Never Fade Page 129

Then, his hands slowed to a stop.

“You…” Clancy began, “you really want to play this game?”

There was a kiss of cold metal against the back of my neck—so suddenly that I had already convinced myself it was another one of his mind games. But when you lose a sense like sight, it’s true what they say: the rest of them are sharpened to ruthless efficiency. I felt the warm breath, heard the squeak of additional boots, smelled his sweat. Agents—they’d found us.

Clancy twisted away to run; I didn’t see it happen, only heard the sickening crack as something hard connected with his head and sent him crumpling to the ground.

And there was Jarvin’s voice in the dark saying, “I knew you’d be back.” There were his hands, as one closed over the back of my neck and roughly shoved me down to my knees. The barrel slid down to the sweet spot where my skull met my spine. “Rob said all we’d have to do is wait.”

In their fatigues, he and the other League agent behind him were a shade lighter than the air around them.

The safety switched off.

“You don’t want to do this,” I warned, feeling the invisible hands inside of my mind unfurl. I felt anxious but not afraid. Controlled calm.

“No,” Jarvin agreed. “I’d rather do this.”

There was a faint click—the only warning before the White Noise flooded the hallway and drowned me alive.

It was possible to forget that kind of agony after all.

There was a time in my life, a few months into my stay at Thurmond, that they had turned the White Noise on nearly every day. Back when there were Reds to control and Oranges to punish, a single wrong look would have a PSF radioing in to the Control Tower. It was a given part of my life; maybe I had just grown so used to it, the actual impact dulled over time.

But it had been months, and the onslaught of pain twisted my stomach to the point of sickness. I collapsed onto the floor, close enough to Clancy that I could see the cut across his forehead seeping blood. There were thoughts in my head; there was a voice that said, You can take Jarvin; you can take him; you can ruin him…but even that was silenced as the White Noise rose and fell over us like a wave, crushing down on my chest.

And it was amazing—everything we could do, the kind of power we could have over others—it all meant nothing. It all came to nothing.

At Thurmond, we would have heard two warning blares, and a heartbeat later, the noise would explode from the camp’s loudspeakers. It wasn’t something that could be easily described—it was shrieking static, cranked up, sharpened to drill through the thickest part of your skull. It passed through us like an electrical current, making our muscles jump and twitch and sing with pain until the only thing left to do was to try to drive your head into the ground to escape it. If I were lucky, I wouldn’t pass out.

I wasn’t so lucky. I felt myself fade, drift back into the darkness of the hallway. I couldn’t move my arms out from where they were pinned under my chest. My legs had turned to air. Finally, seeing that I couldn’t so much as lift my head, Jarvin switched it off. I drifted from one moment to the next, my ears ringing. The blackness of the hall pulled me in, pushing my head under its murky surface.

When I came to again, someone had a grip on my arm. I could hear Jarvin talking to the others around him, only because he was shouting now. “Get the damn lights on! I don’t care what you have to do—switch them on, dammit! Something’s going on. Can someone just give me a damn light?”

It was a warm Southern voice that answered him. “Sure, brother. I got you covered.”

There was a snap, just one, and the tiniest flame appeared in the dark, illuminating Cole Stewart’s furious face.

I thought, at first, he’d struck a match, but the fire at his fingertips bloomed, swallowing his hand, devouring the arm he sent flying toward Jarvin’s face. There was screaming, so much screaming, as the fires around us grew, catching the soldiers behind him and engulfing them in a wave of heat that sent them running down the hall, stumbling over one another until they finally collapsed. The smell of burned skin made my stomach convulse. I couldn’t escape it.

“Holy shit, you’re—!” one of the agents began to say.

One of us, my mind finished, shutting down at the sight of the fire between Cole’s fingers again, the way he threw a ball of it at the agent who had spoken. How he stoked it, letting it rip over the screaming man’s body until I could only see the dark silhouette trapped in the flames dancing over his skin.


No—no, he was—Cole was too old, he wasn’t—

“Hey—hey!” The fire was gone now, but Cole’s hands were still hot to the touch as he tried to haul me to my feet. My legs still weren’t there. He tried lightly slapping my face. “Shit…kid, come on. You can do this; I know you can.”

“You…” I tried to say. “You just…”

He let out the breath he’d been holding, relieved. Cole lifted me over his shoulder, smacking the back of my thighs in irritation. “Dammit, Gem, making me worry like that. I heard the Calm Control from down the hall, but I had to wait until he turned it off. I couldn’t get close. I’m sorry; I’m so sorry.”

He kicked the door open to Alban’s office, dropping me to the ground behind the desk, rearranging my limbs so I was at least sitting up, and un-holstered one of his handguns to press into my limp fingers.

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