The Passage Page 117

She leaned forward in her chair and smiled again-one of her strange, sad smiles, full of belief.

"The ship, Peter," said Lacey. "Amy is the ship."

Peter was still trying to make sense of this mysterious answer when Lacey seemed to startle. Frowning sharply, she darted her eyes around the room.

"Lacey? What's wrong?"

But she seemed not to have heard him. She briskly pushed away from the table.

"I have gone on too long, I'm afraid. It will be light soon. Go and wake her now, and gather your things."

He was taken aback, his mind still drifting in the night's strange currents. "We're leaving?"

He rose to discover Amy standing in the doorway to the bedroom, her dark hair wild and askew, the curtain shifting behind her. Whatever had affected Lacey had affected her also; her face was lit with a sudden urgency.

"Lacey-" Amy began.

"I know. He will try to be here before daybreak." Drawing on her cloak, Lacey gave her insistent gaze to Peter once more. "Hurry now."

The peace of the night was suddenly banished, replaced by a sense of emergency his mind could not seem to grasp. "Lacey, who are you talking about? Who's coming?"

But then he looked at Amy, and he knew.


Babcock was coming. "Quickly, Peter."

"Lacey, you don't understand." He felt weightless, benumbed. He had nothing to fight with, not even a blade. "We're totally unarmed. I've seen what he can do."

"There are weapons more powerful than guns and knives," the woman replied. Her face held no fear, only a sense of purpose. "It is time for you to see it."

"See what?"

"What you came to find," said Lacey. "The passage."


Peter in darkness: Lacey was leading them away from the house, into the woods. A frigid wind was blowing through the trees, a ghostly moaning. A rind of moon had ascended, bathing the scene in a trembling light, making the shadows lurch and sway around him. They ascended a ridge and descended another. The snow was deep here, blown into drifts with a hard carapace of crust. They were on the south side of the mountain now; Peter heard, below him, the sound of the river.

He felt it before he saw it: a vastness of space opening before him, the mountain falling away. He reached out reflexively to find Amy, but she was gone. The edge could be anywhere; one wrong step and the darkness would swallow him.

"This way," Lacey called from ahead. "Hurry, hurry."

He followed the sound of her voice. What he thought was a sheer drop was actually a rocky decline, steep but passable. Amy was already moving down the twisting path. He took a breath of icy air, willing his fear away, and followed.

The path grew narrower, running horizontally to the mountain's face as it descended, clinging to it like a catwalk. To his left, sheer rock, glinting with moonlit ice; to his right, an abyss of blackness, a plunge into nothing. Even to look at it was to be swept away; he kept his eyes forward. The women were moving quickly, shadowy presences leaping at the far edge of his vision. Where was Lacey taking them? What was the weapon she had spoken of? He could hear the voice of the river again, far below. The stars shone hard and pure above his face, like chips of ice.

He turned a corner and stopped; Lacey and Amy were standing before a wide, pipelike opening in the mountain's face. The hole was as tall as he was, its depthless interior a maw of blackness.

"This way," said Lacey.

Two steps, three steps, four; the darkness enveloped him. Lacey was taking them inside the mountain. He remembered the tin of matches in his coat. He stopped and struck one, his insensate fingers fumbling in the cold, but as soon as it sparked, the swirling currents of air puffed the flame away.

Lacey's voice, from up ahead: "Hurry, Peter."

He inched his way forward, each step an act of faith. Then he felt a hand on his arm, a firm pressure. Amy.


He couldn't see anything at all. Despite the cold he had begun to sweat under his parka. Where was Lacey? He had spun around, searching for the opening to orient himself, when from behind him came a squeal of metal, and the sound of an opening door.

Everything blazed with light.

They were in a long hallway, carved from the mountain. The walls were lined with pipes and metal conduits. Lacey was standing at a breaker panel on the wall adjacent to the entrance. The room was illuminated by a bank of buzzing fluorescent lights, high above.

"There's power?"

"Batteries. The doctor showed me how."

