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Story Notes:
This story is based on U2's "Seconds," so I highly recommend listening to the song or at least looking up the lyrics if you want to pick up all the nuances and allusions in the story. However, knowing the song isn't necessary to understand the fic.
The day started off normal, or as normal as life with Shawn could be, and all Gus worried about was being stuck in traffic on his drive to visit Uncle Burton. He never suspected… Well, any of it, really. Nobody ever really expects something like that to happen, any more than they can expect a wildfire or a flash flood or a freak tornado.

But this… This was more like a blizzard in summer. Something that would make people say, "It could never happen here." Until it does.

And he had no idea that Shawn would be caught right in the middle of it.

*********************

Shawn knew something was bad the instant he stepped through the SBPD's doors. For one thing, half or the building was deserted, all crammed into the conference room. Shawn squeezed in behind Dobson, with only a square foot of space between the bulky detective and the door, and that meager amount of space was something Shawn was glad to have.

"Mr. Spencer," Chief Vick said as soon as she caught the glimpse of him by the door. Wordlessly, the sea of officers parted enough to make him visible. Their faces were grim, but what Shawn saw on the Chief's face was something he never expected to see. Not from her.

Fear.

And it terrified him.

"Chief?"

"Mr. Spencer," she said with a calm that belied the horror on her features. "If ever there were a time for you to have a psychic vision, it would be now."

*********************

He learned the details as quickly as possible, what few of them there were.

The essence of it was simple: someone, somehow, in Santa Barbara, had all the makings of a dirty bomb.

A dirty bomb---not quite atomic, not quite an H-bomb, but just nuclear enough to be lethal to thousands of people. Kill many more through radiation poisoning, contaminated food and water, mass panic…

Countless people, good innocent people, would die.

And they didn't know who had it. The stuff had been stolen quietly, secretly, in bits and pieces, odds and ends, untraced until too late. A thief in the night, here and gone.

No ransom note. No threats. No news.

Radio silence.

*********************
The investigation was sluggish, creeping along like a rain-bloated worm through sidewalk sludge.

While the police hit up the usual targets---terrorists, criminals, the mentally unstable, the conspiracy theorists---Shawn was digging for suspects in a different group: the marginalized, the isolated, the dropouts, the royally screwed-over...the people with an axe to grind against society, legitimate or not, and no concern for who got in the way.

There were suspects, all right. Too many. Too many for one city, for one day. On a bench in front of an apartment building, Shawn slumped back against a dirty brick wall.

Where to go from here?

Maybe it was fate that he saw her then. Maybe life's cruel joke.

He knew it was her. He could tell from what he observed, but somehow, perhaps through some instinct, he just saw.

They locked eyes, hazel and brown.

She buzzed herself in. He followed.

Up the stairs at her apartment, she fumbled with the door keys. He watched.

"Are you a cop?" she asked bluntly.

"No. I'm a psychic."

"No, you're not."

"What's your name?"

"What's it to you?"

Shawn shook his head. "I can help you."

She just stared at him blankly. "Not anymore."

He reached out a hand for her. "Please. I know what you're planning, and you have to reconsider. People will die. Good people. Please don't do this."

*********************

Lassiter stood outside the police station, cold wind blowing on a warm day. Rainstorm coming.

He edged out of the doorway to let McNab and Dobson pass through, listening to their idle but strained conversation:

"So, Buzz, where are you going tonight?"

"Francie and I are going to take a drive to Los Angeles. Her mom lives there and Francie's just been dying to visit…"

Lassiter sighed, adjusted his tie, waited for O'Hara. He already knew that the two of them, at least, would be putting in a long night.

His phone rang. He flipped it open, answered. "Lassiter."

His eyes widened. "On my way."

He ran.

*********************

The young woman calmly watched him from her place on a rickety stool, making no effort to stop Shawn even as he was calling the police.

She didn't have a reason, he guessed, and they both knew it.

There was no way Shawn could dismantle that bomb, and even if he could, there wasn't much time left. Lassiter would never make it.

He'd expected the bomb to be some kind of missile-shaped Cold War monstrosity, with big red countdown numbers and wires sticking everywhere.

It wasn't. It was a big black box, sturdy plastic, with clasps, and it was wired to an alarm clock radio.

"It's set to go off in three minutes," she'd explained. "6:58."

"Why that? Why not 7 o'clock?" Shawn had asked, stupefied.

The woman shrugged. "That was the time on the clock when I saw my dad murder my mother."

Glancing around the room for the first time, he had been able to glean a lot about her: chemistry student, brilliant, scholarship for physics---troubled, foster system had failed her, bullied, kicked out of ROTC, and alone.

Nothing that would help him stop this bomb.

He called Lassiter first. Then he called Gus.

*********************

Gus had already excused himself to the guest room for the night when he heard his phone ring---Uncle Burton's family turned in early and woke up early, too---so instead of his usual greeting of "Shawn, I told you not to call me here," Gus said simply, "Hey, Shawn."

"Hey, Gus." Shawn's voice sounded funny. "How are things with Uncle Burton?"

"Fine. He still believes I'm the psychic, but that card trick you taught me worked like a charm. Nobody suspects a thing."

"That's good, buddy. I'm glad."

"How are things in Santa Barbara?" Gus asked. "Did the police give you a new case yet?"

"They sure did." Shawn did that nervous laugh, the one he did when---

"Shawn? Is everything okay? Is something wrong?"

"Lassiter's coming," Shawn whispered. "I can see the police department from this window. He's running." Shawn cleared his throat. "Gus, no matter what happens, it's gonna be okay, you know? It's gonna be o---"

The line went dead at the same time as the power went out.

*********************
"Must've been the storm," Uncle Burton said as he placed another candle on the table. The orange light of the flames made the shadows seem to writhe. "Luckily, I have this battery radio. We can hear what's going on."

The first station was a news program. Gus, who'd been pacing and trying to get someone, anyone, to answer his calls, sank down to the floor in horror. "Oh my God…"

Outside, sirens blared and in the windows, lightning flashed across the sky.


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