… EPISODE 18…
….. Posted by uc beverly…..
“Draven!” I shout, but he ignores me.
Rebel’s voice echoes in my earpiece. “What’s going on?”
“I don’t know,” I tell her. “There are guards. They said something about tattoos, and he just started—”
Dante cuts me off. “I’ll be right there.”
“Babe?” Rebel asks.
I stare, stunned, as the guards writhe on the ground in agony. One of them lifts a hand from his face. It’s covered in blood. Streams of red trickle from his eyes, nose, and ears.
“Stop!” I scream at Draven. Whatever he’s doing, he’s not in control. His anger has taken over his power.
Unable to just stand by doing nothing, I fling myself at him, knocking him a few feet to the side. I lock my arms around him. He tries to shrug me off.
“Let go,” he snarls, still not looking at me. But I don’t let go. I can’t. Not when whatever is happening here, whatever he’s doing in anger, will end up hurting him in the end. Will end leaving him with nothing but regret. Nitro races into the room, skidding to a stop at my side.
“Draven, what the—”
“Get her off me,” Draven snaps.
Nitro doesn’t hesitate. He grabs me by the arm and yanks. I wince as a burning pain shoots up my body. It feels like someone pressed a hot poker against my skin. But there’s no time to worry about that, not when—
“He’s killing them!” I scream as Dante bursts into the room. “They might have information. They might be able to help!”
“They’re not going to help us,” Draven spits out. For the first time I can see the villain in him. The rule-breaker. The vigilante.
It scares me, not because of who he is and what he’s capable of—there’s a part of me that’s known it all along—but because I don’t care. This side of him, anger and strength, doesn’t make him any less attractive to me. It should, but it doesn’t.
Dante steps into Draven’s line of sight. “Talk to me.” “Please. Stop.” I jerk against Nitro’s grip.
The screaming stops and guards lay limp on the floor, hands no longer clutching their heads.
Draven has regained control now. Oh, he’s still furious but at least we’ve gotten through to him and he’s released whatever weird hold he had on the guards. Then again, maybe it’s Dante’s presence that got through to him. He turns to his cousin, to his best friend, and says, “Deacon.”
Draven’s voice is choked, his shoulders slumped, his face desolate, as he points at
the body bag.
Nitro releases me.
Dante turns white at the implication. He doesn’t move. Doesn’t breathe. He just stands there, as precious seconds tick by. Then, just when I’m about to start for the
body bag myself, he stumbles toward it and yanks back the zipper. His whole body sags.
“It’s not him.” Dante’s eyes fill with tears. “It’s not Deacon.” In my ear, Rebel sobs with relief.
Nitro walks over to the other body bags laid out on the lab tables. One by one, he unzips them and shakes his head. Seven in all. Seven bodies. Seven dead villains. None of them Deacon.
Relief fills me, followed by shame. Seven people are dead. Relief is the last emotion I should feel. Shame, horror, rage—but not relief. Never that. And yet, I can’t help but feel grateful that Deacon’s not in one of those bags. There is still hope.
“We should keep moving,” Draven says after a minute, drawing all of our attention back to him. “Keep searching.”
“What was that?” I ask, gesturing at the guards who are still writhing on the floor.
“Not now,” he says.
I want to argue, but I know that he’s right. This isn’t the time and it definitely isn’t the place. But before I can so much as nod, Nitro whispers, “Vane is in one of those bags.”
Dante and Draven freeze.
“Vane?” Dante’s voice is strangled. “Shit. Which one?” Nitro nods to the last one on the right. “What should we do?” “We shouldn’t leave him,” Draven says. “He’s a friend.” Dante shakes his head. “We can’t carry him out of here.” “You would carry Deacon out.”
“Yes, but he’s my brother. And we might still have to carry him out.” Draven looks sick.
Dante continues, “If Vane was alive, I’d do anything to get him out of here. But he’s dead. They can’t hurt him anymore. We can’t risk it.”
Draven nods, and eventually so does Nitro. Tears burn the backs of my eyes.
“So now what?” Nitro asks.
“We need to find Deacon.” Dante pushes to his feet. “We’ll contact Vane’s family after we get out of this hellhole. But for now, we need to figure out where my brother is.”
I’m so wrapped up in the horror before me that it takes my mind a few seconds to get back on track. “No,” I whisper. “He’s gone.” “What do you mean gone?” Dante looms over me.
