The Calling Page 41

Wreckage and two corpses wasn’t all they found. They’d recovered Kenjii, too, apparently. That wasn’t tough to fake—no one’s going to test a dog. But the article said they’d also recovered DNA evidence that confirmed the death of the seven teenagers on board.

“But how the hell do you pull off something like that?” Sam said.

“They have our DNA,” I said. “They must have made it seem like the crash was worse than it was, that there wasn’t…”

“Much left of us,” Daniel said. “Enough to provide DNA, but not enough to show our parents.”

“Hold on,” Corey said. “Isn’t there one massive flaw in this logic? The search team belonged to the St. Clouds. They have our DNA. They could convince our parents we were dead. But they aren’t the ones we’re running from and they aren’t the ones who found the wreck.”

“They’ve cut a deal,” I said.

“And cut us loose,” Daniel murmured as he worked it out. “There are other kids in this experiment. Probably our whole class. This Nast Cabal discovered the experiment. The St. Clouds realized it. So they negotiated.”

I nodded. “We ‘die’ and the Nasts get to keep us, if they can find us. The St. Clouds get the rest of the kids. They already had one project blow up on them. They weren’t about to lose another.”

“So they negotiated?” Corey said. “Using us?”

“Apparently that’s all we are to them. Assets. Valuable ones, but not worth sacrificing the whole experiment for.”

“So we can’t go back to Salmon Creek,” Sam said. “If we do, they’ll just turn us over.”

“The St. Clouds will. Our parents won’t.” I looked around. “Does anyone doubt that?”

Daniel said, carefully, “I’m not sure my dad wouldn’t … let them have me.”

“I don’t believe that.” I wasn’t so sure, but I certainly wasn’t saying so. “But he won’t be the one we’ll approach. My parents would be best—I’m sure they knew nothing about this. Corey’s mom is fine, too. And Mrs. Tillson isn’t going to hand over Sam and Nicole to the people who killed her husband.”

“Okay, so we still go back—” Corey began.

He stopped, wincing.

“Headache?” I said.

“Yeah, just hold—” He doubled over with a sharp intake of breath.

I grasped his arm. “Corey?”

“Bad one,” he panted. “Okay, just—”

He let out a howl, his head dropping forward, his hands clutching it. Then he retched. Another heave, and a geyser of Coke sprayed the bushes.

I gripped his arm and tugged him until he was sitting, knees up, headbetween them, panting hard.

“Well, that’s new,” Corey muttered between gasps. “And I don’t think I like it.”

He winced again, face screwed up against the pain as he doubled over.

“Okay,” I said. “Just breathe and keep your eyes shut. The sunlight’s probably making it worse.”

“That would help … if I wasn’t seeing light even with them shut.”


“I’m getting flashes of—” A few panting breaths. “Light. Color. Could use a sound track.”

“You’re seeing things?”

He shook his head. “You get visions. I just get random—” Another curse as the pain hit again. “Flashes. Boring flashes.”

Daniel knelt and held out a bottle. I thought it was pop, then saw the label.

“Beer?” I said.

“It helps. I knew his meds had dissolved, so I grabbed a few from the store.”

Corey took it and twisted off the cap. A few gulps. Then a deep breath as he relaxed. Another long drink, then a sidelong glance at me.

“Yes, I’m self-medicating with booze and I know that’s not smart. I wouldn’t do it if I had the meds.”

“So beer … helps?”

He shrugged. “Not as good as the meds. I’ve still got a killer headache. But it doesn’t feel like an icepick driving into my skull.”

I looked over at Daniel. His eyes were dark with worry. If these weren’t just migraines—if they were linked to the experiments—we had no idea how to handle them. No idea if they were a normal part of Corey getting his powers or a sign that something was wrong.

Corey finished the bottle, then closed his eyes. “The puking was new. And the pain was worse. The flashing lights are a recent symptom.” He opened one eye. “See, I said I get all the cool powers. Raging migraines cured by booze. I really will be that guy in a bar—”

The sound of a revving engine made us all look up. We’d been walking parallel to the road. but deep enough in the bush not to be spotted by anyone driving past. This noise sounded like an ATV. We hid, and it passed, went a little farther, then stopped.

“Moreno to base. Moreno to base.”

Someone answered.

Moreno gave his coordinates, then said, “Still no sign of the Morris girl. She can’t have run far, though. I’ll keep looking.”

The ATV started up again.

“Hayley escaped,” Corey said.

“You heard that?” I said.

“Um, yeah. We all did.”

“Because we were supposed to,” Daniel said. “He was talking too loud. He even turned off the ATV so his voice would carry better.”

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