“That’s right. I forget how sharp you are. Nitroglycerine. One shake and off with your arm.”

Donald decided Thurman must be on some kind of sedative for the procedure. The old man was rambling.

“You see, you can’t make something for good without someone else figuring out all the bad it can do.”


Senator Thurman released the invisible pinch and studied the pad of his thumb for a moment. He blew a puff of air across it. “Anything these puppies can stitch, they can unstitch.”

He peered across the pod at Donald. “You know why we went into Iran the first time? It wasn’t about nukes, I’ll tell you that. I crawled through every hole that’s ever been dug in those dunes over there, and those rats had a bigger prize they were chasing than nukes. You see, they’ve figured out how to attack us without being seen, without having to blow themselves up, and with zero repercussions.”

Donald was pretty sure he didn’t have the clearance to hear any of this.

“Well, the Iranians didn’t figure it out for themselves so much as steal what Israel was working on.” He smiled at Donald. “So, of course, we had to start playing catch-up.”

“I don’t understa—”

“These critters in here are programmed for my DNA, Donny. Think about that. Have you ever had your ancestry tested?” He looked Donald up and down like he was surveying a mottled mutt. “What are you, anyway? Scottish?”

“Maybe Irish, sir. I honestly couldn’t tell you.” He didn’t want to admit that it was unimportant to him; it seemed like a topic Thurman was anything but apathetic about.

“Well, these buggers can tell. If they ever get them perfected, that is. They could tell you what clan you came from. And that’s what those crazy Iranians are working on: a weapon you can’t see, that you can’t stop, and if it decides you’re Jewish, even a quarter Jew—” Thurman drew his thumb across his own neck.

“I thought we were wrong about that. We never found any NBs in Iran.”

“That’s because they self-destructed. Remotely. Poof.” The old man’s eyes widened.

Donald laughed. “You sound like one of those conspiracy theorists—”

Senator Thurman leaned back and rested his head against the wall. “Donny, the conspiracy theorists sound like us.”

Donald waited for the Senator to laugh. Or smile. It wasn’t happening.

“What does this have to do with me?” he asked. “Or our project?” He suspected the answer was: nothing.

Thurman closed his eyes, his head still tilted back against the wall behind him. “You know why Florida has such pretty sunrises?”

Donald wanted to throw his water bottle. He wanted to get up, spin in circles, scream, then beat on the door until they hauled him out of there in a straightjacket. Instead, he took a sip of water and spun the cap back on.

Thurman cracked an eye. Studied him. He finally realized Donald wasn’t going to guess.

“It’s because the sand from Africa blows clear across the Atlantic.”

Donald nodded. He saw what the Senator was getting at. He’d heard the same fear-mongering on the twenty-four-hour news programs, how toxins and tiny machines can circle the globe, just like seeds and pollens have done for millennia.

“It’s coming, Donny. I know it is. I’ve got eyes and ears everywhere, even in here. I asked you to meet me here because I want you to have a seat at the after party.”


“You and Helen both.”

Donald scratched his arm and glanced at the door. He wanted out of there.

“It’s just a contingency plan for now, you understand? There are plans in place for anything. Mountains for the president to crawl inside of, but we need something else.”

Donald remembered the congressman from Atlanta prattling on about zombies and the CDC. This sounded like more of that nonsense.

“I’m happy to serve on any committee you think’s important—”

“Good.” The Senator took the book from his lap and handed it to Donald, who was prepared this time for how heavy it would be. “Read this,” Thurman said.

Donald checked the cover. It was familiar, but instead of French script, it read: The Order. He opened it to a random page and started skimming.

“That’s your bible from now on, son. When I was in the war, I met boys no higher than your knee who had the entire Qur'an memorized, every stinkin’ verse. You need to do better.”


“As near as you can. And don’t worry, you’ve got a couple of years.”

