… EPISODE SEVENTEEN…
….. Posted by uc beverly…..
“Dude, are you sure this is going to work?” Dante asks.
“Absolutely,” Jeremy answers as we inch forward on our stomachs. “Thanks to
the codes on Mr. Malone’s computer, I disabled the villain sensors and the
perimeter alarm. There should be an entrance to one of the evacuation tunnels a
little bit ahead.”
“Should?” Draven echoes.
“Just how confident are you that there is an evacuation tunnel? It wasn’t on the blueprints,” Rebel hisses at Jeremy.
“Totally confident. There has to be at least one, if not more.” Jeremy squints into the shadows. “I’m, like, eighty percent confident—well, maybe seventy-five percent—that we’ll find it. But—”
“Seventy-five percent?” Draven whisper-yells. “We’re betting my cousin’s life on a seventy-five percent chance that you’re right?”
It’s dark so I can’t see his face, but I can all but feel the anger radiating off him. Not that I blame him. Seventy-five percent odds just aren’t that great, especially when that’s just to get into the facility. God only knows how difficult things will get once we actually set foot in the lab to rescue Deacon.
Hopefully we’ll also find some clue about where my mom is being kept. Despite two straight days of hacking and exploring Mr. Malone’s computer, Jeremy didn’t find even a hint about her. He’s convinced she’s not here, and I’m afraid I believe him.
“Do you have a better idea?” Jeremy snaps back. “Besides, I was ninety-five percent confident before you guys started messing with my head.” He ups his pace, looking like a cross between an earthworm and a yogi as he scoots across the hard ground.
We’re making our way through one of the undeveloped fields that surround the lab, the plants and weeds providing cover as we creep forward, dressed entirely in black. I have to admit, we blend into the night pretty well—certainly better than I thought we would when Jeremy laid out this leg of the plan—but I’m still not confident we won’t be discovered. With all the extra precautions Mr. Malone has taken to protect the lab, I can’t believe he left this area with nothing but an easily
disabled perimeter alarm for protection. Especially if Jeremy’s right and there are access tunnels out here.
“I’m giving you ten more minutes,” Dante growls. “If we don’t find the tunnel by then—”
“What?” answers Jeremy. “What are you going to do? Walk up to the front door and blow the thing wide open?”
“If we have to,” Draven tells him grimly.
My mouth goes dry at the determination in his voice. One way or another, Draven is getting into that lab tonight, and I have a feeling he doesn’t give a damn whether or not he gets hurt or killed in the process. He’s willing to do anything, take any risk, to save someone he loves, and I can totally relate to that. I feel the same way about Mom and Rebel. But while he doesn’t seem to care much about his safety, I do. The thought of him getting hurt upsets me more than a little.
Closing my eyes, I send a quiet plea into the universe that we all get out of this alive.
“You won’t get two steps into the lab that way and you know it,” Jeremy says. “Ask me if I give a crap.”
“Can you all just bloody well shut up and get moving?” Nitro says from his spot at the back of our wiggling, dysfunctional line. “It’s only a matter of time before something crawls up my pant leg, and I have to be honest, I’m not okay with that.” “Don’t be such a—”
“Yes!” Jeremy crows in a loud whisper, cutting Draven off mid-insult. “Found it! Down there to the left. Do you see it?”
I narrow my eyes, trying to peer through the darkness at where Jeremy’s deliberately dim flashlight is pointing. “That round thing in the ground?” I ask, excitement thrumming through my blood.
“Yes! That’s an access grate!” Jeremy does a crazy little wriggle that I assume is his version of a victory dance. “I told you it was here. I told you we’d find it! I knew it! I just knew it!” Another wriggle. “Who’s the man? Who. Is. The. Man?” It’s a rhetorical question, so nobody answers him. And we don’t interrupt his moment of victory either—he’s earned it.
“Nice job, nerd king,” Rebel says affectionately when Jeremy finally stops congratulating himself and we’re congregated around the grate. “Now what?” “We rip the thing off its hinges and go in,” Dante says. He reaches for the grate, when Jeremy yells, “No! Don’t!”
We all freeze.
“What’s wrong?” Draven demands. “I thought this was what we were looking for.”
