Never Fade Page 136

“Stop it!” I said. “Listen to yourself—”

“You—” A flush of red swept up Liam’s neck, and he was visibly struggling to keep his face in check. “You have no idea…”

“Oh, don’t cry about it,” Cole said, standing. “Haven’t you already embarrassed me enough? Just…go. Jesus, just go already if you want out so damn bad. Stop wasting my time!”

“Guys—” Jude’s voice went high, cracking on the word. “Guys!”

“Please,” I tried again. “Just—”

Jude leaned over the table and grabbed my arm, turning me back in the direction of the television. “Shut up and look!”

President Gray had exited his car and was looking around at the crowds, lifting his hand in a well-practiced wave. His hair was grayer than I remembered it being even a few months ago. Heavier bags rimmed his dark eyes. But it was still Clancy’s face, a glimpse of what he’d look like in thirty or forty years, and for that alone I wanted to look away.

“What’s—” Vida began, just as the camera panned to a small hooded figure shoving his way past the pretty blond broadcaster, leaping over the police boundaries.

The president was slowly making his way up the pristine white steps of the Capitol, his hand outstretched toward the governor. Behind him, both the American and Texas state flags were swaying with the breeze. He didn’t seem to notice something was wrong until the men in suits beside him pulled their guns, and the governor’s face went white as bone.

The police officers that lined the steps were thrown to each side, shoved through the air with such force that they smashed through the lines of cameramen and photographers. He hadn’t needed to touch them, only slash his arms out in front of him, like he was throwing open a heavy curtain.

“Christ!” Liam said behind me. “That’s a kid!”

He was slight, all lean muscles and tan skin, like a runner who’d spent his summer out on a high school track. His hair was long, tied back with a small elastic to keep it out of his face; it gave him a clear view as he swung the small gun up from his sweatshirt’s pockets and calmly fired two shots into the president’s chest.

The TVs, each tuned to a different station, erupted at the exact same moment, catching the scene from every angle.

“Oh my God, oh my—” the newscaster was moaning. She’d dropped to the ground; all we could see was the back of her head as she watched the police and Secret Service pile on top of the kid, burying him under a sea of uniforms and coats. The crowd behind her was screaming; the camera shook as it swung around to capture their escape from the scene. Every look of terror. Every look of disgust. All turned now from the president himself to the kid who’d just killed him.

“Did you do this?” Liam snarled, swinging back toward his brother. “Did you order that kid to do that?”

“He’s not one of us,” Vida said. “I’ve never seen that piece of shit in my life!”

Cole spun on his heel, diving headlong into the stunned silence in the atrium. No one was moving aside for him, and I had no idea where he was going. Vida grabbed the remote and turned the volume up.

“Ladies—ladies and gentlemen—please—” The broadcaster was still on the ground, trying to protect herself from the stampede of bystanders fleeing the scene. The picture cut away to the horrified faces of the anchors back in the studio, but they were there for only an instant before the screen clicked to black and bold words appeared there.





But the message stayed on the screens, and the only thing that did follow was the low wailing tones of the emergency alert system, the same ones we’d all heard a thousand times as they’d run the tests on televisions and radios.

There was a muffled bang that came from somewhere above us, almost inaudible under the sound of panicked voices in the atrium and the blaring television screens—two of them, three, four, all firing off in rapid succession like the crackling Fourth of July fireworks we used to watch at home from my backyard. They were too far away to be truly frightening. For a moment I wondered if they were fireworks. Were people really crass enough to already be celebrating President Gray’s apparent demise?

It all washed away with the overpowering sound of rushing water—no, more like static. A ferocious wave of noise, cracking, snapping, hissing like a rolling hurricane.

And then it all cut out with a low, mechanical whine—the kind an animal might make as it took its last breath. The lights, the TVs, the air-conditioning, everything switched off, throwing us back into the same impenetrable darkness we’d just left.

If Jude hadn’t still been gripping my arm, I would never have been able to catch him as he swayed toward the ground.

“Whoa,” I began.

Vida was instantly at our side, helping me lower him back into a seat.

“It… Something just happened…” The agents around us were snapping on glow sticks, illuminating the room in that small way. I could see his hands clenched in his hair—the expression on his face was dazed, drunk almost. “Something bad.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, letting Chubs in closer to look.

His eyes were still slightly unfocused. “It was a big…a big burst. Like a flare, and then it was gone. Everything is so quiet…nothing’s talking anymore.”

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