Russians have pledged to drive all Americans out of Washington. In fact, rumor has it that they’ve asked us nicely to just leave.” “How does that make it easy?” Rich asked again, clearly nervous. “Because it’s not like you’re sneaking up on the front lines of World War Three. We’re going to be sneaking up—if you can call it that—on a roadblock in Snowqualmie Pass. Our forces are waiting until the civilians clear out and until we can isolate this electronic device to counterattack. There’s no shooting going on up there, except for the citizens who have taken up resistance fighting.” It was Tabitha who spoke next. “So we’re just driving up to a roadblock—to the place where they’re looking specifically for soldiers?” “It’ll be a panicked nightmare,” Gillett said. “A steady line of refugees on one side of the road and you guys on the other. You’ll run into the roadblock, they’ll probably turn you around, and you’ll mix into the sea of evacuees. Only Sergeant Sparks— Nick —is going with you. He looks young. The Russians will think you’re just another pack of teenagers in a minivan.” “Do we have a cover story?” Jack asked. “I don’t suppose you’ll need much of one,” Gillett said, “but we can hammer that out.” He unfolded a map across the table. Aubrey recognized the city names from when they’d fled Seattle, just over two months ago. It felt like she was going back into the lion’s den.
THIRTEEN “JACK, I DON’T LIKE THIS.” Jack had been listening for Aubrey all night but knew she wasn’t getting a lot of privacy. The girls’ tent was a hive of activity, with soldiers coming and going from several different units. It was only now, as Jack heard the crunch of gravel under Aubrey’s feet and smelled the splash of Flowerbomb perfume on her, that he could focus on her voice—and that he knew she could talk privately. “I’m outside,” she said, and then laughed. “I probably don’t need to tell you that. I went for a walk. I can’t sleep. I hope you’re awake.” He wished he could answer her, wished that he had Tabitha’s powers. He wished he and Aubrey were getting in a car in the morning and driving to Mexico, not into a potential combat situation. “I don’t like that Tabitha’s in charge,” Aubrey said. “I know that’s petty. But she and I are the same rank, and I don’t know why Captain Gillett chose her to be second-in-command.” Jack thought he knew. It was because Tabitha was the one giving the orders to Aubrey via telepathy. Supposedly Tabitha would be watching over everything. Not that it mattered. They had Sergeant Sparks—Nick—with them. He was really in charge. He’d be calling all the shots. “But that’s not the worst thing,” Aubrey said. “I’m supposed to clear a path for Rich to approach a Russian vehicle. What does that mean? Shoot people while I’m invisible? That doesn’t make me a soldier—it makes me an assassin. A cold-blooded killer. That’s not what I agreed to.” It had troubled Jack, too, but Aubrey was leaping to the worst possible scenario. Ideally, she could just cause commotion on one side of the roadblock—spill a little gas, start a fire. Or puncture the tires on a truck and get the soldiers working on repairing them while Rich snuck in from the other side. It would be dark, and hopefully the guys manning the roadblock would have too much to deal with to notice Rich and Josi. Aubrey had stopped now, no more rocks crunching under her feet. She let out a long, slow breath that sounded like it had a little shiver to it. It was almost Thanksgiving, and there was snow in the mountains between the camp and their target. “Did we agree to this?” Aubrey asked, her voice quieter. “I mean, I know we said yes, but did we really know what we were agreeing to? Did we do this because we wanted to join the army, or did we do it because we didn’t want to be locked up in quarantine?