My mouth goes dry, but I force out the words, “The guards said these were the last of them. After this they’re closing down the building.” “And you believe them?”
I shrug. “I don’t know. Maybe? They were talking to each other, not to us. They said the building is empty.”
Which means—my heart sinks further at the realization—that my mom really isn’t here. Despair creeps in, but I shove it aside. This isn’t the time or place.
“Yeah, well, there’s only one way to find out.” Draven strides over to the security men, grabs one by the collar of his uniform, and lifts him off the ground. “The other prisoners?” he demands. “Where are they?”
The guard whimpers.
“Where!” Draven roars.
“G-g-g-gone,” the guard stammers. “N-n-new lab.”
“All of them?”
The guard nods. “All but these last ones.”
“Shite.” Nitro pounds his fist on the lab table beside him.
I step forward. “What about my mom? Do you know where Dr. Swift is?” “Kenna?” He frowns at me.
Draven shakes him again. “Answer her.”
“I-I-I don’t know,” the terrified guard replies. “Maybe at the new lab? I haven’t
seen her in a few days.”
“Where is it?” I demand.
“I don’t know,” the guard wails. When Draven tightens his grip, he says, “I swear, I have no idea. All the guards are being reassigned.”
Draven looks like he wants to keep interrogating the man, but then just tosses him aside like a rag doll, not bothering to see where he lands. “We need to find out where the new lab is.”
“Guys?” Jeremy says suddenly, his voice in all of our ears.
“How are we going to do that?” I ask, ignoring my ex-boyfriend. “Jeremy couldn’t find any information about that on Mr. Malone’s computer.”
“If we have to tear this entire building to the ground to find a clue,” Draven says slowly, “then we will.” And I know he means every word. “Um, guys?” Jeremy says over the earbuds.
“Back off, geek boy.” Draven starts for the door at the back of the lab.
But before he takes more than two steps, the world around us erupts in a storm of flashing lights and blaring sirens.
“What the hell?” Dante shouts.
“That’s what I was trying to tell you,” Jeremy snaps. “Someone triggered the alarm.”
We all turn to the guards on the floor. The one Draven questioned is curled into a fetal ball. The other one, the fat one, smirks at us. He holds up his phone. “Busted,” the guard sputters. “How’s it feel to be royal screwups?”
Draven squats down next to him, places a hand on either side of his blubbery face, and stares into his eyes. “You think you’re home free?” he asks, pulling at the guard’s name tag. “Aaron? You think this is over?” He stands up and kicks the guard in the stomach. “It’s not. I know who you are. I know what has happened to these people. I’ll remember you. And I’ll come back for you.”
“Damn it!” Jeremy yells, sounding frantic. “The building is going into lockdown.” “What does that mean?” I ask.
“Systems are instituting Tier Red protocols,” he replies.
Tier Red ? Is that supposed to mean something? I clench my jaw at his unhelpful response.
“Translate.” Draven growls.
“Essentially, every hack I did to get you inside is now code-blocked.” Jeremy mumbles something unintelligible. “This building is about to become more impenetrable than NORAD.”
It takes a moment for his words to sink in, and then we run, full out, toward the hall and the evacuation tunnel.
If everyone’s gone, if the place really has been cleared out, then there’s no point in searching the facility. I don’t know if we should take the guard’s word for it, but staying pretty much guarantees we’ll be caught. “We’re on our way,” Draven snarls.
I’m panting. “We’ll be at the tunnel door in—”
“No!” Jeremy shouts. “It’s armed it with some kind of bioelectric explosive. You’ll die if you go anywhere near it.” “Can’t you deactivate it?” I ask.
Tortuous silence follows as the alarms shriek, then, “No. It’s a closed system. I
would have to be hardwired in.”
“The front door,” Dante suggests.
Draven nods. “Go big, or go home.”
“Just”—Jeremy gets distracted—“give me a minute.”
A computerized voice fills the air around us. “SHPD forces have been dispatched. Estimated time of arrival…” We all hold our breath as the voice calculates. “Four minutes.”
Draven mutters a string of curses.
“We don’t have a minute,” Dante shouts.
“Hold on, baby,” Rebel tells him, her voice tight with strain. “Jeremy’s working. We’ll get you out.”
I trust her, trust Jeremy, but standing there waiting for Jeremy’s instruction— doing nothing while guards are probably closing in—is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. My heart is racing, my breath coming in little shallow pants. Not wanting to hyperventilate, I force myself to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth. But it’s hard. So hard. Especially with Dante and Draven pacing the hallway like caged animals.
