Chapter Sixty-Seven

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Em couldn't be certain, but she was pretty sure she was dead.

Maybe not completely dead, but probably as close as a person could be.

Her thoughts slipped in and out of darkness. She barely had the strength to keep her eyes open, and what she could see through them was short-sighted and blurred along the edges.

Why is this taking so long? she wondered. Why won't they just let me die?

She was so, so tired.

The room beyond her chamber was dark, save for the blinking lights of monitors and computers. The researchers had fled some time ago in a chaotic panic. Perhaps they would come back, but something inside of Em said they wouldn't.

Suddenly the lights flickered on, and Em winced back from the brightness. She couldn't hear—she could barely see—so she waited.

Then, stepping from the hazy corners of her vision, she saw May.

Oh, shit, Em thought. I really am dead, aren't I?

Maybe she was, or maybe she was just hallucinating. Either way, there was no way May could be there, standing in the lab on the other side of the glass. Em squinted and forced herself to focus. May was filthy, covered in dirt and blood, her face streaked with tears. She threw herself against the glass, shouting mutely.

She hammered her fists against the glass, sending small vibrations through the water.

Wait. Em's heartbeat picked up. I felt that. This is real — May's really here!

May was there, so close and yet a world away. As she sobbed, Em wondered what she must look like to her. Gaunt and motionless, her silver hair shorn off. She probably looked dead.

No, I'm still alive, Em thought desperately. Don't cry, I'm right here.

She was weak. Every bone in her body cried out in protest, but Em fought against the pain and willed herself to move. She had to let May know that she was still there, still fighting.

Her fingers twitched. Don't look away.

She lifted her hand and watched May's eyes widen as she pressed it to the glass. I'm here.

May's face split into a wide, deliriously happy smile. Still in tears, she looked over her shoulder and shouted something to someone outside of Em's range of vision. Then she raised her arm and pointed her Star cannon at the glass. But before May could fire, her attention was drawn once more to whoever was at the back of the room. She shouted something to them and gestured in apparent frustration. Whatever was said to her must have made sense though — she lowered the cannon and instead pressed her palms to the glass. Staring up into Em's bleary eyes, May spoke slowly and deliberately, mouthing each word clearly.

Hang on. I'm coming for you.

If Em could have laughed, she would have.

Oh, Maybe. For you, I'd wait forever.

It was impossible for Em to tell how much time passed before the water began to shift. She looked around and eventually spotted the way a handful of the chamber's floor tiles slanted downward, creating vents through which the water drained. Like being carried by gentle hands, Em's body sank with the water level until the chamber was empty and she was left lying limp on the cold, wet floor.

She heard the chamber's door open and the sound of footsteps echo as they raced toward her. The mask was pulled from her face and for the first time in who knew how long, Em was able to take a real breath. She gasped and spluttered, letting her lungs have their fill like greedy little animals. It was incredible.

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