… EPISODE THIRTEEN…
“This is a terrible plan.” Jeremy parks the van about a block from the lab.
Rebel swipes a brush loaded with blush all over her face. “Do you have any better ideas?” She closes her eyes and really rubs the color in around her lids.
“You know me,” Jeremy says, twisting in his seat. “I love a good heist as much as the next tech nerd, but this? What if you get caught?”
I hand Rebel the cayenne pepper shaker. “You didn’t see Deacon, Jer.” I shudder at the memory. “No one can withstand that kind of treatment for long. He’ll be dead before the end of the week.”
Rebel whimpers, and I’m not sure if it’s from the pepper she just dabbed into the corners of her eyes and her nostrils or from the harsh reality that Deacon might die despite our efforts. I won’t let myself even consider that possibility. Or that my mother could be—
I cut off the thought. If I go there, I’m going to be a basket case, and we have a job to do. I know Deacon is barely holding on. I just have to assume that my mom is okay…for now.
Jeremy nods. He might be all paranoia and rampant geekery, but he can settle down when he needs to. He also knows I wouldn’t do something like this if there were any other option. It’s not like we can call in the police. SHPD would never
question Mr. Malone or a League directive, and the ordinary police would never even get through the door.
“Let’s go.” Rebel smacks herself on the cheeks before bounding out of the van. “Before the pepper wears off.”
I let her get a few paces ahead before I jump out after her. Jeremy pockets his keys, zips up the front of his black hoodie, and falls into step beside me.
I run my fingers over the fake all-access security pass he made using his phone, a frequent shopper card, and something that looks like a credit card swiper. The bite of the sharp plastic edges pulls my mind into laser focus.
“When you see me give the signal,” I tell him, “you get your ass inside and into the security office. I don’t know how long we’ll be able to keep them distracted.” “What’s the signal?”
“Just…a signal,” I reply. “You’ll know.”
We round the corner and the Malone Building comes into view. Despite the fact that it’s the middle of the night, the all-glass façade glows, full of light. But all is quiet and still. Any hubbub that my fire alarm caused hours ago is long over. And why wouldn’t it be? There was nothing wrong. The building hides its secrets well. About twenty yards ahead of us, Rebel starts staggering and shouting at the top of her lungs.
“Where is my dad?” she screams. “I need to—hic—t-t-talk, uh, see him right now!”
I nod at Jeremy, then race after her.
“Rebel!” I try to sound desperate. Concerned. “Wait! We need to get you home!” She reaches the front doors, which are uncharacteristically locked. Another one of the new security protocols.
While Rebel rattles the doors, pounding the glass and shouting for her father, I catch up and make a big show of trying to drag her away.
I glance inside to see if our little act is having any effect on the guards at the desk. “It’s working,” I whisper under my breath. “Now slap me.”
Without hesitation, Rebel whirls around and smacks her palm across my cheek. I gasp. I hadn’t expected her to hit me so hard.
Grabbing her by the shoulders, I shove her into the door. Within seconds, we have each other by the hair and are screaming like freaking banshees. If security doesn’t step in soon, one of us is going to draw blood.
Plus the cayenne pepper’s really done its job. Rebel’s eyes are tearing, her nose is running, and she’s drooling all over me.
I see a shadow in my peripheral vision a moment before I hear the lock disengage.
The door slides open, and the two regular night guards—Luther and Travis—each grab one of us and drag us apart.
“What’s going on here, girls?” Luther asks.
Travis pulls me out of Rebel’s reach. “I thought you two were friends.”
“We are,” I spit. “She’s drunk”—I shoot her a look full of loathing—“again and acting like a raging bitch.”
“Mmmm-mam not drunk,” Rebel sputters. “And ya—yor—you’re the bitch.” On the last word, she swings for me. As Luther struggles to hold her back, he doesn’t notice her slip a hand to his belt and disconnect his security badge.
I shake my head, shifting into concerned friend mode. “Rebel, stop.” I turn to Travis. “She needs to sleep it off. Let’s get her to her dad’s office and she can sober up on his couch.”
Travis opens his mouth like he wants to argue, but then Rebel makes a horking sound, and in a flash the two guards are escorting us inside.
Before the door closes behind us, Rebel flicks her wrist and levitates the pilfered pass onto the sidewalk outside. Holding my hand behind my back, I form my fingers into the Vulcan salute. I’d like to see Jeremy miss that signal.