"No batteries could last this long."

"These are ... different."

Lacey swung the heavy door closed behind them.

"He called it Level Five. I will show you. Please come."

The hallway led to a wider space, sunk in darkness. Lacey moved along the wall to find the switch. Through the soles of his wet boots he could feel a kind of humming, distinctly mechanical.

The lights buzzed and flickered to life.

The room appeared to be some kind of infirmary. An air of abandonment hung over all-the gurney and the long, tall counter covered with dusty equipment, burners and beakers and chrome basins, tarnished with age; a tray of syringes, still sealed in plastic, and resting on a long, rust-stained shawl of fabric, a line of metal probes and scalpels. At the back of the room, in a nest of conduits, was what appeared to be a battery stack.

If you found her, bring her here.

Here, Peter thought. Not just the mountain, but here. This room.

What was here?

Lacey had stepped to a steel case, like a wardrobe, bolted to the wall. On its face was a handle and, beside this, a keypad. He watched as the woman punched in a long series of numbers, then turned the handle with a thunk.

He thought at first the case was empty. Then he saw, resting on the bottom shelf, a metal box. Lacey removed it and passed it to him.

The box, small enough to fit in one hand, was surprisingly light. It appeared to have no seams at all, but there was a latch, with a tiny button beside it that perfectly fit his thumb. Peter pressed it; at once the box separated into two perfectly formed halves. Inside, cradled in foam, lay two rows of tiny glass vials, containing a shimmering green liquid. He counted eleven; a twelfth compartment was empty.

"It is the last virus," said Lacey. "The one he gave to Amy. He made it from her blood."

He searched her face to see the truth registered there. But he already knew the truth; more than that, he felt the truth.

"The empty one. That's you, isn't it? The one Lear gave you."

Lacey nodded. "I believe that it is."

He closed the lid, which sealed with a solid click. He slid off his backpack and pulled out a blanket, which he used to wrap the box, then placed it all inside. From the counter he retrieved a handful of the sealed syringes and put these in the pack as well. Their best chance was to make it through till dawn, then get down the mountain. After that, he didn't know. He turned to Amy.

"How long do we have?"

She shook her head: not long. "He's close."

"Can he get through that door, Lacey?"

The woman said nothing.


"It is my hope that he will," she said.

They were in the field now, high above the river. Peter's and Amy's trail had disappeared, covered by the blowing snow. Alicia had ridden ahead. It should have been dawn by now, thought Michael. But all he saw was the same gray softening they'd been riding toward for what seemed like hours.

"So where the hell are they?" said Hollis.

Michael didn't know if he meant Peter and Amy or the virals. The thought occurred to him, with a vague acceptance, that they were all going to die up here, that none of them would ever leave this frozen, barren place. Sara and Greer were silent-thinking the same thing, Michael thought, or maybe they were just too cold to speak. His hands were so stiff he doubted he could fire, much less reload, his rifle. He tried to take a drink from his canteen to steady himself, but it was frozen solid.

From out of the darkness they heard the sound of Alicia's horse, riding back at a trot. She pulled up beside them.

"Tracks," she said, gesturing with a quick tip of her head. "There's an opening in the fence."

She heeled her mount, not waiting for them, and barreled back they way she'd come. Without a word Greer followed, the others bringing up the rear. They were in the trees again. Alicia was riding faster now, galloping through the snow. Michael heeled his mount, urging the animal forward. Beside him, Sara bent her neck low over her mount as the branches skimmed past.

Something was moving above them, in the trees.

Michael lifted his face in time to hear a gun go off behind him. No sooner had this happened than a violent force slapped him from the rear, shoving the air from his lungs and catapulting him headfirst over the horse's neck, his rifle swinging out from his hand like a whip. For a single instant he felt himself suspended painlessly over the earth-part of his mind paused to register this surprising fact-but the sensation didn't last; he hit the ground with a jolt, landing on his back in the snow, and now there were other things to think about. He had, he saw, come to rest directly in the path of his own horse. He rolled over on his side, covering the back of his head with his hands as if this might actually help; he felt the wild torrent of air as the panicked animal bounded over him, followed by the concussion of its hooves, one impacting just inches from his ear.

