Page 49

Maybe Warner was right all along.

Maybe he and I really are perfect for each other.

Just about everyone has filed out of the dining hall. People are saying last-minute good-byes to the old and the young ones they’re leaving behind. James and Adam had a lengthy good-bye just this morning. Adam and I have to head out in about 10 minutes.

“Well damn. Who died?”

I spin around at the sound of his voice. Kenji is up. He’s in this room. He’s standing next to our table and he looks like he’s about to fall right over but he’s awake. He’s alive.

He’s breathing.

“Holy crap.” Adam is gaping. “Holy shit.”

“Good to see you too, Kent.” Kenji grins a crooked grin. He nods at me. “You ready to kick some ass today?”

I tackle him.

“WHOA—hey—thank you, yeah—that’s—uh—” He clears his throat. Tries to shift away from me and I flinch, pull back. I’m covered everywhere except for my face; I’m wearing my gloves and my reinforced knuckles, and my suit is zipped up to my neck. Kenji never usually shies away from me.

“Hey, uh, maybe you should hold off on touching me for a little while, yeah?” Kenji tries to smile, tries to make it sound like he’s joking, but I feel the weight of his words, the tension and the sliver of fear he’s trying so hard to hide. “I’m not too steady on my feet just yet.”

I feel the blood rush out of me, leaving me weak in the knees and needing to sit down.

“It wasn’t her,” Adam says. “You know she didn’t even touch you.”

“I don’t know that, actually,” Kenji says. “And it’s not like I’m blaming her—I’m just saying maybe she’s projecting and doesn’t know it, okay? Because last I checked, I don’t think we have any other explanations for what happened last night. It sure as hell wasn’t you,” he says to Adam, “and shit, for all we know, Warner being able to touch Juliette could just be a fluke. We don’t know anything about him yet.” A pause. He looks around. “Right? Unless Warner pulled some kind of magical rabbit out of his ass while I was busy being dead last night?”

Adam scowls. I don’t say a word.

“Right,” Kenji says. “That’s what I thought. So. I think it’s best if, unless absolutely necessary, I stay away.” He turns to me. “Right? No offense, right? I mean, I did nearly just die. I think you could cut me some slack.”

I can hardly hear my own voice when I say, “Yeah, of course.” I try to laugh. I try to figure out why I’m not telling them about Warner. Why I’m still protecting him. Probably because I’m just as guilty as he is.

“So anyway,” Kenji says. “When are we leaving?”

“You’re insane,” Adam tells him. “You’re not going anywhere.”

“Bullshit I’m not.”

“You can barely stand up on your own!” Adam says.

And he’s right. Kenji is clearly leaning on the table for support.

“I’d rather die out there than sit in here like some kind of idiot.”


“Hey,” Kenji says, cutting me off. “So I heard through the very loud grapevine that Warner got his ass the hell out of here last night. What’s that about?”

Adam makes a strange sound. It’s not quite a laugh. “Yeah,” he says. “Who even knows. I never thought it was a good idea to keep him hostage here. It was an even stupider idea to trust him.”

“So first you insult my idea, and then you insult Castle’s, huh?” Kenji’s eyebrow is cocked.

“They were bad calls,” Adam says. “Bad ideas. Now we have to pay for it.”

“Well how was I supposed to know Anderson would be so willing to let his own son rot in hell?”

Adam flinches and Kenji backpedals.

“Oh, hey—I’m sorry, man—I didn’t mean to say it like that—”

“Forget it.” Adam cuts him off. His face is suddenly hard, suddenly cold, closed off. “Maybe you should get back to the medical wing. We’re leaving soon.”

“I’m not going anywhere but out of here.”

“Kenji, please—”


“You’re being unreasonable. This isn’t a joke,” I tell him. “People are going to die today.”

But he laughs at me. Looks at me like I’ve said something obliquely entertaining. “I’m sorry, are you trying to teach me about the realities of war?” He shakes his head. “Are you forgetting that I was a soldier in Warner’s army? Do you have any idea how much crazy shit we’ve seen?” He gestures between himself and Adam. “I know exactly what to expect today. Warner was insane. If Anderson is even twice as bad as his son, then we are diving right into a bloodbath. I can’t leave you guys hanging like that.”

But I’m caught on one sentence. One word. I just want to ask. “Was he really that bad … ?”

“Who?” Kenji is staring at me.

“Warner. Was he really that ruthless?”

Kenji laughs out loud. Laughs louder. Doubles over. He’s practically wheezing when he says, “Ruthless? Juliette, the guy is sick. He’s an animal. I don’t think he even knows what it means to be human. If there’s a hell out there, I’m guessing it was designed especially for him.”

It’s so hard to pull this sword out of my stomach.

A rush of footsteps.

I turn around.

