She scrolled through websites over and over again, searching for something good—something important. Some of the sites had obviously been censored in recent weeks, removing a lot of information about the military, but nothing was ever entirely erased from the internet. She just needed to find it.
Dan was in San Francisco, but there weren’t many targets nearby—a couple of Coast Guard stations. Farther to the east were three air force bases, but she doubted that there was much Dan could do there—he couldn’t get close enough to disrupt a runway or knock down a tower. And Laura didn’t feel like taking any more bullets.
There was a naval college to the south. That was probably the least protected option, but it didn’t seem like a very enticing target: any damage she did there wouldn’t make an immediate impact in the war.
But the farther south they went, the more bases popped up: air force, army, navy—even marines. There had to be something good in one of them, some weakness that could be exploited.
She looked at maps of the bases, and she focused on mountains—somewhere Dan could bring down another avalanche, or cause an earthquake. But there just wasn’t a lot in Southern California. Plenty of bases, but nothing next to a hill or a cliff or a mountain range.
She scrolled farther south.
Wait a minute.
She pulled up a topographical map.
It was a gamble, but if it worked . . .
She turned off the phone and leaned back in her seat, a plan already forming in her mind. Now she just needed Dan.
IT TOOK THEM THREE HOURS to get to San Francisco. The Bay Bridge was bumper-to-bumper traffic with a military roadblock at each end. Still, the bracelets and cover story seemed to work just fine. The military was obviously looking for someone else—something more specific. They checked the trunk, and looked under the car with long mirrors on sticks, but eventually let them pass. Aubrey drove as quickly as she dared through the hilly streets of San Francisco until they got within a quarter mile of city hall.
There was no plume of dust and smoke, no sounds of settling steel. If the terrorists were really going to come for city hall, they were taking their time. But that was no different from the attack on the Space Needle—an anonymous tip that didn’t pan out for hours.
They parked near a tall office building, and Jack got out of the car and listened. Aubrey stood next to him, holding his hand and trying to make him look as little like a terrorist as possible. With her other hand, she was downing power bars, loading up on calories. “They’re there,” he whispered, leaning in close so his voice was barely audible. “I can hear the radios. I’m not sure where they’re stationed. I haven’t heard specific mention of a sniper. There’s a Lambda who seems to have some kind of night vision. That shouldn’t do anything right now. The other one is really fast.”
“Do you think the night-vision one can see me?” she asked.
Jack shook his head. “They’re not even having her do anything. She’s sitting back with the warrant officer.”
“There have to be,” Jack said. “It seems like they’d set it up similarly to the Space Needle. I just don’t know.”
“Are there other people there?”
“City hall is empty,” he said, “but some of the other buildings are still occupied. There aren’t many people on the streets, but there are a few.”
Aubrey turned to Laura. “Then let’s do this. You two walk together down there, out in the open, and don’t do anything. You’re the right age for terrorists, so they’ll watch you. I’ll walk with you, and Jack, when you can find Dan or the warrant officer, then you let me know.”
“Why do you need the warrant officer?” Laura asked.
“Because he’s got the detonator,” Aubrey said, annoyed that no one else seemed to have thought of that. She had to do more than just walk away with Dan—she had to disable the bomb on his ankle. She’d made the deletions on their files, but did that really mean anything? Did that automatically deactivate the detonator? She didn’t want to take the chance.
Laura nodded. “For all we know, his detonator works on our bombs, too.”
Aubrey rubbed her hands over her face. “Let’s get this over with. Dan had better be worth it.”
There was a large open plaza a few streets up from them, with dried autumn lawns and rows of flags. No one was in sight, and the three of them strolled out into the middle. Aubrey wasn’t invisible yet—there was no point. Any sniper would see her out here, but it wasn’t her plan to stay in the center of the action for long.
“I can hear them,” Jack said. “But . . . I just don’t know where it’s coming from. It should be over there.” He gestured with his head toward an empty playground.
“Could they be invisible?” Laura asked.
“No,” Jack said. “We already know what they can do.”
Aubrey’s hand slipped down into Jack’s and she laced her fingers with his. “I want you to be careful,” she said, her voice so quiet that she could hardly hear it.
He replied with a squeeze.
“I mean it, Jack.”
“It’s under us,” he said out loud, and smiled. “There’s a parking garage underneath us.”
Aubrey looked over at the playground and saw the now obvious railing that blocked the ramp downward.
“Is Dan down there?”
“They’re talking to him on a radio,” Jack said. “But he hasn’t responded to pinpoint him yet. They’re also talking about us. They don’t seem to think we’re a threat, but they’re wondering why we’re all standing here.”
“Well,” Aubrey said. “You guys get out of the plaza, away from snipers. I’m going down the ramp.”
She disappeared, and even though she knew he couldn’t feel it, she kissed Jack on the cheek. She didn’t know how long it would be before she’d see him again, or if she would.
Aubrey made her way to the playground. The ramp was more visible now, but she wondered what the best way was to enter it. Should she hop over the side to suddenly get out of the snipers’ view? Or should she casually stroll down so she didn’t look like a threat?
She wished she had more training—more time back at Dugway to really learn how the Green Berets react in situations like this.
She walked to the entrance of the ramp and started down.
She could barely keep her eyes open, she was cringing so much.
And then she was in the parking garage.
A Green Beret spun from the shadows, bumping into her and then suddenly looking confused that she wasn’t there.
“What the hell?” he said, spinning all around looking for her.
The insignia on his shoulder indicated he was a sergeant—not who she was looking for.
“Jack,” Aubrey said. “You’d better be out of sight. They know I’m a Lambda.”
The sergeant put his hand to the mic at his mouth. “She’s gone. I don’t know where she is. Anyone have eyes?”
As her vision adjusted to the darkness, she saw the other three: another sergeant, the warrant officer, and a girl in camouflage without any insignia. She was the Lambda. There was no sign of Dan.