Never Fade Page 143

“Well, it’s not exactly going to be a cakewalk dropping him off with our new neighbors, either. He’s an Orange; he’ll find a way out of it.” Cole glanced at Clancy, ignoring the shocked noises from the others. “So maybe it’s better to end him now and send the body back. That’d be quite the message to dear ol’ Dad. We’ll find another way out of the city.”

There was a murmur of agreement from a few of the others.

“You’re not getting out of this city,” Clancy said. “My father’s not reactionary. That’s not his game. He’ll have accounted for every possible exit strategy. Trust me, this has been in the works for months, maybe even years. When he got tired of waiting for an excuse to justify the attack, he created one.”

That was almost too ridiculous to believe. “You think your father arranged a hit on himself?”

“It’s what I would have done. I’m assuming he survived?”

Liam’s hold on me tightened until it was almost unbearable. I was shaking again, only this time it was anger blazing through me. Vida and Chubs both glanced over my way, like they were waiting for me to contradict him. I don’t know what terrified me more: that he wasn’t wrong or that this was the old Clancy, the one who knew he could always get his way.

“You guys believed me when I said we were starting over, didn’t you?” Cole was addressing the kids and agents who were still sitting beneath the bridge, looking torn and petrified. “Well, this is it. We make our own road. But he’s not coming with us.”

“Think of the intel we could get out of him!” another agent cried, throwing her hands up in the air. “We can sedate him—”

“Try it,” Clancy dared. “See how it ends for you.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Cole said, rolling his eyes. “We probably should just kill you.”

“Go ahead, then.” Clancy’s teeth were stained with blood as he smiled. “Finish it. I finished what I came to do. And you all—” He turned toward the huddled masses of kids around him, his eyes focusing on Nico. The boy trembled under the intensity of his gaze. “You all can thank me when you can still fight back. I saved us. I saved us.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Cole was losing his patience. He glanced back at me, but I couldn’t look away from Clancy Gray. Not when I felt the first trickle of realization working its way through the grief still clouding my mind.

That morning, a whole city had been destroyed, and countless lives with it. There would be so many people who would never return home to their loved ones that night, though those mothers, father, daughters, sons, wives, husbands would pass through the afternoon and midnight hours, waiting, hoping. The smoke would seep into the concrete that lined every inch of this place, permanently bruising an already beaten city. In ten years, twenty years, it would still be too terrible to speak of what happened—a morning that a thousand other blinding, brilliant mornings would never ease from memory. But somehow, when Clancy spoke again, it was his words that changed everything.

“The cure for IAAN,” he spat. “The one my mother developed, the one Alban kept hidden from you, waiting for the right opportunity to trade it to my father to benefit himself.” Clancy swiped at the blood draining from his nose, laughing in that same humorless way. “The one that would have taken our abilities away and left us helpless. I burned it to ash, and my father buried it without realizing. Now her memory of it is gone, and no one will ever have the research—no one will take away what’s ours.”

A cure. That single word was chiming like a bell in my ears, ringing again and again. My mind couldn’t grasp it, couldn’t recognize it. I’d spent so many years conditioning myself to accept that it was impossible, forcing myself to let go of thinking there was a world beyond the camp’s electrified fence, that the word no longer existed in my vocabulary.

I felt myself start to turn, looking to Jude for his reaction—but Jude wasn’t here. I had left him behind. I had let him fall back into the darkness. And it was like seeing Liam and Chubs climbing out of the tunnel alone all over again. It stole the breath from my chest.

One of the younger kids began to cry loudly behind me, asking in a panicked, confused voice, “What? What is he…what is he talking about?”

Oh, I thought. Oh my God.

I had been wrong—so wrong. The first lady hadn’t been studying what caused the disease. She had invested her life in figuring out how to end it.

I felt myself step toward him, away from the others. Chubs was visibly shaking, about to collapse under the weight of what could have been. I caught Liam’s eye, but his expression was so open, so raw with pain and longing that I had to turn away. I knew what he was imagining. In my mind, we were standing on that beach, too, with the crystal clear skies overhead and our beautiful, whole families around us.

A cure.

Alban had been right when he said Lillian Gray had never been blinded by her love for her son. She knew Clancy would never willingly give up his abilities, and that she’d never find him. No. He needed to come to her, to be lured by the satisfaction of tracking her down after being shut out and denied access to her for so long. He had to be the first one to receive the treatment, because if he heard so much as a whisper of the possibility of it, he’d disappear forever. It made me wonder if that was the reason Alban had sat on the secret for as long as he did—if that was part of the deal. Clancy first. Then, he could present it to the world. He could be the nation’s hero.

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