On your face. Your dress. All over your hands.”
“Oh,” I say, startled. I look at my hands as if seeing them for the first time. “The blood.”
Kenji sighs, squints at something over my shoulder. He pulls a pair of gloves out of his back pocket and tugs them on. “All right, princess, turn your power back on. We have to move.”
We break apart. Kenji pulls his invisibility over us both.
“Follow me,” he says, taking my hand.
“Where are we going?” I say.
“What do you mean, where are we going? We’re getting the hell out of here.”
“But— What about Warner?”
“Nazeera is looking for him as we speak.”
I stop so suddenly I nearly stumble. “Nazeera is here?”
“Uh, yeah— So— It’s a really long story? But the short answer is yes.”
“So that’s how you got in here,” I say, beginning to understand. “Nazeera.”
Kenji makes a sound of disbelief. “Wow, right off the bat you give me no credit, huh? C’mon, J, you know I love a good rescue mission. I know some things. I can figure things out, too.”
For the first time in weeks I feel a smile tug at my lips. A laugh builds and breaks inside my body. I’ve missed this so much. I’ve missed my friends so much. Emotion wells in my throat, surprising me.
“I missed you, Kenji,” I say. “I’m so happy you’re here.”
“Hey,” Kenji says sharply. “Don’t you dare start crying. If you start crying I’ll start crying and we do not have time to cry right now. We have too much shit to do, okay? We can cry later, at a more convenient time. Okay?”
When I say nothing, he squeezes my hand.
“Okay?” he says again.
“Okay,” I say.
I hear him sigh. “Damn,” he says. “They really messed you up in here, didn’t they?”
“I’m so sorry,” he says.
“Can we cry about it later? I’ll tell you everything.”
“Hell yeah we can cry about it later.” Kenji tugs gently on my hand to get us moving again. “I have so much shit to cry about, J. So much. We should make, like, a list.”
“Good idea,” I say, but my heart is in my throat again.
“Hey, don’t worry,” Kenji says, reading my thoughts. “Seriously. We’ll find Warner. Nazeera knows what she’s doing.”
“But I don’t think I can just wait while Nazeera goes searching for him. I can’t just stand around— I need to do something. I need to look for him myself—”
“Uh-uh. No way. Nazeera and I split up on purpose. My mission is to get you on the plane. Her mission is to get Warner on the plane. That’s how math works.”
“Wait— You have a plane?”
“How else did you think we got here?”
“I have no idea.”
“Well, that’s another long story, and I’ll fill you in later, but the highlights are that Nazeera is very confusing but helpful, and according to her calculations, we need to be getting the hell out of here yesterday. We’re running out of time.”
“But wait, Kenji— What happened to everyone? Last time I saw you, you were bleeding. Brendan had been shot. Castle was down. I thought everyone was dead.”
Kenji doesn’t answer me at first. “You really have no idea what happened, huh?” he says finally.
“I only know that I didn’t actually kill all those people at the symposium.”
“Oh yeah?” He sounds surprised. “Who told you?”
“Yeah,” I say, sighing heavily. “There’s so much I have to tell you. But first— Please tell me everyone is still alive.”
Kenji hesitates. “I mean, I think so? Honestly, I don’t know. Nazeera says they’re alive. She’s promising to come through on getting them to safety, so I’m still holding my breath. But get this.” He stops walking, puts an invisible hand on my shoulder. “You’re never going to believe this.”
“Let me guess,” I say. “Anderson is alive.”
I hear Kenji’s sharp intake of breath. “How did you know?”
“Evie told me.”
“So you know about how he came back to Sector 45?”
“What?” I say. “No.”