And his soft, soulful eyes lift up to mine, at the end of a trajectory that even Vosch failed to predict.
“You’re free,” Alex whispers. “Run.”
The recruit swings the rifle toward me. Vosch steps between us with an enraged, guttural cry.
The hub lights up the muscular array as I sprint straight for the windows overlooking the landing field, leaping from six feet away and rotating my right shoulder toward the glass.
And then I’m in the open air, falling, falling, falling.
COVERED IN ASH and dust, five gray ghosts occupying the woods at dawn.
Megan and Sam finally drifting off to sleep, though more of a passing out than a drifting off. She was clutching Bear to her chest. Wherever there is someone in need, Bear said to me, I will go.
Ben watching the sun rise with his rifle across his lap, silent, wrapped tight with anger and grief, but mostly grief. Dumbo, the practical one, digging in his rucksack for something to eat. And me, wrapped tight, too, with anger and grief, but mostly anger. Hello, good-bye. Hello, good-bye. How many times do I have to relive this cycle? What happened wasn’t hard to figure out; it was just impossible to understand. Evan found the baggie that Sam dropped and blew (literally) both Grace and himself to lime-green oblivion. Which had been Evan’s plan from the beginning, the self-sacrificing, idealistic, alien-human hybrid ass**le.
Dumbo came over and asked if I wanted him to take a look at my nose. I asked him how he could miss it. He laughed. “Take care of Ben,” I told him.
“He won’t let me,” he said.
“Well,” I said, “the real wound your medical mojo can’t touch, Dumbo.”
He heard it first (the big ears maybe?), head coming up, looking over my shoulder into the trees: the snap and crackle of the frozen ground breaking and dead leaves crunching. I stood up and swung my rifle toward the sound. In the deep shadows, a lighter shadow moved. A survivor of the crash who followed us here? Another Evan or Grace, a Silencer finding us in his territory? No. Couldn’t be. No Silencer would be caught dead tramping through the woods with all the stealth of a bull in a china shop—or they would be caught dead doing it.
The shadow raised its arms high in the air and I knew—knew before I heard my name—that he’d found me again, keeper of the promise he couldn’t make, the one I had marked with my blood and who had marked me with his tears, a Silencer all right, my Silencer, stumbling toward me in the impossibly pure light of a late winter’s sunrise promising spring.
I handed my rifle to Dumbo. I left him. The golden light and the dark trees glistening with ice and the way the air smells on cold mornings. The things we leave behind and the things that never leave us. The world ended once. It will end again. The world ends, then the world comes back. The world always comes back.
I stopped a few steps from him. He stopped, too, and we regarded each other across an expanse wider than the universe, within a space thinner than a razor’s edge.
“My nose is broken,” I said. Damn that Dumbo. Made me self-conscious.
“My ankle’s broken,” he said.
“Then I’ll come to you.”