The 5th Wave
Page 52

 Rick Yancey

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What is the deal with this bear?
Every few feet a choice: turn right, turn left, or keep going straight? And every few feet a pause to listen and to clear the blood from my mouth. Not worried about my blood dripping in here: It’s the bread crumbs that mark my way back. My tongue is swelling, though, and throbs horribly with each beat of my heart, the human clock ticking down, measuring out the minutes I have left before they find me, take me to Vosch, and he finishes me the way he finished my father.
Something brown and small is scurrying toward me, very fast, like he’s on an important errand. A roach. I’ve encountered cobwebs and loads of dust and some mysterious slimy substance that might be toxic mold, but this is the first truly gross thing I’ve seen. Give me a spider or a snake over a cockroach any day. And now he’s heading right toward my face. With very vivid mental images of the thing crawling inside my jumpsuit, I use the only thing available to squash it. My bare hand. Yuck.
I keep moving. There’s a glow up ahead, sort of greenish gray; in my head I call it mothership green. I inch toward the grate from which the glow emanates. Peek through the slats into the room below—only calling it a room doesn’t do it justice. It’s huge, easily the size of a football stadium, shaped like a bowl, with rows and rows of computer stations at the bottom, manned by over a hundred people—only to call them people is doing real people an injustice. They’re them, Vosch’s inhuman humans, and I have no clue what they’re up to, but I’m thinking this must be it, the heart of the operation, ground zero of the “cleansing.” A massive screen takes up an entire wall, projecting a map of the Earth that’s dotted with bright green spots—the source of the sickly green light. Cities, I’m thinking, and then I realize the green dots must represent pockets of survivors.
Vosch doesn’t need to hunt us down. Vosch knows exactly where we are.
I wiggle on, forcing myself to go slowly until the green glow is as small as the dots on the map in the control room. Four junctures down I hear voices. Men’s voices. And the clang of metal on metal, the squeak of rubber soles on hard concrete.
Keep moving, Cassie. No more stopping. Sammy’s not down there and Sammy is the objective.
Then one of the guys says, “How many did he say?”
And the other one goes, “At least two. The girl and whoever took out Walters and Pierce and Jackson.”
Whoever took out Walters, Pierce, and Jackson?
Evan. It has to be.
What the…? For a whole minute or two, I’m really furious at him. Our only hope was in my going alone, sliding past their defenses unnoticed and snatching Sam before they realized what was going on. Of course, it hadn’t quite worked out that way, but Evan had no way of knowing that.
Still. The fact that Evan had ignored our carefully thought-out plan and infiltrated the base also means that Evan is here.
And Evan does what he has the heart to do.
I edge closer to their voices, passing right over their heads until I reach the grating. I peer through the metal slats and see two Silencer soldiers loading eye-shaped globes into a large handcart. I recognize what they are right away. I’ve seen one before.
The Eye will take care of her.
I watch them until the cart is loaded and they wheel it slowly out of sight.
A point will come when the cover isn’t sustainable. When that happens, they’ll shut down the base—or the part of the base that’s expendable.
Oh boy. Vosch is going all Ashpit on Camp Haven.
And the minute that realization hits me, the siren goes off.
The minute Vosch leaves, a clock inside my head begins to tick. No, not a clock. More like a timer ticking down to Armageddon. I’m going to need every second, so where is the orderly? Right when I’m about to pull out the drip myself, he shows up. A tall, skinny kid named Kistner; we met the last time I was laid up. He has a nervous habit of picking at the front of his scrubs, like the material irritates his skin.
“Did he tell you?” Kistner asks, keeping his voice down as he leans over the bed. “We’ve gone Code Yellow.”
He shrugs. “You think they tell me anything? I just hope it doesn’t mean we’re taking another bunker-dive.” No one in the hospital likes the air raid drills. Getting several hundred patients underground in less than three minutes is a tactical nightmare.
“Better than staying topside and getting incinerated by an alien death ray.”
Maybe it’s psychological, but the minute Kistner pulls the drip, the pain sets in, a dull throbbing ache where Ringer shot me that keeps time with my heart. As I wait for my head to clear, I wonder if I should reconsider the plan. An evacuation into the underground bunker might simplify things. After the fiasco of Nugget’s first air raid drill, command decided to pool all noncombatant children into a safe room located in the middle of the complex. It’ll be a hell of a lot easier snatching him from there than checking every barracks on base.
But I have no idea when—or even if—that’s going to happen. Better stick to the original plan. Tick-tock.
I close my eyes, visualizing each step of the escape with as much detail as possible. I did this before, back when there were high schools and Friday night games and crowds to cheer at them. Back when winning a district title seemed like the most important thing in the world. Picturing my routes, the arc of the ball sailing toward the lights, the defender keeping pace beside me, the precise moment to turn my head and bring up my hands without breaking stride. Imagining not just the perfect play but the busted one, how I would adjust my route, give the quarterback a target to save the down.
