Sabine sits on the couch and plays with a Rubik’s Cube. Jack looks under the lounge door and sees the shadows of two sets of feet, planted firmly, one on each side of the door.
“There’s two all right,” he whispers to the others.
“I feel so safe,” Chris says sarcastically.
Maya grabs Jack by the arms. “Jack, you’re a mind reader. That is so cool.” Then she suddenly turns serious. “You’d better not be reading my mind. Ever.”
“No,” Jack says, surprised.
“Yeah, that would be super weird,” Chris agrees. “Let’s make that a pact, okay?”
“Absolutely. You don’t have to worry,” Jack smiles at them both. “It took me a lot of effort to reach in and get stuff. It’s not like I just hear it without trying.”
“Okay,” Maya says, smiling. She seems to have been not entirely serious when she first asked, but Jack senses she’s comforted to know he won’t be poking around in her head.
Chris sits on the arm of the sofa. “So, what did you get from her?”
Jack paces. “We don’t have a lot of time. That terrorist who tried to bury us under this building has done something to the president.”
“The president?” Chris asks.
“Of America?” Sabine chimes in, incredulous.
“Yes, the president. This guy, he can do things with his mind. He caused the building collapse, and they know he’s been to the White House.”
“The White House? Is he like an assassin or something?”
“Not exactly. They figure he would have already done something, but the president is still here. So they don’t know exactly what he’s up to.” Jack sorts through all the facts he has. He remembers one important detail. “There was a housekeeper.”
The others look at him, confused.
“He may have possessed this housekeeper to somehow make her set off the explosion above us. She opened the gas line, she put stuff in the microwave. He may not be able to move things like you, Chris. What’s that called?”
“Telekinesis,” Maya says.
“Right. They think he has a different ability. And also . . .”
Jack plops himself on the couch, overwhelmed by his thought.
“What?” Chris asks.
“She knows him.”
“Yeah, but it’s . . .” he shakes his head.
“What?” Maya asks.
“He was her first recruit. They captured him overseas and tried to make him into some kind of secret-agent mind-control double agent or something. It didn’t go well. They thought he was long gone until a few days ago. They think he went nuts in some foreign prison.”
“That’s awful,” Maya says.
“Yeah. He’s crazy powerful. What they think he can do is put a suggestion in someone’s mind and make them do it. That’s what I’m trying to say.”
“So, the president . . .” Chris says grimly.
Maya gulps and loses her color.
“Yeah. They don’t know what he might have done. But it could be anything. They ran through the worst-case, they talked about all that. And they’re assuming the worst. That he could make him launch nukes.”
Maya sits, her face blank.
Jack wants to be more articulate, but the sheer volume of what he’s learned is difficult to juggle. He stammers getting it all out in a way that makes sense.
“Oh my god,” Maya says, covering her mouth.
“They don’t know when, or where he would . . .” he becomes impatient with himself. “He hasn’t done anything yet, but he could do it at any second. The thing is, there’s more. And it’s worse. It’s a lot worse.”
“What could be worse than that?” Chris says.
Sabine puts down her cube and looks up. “Are you guys talking about bombs?”
Maya sighs and gives a look to Sabine dripping with sympathy. “She shouldn’t have to hear this.”
“I know what bombs are,” she says.
“You were saying . . .” Chris interrupts.
“Look, it doesn’t matter right now, okay? It doesn’t matter,” Jack talks over them, trying to get his thoughts straight. “What matters is, somebody has to stop it.”
“Wait, us?” Chris asks.
“How would we do that?” Maya asks, as if such an act would be impossible.
“Nobody believes this is happening. This is an experimental program we’re in. They can’t just call the president and say, ‘hey, someone’s hacked your mind.’ They tried, but it doesn’t fly. They called Aerospace Defense, Strategic Command, the vice president . . . And nobody’s buying it.” He surprises himself with how many details he can cite. “So what we have to do is go to Washington right now and prevent this from happening.”
“That is bad ass!” Chris shouts, punching the air.
“But wait,” Maya says. “You can’t be serious. What would we do there? How would we even get in to talk to these people? We don’t know them. And what if that terrorist is there? He’s so much more powerful that we are. We’ll all be killed.”
“We’ll be killed anyway if he starts a nuclear war. It doesn’t matter where a bomb is dropped, you know. It’s a chain reaction.”
“He’s right. Mutually assured destruction,” Chris says.
Maya looks at him, surprised he seems to know as much as Jack.
“I did a report on it in school,” he explains.
“If one nuke is launched, others go off. And that’s all she wrote pretty much for the whole world.” Jack says.
He walks to the bookshelf and holds his head. “You guys don’t have to go. Sabine doesn’t have to go.” He turns around and meets their eyes. “But I’m going. I have to. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do everything in my power right now to try to stop something terrible from happening.”
“Freakin’ aye,” Chris says. “I’m in. A thousand percent.”
“Wait,” Maya says. “Can’t we talk about this? Let’s take a deep breath.”
“No,” Jack says. “We can’t.”
“Why not?” She throws her hands up.
“Because once he enters the codes, they launch in eighteen minutes.”
“Eighteen minutes?” Chris yells.
“Oh my god,” Maya whispers.
“Like I said, whoever’s in, we’re leaving,” Jack says. “We’re leaving right now.”