Never Fade Page 35

While the PSFs had bound my hands, for whatever reason—probably because I was already unconscious—they hadn’t used a gag on me, and I was grateful. Bile rose, burning the back of my throat, and the only way to make the whole thing worse would have been to choke on my own vomit. I could feel the anxiety in me building to a slow and steady beat of Not again, not again, I can’t go back there, not again.

Calm down, I ordered myself. You’re no good like this. Get a grip.

I couldn’t get my jaw to move, to say something to get Jude’s attention. It took several precious moments for him to notice that I was even awake, and when he did, his body gave a huge jerk of surprise. He tried in vain to rub the cloth out of his mouth with his shoulder. I shook my head. If we were going to do something, it would have to be quietly.

Jude’s fear was an actual, living thing. It hovered over his shoulders, black, thunderous. He began to shake violently. He tossed his head, trying to draw desperate gulps of air into his lungs.

He’s having a panic attack. The thought was a quiet, sure one, and I was surprised by how much resolve it flooded into my veins.

“It’s okay,” I whispered, hoping the guys in front wouldn’t hear me over the chatter of their radios. “Jude, look at me. You have to calm down.”

He was shaking his head, and I could read his thoughts clear as if I had actually been inside it. I can’t, not here, not now, oh God, oh God.

“I’m here with you,” I said, bringing my knees up close to my chest. It was painful, but I managed to drag my arms up around my legs, so my bound hands were in front of me.

“Take a breath through your nose, a deep one,” I said. “Let it out. You’re all right. We’ll be fine. You just need to calm down.”

And he needed to do it sooner rather than later. My mind was going in circles trying to think of where the nearest camp was—upstate New York? Wasn’t there one in Delaware, out near a whole town of abandoned farmland? Where were we now?

I held Jude’s gaze with mine. “Calm down,” I said. “I need you to focus. You have to stop the car. Do you remember Saratoga?”

If there was only one good thing I could say about the League’s methods of training, it was that the instructors were creative. They tended to have a supernatural sense of what kinds of situations we would find ourselves in, including a practice run-through of almost this exact scenario. In that simulation, Vida, Jude, and I had been on a make-believe Op in Saratoga and had been taken hostage. Vida and I had fought our way out of the van and both ended up “dead,” shot in our escape. Instructor Fiore pointed out everything we should have done, which included Jude doing something other than cowering in the back of the car.

I saw him take a deep breath and nod.

When I had traveled with Zu, the biggest hurdle she had to overcome was controlling her Yellow abilities. She had worn rubber gloves for the better part of our time together to avoid zapping machinery or the car, but we’d seen her lose control twice without them to block her charged touch. Jude, though—he’d been trained. He’d had the benefit of being around other Yellows who were willing to help him learn. Although he ran at a speed that was ten times faster than everyone around him, he kept his abilities in check. The scene out by the protest had been the first time I’d ever seen him slip, and in such a huge, horrible way.

He closed his eyes, and I rolled over onto my knees, trying to brace myself.

I felt the huge swell of electricity, felt it ripple along the hairs of my arms. It crackled in my ears, heated the air until it burned white.

It was too much for the car’s battery to take. The car didn’t even shudder as it died; it was like it had slammed into an invisible wall. I went sliding toward the front grate with the force of it. The two PSFs cried out in confusion.

But I didn’t think it through. Cars on the East Coast were rare, with the sky-high prices of gas and the cost of upkeep. I had just assumed that there would be no one else out driving, that the van would stop, and I would find a way to take the PSFs out one at a time.

I saw the flood of white headlights at the same moment the PSFs did. The force of the impact as the semi truck clipped the front of our van sent us spinning fast and wild. The airbags exploded with a scent like burning. I slammed into the bench opposite of Jude, who went tumbling to the floor.

The van went onto its right tires, and for a split second I was sure we’d start rolling and that’d be the end of the story. Instead, the van slammed back down onto all fours. Over the hiss of the smoking engine and the cusses one of the PSFs was hollering, I heard the semi truck’s tires squeal as it slid to a stop.

“—Flowers, Flowers!”

I shook my head, trying to clear my double vision as my hands felt along the ground for Jude. They didn’t stop until they met with his boney, warm ankle and I felt him twitch in response. Alive. It was too dark to see if he was in one piece.

“Flowers! Goddammit!”

If it had been anyone else beside the PSFs, I might have felt sorry for the trouble we’d caused them. One of the men in uniform—Flowers, I guess—was slumped forward in his seat, his deflating airbag smeared with blood.

“Shit!” The driver was pounding on the steering wheel. He felt around the crumpled dashboard until his fingers latched onto the radio. Jude had done his job, though. Anything electronic within fifty feet had been fried. The man kept trying to click it on, kept saying, “This is Moreno; do you read?”

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