The Last Star (The 5th Wave #3)(13)

by Rick Yancey

“Sam,” she says. “It’s late. What do you say—wanna sleep in my room tonight?”

He shakes his head. “I have to watch Megan. Zombie’s orders.”

She starts to say something. Then she stops. Then she says, “Okay. I’ll be there in a minute to say your prayers with you.”

“I’m not going to pray.”

“Sam, you have to pray.”

“I prayed for Mommy and she died. I prayed for Daddy and he died, too. When you pray for people, they die.”

“That isn’t why they died, Sam.”

She reaches for him. He pulls away. “I’m not going to pray for anybody anymore,” he tells her.

In the bedroom, Megan sits on the bed, holding Bear.

“Zombie left,” Sam tells her.

“Where’d he go?” she whispers. A whisper is as loud as her voice goes. Cassie and Evan Walker hurt something in her throat when they pulled out the pill-bomb.

“He’s going on recon to find Ringer and Teacup.”

Megan shakes her head. She doesn’t know who Ringer and Teacup are. Her hand squeezes Bear’s head and Bear’s mouth puckers like he wants a kiss.

“Be careful,” Sam says. “Don’t hurt his head.”

The window in this bedroom is boarded up. You can’t see outside. At night, after you turn off the lamp, the dark is so heavy, you can feel it pressing against your skin all over. Dangling from the ceiling are loose wires and a couple of balls that Zombie said were supposed to be Jupiter and Neptune. This is the room where Evan Walker tried to kill the evil Grace lady with wire from the mobile. There’re bloodstains on the carpet and splatters of blood on the walls. It’s like his mother’s bedroom after she got the Red Death and her nose wouldn’t stop bleeding. She bled from her nose and her mouth, and near the end, blood came out of her eyes and even her ears. Sam remembers her blood; he can’t remember her face.

“I thought we were all staying here until Evan blew up the ship,” Megan whispers, squeezing Bear.

Sam opens the closet door. Besides clothes and shoes that smell faintly of the plague, there are board games and action figures and a big Hot Wheels collection. One day Cassie came into the room and saw him on the floor playing with the dead kids’ stuff. She watched him sitting on the big bloodstain in the middle of the floor. He’d made a camp, and there was his old squad, Squad 53, and they had a Jeep and a plane and they were on a mission to infiltrate an infested stronghold. Only, the infesteds saw them coming and their drones dropped bombs and everybody was hurt except Sam, and Zombie told him, It’s up to you now, Private. You’re the only one who can save us. His sister watched him play for a few minutes and then she started to cry for no reason, and that made him mad. He didn’t know she was watching. He didn’t understand why she was crying. He felt embarrassed. He was a soldier now, not a baby who played with toys. He stopped playing after that.

He hesitates before stepping into the closet. Megan is watching him from the bed. She doesn’t know about his secret. Nobody does. But Zombie gave him an order and he has to follow it. Zombie is his commanding officer.

“If he blows up the ship, how does he keep from blowing himself up, too?” she asks.

Sam looks over his shoulder at her before stepping into the closet. “I hope he does,” he says.

Zombie said he didn’t trust Evan Walker. He was an infested and it didn’t matter that he had been helping them. The enemy was the enemy was the enemy, and you can’t trust traitors, Zombie said. Cassie said Evan Walker wasn’t her boyfriend, but Sam saw the way she looked at him and heard the way she talked to him, and he didn’t believe her when she said they could trust him or that he would make everything okay. He had trusted the soldiers at Camp Haven, too, and they turned out to be the enemy.

Inside the closet, he kneels beside the heap of clothes piled against one wall. Nobody knows what he hid there, not even Zombie.

When they first got to the house, they checked out every room until only the basement was left, and Zombie wouldn’t let him go down there. Zombie went down with Dumbo and Evan Walker, and when they came up again, they were carrying weapons. Rifles and pistols and explosives and a very big tube-shaped gun with a shoulder mount that Zombie called an FIM Stinger. You could blow up helicopters and planes with it, Zombie explained, blow ’em right out of the sky. Then he told Sam the basement was unauthorized; Sam wasn’t allowed to go down there or touch any of the weapons. Even though he was a soldier just like Dumbo and just like Zombie. It wasn’t fair.

Sam reaches beneath the mound of clothes and pulls out the gun. An M9 Beretta. So cool.

“What are you doing in there?” Megan asks, plucking at Bear’s ear. She shouldn’t do that. He told her not to a thousand times. Dumbo’s had to sew up Bear’s ear twice since they came to the house. He let Megan keep Bear even though Bear has always been his for as long as he can remember, even though she squishes his head and plucks at his ears and calls him a different name. They got in a fight about it.

“His name is Bear,” Sam told her that day.

“That’s not a name. A bear is what he is. I named him Captain.”

“You can’t do that.”

She shrugged. “I did.”

“He’s mine.”

“Then take him back,” she said. “I don’t care.”

He shook his head. He didn’t want Bear back. He wasn’t a baby anymore. He was a soldier. All he wanted was for her to call Bear by his right name.

“You used to be Sam and now you have a different name,” Megan said.

“That’s not the same. Bear’s not part of the squad.”

She didn’t stop. Once she found out he hated the name, she called Bear Captain all the time, just to bug him.

Keeping his back to Megan, he jams the gun into his waistband and pulls the big red sweatshirt over his stomach to hide the bulge.

“Sam? Captain wants to know what you’re doing in there.”

He asked Zombie that night if he could have one of the guns. There were dozens of them, a freakin’ armory down there, Zombie said, but he also said no. Cassie was standing there, so Sam waited until she was out of the room and asked Zombie again if he could have a gun. It wasn’t right that everybody carried one except him and Megan, but she didn’t count. She was a civilian. She hadn’t been trained like he had.

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