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Fated 02 severed, p.21
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       Fated 02: Severed, p.21

           Sarah Alderson
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  ‘That what?’ Lucas shouted, shaking her harder.

  ‘Just said to tell you that she’s sorry,’ Flic sobbed. ‘And that this was the way it had to be. And she’s right!’ She lowered her voice, ‘This is the right thing to do. Don’t you see that? Lucas – she’s trying to save you.’

  His hand fell to his side. ‘Flic, what have you done?’ he asked, his hand pressed to his side.

  ‘I haven’t done anything,’ she answered.

  ‘If anything happens to her because of this …’

  ‘It’s going to happen to her anyway,’ Flic yelled. ‘She was doing you a favour. Trying to let one of you have a chance.’

  Lucas blinked at her. A chance? A chance at what?

  ‘She asked me to give you this,’ Jamieson interrupted, holding something out to him.

  Lucas saw at once what it was and reached out and took it slowly between his thumb and forefinger, staring at it, not quite believing. His heart, which had sunk into the depths of his stomach, was now caught in his throat.

  He felt Flic’s hand on his shoulder and he shrugged it off, resting his arms against the wall instead and pressing his forehead against his folded hands.

  ‘It’s over,’ he heard Flic say.

  He turned to face her.

  ‘It’s far from over,’ he whispered hoarsely.

  Flic stared at him in confusion, shaking her head, and then, when she saw what he intended to do, her face fell. Lucas moved past her towards the door.

  ‘What kind of spell does she have over you?’ he heard Flic shout to his back.

  ‘I don’t know,’ he answered truthfully as he closed the door behind him.

  Chapter 38

  Evie jumped three red lights, slowing down and hitting the brakes just before the fourth set. A police car rolled across the intersection and she noticed that her hands were shaking as they gripped the steering wheel. She was in the car that Lucas had stolen. She couldn’t afford to be pulled over for a traffic violation. That was how serial killers got caught. And she couldn’t afford to get arrested and sent to prison because she had somewhere to be right now. She laughed angrily. Waiting for a traffic light to change colour felt like an unjust and totally ridiculous use of the short amount of time she had left.

  The light blinked to green and she floored the accelerator, her stomach kangaroo-jumping into her mouth. Her eyes flashed to the clock. It was nearly eight am. She wondered if her mum had made it home yet and got the answerphone message she’d left – garbled but she hoped not totally incoherent. If all went according to plan, her mum would be shortly on her way to a gas station in the furthest corner of New Mexico. She hated lying to her mum but it would get her out of Riverview for at the very least twenty-four hours while all this went down. She tried to picture her mum in Joe’s green pickup; the two of them speeding across the state on a rescue mission. Her mum would no doubt be tearing her hair out and Joe would be providing steady-voiced reassurance and calm. It was a good thing – her mum and Joe. Her mum would have someone to look after her when she finally got the news. She wouldn’t be completely alone. That note was actually the one good thing she’d discovered by going home. The stuff about the prophecy – not so good.

  She flew through another red light without seeing it, almost rear-ending the car in front. She ignored the cacophony of honking horns and swung the car left, navigating the narrow roads around the warehouse district until she pulled up outside Cyrus’s building. The double doors to the parking bay were open and she swung in, leaving tyre marks across the concrete floor.

  Her foot hit the brake as someone threw himself out of the way of her screeching wheels. Cyrus took a moment to lower the crossbow he was holding. He strode towards her as she climbed out of the car, his eyes scanning over her shoulder.

  ‘Where’s your shadow?’ he asked gruffly.

  She stared at him, unable to answer.

  ‘What are you doing here?’ Cyrus asked, a furrow appearing between his eyes, his tone changing. She didn’t answer. He sucked in a breath and nodded in understanding. ‘Does he know?’ he asked.

  Evie shook her head, swallowing to clear her throat. ‘No. But he will soon, so we need to go now. That’s why I came. I need your help. I can’t do this alone.’

  ‘That’s why you came back here?’

  ‘Why try to fight the inevitable, right?’ she answered, her voice shaking. ‘I guess I just got tired of running. We can’t let that army come through – too many people would die. One life versus many.’ She shrugged, amazed at her nonchalance.

  Cyrus pressed his lips together as if holding back a response. Eventually his eyes slid from her face and came to rest on something behind her.

