***WARNING: SPOILERS FOR COLONY WAR!***
The silence of Ziva’s office seems to swallow us whole. The sunlight beating through the huge windows beside her desk is intense, and I feel myself starting to sweat.
Mordecai is on Elderon with his sister to do his bidding. He’s exactly where he wanted to be — up in space with his army of bots — while Maggie and I are stuck on Earth.
I turn to Maggie. Her face is sickly pale, and her knuckles are white on Ziva’s desk. She looks as though she might throw up. I am reeling with regret.
Mordecai played us like a master manipulator. Every step we’ve taken since we landed on Earth has been Mordecai’s design. He sent us to Vault with Jared to gain access to the company’s data. He tricked Maggie into leading us to Maverick headquarters. Meanwhile, he was headed back to Elderon on his private shuttle. It was the perfect diversion to allow him to escape to claim a new seat of power.
Moved by the rage simmering in my gut, I start walking toward the door.
“Where are you going?” Maggie chokes. She looks lost — completely blindsided.
“We need to get out of here,” I say, feeling the urgency building inside me. “Mordecai has the bot Ziva designed in their father’s memory. If she believes that bot is her father, she’ll be at Mordecai’s mercy.” I take a deep breath. “We have to get to Elderon.”
Maggie nods. She doesn’t hesitate. She doesn’t ask how. She can feel that same sense of urgency that’s been aching in my bones ever since we crawled out of the wreckage of Maverick Enterprises.
From the moment I knew Maggie was going to be okay, I’ve been suffocated by this feeling that the walls were closing in around me.
I was the one who caused that explosion. I brought down Maverick Enterprises’ headquarters. Van de Graaf may have been in on the plan, but I’m the one who pressed the detonator.
Zuni Monroe is dead, and I don’t know if the other founders survived. The feds will be looking for me. I have to get back to Elderon.
As I storm down the hallway of BlumBot, I feel the emptiness pressing in on all sides. It’s like being a hundred feet under water. I can feel the invisible weight pushing me down, and I feel as though I’m running out of air.
The building is eerie in its stillness. Every move we make creates a sound that reverberates off the freshly painted walls. I can hear the chug of the air conditioner working to keep cool air circulating around the unoccupied desks. I can sense the cold machine of the tech industry driving onward in the background — unaware of the human tragedy swirling in the Valley.
Light streaming in through the enormous windows catches the tiny particles of dust floating through the air. They shimmer as they drift to the ground, and I sense my footsteps stirring up more dust as I fly down the steps toward the lobby.
“Where to?” asks Maggie, thundering down the stairs behind me. I can tell she’s fighting the hard pull of exhaustion. Her body is beaten, spent, and tired. But there’s no time for rest.
“Vandenberg,” I huff without a pause. “It’s the only place we can catch a shuttle back to the colony.”
She doesn’t say it, but I know what she’s thinking. Every law enforcement agency is going to be looking for us. Gaining access to an Air Force base seems like an impossible task.
“I don’t know yet.”
It’s not as though we made a great impression the last time we were at Vandenberg. Colonel Sipps knew I abandoned my post, and we escaped Vandenberg while the base was on lockdown. Now I’m wanted for my role in a bombing. If there is some galactic no-fly list, I’m most definitely on it.
I burst through the doors of BlumBot International, and I’m immediately blinded by sunlight. I squint toward the street through the sharp beams of light just as something hits me from behind.
I stumble, caught off guard, as the force of the impact flares through my ribcage. A second later, I feel hands on my shoulders and the hard smack of a wall as I’m thrown bodily against the side of the building.
Maggie yells, but I don’t see her anywhere. All I can see is a blur of light and movement as someone smashes my face into the hot metal siding reflecting back light from the blazing sun.
I hear the rumble of voices in the distance, and the sound of my name pulls me back to reality.
“— under arrest for detonating an explosive device and the murder of Zuni Monroe.”
The words crash in like a rogue ocean wave. I can’t absorb the bite of cold water. I can’t brace myself for the shock. I can only stand there paralyzed and take it.
“You have the right to remain silent . . . You have the right to an attorney . . .”
The man’s words fade in and out. This doesn’t even seem real.
“If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.”
I open my mouth and close it again. My tongue feels as though it’s made of sandpaper.
A second later, the man pressing me against the wall grabs me by the arm and yanks my shoulder back in its socket. I feel the cold teeth of metal handcuffs scrape against the side of my wrist as he locks on one cuff and gropes for my other arm.
“Do you understand the rights I’ve just read you?” he grumbles.
I don’t say a word. I don’t think I can. The side of my face is still being ground into the hot metal surface of the building, and my throat is choked with anger.
I hear a noise nearby that sounds like Maggie, but I can’t turn my head to see if she’s being detained.
The man shoves me harder into the wall, and a fresh pang of fury radiates through my stomach. “Do you understand?”
“Yes,” I groan. What do you even say to that? He didn’t ask if I object. He just asked if I understood.
Suddenly, the pressure against the side of my face lets up, and my skin stings as the cool California breeze hits my hot, sweaty skin. Men and women in navy vests are standing all around the building — local police. Five cruisers with flashing lights are blocking the street, and a few dozen civilians have already gathered nearby.
A few of them are reporters with cameras pointed at my face as the officer wheels me toward a cruiser.
Across the street, my eyes latch on to a familiar face. It’s Zephyr Morgan — CEO of Vault. The sunlight reflects off his white-blond hair, and his all-black outfit and Latex gloves would make him stand out anywhere. He’s leaning against a building on the other side of the road, sipping a latté and staring right at me.
Zephyr is working with Mordecai. He must have turned me in.
White-hot fury burns in my stomach and inches up my throat like bile. In that moment, I feel as though I could break free from the officer restraining me, run across the street, and rip Zephyr in two before anyone could stop me.
Maggie’s voice draws me out of my spiral of insanity.
I look around. She’s surrounded by three police officers, trying to push them out of the way. She isn’t in cuffs, but they’re keeping her away from me. They must be trying to question her.
As I watch, her head bobs between two men in uniform. I hear the distress in her voice as she tries to get to me, and I resist the man trying to fold me into the back of the cop car.
In that moment, everything seems to slow down.
“It’s okay,” I yell, trying to keep the darkness out of my voice.
“Jonah!” Suddenly, Maggie darts around two of the police officers and makes a break for the cruiser. She’s sprinting across the courtyard toward me, but the officer is still trying to shove me into the car.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” I call. “Just wait for me to make bail. I’ll meet you back at the motel and —”
“Nice try, kid,” grumbles the officer, pressing down on the top of my head until I feel my neck give way. He shoves me inside the police car, which smells like puke and piss and old fast food.
“You blew up a building. You’re not goin’ anywhere.”
The cruiser door slams shut in my face, and I hear the garble of a voice coming through the police radio in the front of the car. A beefy officer in uniform is seated in the front seat, waiting to take me away.
His partner climbs in the passenger seat, and I see Maggie sprinting toward me. Her tank top is smeared with soot and dirt, and her sweater is hanging off one shoulder.
She meets my gaze with terrified eyes just as a tiny gray snowflake skitters past my window. Flakes of ash are floating from the wreckage of Maverick — the building that I destroyed.
The last thing I see is Maggie’s face, frozen in fear, as the police cruiser pulls away.
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