The ground swelled again, knocking Laura off her feet, and a tree came crashing down, missing her by inches.
She jumped to her feet.
“I didn’t try to kill him,” Dan wheezed. “You were supposed to save him. It was your fault.”
She kicked him, and he screamed as his knee shattered.
A massive clod of dirt flew from behind her and exploded around her, but she managed to keep her feet.
“We could have taken it out,” Laura said, pointing toward the bay. “And you had to cry about your mommy.”
The sirens were getting closer, and were being followed by something louder—something bigger.
Jack felt himself lifting up, and he turned to see Aubrey reappearing. She had a cut on her cheek.
“Let’s get out of here,” she said.
They backed away from the fight.
Three police cars arrived, sirens blazing, and behind them was an armored personnel carrier. It came to a stop and soldiers began pouring out.
A loudspeaker blared. “Cease and desist. We will use deadly force.”
Dan was in a crumpled heap, and Laura couldn’t keep her footing with the constant minor earthquakes.
She threw a punch and it was deflected by a flying paving stone.
“You want an avalanche?” Dan said.
And then the earth folded over both of them, like enormous waves, and the entire lot—house and trees and fence and all—sank away down the side of the mountain. Jack jumped back, pulling Aubrey with him, and they watched as the tornado of dirt and wood and stone tumbled to the road below.
Finally it was over, in a monstrous cloud of dust.
Aubrey took Jack by the hand, and they stumbled through the remaining yard next to the sinkhole. They reached the street, and the stunned police officers just stared at them.
“We’d like to turn ourselves in,” Aubrey said.
ALEC SAT IN A MOTEL room across Sinclair Inlet from the Kitsap Naval Base in Washington, an hour from Seattle. From here, he could see the devastation and the navy’s scrambling efforts to get ships out of the narrow inlet and off to sea.
His team was gone. A suicide mission. It was necessary—and it had been worth it.
Kitsap had the largest fuel depot of any naval base in the country, a series of fifty-three underground storage tanks spread across the facility. Alec’s team couldn’t hit them all, but he could wreak havoc. Now the base was on fire—huge plumes of black smoke curling up into the early morning air. He didn’t know how long it would go. They’d opened valves—destroyed some—and much of the fuel would have to burn off on its own.
Alec was no use to them on this mission. He’d planned it, of course, and he’d even assigned a job to himself—a job that he didn’t bother doing. It was nonessential, and it helped them feel a sense of solidarity to make this one final suicide mission. They were all in this together. They’d all taken their deep breaths, they’d all praised their purpose, and they’d all drunk a small toast in honor of this, their final battle.
They knew what they were getting into. That Alec didn’t die alongside them would never be known to the rest. He was needed for other, bigger things. He didn’t know what yet—he never knew what the ultimate plan was going to be—but he knew the timetable.
And so he watched Kitsap burn. He expected that soon the entire inlet would be evacuated—it amazed him that a military base of such importance could be surrounded by civilian neighborhoods. But he would wait until he was forced to leave, and he would keep a running mental tally of the ships that he saw leaving their docks. Two aircraft carriers. Four submarines. A missile cruiser. Two destroyers. A handful of other ships that he couldn’t identify. Alec would memorize these ships—memorize the numbers emblazoned across their superstructure—and he would report.
He’d meet up with whoever he could contact. He still had a few numbers, even though cell service got worse every day. And he had anonymous email addresses, contacts on the deepnet. He’d tell them what he’d seen, give an accounting of what he’d done, and await orders.
It had all gone amazingly well. Sixty groups of three. One hundred and eighty teenagers. And they’d brought the world’s grandest superpower to its knees in just over a month.
Alec took a drink, pouring himself a glass from the same bottle his comrades had used for their final toast.
He would be a hero.
“SIX DAYS, JACK,” AUBREY SAID to the wall. “I hope you don’t mind that I’m still talking to you. It helps me stay sane. It’s nice that they don’t drug the water here. At least, I don’t think they do. I feel like I can still turn invisible, if there was a reason to.”
She played with the food on her plate. It was chicken and rice, but didn’t look appetizing.
“Do you think they just put the food from the MRE pouches on a plate? Or does no one in the army know how to cook? Or the navy, or wherever this is. I think it’s the navy.”
They’d been taken in the back of the armored personnel carrier, with new detonators coded for their ankle bombs. Where they’d gone from there was anyone’s guess. It hadn’t been a very long drive, but the vehicle had been in a warehouse when it opened to let them out. They hadn’t gotten any sunlight.
That had been the last time they’d held hands.
“You know what I wish, Jack?” she said, leaning back on her bed and staring at the plain white ceiling. “I wish that I’d said yes. When you asked me to the dance last year. I wish we’d gone, and I wish you’d worn jeans and I’d worn that awful flower-print dress I always wear to church. I should have said yes. I’m sorry.”
She put the cover back on her food so she wouldn’t have to smell it.
“I wouldn’t mind having worn some of that Flowerbomb stuff, though. It’s really grown on me.”
The deadbolt unlocked, and she shot upright. No one had been in the room for six days, not since she’d explained everything that happened—every detail in Seattle and San Francisco and Point Loma. No more lies. Let the chips fall where they may.
With a squeal, the heavy metal door opened, and a soldier stood looking at her.
“Your presence has been requested in the briefing room.”
She followed the soldier down a long corridor. Two others walked behind them.
The soldier turned the corner and pushed a door open for her to go through.
Jack was in there, his head sporting a newer, smaller bandage. He smiled at her and waved from his desk.
“Hey,” she said as she came up and sat next to him. “I hope you got my messages.”
“I didn’t want to eavesdrop,” he said with a grin, “but I would totally go to prom with you.”
She reached across the gap between their desks and took his hand. His skin was cold and dry and comfortable.
Aubrey didn’t know what was going to happen anymore. She didn’t know if they were going to be kicked out of the army, or court-martialed, or put in lockdown back at Dugway. But at least they were together for now.
The door opened again, and a bald man in full dress uniform entered. He sat on the edge of the table at the head of the room, and set down a small stack of folders.