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I open my eyes and the sky explodes.
Isn't that supposed to come before I open my eyes? Before I had to close my eyes in the first place?
"Damn you, Reese, move!"
Hard hands haul me off the ground and shove me forward. The skyline is bisected by a column of fire, flanked with billowing black smoke going miles in each direction.
Mick darts into my peripheral vision, running hard beside me. Sweat streams down his face. "He who hesitates ---"
"--- stays lost, yeah, I know!" I swipe my arm over my eyes and keep running. My lungs burn. "The hell was that?"
"Christ." Heat sears my nostrils. "Now what?"
"Pick up what's left."
I stumble and splash through swampy reeds. Warm water oozes like slime into my pants and shoes. "Where's Cora?"
He jerks his chin back over his shoulder. "I came to find you."
"She's on her way?"
"She'll be fine." He draws a sidearm from a holster on his thigh and passes it to me. "Here."
"Where's mine?" This weapon sits oddly in my hand.
Mick cut his eyes back to the cloud of flames ahead of us, wordless.
I have to work to swallow a groan. "Great."
The miles of boggy, humid terrain fall away under our feet as we tear toward the wreckage. Who the hell thought it was a good idea to eliminate our sole means of escape?
What if Cora ... ?
"Wait!" Mick drags me to a stop behind an outcropping. "See anything?"
"There's not going to be anything left, damn it." I bend over, hands on my thighs, heaving smoky air in and out of my lungs. "We're not going to find a thing."
"Not with that kind of attitude." Mick palms his sidearm. "C'mon."
He's not even breathing hard. I flip him off and draw my sidearm.
He gives me half a crooked smile --- "Show time" --- and presses close to the outcropping, ready to duck around it.
We turn as one, weapons aimed. Another millisecond, and Mick and I really would have been the only ones left. I lower my weapon.
Cora stands behind us, a few yards back. Her clothes are shredded, her face and arms smeared with soot. Her eyes burn dark. "There's nobody left."
Mick puts up his sidearm. "Sure?"
She doesn't move. "The shell's missing, too."
"Damn." Mick sags back against the rock. "Probably the same person that killed Derek."
I straighten to work a cramp out of my calf. "You think?"
But Cora's shaking her head. "I don't think Derek's dead."
"Bull" is all I can think to say. Derek is --- was --- my best friend. I'd know if he was still alive.
"He was down." Mick tips his head back. "I saw him go down."
"I don't think he's dead." Her lips firm into a thin line. "I think he's the one that destroyed the transport."
"You're on something." My voice comes out a snarl, and blood pounds in my temples. "He wouldn't ---"
She holds out her hand and opens it, stopping me. Mick steps closer to see, too.
Derek's handwriting, harsh, across a scrap of paper. Look behind you.
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