Chapter OneThe Bridge
VICKI sat in horror as the bridge wobbled and
buckled. Mrs. Jenness slammed on the brakes
and covered her eyes.
"Make it stop," Mrs. Jenness whimpered.
A few minutes earlier, Mrs. Jenness had
been gloating over catching Vicki with a new
edition of the Underground. Vicki knew she
was headed back to the detention center, or
possibly worse. Now both were hanging on
for their lives.
Vicki checked to be sure the windows were
up, in case the bridge collapsed and they fell
into the water.
"Back up!" Vicki shouted.
"Make it stop!" Mrs. Jenness said.
Vicki heard the thundering of the great
earthquake. It roared like a thousand
cannons. The normally calm river rushed by
with whitecaps as the bridge rocked.
Vicki decided to jump out and run, but
before she could get the door unlocked, the
bridge tipped violently and the car rolled on
its top. The windshield shattered. Shards of
glass flew everywhere.
They came to rest on the railing, the front
of the car over the edge. Several cars toppled
into the water. One man had gotten out of
his vehicle and raced for safety. A few steps
later and he was in the air, flying headlong
into the choppy water.
How could the bridge last this long? If they
fell with the bridge, the twisted metal and
concrete would drag them down. The bridge
tipped, then slammed the car against the railing
again. Metal scraped against concrete.
The back tires rose off the pavement. Vicki
and Mrs. Jenness screamed as they plunged
over the edge.
The car landed back end first but didn't
sink. Water poured in through the broken
windows, then the car settled. The current
took them underneath the bridge, chunks of
asphalt and steel plopping in the water
The water reached Vicki's feet and took her
breath away. Mrs. Jenness looked terrified,
and she shook uncontrollably. Vicki couldn't
help feeling sorry for her.
"We're gonna get out of this," Vicki said.
"I can't swim!" Mrs. Jenness screamed.
The earthquake rolled on as the car spun
in the river. Water continued to rise through
the floor. As the car sank, Vicki unbuckled
herself and Mrs. Jenness.
"Crawl on top," Vicki shouted. "I'll help
you make it to shore."
Mrs. Jenness stared past Vicki and pointed.
A downed tree stuck out over the water. The
car rushed toward it.
"Get down!" Vicki yelled.
The treetop rammed through the opening
of the back window and stopped within
inches of Mrs. Jenness's head. The car hung by
the tree, a foot above the surface of the water.
"We have to get out," Vicki said. "If the
tree breaks, we're dead. And if the water level
rises, the tree will hold us under."
"Stay here," Mrs. Jenness said. "Wait for help."
Vicki noticed a red gash on the woman's
forehead. She must have hit the steering wheel
hard. Part of Vicki wanted to leave her. Mrs.
Jenness had been no end of trouble for the
Young Trib Force. But something inside
wouldn't let her.
"We go together," Vicki said. "I'll get out
and pull you through the other side."
Vicki struggled through the window. The car
top was crushed. She cut her hand on a piece
of glass that clung to the windshield, but she
didn't let go. The river rose, and the rushing
water and trembling earth were deafening.
When she got to Mrs. Jenness, Vicki looked
back in horror as the bridge collapsed. Huge
concrete pylons snapped like twigs. Cars
were trapped in the twisting metal. Vicki
braced herself as a huge wave swept over
them and nearly knocked her off. When the
wave passed, Vicki coughed and saw the
water pouring in the windows.
"Give me your hand!" Vicki shouted above
Then it happened. Darkness. The sun went
black. Vicki heard the roar of the earth and
water, but she saw nothing. She felt helpless.
Vicki hung on to the roof as another
violent rumble nearly shook the tree loose. A
cracking, an explosion, and another deafening
shake sent the water swirling around
them. Vicki reached into the car and realized
the water level was going down.
"You still there?" Vicki screamed.
"I think so," came the weak reply.
"Turn on your lights!" Vicki yelled.
The beams cut through the darkness.
Vicki blinked and wiped her eyes. She
couldn't believe it. The earth had opened
from one side of the river to the other into a
bottomless chasm. Water cascaded into the
hole but didn't fill it. It looked like the hole
just kept going to the center of the earth.