  ‘Why are you driving my mum’s car?’ he asked.

  Evie turned and looked over her shoulder at the BMW. ‘It’s your mum’s?’

  ‘Yes.’ He laughed under his breath.

  ‘Lucas must have taken it outside the bookshop,’ Evie said, looking over Cyrus’s shoulder and noticing the red pickup truck behind him. ‘But you stole mine, so I guess we’re quits.’

  ‘Your boyfriend slashed my tyres. You left us with little option other than trying to hitch our way in the middle of the night from nowhere, in the middle of Hicksville.’

  Evie smiled despite herself.

  ‘It’s a piece of junk. You know that, right?’ Cyrus said, slapping the side of her pickup.

  ‘Well, you can keep that piece of junk if you want,’ she answered. ‘I’m not going to be needing it.’

  He caught her eye and for a second held her gaze. She broke away first, clearing her throat. ‘What happened to Victor?’ she asked. ‘He’s not here, is he?’ She wasn’t sure she could deal with that.

  ‘Oh no, we left him,’ Cyrus answered tersely.

  Evie’s head flew up. ‘You didn’t kill him?’

  ‘Didn’t have a chance,’ Cyrus answered. ‘For a big man with an injury, he can move fast. I tried to follow him but my mum was freaking out. She wanted to get back here and pack our bags. She has some idea that we should run and hide.’

  ‘Maybe you should,’ Evie said.

  ‘You’ll never get into the Bradbury building on your own,’ Cyrus said, not looking at her, but sorting through the weapons in the back of her pickup. ‘You need us. That’s why you came here anyway, isn’t it? Vero and Ash are upstairs getting ready.’

  ‘What were you planning on doing? Trying to hold off an entire army just the three of you?’

  ‘Something like that,’ Cyrus answered, grinning at her.

  Evie shook her head in wonder at his staggering yet mildly impressive arrogance.

  ‘OK, come on, let’s get you prepared,’ Cyrus said, walking past her, his shoulder banging hers. ‘You’re going to need to be armed. Remember the protection we spoke about,’ he added, looking at her as he reached for the elevator grille, ‘the unhumans that guard the Gateway?’

  She nodded. ‘Yes.’

  ‘That’s been doubled. The first wave of that army is already through.’

  Evie stalled, feeling her heart dive to the bottom of her chest. ‘For real?’ she asked.

  ‘Yes,’ Cyrus answered, ushering her inside the elevator and pulling the grille shut behind them. ‘Fifty-odd Thirsters, a handful of Scorpio and about twenty Mixen. We did a drive-by on the way back here to see what activity was coming through.’

  Evie felt a new hit of adrenaline burn her stomach. How were they going to get though this?

  ‘We took down twelve altogether,’ Cyrus continued. ‘Mainly Scorpio, some Thirsters and a couple of Mixen. That was just before sunrise – the rest will come through after dark.’

  The elevator started to sway. For a moment Evie felt as if they were plummeting to the ground and were about to smash in a twisted heap of limbs and metal, but then she realised the elevator had just jolted to a stop.

  ‘We have to move now,’ Cyrus was saying, ‘before nightfall, before even more come through and there are
too many for us to fight.’

  ‘How is this possible?’ Evie asked.

  ‘You’re still asking that question?’ Cyrus asked, looking at her sideways.

  Evie’s fingers clutched at the grille in front of her. She could feel Cyrus’s eyes on her. His arm was stretched across her as if he was protecting her from something – or holding something back. Then she realised he was only reaching for the grille to pull it open. The owl on his inner arm was visible, peering at her, with eyes as all-seeing as a Sybll. A shiver travelled up her spine and she pressed her hand suddenly against Cyrus’s arm, obliterating the tattoo with her palm.

  Chapter 39

  Cyrus threw the elevator door back with a crash. He stepped out into the loft, ushering Evie in front of him. Margaret was standing beside the punchbag. When she saw Evie her mouth fell open. Then, faster than Evie could believe possible, the woman had crossed the space between them and was lunging for her.

  ‘She’s here? Oh my God. Don’t let her get away again! Quick!’ she yelled.

  ‘I’m not going anywhere,’ Evie said tersely, jerking away from Margaret’s outstretched hands. Her gaze swept the loft. She noticed Vero and Ash sorting through a pile of weapons in the centre of the room, though they had both stopped what they were doing to stare at her in heavy-lidded silence.

