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Eve of destruction, p.10
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       Eve of Destruction, p.10

           Patrick Carman
 
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  It doesn’t matter if I’m locked down here. I’ll get out. Watch me. And when I do, I’ll make sure you grow old and die and I don’t. I win. I always win. Everyone else loses. They all lose in the end. Including you. Ha Ha Ha.

  What was I going to say? There was nothing to say, that was the problem. He was right. So I turned off the monitor, which was the only sane thing I could think of. Talking to him would do me no good.

  I engaged the S1 station so I could at least see that Ben was still alive and feel like I wasn’t totally messing every single thing up. It struck me then that I’d opened the R1 door, the door leading into the red zone where Rainsford who was Davis waited for me. I’d sort of let that slip my mind with everything else going on.

  Looking into the tunnel at S1, I discovered more things to worry about as the world underground turned darker and more dangerous by turns.

  Ben Dugan was gone.

  And in his place?

  A white-haired, hollow-faced girl staring up at me like a ghost.

  Avery Varone, Rainsford’s chosen one.

  6:00 PM–6:30 PM

  I slammed my fist down against the control that closed the red zone door, sealing Rainsford on one side and Avery on the other. I’d been underground for 240 minutes; four hours in a room all alone watching the world come unglued. My mind was spinning with thoughts as I stared at Avery and her at me, neither of us speaking. Even as I encountered this altered version of the girl I’d once known, the forefront of my mind was still flooded with thoughts of Marisa. Her monitor was a black eye staring back at me, like a deep tomb she’d fallen into and could never get out of. But there were other thoughts, too, and those began to surface more prominently as I continued staring at Avery Varone. She’d stopped looking at me and began wandering toward the red zone door, but she wasn’t going anywhere. She’d be back.

  Rainsford had obviously taken Ben somewhere, most likely to the same room Rainsford had been trapped in himself. He was amassing quite a collection of people in there.

  And then there was Amy. I hoped against all hope that she’d listened to me and gone to the pond. If she could confirm that the door wasn’t locked, maybe I could convince her to open the hatch. Everyone but Marisa and Kate were trapped behind one door or another, including me. Incredibly unfortunate that I held the only key card for the observation room and I was on the wrong side of the door. Marisa and Kate, if they were alive, were the only ones besides Avery in a position to make it to the exit.

  And the last thought, which was brought on by all the others: I have to kill Rainsford. I have to find a way. Even if I have to die down here with him to make it happen.

  “Avery,” I said. I could see she had made it to the red zone door and tried to open it up, even pounded on it a few times, thinking Rainsford might come back and get her.

  “You’re not going anywhere, not unless I open that door. And I don’t plan on doing it anytime soon.”

  “He’ll come and get me,” Avery said, her voice echoing phantomlike against the ribbed metal walls of the tunnel. “He always does.”

  As she started walking toward me, I looked at two monitors, ones that had, as of yet, been dark and motionless. I’d tried to make out what was in them, but the rooms hadn’t had enough light. To my left, one monitor was marked S3. It was the one I hoped would turn on if Kate and Marisa made it into the silo room and cranked on the lights. It drew my eye relentlessly, the darkness like a cloud I wished would part and reveal Marisa on the other side. And to my right, on the opposite wall, the S5 monitor, the most mysterious of them all. It was the one behind the circle and the square room on the map, also a dark feed that offered nothing but shadows and stillness. I had a guess about that room. It was there, I was sure, that the vials of fear blood were hidden.

  And Rainsford was a lot closer to that room than I was.

  “She’s a monster,” said Avery. She’d made her way back to the monitor and stared vacantly at me.

  “Avery, listen to me. What do you remember about the cure?”

  She didn’t answer, so I went in a different direction.

  “Davis isn’t who you think he is.”

  She looked up at me and smiled sadly.

  “He’s Rainsford. I know, he told me.”

  She really did know, really understood.

