The Void of Mist and Thunder (The 13th Reality #4)(4)


by James Dashner

“Then what are you saying?”

“I’m saying that even though George claims he’s going to do whatever it takes to find out what happened to Atticus, I can’t put my full trust and hope in that. We need to take it on ourselves to get this done. Do what we have to do, and let them do what they have to do.”

Lisa pursed her lips, obviously considering it all for a long moment. “Maybe it helps that two groups are coming at it from different directions. Only one of us needs to find him.”

“Bingo.” Lorena did her best to smile, but for some reason, her heart couldn’t make it feel genuine. Once again, speaking of the world and the trouble it was in had soured her mood; everything seemed worse since her son had vanished.

“So we go to the spot,” Lisa said, “and we try again.”

“Bingo times two.”

“And if it doesn’t work today, then we try something else.”

“Bingo times three.”

“Okay.” Lisa turned around and started walking again.

As Lorena followed, she thought for the millionth time that she was crazy to involve Lisa in this quest. Yes, she was endangering yet another of her children, but she couldn’t help it. Lisa was bright, and upbeat, and funny. Brave. And the girl loved her family as powerfully as Lorena did. She needed Lisa. Edgar—bless his heart—wasn’t the right person to help her now. And someone had to be with little Kayla.

Lorena needed Lisa. Desperately. She couldn’t do this alone. Lorena would just have to do whatever it took to keep the girl safe until they figured things out. Until Atticus was back together with them all.

They reached a clearing about twenty feet wide, their recent visits and footsteps and sit-downs having flattened the grass considerably. A circle of thick pines bordered the spot, the tree branches stretching to the sky far above. Lorena saw a squirrel scurry its way up one of the trees, dropping an acorn in its haste.

Lisa slipped off her backpack; she’d been in charge of the food because Lorena had to carry the heavy load of the Barrier Wand. They’d done this every day, and sharing a nice lunch put some cracks in the heavy dome of doom and gloom that hung over their mission. The two of them sat down in the middle of the clearing, facing each other.

“You want the turkey or the ham?” Lisa asked as she pulled out the sandwiches.

“Turkey. That ham’s been doing something awful to my stomach.”

“Thanks for sharing, Mom. My hunger just doubled.”

“Sorry, dear.”

They chomped through the meal, and then it was time to get down to business. Lorena unzipped the duffel bag and pulled out the hefty shaft of the Barrier Wand. The scant drifts of sunlight that filtered through the leaves glinted and winked off the shiny golden surface as she maneuvered the thing until she held it directly in front of her folded legs, its bottom end sunk into the debris of the forest floor. She looked past the Wand at Lisa.

“It’s a thing of beauty, don’t you think?”

Lisa shrugged. “Maybe the first time I saw it.”

“Oh, I never tire of it. Maybe it’s knowing the unimaginable power that’s coiled up inside of it. I’m a scientist, and yet it still feels like magic to me.”

“A cell phone would be magic if you showed it to somebody a hundred years ago.”

Lorena felt a burst of pride at the statement. “Well said, Lisa, well said. Just like Arthur C. Clarke.”

“Who?”

The pride bubble burst a bit. “Never mind.”

“Let’s do this thing.”

“Yes. Let’s do. I’m going to crank up the Chi’karda Drive to its highest level. We’ve got nothing to lose.”

Lisa didn’t answer right away, and Lorena saw a flicker of deep concern in the girl’s eyes.

“Don’t worry, Lisa. I don’t think it can hurt us. I’m more worried about it doing damage to the Wand itself.” Lorena didn’t know if that was the total truth, but it was close enough without planting even more worry inside her daughter.

“Go for it, then.”

Lorena spent a minute or two moving the dials and switches of the Wand, adjusting and flipping and turning each one until she was satisfied that its power was at maximum and that it was locked onto Atticus’s last known nanolocator readings.

She eyed Lisa. “This is it. If it doesn’t pull in that boy now, it never will. If you hear a loud buzz in your head or feel like your fingers might fall off, don’t be alarmed.”

“Of course not.” The slightest roll of Lisa’s eyes made her look half bored and half amused, but Lorena knew that fear still lurked behind it all.

“Want a countdown?”

“Mom!”

“Okay, okay. Here we go.” She reached for the button on the top of the Wand and pushed. The click was surprisingly loud, as if the entire forest and all its creatures had quieted at the same moment.

Nothing happened. At first. Then a low hum seemed to rise up out of the ground, along with a vibration that tickled Lorena’s legs, made her shift and scratch at the underside of her thighs. The noise rose in volume and depth, like giant tuning forks and gongs had been struck, the sound ringing all around them. Lorena’s eardrums rattled, and a pain cinched its way down her spine.

The world around them exploded into a swirl of gray mist and terrible, thunderous noise.

Chapter 4

Concerns

Master George stood at the head of the table. He and the other Realitants were in the conference room of the Grand Canyon complex. George hadn’t sat down since the meeting began, and he didn’t know if he could. Sitting seemed like such a casual gesture, something done for rest and relaxation. How could he do that when the world—the worlds—were in such utter chaos?

“Been runnin’ our lips for thirty minutes, we ’ave,” Mothball was saying. Her stern expression made George incredibly sad. She hadn’t smiled since Master Atticus had winked from existence. “And still not a flamin’ thing done. Need to make some decisions, we do.”

“Darn tootin’ right,” Sally added, the burly lumberjack of a man also looking gruffer than usual. “Get dem plans a’yorn hoppin’ so we can quit gabbin’ at each other. I’m downright sick of these here chat-and-chews.”

Now it was Rutger’s turn to speak up. “Look, you bunch of grumpy fusses—”