“It is.” Jeremy gets on his knees, pulls off his backpack, and starts rummaging around in it. “Just because it wasn’t on any of the security diagrams or property blueprints doesn’t mean it’s not protected. It’s an outside access point. It’s probably wired.”
“With explosives?” Nitro asks, eyes wide.
Jeremy rolls his eyes. “With security devices that alert the big guys with superpowers.”
He pulls a gadget from his backpack and aims it at the grate. The device lights up like fireworks on the Fourth of July. An intricate web of crisscrossing lines shimmers over the entire drain.
“What are we going to do?” asks Rebel. “We can’t get past that.” Jeremy snorts. “Speak for yourself.”
He retrieves some other handheld machines, presses a sequence of buttons, then waits. He repeats this three times, then reaches for the original gadget and points it at the grate. This time it doesn’t so much as beep.
“Excellent!” Jeremy quickly shoves his equipment back into this backpack. “Let’s move.”
“What did you do?” Draven demands as Jeremy starts prying at the gate with a crowbar.
What doesn’t he have in that backpack?
He glances at us and shrugs. “I jammed the signal.” “All that to jam a signal?” Nitro asks.
“It was a very complicated signal.” He keeps working with the crowbar, but the grate barely moves.
“This is taking too long,” Dante says. Suddenly, a huge gust of wind comes out of nowhere, knocking us onto our backs and slamming into the grate. The metal rattles and moans, but the hinges hold.
“Heads down,” Dante warns before an even more powerful burst of air whooshes back out and past us. The hinges bend under the force, the metal squealing as it slowly gives up the struggle. After a few seconds of Dante’s reverse tornado, the grate flies off, narrowly missing Nitro’s head. “Oi! Watch it!” he yells.
“I told you to stay down,” Dante answers.
“Let’s go,” Draven says, jumping to his feet.
He’s the first one into the tunnel—no surprise there. “Watch your step. It’s slippery in here.”
Slippery? I exchange a look of trepidation with Rebel. I don’t even want to know what’s inside the tunnel that makes it slippery. When Jeremy told us that he suspected there had to be hidden access points in these field, far enough out that no one would suspect their association with the lab, he’d been very vague about what kind of tunnels they might lead to. I have a feeling we wouldn’t have wanted to know anyway.
I enter the tunnel behind Draven and Dante, and my foot sinks four or five inches into sludge. Gross. Never have I been so grateful that Rebel made me borrow a pair of her Doc Martens.
“Eeeew!” Rebel screeches, her voice echoing through the tunnel and almost— almost—drowning out the disgusting sucking sound our feet make as we plow forward through the muck. I’m kind of glad it’s dark so I can’t see what we’re walking in.
“Damn,” Nitro says. “Is this stuff radioactive?”
Rebel reaches around and smacks him on the shoulder. “Why would you even say that?” Then she starts trying to walk a lot more softly than she was just a minute ago. “It’s not, is it, Kenna? We aren’t going to turn green, are we?”
“Does it matter?” Draven demands, picking up his pace so that he’s all but running. “We’re not turning back.”
I lean close to Rebel and whisper reassuringly, “It would be glowing if it was.” Dante takes off after Draven and we try to keep up, but it’s hard. I feel like I’m running through quicksand and the further we get, the deeper the sludge. Jeremy is struggling more than the rest of us. Probably because he’s been up for forty-two hours straight, hacking into the security program so he could disable systems as needed.
And maybe because he’s got eighty pounds of extra gear in his backpack.
Fifteen minutes of running, trudging, falling through sludge, and we’re all gasping for air and covered in muck. But we’ve reached the entrance—a round, metal door three feet off the ground that looks barely big enough for me, let alone the guys, to crawl through.
Draven stops before touching anything, waiting for Jeremy to catch up. He and Nitro have fallen so many times that they’re a good two minutes back.
“This one wired too?” Draven asks when Jeremy arrives, scooching by Rebel and me.
He waves one of his gadgets over the door and the thing goes nuts. “These aren’t standard security sensors.”
“What does that mean?” Nitro asks.
“Must be part of the new security,” Jeremy says, reaching into his backpack for a pen. He throws it at the door and when it hits, an electromagnetic wave pulses, knocking us into the disgusting sludge. I swear to God, if we get out of this alive, I’m going to kill my ex-boyfriend.
“A little warning next time, asshole,” Dante says bitterly as he climbs to his feet.
