Kenji sighs, squints at something over my shoulder. He pulls a pair of gloves out of his back pocket and tugs them on. “All right, princess, turn your power back on. We have to move.”
We break apart. Kenji pulls his invisibility over us both.
“Follow me,” he says, taking my hand.
“Where are we going?” I say.
“What do you mean, where are we going? We’re getting the hell out of here.”
“But— What about Warner?”
“Nazeera is looking for him as we speak.”
I stop so suddenly I nearly stumble. “Nazeera is here?”
“Uh, yeah— So— It’s a really long story? But the short answer is yes.”
“So that’s how you got in here,” I say, beginning to understand. “Nazeera.”
Kenji makes a sound of disbelief. “Wow, right off the bat you give me no credit, huh? C’mon, J, you know I love a good rescue mission. I know some things. I can figure things out, too.”
For the first time in weeks I feel a smile tug at my lips. A laugh builds and breaks inside my body. I’ve missed this so much. I’ve missed my friends so much. Emotion wells in my throat, surprising me.
“I missed you, Kenji,” I say. “I’m so happy you’re here.”
“Hey,” Kenji says sharply. “Don’t you dare start crying. If you start crying I’ll start crying and we do not have time to cry right now. We have too much shit to do, okay? We can cry later, at a more convenient time. Okay?”
When I say nothing, he squeezes my hand.
“Okay?” he says again.
“Okay,” I say.
I hear him sigh. “Damn,” he says. “They really messed you up in here, didn’t they?”
“I’m so sorry,” he says.
“Can we cry about it later? I’ll tell you everything.”
“Hell yeah we can cry about it later.” Kenji tugs gently on my hand to get us moving again. “I have so much shit to cry about, J. So much. We should make, like, a list.”
“Good idea,” I say, but my heart is in my throat again.
“Hey, don’t worry,” Kenji says, reading my thoughts. “Seriously. We’ll find Warner. Nazeera knows what she’s doing.”
“But I don’t think I can just wait while Nazeera goes searching for him. I can’t just stand around— I need to do something. I need to look for him myself—”
“Uh-uh. No way. Nazeera and I split up on purpose. My mission is to get you on the plane. Her mission is to get Warner on the plane. That’s how math works.”
“Wait— You have a plane?”
“How else did you think we got here?”
“I have no idea.”
“Well, that’s another long story, and I’ll fill you in later, but the highlights are that Nazeera is very confusing but helpful, and according to her calculations, we need to be getting the hell out of here yesterday. We’re running out of time.”
“But wait, Kenji— What happened to everyone? Last time I saw you, you were bleeding. Brendan had been shot. Castle was down. I thought everyone was dead.”
Kenji doesn’t answer me at first. “You really have no idea what happened, huh?” he says finally.
“I only know that I didn’t actually kill all those people at the symposium.”
“Oh yeah?” He sounds surprised. “Who told you?”
“Yeah,” I say, sighing heavily. “There’s so much I have to tell you. But first— Please tell me everyone is still alive.”
Kenji hesitates. “I mean, I think so? Honestly, I don’t know. Nazeera says they’re alive. She’s promising to come through on getting them to safety, so I’m still holding my breath. But get this.” He stops walking, puts an invisible hand on my shoulder. “You’re never going to believe this.”
“Let me guess,” I say. “Anderson is alive.”
I hear Kenji’s sharp intake of breath. “How did you know?”
“Evie told me.”
“So you know about how he came back to Sector 45?”
“What?” I say. “No.”
“Well, what I was about to tell you, right now, was that Anderson came back to base. He’s resumed his position as supreme commander of North America. He was there right before we left. Nazeera told me he made up this whole story about how he’d been ill and how our team had spread false rumors while he was recovering—and that you’d been executed for your deception.”
“What?” I say, stunned. “That’s insane.”
“This is what I’m saying.”
“So what are we going to do when we get back to Sector 45?” I say. “Where do we go? Where do we stay?”
“Shit if I know,” Kenji says. “Right now, I’m just hoping we can get out of here alive.”
Finally, we reach the exit. Kenji has a security card that grants him access to the door, and it opens easily.
From there, it’s almost too simple. Our invisibility keeps us undetected. And once we’re on the plane, Kenji checks his watch.
“We’ve only got thirty minutes, just so you know. That was the rule. Thirty minutes and if Nazeera doesn’t show up with Warner, we have to go.”
My heart drops into my stomach.
I have no time to register my shock, or to ask Nazeera when on earth she was going to tell me she had the power to turn herself invisible, so I do the only thing I can, in the moment.
I nod, the movement almost imperceptible.
“Kenji is getting Ella onto a plane. I’m going to wait for you just outside this door,” she says. “Do you think you can make it? If you go invisible in front of everyone, they’ll be on to us, and it’d be better if they think you’re just trying to run.”
Again, I nod.
“All right then. I’ll see you out there.”
I wait a second or two, and then I head for the door.
“Hey—” Ibrahim bellows.
I hesitate, turning back slightly, on my heel.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he says. He pulls a gun from the inside of his jacket and points it at me.
“I have to use the bathroom.”
Ibrahim doesn’t laugh. “You’re going to wait here until Max gets back. And then we decide what we’re going to do with you.”
I tilt my head at him. The gun he’s pointing at me looks suspiciously like one of the guns I stole from my father earlier.
Not that it matters.
I take a quick breath. “I’m afraid that’s not how this is going to work,” I say, attempting a smile. “Though I’m sure we’ll all be seeing each other soon, so I wouldn’t worry about missing me too much.”
And then, before anyone has a chance to protest, I run for the door, but not before Ibrahim fires his weapon.
In close range.
I fight back the urge to cry out as one of the bullets shoots clean through my calf, even as the pain nearly takes my breath away.