The riverbed was changing, and water from
both sides of the crevice rushed in. If they
fell into the hole, they would never be
found. If they fell into the water on either
side of the chasm, the current would drag
them into it as well.
The car shifted, and Vicki nearly lost her
balance. She turned as a flash lit the sky and
revealed a scene Vicki would never forget.
The tree roots barely clung to a wall of
shifting earth. Below her was black nothingness.
"Help me," Vicki muttered. "Please,
* * *
Judd Thompson had noticed the dead
animals along the road to the reeducation
facility. The GC pilot he had come to trust,
Taylor Graham, sat beside him in the GC
transport van. Both were handcuffed. Taylor
had been beaten during his time in custody,
and Judd could tell he was weak. The two
were on their way to a maximum 5 facility
when the great earthquake began.
Judd noticed flagpoles and weather vanes
rocking as they passed through the farmlands
of central Illinois. Squirrels, rabbits, dogs,
cats, and deer darted back and forth. People
were used to seeing raccoons and opossums
dead on the road, but now it was every kind of
animal. Lifeless bodies were strewn about the
The driver swerved to miss a Great Dane,
and the road in front of the van buckled and
"Hang on!" Taylor screamed.
The van went airborne. Judd held on to the
seat in front of him as they crashed to the
pavement. He found himself suspended by
his seat belt as the van skidded to a stop. But
the earth seemed to pick up momentum.
Taylor Graham unbuckled himself and
kicked open the emergency exit. Judd
followed. He smelled gasoline.
"Good thing they didn't put us in leg
irons," Taylor said.
"What about them?" Judd said, pointing to
the driver and the other guard. Both men
were in the front of the van. Neither moved.
"You're right," Taylor said. "We need the
keys to these handcuffs."
Before Taylor could get to them, an explosion
ripped through the van and set the vehicle
ablaze. Judd and Taylor were thrown into
"We'll never get them now," Taylor said.
"Come on. We'll find a place that's safe."
As they ran toward a cornfield, Judd tried
to balance himself. It felt like he was walking
on the deck of a ship in a hurricane.
The sound was incredible. When he had
been mad at his parents he would go into his
room and turn his headphones up full blast.
This was louder, and there was no turning
down the volume.
Judd glanced back as a huge crater opened.
The burning van and a section of road were
swallowed whole. Black smoke rose from the
wreckage. Nearby a farmhouse vanished.
Horses ran in circles in their corral.
"When's this thing gonna stop?" Taylor
Judd heard crumpling metal and saw
power lines. The towers fell, the deadly lines
crashing with them.
"Look out!" Judd yelled.
When the sun went black, Judd couldn't
see his hands in front of his face. He heard
"Don't move," Taylor said.
Judd's heart beat furiously. One wrong
step and they could be killed instantly.
A flash lit the sky, and Judd saw the power
lines only a few feet away.
"To your left," Taylor said, and the two
struggled to their feet.
* * *
Lionel Washington was in the exercise yard
near the main compound building when the
great earthquake began. He had been told he
had family who wanted to care for him. That
was a lie. What he found in this secluded
Alabama town was a Global Community training
camp. Lionel and the others were being
groomed as monitors. The camp leaders called
them the "eyes and ears of Nicolae Carpathia."
Lionel hated the idea of helping the
Global Community, but pretending to go
along with them was his only chance. More
than anything he wanted to get back to his
friends in Mount Prospect. If that meant
memorizing a few GC chants and faking
obedience, he'd do it.
Someone in camp noticed a horde of
snakes slithering across the compound.
Moments later, Lionel felt the ground
rumble. He turned to run inside a building,
then stopped. A friend ran past him.
"Don't go in there, Conrad!" Lionel yelled.
Conrad kept going. Lionel followed,
screaming for the boy to stop. Lionel caught
him on the stairwell, grabbed his arm, and
turned for the front door.
"What're you doing?" Conrad said.
"Earthquake!" Lionel said. "We have to get
Conrad ran. Lionel followed. The hardwood
floor vibrated. He was almost outside
when the beams on the porch gave way.
Lionel shoved Conrad to safety as the porch
crashed down on him.
