Jack touched her arm and she shook him off.
The captain turned to face the other Lambdas. “You’re not here to put on a show, and we’re not here to baby you. If that’s what you expected, then you should have stayed in Dugway. There’s a war on, and if you can’t handle a little ribbing from your fellow soldiers then we can’t use you in this unit.”
He finally turned to the soldiers. “As for you, keep your mouths shut and your minds on our mission. We’re flying into hostile territory, and you can use that time to review our planning session. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, sir,” was the chanted reply.
He turned back to the Lambdas. “Do I make myself clear?”
AUBREY SLEPT THROUGH THE FLIGHT. It was only when the plane touched ground with a sudden uneven bump that she was jarred awake.
Jack was sitting quietly, looking out the window, one hand balled in a fist and pressed to his lips.
“Welcome to Seattle,” Rowley said, seeming to be in a better mood. “It’s one of the hardest-hit cities so far, and if you’ve ever been here before I think you’ll be surprised at what you find. I’m told the city center is a ghost town, and many of the suburbs are emptying out. Everyone’s heading inland.”
More military vehicles met them at the airport and drove them into the center of the city. They spent the day and night at a Marriott commandeered by the military. It was strange to see a Marriott surrounded by army vehicles. And not just Humvees, but some kind of big armored trucks. There were roadblocks on every street nearby, and some military personnel on the roof with enormous floodlights.
Aubrey and Laura were put in a room together, and the relative luxury felt like the opposite of everything they’d experienced for weeks. It had only been this morning when they’d woken up in the Dugway dorms, only this morning when Aubrey and Jack had kissed in the starlight.
That seemed like years ago. It had been before she’d really been inducted into the military, before all those deaths on the road. It was a different world now.
She wondered if her kiss with Jack was from a different life. Had she changed too much? She felt like a different person.
Laura let Aubrey have the first shower. By the time she dried her hair and went to bed, Aubrey was already mostly asleep anyway. It didn’t take much longer to drift away.
Breakfast came without them having to ask—it was room service, though it couldn’t have been the kind of room service the Marriott usually delivered—everything was in packages: boxes of cereal, cups of yogurt, and plastic bottles of milk. Still, it felt fresher than the MREs that they’d been eating for the last few weeks, and Aubrey was glad to get it.
Laura sat down in a big plush chair across from Aubrey’s bed. “So, I have a question. I wanted to bring it up last night, but you were kind of out of it.”
Aubrey nodded wearily. “Yesterday was . . . long. What’s up?”
Laura peeled back the lid of her yogurt and licked it. “The attack on the bus? I don’t think it was terrorists.”
“What do you mean? Who else would it be?”
Laura lowered her voice even though it was only the two of them in the room. “I heard about something similar before I got caught. And I heard about it again at Dugway. There’s a rebellion.”
“A rebellion?” Aubrey said. “Against what?”
“Against locking up all the Lambdas. Apparently there are Lambdas who have gathered together to fight against the army.”
Aubrey took a bite of cereal. “But we’re at war.”
“Did you want to get caught?” Laura asked. “Did any of us want to get caught?”
“The country needs us.”
Laura smiled and took a big spoonful of yogurt. “Tell me that you felt that same way when you broke in to the assessment facility to try to rescue Jack.”
“That’s different,” she said, though she wasn’t quite sure if it was.
“I think those Lambdas yesterday were part of the rebellion and they were trying to free more Lambdas to join their cause. Think about it: Would terrorists attack a full military convoy?”
Aubrey shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“I don’t either,” Laura said. “But it doesn’t seem to fit anything we’ve heard about them. They don’t do suicide attacks, and they act in small groups.”
“But if it’s a rebellion, so what?”
Laura shook her head. “I don’t know. I just think it’s interesting.”
“I don’t think I’d want to be part of a rebellion that was killing American soldiers.”
“Even if the American soldiers are locking up American kids? Forcing them to kill?”
“Maybe I’ll think about it differently when they force me to kill,” Aubrey said, laughing a little and trying to pass it off as a joke.
“It’s not funny,” Laura said, suddenly more serious. “What do you think my job is? You’re the spy, but I’m the bodyguard. You spent the last week training how to sneak around and pick locks; I spent it learning how to fight.”
“Are you saying you’re going to join the rebellion?” Aubrey asked. She didn’t know what to make of Laura. She made Aubrey uneasy.
“No,” Laura said, with a wave of her spoon. “I just don’t know what to think about this.”
“Neither do I.”
They met upstairs in a suite that had been turned into a command room. Jack was already there, dressed in casual civilian clothes. It made Aubrey think about something she’d heard in history class, about combatants needing to be in uniforms or else they’d be called spies. That probably only mattered when you were fighting in another country, not against terrorists.
“Good morning,” Rowley said a little sharply. Aubrey thought they’d come on time, but he didn’t seem happy with them.
“Sergeant Eschler has our briefing this morning.” The captain gestured to the other man.
“Thanks,” Eschler said, and rolled out a map on the table. Everyone moved in a few steps.
“We have received intel that a terrorist cell in the area is planning on hitting the Space Needle today.”
“The Space Needle?” Jack asked. “Isn’t that just a restaurant?”
“It’s a landmark,” Eschler said. “A few landmarks were hit yesterday: the St. Louis Arch, Old Faithful, a couple others. It seems like they hit similar targets all at the same time, or within a couple days of each other.”
“It’s more than just a landmark,” Captain Rowley added crossly. “It’s six hundred feet of concrete and steel that could collapse in the center of Seattle.”
Eschler nodded. “We don’t know where the attack is going to come from. There is a terrorist cell working in Seattle that has some kind of superheated power that can be used to melt steel. Or there’s another group that has a kind of jackhammer effect. We’re not sure how that one works. It could be them, or it could be something else entirely. Or it could be all of them working together.
“The plan that we’ve worked up is simple, but it ought to be effective. We’ll have snipers in place in three areas—on the Children’s Museum, the Pacific Science Center, and this business complex on Broad Street. The remaining three of us will be an assault and command team located in the music museum. Our Lambdas will be filling similar roles to what they trained for. Parsons, you’ll go dark up by the Needle and watch for anything and everything. Cooper, we’ll have you near the music museum with us. We’ll have eyes on target, but I want you listening in on every conversation and every creak that thing makes when it sways in the wind.”