The 5th Wave
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I step over to the keyboard. Now the truly scary part.
You don’t have Sammy’s number, but it should be cross-referenced to his name. If one variation doesn’t work, try a different one. There should be a search function.
Blood is trickling down the back of my neck, trailing down between my shoulder blades. I’m shivering uncontrollably, which makes it hard to type. In the blinking blue box I tap out the word search. It take two tries to spell it correctly.
I don’t have a number, damn it. I have a name. How do I get back to the blue box? I hit the enter button.
Oh, I get it now. It wants a number!
I key in Sullivan.
DATA ENTRY ERROR.
I’m wavering between throwing the monitor across the room and kicking Dr. Pam until she’s dead. Neither will help me find Sam, but both would make me feel better. I hit the escape button and get the blue box and type search by name.
The words vanish. Vaporized by Wonderland. The blue box blinks, blank again.
I fight back a scream. I’m out of time.
If you can’t find him in the system, we’ll have to go to Plan B.
I’m not crazy about Plan B. I like Plan A, where his location pops up on a map and I run right to him. Plan A is simple and clean. Plan B is complicated and messy.
One more try. Five more seconds can’t make that big a difference.
I type Sullivan into the blue box.
The display goes haywire. Numbers begin to race across the gray background, filling the screen, like I just gave it a command to calculate the value of pi. I panic and start hitting random buttons, but the scroll doesn’t stop. I’m well past five minutes. Plan B sucks, but B it is.
I duck into the adjoining room, where I find the white jumpsuits. I grab one off the shelf and wisely attempt to dress without taking off the robe first. With a grunt of frustration, I shrug out of it, and for a second I’m totally naked, the second in which that door beside me will fly open and a battalion of Silencers will flood into the room. That’s the way things happen in all Plan Bs. The suit is way too big, but better too big than too small, I think, and I’m quickly zipped up and back in the Wonderland room.
If you can’t find him through the main interface, there’s a good possibility she has a handheld unit somewhere on her. It works on the same principle, but you have to be very careful. One function is a locator, the other is a detonator. Key in the wrong command and you won’t find him, you’ll fry him.
When I burst back in, she’s sitting up, holding Bear in one hand and a small silver thing that looks like a cell phone in the other.
Like I said, Plan B sucks.
HER NECK IS FLAMING RED where I choked her. Her face is covered in blood. But her hands are steady, and her eyes have lost all their warmth. Her thumb hovers over a green button below a numeric display.
“Don’t press it,” I say. “I’m not going to hurt you.” I squat down, hands open, palms toward her. “Seriously, you really do not want to press that button.”
She presses the button.
Her head snaps back, and she flops down. Her legs kick twice, and she’s gone.
I leap forward, snatch Bear out of her dead fingers, and race back through the jumpsuit room and into the hallway beyond. Evan never bothered to tell me how long after the alarm sounds before the Stormtroopers are mobilized, the base is locked down, and the interloper captured, tortured, and put to a slow and agonizing death. Probably not that long.
So much for Plan B. Hated it anyway. The only downside is Evan and I never drew up a Plan C.
He’ll be in a squad with older kids, so your best bet is the barracks that ring the parade grounds.
Barracks that ring the parade grounds. Wherever that is. Maybe I should stop someone and ask for directions, because I only know one way out of this building, and that’s the way I came in, past the dead body and the old fat mean nurse and the young thin nice nurse and right into the loving arms of Major Bob.
There’s an elevator at the end of the hall with a single call button: It’s a one-way express ride to the underground complex, where Evan says Sammy and the other “recruits” are shown the phony creatures “attached” to real human brains. Festooned with security cameras. Crawling with Silencers. Only two other ways out of this hallway: the door just to the right of the elevator and the door I came out of.
Finally, a no-brainer.
I slam through the door and find myself in a stairwell. Like the elevator, the stairs go in one direction: down.
I hesitate for a half second. The stairwell is quiet and small, but it’s a good, cozy kind of small. Maybe I should stay here awhile and hug my bear, perhaps suck my thumb.
I force myself to take it slow down the five flights to the bottom. The steps are metal, cold against my bare feet. I’m waiting for the shriek of alarms and the pounding of heavy boots and the rain of bullets from above and below. I think of Evan at Camp Ashpit, taking out four heavily armed, highly trained killers in near total darkness, and wonder why I ever thought it was wise to stroll into the lion’s den alone when I could have had a Silencer by my side.
Well, not totally alone. I do have the bear.
I press my ear against the door at the bottom and rest my hand on the lever. I hear my own heartbeat and that’s all.
The door flies inward, forcing me back against the wall, and then I do hear the pounding of boots as men toting semiautomatics race up the stairs. The door starts to swing closed and I grab the lever to keep the door in front of me until they make the first turn and thunder out of sight.
I whip around into the corridor before the door closes. Red lights mounted from the ceiling spin, throwing my shadow against the white walls, wiping it away, throwing it again. Right or left? I’m a little turned around, but I think the front of the hangar is to the right. I jog in that direction, then stop. Where am I most likely to find the majority of Silencers in an emergency? Probably clustered around the main entrance to the scene of the crime.
