Never Fade Page 90

They weren’t floodlights, I realized. Just the headlights of the four trucks that had parked in a half ring around the hangar’s door. Most of the soldiers had taken up behind the green vehicles, bracing their guns over the hoods for a steadier aim. A good two dozen soldiers knelt on the ground in front of them, rifles raised, helmets strapped on.

The door came to a screeching stop overhead.

A few of the soldiers in camo sat back on their heels or pulled back from the sights of their guns. Surprised, I’m sure, to see nothing but a small cluster of freaks. One of the men in front turned and shouted something back to the others, but the rain swallowed his words.

A burst of whining static cut in. Someone had retrieved a megaphone for one of the older men in the back. “You are to come with us,” he said, “on authority of the Psi Special Forces commander, Joseph Traylor. If you do not cooperate, we will respond with force.”

“Yeah?” Brett called. “You can tell Joseph Traylor that, on our authority, he can suck it!”

That was the cue, whether he had meant it to be or not. The Blues took one single step forward and threw up their arms. Even the soldiers who recognized what was happening were too slow to fully respond. The pop-pop-pop of an automatic weapon was swallowed by the startled screams as the whole cluster of the soldiers and their trucks were lifted and thrown back, as if by an invisible tidal wave.

And then, Jude stepped out into the rain.

It was both horrible and beautiful to watch—familiar, somehow, to see the roaring electricity he had collected from the hangar hover around him like a blue sun. The light swelled out, bursting past the walls of his skin and raced out along the pooled rainwater on the pavement in rivers of searing light. Jude’s shape became a shadow, a simple silhouette, as the electricity billowed out in front of him, growing like a silent, blinding explosion.

The night lost the fresh smell of rain, carrying a new stench of burned skin, and hair, and the unmistakable gut-churning odor of white-hot rubber instead. The electricity sizzled as it lashed out. It jumped up past the rubber-soled boots. It lit clothes and bones and skin, heating the metal canisters of pepper spray until they exploded. The soldiers that hadn’t been knocked out by the Blues’ hit began to writhe on the ground. One managed to lift his gun, aiming in the general direction of Jude, only to be shoved farther back by Brett.

Jude stayed on his feet as long as he could, shaking and trembling like a wet rabbit in the blistering cold. Then he collapsed, knees to pavement, chest to pavement, face to pavement in such a boneless way that I screamed, pushing past the others to get to him.

I flipped him over onto his back, ignoring the sharp pricks of static stabbing my fingers. His face felt burning to the touch, even under a blanket of freezing rain. When he had fallen, so had the charge, the popping blue rivets of electricity evaporating like steam.

Olivia’s group came out next, scrambling for whatever guns they could reach, kicking aside prone soldiers to get to them.

“Olivia!” Brett shouted. I looked up as he and the others came rushing out after the first group. She stopped, her feet sliding against the pavement as she turned. He had one hand around her upper arm, another in her loose braid. He drew his face down to her scarred one and kissed her. It lasted no longer than a heartbeat. A firm, exact message.

“Now run!” he said, pushing her toward the others.

I struggled under Jude’s awkward length, trying to lift his prone form. Brett shoulder-checked me aside, not having the patience or, clearly, the time to waste on trying to rouse the kid out of his exhausted stupor. He hoisted Jude up onto his back. The pack he had carried out was kicked to another Blue, who scooped it up mid-stride.

“This way!” he called.

The running was so much worse, so much harder than I expected. Car engines came rip-roaring alive behind us. I saw more speeding down the nearby road, but only the last two in that caravan saw us quickly enough to turn off into the field before entering the small airport. The headlights bounced as the SUVs took each hill and pit. The trees, though, the trees were up ahead, their dark, thick line lit—

A hand closed around my wrist, wrenching me back. I fell hard, my feet slipping out from under me with the combination of mud and frost and ice. An explosion of gray spots bloomed behind my eyelids as my head slammed back against the ground.

The soldier shined a flashlight in my face, close enough to my eyes that I had to shut them again to escape the brightness. Her knee came down on my chest and pushed that last breath of air out of it. I twisted and kicked, a frustrated scream ripping out of my throat.

Then the light dropped away and I could open my eyes again. She was young—but, more importantly, she was furious. The soldier tugged an orange object off her belt and held it directly in front of my face. She shouted something I couldn’t hear. The rain—it was only rain, filling my mouth, my nose, my eyes, my ears. The orange device swam in my vision again, disappearing in another burst of white light.

I knew the moment the device pulled up my profile. The PSF’s face went slack with horror, her eyes drifting back down to my face.

I turned my head and sunk my teeth into her wrist’s burned pink flesh. She shrieked, but I was already in her mind. A car’s bright headlights slashed through the dark, highlighting the shapes running toward us, heading into the woods.

“Get…off!” I kicked one last time, with enough force that even Instructor Johnson would have approved.

The soldier slumped off me, landing hard in the dirt. Her eyes were open and vacant, staring at me. Waiting for an order.

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