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The Replaced

The Replaced

Page 2

Even though it had only been a single word, that message from my dad had flipped my entire world upside down. For a split second I’d actually allowed myself to believe this seventeen-day nightmare had finally come to an end. Now, with Jett’s computer struggling to come back to life, I had no idea if, or when, I’d ever see my dad again.

“Kyra,” Simon tried. “We’re not even sure it was him. It might have been them all along.”

“Yeah. Coulda been a trap,” Jett paused to interject.

I glanced down at the gibberish-looking commands that filled the screen, and felt a flare of hope when I saw that he at least had the thing rebooting. I held my breath, hoping against hope that the pop-up message we’d seen right before the whole computer had shut down might somehow—yes, miraculously, I get that—still be there after Jett was done working his magic.

But I knew better. It was gone for sure.

“Shut up,” I insisted to both of them. Then I sighed because I knew they’d never help me if I didn’t at least try to be nicer about it.

I hadn’t been all that nice to Simon since he and I had had to leave Devil’s Hole all by ourselves, without either Tyler or my dad. I’d avoided him whenever possible, even though I wasn’t sure if it was because I was ashamed of what I’d done by poisoning Tyler with my blood, or because I was mad Simon hadn’t warned me in time to stop it all from happening in the first place. The only thing that was clear was that I hadn’t wanted to talk to him about any of it. And even though I didn’t particularly want to be nice now, it wouldn’t do any good to alienate them when they were only trying to help. “You’re wrong, both of you. It had to be him.” I exhaled, scowling now because they’d seen the same thing I had, my nickname—Supernova—clear as day in that message. “Who else would call me that?”

Simon’s black brows met over the bridge of his narrow nose, and he was so close I could make out the golden-y flecks that seemed to float in his copper-colored eyes. “You know that was your dad’s online handle the entire five years you were missing.” It wasn’t a question, and he wasn’t wrong.

Supernova16. It had been plastered all over my dad’s crazy internet message boards for years. Anyone who wanted to could have sleuthed that mystery out on their own.

He held my gaze, and for a minute I thought he was waiting for me to back down, to admit there was at least a possibility I might be wrong, because there was always a possibility, wasn’t there? And when I didn’t—not so much as a blink, since there was no way I thought I was mistaken, not this time—his gaze dropped to the screen and he studied Jett’s impressive recovery of the laptop with just a little too much interest.

But it was too late because I’d already recognized the look in his eyes.

Pity.

Simon hadn’t for one second believed it had been my dad who’d sent me that message. And now, because he knew I did, he felt sorry for me.

I stormed away from Simon and Jett, leaving them alone with their stupid computer . . . and all their stupid unwanted pity. I wasn’t sure why I was so pissed that neither of them came running after me, especially since I hadn’t really expected them to, but I still totally was. And since I was the heroine in this melodrama in my head, I could be as pissy as I wanted.

But even if they’d tried to stop me, I’d have been pissed about that too, so they couldn’t win for losing.

I was surprised to find Thom, the leader of the Silent Creek camp, waiting outside the temporary communication base, looking like he had something to say. But carrying on an actual conversation was the last thing I wanted to do, so I lowered my gaze and bulldozed past him, feeling only the slightest stab of guilt.

Mostly I was aware of how loudly I’d been muttering beneath my breath, and even as I kept moving, determined to make a quick getaway, I uncrossed my arms and tried to look a little less crazy, hoping that, at the very least, he hadn’t heard the foul things I’d been saying about Simon and Jett.

In Silent Creek, we didn’t have girl residences and boy residences. We had the Silent Creek campers’ residences—entire houses where Thom’s Returned dwelled, sometimes with roommates and sometimes being assigned the entire homes to themselves—and the two small rooms we’d been allotted when Simon had ushered us here after his camp had been disbanded. After the No-Suchers had discovered his hidden fortress at the abandoned Hanford site back in Washington.

But two rooms were all we needed. It’s not like we slept or anything, not really. It was just nice to have a place we could call our own, even if we had to bunk with our fellow Returned. Willow’s bed was directly across from mine, and even though I knew she didn’t like anyone touching her things, I nudged her storage container—one of those plastic bins—with the toe of my shoe, pushing it back beneath her bed.

Apparently, having a few minutes to myself didn’t just make me calmer, it made me bolder.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t alone for long.

When Simon finally found me, I was still sitting there, staring sullenly at the floor. I glanced at the bedside clock, and an uneasy jolt rippled through me as I realized that over an hour had passed—sixty-six whole minutes, to be exact—while I’d been sitting there, brooding over Simon and the lost message and all the reasons we were stuck here in the mountains of central Oregon in the first place.

“Kyra?” Simon stepped inside the doorway, and I felt my stomach drop when I heard the way he said my name, all patronizing, like I was too soft and needed coddling. As if he pitied me, and the very idea made me want to hit him all over again.

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