This Shattered World Page 38

With an effort, I wrench myself out of my exhausted stupor and shove the blankets aside. Then I’m trying to sit up, pushing through the dizziness and the nausea. I’ve got to run.

“Hey—stop that!” Jubilee reaches out, grasping my shoulders and pushing me back down. Right now, she’s a lot stronger than I am, and I’ve got no choice but to let her. “If they were on their way here to grab you, do you think I’d be sitting here looking at you? I’d be dragging your ass out the back door by now.”

I can’t answer, my throat catching and drawing up a racking cough.

Jubilee waits it out with her hands still on my shoulders, bracing me. When I’m finished, she pulls them back slowly. “We’ve got a little time. Your lungs won’t take a long trek through the swamp.”

I swallow, making sure my throat’s clear before I try speaking this time. “How long do I have?”

“I don’t know.” Jubilee paces a few steps to the foot of the bed. “Yesterday it would’ve been top priority, but now they’re a little distracted. You can thank your man Quinn for that. I need to think.” She closes her eyes, lips pressed tightly together.

“They’re going to figure out that you haven’t told them everything.”

Jubilee’s jaw tightens, and she makes a slicing motion with her hand. “For now they believe Commander Towers that it was trauma, and that’s why I couldn’t remember your face despite talking to you for a good ten minutes before you dragged me out of there.”

“Tell them you got hit in the head—tell them it’s amnesia or something. Be careful. If I lose you—”

“I know.” Her voice is clipped, bitter. She hates herself for being here. For helping me. “You lose me, you lose your direct line into the military’s plans.”

My brain can’t get past the if I lose you. I want to correct her, but I haven’t worked out yet what the real end of that sentence is.

She sucks in a bracing breath. “Listen. I’m going to get back out there, but if I’m not back by morning, you need to find a way out of here on your own. Steal a boat if you have to.”

I can’t read what’s going on behind her calm expression. But an edge in her voice is ringing an alarm. “What do you mean, if you’re not back?”

She frowns, but doesn’t skip a beat. “They’re probably going to put me on duty soon. If it’s the dawn patrol, I won’t make it back, and you’ll have to get out on your own. What is it your people say? Clear skies.”

Those words, coming from her, slice at my heart. She doesn’t give me a chance to reply and stalks toward the door. She pauses, bracing one arm against the door frame.

“Why couldn’t you have just stayed away?”

“We told you,” says the girl’s father, “we weren’t interested.”

“Noah,” whispers the girl’s mother, “look at their eyes.”

“Last chance,” says the man with the marble eyes. The girl is watching through the crack in the counter and sees him lift his tunic to reveal a gun tucked into his pants. “Hate to go back and tell everyone you’re a Lambda family.”

“We don’t support either side,” says her mother. “We want no part of this.”

The girl moves until she can see her parents instead, standing together in the front hall of the shop. “Please,” says her father. “We have a daughter.”

The world slows to a crawl. The girl hears the telltale click of the pistol being cocked, and her training kicks in. She dashes from the space under the counter; she pulls out her Gleidel; she throws herself between the gunman and her parents; she takes out two of them before the lead gunman can aim her way. It only takes a few seconds before she’s got them all on the floor, disarmed, harmless.

Except it didn’t happen like that.

THE BASE IS STILL IN CHAOS. The air smells of smoke and acrid chemicals, and though all the civilian staff have been removed, it’s busier than I’ve ever seen it. Everyone has a job—or if they don’t, they’re hurrying in search of one.

I only stop long enough to change my clothes. With Cormac’s assurance that Davin Quinn has no connection to McBride, it’s unlikely the bombing was a declaration of war. I don’t need armor for what I’m about to do. I peel the suit off with difficulty; it’s stiff and sour-smelling with smoke, and I kick it into a corner of my room to deal with later. Even after I’ve put on fresh fatigues and my faux leather flak jacket, I still smell like fire. I should take a shower—hell, I should take a nap. But Cormac probably doesn’t have that kind of time.

Maybe I shouldn’t have lied to him. Maybe I should’ve told him what I was planning. But I’m starting to know Romeo, and how he thinks, and I know enough to see he’d never let me go through with it. Maybe he’s the smart one.

The security office isn’t far from my quarters, but my legs are so tired that starting the walk there feels impossible. So I break into a jog, trying to inject a little life into my muscles through sheer force of habit. My lungs start burning almost immediately, and I can’t help but think what Cormac’s must feel like, having inhaled so much more smoke.

When I reach the security office, it’s crawling with staff coming and going. Even though the bomber’s been identified and confirmed dead in the blast, our people are busy finding out everything about him, about the bomb itself, about how he did it. My heart pounding with unfamiliar uncertainty, I nod to the private stationed outside and then slip in through the door.

Security was one of the first permanent buildings erected on the base. No flimsy composite walls, no prefab rooms. All thick, solid plastene and concrete. The main room is the surveillance room, and my eyes flick to the banks of screens connected to the various cameras around the base. The footage itself is stored and accessed on a server down the hallway, but I can see the feed for the camera monitoring Molly Malone’s.

I half expected the bar to be a ghost town, but Molly’s is doing a stiff business right now. Another form of treatment, for the soldiers whose wounds can’t be healed at the hospital. I scan the picture, eyes narrowing. No wonder they felt confident they’d be able to clean up the footage enough to identify my abductor. The image is low res, but there’s a clear view of the spot where I usually sit, the spot where Cormac first pulled his gun on me.

Prev Next
Free Novels Read Online | Read Wuxia Novel | Read Xianxia Novel