Now if only the rest of the plan goes as smoothly, maybe we’ll all make it out of this alive.
• • •
“Thank you both so much,” I gush as Travis and Luther let us into Mr. Malone’s office.
Luther carries a seemingly-passed-out Rebel over to the couch, and I turn to Travis. “I should get her some orange juice.”
Rebel times her moan of misery perfectly. “Kenna…” She flings an arm over her forehead. “I’m dying…”
I rush to her side. “I’m here, Reb. I’m here.” I give the guards my best no-Mom-please-don’t-make-me-a-guinea-pig-again look. “I shouldn’t leave her.” Travis looks uncomfortable. “We can’t leave the desk unmanned.”
I nod, feigning understanding.
“You get back to the desk,” Luther tells Travis. “I’ll get our girl here some juice from the dining sector.”
Wow, I’m a better actress than I thought.
“Thank you,” I say as the guards leave the office.
The moment the door glides shut behind them, Rebel is off the couch. I dig Jeremy’s tiny USB device out of my pocket and join her at her dad’s desk. It only takes her a couple of seconds to find an open port on the back of his computer. According to Jeremy, that tiny piece of metal and plastic will give him undetectable control of Mr. Malone’s system. Which means he’ll be able to monitor the entire building.
Between that and using Luther’s pass to gain access to the systems in the security office, we pretty much control the entire facility. My phone beeps with a text from Jeremy.
Lifted signal jammer
Ur good to go
This bldg is pwned
“We’re in.” I peer into the hallway, making sure the guards are gone.
Quiet as little spy mice, Rebel and I hurry to the elevators. My heart races as we wait for one to arrive. I sincerely hope that Jeremy is already looping footage of an empty elevator car and disguising the location signal to make the guards think it’s still at lobby level.
As Rebel and I step inside, I hold my breath, swipe the fake ID card, and punch the button for sub-level two. The elevator moves swiftly, gliding past the lobby without a pause. When it gets to sub-level two, I fling an arm across Rebel’s chest before she can take a step forward.
She gives me a curious look, and I take a step back.
What? she mouths.
Maybe her weight is confusing the sensor. I pull her back with me.
I swipe the card. Again. Nothing. Again.
The pained look on her face is unmistakable. “It’s not working?”
I pull out my text and shoot Jeremy a message.
Rear doors wont open
Can u force?
I wait for what feels like an eternity, but it is only a few seconds.
Nothing in sec sys
Trying cmd cntrl
Which I interpret to mean he’s going to try accessing Mr. Malone’s computer to see if there’s anything he can do through there.
While we wait, Rebel gets impatient. She stomps to the button panel, triggering the front door to open. She jabs at the sub-level two button over and over again. When the door slides shut, she returns to the back of the car with me. Nothing.
I have a bad feeling about this.
The rear door looks just as much like a wall as it did earlier tonight. I press my palms against the cool metal surface, trying to use the friction of my skin to force the door open. Without super strength it’s pointless. “Let me try,” Rebel says.
She squints, focuses as she throws her whole power into moving the hidden door.
Not even a budge.
It’s as if they’ve welded the door shut from the other side.
For all I know they have.
My phone dings.
Nothing about sekrit lvl anywhere
I groan and smack my forehead against the back wall.
Rebel lets out a growl to rival Dante’s and starts beating on every surface in the elevator. It’s not going to get us any closer to sub-level three, but Rebel needs to let out some of her frustration.
“Now what?” she snaps as she whirls to face me. “How do we get down to Deacon?”
“I don’t know,” I answer honestly.
Another text from Jeremy.
Guard on move
Get back upstairs
Our time is up. If we’d found Deacon, then it wouldn’t matter if the guards discovered we were missing. But we don’t want to raise any alarms. Not when we’re going to need access to the building again. The last thing we want is for them to lock the whole place down.
“We have to go.” I press the button for the third floor.
I shoot Jeremy a quick text asking him to stall Luther. Hopefully he can hold the other elevator long enough to let us get back to Mr. Malone’s office.
“You’re giving up?” Rebel throws me a fierce scowl as the elevator rises. “You’re just going to let them kill Deacon?”
