Defy Me (Page 29)
“Well, what I was about to tell you, right now, was that Anderson came back to base. He’s resumed his position as supreme commander of North America. He was there right before we left. Nazeera told me he made up this whole story about how he’d been ill and how our team had spread false rumors while he was recovering—and that you’d been executed for your deception.”
“What?” I say, stunned. “That’s insane.”
“This is what I’m saying.”
“So what are we going to do when we get back to Sector 45?” I say. “Where do we go? Where do we stay?”
“Shit if I know,” Kenji says. “Right now, I’m just hoping we can get out of here alive.”
Finally, we reach the exit. Kenji has a security card that grants him access to the door, and it opens easily.
From there, it’s almost too simple. Our invisibility keeps us undetected. And once we’re on the plane, Kenji checks his watch.
“We’ve only got thirty minutes, just so you know. That was the rule. Thirty minutes and if Nazeera doesn’t show up with Warner, we have to go.”
My heart drops into my stomach.
I have no time to register my shock, or to ask Nazeera when on earth she was going to tell me she had the power to turn herself invisible, so I do the only thing I can, in the moment.
I nod, the movement almost imperceptible.
“Kenji is getting Ella onto a plane. I’m going to wait for you just outside this door,” she says. “Do you think you can make it? If you go invisible in front of everyone, they’ll be on to us, and it’d be better if they think you’re just trying to run.”
Again, I nod.
“All right then. I’ll see you out there.”
I wait a second or two, and then I head for the door.
“Hey—” Ibrahim bellows.
I hesitate, turning back slightly, on my heel.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he says. He pulls a gun from the inside of his jacket and points it at me.
“I have to use the bathroom.”
Ibrahim doesn’t laugh. “You’re going to wait here until Max gets back. And then we decide what we’re going to do with you.”
I tilt my head at him. The gun he’s pointing at me looks suspiciously like one of the guns I stole from my father earlier.
Not that it matters.
I take a quick breath. “I’m afraid that’s not how this is going to work,” I say, attempting a smile. “Though I’m sure we’ll all be seeing each other soon, so I wouldn’t worry about missing me too much.”
And then, before anyone has a chance to protest, I run for the door, but not before Ibrahim fires his weapon.
In close range.
I fight back the urge to cry out as one of the bullets shoots clean through my calf, even as the pain nearly takes my breath away.
Once I’m on the other side of the door, Nazeera pulls her invisibility over me. I don’t make it far before I take a sharp breath, slumping against the wall.
“Shit,” she says. “Did you get shot?”
“Obviously,” I bite out, trying to keep my breathing even.
“Dammit, Warner, what the hell is wrong with you? We have to get back to the plane in the next fifteen minutes, or they’re going to leave without us.”
“What? Why would—”
“Because I told them to. We have to get Ella out of here no matter what. I can’t have them waiting around for us and risk getting killed in the process.”
“Your sympathy is truly heartwarming. Thank you.”
She sighs. “Where did you get shot?”
“In my leg.”
“Can you walk?”
“I should be able to in just a minute.”
I hear her hesitate. “What does that mean?”
“If I manage to live long enough, maybe I’ll tell you.”
She’s unamused. “Can you really start running in just a minute?”
“Oh, now it’s running? A moment ago you were asking if I could walk.”
“Running would be better.”
I offer her a bitter laugh. It’s hard from this distance, but I’ve been drawing on my father’s new ability, harnessing it as best I can from where I am. I feel the wound healing, slowly regenerating nerves and veins and even a bit of bone, but it’s taking longer than I’d like.
“How long is the flight back?” I say. “I can’t remember.”
“We’ve got the jet, so it should only take about eight hours.”
I nod, even though she can’t see me. “I don’t think I can survive eight hours with an open wound.”
“Well, it’s a good thing I don’t give a shit. I’m giving you two more minutes before I carry you out of here myself.”
I grunt in response, focusing all of my energy on drawing up the healing powers into my body. I’ve never tried to do something like this while wounded, and I didn’t realize how demanding it was, both emotionally and physically. I feel drained. My head is throbbing, my jaw aching from the intense pressure I’ve used to bite back the pain, and my leg feels like it’s on fire. There’s nothing pleasant about the healing process. I have to imagine that my father is on the move—probably searching for me with Ibrahim—because harnessing his power is harder than any of the others I’ve tried to take.
“We’re leaving in thirty seconds,” Nazeera says, a warning in her voice.
I grit my teeth.
“Did you just swear?” Nazeera says, stunned.
“I’m in an extraordinary amount of pain.”
“All right, that’s it, we’re out of time.”
And before I manage to get a word in, she picks me up, off the ground.
And we’re in the air.
Kenji and I have been staring at each other in nervous silence for the last minute. I spent the first ten minutes telling him a little about Emmaline, which was its own stressful distraction, and then Kenji helped me wash the blood off my hands and face with the few supplies we have on board. Now we’re both staring into the silence, our combined terror filling the plane.
It’s a nice plane, I think. I’m not sure. I haven’t actually had the presence of mind to look around. Or to ask him who, exactly, among us even knows how to fly a plane. But none of that will matter, of course, if Nazeera and Warner don’t get back here soon.
It won’t matter because I won’t be leaving without him.
And my thoughts must be easy to read, because suddenly Kenji frowns. “Listen,” he says, “I’m just as worried about them as you are. I don’t want to leave Nazeera behind and I sure as hell don’t want to imagine anything bad happening to her while she’s out there, but we have to get you out of here.”
“We don’t have a choice, J,” he says, cutting me off. “We have to get you out of here whether you like it or not. The Reestablishment is up to some shady shit, and you’re right in the center of it. We have to keep you safe. Right now, keeping you safe is my entire mission.”
I drop my face in my hands, and then, just as quickly, look up again. “This is all my fault, you know? I could’ve prevented this.”
“What are you talking about?”
I look him straight in the eye. “I should’ve done more research on The Reestablishment. I should’ve read up on its history—and my history within it. I should’ve learned more about the supreme commanders. I should’ve been better prepared. Hell, I should’ve demanded we search the water for Anderson’s dead body instead of just assuming he’d sunk with the ship.” I shake my head, hard. “I wasn’t ready to be supreme commander, Kenji. You knew it; Castle knew it. I put everyone’s lives in danger.”
“Hey,” he says sharply, “I never said you weren’t—”
“Only Warner ever tried to convince me I was good enough, but I don’t think I ever really believed it.”
“J, listen to me. I never said you weren’t—”
“And now he’s gone. Warner is gone. Everyone from Omega Point might be dead. Everything we built . . . everything we worked toward—” I feel myself break, snap open from the inside. “I can’t lose him, Kenji.” My voice is shaking. My hands are shaking. “I can’t— You don’t know— You don’t—”
Kenji looks at me with actual pain in his eyes. “Stop it, J. You’re breaking my heart. I can’t hear this.”
And I realize, as I swallow back the lump in my throat, how much I’d needed to have this conversation. These feelings had been building inside of me for weeks, and I’d desperately needed someone to talk to.
I needed my friend.
“I thought I’d been through some hard things,” I say, my eyes now filling with tears. “I thought I’d lived through my share of awful experiences. But this— I honestly think these have been the worst days of my life.”
Kenji’s eyes are deep. Serious. “You want to tell me about it?”