Never Fade Page 38

My brows rose. “You think I wasn’t scared?”

“I wasn’t scared, either!” Jude added quickly. “It just made me wonder about before you came to HQ.…”

“Are you trying to ask me what I was doing before Cate brought me in?”

“Well, yeah!” Jude said. “We all wondered—there were rumors, but they seemed really hard to believe.”


“Really.” Seeing that his line of questioning was a one-way road into Silenceville, USA, he changed the subject as awkwardly as he could manage.

“Do you really think the scientists discovered what caused it?” Jude asked. “Idiopathic Ado-blah-blah-blah?”

“Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration,” I supplied. Otherwise known as the reason most of us died and the rest of us turned into freaks. How could he ever forget what those letters stood for?

“Right, whatever,” Jude said. “Oh man, can you imagine what the League could do with that?”

I could hear the hope underlying his voice and felt my heart break, just that little bit. How could I tell him it would be a miracle if we actually found Liam, let alone found him still in possession of the flash drive?

“I think about it a lot,” he said, “don’t you? There’s a lot I don’t understand, and Cate and the others don’t really give me anything to work with, but it’s sort of cool to think our brains somehow mutated. I mean, it would be slightly cooler to know how and why that happened, but still cool.”

I used to think about it, when I was at Thurmond and there was very little else to focus on outside of my own misery. I spent countless days staring up at the bottom of Sam’s bunk, wondering how and why any of this had happened to us. Why some of us were Green and others Orange and others dead. But almost from the exact moment Cate got me out, I forced myself not to dwell on it. There were more important things to focus on—like surviving. Not being recaptured. Liam, and Chubs, and Zu.

“I know it’s dumb, but I’ve been trying to puzzle it all out. Sometimes I really do think it’s a virus, and then other times…I mean, how could it be a virus or disease if it barely spread outside of the US?” Jude was saying. “What was different about us from those other kids, the ones who died?”

All fair points. All distracting points. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. We have to find Cole’s brother first.”

Jude nodded. “Man, that’s going to be so…weird. Meeting him, I mean. I remember when he ditched. No one even noticed he was gone until they did the headcount at the end of the simulation.”

I glanced over. “You knew Liam?”

Jude glanced up, his amber eyes widening slightly. “Oh, no, not, like, personally. Knew of him. He was training at Georgia HQ, and Vida and me have always been in LA. Liam’s the reason they moved all of the Psi training to California, though. Less chance for people to go missing when everyone is underground, I guess.”

Right. Of course. Liam wouldn’t have been in California. I was surprised at how much better the thought made me feel, knowing that he hadn’t been forced to live in that dank hole in the ground.

“Is Liam one of the people you search for on the PSF network every week?” Jude asked. “Nico mentioned it once. Are we going to look for them, too?”

I felt my patience snap like the icy layer over the snow we were crunching through. I don’t think it ever stood a chance against tonight.

“Because it’s none of your business!” I hissed. “You wouldn’t even be here if you hadn’t waded into such deep shit!”

“I know, okay? I know!” Jude said, throwing his hands up. “You don’t like us, you don’t like the League, you don’t want to be Leader, you don’t want to talk about yourself or Cate or training or your favorite food or your family and friends. Fine. Fine! Wait—what are you doing?”

I thought I had imagined them as we were walking; they’d been little more than distant, unidentifiable shapes. But as I guided us down the crest of the next hill, the woods suddenly pulled back, revealing a small, cramped neighborhood street.

I heard Jude slide to a stop at the edge of the icy street when he saw that these houses had lights on. That there were cars in the driveways and people moving behind the window curtains, ready to mark another Wednesday as finished.

A man with a beat-up truck was trying to plow the street, struggling through the thick blanket of snow. I nudged Jude back behind me again, eyes on the house directly across the street, an idea worming its way up through my haze of exhaustion. There was a small silver sedan parked in the driveway, but, more importantly, I had seen a blurry shape through the little window of the house’s front door.

Sure enough, as soon as the plow passed, a woman stepped out and turned to lock the door behind her. Her hair was an ashy blond, shot through with strands of silver. It peeked out between the emerald knit cap and black coat she was wearing. I saw a flash of her dress as she buttoned her coat up over it. The cut and design made it look like something a waitress in a diner would wear.

She swung her keys around her fingers as she walked, glancing up at the night sky and the snow falling in soft breaths around her. I waited for the beep beep of the doors unlocking before I moved.

“Come on,” I said, grabbing Jude’s arm.

The woman heard us coming. Her back went rigid with panic when she saw my face reflected behind hers in the car’s dark window. I saw fear chase confusion in her eyes and took the opportunity to slip one of my cold hands up the sleeve of her coat to her warm, bare flesh. She smelled like pineapples and sunshine, and her mind was just as bright. It was a quick touch; it had to be—so fast I didn’t even experience the usual flood of memories. I wasn’t even sure I had her until she blinked slowly at me, her eyes going glassy.

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