Nitro isn’t much better. He pounds his fist into his palm, sending a spray of amber sparks each time his hands connect. It’s only a matter of time before he sets something on fire. But freaking out won’t solve anything, I remind myself as I try to calm down. Jeremy will figure it out. Jeremy will get us out of here. He may be a paranoid conspiracy nut, but he’s good in an emergency.
I wrap my arms around myself for comfort, but when I grab my right arm with my left hand, I feel that same burning sensation I’d felt earlier when Nitro pulled me off Draven.
“Okay, I’ve got it!” Jeremy shouts. “Kenna, tell me your exact location.”
I look around. “We’re in the south hall on sub-level two, between labs B227 and B229.”
We listen to the keyboard clicks.
“I need you to get to the freight elevator at the end of the west hall.”
I take off at a run. The guys follow close behind. Tonight it pays to know this building like the back of my hand.
“Freeze,” Jeremy shouts. “There are guards around that corner. Hold on, I’ll set off a sensor in the lobby, so they should be…”
I plaster myself to the wall as his words trail off. Our harsh breathing is masked by the blaring alarm as we wait for Jeremy’s next instructions. “Okay, they’re in the stairwell. Go.”
It seems like an eternity before we reach the freight elevator. The door is easily three times as large as a normal elevator door, built to fit even the largest scientific equipment.
“We’re here,” I pant. “Should I press the—”
“No,” Jeremy interrupts. “Don’t. I’m locking the elevator on the floor above you.” Now what? If he didn’t want us to take the elevator, then why are we—
“Okay, the car is locked. The doors are carbon-reinforced steel. Nitro, can you burn through them?”
“Can I?” Nitro’s face twists into a look of maniacal glee. A bright green ball of energy, no bigger than a cupcake, floats between his outstretched palms. “Stand back,” he says.
I watch as he slowly runs the ball over the surface of the door in what looks like the supervillain version of Tai Chi.
Then he stands back and admires his work.
Which, as far as I can tell, is nothing more than a big scorch mark.
Nitro tilts his head at Dante. “Would you?”
With a flick of his fingers, Dante sends a gust of wind at the doors. The area inside Nitro’s scorch mark sails into the elevator shaft, leaving a door-sized opening in the carbon steel.
“Nice,” I tell him with a grin. “Now what, Jer?” “Now,” he replies, “you climb.”
Draven steps up to the opening and waves me forward. “Ladies first.”
He says it casually, but there’s gravity to his words. Under the guise of chivalry, he’s making sure I get out first. There’s no time to argue about gender politics right now, and besides, going first means I get to lead the way. And fend off trouble, if there is any. I step through the opening and pull myself up the service ladder that runs up the side wall.
“How far?” I ask.
“All the way,” Jeremy says. “There is an exhaust vent that opens onto the roof. The building locks down from the bottom up, so I can still disable that alarm.” “Great,” I say as I start to climb.
“But you need to hurry,” he replies. “They’ve almost got sub-level two completely locked. You need to get up and out before they get to the top floor.”
There is no more talking as the four of us climb as fast as we can. Now I really wish I had argued gender politics with Draven. I’m the slowest of the bunch and I’m holding them back. If they get caught because of me, I’ll never forgive myself. The thought of being responsible for us being captured—for them being tortured like Deacon—paralyzes me with fear. But I can’t let it. Instead, I use it to motivate me to push my body as hard as I possibly can.
We are exhausted by the time we reach the top floor. My arms and legs are shaking and even Draven looks a little worse for wear.
“We’re here,” I gasp.
“The vent is above you,” Jeremy explains. “In the center of the shaft.”
I look up. The elevator shaft is at least twenty feet across, which means the vent is ten feet out in the open. The elevator car is now four stories below us. That’s not the kind of fall that someone can survive.
“Can you call up the car, Jer?” I ask. “Then we could stand on the roof to get to the vent.”
“Can’t,” he says. “It’s locked on sub-level one.” “I’ve got this,” Dante says.
A powerful wind fills the shaft. I have to struggle to hold on to the ladder.
My apprehension must show. He smiles. “Trust me.”
There’s a lot of trust going around tonight.
I bite my lips, close my eyes, and exhale. It’s easier to let go of the ladder than I thought. I just relax my fingers and then…I’m floating.
