“What have you heard?”
He smiles with teeth so white it looks like snow falling on the chocolate valleys of his face. He opens his hands. Studies them for a moment. Looks up. “You can kill a man with nothing but your bare skin. You can crush five feet of concrete with the palm of your hand.”
I’m climbing a mountain of air and my feet keep slipping. I need to get a grip on something.
“Is it true?” he asks.
“Rumors are more likely to kill you than I am.”
He studies me for too long. “I’d like to show you something,” he says after a moment.
“I want answers to my questions.” This has gone on too long. I don’t want to be lulled into a false sense of security. I don’t want to assume Adam and James are okay. I don’t want to trust anyone until I have proof. I can’t pretend like any of this is all right. Not yet. “I want to know that I’m safe,” I tell him. “And I want to know that my friends are safe. There was a ten-year-old boy with us when we arrived and I want to see him. I need to make certain he is healthy and unharmed. I won’t cooperate otherwise.”
His eyes inspect me a few moments longer. “Your loyalty is refreshing,” he says, and he means it. “You will do well here.”
“Yes. Of course.” He’s on his feet. “Follow me.”
This place is far more complex, far more organized than I’d ever imagined it to be. There are hundreds of different directions to get lost in, almost as many rooms, some bigger than others, each dedicated to different pursuits.
“The dining hall,” Castle says to me.
“The dormitories.” On the opposite wing.
“The training facilities.” Down that hall.
“The common rooms.” Right through here.
“The bathrooms.” On either end of the floor.
“The meeting halls.” Just past that door.
Each space is buzzing with bodies, each body adapted to a particular routine. People look up when they see us. Some wave, smile, delighted. I realize they’re all looking at Castle. He nods his head. His eyes are kind, humble. His smile is strong, reassuring.
He’s the leader of this entire movement, is what Kenji said. These people are depending on him for something more than basic survival. This is more than a fallout shelter. This is much more than a hiding space. There is a greater goal in mind. A greater purpose.
“Welcome,” Castle says to me, gesturing with one hand, “to Omega Point.”
“The last letter in the Greek alphabet. The final development, the last in a series.” He stops in front of me and for the first time I notice the omega symbol stitched into the back of his jacket. “We are the only hope our civilization has left.”
“But how—with such small numbers—how can you possibly hope to compete—”
“We’ve been building for a long time, Juliette.” It’s the first time he’s said my name. His voice is strong, smooth, stable. “We’ve been planning, organizing, mapping out our strategy for many years now. The collapse of our human society should not come as a surprise. We brought it upon ourselves.
“The question wasn’t whether things would fall apart,” he continues. “Only when. It was a waiting game. A question of who would try to take power and how they would try to use it. Fear,” he says to me, turning back for just a moment, his footsteps silent against the stone, “is a great motivator.”
“I agree. Which is why part of my job is reviving the stalled hearts that’ve lost all hope.” We turn into another corridor. “And to tell you that almost everything you’ve learned about the state of our world is a lie.”
I stop in place. Nearly fall over. “What do you mean?”
“I mean things are not nearly as bad as The Reestablishment wants us to think they are.”
“But there’s no food—”
“That they give you access to.”
“Are kept hidden. Genetically modified. Raised on secret pastures.”
“But the air—the seasons—the weather—”
“Is not as bad as they’ll have us believe. It’s probably our only real problem—but it’s one caused by the perverse manipulations of Mother Earth. Man-made manipulations that we can still fix.” He turns to face me. Focuses my mind with one steady gaze.
“There is still a chance to change things. We can provide fresh drinking water to all people. We can make sure crops are not regulated for profit; we can ensure that they are not genetically altered to benefit manufacturers. Our people are dying because we are feeding them poison. Animals are dying because we are forcing them to eat waste, forcing them to live in their own filth, caging them together and abusing them. Plants are withering away because we are dumping chemicals into the earth that make them hazardous to our health. But these are things we can fix.
“We are fed lies because believing them makes us weak, vulnerable, malleable. We depend on others for our food, health, sustenance. This cripples us. Creates cowards of our people. Slaves of our children. It’s time for us to fight back.” His eyes are bright with feeling, his fists clenched in fervor. His words are powerful, heavy with conviction, articulate and meaningful. I have no doubt he’s swayed many people with such fanciful thoughts. Hope for a future that seems lost. Inspiration in a bleak world with nothing to offer. He is a natural leader. A talented orator.
I have a hard time believing him.
“How can you know for certain that your theories are correct? Do you have proof?”