Then it was gone. Everyone was gone.

Michael saw the viral-the same one, he surmised, that had knocked him from his horse-as soon as he drew up to his knees. It was crouched just a few meters from him, poised on its folded haunches like a frog. Its forearms were buried in the snow, which glowed with the organic light of its bioluminescence, as if the creature were partially immersed in a pool of blue-green water. More snow clung to its chest and arms, a glistening dust; rivulets of moisture were running down its face. Michael realized that he was hearing gunshots, an echoing spatter over the ridge and, mixed with this, like the words of a song, voices calling his name. But these sounds might have been signals from a distant star. Like the vast expanse of darkness around him-for that, too, had faded from his mind, dispersing like the molecules of an expanding gas-they might have pertained to some other person entirely. The viral was clicking now, rocking the muscles of its jaw. With a c*ck of its head it gave a lazy-seeming snap of teeth, as if it were in no hurry-as if the two of them had all the time in the world. And in that moment Michael realized that the place where he kept his fear was empty. He, Michael the Circuit, wasn't afraid. What he felt was more like anger-a huge, weary irritation, such as he might have felt for a fly that had been buzzing around his face too long. Goddamnit, he thought, guiding his hand to the sheath on his belt. I am so tired of these f**king things. Maybe there are forty million of you and maybe there aren't. In the next two seconds, there's going to be one less.

As Michael rose the viral shot forward, its arms and legs extending like the fingers of an open hand; he barely had enough time to shove the blade out in front of him, his eyes closing reflexively. He felt the bite of metal as the viral slammed into him, folding over Michael's body as he tumbled backward.

He rolled to see the viral lying face-up on the snow. His blade was buried in its chest. Its arms and legs were making a kind of paddling motion, clawing at the air. A pair of figures were standing above the body. Peter and, beside him, Amy. Where had they come from? Amy was holding a rifle-Michael's rifle, covered in snow. At their feet, the creature made a sound that could have been a sigh or a groan. Amy drew the stock of the gun to her shoulder, lowered the barrel, and pushed it into the viral's open mouth.

"I'm sorry," she said, and pulled the trigger.

Michael rose to his feet. The viral was motionless now, its agonal twitchings ceased. A broad spray of blood lay on the snow. Amy passed the gun to Peter.

"Take this."

"Are you okay?" Peter asked Michael.

Only then did Michael realize he was shaking. He nodded.

"Come on."

They heard more gunfire over the ridge. They ran.

It wasn't fair, Lacey knew, what she had done. Allowing Peter and Amy to think that she would be going with them. Setting the bomb's timer and leading them to the door to the tunnel, then directing them to stand on the far side. Pulling the door closed as they watched, then dropping the bolts in place.

She could hear them banging on the other side. Could hear Amy's voice, a final time, ringing in her mind.

Lacey, Lacey, don't go!

Run now. He will be here any minute.

Lacey, please!

You must help them. They'll be afraid. They won't know what is happening. Help them, Amy.

All that had happened here, in this place, needed to be wiped away. As God had wiped the earth away in the days of Noah, so that the great ship could sail and make the world again.

She would be His waters.

Such a terrible thing, the bomb. It was small, Jonas had explained, just half a kiloton-large enough to destroy the Chalet itself, all its underground floors, to hide the evidence of what they had done-but not so large as to register on any satellites. A fail-safe, in case the virals had ever broken out. But then the power had failed on the upper levels, and Sykes was gone, or dead; and though Jonas could have detonated it himself, he could not bring himself to do this, not with Amy there.

With Peter and Amy watching, Lacey had knelt before it: a small, suitcase-shaped object, with the dull finish of all military things. Jonas had shown her the steps. She pressed a small indent on the side, and a panel dropped down, revealing a keyboard with a small screen, large enough for a single line of text. She typed: ELIZABETH

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