Never Fade Page 137

I scanned the room, searching for the team of Yellows. They were in the exact same dazed state, limp and unresponsive to the other kids’ efforts to get them on their feet. I could see their faces in the faint, dying light of the glow sticks.

“What the hell?” I heard Chubs say. “Another rolling blackout?”

I shushed him, trying to listen as an agent quickly ran down the situation for Cole as they made their way back over to us. “Backup generator is still up and running, no cell or radio connections available. The cameras on the streets have shut off. Bennett is trying to get them restarted—”

“Don’t bother,” Cole said calmly. “They’re most likely fried.”

Fried? But that would mean…

It was too much of a coincidence for the power to have gone out at that moment. But what Cole was suggesting wasn’t that someone had tampered with Los Angeles’s power grid—he thought someone had disabled every single piece of electronic equipment throughout the city.

“You think it was some kind of electromagnetic pulse?” another agent pressed.

“I think we better get our asses moving before we find out.” Cole cupped his hands around his mouth, shouting over the panicked whispering. “All right, I know you’ve drilled this. Take what you can carry from this room and go straight for the hole. Nothing else. Keep to your lines. Mandatory evac starts now!”

Vida gathered Jude to her side, leaving me to haul Nico up from his seat.

“It could just be another blackout,” an agent protested. “It can’t have been in response to the assassination. Our best bet is to go down to level three and ride it out.”

“If this is an attack,” another one put in, “then the safest place for us to stay is here!”

“The safest place for us is out of this—”

There were three loud knocks, like someone was standing directly above us, politely asking to be let inside. I don’t know why I did it, or what I even thought the noise was, but I tackled Nico to the ground and, a moment later, felt Vida do the same with Jude beside me.

“Cover!” someone screamed, but the word disappeared in the white-hot flash of light.

Then the world rained down fire over our heads.


I DIDN’T FEEL THE PAIN RIGHT AWAY, only the heavy pressure against my spine.

I woke in total darkness with Nico shouting my name, gripping my shoulders. There was a single blessed moment where my brain was in tatters, and it couldn’t connect what I was seeing, and smelling, and feeling with the reality of what had just happened. Everything was filtered through darkness.

“No! I have to find her first—”

“Dammit, Liam, move!” Cole roared. “Go with the others!”

“They’re here,” I heard Vida say. “Help me with this—”

The weight pinning me on top of Nico lifted, and smoky, dust-stained air flooded into my lungs. I coughed, my hand sliding across the floor until I found what felt like a glow stick.

It wasn’t. It was someone’s finger, and it wasn’t attached to his body.

I was hauled up and onto my feet, held there until my knees solidified. “Everyone—” I started to say.

“Bunker busters,” Vida said. “We gotta go.”


“I’m here,” he said. “I can’t see you, but I’m here—”

“Everyone’s here; we’re all okay,” Chubs cut in. “Tell us where to go.”

“Down—” I coughed, clearing the thick dust coating my tongue and throat. My eyes were adjusting now, and I was realizing that the dull orange glow surrounding us wasn’t from the glow sticks but from the fires caused by the explosions. Everything else rushed at me with the force of a bullet to the head: wires were hanging down from the partially collapsed roof, along with pieces of the roof itself. And the sound of distant thunder—it was still there, louder now, firing off on a driving beat.

They’re bombing the city. It didn’t matter who “they” were, not then. I wiped at the slick rush of warmth running down my jaw, glancing over to make sure Nico was okay. He and Jude were huddled together, their arms wrapped around each other.

I turned on my heel, counting them off as I went. Chubs stood, watching the dark shapes of kids and agents limping out of the west exit of the room. Liam was trying to get back to us, shoving at Cole, who was trying to force him to line up behind the others. And Vida—she was staring at the still bodies strewn across the floor, some half buried where the ceiling had actually caved in. The whole room smelled like scorched meat and smoke. Sneakers and boots were scattered, thrown off bloodied, unmoving feet.

“We can’t leave them,” Jude cried, starting to reach toward Sarah, one of the Blue girls. Sarah stared back up at him, her chest caved in by the scaffolding that had fallen on her. “We—It’s not right; we can’t leave them down here! Please!”

“We have to,” I said. “Come on.”

We’d run evacuation drills a total of two times since I’d been with the League, both using a different exit to leave HQ. One was out through the elevator and tunnel, the way we would have normally come in. The other was an enormous stairwell that twisted and curved its way up to the surface, a short distance away from the factory that was supposed to serve as our shield. Neither of them was an option now. I could see that just by looking at Cole’s face.

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