I turn around and run smack into the chest of a very tall man with piercing blue eyes.
I wasn’t close enough to see his eyes at Camp Ashpit.
But I remember the voice.
Deep, hard-edged, razor-sharp.
“Well, hello there, little lamb,” Vosch says. “You must be lost.”
HIS GRIP ON MY SHOULDER is as hard as his voice.
“Why are you down here?” he asks. “Who is your group leader?”
I shake my head. The tears welling up in my eyes aren’t fake. I have to think fast, and my first thought is Evan was right: This solo act was doomed, no matter how many backup plans we concocted. If only Evan were here…
If Evan were here!
“He killed her!” I blurt out. “That man killed Dr. Pam!”
“What man? Who killed Dr. Pam?”
I shake my head, bawling my little eyes out, crushing my battered teddy against my chest. Behind Vosch, another squad of soldiers races down the corridor toward us. He shoves me at them.
“Secure this one and meet me upstairs. We have a breach.”
I’m dragged to the nearest door, shoved inside a dark room, and the lock clicks. The lights flicker on. The first thing I see is a frightened, young-looking girl in a white jumpsuit holding a teddy bear. I actually give a startled yelp.
Beneath the mirror is a long counter on which a monitor and keyboard sit.
I’m in the execution chamber Evan described, where they show the new recruits the fake brain-spiders.
Forget the computer. I’m not about to start hitting buttons again. Options, Cassie. What are your options?
I know there’s another room on the other side of the mirror. And there has to be at least one door, which may or may not be locked. I know the door to this room is locked, so I can wait for Vosch to come back for me or I can bust through this looking glass to the other side.
I pick up one of the chairs, rear back, and hurl it against the mirror. The impact rips the chair from my hands and it falls to the floor with a deafening—at least to me—clatter. I’ve put a large scratch in the thick glass, but that’s the only damage I see. I pick up the chair again. Take a deep breath. Lower my shoulders, rotate my hips as I bring the chair around. That’s what they teach you in karate class: Power is in rotation. I aim for the scratch. Focus every ounce of my energy on that single spot.
The chair bounces off the glass, throwing me off balance, and I land on my butt with a teeth-jarring thump. So jarring, in fact, that I bite down hard on my tongue. My mouth fills with blood, and I spit it out, hitting the girl in the mirror right in the nose.
I yank up the chair again, breathing deep. I forgot one thing I learned in karate: your eich! The war cry. Laugh at it all you want; it does concentrate your power.
The third and final blow shatters the glass. My momentum slams me into the waist-high counter, and my feet come off the floor as the chair tumbles into the adjoining room. I can see another dentist chair, a bank of processors, wires running across the floor, and another door. Please, God, don’t let it be locked.
I pick up Bear and climb through the hole. I imagine Vosch returning and the look on his face when he sees the busted mirror. The door on the other side isn’t locked. It opens into another white cinder-block corridor lined with unmarked doors. Ah, the possibilities. But I don’t step into that corridor. I hover in the doorway. Before me, the unmarked path. Behind me, the one I’ve marked: They’ll see the hole. They’ll know which direction I’ve taken. How long can I stay ahead of them? My mouth has filled with blood again, and I force myself to swallow it. Can’t make it too easy for them to track me.
Too easy: I forgot to jam the chair under the door handle in the first room. It won’t stop them from getting in, but it would drop some precious seconds into my piggy bank.
If something goes wrong, don’t overthink, Cassie. You have good instincts; trust them. Thinking through every step is fine if you’re playing chess, but this isn’t chess.
I run back through the killing room and dive through the hole. I misjudge the width of the counter and flip off the edge, somersaulting onto my back, smacking my head hard against the floor. I lie there for a fuzzy second, bright red stars burning in my vision. I’m looking at the ceiling and the metal ductwork running beneath it. I saw the same setup in the corridors: the bomb shelter’s ventilation system.
And I think, Cassie, that’s the bomb shelter’s freaking ventilation system.
SCUTTLING FORWARD on my stomach, worrying that I’m too heavy for the supports and that at any second the entire section of pipe will collapse, I scoot along the shaft, pausing at each juncture to listen. Listen for what, I’m not really sure. The crying of frightened children? The laughter of happy children? The air in the shaft is cold, brought in from the outside and funneled underground, sort of like me.
The air belongs here; I don’t. What did Evan say?
Your best bet is the barracks that ring the parade grounds.
That’s it, Evan. That’s the new plan. I’ll find the nearest air shaft and climb up to the surface. I won’t know where I am or how far I am from the parade grounds, and of course the entire base is going to be in full lockdown, crawling with Silencers and their brainwashed child-soldiers looking for the girl in the white jumpsuit. And don’t forget the teddy bear. Talk about a dead giveaway! Why did I insist on bringing this damn bear? Sam would understand if I left Bear behind. My promise wasn’t to bring Bear to him. My promise was to bring me to him.