“I just—it’s not that easy anymore.” I shake my head, try to explain the unexplainable. “I don’t know what to think of him now. There are so many things I misunderstood. Things I couldn’t comprehend.” I drop my eyes. “He’s really . . .” I hesitate, conflicted.
I don’t know how to tell the truth without sounding like a liar.
“I don’t know,” I finally say, staring into my hands. “I don’t know. He’s just . . . he’s not as bad as I thought.”
“Wow.” Adam exhales, shocked. “He’s not as bad as you thought. He’s not as bad as you thought? How on earth could he be any better than you thought—?”
“What the hell are you thinking, Juliette?”
I look up. He can’t hide the disgust in his eyes.
I need to find a way to explain, to present an irrefutable example—proof that Warner is not who I thought he was—but I can already tell that Adam has lost confidence in me, that he doesn’t trust me or believe me anymore, and I flounder.
He opens his mouth to speak.
I beat him to it. “Do you remember that day you found me crying in the shower? After Warner forced me to torture that toddler?”
Adam hesitates before nodding slowly, reluctantly.
“That was one of the reasons I hated him so much. I thought he’d actually put a child in that room—that he’d stolen someone’s kid and wanted to watch me torture it. It was just so despicable,” I say. “So disgusting, so horrifying. I thought he was inhuman. Completely evil. But . . . it wasn’t real,” I whisper.
Adam looks confused.
“It was just a simulation,” I try to explain. “Warner told me it was a simulation chamber, not a torture room. He said it all happened in my imagination.”
“Juliette,” Adam says. Sighs. He looks away, looks back at me. “What are you talking about? Of course it was a simulation.”
Adam laughs a small, confused sort of laugh.
“You knew it wasn’t real . . . ?” I ask.
He stares at me.
“But when you found me—you said it wasn’t my fault—you told me you’d heard about what happened, and that it wasn’t my fault—”
Adam runs a hand through the hair at the back of his neck. “I thought you were upset about breaking down that wall,” he says. “I mean, I knew the simulation would probably be scary as hell, but I thought Warner would’ve told you what it was beforehand. I had no idea you’d walked into something like that thinking it was going to be real.” He presses his eyes shut for a second. “I thought you were upset about learning you had this whole new crazy ability. And about the soldiers who were injured in the aftermath.”
I’m blinking at him, stunned.
All this time, a small part of me was still holding on to doubt—believing that maybe the torture chamber was real and that Warner was just lying to me. Again.
But now, to have confirmation from Adam himself.
Adam is shaking his head. “That bastard,” he’s saying. “I can’t believe he did that to you.”
I lower my eyes. “Warner’s done a lot of crazy things,” I say, “but he really thought he was helping me.”
“But he wasn’t helping you,” Adam says, angry again. “He was torturing you—”
“No. That’s not true.” I focus my eyes on a crack in the wall. “In some strange way . . . he did help me.” I hesitate before meeting Adam’s gaze. “That moment in the simulation chamber was the first time I ever allowed myself to be angry. I never knew how much more I could do—that I could be so physically strong—until that moment.”
I look away.
Clasp and unclasp my hands.
“Warner puts up this facade,” I’m saying. “He acts like he’s a sick, heartless monster, but he’s . . . I don’t know . . .” I trail off, my eyes trained on something I can’t quite see. A memory, maybe. Of Warner smiling. His gentle hands wiping away my tears. It’s okay, you’re okay, he’d said to me. “He’s really—”
“I don’t, um—” Adam breaks away, blows out a strange, shaky breath. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to understand this,” he says, looking unsteady. “You—what? You like him now? You’re friends with him? The same guy who tried to kill me?” He’s barely able to conceal the pain in his voice. “He had me hung from a conveyor belt in a slaughterhouse, Juliette. Or have you already forgotten that?”
I flinch. Drop my head in shame.
I had forgotten about that.
I’d forgotten that Warner almost killed Adam, that he’d shot Adam right in front of my face. He saw Adam as a traitor, as a soldier who held a gun to the back of his head; defied him and stole me away.
It makes me sick.
“I’m just . . . I’m so confused,” I finally manage to say. “I want to hate him but I just don’t know how anymore—”
Adam is staring at me like he has no idea who I am.
I need to talk about something else.
“What’s going on with Castle?” I ask. “Is he sick?”
Adam hesitates before answering, realizing I’m trying to change the subject. Finally, he relents. Sighs. “It’s bad,” he says to me. “He’s been hit worse than the rest of us. And Castle taking it all so hard has really affected Kenji.”
I study Adam’s face as he speaks, unable to stop myself from searching for similarities to Anderson and Warner.
“He doesn’t really leave that chair,” Adam is saying. “He sits there all day until he collapses from exhaustion, and even then, he just falls asleep sitting in the same spot. Then he wakes up the next morning and does the same thing again, all day. He only eats when we force him to, and only moves to go to the bathroom.” Adam shakes his head. “We’re all hoping he’ll snap out of it pretty soon, but it’s been really weird to just lose a leader like that. Castle was in charge of everything. And now he doesn’t seem to care about anything.”
“He’s probably still in shock,” I say, remembering it’s only been three days since the battle. “Hopefully, with time,” I tell him, “he’ll be all right.”