Aubrey wished that she had thought of that when she was going through the army’s computer.
While Aubrey stood at the counter, she watched the fry cook. The guy was skinny and pale, and Aubrey wondered what this kid thought about everything going on around him. He was still coming in to work, which had to mean something: the kid had hope. Or desperation, maybe. At the very least, it meant that someone was still giving him a paycheck. The world hadn’t completely collapsed if a McDonald’s in Vacaville was open at midnight.
He was skinny and pale. . . . It reminded her of that picture—Alec Moore, Laura’s friend. Something about him had been nagging at Aubrey since she’d seen it. Had he been on TV? Where had she seen him before?
The food came, and she thanked the skinny fry cook.
Alec Moore. Who was he?
She took the tray of hamburgers back to the table, arriving just as Laura was gingerly standing and heading to the bathroom. She was holding her side.
“Do you know who Alec Moore is?” Aubrey asked, as soon as Laura was out of earshot.
Jack unwrapped his burger. “Laura’s friend? No.”
“I’ve seen him before—they had a picture on the computer—and it seems like I remember meeting someone named Alec. It’s weird. It’s like it’s been on the tip of my tongue since Laura first mentioned him, but I can’t place him at all.”
“Maybe you’re thinking of Alec Baldwin,” Jack said, with a smile. He took a bite of fries.
“I’m not thinking of Alec Bal—wait. Do you remember going to school with someone named Alec? Way back in like the third or fourth grade?”
“I don’t think so.”
It was coming back to Aubrey. Alec Moore. The guy she’d met in the quarantine zone, who had made a connection with her, to the other girls’ dismay.
“There was a guy,” Aubrey explained. “Back at Dugway. He said he lived in Mount Pleasant for a couple years when he was a kid. His name was Alec, and I’m pretty sure it was Alec Moore.”
Jack continued eating, but Aubrey had stopped.
“That’s a big coincidence, don’t you think?”
He ate another fry. “I’m pretty sure I don’t remember anyone named Alec in elementary school.”
“Neither do I,” she said. “But—I don’t know. Maybe I do. Back there, it seemed like I knew him.”
“Either way,” Jack said, “I don’t think it changes anything. If he grew up in Mount Pleasant, then that’s good, right? Kinda makes me trust him a little more.”
Aubrey shrugged. “I guess. But remember—we’re not going after him right now. We’re looking for this Dan guy.”
“I wish we were looking for our friends, not hers.”
“Exactly,” Aubrey said.
She glanced over at the bathrooms. Laura was still gone. Aubrey lowered her voice. “I don’t know if I totally trust what we’re doing. Are we actually getting help? Or is Laura just going AWOL and wants our help to find her friends? You and I are the recon team—she couldn’t contact Dan without us.”
Jack chewed thoughtfully for several seconds, watching the bathroom door. He finally swallowed. “I’m open to other ideas. I just don’t know what to do. This seems dumb, but we’re on the run from the friggin’ US Army. What’s dumber than that?”
The bathroom door opened.
“I don’t know,” Aubrey said.
Maybe Dan could help them hide out. Maybe they really did have storage hidden somewhere—some kind of bomb-shelter hideouts where they could be safe.
Jack took another bite of hamburger and stood up. “I’m going to go check out this cut,” he said as Laura came back.
“The bathrooms aren’t very clean,” Laura said. “Take some of the antibiotics with you.”
He nodded and Aubrey dug through her purse for another packet of medicine. They were running low.
Jack took it and headed off.
“So,” Aubrey said. “Any idea how we’re going to find Dan once we get to the city?”
“There’s a military base,” Laura said, pulling out the smartphone. “I looked it up. Camp Parks. It’s training for the army reserve, but I bet that’s where they’re running things.”
“I don’t know if I can do a real army base,” Aubrey said. “Remember—anything with a long line of sight is dangerous. Plus, I can be invisible, but what about Dan? How will he get out of there?”
“What if we can arrange a meet-up somewhere?” Laura said. “Find out where their next mission is, and help break him out.”
Laura was digging into her food like it was the first thing she’d eaten in days. Maybe superstrength gave her a high metabolism. Or it was recovery.
“I’ve got a question,” Aubrey said, nerves sending a chill down her spine. “You said that Alec is from Denver.”
“How long have you known him?”
“Forever, I guess,” she said. “It seems like we’ve always been friends. Kinda like you and Jack.”
Aubrey ate a french fry, slowly, wondering if she should continue. Laura made her nervous.
“I think I met him,” Aubrey finally said. “In the quarantine zone. He said he remembered me from school—and I kind of remembered him. He said he grew up in Mount Pleasant.”
Laura looked startled. “Well—well, maybe you’re thinking about someone else.”
“He looked just like the picture on the army computer.”
“I don’t know what to tell you.” Laura took a huge bite of her Quarter Pounder, and looked down at the paper advertisement on the food tray.
“And another thing,” Aubrey said, her voice soft and careful. “You said that he was a Lambda, like you and Dan. But he was in the quarantine zone, and they let him go.”
Laura seemed to chew for a lot longer than was needed. Aubrey wished Jack was back. Not that he could help, but she didn’t like being alone with Laura.
“You were in the quarantine zone,” Laura finally said. “You wouldn’t have been caught if you hadn’t tried to escape.”
“I wasn’t—” Aubrey stopped herself. She didn’t want to argue. “What is Alec’s power?”
“He can talk to you with his mind,” Laura said, still staring down at the paper. “What’s that called? Telepathy? Even if he was tested, the army probably wouldn’t have any purpose for him, I don’t think. They probably would have labeled him a Lambda 1 or 2, and he’d have to sit out the war in those Dugway dorms.”
Aubrey glanced at the bathrooms, wishing Jack was back.
“Laura,” Aubrey said, her hand gripping the edge of the table. “Do you really think this will help? Getting Dan and Alec, I mean? Or is this just . . .”
“Just what?” Laura said, finally looking up.
“Just—I don’t know. Are you . . . are you just going AWOL?”
“Excuse me?” Laura said, her eyes suddenly furious. “Didn’t you see that bastard shoot me? Try to kill me?”
“And didn’t you see me save you and your boyfriend?”