He reaches down to help Rebel up, and Draven gives me a hand.
“Sorry.” Jeremy’s already rummaging through his backpack. “I didn’t realize it would be that powerful.”
“How are we going to get through it?” I demand. Staring at that door, knowing we’re so close, I’ve never felt more desperate. Or more powerless.
Jeremy doesn’t answer, just pulls out another gadget, waves it at the door, and frowns. Another gadget. Another frown. Another gadget…
The wait is killing me.
I inch closer to the door, my whole body tense. The closer I get, the stranger I feel. There’s a weird tingling under my skin. I’ve never felt like this before, and I can’t help wondering if Rebel’s right and this sludge we’re standing in really is radioactive.
“Can’t you just”—I wave my hands at him in a vague, you’re-a-superhero, use-your-powers gesture—“take care of it?”
He scowls at me. “Only if I want the equivalent force of twenty nuclear bombs coursing through my body.”
“Would it deactivate the security before it killed you?” Draven asks hopefully.
Jeremy ignores him, pressing the button on his latest gadget, but nothing happens.
Or at least, it doesn’t look like anything is happening.
We all wait tensely, and after a minute Jeremy says, “Huh. That’s strange.” “What’s strange?” Dante demands, his voice stretched taut as a circus high wire. “It’s not picking up any more electromagnetic activity.” He shakes the gizmo, aims it again. No lights, no beeps, nothing.
“Did you break it?” Draven demands.
“It worked twenty minutes ago, at the grate.” Jeremy pulls out another pen. “Bloody hell!” Nitro shouts, crouching down. “Not again!”
I brace myself—we all do—and clamp my mouth closed so when I hit the ground this time I won’t get any of the disgusting sludge in my mouth.
Jeremy throws the pen.
It strikes the door with a ping, then falls to the ground. That’s it.
“What the hell?” Nitro and Draven say at the same time.
Jeremy shrugs. “I have no idea.” He pulls out a book and repeats the pen test— with the same result.
“Maybe the electromagnetics were defective,” he says after a minute. “One pulse could have knocked a weak connection out of commission.”
“So much for security,” Dante sneers. He raises his hand to summon his wind, but Rebel stops him.
“Let me do it, babe. One blast of your power in here and we’ll all be on our asses again.”
She extends her hands and the lock and hinges squeal, the steel literally bending to Rebel’s will. Moments later, the door floats right toward us and she lowers it next to Nitro.
“Stay behind me,” Draven says as he hoists himself up and peers through the opening, looking both ways for danger.
“Is it clear?” Dante asks, shifting restlessly.
“Looks it.” Draven climbs through the doorway. Dante follows him. They reach down to help Rebel and me. Normally I’d have no problem lifting myself up, but my hands are slippery and keep sliding as I try to boost myself up. So I just gratefully accept the help.
“Now what?” Nitro asks as he joins us.
“If I’m right—” Jeremy leans in through the door, holding a new device, which is the size of a chocolate bar. He punches a sequence of buttons, and then suddenly the building’s blueprints are projected out in front of us in full 3-D. He gestures to a spot on the second sub-level. “We’re right here.”
Crap. “We’re in the most secure part of the main lab,” I tell them. I take the device from Jeremy so I can point out details while he hauls himself into the hall. “The physical and chemical labs have the most dangerous materials in the entire facility. They keep them on tight lockdown. There are security doors every hundred feet down here and cameras every fifty.”
“Of course there are,” Dante mutters under his breath. “Why should any part of this be easy?”
“What are those?” I point at pairs of red dots moving through the rendering. “Guards,” Jeremy says flatly, grunting slightly as he tries to pull himself up and over. “The system is tracking their RFID chips.”
“We need a distraction,” Nitro says. “Something to draw their attention.” “Like what?” Rebel asks.
He starts creating a ball of fire in his hands. The glowing green energy creeps me out even as it fascinates me. “Fire’s always good.”
Jeremy teeters in the opening. Someone should probably pull him through. No one does.
“Already been there, done that. I pulled the fire alarm, remember?” I tell Nitro. “I don’t think they’ll fall for it again, even if there is a real fire.” Besides, his control and aim are not what they could be. I have visions of him burning the whole building to the ground—this time, with all of us inside.
