United as One

Page 12


I don’t know how to respond. Part of what Mark’s saying is true, but it ignores so much of what Sarah and I shared. Maybe it was selfish of me to involve her, except that every time I pushed her away she would come back. She made her own decisions. She was strong and made me stronger. And she was the first person on Earth who made it feel like I actually had a chance at a normal life, like there was something more than just endless running and fighting. Sarah gave me hope. But I don’t have the words to explain that to Mark, and I don’t even want to. I don’t need to defend myself.

“You’re right,” I say coldly, hoping that’s enough to end this.

“I’m—I’m right?” Mark asks incredulously, eyes widening. “You think that’s what I want to hear?”

I sigh. “Mark, the truth is, I don’t care what you want. I never have.”

He hits me then. I see the punch coming a mile away, but I don’t bother defending myself. It’s a short uppercut that catches me right in the stomach and causes me to suck in a sharp breath. It’s not the first time that Mark has punched me, and he hits hard—maybe a little harder than I remember. But I’ve taken a lot of shots over the last few months, ones harder than Mark could begin to imagine, and this one I barely feel.

When I don’t react to the first punch, Mark tries another. His heart isn’t in it, though. He throws a haymaker at my head but seems to change his mind at the last moment, and his fist simply glances off the corner of my jaw. The force of his own punch carries Mark to the side, where he stumbles over one of the empty cots, landing in an awkward sitting position.

He stays there, staring at the floor, and takes deep, heaving breaths. I can tell he’s trying not to cry.

“Do you feel better?” I ask, rubbing the middle of my chest.

“No,” he replies. “No, I don’t.”

“What about when we end this war and destroy every Mog that stands in our way? Will you feel better then?”

Marks looks up at me, and what I see on his face surprises me. It’s pity. I realize what I just said wasn’t really a question for him. It’s a question for me. I’m a little afraid to find out the answer.

“That won’t bring her back,” he says.

I don’t respond. I take one last look at Sarah and walk back towards the ship’s exit. In the doorway, I pause and half turn.

“Will you do something for me?” I ask him, my voice low, all the feeling sapped out.

Mark works his thumb across his raw knuckles. “What?”

“I’m going to get our military friends to loan us a vehicle. We’re only a few hours away from Paradise. Would you . . . ?” My voice catches, and I brace one hand on the cool metal of the doorway. “Would you bring her home?”

Mark snorts. When he speaks, that bitterness is back in his voice. “Sure, John. I know you’re busy, so I’ll do the hard part for you. Should I tell her mom you say hi?”

I close my eyes, take a deep breath and let it go.

“Thank you, Mark,” I say without feeling, and then I’m leaving him and Sarah’s body behind. I stride down the ship’s ramp and across the lawn, heading back to the unimposing cabin that currently hides humanity’s best hope for survival. The sun is coming up, a bright orange slash on the horizon, heating the cool blue of the lake. I think of Sarah’s pale face, her icy lips, and then I remember how the sun would filter through her blond hair and she would’ve turned to me during a moment like this and squeezed my hand in that way of hers, and we would’ve shared it together.

I put the memories away. Bury them down somewhere deep. I head inside the cabin with one purpose and one purpose only.

I used to think there could be more for me than running and fighting.

Now all that’s left is killing.

CHAPTER FOUR

WHEN I WAKE UP, IT TAKES ME A MOMENT TO realize where the hell I am. Some bad motel art stares down at me from the wood-paneled walls. I’m all tangled up in a scratchy sheet. Must have been tossing and turning like crazy. It feels like I’ve only slept for a few hours.

The Patience Creek Bed & Breakfast. An old spy hangout from the Cold War era. Sam filled me in on the details while he half carried me through the halls. I was so spent and delirious, I’m a little amazed that I retained any of what he’d told me.

Sam.

He’s next to me. On the other side of the bed. Already awake and sitting up, his feet on the floor, back to me. He hasn’t noticed that I’m stirring yet. Sam scratches his neck and yawns. He took off his shirt to sleep, and I watch him reach out towards the worn gray T-shirt where it hangs over the back of a chair, concentrate and float the shirt towards him with telekinesis.

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