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Adam tenses his jaw. Grabs his things. And charges into the locker room.

FORTY-TWO

“I am going to kill you.”

“He wasn’t like that when I went to visit,” Kenji says to me. “I swear. He was fine. He was sad.”

“Yeah, well, obviously seeing my face isn’t bringing back happy memories for him.”

Kenji sighs. Looks away. “I’m really sorry,” he says. “I swear. But he wasn’t lying, J. They were down to practically nothing the last time I went back there. Kent said half their supplies went bad because he didn’t realize the blast had broken some of the shelves in their storage room. Some of the jars had cracked open and there were rodents and shit eating their food. And they were all alone out there. It’s cold as all hell and you have no idea how depressing it was, seeing them like that, and James—”

“I get it, Kenji.” I blow out a breath. Fold myself onto the floor. “I really do.”

I look up, look around. Everyone is busying themselves with some kind of task. Running or sketching or training or lifting weights. I think we’re all exhausted by this drama. No one wants to deal with it anymore.

Kenji sits down across from me.

“He can’t keep treating me like that,” I finally say. “And I won’t keep having the same conversation with him.” I look up. “You brought him here. He’s your responsibility. We have three weeks before we initiate this plan, and we’re already cutting it really close. I need to be able to come down here and train every day, and I don’t want to have to worry about him freaking out on me.”

“I know,” he says. “I know.”

“Good.”

“Hey, so—were you serious?” Kenji asks. “When you said Warner doesn’t care about him being here?”

“Yeah. Why?”

Kenji raises his eyebrows. “That’s . . . weird.”

“One day,” I say to him, “you’ll realize that Warner is not as crazy as you think he is.”

“Yeah,” Kenji says. “Or maybe one day we’ll be able to reprogram that chip in your head.”

“Shut up.” I laugh, shoving him a little.

“All right. Up. Let’s go. It’s time to work.”

FORTY-THREE

Alia has designed me a new suit.

We’re sitting on the mats like we always do in the evenings, and right now, Alia is showing us her designs.

I’ve never seen her this animated before.

She’s more confident talking about the contents of her sketchbook than she is the weather. She’s talking fast and fluid, describing the details and the dimensions, even outlining the materials we’ll need in order to make it.

It’s built with carbon.

Carbon fibers, to be precise. She explained that carbon fibers are so stiff and abrasive that they’ll need to be bonded with something very flexible in order to become wearable, so she’s planning on experimenting with several different materials. Something about polymers. And synthetic something. And a bunch of other words I didn’t really understand. Her sketches show how the carbon fibers are literally woven into a textile, creating a durable and lightweight material that will serve as a stronger basis for what I need.

Her idea was inspired by the knuckle braces she made for me.

She said she originally wanted the suit to be made of thousands of pieces of gunmetal, but then she realized she’d never have the tools to make the pieces as thin as she’d like them, and therefore, the suit would be too heavy. But this is sounding just as amazing.

“It’ll complement and enhance your strength,” she’s saying to me. “The carbon fibers will give you an added level of protection; they won’t damage easily, so you’ll be able to move more freely through different terrains. And when you’re in a dangerous environment, you must remember to maintain a state of electricum at all times; that way your body will become virtually indestructible,” she says.

“What do you mean . . . ?” I look from her to Castle for clarification. “How can that be possible?”

“Because,” Alia explains. “In the same way that you can break through concrete without hurting yourself, you should also be able to sustain an attack—from a bullet, for example—without harm.” She smiles. “Your powers make you functionally invincible.”

Wow.

“This suit is a precaution more than anything else,” she goes on. “We’ve seen in the past that you can, in fact, damage your skin if you’re not wholly in control of your power. When you broke the ground in the research rooms,” she says, “we thought it was the enormity of the act that injured you. But after examining the situation and your abilities more thoroughly, Castle and I found this deduction to be inaccurate.”

“Our energies are never inconsistent,” Castle jumps in, nodding at Alia. “They follow a pattern—an almost mathematical precision. If you cannot injure yourself while breaking through a concrete wall, it does not then follow that you should be able to injure yourself by breaking the ground, only to remain uninjured after breaking the ground a second time.” He looks at me. “Your injuries have to do with your hold on your ability. If you ever slip out of electricum—if you dial it back for even a moment—you will be vulnerable. Remember to be on, at all times. If you do, you cannot be defeated.”

“I hate you so hard right now,” Kenji mutters under his breath. “Functionally invincible my ass.”

“Jealous?” I grin at him.

“I can’t even look at you.”

“You shouldn’t be surprised.” Warner has just walked in. I spin around to find he’s heading toward our group, smiling a brittle smile at no one in particular. He sits down across from me. Meets my eyes as he says, “I always knew your powers, once harnessed, would be unmatched.”

I try to breathe.

Warner finally breaks eye contact with me to glance around the room. “Good evening, everyone,” he says. He nods at Castle. A special sort of acknowledgment.

Adam has a special sort of acknowledgment of his own.

He’s staring at Warner with an intense, unmasked hatred, looking as though he truly wants to murder Warner, and I’m suddenly more anxious than I’ve been all day. I’m looking from Adam to Warner and back again and I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if something is about to happen and I’m so desperate for things to be civil that I—

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