The pain—oh God—
The pain was so severe that I could be run over by a dump truck and I wouldn’t care.
Hell, I’d welcome it.
My entire body went rigid, legs painfully straight as my hands jerked away from my head. I can’t take this. I couldn’t. My brain was turning to mush. I could feel it. Everything was being scrambled.
“They call it the Cassio Wave, because obviously, someone is obsessed with Greek mythology. It’s a sonic sound wave. Can’t hear it, but it’s in your brain, doing its thing.” April’s voice cut through the slicing pain. “Kind of works like a jammer, or so I’ve been told. Gets in there, scrambles all the neurotransmitters and stuff. Kind of messed up, if you think about it. Apparently, there are much larger-scale weapons in development, but none like this. This has no impact on humans. Did you hear that, Evie? This little thing is kind of like a dog whistle.”
I thought she might have toed me with her shoe, but I wasn’t sure. Nausea churned as my vision went white and panic ripped through me, twisting with the stabbing, blinding pain. I couldn’t see. I was going to—
Bright images began flashing inside me. Golden sand. Blue-green water. Sea foam. I’d never been to the beach, but I saw it and felt the warm sun on my skin, the heated sand under my feet—under my bare toes. Another image replaced it. A man I’d never seen before, scrawny, with greasy blond hair. Strung out and passed out on a couch that smelled like cat urine and stale food. Then a boy running along the bank of the Potomac. He was laughing, and the sun turned his hair bronze. He was running too fast, and I couldn’t catch up to him.
It’s going to be okay now. That’s what he’d said. I remembered. Just like I promised.
But he’d lied. He’d promised to never leave me, and he’d lied about that, too. He’d left me, and I hadn’t even wanted to go to them. I didn’t trust them, but he insisted, and it was all a lie. Everything about them, about what they offered, it was a lie, and I paid for the lie in sweat and tears, blood and death—
Fire swept through, erasing him, erasing us, and it was forever, his face and voice shattering into pieces. I was dying—no, I had died at the hands of a needle and a woman who promised me everything would be okay.
It was the truth wrapped in lies.
“The Cassio Wave only affects people with a certain genetic code that comes from the Andromeda serum,” April was saying, and I heard her, but the words weren’t connecting or making sense. “The serum is a code waiting to be accessed.”
I saw myself. I saw a younger version of myself. Thirteen or so? It was me with my hair pulled back in a ponytail. Me in black pants, black shirt. A gun—a gun in my hand and a voice in my ear.
His words. Dark brown eyes focused on mine. You’re not like them. I was a miracle that wasn’t. I knew that. He knew that.
You know what you have to do.
I knew what—
Another voice intruded, one that I thought I recognized. They’re going to come for you. And when they do, they’re not going to know what hit them.
No. No, they—
Suddenly, there was just nothing in my head. Just cool, vast emptiness. Vacant. The pain was gone, leaving nothing but a sweet, blissful void behind. Slowly, the rigidity leaked out of my muscles, and my legs curled. Sweat coursed down the side of my face as I pried my eyes open and saw denim-clad legs.
Where was I?
I lifted my gaze to see a girl standing before me, her eyes all black and her pupils white.
Who was she?
I knew her. I thought I did, but my head was full of fuzz and cotton, as was my mouth and throat.
The girl lifted her arm and offered her hand. “A life—”
“For a life,” I croaked.
“Perfect.” Her red lips curled into a smile. “Come. He’s waiting for us.”
Lifting my hand, I placed mine in hers. I took her hand, and then I took her.
Planting my other hand on the floor, I kicked out, sweeping her legs out from underneath her. Her eyes widened with surprise before she went down, her hip cracking off the floor.
I rose to my feet.
“What are you doing?” she sputtered, pushing up. “This isn’t right. You’re not supposed—”
Snapping forward, I gripped her by her ponytail and yanked her onto her feet. Icy air blew off her, and her lower half began to lose some of its solidness.
I whirled around, bringing her with me. With my hand along the back of her head, I dragged her forward. She tried to catch herself by grabbing the sink.