“No,” I gasp. “No, Kenji—they can’t all have died—not everyone—”
Please please please not Adam
I’d been too optimistic about today.
I’d been lying to myself.
I didn’t really believe Warner. I didn’t believe it could be this bad. But now, to see the truth, and to hear Kenji’s agony—the reality of all that happened is hitting me so hard I feel like I’m falling backward into my own grave.
My knees have hit the ground.
“Please,” I’m saying, “please tell me there are others—Adam has to be alive—”
“I grew up here,” Kenji is saying. He’s not listening to me and I don’t recognize his raw, aching voice. I want the old Kenji, the one who knew how to take charge, to take control. And this isn’t him.
This Kenji is terrifying me.
“This was my whole life,” he says, looking toward the crater that used to be Omega Point. “The only place—all those people—” He chokes. “They were my family. My only family—”
“Kenji, please . . .” I try to shake him. I need him to snap out of his grief before I succumb to it, too. We need to move out of plain sight and I’m only now beginning to realize that Kenji doesn’t care. He wants to put himself in danger. He wants to fight. He wants to die.
I can’t let that happen.
Someone needs to take control of this situation right now and right now I might be the only one capable.
“Get up,” I snap, my voice harsher than I intended. “You need to get up, and you need to stop acting reckless. You know we’re not safe out here, and we have to move. Where are you staying?” I grab his arm and pull, but he won’t budge. “Get up!” I shout again. “Get—”
And then, just like that, I remember I’m a whole hell of a lot stronger than Kenji will ever be. It almost makes me smile.
I close my eyes and focus, trying to remember everything Kenji taught me, everything I’ve learned about how to control my strength, how to tap into it when I need to. I spent so many years bottling everything up and locking it away that it still takes some time to remember it’s there, waiting for me to harness it. But the moment I welcome it, I feel it rush into me. It’s a raw power so potent it makes me feel invincible.
And then, just like that, I yank Kenji up off the ground and toss him over my shoulder.
I do that.
Kenji, of course, unleashes a string of the foulest expletives I’ve ever heard. He’s kicking at me but I can hardly feel it; my arms are wrapped loosely around him, my strength carefully reined in so as not to crush him. He’s angry, but at least he’s swearing again. This is something I recognize.
I cut him off midexpletive. “Tell me where you’re staying,” I say to him, “and pull yourself together. You can’t fall apart on me now.”
Kenji is silent a moment.
“Hey, um, I’m sorry to bother you, but I’m looking for a friend of mine,” he says. “Have you seen her? She’s a tiny little thing, cries a lot, spends too much time with her feelings—”
“Shut up, Kenji.”
“Oh wait!” he says. “It is you.”
“Where are we going?”
“When are you going to put me down?” he counters, no longer amused. “I mean, I’ve got an excellent view of your ass from here, but if you don’t mind me staring—”
I drop him without thinking.
“Goddammit, Juliette—what the hell—”
“How’s the view from down there?” I stand over his splayed body, arms crossed over my chest.
“I hate you.”
“Get up, please.”
“When did you learn to do that?” he grumbles, stumbling to his feet and rubbing his back.
I roll my eyes. Squint into the distance. Nothing and no one in sight, so far. “I didn’t.”
“Oh, right,” he says. “Because that makes sense. Because tossing a grown-ass man over your shoulders is just so freaking easy. That shit just comes naturally to you.”
Kenji lets out a low whistle. “Cocky as hell, too.”
“Yeah.” I shade my eyes against the cold sunlight. “I think spending all that time with you really screwed me up.”
“Ohhh-ho,” he says, clapping his hands together, unamused. “Stand up, princess. You’re a comedian.”
“I’m already standing up.”
“It’s called a joke, smart-ass.”
“Where are we going?” I ask him again. I start walking in no particular direction. “I really need to know where we’re headed.”
“Unregulated turf.” He falls into step with me, taking my hand to lead the way. We go invisible immediately. “It was the only place we could think of.”
“Yeah. It’s Adam’s old place, remember? It’s where I first—”
I stop walking, chest heaving. I’m crushing Kenji’s hand in mine and he yanks it free, unleashing expletives as he does, making us visible again. “Adam is still alive?” I ask, searching his eyes.
“Of course he’s still alive.” Kenji shoots me a dirty look as he rubs at his hand. “Have you heard nothing I’ve been saying to you?”
“But you said everyone was dead,” I gasp. “You said—”
“Everyone is dead,” Kenji says, his features darkening again. “There were over a hundred of us at Omega Point. There are only nine of us left.”
“Who?” I ask, my heart constricting. “Who survived? How?”
Kenji lets out a long breath, running both hands through his hair as he focuses on a point behind me. “You just want a list?” he asks. “Or do you want to know how it all happened?”
“I want to know everything.”
He nods. Looks down, stomps on a clump of snow. He takes my hand again, and we start walking, two invisible kids in the middle of nowhere.
“I guess,” Kenji finally says, “that on some level we have you to thank for us still being alive. Because if we’d never gone to find you, we probably would’ve died on the battlefield with everyone else.”