His hands relax. His eyes quiet down. His lips form a small smile. “Of course.” He almost laughs.
“Why is that funny?”
He shakes his head. Just a bit. “I’m amused by your skepticism. I admire it, actually. It’s never a good idea to believe everything you hear.”
I catch his double meaning. Acknowledge it. “Touché, Mr. Castle.”
A pause. “You are French, Ms. Ferrars?”
“My mother, perhaps.” I look away. “So where is your proof?”
“This entire movement is proof enough. We survive because of these truths. We seek out food and supplies from the various storage compounds The Reestablishment has constructed. We’ve found their fields, their farms, their animals. They have hundreds of acres dedicated to crops. The farmers are slaves, working under the threat of death to themselves or their family members. The rest of society is either killed or corralled into sectors, sectioned off to be monitored, carefully surveyed.”
I keep my face blank, smooth, neutral. I still haven’t decided whether or not I believe him. “And what do you need with me? Why do you care if I’m here?”
He stops at a glass wall. Points through to the room beyond. Doesn’t answer my question. “Your Adam is healing because of our people.”
I nearly trip in my haste to see him. I press my hands against the glass and peer into the brightly lit space. Adam is asleep, his face perfect, peaceful. This must be the medical wing.
“Look closely,” Castle tells me. “There are no needles attached to his body. No machines keeping him alive. He arrived with three broken ribs. Lungs close to collapsing. A bullet in his thigh. His kidneys were bruised along with the rest of his body. Broken skin, bloodied wrists. A sprained ankle. He’d lost more blood than most hospitals would be able to replenish.”
My heart is about to fall out of my body. I want to break through the glass and cradle him in my arms.
“There are close to two hundred people at Omega Point,” Castle says. “Less than half of whom have some kind of gift.”
I spin around, stunned.
“I brought you here,” he says to me carefully, quietly, “because this is where you belong. Because you need to know that you are not alone.”
My jaw is dangling from my shoelace.
“You would be invaluable to our resistance,” he tells me.
“There are others . . . like me?” I can hardly breathe.
Castle offers me eyes that empathize with my soul. “I was the first to realize my affliction could not be mine alone. I sought out others, following rumors, listening for stories, reading the newspapers for abnormalities in human behavior. At first it was just for companionship.” He pauses. “I was tired of the insanity. Of believing I was inhuman; a monster. But then I realized that what seemed a weakness was actually a strength. That together we could be something extraordinary. Something good.”
I can’t catch my breath. I can’t find my feet. I can’t cough up the impossibility caught in my throat.
Castle is waiting for my reaction.
I feel so nervous so suddenly. “What is your . . . gift?” I ask him.
His smile disarms my insecurity. He holds out his hand. Cocks his head. I hear the creak of a distant door opening. The sound of air and metal; movement. I turn toward the sound only to see something hurtling in my direction. I duck. Castle laughs. Catches it in his hand.
He shows me the key now caught between his fingers.
“You can move things with your mind?” I don’t even know where I found the words to speak.
“I have an impossibly advanced level of psychokinesis.” He twists his lips into a smile. “So yes.”
“There’s a name for it?” I think I’m squeaking. I try to steady myself.
“For my condition? Yes. For yours?” He pauses. “I’m uncertain.”
“And the others—what—they’re—”
“You can meet them, if you’d like.”
“I—yes—I’d like that,” I stammer, excited, 4 years old and still believing in fairies.
I freeze at a sudden sound.
Footsteps are pounding the stone. I catch the pant of strained breathing.
“Sir—” someone shouts.
Castle starts. Stills. Pivots around a corner toward the runner. “Brendan?”
“Sir!” he pants again.
“You have news? What have you seen?”
“We’re hearing things on the radio,” he begins, his broken words thick with a British accent. “Our cameras are picking up more tanks patrolling the area than usual. We think they may be getting closer—”
The sound of static energy. Static electricity. Garbled voices croaking through a weak radio line.
Brendan curses under his breath. “Sorry, sir—it’s not usually this distorted—I just haven’t learned to contain the charges lately—”
“Not to worry. You just need practice. Your training is going well?”
“Very well, sir. I have it almost entirely under my command.” Brendan pauses. “For the most part.”
“Excellent. In the meantime, let me know if the tanks get any closer. I’m not surprised to hear they’re getting a little more vigilant. Try to listen for any mention of an attack. The Reestablishment has been trying to pinpoint our whereabouts for years, but now we have someone particularly valuable to their efforts and I’m certain they want her back. I have a feeling things are going to develop rather quickly from now on.”