I’m dying, I think. I must be. I thought I knew what it felt like to die, but I must’ve been wrong. Because this is a whole different kind of dying. A whole different kind of pain.
But I suppose, if I have to die, I may as well do one more thing before I go.
I reach up. Grab Anderson’s ankles. Clench my fists.
And crush his bones in my hands.
His screams pierce the haze of my mind, long enough to bring the world back into focus. I’m blinking fast, looking around and able to see clearly for the first time. Kenji is slumped in the corner. Blond boy is on the floor.
Anderson has been disconnected from his feet.
My thoughts are sharper all of a sudden, like I’m in control again. I don’t know if this is what hope does to a person, if it really has the power to bring someone back to life, but seeing Anderson writhing on the floor does something to me. It makes me think I still have a chance.
He’s screaming so much, scrambling back and dragging himself across the floor with his arms. He’s dropped his gun, clearly too pained and too petrified to reach for it any longer, and I can see the agony in his eyes. The weakness. The terror. He’s only now understanding the horror of what’s about to happen to him. How it had to happen to him. That he would be brought to nothing by a silly little girl who was too much of a coward, he said, to defend herself.
And it’s then that I realize he’s trying to say something to me. He’s trying to talk. Maybe he’s pleading. Maybe he’s crying. Maybe he’s begging for mercy. But I’m not listening anymore.
I have absolutely nothing to say.
I reach back, pull the gun out of my holster.
And shoot him in the forehead.
Once for Adam.
Once for Warner.
I tuck the gun back into its holster. Walk over to Kenji’s limp, still-breathing form, and throw him over my shoulder.
I kick down the door.
Walk directly back down the hall.
Kick my way through the entry to Sonya and Sara’s room, and drop Kenji on the bed.
“Fix him,” I say, hardly breathing now. “Please fix him.”
I drop to my knees.
Sonya and Sara are on in an instant. They don’t speak. They don’t cry. They don’t scream. They don’t fall apart. They immediately get to work and I don’t think I have ever loved them more than I do in this moment. They lay him out flat on the bed, Sara standing on one side of him, Sonya on the other, and they hold their hands to his head, first. Then his heart.
Then they alternate, taking turns forcing life back into different parts of his body until Kenji is stirring, his eyes flickering but not opening, his head whipping back and forth.
I’m beginning to worry, but I’m too afraid, and too tired to move, not even an inch.
Finally, finally, they step back.
Kenji’s eyes still aren’t open.
“Did it work?” I ask, terrified to hear the answer.
Sonya and Sara nod. “He’s asleep,” they say.
“Will he get better? Fully?” I ask, desperate now.
“We hope,” Sonya says.
“But he’ll be asleep for a few days,” Sara says.
“The damage was very deep,” they say together. “What happened?”
“Pressure waves,” I tell them, my words a whisper. “He shouldn’t have been able to survive at all.”
Sonya and Sara are staring at me, still waiting.
I force myself to my feet. “Anderson is dead.”
“You killed him,” they whisper. It’s not a question.
They’re staring at me, slack-jawed and stunned.
“Let’s go,” I say. “This war is over. We have to tell the others.”
“But how will we get out?” Sara asks.
“There are soldiers everywhere,” Sonya says.
“Not anymore,” I tell them, too tired to explain, but so grateful for their help. For their existence. For the fact that they’re still alive. I offer them a small smile before walking over to the bed, and haul Kenji’s body up and over my shoulders. His chest is curved over my back, one of his arms thrown over my left shoulder, the other hanging in front of me. My right arm is wrapped around both his legs.
I hoist him higher up on my shoulders.
“Ready?” I say, looking at the two of them.
I lead them out the door and down the halls, forgetting for a moment that I have no idea how to actually exit this ship. But the halls are lifeless. Everyone is either injured, unconscious, or gone. We sidestep fallen bodies, shift arms and legs out of the way. We’re all that’s left.
Me, carrying Kenji.
Sonya and Sara close behind.
I finally find a ladder. Climb up. Sonya and Sara hold Kenji’s weight between them and I reach down to haul him up. We have to do this three more times, until we’re finally on the top deck, where I toss him up over my shoulders for the final time.
And then we walk, silently, across the abandoned ship, down the pier, and back onto dry land. This time, I don’t care about stealing tanks. I don’t care about being seen. I don’t care about anything but finding my friends. And ending this war.
There’s an army tank abandoned on the side of the road. I test the door.
The girls clamber in and they help me haul Kenji onto their laps. I close the door shut behind them. Climb into the driver’s side. I press my thumb to the scanner to start the engine; so grateful Warner had us programmed to gain access to the system.
It’s only then that I remember I still have no idea how to drive.
It’s probably a good thing I’m driving a tank.
I don’t pay attention to stop signs or streets. I drive the tank right off the road and straight back into the heart of the sector, in the general direction I know we came from. I’m too heavy on the gas, and too heavy on the brakes, but my mind is in a place where nothing else matters anymore.
I had a goal. Step one has been accomplished.
And now I will see it through to the end.
I drop Sonya and Sara off at the barracks and help them carry Kenji out. Here, they’ll be safe. Here, they can rest. But it’s not my turn to stop yet.
I head directly up and through the military base, up the elevator to where I remember we got off for the assembly. I slam through door after door, heading straight outside and into the courtyard, where I climb until I reach the top. One hundred feet in the air.