Never Fade Page 86

Jude kept saying “they” this and “they” that, but that was the problem—we didn’t know who was in charge of the airport or why they were hoarding supplies. I’d tried to send a follow-up message to Cate and Nico to ask, but they hadn’t responded before we left.

We were still heading east, toward Nashville’s center, but the river didn’t follow a straight path. It had looped down again, directly in front of us.

I nudged my way up to the front of the group. My outstretched hand eventually found Olivia’s shoulder, and she reached back, pulling me to the edge of the Cumberland River.

“Whoa,” was Jude’s only comment.

Until we hit that first barrier, I hadn’t really understood why, months after the floodwaters receded, the city was still closed. But it was like with any disasters; the cleanup was almost always worse than the stress of the disaster in progress. No wonder the ground had become little more than a swamp under my boots, no wonder the river was still flooding out. The initial storms had been powerful enough to carry whole sections of homes back into the river, to upend massive river barges and leave them stranded and rusting under the sun. It was like a terrible drain clog. The water couldn’t flow naturally down toward the city, which meant it was still bleeding out into the nearby fields and forests.

“It’s right over there,” Brett said, pointing to distant white shapes. As if on cue, a red light on one of them began to pulse slow and steady. “Nice to see Gray and his boys got around to cleaning this mess up like he swore he would.”

“Are we…swimming?” I asked, trying not to grimace.

Olivia turned toward me, holding up our one lone flashlight. The scarred half of her face stretched into a genuine smile. “Nope. We’re going to play leapfrog.”

It turned out that “playing leapfrog” with a bunch of Blues essentially meant resigning yourself to being flung from floating object to floating object like a rag doll. The system they’d worked through was impressive; the river was too wide for the Blues to lift another kid with their abilities and send him cruising the whole way across it. Instead, Brett took advantage of the flood’s wreckage, lifting Olivia and setting her down, with impressive accuracy and care, on the upturned corner of a half-sunk barge. She, in turn, sent the next Blue a little farther, onto the roof of what looked like a large mobile home. With the three of them in position, they were able to pass each of us along without much trouble at all. I landed on my knees, finally on the other bank.

We cut another path through a thicket of trees, emerging muddy and slick with the fresh rain falling overhead. The runway was shorter than the ones I’d seen at bigger airports, jam-packed with planes of all sizes and shapes. Mixed in between the helicopters and one-seaters were green-and-tan military vehicles. The airport wasn’t in use after all, then—and if the planes and trucks were out here, it meant there really was a good chance that Cate and Nico’s intel was good, and something else was being stored in the hangars.

Someone—the National Guard by the look of the vehicles—had halfheartedly put up a chain-link fence around the perimeter of the runways and hangars, along with signs that read things like NO TRESSPASSING and HIGH VOLTAGE. Olivia threw a rock, which bounced back and hit the mud with the tiniest rattle. Jude twisted out of the grip I had on his shirt to belly crawl through the grass.

“Hey!” I whispered. “Jude!”

He tapped the fence with his finger, then again for good measure before he hustled back over to us. “That has about as much electricity as my shoe,” he whispered.

This isn’t right, I thought. If there was something worth having here, there’d be people to protect it…right?

I scanned the field in front of us again, Instructor March’s voice ringing in my ears: If it looks too good, too easy, it never is. And the simulation we’d run after—with Vida and I storming a warehouse—had proven that point. Sure, it had been all clear on the outside. The agents playing the roles of the National Guardsmen had been waiting for us inside.

“Roo.” Jude groaned. “Come on.”

There was no real cover between the trees and the hangars, but that didn’t stop Brett and some of the others from blowing past us to continue forward. Even Olivia looked over at me, exasperated, before she stood and jogged to catch up to them.

“All right,” I told Jude, “stay close—”

But he was already up and running, too, weaving through the vehicles and planes on the runway. I finally caught up with them when they stopped at the edge of the asphalt, crouching down behind the last line of vehicles.

“I’ll take Brett and Jude with me,” I said, taking the flashlight from Olivia. “Two flashes for all clear, one for turn back. Got it?”

“There’s no one here, Ruby.”

“And that doesn’t strike you as odd?” I hissed back. There were tire tracks and footprints all around us; if they were old, they would have been washed out after days of rain.

The nearby parking lots were mostly empty or filled with large shipping trucks. Now and then a light above them would flicker, but aside from that, the airport was dark.

Every nerve in my body was tingling by the time I met up with Brett again after we’d lapped the buildings. I jerked my chin back in the direction where we’d left Jude waiting.

“This is too easy,” Brett finally admitted, shifting his old rifle to his shoulder. “Where the hell is everyone?”

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