Ethan said, “These are the reserve staple levels?”
“Yes. And as you can see, it’s critical.”
“What was Pilcher planning to do?”
“With our full in-town population, we might have had the manpower to expand our gardens fast enough to meet demand. We were also looking into building a network of greenhouses, but see the problem comes with snow loads in the winter. If enough weight were to build up on the glass roofs, they’d collapse. Again, we’re just too far north.”
“Do the people in the mountain understand what’s coming?”
“No. David didn’t want to spook anyone until we had come up with a solution.”
“And you haven’t.”
“There isn’t one,” Leven said. “Five-year models confirm this valley will become uninhabitable. If we catch a really bad winter, possibly sooner. We’re all from the modern age. If push came to shove, we might have been able to adopt an agrarian lifestyle in a more temperate climate. But with weather like this? The only lifestyle that might support us is the nomadic hunter-gatherer.”
“Except we’re trapped in this valley.”
“What about the abbies?” Ethan asked.
“As a food source?”
“First off, gross. Secondly, we’ve run models, and there’s too much inherent danger in venturing out beyond the fence to kill them. If we did that on a regular basis, we’d lose too many of our own. Look, I get that you’re just finding this out now, but trust me, I’ve been grappling with this problem for three years. There was no solution before. There’s even less of one now.”
“Did you know what David was planning?”
“You mean with killing the power to the fence?”
“No. I was sitting right here the night the fence went down. I called him. He wouldn’t answer. He did it from his office and he locked me out of the system.”
“So he didn’t consult with you beforehand?”
“David and I haven’t been on the greatest of terms these last few years.”
Leven pushed his chair back from the controls and rolled across the floor.
“The David Pilcher you know wasn’t the same man who hired me away from Lockheed Martin. The end of Wayward Pines has been coming for a long time, but David didn’t want to face it. It’s arrogance, I think, a refusal to admit that he missed this potential crisis. That he didn’t foresee it and steer us all out of the way. Recently, he’s become increasingly withdrawn. Erratic. Emotional. He killed his own daughter. That was the first major fracture. Then when you took control of the town and told the residents the truth, I think he just couldn’t deal anymore. Said ‘screw this’ and hit self-destruct.”
“So you’re telling me it’s over. We’re all going to starve to death.”
Leven smiled. “If the abbies don’t get us first.”
Ethan rose to his feet, watched the monitor scroll the list of depleted provisions like the writings of a doomsday prophet. He said, “You’ve got access to every database in the superstructure?”
“That is correct.”
“Did you know a nomad just returned? Adam Hassler?”
“I heard rumblings of it.”
“Do you have access to his file here?”
Leven tilted his head. “I don’t really feel too hot about where this conversation is going.”
“I want you to pull his file.”
“Before Wayward Pines, Hassler and I used to work together. He was my supervisor in the Secret Service and the one who sent me here. I had no idea he was here until I saw him on the street a couple days ago. Come to find out, before Pilcher brought me out of suspension, Hassler was living here, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Something doesn’t feel right.”
Leven scooted back to the console array and went to work on the touch screens.
“And what is it exactly you’d like to know?” he asked.
Hassler’s face appeared on the monitor, his eyes closed, skin pale—a post-suspension photo.
“How he came to be here.”
“Oh.” Leven quit typing, spun around in his chair. “I don’t think I’m going to have that level of detail. You’ll have to ask Pilcher himself.”
Ethan stepped inside the cage, found David Pilcher eating his supper—some freeze-dried abomination from the winter reserves. The old man looked even older with the beginnings of a white beard fading in across his face, and as Ethan sat down across from him in the cramped cell, he wondered just how much rage simmered underneath the surface. Ethan had plenty of his own. He couldn’t drive the image of those grieving families out of his mind, the sound of those shovels spearing into dirt. All that pain this one man’s doing.
“That does not smell like Tim’s cooking,” Ethan said.
Pilcher glanced up.
Hard. Indignant. Defiant.
“It’s like Satan shit on a plate. Must give you great pleasure.”
“Seeing me like this. Relegated to a cage that was built to hold a monster.”
“I’d say it’s serving its purpose perfectly.”
“Thought you’d forgotten about me down here, Ethan.”
“No, just been busy cleaning up the mess you made.”
“The mess I made?” Pilcher laughed.
“What about him?”
“I hear that before I was brought out of suspension, Adam lived with my wife and son.”
“As I recall, they were quite happy too.”
“How did Adam Hassler come to be a resident of Wayward Pines?”
A touch of life crinkled in the corners of Pilcher’s eyes.
“What does it matter now?” he asked.
“You do not want to f**k with me.”
Pilcher set his plate aside.
Ethan said, “I’m told that he came here looking for me after my disappearance. And that you abducted him. That he woke up here just like I did. Like everyone in town did.”
“Hmm. Interesting. Out of curiosity, who told you to come see me about this? Was it Francis Leven?”
“Is it possible that Francis also shared with you a piece of shocking news about our prospects going forward? And when I say ‘our’ I of course mean the human race.”