An action-packed story of bioterrorism that strikes far too close to home.
ShadowStrike poisoned the water of Trinity Falls two months ago. Now the Trinity Four, the teens most affected by the poison, have been isolated in a remote mansion, under twenty-four-hour medical care while scientists on four continents rush to discover a cure. Meanwhile, U.S. operatives scour the world for the bioterrorists responsible for this heinous crime, as two teen virtual spies, also infected, hunt for the criminals on the Internet. The danger remains real—for ShadowStrike has every reason to pursue the Trinity Four, and their evil plan will unleash a new designer virus that’s even deadlier than the first.
Friday, May 3, 2002
Trinity Falls, New Jersey
I don't believe in omens. So when the rain fell in
buckets against the living room window as I waited for our ride,
I kept telling myself it wasn’t a shadow of things to come; I was
not leaving Trinity Falls forever. I’d be back by fall. We were all
The limo pulled up to the curb a minute later, and I dashed
out my front door. My head was soaked two steps later. A door
at the far back of the endless car opened, and a girl’s hand beckoned
like crazy. I dove through the door, and Rain Steckerman
quickly tugged at one of my soaked sleeves so I could yank my
The driver slammed the car door, but through the glaze I
noticed the door to my house was wide open and my two bags
stood just inside. Nobody else was in there. This is what can
happen when nine of the fifty-two pills you’re taking list memory
loss as a side effect.
“Let the limo driver get them!” Rain said quickly, drowning
my curses. “Be rich and famous—just for this forty-five-minute
I watched the driver run up the walk, grab the two swollen
garbage bags, and shut the door. I don’t own luggage—that’s
how rich I am. As for the famous part—I’m not a rock star or
anything you’d want to be. I’m just a guy who lives in a small
South Jersey town that found itself in a horror flick two months
Some unheard-of international terror cell decided our
town of mostly professional, well-educated Americans would
be a good place to conduct an experiment. They poisoned the
water, hoping to kill every person within the five-block area off
one main water vein. They only killed two, so some people like
to say they failed miserably. I don’t agree with that. I was halfway
through paramedic training this spring when my brother
and I and Rain and Cora Holman were diagnosed as “Stage
Four Toxic.” We never know whether we’ll wake up feeling okay
or like we have some butt-kicking flu. Nearly a hundred Stage
Twos and Threes were diagnosed in Trinity, and even the Stage
Threes responded surprisingly well to antiviral medication.
Stage Four is another term for “a real challenge to cure, though
doctors on four continents are trying.” There is no Stage Five.
I slid my arms back into my soaked sleeves and intentionally
waited until the driver got around to the trunk and popped it.
“He forgot to turn offthe light.” I dashed from the limo,
and the rainfall drowned out the end of Rain’s “Wait! My dad
can take care of—”
I threw open the door, ran upstairs into the bathroom for
a bath towel, and shoved it under my jacket as I took two stairs
at a time down, hurrying. I reached for the living room light
but stopped to survey the room before switching it off. Mom
had moved us here from Las Vegas thirteen years ago, when
I was six. So many kids had sat on this worn-out gray couch.
We’d watched so many football games, baseball games, hockey
games being won or lost here, over so many bags of Doritos
and microwave popcorn. My paramedic squad had stood in the
kitchen shooting the bull on so many non-busy nights. I had
been in training, and my squad loved Mom’s mint iced tea.
Mom’s chair . . . I moved over to it, knew it still smelled
like Mom because I’d stuck my nose to it a couple of times and
caught my brother, Owen, doing it, too. My mom had drunk
enough poisoned water to move beyond Stage Four. I banged
the chair lightly with my fist instead of reaching for one last
deep inhale. It’s a smell you don’t forget.
“Sorry!” I hollered as I raced back to the limo. The driver
held the door for me again. His rain poncho didn’t cover his
extra-polite smile, which reminded me of a melting wax face in
a horror movie.
Rain didn’t look so thrilled with me now. She sidled up
to Cora, whose mom died the day before mine did. Cora was
wearing a sweater with a scarf around her neck, despite that it
was seventy degrees outside. The limo was long, with most of
the seating in one row from back to front, so Cora and Rain
were facing sideways. My brother, Owen, sat sideways also, but
up close to the front with his head on the backrest and his eyes
shut, though I could see him shaking his head slowly back and
forth over my actions.
The three of them had just been released from St. Ann’s
ten minutes ago. I’d gotten permission to be released earlier,
having had a symptom-free day. I had come home to close up
the house, get some more pictures of Mom, and pick up whatever
I’d missed during our eight weeks in St. Ann’s. The three of
them were graduating seniors, and even though there was only
two years’ difference in our ages, I was eons more mature. Mom
always said I was born thirty. I’m not sure the nurses would
have let them come home by themselves.
The driver pulled away as I unfolded the towel, and I made
certain not to give my house a last, longing look. Instead, I
watched Cora while I pulled offthe soaked jacket and threw
the towel over my neck. She was reading get-well cards. The
four of us had gotten more than fifteen thousand cards from
Americans who watched the news or read Time, Newsweek, or
People magazines. We tried to read all the cards and letters, but
Cora was way ahead of the rest of us. She’d give us a heads-up
sometimes if it was a name we all knew, like John Mayer or former
vice president Al Gore or Brittany Murphy. She’d wave the
card, and we’d pass it around. We got telegrams from dignitaries
of over a hundred countries. All of that kept us going.
But with no remarkable improvements in our conditions
yet and being moved to a more permanent locale, our foursome
was getting harder to buoy. Right now, Cora was reading
tensely, waiting for Rain to explode on me so she could pretend
not to notice.
“Hope your little campaign of refusing help from others
is worth it,” Rain lectured on cue. In other words, her dad
certainly would have noticed the lights being on in our house
while on his way home tonight and would have turned them off
and locked the door. “Now you’ll wake up with the Throat from
“Tomorrow is not important,” I stated, wiping offthe back
of my neck and my hair with the towel. “It’s always today, and
today, I’m having a four-star day. Besides. Acting like an ass has
therapeutic value once in a while.”
Rain slowly reached out her hand, and I gave her skin. That’s
the good thing about Rain—she can sympathize with just about
anyone. Four-star day meant it had been a symptom-free day, at
least for me. I glanced at Cora again. She said nothing, but her
sweater and scarf were telltale: four-star wasn’t for her.
Rain moved to a little refrigerator under the TV, saying,
“What’s your pleasure? Coke? Diet Coke? Sprite? Or water?”
“C’mon, don’t be a party pooper. Club soda . . .” She made
a big deal out of filling a plastic cup from a silver ice bucket
and pouring Perrier over the top, though her eyes were glassy
enough to reflect the little overhead light. Tears or fever?
"This sequel to the outstanding Streams of Babel (2008) more than lives up to its predecessor's standard. A taut read, it's hard to put down, with characters readers will care about and plenty of momentum. Humor is deftly woven into both character development and dialogue, lightening the mood at just the right spots. A must-read, all-too-contemporary page-turner."--Kirkus, starred review"Sexual tension and fragile relationships are part of the story as much as the terrorist hunt is, and the two couples’ fears about their own possible impending mortality will captivate a high-school audience."--Booklist
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