Never Fade Page 42

“Yeah,” he said. “You seriously had no idea about that? Cate never told you what she used to do?”

No, but then again, it wasn’t like I had ever asked. “So she, what, pulled you out of foster homes and brought you into the League?”

“Sort of.” He leaned back against the door, sliding against me with the next big turn. I had to strain to hear him now. “When IAAN happened, a lot of kids got turned out of their foster homes—the ones who, you know, didn’t die. It was just a bad situation all around, because there was no one to even claim them for burial or anything like that. Cate said a lot of the case workers had a hard time trying to find out what had happened to their kids. She found me before someone turned me in for the reward or I got picked up in the Collections.”

The Collections had been a series of mass roundups of the survivors of IAAN who hadn’t already been sent to camps. Any parents who felt like they could no longer care for their freak kids or wanted them to enter the “rehabilitation” programs of the camps just had to send them to school, and the PSFs stopped by to round them up. It was the first big organized intake of kids. The next step was forcing them into the camps, whether the parents wanted them gone or not. Involuntary Collection.

“That must have been a really scary time.”

I felt him shrug, but he struggled to get the next words out. “It’s… Well, it’s over. It was better than being at home, anyway. Dad was a real winner.”

I forced my eyes on the road. The way he said it, with such forced brightness…

“And Vida…?”

It was like I had turned a key inside of him, or he was too exhausted to try to keep it all buried. “I don’t know what the deal is with her family. She has an older sister, Nadia, who was taking care of her for a while. Cate lost track of her—I guess they were squatting in some building? Vida woke up one morning to find her sister gone and the PSFs there. She thinks that her sister called her in to get the reward money.”

“How did Cate get to her, then?” I asked.

“The PSFs had packed about ten kids into this bus to ship them east to the camp in Wyoming, but the League got there first. You know this story, right?”

I did, actually. The League had found themselves in possession of five kids they had no idea what to do with, so they started the training program. I knew Vida had been with the League for a long time, but I had no idea she was one of the Wyoming Five.


“I know.”

I didn’t know what to say, what I could say, so I settled on, “I’m sorry.”

Jude made a face. “What are you sorry for? You didn’t do anything. And besides, we were the lucky ones. Cate’s the one who has the hardest time. I don’t think she ever got over the kids she lost. Especially the ones who died in the fire.”

“What?” I breathed out.

“It was this group home she was in charge of keeping an eye on,” Jude explained. “A few of the kids started showing signs of Psi abilities and the person in charge just freaked out. Cate doesn’t know if one of the kids accidentally started it or if the woman did it herself—I guess she was really, really, really religious, but, like, crazy religious. When the police found her, she kept saying how she had done God’s work.”

“That’s…” There was no word for how horrible that was, so I didn’t try.

“Anyway, that’s the whole story.” Jude shrugged. “The beginning, at least.”

I held my breath as the bus stopped at what I assumed was a checkpoint and someone, probably a PSF, boarded. We couldn’t hear their conversation, only the heavy steps as they walked up and down the length of the bus aisle over our heads. A more thorough soldier would have forced him to open the luggage compartment, too, but we were waved on and soon the only sound was the growl of the road beneath us.

Still, he apologized repeatedly when he pulled over to retrieve us. I had every intention of wiping his memory and booking it, but there were no cars—there was nothing on that stretch of highway aside from trees and snow. It was either Andy or another fun day or two wandering around with Jude in a winter wonderland, looking for civilization.

“Are you sure this is okay?” Jude and I had taken one of the front seats to have a better look at the road while he was driving. “Can we repay you somehow?”

“Don’t get me wrong,” Andy said. “This is a spectacular waste of gasoline, but I don’t mind sticking it to my fine employer every now and then. They cut my benefits the hot second things got bad, so I’m not feeling too generous toward them myself. Besides, the drive down is usually pretty empty, and I have to bring the bus to Richmond whether I have passengers or not. The return trip is usually pretty full. Some folks seem to have the notion that there’s more work up north than there is in the south, and hardly anyone can afford those stupid trains.”

Jude had proven to me about six times over in the past day just how naive he was, so it was a wonder he could still surprise me with his carelessness. After a few minutes he dropped off into an easy, trusting sleep. Like there was no danger of this bus driver using his radio to call us in or driving us to the first functioning police station he happened across.

“You look like you’re about to roll right off that seat and hit the floor, young lady,” Andy said, glancing up at me in the large mirror over his head. “Maybe you’d consider taking a cue from your friend and getting a little rest?”

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