“I didn’t become her friend,” Aubrey said. “I became her spy. In exchange, I got to hang out with her. She invited me to things. She—well, you know the rest.”
The idea made him mad, and he didn’t try to hide it. Aubrey never needed Nicole to make Jack like her. Honestly, Aubrey was prettier than Nicole. She wasn’t the Scandinavian bubbleheaded blonde that Nicole was—the bland generic beauty that the movies tried to convince him was gorgeous. Aubrey was tall, with long, straight brown hair and eyes that were a stark gray, eyes that reminded him of fresh snow on the mountains.
And honestly, he liked her better in jeans and a T-shirt than a fancy ball gown.
There was a noise at the front of the bus, and the soldier snapped to attention. On command, he hopped to the top step and took a clipboard from another man.
A voice shouted at a line of teens outside the bus. Jack strained to hear.
“. . . to take you to the testing and quarantine facilities. The rest of your classmates have already been moved there. You are the last batch from this county.”
“This county,” Jack repeated, but Aubrey hushed him.
“This will not take long, but it will require your participation. Congress has declared martial law. You kids know what that means? It means that we’re the police now. It means that if you have any problems, you will talk to us, and if you cause any problems, you’ll answer to us.”
There was a long pause. Someone was asking something. Aubrey whispered under her breath, but Jack didn’t catch it.
“Listen,” the soldier continued. “We’re on your side. You’re American citizens and we’ll treat you with as much respect as our orders allow. We have kids of our own.”
Jack heard the response to that. “Then why are we in handcuffs?”
“All will be explained when we reach the quarantine area. I’m authorized to tell you two things. First, the virus that we’re testing for—it’s being spread by the terrorists. And second, all known terrorist subjects have been teenagers.”
Six more teens were on the bus now, though Jack didn’t know any of them. Four were from Manti, the town twenty miles to the south, and two others had managed to escape the shooting at the dance. Jack perked up when the seventh was called.
“Name and town?” the officer on the top step barked.
Matt looked terrified. He was the youngest of the group so far, small, thin, and drowned in his dirtied suit and tie. “Matt Ganza,” he said. “I’m from Mount Pleasant.”
“North Sanpete High. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have left the dance. I’m really sorry.”
The officer ignored him, and flipped through a thick notebook. Finally, he held it up, comparing a picture to Matt’s face.
“Okay,” the officer said, and another soldier immediately grabbed Matt’s wrist and slipped a plastic bracelet onto it. He cinched it tight and Matt grimaced.
The officer ordered Matt to find a seat. His eyes met Jack’s, but he turned quickly and sat toward the front.
They moved to the next person in line—Nicole. The soldier helped her up much more gently than he’d done with Matt.
Aubrey stared for a moment and then looked down at her lap.
“Name?” the officer asked.
“Nicole Samuelson,” she said. She was still wearing her dress—a skimpy, shimmering thing that looked like it was made out of giant sequins. She was six feet tall normally, and in her heels she towered over the soldier.
How had she managed to escape the dance without a torn dress or broken stilettos?
The officer flipped through the notebook. “Also from North Sanpete?”
“Yes,” she said, smiling happily as though she was excited they were there. “Go Hawks!”
The man smirked. Jack couldn’t believe it. Nicole was flirting with the soldiers.
The other soldier attached her bracelet, so gently it almost looked loose on her wrist.
When she turned to walk down the aisle of the bus and saw Aubrey, Nicole’s face broke into a smile and she gave her a wink. She sat down next to Matt.
Four more students got on, all younger than Jack. They looked scared. Two were in their pajamas; they hadn’t been at the dance—someone had turned them in.
They were all prisoners now.
LAURA SAT ON A WIDE flat stone, eating from a can of peaches while Dan washed in a cold creek.
The Eagle Canyon bridge had gone better than they could have hoped for. Dan was able to fracture the sandstone easily, and Laura even got a piece of the action, pulling shattered boulders away from the support struts. She knew Dan could move all the rock himself, but she liked being down there, rolling up her sleeves and doing something—anything—with her powers.
They’d loosened the rock around both bridges, enough that one of them began to creak and sway slightly before they’d made a run for it. Laura followed Alec’s orders and ran north out of the canyon rather than trying to climb the cliff face. She probably carried Dan five miles before rendezvousing with Alec and the truck. And, just before the truck doors closed, a loud rumbling roar echoed up the canyon. The bridge had fallen.
Then it was time for a real escape. They drove through the little town of Ferron, avoided another roadblock, and headed for the Manti-La Sal mountains. They needed somewhere to lie low, and they needed to get off the streets.
There was a reservoir directly above the town, and Alec spent half an hour talking about taking out that dam, too. But it could wait. They were leaving a big enough trail as it was.
After an hour on a narrow dirt road, they pulled off into the brush and set up camp in the dark. They each had a pup tent and sleeping bag in the back of the truck, and Laura was curled up in her bag, drifting off to sleep before the others had even staked their tents.
There was a bright light and the sound of an engine. It was loud and rattling, like an old utility truck.
Laura rolled over. She unzipped the tent about an inch so she could look out. A set of headlights shone through the trees.
As quietly as she could, Laura climbed out of the sleeping bag. This was her moment—it was her job to ensure the security of the whole team.
The voice was young, female. Laura felt her heart sink a little—she wouldn’t even have to try.
A shape passed in front of the lights, and then another. There were two of them. They were just silhouettes, but one was taller than the other, with broader shoulders. Both had the wide-brimmed hats of forest rangers.
“Hello!” Alec called back with a wave.
As they moved out of the path of the beams Laura could see them better—a man and woman, both wearing green jackets and khaki pants. Neither looked much older than Laura or Alec. Probably fresh out of college. They had radios on their belts and other basic gear, but no weapons that she could distinguish.
Laura pulled on a sweatshirt, and wished she could change from her boxers to jeans without shaking the tent.
“How’s it going?” the woman asked.
“Great,” Alec answered, a smile in his voice. “Gorgeous night, isn’t it?”
Dan had opened his small daypack and was sitting on a rock, chomping on a granola bar, presumably so that he’d look too preoccupied to get into conversation.