Maya removes Chris’s belt and wraps it around his arm, just above where she thinks the wound is. She can’t tell—there’s so much blood. She pulls the strap as taught as it will go through the buckle and then ties it off.
At the same time, she holds the president in place for Jack, and keeps the generals silenced and out of his way. She can feel their resistance. Her mind presses out in waves, girding their skin, their body heat, and their blood flow. As the minutes wear on, her senses begin to ruck under the load. She’s extending herself far beyond what she thought possible, and doesn’t know how much longer she can keep it up.
The buzz-sawing outside is joined by jackhammering. They’re working their way through the metal and concrete barrier Chris dropped in the elevator shaft.
“Chris, can you put something else in their way?” she pleads.
He’s still, and his eyes are closed.
“No, Chris! Wake up!” She jostles him, but to no avail.
She sighs, her forehead on his. She hopes he’s merely passed out.
She lets go of him, sits against the wall next to him, and then drops her head into his chest and cries. The sound of the power tools suddenly becomes too much for her, and she covers her ears and screams.
She looks at Sabine, who sits staring at her from under the table as if shell-shocked. Is she still cloaking them? Maya can’t be sure. If the men break through before Jack has cleared the president’s mind from the terrorist’s brainwashing, will Sabine be able to keep them hidden long enough for him to finish the job?
Will I be able to stop them?
She sits up, crawls toward the table, and then kneels next to Jack. His whole body is tensed, like he’s ossified, locked in a singular focus with his mind.
Maya barely has the strength to sit up and gingerly place her hands on Jack’s shoulders. She wants to give him a sense, for the time being, that he’s safe to complete his work.
She winces as another wave of painful tremors undulates through her mind. The more she strains to hold the men, the more difficult it becomes, and the more frequent the waves of pain.
She’s comforted by one thought: it will be over soon.
Not much longer now. A few seconds.
Jack winces and shakes. It’s like he’s possessed. She wants to reach out to him, reassure him, but he’s far away. It unnerves her to see him like this. She wipes tears from her face.
He keeps straining. He won’t stop. He won’t take a breath. Maya looks at the president, then at Jack. She wishes she could help. She can only imagine what Jack must be going through, how difficult his task must be. When she moves people, it’s like an electric shock surges through her mind and down her spine, like an arc light. It feels like it leaves a burn mark. She remembers the first time she used her ability, when she discovered it, and it knocked her out. It hurt so bad she thought she was going to die.
Jack has been working for too long. But she can’t stop him. She doesn’t know what to do.
“Jack,” she hears herself mewl through her tears.
They’re all so badly bruised, bloodied and beaten. They risked so much to get here. She only wants them to be safe. Sabine takes her hand from under the table. She crouches down to look at her. Her eyes are still staring off.
Maya is alone.
Jack shakes more violently. He’s burning up. She clutches him, hugging him tightly, hoping he feels her support, hoping she’s somehow able to help him through this.
His body goes limp. He drops onto the tabletop, and then slides out of her arms, off the table, and onto the floor.
“Jack, no!” she yells, kneeling over him.
She loses her grip on the president. He lunges forward onto his forearms as if breathing for the first time in several minutes. He heaves and coughs, finding his breath.
Maya puts her hands flat on Jack’s chest. She feels nothing.
“Oh, no. No!” she yells.
The buzz-sawing stops. Something clangs to the ground. Voices rush in the outer hall.
“Jack!” she says, half yelling, half sobbing. She presses her palms into him. Still no heartbeat. She can’t admit the obvious, but there’s nothing else it could be. Jack has sacrificed everything to save them, and she has no way to know if he succeeded.
She falls onto him. “You can’t die. You can’t be gone.”
“Jack is dead?” Sabine asks, looking back at her.
Maya can scarcely break through her sobs to respond. “I don’t know, honey. I don’t know. Please hide us? They’re coming.”
Through the large window, Maya sees the shadows of armed men creep against the dimly lit walls of the bunker.
“I’m trying,” Sabine says.
Men look through the glass at the president. One of them opens the door and rushes to him.
“Sir, are you all right?”
“Medical!” another shouts into his wrist.
“Y—Yes, I think so. What’s the situation?”
“We have Inigo. Repeat. Inigo secure.”
A general turns from the back wall and coughs out, “There were four of them.”
“Where are they?”
“They must have gone.”
“PEOC secure. I want one team, each exit.”
The voices begin to pile on top of each other. Maya looks to Sabine. Through her teary eyes she sees her concentrating with all her might. They’re in her cocoon. For how long, she can’t be sure.
She pushes on Jack’s chest with both hands for a count of thirty, and then breathes into his mouth. She pumps his chest more. It’s all she can think to do.
Jack doesn’t respond.
More men crowd into the room. How many can Sabine handle? Maya waits for the sound of her little voice uttering the fateful words, “There’s too many.” She waits for it like the condemned await the knocking lever of the gallows.
Fighting back new tears, she sits up, wipes her face, and looks down at Jack. She can move people, throw them aside, and pin them down, but what can she do to save him?
All of Jack’s body is a living organism, which she has this strange ability to control, yet she can’t revive him.
At the Pentagon she had begun to refine her power, homing in on an individual in a crowd. And here in the White House, she narrowed to just an arm, and then a finger. This work has pushed her, certainly weakened her, but at the same time, through it, she’s experienced her abilities become more powerful.
She holds her hands over Jack with renewed purpose. She takes a deep breath and concentrates on his body, sharpening her senses to move not the outside of him, or the whole of him, but the inside. She reaches her mind into his chest and finds his heart. She moves through and feels his lungs. She lifts them and expands them, drawing air in. Then she exhales for him.
She wraps herself around his heart and gently squeezes it. Then she does it again.
She beats his heart for him.
The level knocks. Sabine says quietly, “Too many.”
Jack’s head falls to one side. He lets out a little cough.
He takes in a gulp of air. His eyes open wide.
Maya dives into his chest, crying so hard that it comes out like laughter.
She lifts her head to look at him. He finds her eyes.
“Hey,” he says softly.
The men pounce.