Page 29

“I’m cold,” I say, and lie down again. “Why is it so cold?”

A brief silence. A rustle of movement. I feel a heavy blanket drape over the simple sheet already covering my body.

“You should know,” the voice says to me, “that I’m not here to hurt you.”

“I know,” I say, though I don’t understand why I’ve said it.

“But the people you trust are lying to you,” the voice is saying. “And the other supreme commanders only want to kill you.”

I smile wide, remembering the birds. “Hello,” I say.

Someone sighs.

“I’ll see you in the morning. We’ll talk another time,” the voice says. “When you’re feeling better.”

I’m so warm now, warm and tired and drowning again in strange dreams and distorted memories. I feel like I’m swimming in quicksand and the harder I pull away, the more quickly I am devoured and all I can think is


in the dark, dusty corners of my mind

I feel a strange relief.

I am always welcome here

in my loneliness, in my sadness

in this abyss, there is a rhythm I remember. The steady drop of tears, the temptation to retreat, the shadow of my past

the life I choose to forget has not

will never


forget me


I’ve been awake all night.

Infinite boxes lie open before me, their innards splayed across the room. Papers are stacked on desks and tables, spread open on my floor. I’m surrounded by files. Many thousands of pages of paperwork. My father’s old reports, his work, the documents that ruled his life—

I have read them all.

Obsessively. Desperately.

And what I’ve found within these pages does nothing to soothe me, no—

I am distraught.

I sit here, cross-legged on the floor of my office, suffocated on all sides by the sight of a familiar typeset and my father’s too-legible scrawl. My right hand is caught behind my head, desperate for a length of hair to yank out of my skull and finding none. This is so much worse than I had feared, and I don’t know why I’m so surprised.

This is not the first time my father has kept secrets from me.

It was after Juliette escaped Sector 45, after she ran away with Kent and Kishimoto and my father came here to clean up the mess—that was when I learned, for the first time, that my father had knowledge of their world. Of others with abilities.

He’d kept it from me for so long.

I’d heard rumors, of course—from the soldiers, from the civilians—of various unusual sightings and stories, but I brushed them off as nonsense. A human need to find a magical portal to escape our pain.

But there it was—all true.

After my father’s revelation, my thirst for information became suddenly insatiable. I needed to know more—who these people were, where they’d come from, how much we’d known—

And I unearthed truths I wish every day I could unlearn.

There are asylums, just like Juliette’s, all over the world. Unnaturals, as The Reestablishment calls them, were rounded up in the name of science and discovery. But now, finally, I’m understanding how it all began. Here, in these stacks of papers, are all the horrible answers I sought.

Juliette and her sister were the very first Unnatural finds of The Reestablishment. The discovery of these girls’ unusual abilities led to the discoveries of other people like them, all over the world. The Reestablishment went on to collect as many Unnaturals as they could find; they told the civilians they were cleansing them of their old and their ill and imprisoning them in camps for closer medical examination.

But the truth was rather more complicated.

The Reestablishment quickly weeded out the useful Unnaturals from the nonuseful for their own benefit. The ones with the best abilities were absorbed by the system—divvied up around the world by the supreme commanders for their personal use in perpetuating the wrath of The Reestablishment—and the others were disposed of. This led to the eventual rise of The Reestablishment, and, with it, the many asylums that would house the other Unnaturals around the globe. For further studies, they’d said. For testing.

Juliette had not yet manifested abilities when she was donated to The Reestablishment by her parents. No. It was her sister who started it all.


It was Emmaline whose preternatural gifts startled everyone around them; the sister, Emmaline, was the one who unwittingly drew attention to herself and her family. The unnamed parents were frightened by their daughter’s frequent and incredible displays of psychokinesis.

They were also fanatics.

There’s limited information in my father’s files about the mother and father who willingly gave up their children for experimentation. I’ve scoured every document and was able to glean only a little about their motives, ultimately piecing together from various notes and extraneous details a startling depiction of these characters. It seems these people had an unhealthy obsession with The Reestablishment. Juliette’s biological parents were devoted to the cause long before it had even gained momentum as an international movement, and they thought that studying their daughter might help shed light on the current world and its many ailments. If this was happening to Emmaline, they theorized, maybe it was happening to others—and maybe, somehow, this was information that could be used to help better the world. In no time at all The Reestablishment had Emmaline in custody.

Juliette was taken as a precaution.

If the older sibling had proven herself capable of incredible feats, The Reestablishment thought the younger sister might, too. Juliette was only five years old, and she was held under close surveillance.

After a month in a facility, Juliette showed no signs of a special ability. So she was injected with a drug that would destroy critical parts of her memory, and sent to live in Sector 45, under my father’s supervision. Emmaline had kept her real name, but the younger sister, unleashed into the real world, would need an alias. They renamed her Juliette, planted false memories in her head, and assigned her adoptive parents who, only too happy to bring home a child into their childless family, followed instructions to never tell the child that she’d been adopted. They also had no idea that they were being watched. All other useless Unnaturals were, generally, killed off, but The Reestablishment chose to monitor Juliette in a more neutral setting. They hoped a home life would inspire a latent ability within her. She was too valuable as a blood relation to the very talented Emmaline to be so quickly disposed of.

It is the next part of Juliette’s life that I was most familiar with.

I knew of Juliette’s troubles at home, her many moves. I knew of her family’s visits to the hospital. Their calls to the police. Her stays in juvenile detention centers. She lived in the general area that used to be Southern California before she settled in a city that became firmly a part of what is now Sector 45, always within my father’s reach. Her upbringing among the ordinary people of the world was heavily documented by police reports, teachers’ complaints, and medical files attempting to understand what she was becoming. Eventually, upon finally discovering the extremes of Juliette’s lethal touch, the vile people chosen to be her adoptive parents would go on to abuse her—for the rest of her adolescent life with them—and, ultimately, return her to The Reestablishment, which was only too happy to receive her.

It was The Reestablishment—my own father—who put Juliette back in isolation. For more tests. More surveillance.

And this was when our worlds collided.

Tonight, in these files, I was finally able to make sense of something both terrible and alarming:

The supreme commanders of the world have always known Juliette Ferrars.

They’ve been watching her grow up. She and her sister were handed over by their psychotic parents, whose allegiance to The Reestablishment overruled all else. Exploiting these girls—understanding their powers—was what helped The Reestablishment dominate the world. It was through the exploitation of other innocent Unnaturals that The Reestablishment was able to conquer and manipulate people and places so quickly.

This, I now realize, is why they’ve been so patient with a seventeen-year-old who’s declared herself ruler of an entire continent. This is why they’ve so quietly abided the truth of her having slaughtered one of their fellow commanders.


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