  “So then you know he’s, like, pushing eighty years old.”

  “No, that’s not right. He’s a lot older than that.”

  “He told you?”

  “Sure he did. He loves me. We talk about everything.”

  I glanced at the S3 monitor again, wishing it would come on and I’d see Marisa’s face, know she was okay.

  “You don’t know him,” I said, maybe a little too harshly, but thinking of Marisa and the ailments we had and everything we’d been through, I was angry. “He’s using you. When you get old he’ll leave you behind, just like he did Mrs. Goring.”

  “He never loved her!” Avery shouted. She may have looked pale and emotionless, but Avery had plenty of energy when it came to defending Rainsford. “She was always mean to him. Did she tell you she tried to kill him? More than once.”

  “I have a feeling someday you’ll want to do the same.”

  “She’s just jealous because he chose me. She’s bitter, Will. Mean and bitter and terrible.”

  “And old, which is what you’re going to be someday.”

  “And he will be, too. He’s not doing it again. That was the last time. He promised me.”

  If it weren’t for how I felt about Marisa, I would have said Avery was insane. But love could make people believe things that weren’t true. I knew how she felt.

  “Here’s a news flash for you, Avery—he’s said that to people before, including Eve Goring. He’s lying to you.”

  “Shut up, Will. And open that door.”

  “Sorry, not going to happen. Consider yourself trapped until you come to your senses.”

  She folded her arms across her chest and stared at me as if she were capable of keeping her mouth shut for a thousand years. She had a lot of resolve, I remembered that about her. And I had to remember that in some twisted way she was under Rainsford’s spell. She wasn’t seeing the world clearly, the way it really was.

  “How did you end up down here?” I asked.

  She didn’t answer.

  I was about to start guessing when the main monitor flashed on and off several times and then settled on a face. Someone was back.

  “Don’t go anywhere,” I said to Avery, and then I turned her monitor off and cranked the volume on the main feed.

  “Who was that you were talking to?”

  Amy was back, looking a little tired and concerned.

  “One of the many people Mrs. Goring has trapped down here.”

  “Down where?” Amy asked.

  “Under Fort Eden.”

  It was time to really start spilling the truth if I ever hoped to get this girl to let us out.

  “You’re serious? Like, how many of you are down there?”

  “Every single person who went through the procedure last year that you’re about to go through. We’re all down here, and someday I’m thinking maybe you will be, too.”

  “Me? Why would I end up down there?”

  “Because you’re tangled up in this thing now, and it seems like people who get caught in Mrs. Goring’s web have a way of circling back and getting into even more trouble.”

  There was a quick but meaningful silence as Amy weighed what I’d said, and in the space of seconds, I could see she was afraid.

  “Amy, listen to me,” I said. “You don’t have much time. If you and the other six people there with you are going to get cured, it will happen fast. Once the first one goes, the rest only take a few days. And there’s something you need to know, Amy. I’ve been cured. Everyone down here has been cured. And it’s not what you think. It’s bad, is what I’m saying. You shouldn’t go through with it.”

  Amy looked at the door
, darting to the right and off camera.

  “Hold on, Will,” she said, but I couldn’t see her. She was gone for maybe ten seconds, in which I practically crawled out of my skin wondering if she’d been caught by Mrs. Goring and the whole thing was blown. Without Amy, I had absolutely no chance of getting Marisa and the rest free of the underground missile silo. She was my only hope.

  “I’ve gotta go.” She was back, looking nervous and agitated. “She’s around more now, talking to us about tonight. I can’t come see you anymore.”

  “Wait—did you visit the pond?”

  She hesitated, like she wasn’t sure how to answer.

  “I’m sorry, Will. I don’t think I believe you anymore. About the cures, I mean. I’m first and I’m doing it. I just have to get better.”

  It struck me then that I hadn’t ever asked her what her fear was. Also, that I was losing her and had to switch strategies fast.