  ‘Mum,’ Cyrus said, stepping between Evie and his mother, ‘she came back. Evie came back to ask for help in closing the way through.’ He stopped, then carried on, avoiding his mother’s eye. ‘We need to move fast before …’

  ‘Before I change my mind?’ Evie said, giving him a wry look. ‘Don’t worry, I’m not going to.’

  Cyrus gave her only the briefest glance before heading towards the others and throwing the crossbow on top of the pile of weapons. ‘Ash, Vero, what weapons you going for?’

  Ash tore his eyes away from Evie finally. ‘UV lamps and grenades,’ he answered, ‘flamethrowers, crossbow, semi-automatics and swords.’

  ‘We can’t use the flamethrower,’ Cyrus cut in. ‘It’s the Bradbury building. It’s a historic landmark. The police are right above the Gateway. Let’s at least try to be subtle.’

  ‘How subtle is it going to be when five thousand Thirsters and Mixen and creatures with tails bust their way through in a few hours?’

  ‘OK, point taken,’ Cyrus said, chewing his bottom lip. ‘Take the flamethrower, but use it only as a last resort. If we toast the place it’s going to be difficult for Evie to get near the Gateway. She’s not flame-retardant.’ He crouched down and started loading a gun with bullets.

  Evie gazed at the display of tangled weapons laid out before her, then looked up, sensing the others still staring at her. Vero looked instantly away but Ash continued to glare, warily, as though unsure of her next move. Which was ironic given that she was certain of it.

  ‘Do any of you know what I’m supposed to do exactly when I do get near it?’ she asked, trying to sound matter-of-fact.

  ‘Walk through it, right? Isn’t that what it said?’ Vero answered, her head bent over the knives she was inspecting.

  Evie frowned. Just walk? She’d been thinking about this ever since she’d heard the second half of the prophecy. She had no idea what the Gateway even looked like. A break in the fabric of the universe, Lucas had said – what did one of those look like? She was drawing a blank. Would it hurt? That was really the only question she was concerned about. Where would she go? Would she disappear? Would she stay conscious? Would it be like falling through space? Or would everything just – end?

  ‘There’s four of us against at least three dozen of them. Getting near this thing is going to be difficult,’ Cyrus said, interrupting her train of thought. He stood up from his crouch and shoved a gun into his waistband.

  ‘I’m coming too,’ Margaret called from her position guarding the elevator door.

  Cyrus wheeled around. ‘What?’ he yelled. ‘A minute ago you were trying to get me to pack up and leave with you, and now you’re suddenly coming with us?’

  ‘Yes, Margaret nodded. ‘I can still fight, Cyrus. I need to see that this is done.’

  ‘Mum, no offence but you’re, like, old. Way past it. You might put your back out or something. Do you even know how to load a gun? Were they even invented back in your day?’ Cyrus asked.

  ‘Cyrus,’ Margaret snapped, striding towards them, ‘I’m not that old.’ Her hand closed around the gun shoved down the back of Cyrus’s jeans. She yanked it out before he had a chance to stop her, then checked the safety catch was on before pushing it down the back of her own waistband.’ And I’m not letting you all go in there by yourselves.’

  She glanced at Evie once more, holding her gaze. She had the exact same blue-green eyes as Cyrus, yet without an ounce of humour or light in them.

  ‘OK, whatever,’ Cyrus sighed, turning away from his mother and picking up a sword instead. ‘Right, here’s the plan. Vero and mum, you take the Thirsters down. Think you can handle them? Should be easy enough with the UV lamps. I’ll deal with the Shadow Warriors.’

  ‘I see them better.’ It was Ash who’d spoken.

  ‘Well, they’ll be the hardest to handle,’ Cyrus replied. ‘You’ll need help.’

  ‘You need to keep Lucas away from me.’

  Cyrus turned instantly back to Evie. ‘What?’

  Evie cleared her throat, feeling how dry her mouth was. ‘He’ll come looking for me. He’ll try to stop me. You can’t let him near me.’

  Cyrus studied her for a few seconds before nodding slowly. ‘OK.’

  ‘And promise me,’ she said, taking a breath, ‘swear you won’t hurt him.’ She glanced at all of them. ‘Any of you. Swear it. Or I’m not doing this.’ She looked at Margaret as she said it and the older woman pursed her narrow lips and muttered something. Evie waited.

