Jesse shook his head. Never mind. Get yourself cleaned up and you can tell us the whole story.
Zu reached up and put a hand over his mouth, making Liam laugh and laugh. The smile she offered back was trembling, small, but still there. I felt like crying myself, seeing it.I studied her, trying to align this new vision with the image I had tucked safely away in my memory. Her hair had grown back in long enough to curl around her ears. Everything else about her had changed, too. She was taller, but thinner. Painfully thin. The skin on her cheeks had sunken in. And even in the dark, I could see the same was true for the others who came out from behind the trees. They stumbled toward us, blinking against the cars’ lights. I counted twelve in all, different heights, different shapes, but all kids. All kids.
Kylie and Zu’s cousin Hina came out of the trees next. It only took seeing Lucy for me to remember the dozens of times I’d taken food she’d spooned out at all of East River’s meals. She made me think of fire smoke, of pine, of the sunset reflecting on the nearby lakes. And the three of them—all of the kids, really—looked at us like we were blinding them.I’m sorry, Kylie said. I didn’t realize it was you, otherwise I wouldn’t have fired, we just...the skip tracers and the soldiers and everything—Behind me, I heard Cole let out a long sigh.
We’re going to need to find another car, he said. Aren’t we?FOR ALL THE HOPE I HAD that we’d find her, I’m not sure I ever thought about what would actually happen to Zu if we did. But it became clear, from the moment Liam saw her, that it was the only thought running through his mind.
I thought you’d be at her uncle’s house, I said. What happened? Why did you leave?
He wasn’t there. We would have stayed anyway, but there was...an incident just after we got there, Kylie was explaining as we walked. The trees pulled back to reveal a small clearing, ringed with darkness. When they heard our cars coming, they’d smothered the fires, but the clearing was still filled with the smell of smoke.I want to believe it’s a one-off thing, he said, but keep digging. Let me know if they try anything again, okay?
There was a knock on the windows running along the side of the room—Kylie, dressed in all black, her hair tied into a poofy bun. Ah, Cole said. That’ll be the groups leaving this morning to try to track down those tribes in Montana. You two figure the camera situation out, okay?Wait, I said, They’re leaving this morning? Where did the cars come from?
They’re taking the SUVs Lee rounded up for yesterday’s haul, he said, stretching as he stood. I followed him to the door, listening to him rattle off instructions about training and which weapons to pull from the locker for training the next day, but when I reached the door, I didn’t follow him out into the hall.I stepped back into the computer room and caught sight of the white board out of the corner of my eye. Someone, likely Cole, had started scribbling information on it—coordinates, camp populations, number of PSFs assigned, anything and everything the League might have had in its files. Peppered through were details from Clancy’s documents—I saw tidbits about the camp controllers tossed in like afterthoughts.