“What do you suggest then?” Nitro pouts a little as he extinguishes the flame. “Dante and I have this,” Rebel says. An evil grin plays across her face. “I’ve always wanted to tear this place apart. Now’s my—”
“Aaaack!” Jeremy whisper-screams as he finally makes it through the door and
pitches awkwardly to the ground.
“Are you okay?” I ask.
“No,” Jeremy pants. “My ankle.”
He tries to put weight on his foot but collapses into me. In an instant, Draven has
an arm looped around Jeremy’s torso.
“Broken?” Draven asks.
“I don’t—ow, ow, ow. Yeah, maybe.”
“Shit.” Dante runs his hands through his fauxhawk.
The look on Jeremy’s face is about more than physical pain. I can tell he feels like he’s letting the team down, like he’s letting the mission down. We may not have parted on the best of terms, but I still don’t want him hurting.
I think quickly. “Rebel, you can get Jer back to the van? That will be command central. Dante can cause the distraction solo. Nitro, guard the door, make sure it’s clear when Draven and I come out with Deacon. We might need to make a quick getaway.”
Dante nods. “Let’s do it.” He turns to Draven. “Get my brother out.”
“We will,” Draven promises. “But be careful. I don’t want to have to break you out next.”
“Here,” Jeremy says, digging in his backpack. “Take these.”
He holds out a handful of what look like skin-colored plastic beans.
“Communication earbuds,” he explains.
We each take one. I smile at him as I pop mine into my right ear. Always prepared. You would think he’d been a Boy Scout.
“Find Deacon,” Rebel says as she uses her power to lift Jeremy off Draven’s shoulder. “Then get the hell out.”
“And keep your eye on those blueprints so the guards don’t sneak up on you,” Jeremy warns. “I’ll make another stab at finding your mom too.”
I give him a grateful smile, and he and Rebel disappear through the tiny access door. Dante turns and walks to the glass doors at the front of the room. The second he hits the hallway, a tornado rips down the corridor in front of him. Tiles fly off the walls and doors start flapping open and closed. We want the guards’ attention anywhere but where we’re going.
“That’s a distraction, all right,” Nitro says.Recommend you to download Topster Stories App for Exclusive Access To Erotic and Romantic stories (Join Group) https://t.me/topsterstories
“Let’s go.” Draven turns to me. “Where does geek boy think we’ll find the emergency staircase?”
“At the end of the other hall.” I gesture to the place on Jeremy’s projected
blueprints. “The best bet is to cut through the spontaneous external combustion lab.
There are doors on both sides.”
“Let’s do it,” Draven says.
Counting on Dante to draw the guards in the other direction and Nitro to safeguard our escape route, we head out the lab’s back doors and slink down the hallway.
It only takes about two minutes to reach the SpEC lab—though it feels like two hours. When we get there, I enter the code, praying Dr. Anthony hasn’t changed it. He hasn’t. It pays to have been every scientist’s backup intern. The door opens smoothly when I push on it.
We walk in, expecting the lab to be empty—the building is usually clear at this time of night except for guards, and Dante’s distraction was supposed to draw them away. But we’ve majorly miscalculated. Standing about thirty-five feet away, backs to us, are two guards I don’t recognize. These guards aren’t on Jeremy’s blueprint. And they’re carrying a body bag toward the incinerator room in the corner. Several other body bags lay on tables around the room. We’re frozen.
“This is the last batch,” the fat one says.
“Good. I’m ready to shut this place down.” The short one readjusts his grip. “It’s creepy, all empty like this.”
They take a few steps toward the incinerator.
“This kid sure is heavy,” the fat one tells him, struggling with his load. “You wouldn’t know it to look at him.”
“He’s a villain,” the short one answers. “Who knows what his bones are made of. Those tattoos of his glow like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Too bad he died before we could—”
Next to me, Draven makes an inhuman, tormented sound.
The guards drop the body bag and whirl toward us, but before they can so much as yell a warning, they crumple to the ground, hands clutching at their heads. They moan with pain—the kind of agony you see in horror movies and true crime documentaries.
What’s going on? I can’t hear anything. I turn to Draven to see if he has any idea, but he’s staring at them so intently that he doesn’t even notice me.
And that’s when I know. Whatever’s happening to the guards right now, Draven is the one doing it.