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

The Last Star (The 5th Wave #3)(13)
Author: Rick Yancey

“The world is a clock,” he said softly. “And the time is coming when the choice between life and death will not be a difficult one, Marika.”

“What is it?”

“The child in the wheat carried a modified version of this inside his throat, except this model is six times as powerful—everything within a five-mile radius is instantaneously vaporized. Place the capsule in your mouth, bite down to break the seal, and all you have to do is breathe.”

I shook my head. “I don’t want it.”

He nodded. His eyes sparkled. He’d expected me to refuse. “In four days, our benefactors will release bombs from the mothership that will destroy every remaining city on Earth. Do you understand, Marika? The human footprint is about to be wiped clean. What we built over ten millennia will be gone in a day. Then the soldiers of the 5th Wave will be unleashed upon the survivors, and the war will begin. The last war, Marika. The endless war. The war that will go on and on until the final bullet is spent, and then it will be fought with sticks and rocks.”

My puzzled expression must have tried his patience; his voice went hard. “What is the lesson of the child in the wheat?”

“No outsider can be trusted,” I answered, staring at the green capsule in its bed of foam. “Not even a child.”

“And what happens when no one can be trusted? What becomes of us when every stranger could be an ‘other’?”

“Without trust there’s no cooperation. And without cooperation there’s no progress. History stops.”

“Yes!” He beamed with pride. “I knew you would understand. The answer to the human problem is the death of what makes us human.”

His arm came up, his hand toward me, as if he was going to touch me, and then he stopped himself. For the first time since I met him, he seemed troubled by something. If I hadn’t known better, I’d have guessed he was afraid.

But that would be ridiculous.

He dropped his hand to his side and turned away.


THE SKIN OF THE C-160 glistened in the light of the setting sun. It was freezing on the airstrip, but the sunlight flirted on my cheeks. Four days until the spring equinox. Four days until the mothership drops her payload. Four days until the end.

Beside me, Constance was running through one last check of her gear while the ground crew ran through one last check of the plane’s. I had my sidearm and rifle and knife, the clothes on my back, and the small green pill in my pocket.

I’d accepted his final gift.

I understood why he wanted me to have it. And I knew what the offer meant: He’s going to keep his promise. Once Constance snatches Walker, we’re free.

What risk did we pose, really? There’s nowhere to hide. Months may pass before we face the ultimate choice between death on their terms or death on ours. And when we’re cornered or captured, out of all options except those two, I will have his gift. I will have that choice.

I looked down at Constance fussing with her rucksack. The back of her exposed neck glowed golden in the failing light. I imagined taking my knife and plunging it to the hilt into the soft skin. Hate was not the answer; I knew that. She was as much a victim as me, as the seven billion dead, as the child running through the sea of wheat. In fact, she and Walker and the thousands infected with the Silencer program were the saddest, most pitiful victims of all.

At least when I die, I’ll do it with my eyes wide-open. I’ll die knowing the truth.

She looked up at me. I wasn’t sure, but I thought she was waiting for me to tell her to fuck off again.

I didn’t. “Do you know him?” I asked. “Evan Walker. You must all know each other, right? You spent ten millennia together up there,”—with a tilt of my head toward the green smudge in the sky. “Did you have any idea he’d go rogue?”

Constance bared her big teeth and didn’t answer.

“Okay, that’s bullshit,” I said. “Everything you think is the truth is bullshit. Who you think you are, your memories, all of it. Before you were born, they embedded a program in your brain that booted up when you hit puberty. Probably a chemical reaction kick-started by the hormones.”

She nodded, still all teeth. “I’m sure that’s a comforting thought.”

“You’ve been infected with a viral program that literally rewired your brain to ‘remember’ things that didn’t happen. You aren’t an alien consciousness here to wipe out humanity and colonize the Earth. You’re human. Like me. Like Vosch. Like everyone else.”

She said, “I’m not anything like you.”

“You probably believe that at some point you’ll return to the mothership and let the 5th Wave finish the human genocide, but you won’t, because they aren’t going to do it. You’ll end up fighting the very army you’ve created until there are no bullets left and history stops. Trust leads to cooperation leads to progress, and there’ll be no more progress. Not a new Stone Age, a perpetual Stone Age.”

Shouldering her rucksack, Constance rose from the tarmac. “That’s a fascinating theory. I like it.”

I sighed. There was no breaking through. I didn’t blame her, though. If she told me, Your father wasn’t an artist and a drunk; he was a teetotaling Baptist minister, I wouldn’t believe her. Cogito ergo sum. More than the sum of our experiences, our memories are the ultimate proof of reality.

The plane’s engines roared to life. I flinched at the sound. I spent forty days in the wilderness without any reminders of the mechanized world. The smell of the exhaust rushing over me and the air vibrating against my skin brought on the ache of nostalgia in my heart, because this, too, will end. The final battle hadn’t started, but the war was already over.

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