I feel myself moving away from the wall. Forcing my eyes open, I look up—not down, never down. The vent is right above me. I reach for the grate, but it’s screwed to the frame.
“I can’t,” I say. “It’s—”
“Move her,” Nitro says.
The wind shifts, and I float to the other side of the shaft. Nitro shoots a series of flaming red, bullet-sized balls. The grate falls with a clang on the elevator car below.
Before I can say a word, Dante shifts his wind again and I float through the opening into the night, then drop in a squat when the wind leaves me. Nitro flies through a moment later.
When Draven doesn’t immediately follow, I peer into the elevator shaft. He and Dante are at a stand-off.
“Now is not the time, dude,” Dante says.
Draven’s entire body is rigid. Tense…with fear.
Right. When Rebel suspended us in the air in my kitchen, he’d looked nervous. Now he looks downright freaked out. It’s weird, considering he’s always been so fearless about everything else.
Everyone has a weakness and I’m not letting him give in to his, not when we’re so close to freedom.
“Hey, Draven,” I shout, intent on distracting him.
He looks up, his eyes wild.
“You’re not chickening out now, are you? I mean, even Jeremy could do this.” “Hey!” Jeremy exclaims. “I heard that. And maybe you’ve forgotten since it’s been a while, but there’s a lot I can do, Kenna.” His voice is rife with innuendo and
Draven growls. He actually growls. Which works for me. This jealousy is exactly what I’m trying to play up right now. If nothing else, it will distract him. “Shut it, geek boy,” Draven snaps.
Dante waves his hand and Draven slowly starts to rise. He’s seething at the taunts so he doesn’t notice until he’s two feet away.
I reach out and grab him before he can look down. “Come on,” I say. “Let’s get out of here.” Seconds later, Dante flies through the vent.
“You need to get to the south edge of the roof,” Jeremy tells us. “From there you can—oh shit.”
“Oh shit, what?” Dante demands.
“Guards,” Jeremy barks. “They’ll be on you in seconds.”
We run full speed to the south end of the roof. From there we can see the van parked on the access road that runs behind the campus.
“How do we get down?” I ask.
Dante holds up his hands. “I can take care of—”
“Freeze!” We turn to face the trio of guards who have appeared less than a football field away. In addition to whatever superpowers they’re packing, they have their weapons drawn. Real guns with real bullets.
Dante turns his wind on them. Faced with the force of a hurricane-strength gale, the guards struggle to remain upright. Advancing is out of the question.
“Reb, babe,” Dante shouts to be heard above the howl of wind, “I can’t hold off the guards and get everyone on the ground at the same time.”
“I’ve never lifted something from this far away.” She sounds scared. “You can do it, Rebel,” I insist. “You just have to focus.”
“Shit.” I can hear her take a deep breath. “Yeah, okay. I’ll do my best.” “Take Kenna first,” Draven orders.
“No,” I say. “That’s crazy. It’s way more dangerous for you guys to get caught. I’ve seen what they do to villains.”
Draven is firm. “Too bad. You’re going—”
“Take the guys first,” I tell Rebel. “Don’t let them get captured.” “Out of the quest—”
Before Draven can finish his pointless, chauvinistic argument, he’s flying up and over the edge of the roof and soaring across the field toward the van. I let out a sigh of relief as I watch Rebel set him down gently as soon as he’s cleared the property line.
“Nitro,” she says, “you’re next.”
He doesn’t protest as Rebel lifts him.
“Dante—” I begin.
“No way!” he shouts. “I have to be last. I have to hold off the guards.”
“There’s time,” I insist. “Give them one last shove and then go. Rebel will get me before they recover.”
“Kenna,” her voice wavers and she sounds tired. “That’s not a lot of time.” “Forget it,” Dante replies. “Babe, take us together in three, two, one.”
Before I have time to react, Dante sends one last blast of wind at the guards, then runs at me. He leans down, like he’s going to tackle me, but instead lifts me onto his shoulder without losing his momentum. He pushes off from the roof with a leap.
We are going to fall. We are falling.
Then Dante throws some wind behind us and I feel the pull of Rebel’s telekinesis. We shoot across the field, reaching the others in half the time it took Draven and Nitro.
When we land, I want to collapse with relief, but there’s no time. SHPD vehicle sirens blare. Rebel climbs into the driver’s seat while Jeremy shouts for us all to get inside. The door shuts behind me, and the van tires spin out.
We’re racing away for our lives