Dangerous Page 86

“I wanted to die,” I whispered, looking out. No movement beyond the wall. The landscape was steeped in darkness. “Tak- ing Jacques’s token, choosing to go through it a third time? Like shoving a knife into my own chest.”

“It had become clear that Jacques was as lost to the team as Ruth had been. But I couldn’t kill him. I mean, I could have.”

He smiled.

“Yeah, yeah, I know, you’re so tough.”

“But Dad rightly became suspicious of me. He gave the order to kill me, but I escaped, went into hiding. It’s funny that doesn’t bother me anymore. Maybe it was inevitable, father wanting to kill the usurper son.”

“It’s so Greco-Roman.”

“Am I Jupiter still?”

“You’ve always had a god complex.”

Something exploded in the courtyard. Smoke billowed outward. Dragon and the security guys in gas masks ran into the haze. The breeze shifted, and I made out figures fighting Howell’s guys. I was in a perfect sniper position. No matter Dragon’s orders, I had to attack.

Forming flat havoc pellets, I began to precision fire on invaders as I saw them, like punching them from a distance.

Quickly I depleted the electrons stored in the shooter token battery. Mi-sun could store more electrons than I could, my shooter token tangled with four others. Yet another weakness.

I kept firing, pulling electrons from the gas molecules in the air around me. I could feel my hair rise, the hairs on my arms standing, the air molecules pulling on anything to replace the lost electrons I’d stolen.

“We’re maintaining the perimeter,” said Dragon on the headset. “Stay back, Brown.”

“Careful,” said Wilder. “They’re trying to draw you out.”

I moved to steal electrons from a new patch of air. I aimed at a guy just as he turned to aim at me. He must have fired first.

I heard that familiar whistling noise. Needles.

Chapter 50

I pushed Wilder down, hitting the roof beside him. There was another explosion. This one bright—a light bomb maybe, something to blind us.

We huddled flat to the roof, Wilder’s arm over me. I opened and shut my eyes, but everything was orangey-white, my eyes dazzled. I felt for Wilder’s head and traced my hand over his skull and chest, giving him a havoc helmet and breastplate.

He whispered, “Does this mean that you don’t want me dead?”

I almost laughed.

“I’m sorry, Maisie,” he said.

“You didn’t mean to be a complete douche bag to everyone you knew,” I said flatly. “You were trying to accomplish some- thing impossible, and you had to play tough in order to win.”

“It sounds absurd when you say it out loud.”

“It didn’t feel grand at the time either,” I said quietly. “You should go back in.”

I heard him knock on his helmet. “Naw, I’m good.”

“You’re as stubborn as your dad.”

“It just feels good to explain. I don’t mean to excuse myself.

Maybe there’s no good reason for all I did. When I had the thinker token, it seemed so clear. And now . . . nothing’s clear.

Almost nothing. Is your sight coming back?”

“Yeah.” I could make out shapes in the dark. The humming and cracking started again. If the HAL forces had destroyed one laser cannon, another had taken its place.

“So it’s . . .” Wilder rubbed his face harshly. “It’s been tor- ture this past year trying not to care about you. Because I am— was the leader, and I couldn’t let what I felt get in the way of what I would do. I meant what I said—falling for you wasn’t the plan.” He didn’t seem the least bit shy declaring this. “I felt like trash every time I lied to you. You were willing to leave your par- ents because you were worried about Mi-sun. If you’d known she was already dead, would you still have come? I believed I would fail without you. But I was just straight up scared you would hate me if you knew. That she was dead. That I had her token. That I’d lost a second team member.

“When we confronted Jacques that first time, I was half hoping he’d tell you he thought I’d killed Mi-sun. If you hated me, it might make it easier to . . . to take your tokens too. But he didn’t say it. And I couldn’t bear to. In Philly, in the lair, lying next to you, holding you . . .” His exhale was nearly a sigh. “Full confession: after that night, I made sure we didn’t find GT and Jacques too quickly.”

I gasped. That made him smile, though it faded quickly.

“For weeks I believed I would have to kill you. The techno token was buried under the brute token. I would have to unite them with my thinker token or the fireteam would fail. Here I was trying so hard not to be my dad, and in order to be a hero, I would have to be a murderer.”

I thought of his emails. He’d sweet-talked me into a death trap.

“Then when you came to Philadelphia, this wall I’d been bricking up just crumbled, and I knew I couldn’t . . . well, kill you. But the Purpose pressed and insisted that all the tokens be together. I didn’t know how. My head hurt trying to find a way out, and I couldn’t and couldn’t until . . . you were beside me, asleep, and I thought, she would be a better thinker than I am.

And like that I realized I could kill myself instead. It’s ludicrous I didn’t realize that before, but maybe it was a safety function of the thinker token—survival above all else. The moment I over- rode that, everything changed.”

Prev Next