“. . . expected to be a complete loss, though the damage could have been far worse. The brunt of the explosion took place fairly high up on the dam; had it been lower, the hole would be growing significantly faster and the evacuation process would be that much more difficult.”
“Dammit.” He sat quietly, watching the darkness out the windows. The evacuation process. He had thought that breaking the dam would be like popping an inflatable pool, sending all the water—and boaters—flushing down the Grand Canyon. But for hours they’d heard news anchors talk about the slow descent of the water, like bathwater slowly draining out of a tub.
He punched the dashboard. “Dammit. Dammit. Dammit!”
“It was a stretch,” Dan said quietly and defensively. “You knew that. I was working with concrete, not natural rock; it was over a hundred feet thick.”
Alec didn’t say anything, though of course it was all true. He’d known it going in.
“We killed the dam,” Laura said, her hands tight on the steering wheel. “I don’t see what the big deal is.”
She never saw what the big deal was, Alec thought, but he kept his mouth shut. Not because he couldn’t have out-argued her, but because he had a headache and it wasn’t worth his time. Something caught his attention and he turned up the radio again.
“. . . want to emphasize that the suspects in this bombing are three young people, between seventeen and twenty-five years of age. They were last seen heading west on Highway 89 in a late model Bronco.”
The newsman gave their basic descriptions, which were vague enough to give Alec a little peace.
“So you want solid rock, huh?” he asked.
Dan, lying down in the backseat, grunted a yes. Dan always did better with natural stone than with synthetics.
Alec pulled out his smartphone and began scrolling through lists he’d made over the last several months.
“. . . We have breaking news from Michigan—the power grid in Detroit has been on and off all night, and there have been reports of damage to electrical substations throughout the city. We also have had unconfirmed reports of blackouts in the northeast, including many portions . . .”
“Attacking substations?” Alec said back to the radio. “Weak, guys. Weak.”
Laura laughed. “That’s why we’re the best.”
That’s why I’m the best, he thought.
He continued flipping through the list on his smartphone. He had potential targets researched all over the area—good targets, too. Railroads, mines, even a handful of power plants. And being in the middle of nowhere in Utah hopefully meant there wouldn’t be too many guards.
“Hey,” Laura said, and pointed ahead into the darkness.
Alec peered forward. Bright floodlights illuminated the highway and made his headache even worse. Two vehicles were stopped across the road.
“You ready?” Laura asked.
He didn’t answer. Of course he was ready.
She slowed as they approached. The lead car was marked as the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department. A portly man with a thick mustache walked around the front of the cruiser.
“You know what to do,” Alec whispered, suddenly nervous. Local authorities were always a wild card—he wasn’t sure how paranoid they would be, or how strictly they’d follow guidelines of police protocol. The only thing Alec needed was time, but he wouldn’t get that if the officer had a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach.
Laura stopped the car and shifted into park. She unrolled her window.
The officer clicked on his flashlight and began walking toward them, his hand resting on his holstered gun.
Alec wondered how alert Dan was in the back. That’s where the stolen rifle was, under a blanket, and Dan was probably still too weak to use it. Alec had the pistol under his own seat.
He tried to push all of those thoughts out of his mind. He focused on the officer.
“Where ya headin’?” the officer asked, peering in the windows. He shone his light in Laura’s face, then Alec’s, then at Dan.
“Home,” Laura said, her voice scared. “We were camping down in Kodachrome Basin, but we heard about the dam on the radio. We figured it was time to go.”
Laura fumbled for it, digging in her jeans pockets first, and then leaning over to the glove compartment. She wasn’t really looking for it, Alec knew. She was wasting time.
The memory he was trying to place was a simple one—that the officer had heard the suspects had been spotted at roadblock in St. George—four hours to the west. It was the easiest kind of memory to plant. Just a simple fact. The officer could build the rest of the story in his own mind.
Laura turned to the window and handed the truck’s fake insurance card. “Here’s this. Still looking for the license. Sorry—we left in a rush and I’m not sure where I put everything.”
“Take your time,” the officer said.
Dammit. A second man was walking over from the cars. Alec could only work on one mind at once.
Laura’s eyes met Alec’s as she turned back to dig through the glove compartment again.
“Where’s home?” the officer asked.
“Denver,” she answered.
“That’s a long way to drive.”
“We were just trying to get away from everything,” she said, finally grabbing the license and handing it to the officer. “We left right after the stadium came down last week. Figured we’d go somewhere safe.”
Alec switched his focus to the second man, but he had to be more careful now. The memory had to be perfect—it had to match the first officer’s exactly.
It was quiet for several seconds as the men looked at the driver’s license of Laura Hansen, the all-American blonde from Lakewood, Colorado. It wasn’t even a forgery—she’d lived there for ten years with her sleeper-agent parents, groomed and prepared for this as all of them were. All Colorado natives, all graduates of Colorado public high schools.
Keep talking, Laura.
But she was quiet, the officers several feet away, back from the window so they could watch everyone.
Dan sat up in the backseat and stretched. Probably trying to show he wasn’t a threat, that he wasn’t attempting to hide anything.
Alec was pouring the information into the second man’s mind. Three suspects, all matching the description of the terrorists, were spotted at a roadblock just outside of St. George. Three suspects. The call came in on the radio. The sighting only happened half an hour ago.
What were the men doing back there? It wasn’t the first time that Alec wished he could read thoughts as well as influence them.
Were their minds resisting the new memories? The whole reason for the roadblock was probably to watch for suspects, so the notion that the suspects had been seen half an hour ago would be hard to reconcile in their minds. Why were they still stopping cars? Who were they still looking for?
The officer reappeared at the car window, his flashlight blocking Alec’s view of him.
He handed Laura’s license and insurance back to her. “The bad news is that you’re going to run into a lot of traffic a couple miles up the road. Everyone’s doing the same thing you are, coming up outta Bullfrog. How far are you fixin’ to drive tonight?”