There’s a thousand ways this could go wrong and only one way for it to go right. Don’t think a play ahead, or two plays or three. Think about this play, this step. Get it right one step at a time, and you’ll score.
Step one: the orderly.
My best buddy Kistner, giving somebody a sponge bath two beds down.
“Hey,” I call over to him. “Hey, Kistner!”
“What is it?” Kistner calls back, clearly annoyed with me. He doesn’t like to be interrupted.
“I have to go to the john.”
“You’re not supposed to get up. You’ll tear the sutures.”
“Aw, come on, Kistner. The bathroom’s right over there.”
“Doctor’s orders. I’ll bring you a bedpan.”
I watch him weave his way through the bunks toward the supply station. I’m a little worried I haven’t waited long enough for the meds to fade. What if I can’t stand up? Tick-tock, Zombie. Tick-tock.
I throw back the covers and swing my legs off the bed. Gritting my teeth; this is the hard part. I’m wrapped tight from chest to waist, and pushing myself upright stretches the muscles ripped apart by Ringer’s bullet.
I cut you. You shoot me. It’s only fair.
But it’s escalating. What happens on your next turn? You stick a hand grenade down my pants?
That’s a disturbing image, sticking a live grenade down Ringer’s pants. On so many levels.
I’m still full of dope, but when I sit up, the pain almost makes me black out. So I sit still for a minute, waiting for my head to clear.
Step two: the bathroom.
Force yourself to go slow. Take small steps. Shuffle. I can feel the back of the gown flapping open; I’m mooning the entire ward.
The bathroom is maybe twenty feet away. It feels like twenty miles. If it’s locked or if someone’s in there, I’m screwed.
It’s neither. I lock the door behind me. Sink and toilet and a small shower stall. The curtain rod is screwed into the wall. I lift the lid of the commode. A short metal arm that lifts the flapper, dull on both ends. Toilet paper holder is plastic. So much for finding a weapon in here. But I’m still on track. Come on, Kistner, I’m wide open.
Two sharp raps on the door, and then his voice on the other side.
“Hey, you in there?”
“I told you I had to go!” I yell.
“And I told you I was bringing a bedpan!”
“Couldn’t hold it anymore!”
The door handle jiggles.
“Unlock this door!”
“Privacy, please!” I holler.
“I’m going to call security!”
“All right, all right! Like I’m freaking going anywhere!”
Count to ten, flip the lock, shuffle to the toilet, sit. The door opens a crack, and I can see a sliver of Kistner’s thin face.
“Satisfied?” I grunt. “Now can you please close the door?”
Kistner stares at me for a long moment, plucking at his shirt. “I’ll be right out here,” he promises.
“Good,” I say.
The door eases shut. Now six slow ten-counts. A good minute.
“Hey, Kistner!”
“I’m gonna need your help.”
“Define ‘help.’”
“Getting up! I can’t get off the damned can! I think I might have torn a suture…”
The door flies open. Kistner’s face is flushed with anger.
“I told you.”
He steps in front of me. Holds out both hands.
“Here, grab my wrists.”
“First can you close that door? This is embarrassing.”
Kistner closes the door. I wrap my fingers around Kistner’s wrists.
“Ready?” he asks.
“Ready as I’ll ever be.”
Step three: wet willy.
As Kistner pulls back, I drive forward with my legs, slamming my shoulder into his narrow chest, knocking him backward into the concrete wall. Then I yank him forward, pivot behind him, and pull his arm up high behind his back. That forces him to his knees in front of the toilet. I grab a handful of his hair, shove his face into the water. Kistner is stronger than he looks, or I’m a lot weaker than I thought. It seems to take forever for him to pass out.
I let go and stand back. Kistner does a slow roll and flops onto the floor. Shoes, pants. Pulling him upright to yank off the shirt. The shirt’s going to be too small, the pants too long, the shoes too tight. I rip off my gown, toss it into the shower stall, pull on Kistner’s scrubs. The shoes take the longest. Way too small. A sharp pain shoots through my side as I struggle to put them on. Looking down, I see blood seeping through the bandaging. What if I bleed through the shirt?
A thousand ways. Focus on the one way.
Drag Kistner into the stall. Fling the curtain closed. How long will he be out? Doesn’t matter. Keep moving. Don’t think ahead.
Step four: the tracker.
I hesitate at the door. What if someone saw Kistner come in and now sees me, dressed as Kistner, coming out?
Then you’re done. He’s going to kill you anyway. Okay, don’t just die, then. Die trying.
The operating room doors are the length of a football field away, past rows of beds and through what seems like a mob of orderlies and nurses and lab-coated doctors. I walk as quickly as I can toward the doors, favoring my injured side, which throws off my stride but it can’t be helped; for all I know, Vosch has been tracking me and he’s wondering why I’m not going back to my bunk.