Everyone is supposed to exit the tunnels in a single-file line in an attempt to maintain order as we leave this underground world. Kenji and Adam and I are the only fighters who haven’t joined the group yet.

We all get to our feet.

“Hey—so, does Castle know what you’re doing?” Adam is looking at Kenji. “I don’t think he’d be okay with you going out there today.”

“Castle wants me to be happy,” Kenji says matter-of-factly. “And I won’t be happy if I stay here. I’ve got work to do. People to save. Ladies to impress. He’d respect that.”

“What about everyone else?” I ask him. “Everyone was so worried about you—have you even seen them yet? To at least tell them you’re okay?”

“Nah,” Kenji says. “They’d probably shit a brick if they knew I was going up. I thought it’d be safer to keep it quiet. I don’t want to freak anyone out. And Sonya and Sara—poor kids—they’re passed the hell out. It’s my fault they’re so exhausted, and they’re still talking about heading out today. They want to fight even though they’re going to have a lot of work to do once we’re done with Anderson’s army. I’ve been trying to convince them to stay here but they can be so damn stubborn. They need to save their strength,” he says, “and they’ve already wasted too much of it on me.”

“It’s not a waste—,” I try to tell him.

“Anywayyy,” Kenji says. “Can we please get going? I know you’re all about hunting down Anderson,” he says to Adam, “but personally? I would love to catch Warner. Put a bullet through that worthless piece of crap and be done with it.”

Something punches me in the gut so hard I’m afraid I’m actually going to be sick. I’m seeing spots, struggling to keep myself standing, fighting to ignore the image of Warner dead, his body crumpled in red.

“Hey—you okay?” Adam pulls me to the side. Takes a good look at my face.

“I’m okay,” I lie to him. Nod too many times. Shake my head once or twice. “I just didn’t get enough sleep last night, but I’ll be fine.”

He hesitates. “Are you sure?”

“I’m positive,” I lie again. I pause. Grab his shirt. “Hey—just be careful out there, okay?”

He exhales a heavy breath. Nods once. “Yeah. You too.”

“Let’s go let’s go let’s go!” Kenji interrupts us. “Today is our day to die, ladies.”

Adam shoves him. A little.

“Oh, so now you’re abusing the crippled kid, huh?” Kenji takes a moment to steady himself before punching Adam in the arm. “Save your angst for the battlefield, bro. You’re going to need it.”

A shrill whistle sounds in the distance.

It’s time to go.


It’s raining.

The world is weeping at our feet in anticipation of what we’re about to do.

We’re all supposed to split off into clusters, fighting in tight groups so we can’t all be killed at once. We don’t have enough people to fight offensively so we have to be stealthy. And though I feel a pang of guilt for admitting it, I’m so happy Kenji decided to come with us. We would’ve been weaker without him.

But we have to get out of the rain.

We’re already soaked through, and while Kenji and I are wearing suits that offer at least a modicum of protection against the natural elements, Adam is wearing nothing but crisp cotton basics, and I’m worried we won’t last long like this. All members of Omega Point have already scattered. The immediate area above the Point is still nothing but a barren stretch of land that leaves us vulnerable upon exiting.

Lucky for us, we have Kenji. The 3 of us are already invisible.

Anderson’s men aren’t far from here.

All we know is that ever since Anderson arrived, he’s been going out of his way to make a point about his power and the iron grip of The Reestablishment. Any voice of opposition, no matter how weak or feeble, no matter how unthreatening or innocuous, has been silenced. He’s angry that we’ve inspired rebellion and now he’s trying to make a statement. What he really wants is to destroy all of us.

The poor civilians are just caught in his friendly fire.


We automatically move toward the sound echoing in the distance. We aren’t saying a word. We understand what we need to do and how we have to operate. Our only mission is to get as close as possible to the devastation and then to take out as many of Anderson’s men as we can. We protect the innocent. We support our fellow Point men and women.

We try very hard not to die.

I can make out the compounds creeping closer in the distance, but the rain is making it difficult to see. All the colors are bleeding together, melting into the horizon, and I have to strain to discern what lies ahead of us. I instinctively touch the guns attached to the holsters on my back and I’m momentarily reminded of my last encounter with Anderson—my only encounter with the horrible, despicable man—and I wonder what’s happened to him. I wonder if maybe Adam was right when he said that Anderson might be severely wounded, that perhaps he’s still struggling to recuperate. I wonder if Anderson will make an appearance on the battlefield. I wonder if perhaps he’s too much of a coward to fight in his own wars.

The screams tell us we’re getting closer.

The world around us is a blurry landscape of blues and grays and mottled hues and the few trees still standing have a hundred shaky, quivering arms ripping through their trunks, reaching up to the sky as if in prayer, begging for relief from the tragedy they’ve been rooted in. It’s enough to make me feel sorry for the plants and animals forced to bear witness to what we’ve done.