Donald laughed. He snapped the book shut and studied the spine. “Good. I’ll need it.” He wanted to know if there would be a raise involved or a ton of committee meetings. This sounded ludicrous, but he wasn’t about to refuse the old man, not with his reelection coming up every two years.

“All right. Welcome.” Thurman leaned forward and held out his hand. Donald tried to get his palm deep into the Senator’s. It made the older man’s grip hurt a lot less. “You’re free to go.”

“Thank you, sir.”

He stood and exhaled in relief. Cradling the book, he moved to the airlock door.

“Oh, and Donny?”

He turned back. “Yessir?”

“The National Convention is in a couple of years. I want you to go ahead and pencil it into your schedule. And make sure Helen is there.”

Donald felt goose bumps run down his arms. Screw the committee, this was what he wanted to hear. A real possibility of promotion. Maybe a speech on the big stage. That was the ticket that moved congressmen from Rayburn to Dirksen and transformed two-year terms to six.

“Absolutely, sir.” He knew he was smiling.

“Oh, and I’m afraid I haven’t been completely honest with you about the critters in here.”

“Sir?” Donald swallowed. His smile melted. He had one hand on the hatch’s wheel. His mind resumed playing tricks on him, the taste on his tongue metallic, the pricks everywhere on his skin.

“Some of the buggers in here are very much for you.”

Senator Thurman stared at Donald for a beat, and then he started laughing.

Donald turned, sweat dripping from his brow as he worked the wheel in the door. He nearly dropped the book twice, his palms were so sweaty. It wasn’t until he secured the airlock, the seals deadening the laughter and the bad joke, that he could breathe again.

The air around him buzzed, a jolt of static to kill any strays. Donald blew out his breath. He exhaled the unseen and imagined torment in his lungs to their electrified death. And then he fought back the tears and the panic, the urge to scream. He didn’t want the pretty nurse or the man in the sunglasses to see him cry.


2110 • Silo 1

The shrinks kept Troy’s door locked and delivered his meals while he went through the Silo 12 reports alone. He spread the pages across his keyboard—safely away from the edge of his desk. This way, when stray tears fell, they hit only wood. He routinely palmed them off and smeared them into his thigh.

For some reason, Troy couldn’t stop crying. The shrinks with the strict meal plans had taken him off his meds the last two days, long enough to compile his findings sober and free to remember. He had a deadline. After he put his final notes together, they would get him something to cut through the pain.

Images of the dying interfered with his thoughts. It was always that view of the outside, of people suffocating and falling to their knees. Troy remembered giving the order. What he regretted most was making someone else push the button.

Coming off his meds brought back other random haunts. He remembered his father. He remembered events from before his orientation. And it confused him that a billion dead could be an ache in his gut while a few thousand made him want to curl up and die.

Maybe it was because he saw himself as a steward to the thousands. They were in his charge. But then again: hadn’t that been true of the billions? Hadn’t they all been stewards of one another? Or was inaction somehow a lesser sin? Was keeping quiet less evil than barking orders?

The reports on his keyboard told a story, a predictable story. Troy knew there were paragraphs in The Legacy that told the same tale. What he didn’t understand was how something could be predictable without being preventable. Statistics were magic like this: they could tell you with near-certainty that a thing would occur, without a hint of when or where.

There was something else about those reports; they reminded him of parts of the Legacy. He thought of men like Hitler, Stalin, and Napoleon. All it took was a lot of seemingly decent people to put the wrong person in power and then fall under their spell.

Troy’s stomach grumbled; it was an impatient fist opening and closing, asking for the pill. He wiped his forehead with his sleeve, which was already dark and damp with his discomfort. That wasn’t right, blaming it on one person. Was it? He glanced around his office and wished there was a copy of the Legacy he could consult. But the books were across the hall, and his door was locked. He tried to remember on his own, but the past was fuzzy. The past was more distant than minds were meant for.

The report in his hand told a story, a story of a shadow who had lost his nerve, an IT Head who couldn’t see the dark thing spreading out at her feet, and an honest enough Security chief who had chosen poorly.

