Sabine can see the alley entrance. It’s just a few yards away. She hears Jack calling for her. She slips from an officer’s grasp just as another officer takes hold of her. She hides from one, and then the next. She can hide from three of them, maybe four, but as soon as she evades the closest of them, others move in.
A dragnet has her. The more she struggles to free herself, the more it entangles her.
The police officers and guards are too strong for her. She pushes out hard with her mind. She tries to cloud more of them.
Have to help Jack. Have to join my friends.
Just as she feels she can’t stem the onslaught, she notices officers closest to the alley reaching for her, but appear to be frozen in place, struggling to use their motionless arms. She runs to them, hiding from the others as she goes. She weaves past them toward the alley. The others chase after her as soon as they begin to perceive her, when they’ve fallen out of the range of her ability.
She looks back as she runs and sees officers, one at a time, stop as if hitting an invisible wall as soon as they get close to her.
She gets ahead of them, and runs into the alley. “I’m here! I’m here!”
Maya and Chris take her hands. She sees Jack near the center of the alley with two officers. One of them is holding him. Jack’s hands are behind his head.
The other officer raises his gun at Sabine and the others. “Freeze! Stay where you are!”
Sabine gets inside their minds and turns their perception of her and her friends into a disappearing mist. The officers look around, lowering their weapons in confusion.
“What in the–?” One of them says.
“It’s some kind of trick,” the other shouts. “Fan out,”
Sabine runs to Jack and jumps into his arms. She hugs him like she’ll never let go, her face bunched into a squint. Jack holds her tightly.
“Am I ever glad to see you,” he says.
Jack reminds her of her father, when he wasn’t drinking. He was so full of life, and he liked to carry her. He carried her at the festival, at the market. He was like her horse. When he died, she thought she would never feel that sense of warmth, strength, and security again. But now she has. She would go anywhere with Jack. He, Maya, and Chris are her new family.
“We were getting worried about you, girl,” Maya says.
“Did you help me get away?” Sabine asks.
“Just a little bit.” Maya smiles. Sabine smiles back, marveling at Maya’s magnificent hair. She reaches out to pet it.
“I feel like we’re all getting stronger,” Maya says.
“It’s all this practice, right Sabine?” Chris says.
They maneuver past the officers toward the other end of the alley. Chris lightly punches one of the officers in the shoulder as they pass. The man’s attention remains focused on the alley in front of him, letting Chris pass as if nothing happened.
“Don’t push it!” Maya chides him.
Chris laughs. “This pseudo-invisibility of yours is just about the greatest thing in the world,” he says, rubbing Sabine on the head.
She smiles. She likes how playful and good-humored Chris is. And she likes his big dimples.
The hunkered group of four emerges from the alley and Sabine sees the towering, angled walls of a massive building. She understands this is the Pentagon, where they must go. Below, in the space just outside the alley, several black cars, police cars, a big black truck, and sawhorse barricades block their way. Armed officers crouch behind their vehicles, with guns aimed at them.
Sabine burrows her face in the hollow of Jack’s neck.
Maya and Chris stay huddled closely together with them. Sabine keeps them clear of as many of the police minds as she can, but it’s not many. They shout at them to “Get on the ground,” and “Do it now!”
Every ounce of her wants to flee this place and hide—anywhere but here. She can’t even count the guns pointed at them. Still, she wants to be with Jack, and if he’s not leaving here, neither is she.
She knows they’ll have to cross through all of these cars and all of these police to get to the Pentagon.
Jack holds up his hands.
Another voice farther away cries, “Stand down! Do not fire! Do not use deadly force on the children.”
She recognizes the voice.
“We can’t stop,” Jack yells back. “We have to get to that building.”
“Lot of good it’ll do us if we’re dead,” Chris whispers.
The other voice is louder now, on a megaphone. “Hold your fire. Kids, you need to get on the ground. Officers, stand down.”
She sees a man walking forward through the cars holding a big cone to his mouth. He wears a black suit. Other men who dress the same walk alongside him. She knows who it is. It’s Jewel, from the brain-game camp.
One of the police officers stands in front of Jewel. They argue and yell. Sabine wants to run. She can see the doorway into the Pentagon, but knows they can’t go to it now. The police might shoot them.
Jewel and the officer talk. She picks up snippets of words she doesn’t understand amid the yelling: “authority,” “jurisdiction,” “classified,” “high-value assets,” “top-secret,” “NSA,” and “a matter of national security.”
Jewel breaks through the front line of officers and approaches Jack and the others.
“I need you kids to cooperate. This has gone far enough,” he says. “We are not your enemy.”
“Don’t listen to him, guys,” Chris says.
“No wait,” Jack interrupts. “Maybe he can help us.” He yells to Jewel, “You know why we’re here. We’re doing this with or without you, Jewel, but you know what we need to do.”
“I can guess. I was briefed on the worst-case before we lost the doctor.”
The others express shock.
“Lost her? What happened?” Maya asks.
Jewel steps up to them and stops. “She’s in a coma. Jack, there’s something you need to know.”
Sabine listens, but keeps her face buried.
“She’s suffering some kind of amnesia. I don’t know what you did to her back there, but she doesn’t remember a lot. She doesn’t know where she works, what the agency does. She doesn’t know anything about the current crisis. They induced the coma to try to help her.”
Sabine feels Jack’s chest sink.
“I took a lot out of her mind,” Jack says. “Does this mean . . .?”
“You can read minds, but whatever you read is sort of stripped out?” Chris supposes.
“That was our thinking as well,” Jewel says.
“Holy shit,” Jack says quietly.
Sabine can tell Jack feels bad that he hurt the doctor.
He didn’t mean to hurt her.
“You’re playing with fire here. These are abilities nobody understands yet, not even you. That’s why we have the agency. It’s why the order is to being you back.”
“We’ve got more important things to worry about,” Jack says. “We have to get in that building. It’s our only chance to stop a nuclear war. Do you understand that? You can either help us, or you’re going to have to fight us.”
“I thought you might say that, which means I have a decision to make. My orders are to bring you in. I have a duty to obey those orders, but I also have an obligation to disobey any orders if I feel they’re immoral. Now, I understand that that terrorist may have used the president to trigger a nuclear strike.” He pauses to take a long breath. “What I’m going to do it this: I’m not going to try to stop you. But I can only speak for myself. I cannot stop all these other police and all these other agencies that are here. And I can’t fight them with you either. And I won’t fight them. This is your battle.”
Sabine looks up at him, waves goodbye, and then wipes her and her friends from his mind, and from as many of the other officers’ minds as she can reach.
She rides Jack like a steed into the Pentagon.