There.

His nameplate.

His—holy f**k—machine.

ADAM T. HASSLER

SUSPENSION DATE: 12/31/13

SEATTLE, WA

He studied the keypad.

An incomprehensible collection of symbols.

He looked up and down his aisle but the others had already disappeared into their machines.

Another lab tech was approaching.

Hassler said, “Hey, can you help me out?”

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“Didn’t you read the memo?”

“No.”

“It explained all this.”

“Can you just help me please?”

The tech typed in something on the keypad and moved on.

There was a pneumatic hiss, like pressurized gas escaping, and then the front panel of the machine opened several inches.

Hassler pulled the door open the rest of the way.

It was a cramped, metal capsule. There was a small seat made of black composite, armrests, and an outline of human feet on the floor.

A small, quiet voice in the back of Hassler’s mind whispered, You are out of your goddamn mind to be climbing into this thing.

He did it anyway, stepping inside and easing his bu**ocks down onto the freezing seat.

Restraints shot out of the walls, locked around his ankles, his wrists.

His heart rate skyrocketed as the door thundered shut, and for the first time, he noticed a plastic tube curled up on the wall tipped with a needle of horrifying girth.

He thought of Theresa’s bloodless face and thought f**k.

A sound like a pressure leak kicked in overhead. He couldn’t see the gas, but he suddenly smelled something like roses and lilac and lavender.

A feminine, computerized voice said, “Please begin breathing deeply. Smell the flowers while you can.”

Through that two-inch stripe of glass, Pilcher appeared.

The computerized voice said, “Everything will be okay.”

Pilcher was shirtless, smiling proudly, giving a thumbs-up.

Hassler was no longer cold.

No longer afraid.

As “Dream Weaver” by Gary Wright poured through the speakers, his eyes slammed shut. He’d meant to pray, meant to fix his thoughts on something beautiful, like the future and the new world and the woman he would be sharing it with.

But like every important, defining moment in his life, it had all roared by too fast.

Pam was waiting for him in the cavern.

She’d slipped into a robe and she held another one for Pilcher, draped over her arm.

“My daughter?” he asked as he pushed his arms through the sleeves.

“All tucked in.”

He looked around at the cavern.

“It’s so quiet now,” he said. “I sometimes think of what this place will be like while we’re all under.”

“David!”

Elisabeth marched toward them across the stone floor.

“I’ve been looking all over,” she said. “Where is she?”

“I sent Alyssa down to my office before the clothes came off.”

Pam said, “Hi, Mrs. Pilcher. You look lovely tonight.”

“Thank you.”

“I was sorry to hear you won’t be joining us.”

Elisabeth stared at her husband. “When are you going under?”

“Soon.”

“I don’t want to stay here tonight. You’ll have someone drive Alyssa and me back to Boise?”

“Of course. Whatever you want. And you can take the jet.”

“Well. I guess it’s probably time to…”

“Right. Why don’t you head on down to my office. I’ll join you in a minute. I just need to see about one last thing.”

Pilcher watched his wife walk back across the cavern toward the Level 1 entrance.

He wiped his face.

Said, “I should not be shedding tears tonight. At least not these kind.”

Elisabeth stepped off the elevator.

Their suite was silent. She had never liked it. Never liked anything about life inside this mountain. All claustrophobia. A sense of isolation she had never come to terms with. Her soul felt hunched over from the sheer, crushing weight of living with this driven, single-purposed man. But tonight, finally, she and her daughter would be free.

The doors to David’s office were open.

She walked in.

“Alyssa? Honey?”

No answer.

She crossed to the monitors. It was late. Her daughter had probably curled up on one of the couches for a nap.

She reached them.

No.

Empty.

She made a slow scan of the room.

Maybe Alyssa had wandered back upstairs? They could’ve missed each other, although that seemed unlikely.

Her eyes caught on David’s desk.

He always kept it immaculate. Free of clutter. Free of anything at all.

But now, a single sheet of white paper lay in the center.

Nothing else.

She walked over, pulled the page toward her across the polished mahogany so she could read it.

Dear Elisabeth, Alyssa is coming with me. You can see the end of your story on your own. What’s left of it.—David

Elisabeth had a sudden strong sense of a presence behind her.

Turned.

Arnold Pope stood just within reach. He’d shaved for the celebration. Tall, broad-shouldered. Short blond hair and almost handsome. It was his eyes that killed the deal. Something in them a touch too cruel and dispassionate when they held your focus. She could smell the champagne on his breath.

She said, “No.”

“I’m sorry, Elisabeth.”

“Please.”

“I like you. Always have. I will make this go as fast as possible. But you have to work with me.”

She looked down at his hands, half-expecting to see a knife or a wire.

But they were empty.

She felt weak and sick.

“Can I just have a moment please? Please?”

She met his eyes.

They were cold, intense, and sad.

Revving up for something.

And she knew, a half second before he came at her, that she wasn’t going to get that moment.

IV

22

Tobias warmed his grimy hands in the heat of the fire.

He was camped riverside, deep in the mountains of what had once been Idaho.

From where he sat, he could stare down the canyon and watch the sun falling into the V.

So close.

Earlier in the day, he’d caught a glimpse of the jagged cirque that formed the amphitheater on Wayward Pines’s eastern wall.

The only thing stopping him from reaching the fence was a thousand-strong swarm of abbies in the forest that bordered the southern edge of town. Even two miles away from their position, he could smell them. Assuming they moved on overnight, he’d be in the clear to go home.