The 5th Wave
- Text Font:
- Text Size:
- Line Height:
- Line Break Height:
I drive my shoulder into our Silencer’s gut, catching him off guard, and he stumbles backward beneath the grate, his arms flailing for balance, and Evan’s bullet tears into his fully human brain, killing him instantly. I have his gun before he hits the floor, and I have one chance, one shot through the hole I had made earlier. If I miss, Sammy is dead—his Silencer is turning on him even as I turn on him.
But I had an excellent instructor. One of the best marksmen in the world—even when there were seven billion people in it.
It isn’t exactly like shooting a can from a fence post.
It’s actually a lot easier: His head is closer and a heck of a lot bigger.
Sammy is halfway to me before the guy’s body hits the floor. I pull him through the hole. Ben is looking at us, at the dead Silencer, at the other dead Silencer, at the gun in my hand. He doesn’t know what to look at. I’m looking up at the grate.
“We’re clear!” I call up to him.
He knocks once against the side. I don’t get it at first, and then I laugh.
Let’s establish a code for when you want to go all creeper on me. One knock means you’d like to come in.
“Yes, Evan.” I’m laughing so hard, it’s starting to hurt. “You can come in.” I’m about to pee myself with relief that we’re all alive, but mostly because he is.
He drops into the room, landing on the balls of his feet like a cat. I’m in his arms in the time it takes to say “I love you,” which he does, stroking my hair, whispering my name and the words, “My mayfly.”
“How did you find us?” I ask him. He’s so completely with me, so there, it’s like I’m seeing his yummy chocolate eyes for the first time, feeling his strong arms and his soft lips for the first time.
“Easy. Somebody was up there ahead of me and left a blood trail.”
It’s Sammy, holding on to Ben, because he’s feeling the Ben thing a little more than he is the Cassie one at the moment. Who’s this guy falling from the ductwork, and what’s he doing with my sister?
“This must be Sammy,” Evan says.
“This is Sammy,” I say. “Oh! And this is—”
“Ben Parish,” Ben says.
“Ben Parish?” Evan looks at me. That Ben Parish?
“Ben,” I say, my face on fire. I want to laugh and crawl under the counter at the same time. “This is Evan Walker.”
“Is he your boyfriend?” Sammy asks.
I don’t know what to say. Ben looks totally lost, Evan completely amused, and Sammy just damned curious. It’s my first truly awkward moment in the alien lair, and I’d been through my share of moments.
“He’s a friend from high school,” I mutter.
And Evan corrects me, since it’s clear I’ve lost my mind. “Actually, Sam, Ben is Cassie’s friend from high school.”
“She’s not my friend,” Ben says. “I mean, I guess I kind of remember her…” Then Evan’s words sink in. “How do you know who I am?”
“He doesn’t!” I fairly shout.
“Cassie told me about you,” Evan says. I elbow him in the ribs, and he gives me a look like What?
“Maybe we can chat about how everybody knows one another later,” I plead with Evan. “Right now don’t you think it would be a good idea for us to leave?”
“Right.” Evan nods. “Let’s go.” He looks at Ben. “You’re injured.”
Ben shrugs. “A couple of torn stitches. I’m okay.”
I slip the Silencer’s gun into my empty holster, realize Ben will need a weapon, and pop through the hole in the mirror to fetch it. They’re all still just standing around when I get back, Ben and Evan smiling at each other—knowingly, in my opinion.
“What are we standing around for?” I ask, my voice harsher than I’d intended. I scoot the chair beside the Silencer’s body and motion toward the grate. “Evan, you should take point.”
“We’re not going that way,” Evan says back. He takes a key card from the Silencer’s pouch and swipes it through the door lock. The light flashes green.
“We’re walking out?” I ask. “Just like that?”
“Just like that,” Evan answers.
He checks out the corridor first, then motions for us to follow, and we step out of the execution room. The door locks behind us. The hallway is eerily quiet, feels deserted.
“He said you were going to cut the power,” I whisper, pulling the gun from my holster.
Evan holds up a silver object that looks like a flip phone.
“I am. Right now.”
He hits a button, and the corridor plunges into darkness. I can’t see anything. My free hand shoots into the dark, searching for Sammy’s. I find Ben’s instead. He grips my hand hard before letting it go. Little fingers tug at my pant leg and I pull them up, hook one through my belt loop.
“Ben, hold on to me,” Evan says softly. “Cassie, hold on to Ben. It isn’t far.”
I expect a slow shuffle of this rumba line through the pitch dark, but we take off fast, nearly tripping over one another’s heels. He must be able to see in the dark, another catlike quality. We don’t go very far before we’re clustered around a door. At least I think it’s a door. It’s smooth, not like the textured cinder-block walls. Someone—it has to be Evan—pushes against the smooth surface and there’s a puff of fresh, cold air.
