Never Fade Page 131

The last article I found was focused on her disappearance from public life shortly after the attack on Washington, DC. In it, the president was quoted as saying, “My wife’s protection and security is my number one concern,” with no other details given.

And that was her legend. Not the dozens of award ceremonies she’d attended, not her groundbreaking research in systems neuroscience, or any of the parties she’d hosted on her husband’s behalf. Not her treasured only son. According to the Time article Alban had slipped into the folder, there were rumors that she’d been killed or abducted by a hostile country shortly after the outbreak of IAAN. It became especially alarming when Clancy went out on the road alone on his father’s behalf to praise the camp rehabilitation program, showing himself to be its first successful subject.

It had been nearly ten years, and she had yet to show her face publicly.

But here she was in this folder, her face, her research…her handwritten notes. I clenched my hands into fists and released them several times, trying to force them to stop shaking.

There were three notes mixed into the mess of documents, each only a few lines long. There were no envelopes, but the sheets were still sticky with whatever they had been sealed with. Someone must have passed this to him by hand, then, rather than risk sending it digitally. Alban’s clear cursive had filled in the dates at the top, likely for his own recordkeeping. The first, from five years before, read:

No matter what’s become of us, I need to get out of his reach if I’m going to save him. If you help me disappear, I’ll help you in return. Please, John.

The next, two years later:

Enclosed are the most recent findings of our work; I’m feeling incredibly optimistic this will all be over soon. Tell me you’ve found him.

And the final, from only two months before:

I’m not going to sit around waiting for your approval—that was never our deal. I’m leaking the location onto the server tonight. If he doesn’t come looking for me, then I’ll find him myself.

Clancy was still out cold, his head lolled to the side. I watched the steady rise and fall of his chest, something sharp twisting low in my gut.

“You sad son of a bitch,” I whispered.

This was why he’d come here. This was the task he couldn’t entrust to anyone other than himself.

I combed through the pages again, trying to decipher exactly what she’d been working toward. A part of me had suspected it had something to do with us when I saw the diagrams, but why would she be secretly running her own experiments about the cause of IAAN at the same time Leda Corp was? There was that mention she made in her first note of needing to get out of “his reach”—was it possible she thought her husband would tamper with the results of what Leda Corp would find and that the misinformation would jeopardize Clancy’s life?

But then…why would he want to destroy this? I flipped back to the pages of charts and graphs, and there, at the bottom of each page, were the initials L.G. I combed through the pages again, making sure I was looking at each and every one. Why had he wanted to destroy this? To protect his mother’s whereabouts? To destroy proof that she was somehow providing information to Alban about her research?

None of this made sense to me. Her final note said she was leaking “the location”—her location?—onto a server. That was in line with Nico’s earlier explanation that the word Professor, one that Clancy had asked him to watch for, came up on the server. But she only leaked it when she was ready. Only after Project Snowfall was complete.

She didn’t want him to know what she was working on, I realized. But why go find him? Why let him find her, when it was obvious that he was the one she truly needed to be protected from?


THE LIGHTS AND MACHINES around Alban’s office came back on in an explosion of noise and static, and I was up and off the ground before the radio scanner clicked on, blasting the room with a rousing choral rendition of “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” I drew my hand up in a weak attempt to block the glare as I stumbled toward the corner of the office. My eyes were watering and I couldn’t see any of the radio dials, so I settled for slapping and turning them all until the sound finally dropped to a bearable level. After the White Noise, even a faint scratch against the door would have sounded like thunder. For a long, terrible minute, I forced myself to stay still and readjust to the world of light—just as long as it took Clancy to let out a low moan and start to shake his head.

And for me to realize my window for being able to control him was slamming shut.

The fighting outside had faded into a lone spray of bullets firing one floor up. It was a risk to assume that they’d already cleared this level of rogue agents, but reason had overridden my fear. Most of the agents would have been on the first level, in their quarters, asleep when Cole and the others had entered the building, with a few, like Jarvin, on patrol.

I would be fast. If the hallway was clear, I could go down to find the others after taking care of this. Make sure Liam and Chubs were tucked away with Jude and Vida in the safety of the barricaded sleeping room. I just couldn’t leave him in here, not with the locks already busted.

I circled my arms around Clancy’s chest from behind, trying to get a good grip on him and tearing off one of his coat’s gold buttons in the process.

“You are…” I gasped, feeling the stitches in my back pull, “officially the biggest pain in my ass.…”

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