I ignore the barb. “No, but it took me half the night to find this access. I don’t know how to make it work again, and I have no clue where to start looking for
another way to get down there.” I watch the floor numbers tick by impatiently. “If Luther and Travis get a whiff of what we’re doing, neither of us will ever be allowed in the building again. And that will make it virtually impossible to get Deacon out.”
She crosses her arms over her chest, but doesn’t argue.
I glance at Jeremy’s response.
He’s taking stairs
I mutter a foul curse. Think, Kenna, think.
“Do you have lip balm?”
“What?” she retorts. “Oh, I’m sorry. Are your lips getting chapped while my boyfriend’s twin is downstairs dying?”
I roll my eyes in exasperation. “Luther is taking the stairs,” I explain. “If we don’t have a good reason for not being in your dad’s office when he gets back…” “Red flags and sirens,” she finishes. Without another word, Rebel hands over the tube she always keeps in her pocket.
I palm the cap and twist the balm all the way out. Grabbing the contents, I mash it between my palms until it forms a gooey, chunky paste. Without bothering to explain, I slide my palms over Rebel’s blond spikes, leaving little translucent blobs of balm throughout.
“Gross,” she says, but doesn’t stop me.
The display indicates we’re passing the second floor, so I grab her around the waist and tug her tight against my side.
“Put your weight on me,” I instruct. “And hang your head.” She does, just as the doors open.
I quickly move us across the hall. There is a ladies’ room about three doors down. With the disgusting clumps in her hair, it should look like that’s where we’re coming from, like Rebel’s been hugging the porcelain throne.
We start a lopsided trek back to Mr. Malone’s office. Hopefully Luther will be too worried to wonder why we didn’t just use the private restroom en suite.
“And moaning,” I tell her. “Moaning would be good.” Rebel belts out groans that sound like a dying cow.
The sound of the stairwell door slamming shut echoes down the hall. “Come on, Reb,” I say loudly. “We’re almost there.”
We round the corner, right as Luther is stepping back out of the empty office, a small bottle of orange juice clutched in his hand. He looks relieved when he sees us.
“Everything okay?” he asks.
“Oh, just peachy.” I struggle to hold my best friend on her feet. “We’re at the dry-heaving stage.”
On cue, Rebel makes a gut-wrenching sound so believable that I almost expect to see chunks.
Luther’s face twists into a mix of concern and revulsion. “Maybe she needs to go to the emergency room?”
Another round of fake-heaving.
“No, no,” I insist. “I just need to get her home and to bed.” Luther nods enthusiastically.
“Can you help me get her downstairs?”
He rushes to Rebel’s other side faster than I can blink. He hands me the juice and takes her weight from me. A minute later, we’re in the lobby.
Rebel and I are almost in the clear, but that leaves Jeremy trapped in the security office. He may have forgiven me for our breakup fight, but he won’t take so kindly to being left to fend for himself with the SHPD.
I hook my foot around Rebel’s ankle, sending her stumbling toward the guards’ desk. She lands against the side with a heavy thud and proceeds to dry-heave in Travis’s general direction.
He rushes out from behind the desk and takes Rebel’s other side. “Here, let me give you a hand.”
I clear my throat loudly, and Rebel manages a stumble that sends all three of them to the floor. The guard desk now blocks their view of both the security office and the front door.
I shoot Jeremy a text. Now.
In a flash, he’s sprinting for the door faster than I’ve ever seen him move. He unlocks the door, dropping the security pass on the ground as he races into the night.
“Are you okay, Miss Malone?” Luther asks, climbing back to his feet and helping her up.
She groans, sways a little, and then latches herself to my side.
“I think I can take it from here,” I say, flashing them a long-suffering smile. Travis’s eyes widen. “If you’re sure…”
I nod and start for the door. He hurries ahead of us to unlock it, only to jerk back, confused, when he sees his security pass lying on the ground. Better he thinks he dropped it there than raise a red flag by it going missing.
“Thanks for everything!” I push past him, not waiting for him to ask the inevitable questions forming in his mind. “I’ll be sure to tell Mr. Malone how much you helped!”
Travis’s frown turns into a proud grin. “Anything for the boss.”
Oh yeah, I’ll totally be telling the evil king of the superheroes how his guards let us sneak into his top secret facility and his office. Mr. Malone would love that. “The guys are going to be pissed,” Rebel whispers as we make our way toward the sidewalk.
“Maybe Jeremy found something,” I suggest.
At this point, he’s our only hope
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