* * *
After almost being caught by the Global Community,
Ryan Daley promised Vicki he would
stay inside. But when Phoenix bounded into
his basement hideout, barking and running in
circles, Ryan figured the dog needed to go out.
He opened the back door and watched Phoenix
scamper around the yard. The dog sniffed
at the air and took off again.
At first, Ryan thought he heard a train. But
there were no tracks near Vicki's house. He
ran into the kitchen as cabinets opened, spilling
dishes and glasses.
What do I do? Ryan wondered. Go to the
basement? Upstairs? Outside?
He dove under the kitchen table as a light
fell from the ceiling. Through the sliding
glass door he saw the ground moving. A
neighbor's in-ground pool cracked and
collapsed. A huge oak tree in the backyard
leaned to one side, then reversed and
crashed into the house, the roots tearing up
the yard. Phoenix darted back and forth.
"Run, Phoenix!" Ryan shouted.
Ryan rolled from under the table and
snatched a flashlight from the utility drawer.
He switched it on and screamed. The kitchen
floor cracked. Pieces of tile snapped and hit
him in the face. He tried to roll to the opposite
side as the floor heaved upward, then
tilted. Ryan grabbed the leg of a chair as he
slipped through the opening. The flashlight
fell and smacked into something hard. The
chair he clung to wedged on each side of the
crack. Ryan hung in the air, peering into
what had been the basement. Cracked
concrete and rocks filled the room.
Above him darkness. Below him the tiny
beam of the flashlight.
Another shift and the chair snapped. Ryan
fell into the churning debris.
* * *
Chaya Stein had gone to her father's house
with mixed emotions. Her mother had died
in the same blast that had killed Bruce
Barnes. Chaya wanted a keepsake from her
mother. Chaya's father didn't want to see her
and asked that she be gone by 9:00 A.M.
At 9:18 Chaya heard someone in the front
room. Mr. Stein spoke sharply. Chaya knew
her father was still angry that she believed in
Jesus as the Messiah.
A chunk of plaster hit Chaya. A rumble
rolled beneath her.
Mr. Stein stood in the doorway, ready to
Chaya screamed, "It's coming!"
She grabbed the railing with both hands
and held on. A chandelier in the front room
fell, just missing Mr. Stein. The railing
cracked and sent Chaya over the edge to the
The ceiling gave way as Mr. Stein rushed
toward her. A huge beam fell and landed on
her legs, crunching the bones. The other end
of the beam smashed into the grand piano,
splintering it to pieces. Bricks from the fireplace
littered the floor.
Through the dust and noise, Chaya's father
yelled her name. He staggered into the room,
horror on his face.
"I'll get you out!" he said.
Before he could move, the ceiling collapsed,
raining boards and plaster. The room was
white with dust. Chaya screamed for her
father to save himself, but he didn't answer.
A beautiful morning had transformed into
darkness. Chaya shivered as she struggled to
move. The beam had her legs pinned. Her
father lay under rubble only a few feet away.
And she heard nothing but the most fierce
earthquake in history.
* * *
Darrion Stahley was lonely. Her mother had
been arrested a full week ago, and Darrion
felt powerless to help. Darrion had been
brought to Donny and Sandy Moore's house
for safety. Early that Monday morning she
chatted with Sandy. Donny was heading to
the church. Just talking with the Moores
made Darrion feel better.
Mrs. Moore had lost a baby in the disappearances.
She and Donny said they looked
forward to seeing their child in heaven someday.
Darrion left Sandy eating her breakfast and
reading the paper. Darrion retreated into the
shelter Mr. Moore had built under the house.
It wasn't finished, but Darrion was able to
Darrion was angry at her mother for
getting arrested. They could have gone back
to their cottage in Wisconsin and no one
would have known. Now her mom was in
the custody of the Global Community,
falsely accused of murdering her husband.
As Darrion thought about ways to help her
mother escape, she heard a rumbling. The
room began to shake. She screamed for Mrs.
Moore, then heard a crash above. The floor
of the basement caved in. The limbs of a tree
pushed through a hole in the kitchen floor.
Darrion pulled the door of the shelter
closed. She knelt with the earth shaking
violently around her, and she wept with fear.