The soldiers jerk back, stunned, shifting farther into their corners.
Castle reaches up one arm, coaxing a small tree in the distance to uproot itself. He uses both hands to pull it out of the ground, and once he does, the tree careens out of control, flying through the air, branches rattling in the wind. Castle pulls it back, yanking on it with nothing more than his mind.
He tosses it higher in the air, just over their heads, and Brendan raises his arms.
Claps his hands, hard.
A bolt of electricity hits the tree at the base and travels up the trunk so quickly, and with such extreme power, it practically disintegrates; the only remaining pieces rain to the ground.
I was not expecting that; they weren’t even supposed to be helping me today. But they’ve just created the perfect introduction for me.
Now. Right now.
All the soldiers are watching. The courtyard has been cleared. I find Kenji’s eyes down below and check for confirmation.
A hundred feet in the air, eyes closed, legs straight, arms out. And I feel more power rushing through my being than ever before. I harness it. Project it.
And land so hard on the ground that it shatters beneath me.
I’m crouched, knees bent, one hand outstretched in front of me. The courtyard is shaking so badly that for a second I’m not sure I haven’t caused another earthquake.
When I finally stand up and look around, I can see the soldiers much more clearly. Their faces, their worries. They’re looking at me in awe, eyes wide with wonder and a touch of fear.
“You will not be alone,” I say to them, spinning to see their faces. “You don’t need to be afraid anymore. We want to take back our world. We want to save the lives of our family members, our friends. We want your children to have a chance at a better future. And we want to fight. We want to win.” I lock eyes with them. “And we are asking for your help.”
There’s absolute silence.
And then, absolute chaos.
Cheers. Screams and shouts. Stomping feet.
I feel the mesh square tugged out of my hand. It flies up into the air and into Warner’s hand.
He addresses his men.
“Congratulations, gentlemen,” he says. “Send word to your families. Your friends. Tomorrow, everything will change. The supreme will be here in a matter of days,” he says. “Prepare for war.”
And then, all at once.
Kenji makes us disappear.
We’re running through the courtyard and right through base, and as soon as we’re out of sight, Kenji pulls back the invisibility. He darts ahead of the group, leading us toward the training room, winding and twisting and darting through the storage facility and up the shooting range until we’re all toppling into the room at once.
James has been waiting for us.
He stands up, eyes wide. “How’d it go?”
Kenji runs forward and flips James into his arms. “How do you think it went?”
“Um. Good?” James is laughing.
Castle claps me on the back. I turn to face him. He’s beaming at me, eyes shining, prouder than I’ve ever seen him. “Well done, Ms. Ferrars,” he says quietly. “Well done.”
Brendan and Winston rush over, grinning from ear to ear.
“That was so freaking cool,” Winston says. “It was like we were celebrities or something.”
Lily, Ian, and Alia join the group. I thank them all for their help, for their show of support at the last minute.
“Do you really think it’ll work?” I’m asking. “Do you think it’s enough?”
“It’s certainly a start,” Castle says. “We’ll need to move quickly now. I imagine the news has already spread, but the other sectors will surely stand down until the supreme arrives.” Castle looks at me. “I hope you understand that this will be a fight against the entire country.”
“Not if the other sectors join us, too,” I say.
“Such confidence,” Castle says. He’s staring at me like I’m a strange, alien being. One he doesn’t know how to understand or identify. “You surprise me, Ms. Ferrars.”
The elevator pings open.
He walks right up to me. “The base has been secured,” he says. “We are on lockdown until my father arrives. No one will enter or exit the premises.”
“So what do we do now?” Ian asks.
“We wait,” Warner says. He looks around at us. “If he does not already know, he will within the next five minutes. The supreme will know that some members of your group are still alive. That Juliette is still alive. He will know that I have defied him and stood against him publicly. And he will be very, very angry,” Warner says. “This much I can absolutely guarantee.”
“So we go to war,” Brendan says.
“Yes.” Warner is calm, so calm. “We fight. Soon.”
“And the soldiers?” I ask him. “Are they really on board?”
He holds my eyes for just a moment too long. “Yes,” he says. “I can feel the depth of their passion. Their sudden respect for you. There are many among them who are still afraid, and others still who are rigid in their skepticism, but you were right, love. They might fear, but they do not want to be soldiers. Not like this. Not for The Reestablishment. They are ready to join us.”
“And the civilians?” I ask, amazed.
“They will follow.”
“Are you sure?”
“I can be sure of nothing,” he says quietly. “But I have never, in all my time in this sector, felt the kind of hope in my men that I felt today. It was so powerful, so all-consuming, I can still feel it from here. It’s practically vibrating in my blood.”
I can hardly breathe.
“Juliette, love,” he says to me, still holding my eyes. “You have just started a war.”
Warner pulls me to the side. Away from everyone else.
We’re standing in a corner of the training room, and his hands are gripped around my shoulders. He’s looking at me like I’ve just pulled the moon out of my pocket.
“I have to go,” he says urgently. “There are many things that must be set in motion now, and I have to reconvene with Delalieu. I will handle every aspect of the military details, love. I will see to it that you have everything you need, and that my men are equipped in every possible way.”