  ‘OK, OK,’ Cyrus finally said. ‘We get it. We won’t hurt lover boy.’

  ‘Lucas,’ Evie said through gritted teeth, even though saying his name felt like someone was hammering rusty nails into her body. ‘His name is Lucas.’

  ‘OK. Lucas. We won’t hurt him.’ Cyrus said more quietly.

  ‘Swear,’ Evie snarled.

  ‘I swear.’

  She stared at all of them in turn. Vero’s eyes dark and narrowed as a serpent’s; Ash guarded, his shoulders rolled forwards, as though tensed and ready to spring; Margaret’s mouth drawn into a white-lipped pout. ‘All of you,’ Evie repeated.

  She waited until they’d all nodded, each in turn.

  ‘Now arm her,’ Cyrus said, striding away.

  ‘What do you want?’ Vero asked, looking up from where she was kneeling. Evie noticed that she wouldn’t look at her directly. She was nervous, her fingers fumbling with the weapons she was sorting through.

  Evie scanned the pile of weapons in front of her. She couldn’t focus enough to select one, but then she noticed something glinting silver at the bottom of the pile. She bent and reached her hand beneath a sabre and a couple of machetes. ‘I’ll take this,’ she said, pulling the circular-saw blade free. It had been Risper’s weapon of choice. She smiled to herself, imagining what Risper would say if she could see her now. Vero looked up at her, a curious smile on her lips. Evie smiled back.

  ‘That’s all?’ Ash asked.

  She nodded.

  ‘Evie,’ Cyrus said from where he was stacking weapons inside the elevator, ‘stay in the middle of us, wait until we’ve cleared a path and then …’ he looked away, tailing off.

  ‘Yeah, I think I’ve got a handle on the rest, thanks, Cyrus,’ Evie mumbled.

  He was in front of her in the next instant, almost brushing his chest with hers, forcing her to look up at him. ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ he asked with a softness in his voice she’d never heard before.

  ‘Don’t ask her that,’ Margaret shrieked from across the room.

  Evie shook her head. ‘Look, please don’t ask me again, OK? I’ve decided. I’m not going to flake out, or change my mind, o
r run any more. Just back off.’ She pushed past him.

  ‘OK. Chill, dude,’ he called after her.

  She couldn’t help it. She spun around to face him. ‘I am chill. I’m freaking ice. I just want everyone to stop looking at me like I’m an eggshell and I’m about to break. I’m not going to break.’

  Cyrus gave the others a quick, nervous glance and then stepped towards her once more, his shoulders hunched. ‘I’m just concerned,’ he said in a low voice. A small frown of frustration passed across his face before quickly vanishing.

  ‘And there I was thinking you never worried about anything but yourself,’ Evie said, giving him an ironic smile. She couldn’t believe she was trying to cheer him up by cracking jokes. It was ridiculous. Here she was in the final hours of life and she was spending it with a guy who notched his bedpost and thought way too much of himself, trying to cheer him up. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? ‘Let’s just go,’ she snapped, ‘We don’t have time to stand around. I just want it to be over already.’

  No one said anything. She marched to the elevator and stood in front of Margaret, glaring at her until the older woman stepped silently out of the way. Evie turned and watched the others shoulder even more weapons, stealing anxious glances at her all the while.

  ‘You’re not going to …?’ she heard Vero murmur under her breath at Cyrus.

  ‘Let her?’ Ash whispered, covering the words with a cough.

  Evie frowned. What were they talking about? But Cyrus put an end to the conversation by picking up a flamethrower and striding over towards her.

  He didn’t look at her. He just stepped into the elevator and held the door for the others. Evie kept her eyes closed. She could feel the energy pulsing off everyone – waves and waves of adrenaline and fear until it felt like she was going to drown in it. She almost clutched at Cyrus’s arm to force him to open the door and let her out so she could take the stairs. The combating heartbeats of five amped-up Hunters were a cacophony of drums in her ears. She was the first out of the elevator when it reached the bottom, gasping for breath and trying not to let the others see. Margaret was hot on her heels though, clearly panicking that Evie was going to have second thoughts and run. Evie very nearly turned and pushed her away, but Margaret suddenly came to an abrupt stop beside her.

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