"I'm sorry, I'm doing what?"

Lexi stares blankly at me, a ring of fire around her face in the setting sunlight.

"You're going to go to where Jaelyn's people are camped and find Patel," I repeat, sighing, "It's not that complicated, Lex."

"No, it's simple!" she says, rolling her eyes, "I just need to walk into enemy territory and demand to see one of the most important scientists on the planet." She stands up, flipping her hair over her shoulder and pasting a fake smile on her face. "Hello, my name is Alexis Collins. May I please speak with Sai Patel? It's super important. You see, my friend Quinn is trying to stop a massacre."

I glare up at her, shaking my head.

"They aren't going to hurt you," I mumble.

"Why wouldn't they?" she asks, voice raised. "I'm from Compound 5! I destroyed their people, Quinn. Not you. Not Kovach. I did. I took my gun and shot countless unarmed people."

"They don't know that."

"No, but I do," she says, beginning to pace.

"Tell them you got kicked out because you were a rebel. That's what they are. Maybe they'll sympathize with you."

Lexi gapes at me.

"You're kidding, right?"

My blank stare serves as her answer.

"Oh my Lord," she whispers, running a hand through her hair, "You're sending me to the lion's den with nothing but a lie on my side."

I bite my lip, looking out at the ocean.

"While you're there, I'll be meeting with Jaelyn. I have to bring her back to Kovach. I figured if I got Jaelyn out of the way, it would be easier for your to work your charm and find Patel."

She sits down beside me with a groan.

"What do I tell him again?"

I smile at her, grabbing her arm.

"Thank you, Lex," I whisper, giving her a gentle squeeze, "Tell him that I need the cure. I'll give him whatever he needs to recreate it. Lab space, restricted documents. Whatever. I'll make it happen."

I dig through my bag, taking my tablet out. I've set it to unlock on a code instead of with my fingerprint. When I tap the front screen, a little keyboard appears, and I type in the code where Lexi can see it: A18Q.

"And if he says no?" she asks, taking the tablet from me.

"Tell him that there's no way for them to win," I say, "With what we have hidden, they don't stand a chance. This is bigger than our feud. This is a new wave of the virus."

Lexi takes a long breath, letting it out in an even longer sigh. I watch her face, the concern painted in the bags under her eyes, the fear reflected in her eyes.

"Okay," she finally says, nodding, "I'll do it. When?"

"Kovach set up a meeting between me and Jaelyn for tomorrow morning, sunrise."
"I'll go earlier then," she says, scratching her chin, "So the moment she leaves, I can swoop in."

I push myself up, heading towards the shore line.

"Quinn?" she calls from where she hasn't moved.


"Please, be safe," she says, biting her lip, "If something happens to you, no one wins."
I nod, stepping out into the water.

I intend to play this out with brains, not brawn. I need to be smarter than Jaelyn, plot out every part of our conversation, win her trust only to tear it down again.

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