  “Look Amy, I don’t know what you’re afraid of, but I’m sure it’s something that’s really hard to deal with.”

  “You have no idea.”

  “Well, I kinda do actually. My fear was terrible, too. And you know what? It’s gone. So maybe you’re right. In fact, you are right. You should get cured. It’s weird, but it does work.”

  “You mean it?”

  “Totally, yeah. But I want to talk to you about it when you’re done, okay? I think you’ll have questions and I can answer them. I mean, I’ve been there, right?”

  “Yeah, you have. I’d like that. Sort of like an after-cure date.”

  Whoa. This was bad. Or was it?

  “A weird cure date,” I repeated. “You know what? I think that sounds pretty good.”

  “We could do it by the pond,” she said.

  “It’s perfect,” I said. “Only, I’m kind of stuck under the pond.”

  “Not for long. I went down there. It’s latched shut, but there’s no lock.”

  “That’s great! So you opened it?”

  She reacted to my overexcitement by putting her finger to her lips.

  “Not so loud, silly!” she whispered. “I didn’t unlatch it, but I will. Mrs. Goring is bringing us dinner in about an hour, then we have an hour break. After that she wants me to go into this other room and see my shrink. Then I get cured.”

  “So during that one hour after dinner, you guys are left alone?”

  “We’re left alone all the time, Will. She’s either at the Bunker or down under the fort somewhere we’re not allowed to go. There’s this long, winding staircase she uses. And it’s only like five minutes to the pond.”

  “There should be a latch you turn, no lock on the door going down.”

  “It’s perfect! I’ll get cured, then come back to the pond after. Can you get rid of your friends?”

  She was immediately embarrassed by what she’d said and started backpedaling.

  “I didn’t mean that—it would just be nice to maybe take a walk at first. Without them.”

  “I’m sure we can make that work. It’ll be great.”

  Two things struck me about this conversation as she signed off and left me standing alone in the surveillance room. One, Amy was obviously under at least a minor form of mind control. Mrs. Goring had figured out how to use whatever system it was that made people forget and, in the lead-up to a cure, a little goofy in the head. Did Amy really think I was going on a date with her? We’d been held hostage underground all day. It’s not like it would be business as usual if we got out. And second, she was kind of into me, and pretty, and I hadn’t expected anything like that to happen when I showed up at Fort Eden for the second time.

  I took out my Recorder and started taking more screws off the back. I always thought better when my hands were taking things apart or putting something together. It took less than thirty seconds for me to remove a second section of the back cover and start digging around inside the Recorder. I found what I was looking for—a tiny glass fuse—and popped it out, nearly dropping it on the concrete floor as it sprang free of the circuit board.

  I spent the next few minutes trying to jerry-rig the fuse into the busted card reader near the door. It was the wrong amperage and the wrong size—too small on both counts—and I knew I’d be lucky if I got one shot at sliding a card through. I reworked a few dangling wires, completely removed the casing, pried the fuse holding closer together, and tried to pop the broken circuit board back into one continuous piece. Then I reattached the main wires from the wall.

  “That’s about all I got,” I said to myself, and it didn’t give me much hope. I could scan the card once and there was maybe a 50 percent chance it would actually do anything at all, a sliver of a chance it would open the door, and a 100 percent certainty that it would blow the tiny fuse. One shot, and not a very good one.

  I went to the map, searching the space once more, trying to figure out where I’d go if I could get out. Was there any sort of plan to the maze of tunnels that could work in our favor? I got lost in that idea in a matter of seconds, scanning the rooms and corridors for answers, trying not to think about the world outside the door for just a few more seconds.

  And then I heard a voice.

  Will. Over here.

  My first thought was a bad one. It was happening all over again. When my little brother died it created such a ferocious void in my life, such a brutal sadness, I couldn’t bring myself to let him go. I pretended he was still around. All this time later, and even after the cure, sometimes I still do.

