Never Fade Page 127

My knees buckled slightly, mirroring the feeling of my heart as it dropped like a stone through my chest. Too late.

Those girls, all of them—they were—they were—

I pressed the heels of my palms against my forehead. Slamming them there, over and over, as a silent scream rippled up my throat. Oh my God. All of them.

Too late.

I ripped the door back open, letting Clancy slip out ahead of me as we moved to the boys’ room. Jude wouldn’t know—wouldn’t think to be silent—He’d wake up the entire base—

Where the girls’ room had been cold and dark, this one was filled with the light of flashlight lanterns and the natural body heat of twenty kids, all awake, fully dressed, and crammed together on the bunk beds.

My eyes flew around each of their faces before they settled on the small pile of weapons gathered at Jude’s and Nico’s feet in the center of the room.

“No, no, no!” Nico cried. “What are you doing here?”

“I told you: we came for you,” Jude said. “What the heck is going on?”

“I thought you knew about their plans,” I said, “about the bombs and camps? You didn’t think we’d come to get you out after your friend told us what happened here?”

Clancy only had that same unreadable expression on his face as he surveyed the room.

“Of course I knew!” Nico let out a low moan. “We’ve been communicating on the Chatters this whole time. You were supposed to stay away! I told him to tell you not to come back until it was safe! Until tomorrow!”

“What the hell?” I said, whirling toward Clancy. “What game are you playing?”

The faces around me looked just as confused as I felt. “Who are you talking to?” Jude asked, glancing around.

“Him!” I snapped, exasperated. I tried to grab Clancy before he slipped back out the door. “Who else?”

“Roo…” Jude began, his eyes wide, “there’s no one there.”


“Clancy?” Nico said. “He’s here? He came?”

“He’s right here,” I said, grabbing for his arm. My fingers passed right through it, drifting through cold air. The sight of him wavered, flickered.

Faded into nothing.

He’s… My mind was gripped with panic. I couldn’t finish the thought.

“I didn’t see him get away,” Jude said. “Did Vida take him to disable the cameras…? Roo?”

“The cameras are already down! We hacked into the program hours ago!” Nico said.

“We have to stay here,” one of the other kids added. “They told us to get into one room and stay until it was all over. You’re too early.”

“Until what’s over?” Jude was asking. I barely heard him over the roar of blood in my ears. “What’s happening at six?”

Nico let his head fall back for a second, taking a deep, frustrated breath.

“That’s when Cate and the others are coming to get us.”



“Okay…” I said, trying to catch one of the thoughts flying through my head long enough to put it into words. “Okay…we just…”

He was there. In the tunnel, he was there. He came in with us. If he was going to get away, why didn’t he do it before? Clancy could influence more than one person. He could have tricked all of us by never getting off the plane in the first place. But he had. I had dragged him down the steps myself, felt his pulse jump when I pushed him toward the ladder down into the tunnel. Why not escape then? It had been just as dark outside.…

“What should we do?” Jude was asking.

Because he needed me to get him in here. Before Cate and the others came back.

“You have to stay here where it’s safe,” Nico rambled. “If you go back out there—”

I let him play me again.

“Ruby—Roo!” Jude grabbed my shoulder, turning me back toward him, forcing me to break my gaze with a crack on the far wall. His hair and eyes were both wild, his freckles overlapping points on a map I’d only recently learned to read. He was anxious, but he wasn’t afraid. This was a good Jude to have.

“Go down and get Chubs and Liam and bring them up here,” I said, “but come back if you think, even for a second, that you might get caught. Understand?”

He nodded eagerly.

“Vida will be here in a few minutes,” I told the others. And probably in a holy terror of a mood when she realized I’d sent her up to disable the cameras for no reason. “Once the four of them are back, move the bunks and barricade the doors. No one else comes in.”

“What about you?” Nico asked.

“I have to go take care of your friend,” I said, hoping my voice was enough to convey how deep Nico’s betrayal had buried us in this mess.

“I should go with you…” Nico whispered. “He’s here? Really?”

I’d seen that look a hundred times, a thousand, at East River—the wide-eyed adoration of someone who either had no idea there were scales under Clancy’s skin or someone unhinged enough to just not care. I thought of Olivia and the way she had all but clawed at her own throat when she said his name. I’d been nursing my anger toward Nico from the moment Clancy told us he’d been slipping him intel all this time, letting it grow into thoughts like, I’ll never forgive him. But looking at him now, I forgot it in an instant. Heartache just tore it away, and what was left was the true realization of how damaged the kid in front of me was. His paranoia, his nervous fidgeting, his silent moods. Of course Clancy was his hero. He had saved him from a hell too terrible for nightmares.

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