“Stairs?” I whisper. I’m completely blind and disoriented, but I think these might be the same stairs I came down when I first got here.
“Halfway up you’re going to hit some debris,” Evan says. “But you should be able to squeeze through. Be careful; it might be a little unstable. When you get to the top, head due north. Do you know which way is north?”
Ben says, “I do. Or at least I know how to figure it out.”
“What do you mean, when we get to the top?” I demand. “Aren’t you coming with us?”
I feel his hand on my cheek. I know what this means and I slap his hand away.
“You’re coming with us, Evan,” I say.
“There’s something I have to do.”
“That’s right.” My hand flails for his in the dark. I find it and pull hard. “You have to come with us.”
“I’ll find you, Cassie. Don’t I always find you? I—”
“Don’t, Evan. You don’t know you’ll be able to find me.”
“Cassie.” I don’t like the way he says my name. His voice is too soft, too sad, too much like a good-bye voice. “I was wrong when I said I was both and neither. I can’t be; I know that now. I have to choose.”
“Wait a minute,” Ben says. “Cassie, this guy is one of them?”
“It’s complicated,” I answer. “We’ll go over it later.” I grab Evan’s hand in both of mine and press it against my chest. “Don’t leave me again.”
“You left me, remember?” He spreads his fingers over my heart, like he’s holding it, like it belongs to him, the hard-fought-for territory he’s won fair and square.
I give in. What am I going to do, put a gun to his head? He’s gotten this far, I tell myself. He’ll get the rest of the way.
“What’s due north?” I ask, pushing against his fingers.
“I don’t know. But it’s the shortest path to the farthest spot.”
“The farthest spot from what?”
“From here. Wait for the plane. When the plane takes off, run. Ben, do you think you can run?”
“I think so.”
“Yes.” He doesn’t sound too confident about it, though.
“Wait for the plane,” Evan whispers. “Don’t forget.”
He kisses me hard on the mouth, and then the stairwell goes all Evanless. I can feel Ben’s breath on my neck, hot in the cool air.
“I don’t understand what’s happening here,” Ben says. “Who is that guy? He’s a…What is he? Where’d he come from? And where’s he going now?”
“I’m not sure, but I think he’s found the armory.”
Somebody was up there ahead of me and left a blood trail.
Oh God, Evan. No wonder you didn’t tell me.
“He’s going to blow this whole place to hell.”
IT’S NOT A RACE up the stairs to freedom. We practically crawl up, hanging on to one another as we climb, me in the lead, Ben at the rear, and Sammy between us. The closed space is choked with fine particles of dust, and soon we’re all coughing and wheezing loud enough, it seems to me, to be heard by every Silencer in a two-mile radius. I move with one hand extended in front of me in the blackness and call out our progress softly.
A hundred years later we reach the second landing. Almost halfway to the top, but we haven’t hit the debris Evan warned us about.
I have to choose.
Now that he’s gone and it’s too late, I’ve come up with about a dozen good arguments for why he shouldn’t leave us. My best argument is this:
You won’t have time.
The Eye takes—what?—about a minute or two from activation to detonation. Barely enough time to get to the armory doors. Okay, so you’re going to go all noble and sacrifice yourself to save us, but then don’t say things like I’ll find you, which implies there’ll be an I to find me after you unleash the green fireball from hell.
Unless…Maybe the Eyes can be detonated remotely. Maybe that little silver thing he’s carrying around…
No. If that was a possibility, he would have come with us and set them off once we were a safe distance away.
Damn it. Every time I think I’m starting to understand Evan Walker, he slips away. It’s like I’m blind from birth, trying to visualize a rainbow. If what I think is about to happen actually happens, will I feel his passing like he felt Lauren’s, like a punch in the heart?
We’re halfway to the third landing when my hand smacks into stone. I turn to Ben and whisper, “I’m going to see if I can climb it—there might be room to squeeze through at the top.”
I hand my rifle to him and get a good grip with both hands. I’ve never done much rock climbing—okay, my experience is zero—but how hard could it be, really?
I’m maybe three feet up when a rock slips beneath my foot and I come back down, smacking my chin hard on the way.
“I’ll try,” Ben says.
“Don’t be stupid. You’re hurt.”
“I’d have to try if you made it, Cassie,” he points out.
He’s right, of course. I hold on to Sammy while Ben scales the mass of broken concrete and shattered reinforcement rods. I can hear him grunting every time he reaches up for the next handhold. Something wet drops onto my nose. Blood.
“Are you okay?” I call up to him.
“Um. Define okay.”
“Okay means you’re not bleeding to death.”