The host of the program arched a gray, bushy eyebrow and said, his voice deep and penetrating, “Did you actually watch the interviews? They claim that there is no program. Based on the fact that it’s been nearly a decade and we’ve had little to no news or progress in finding a cure, I’m inclined to agree. I don’t think these children would risk exposing themselves without—”
The video window jumped to static.
That’s the end of that, I thought, rubbing my face. The room was warm, the machines humming a low song perfectly in tune with one another. The longer I listened to it, eyes shut, the easier it was to process the tidal wave of information that had come crashing down over our heads earlier in the evening; the easier it was to let the quiet anger roll through me.
What was the point of trying to keep it inside now—my fury over decisions that had been made almost twenty years ago?
And this “cure”—what a joke. Surrendering yourself to an invasive procedure that might or might not work was patching the problem over, not fixing it. I felt strangely betrayed by my own hope; I thought I’d trained myself not to bank on things that were completely out of my control. But...still. Still, it hurt.
What’s the point in getting anyone out now if they don’t have a future? My throat ached with the thought. At least in the camps they’re protected from what they’d have to deal with out here. How many people would really be welcoming to “freaks” out walking the streets? I fought the instinct to walk over to the satellite image of Thurmond, to tear it down off the wall and rip it between my hands, just shred it into a thousand fluttering pieces to match the way I was shattering inside. Why not just let those kids be taken out of the camp, let the PSFs and military raze the buildings without leaving so much as a scar on the earth?
Because if the kids are in the camps, they could be forced to get the procedure, whether they want it or not.
Because they deserve to have a choice about how they want to live their lives.
Because they haven’t seen their families in years.
Because it’s what’s right.
I stood up and stretched my stiff limbs as I moved toward the satellite image of the camp, smoothing out a corner that was becoming unstuck from the wall. The notations I made were all still there, and I saw new ones—arrows that Cole had made, outlining the flow of the assault. He wanted us to enter through the front gate using military vehicles. We would pose, I had a feeling, as either units helping with the move or additional forces. The first drive was split between the Infirmary and the Control Tower, with smaller pairings of fighters in twos and threes moving through the rings of cabins.
I backed up to get the full scope of it all, taking a seat on one of the empty desks.
It’s the right thing to do. It would just be a matter of convincing everyone else.
The door to the computer room swung open, and I turned, saying, “How did it—?”
But it wasn’t Cole. It was Liam. Jaw set, blue eyes stormy. Even if I hadn’t been able to feel the anger pouring off him, he was shaking with the clear effort it took to walk in and shut the door with some semblance of calm.
My whole world tilted toward him. There were so many empty spaces inside of me now, and I don’t know if I’d even have recognized that until he was there to fill them. The longing turned to a dull ache; it played games with my mind. It made me think I saw it in his eyes, too, as he watched me. His anger met my desperation and the sparks from the collision crystallized, trapping us in this moment of charged silence forever.
“I’m sorry,” I said finally. “I know it’s too late now, but I’m sorry.”
Liam cleared his throat. His voice was low. “How long have you known?”
There was no point in lying, trying to gloss over the truth. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t have this guilt under my skin, cutting me to the bone each time I withheld, with each little lie. Cole had asked me to keep his secret and I had, because I felt it was his right to come to grips with his abilities on his own terms and in his own time. But I should never have let this charade go on for so long, not when it did more to tear things apart than it did to bring everyone together.
And at this point, I wasn’t sure it was possible for Liam to hate me any more than he already did.
“At HQ,” I said, “when he and the other agents came in to retake it, he saved my life. I saw it then.”
Liam drew in a sharp breath and, in a blur of furious movement, slammed his fist into the wall next to the door, hard enough to crack the plaster.
“Ow—shit!” He jumped back, cradling his hand. “Christ—why did she say that would make me feel better?”
I was on my feet, reaching for him, before I remembered myself.
“Who—Alice?” I guessed, hating that I could hear the bitterness in my own voice.
“Yeah, ’cause some reporter is the first person I’m gonna tell after finding out my brother is a Red,” he shot back. “Vida. When I asked her where you were.”
“Oh. I’m sorry,” I said. I hadn’t realized until that moment, hearing those two words leave my mouth, how carefully I’d managed to balance on the tip of a needle. But it was like every ounce of strength I’d had left just...slipped away. I felt myself take another step, and my knees went out from under me as I dropped to the ground. I couldn’t find the words I needed, couldn’t put them together. I pressed my hands against my face, crying, beyond caring. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry...”