The keycodes for each video feed sat in the margins. Again, it reminded him of another old book; the references had a similar style.

Jason 2:17 brought up a slice of the shadow’s feed. Troy followed the action on his monitor. A young man, probably in his late teens or early twenties, sat on a server room floor. His back was to the camera, the corners of a plastic tray visible in his lap. He was bent over a meal, the bony knots of his spine casting dots of shadow down the back of his coveralls.

Troy watched. He glanced at the report to check the timecode. He didn’t want to miss it.

In the video, Jason’s right elbow worked back and forth. It was easy to imagine him eating, perhaps sawing into a delicious cut of pork. The moment was coming. Troy willed himself to not blink, could feel tears coat his eyes from the effort.

A noise startled Jason. The young IT shadow glanced to the side, his profile visible for a moment. He grabbed the tray from his lap; it was the first time Troy could spot the rolled-up sleeve. And there, as he fought with the cuff to roll it back down, were the dark parallel lines across his forearm, and nothing on his tray that called for a knife.

The rest of the clip was of Jason speaking to the IT Head, her demeanor motherly and tender, a touch on his shoulder, a squeeze of his elbow. Troy could imagine her voice. He had spoken to her once or twice to take down a report. In a few more weeks, they would’ve scheduled a time to speak with Jason and induct him formally.

The clip ended with Jason descending back into the hole, a shadow swallowing a shadow. The Head of IT—the true Head of Silo 12—stood alone for a moment, hand on her chin. She looked so alive. Troy had a childlike impulse to reach out and brush his fingers across the monitor, to acknowledge this ghost, to apologize for letting her down.

Instead, he saw something the reports had missed. He watched her body twitch toward the hatch, stop, freeze for a moment, then turn away.

Troy clicked the slider at the bottom of the video to see it again. Jason popped on the screen as he went back too far. There she was rubbing his shoulder, talking to him, Jason nodding. She squeezed his elbow, was concerned about him. Jason was assuring her everything was fine. He was great. Thanks for the concern.

Once he was gone, once she was alone, the mental machinations began. Troy couldn’t know it, but he could sense it. She had her doubts. Here was her chance to destroy the dark thing she’d helped create, a twitch in that direction, reconsidering, turning away.

Troy paused the video and made some notes, jotted down the times. The shrinks would have to verify his findings. Shuffling the papers, he wondered if there was anything he needed to see again. Here was a story like in that old collection of books with human names, the chapters in hours, verses in minutes. It was the fall of Jericho, the legend of Gomorrah. A black shadow had fallen upon Silo 12. A decent woman had been murdered because she could not bring herself to do the same, to kill in order to protect. And a Security chief had let loose a monster who had mastered the art of concealing his pain, a young man who had learned how to manipulate others, who wanted out.

He typed up his conclusions. It was a dangerous age for shadowing, he noted in his report. Here was a boy crossing that dire Rubicon between his teens and twenties, those years when healthy young bucks are studying their herd and looking for signs that the Alpha has gone gray. It was an age deep in hormones and shallow in control. Troy asked in his report if anyone in their twenties could ever be ready. He made mention of the first head of IT he had inducted, the question the boy had asked after hearing tales from his demented grandmother. Was it right to expose anyone to these truths? Could men of such fragile age be expected to endure such blows without shattering?

What he didn’t add, what he asked himself, was if anyone at any age could ever be ready.

There was precedence, he typed, for limiting certain positions of authority by age. And while this would lead to shorter terms due to the simple math of longevity—which meant subjecting more unfortunate souls to the abuse of being locked up and shown their Legacy—wasn’t it better to go through a damnable process more often rather than take risks such as these?

He hammered the keyboard as tears related to some unnamable other thing splashed to his desk. He knew this report would matter little. There was no planning for insanity. Enough revolutions and elections, enough transfers of power, and eventually a madman would caress the reins. He would caress the reins and reach for a crop, and instead of steering, he would whip for no other reason than that he could.