Never Fade Page 87

Please not in the hangars, I thought. Please. This was my idea—I’d pushed them into this, and it would be on me to get us out if everything blew up in our faces.

Cate wouldn’t have sent us here if she thought it was too dangerous, I told myself, not if there was a chance we could be caught.

“Call the others over,” I told Jude, silencing the small voice before it could send me spiraling into true fear.

I counted them again as they ran toward us. One, two, three, all the way up to twenty-one.

The hunting party shrank into the shadow of Hangar 1, backs pressed to the wall, eyes scanning the dark field. The hangar door was locked with a series of imposing chains we had no way of slicing through, but there was a side-access door that, like I’d predicted, had some kind of electronic lock that looked like it had been beamed back from the distant future.

“Step aside,” Jude said, shooing me away with his hands. “The master is here.”

“Careful,” I warned. “Frying it completely will probably trigger it, too.”

“Honestly,” he said, squinting at the display. It lit instinctively when he stepped in front of it, pulling up a digital number pad. “You’re acting like I’ve never done this before!”

“You haven’t,” I reminded him. “Nico usually disables the alarm systems remotely.”

“Details, details.” Jude waved me off with one hand and brought his other palm up against the screen. “Be silent so the master can do his work!”

“Can the master hurry the hell up?” Brett hissed, hopping from foot to foot, arms crossed over his chest. I was starting to feel the winter bite, too. The sweat gliding down my face felt like it was two degrees away from freezing into solid crystals.

“Count of three,” Jude breathed out, “push on the door handle. Ready?”

I slipped around him, getting a good grip on the metal bar. “Go for it.”

At three, the system’s screen flickered black, and I waited only long enough to hear the lock pop before shoving it open with my shoulder. When the system’s number pad flashed back up, it cast an eerie red halo on the drifting snowflakes.

I waited for the shrill cry of an alarm, the blinding flash of floodlights spotlighting our small group. I waited to feel Jude shrink against the wall behind me in terror. I waited, waited, waited. But there was nothing to wait for.

“Okay!” Jude called. “I tricked the system into thinking that the door is actually closed—we just have to keep it open, and then we won’t run into any problems.”

“Nice job!” I whispered. The others streamed in past us, leaving a trail of mud and slush on the concrete ramp. We smelled like wet dogs that had rolled around in an ashtray.

Jude grinned as he dashed in after them. Someone hit the overhead lights and flooded the room with pristine white. I covered my eyes with a hand, trying to adjust to the glare.

There was a strange charge to the air now; I felt Jude’s mood shift from a sparkling excitement to the kind of shock that only ever comes like a brick to the face. The shift was so fast, and so sudden, that I was almost too afraid to see the hangar for myself.


There were rows of metal shelves lining the echoing room; they’d been set up almost like the stacks in a library but had to be a good two or three times the normal size. The soldiers had dragged them into tight, neat rows. The thick layer of faint peach paint someone had coated the cement with still had the gouges and scuff marks to prove it. Stacked on top of them were pallets and pyramids of boxes. Many were unlabeled, even more wrapped up tightly in a nest of clear plastic.

“What language is that?” Olivia asked. She kicked at the nearest one, knocking the dust and clumps of dirt from it with the toe of her boot. It was buckled on one side, the thin wood cracking as if it had fallen from a great height and landed wrong side up in a field.

“Chinese?” Jude guessed. “Japanese? Korean?”

I didn’t recognize the words printed there, but the simple red cross that had been stamped over it—that I did recognize.

The American Red Cross branches had, if you believed the news, run out of funds and supplies once all shipping to and from the United States was halted. People were afraid that IAAN was contagious and could jump ship, riding shotgun on a package or in a person to go plague another, healthier country. Once the economy was gone, the organization barely had funding to stay afloat for two more years.

So what the hell was this stuff?

“Liv—check it out!” one of the guys called. He and a few of the others had sliced through the plastic and were levitating boxes down to the ground from the upper shelves. One of them was already gutted, its fire-engine-red innards sliding across the floor. I picked up one of the red packages that had spilled out, surprised by its weight and rectangular shape. There was a sketch of a man lifting food to his mouth, and a flag, both printed under the words HUMANITARIAN DAILY RATION.

“‘This bag contains one day’s complete food requirement for one person,’” Olivia read. There were more lines beneath it—in French and Spanish, maybe?

“‘Food gift from the people of China,’” I finished, passing the package back to her.

There were several sharp intakes of breath around us, but most of the others had been driven onto the next shelf, pulling down cardboard boxes printed with TEN 24-HOUR RATIONS GP NATO/OTAN APPROVED.

“This stuff is from the UK, I think.” Jude had ripped into one of the boxes and was examining a pamphlet that had been left inside. “There’s…there’s so much stuff. Matches, soup, chocolate—oh my God, there’s even tea!”

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