  Over here. Turn around! I’m not dead.

  I did turn around, convinced I would find nothing but an empty room and I would know that I was, again, going a little bit crazy. Marisa was dead like my little brother was dead, and I was hearing her voice in my head. I would hear it forever. I would never let her go. It would break my heart into tiny pieces.

  “I swear he’s dumber than a box of rocks.”

  There was nothing quite like Kate Hollander’s voice to bring a person back to reality. I swung around, ran to the S3 monitor, which had never shown me anything. And there she was. Marisa was there. She was smiling, her coal black hair falling in waves around her face. I put my hand on the screen and she did the same on her end.

  “What I wouldn’t give to hold your hand right now,” I said.

  “You guys need some time alone? Because I can just go back out into the orange room of death if you do. Not a big deal, really.”

  “I love you,” I said. “And I’m sorry.”

  “Oh god, I’m leaving,” Kate complained. She walked straight back, away from the camera, and Marisa leaned in close.

  “Ditto on the I love you part,” she said. “I’m still working on ‘you’re forgiven.’ But we’re okay. Kate wrecked the camera, but she saved the day.”

  I looked at her curiously, wondering what had happened, and she took the cue.

  “She made a lasso out of the cord and looped it around my legs. Then she just hauled me up onto the catwalk. Kind of amazing, but there is a down side—I owe her my life.”

  “You could do worse!” Kate yelled from ten or so feet away.

  “I have to tell you something,” I said.

  “Uh-oh,” said Kate, who was back in a flash, eyeing me like I was about to reveal information that might ruin her life.

  I was determined to stop withholding things unless I absolutely had to, but what to say, exactly, I hadn’t quite figured out even as I started spilling the first part of what they didn’t know.

  “Rainsford is down here with us. He’s Davis—you know, younger—but it’s him. It’s Rainsford.”

  Neither girl said anything for a few seconds. They stood there, stewing on this piece of information, while I prayed for Mrs. Goring not to show up on the main monitor and cut things short. I had to remember they were still getting used to the idea that Davis and Rainsford were the same person. It was fairly new information for them. Marisa was the first to speak, and her response surprised me.

  “Has he got Avery
with him?”

  “Um, yeah. But she’s . . . different.”

  There’s a lot of talk about how girls are so competitive and catty with each other, but when push comes to shove and a bad dude is involved, never underestimate the power of girls to defend their kind.

  “We have to get her away from that creep,” Marisa said. “What’s he done to her?”

  “I think he’s got her under some sort of mind control, but she’s kind of listening to me, or trying to. And she looks kind of, I don’t know, ghostly and more hollowed out.”

  “That guy is dead,” said Kate, and the look on her face made me glad the two of us were on the same team.

  “Wishing he was dead and getting Avery away from him are two things I’m not sure how we’re going to accomplish.” I was being as honest with them as I could be, but also realistic. “The guy is a lot stronger than all of us but Connor, and you know Connor is hit and miss with the dizzy spells. Rainsford’s had a thousand years to learn stuff we probably don’t have a clue about, like ninja skills.”

  “You’re a geek,” Kate said.

  “Maybe so, but I’m serious. He’s managed to lock Connor and Alex in a room and move Ben Dugan without much trouble. Maybe he’s using mind tricks, but I wouldn’t put hand-to-hand fighting skills out of his reach. At least there are no weapons down here.”

  “No one is impossible to kill,” Kate said. “Not even this guy. There has to be a way to get rid of him for good.”

  “There is.” Marisa seemed to wake up all at once from a long moment of internal thinking. “It’s the vials. Mrs. Goring might be crazy, but what if she’s right? What if mixing them together could erase Rainsford from the planet? We could get Avery away from him.”

  “And maybe get cured in the process,” said Kate, which was the biggest thing she cared about. I couldn’t blame her. Splitting headaches 24–7? It could make a person crazy for a cure.

 
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