The fan increased its power by the second.
The whirring noise came from deeper in the building—possibly pulling it directly outside. That meant instead of being something that Rook’s people had done, it might be ours.
Instead of drifting away, the smoke streamed toward the smashed door, pulled by the fan, but behind it came cold air from outside.
A glance upward showed that the section of the room’s ceiling that had reached up to the roof now opened to the sky. Izzy had taken it completely off.
If she hadn’t taken it off, the part she did remove included the middle.
Anyway, it was pretty impressive. I wouldn’t have been able to do it in the Rocket armor.
Beyond a brief sense of awe, I didn’t think about it much then. I had other things to worry about.
An alarm went off.
A low, pulsing, honking noise, it sounded ominous.
Cassie turned her head upward, staring at one of the room’s speakers. “That’s a new alarm.”
“So… You don’t know what it means?”
“How would I? They didn’t give me an orientation.” Cassie turned toward our captive groups of scientists and lab techs.
One of the bigger guys (I could tell that much through the jumpsuit) appeared to be staring at the door, and getting ready to run.
“What about you guys?” Pointing her gun at the big guy, she said, “Especially you.”
He took a step back. The gun had made an impression.
“It’s the base evacuation signal. If we can’t get out, they’re going to kill us.”
“With what?” Cassie checked the door, and I followed her look. Nothing came through.
“I don’t know. They told us if we heard it we should get to the control room if we didn’t want to die. Look, if you can get us out, we’ll tell you anything we know.”
“Rook’s booby-trapped his bases with nukes before.” I don’t think my voice trembled as I said it, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it had.
Cassie took a breath. Her stolen mask stretched it out. “Fuck.”
“No kidding. Portal’s here, but she can’t teleport us out unless she can see us—”
“And they’re going to have to see us in the dark.”
“Yeah, and that assumes they can teleport us out at all. Accelerando and uh… Blue—”
“Our friend that we met last summer, and then at… school.”
Cassie turned her head to stare at me. Well, it’s not as if I could see through her mask to tell for sure, but that would have been my guess.
“Who?” But then she said, “Oh, but why are you calling her Blue? No. No. Never mind. Skip it. We need to get out now. How many of them can you take?”
“One in each hand, and then I guess I can radio the jet—”
“Don’t talk about it. Go. I’ll get as many as I can up to the second floor above us.”
I stepped forward holding out my hands so I could take two of the people who’d been trying to grow warped clones of Cassie only minutes before.
I knew it was the right thing to do. Heck, it was even a practical thing to do. Knowing what Rook and the Nine were up to would be useful, but a small but significant part of me wondered if I shouldn’t just pull Cassie out, and leave them there.
I mean, seriously, if I had to choose who lived, it wouldn’t be them.
Still, I held out my hands, and said, “Let’s go,” anyway.
That’s when I heard the sound of flapping wings behind me. I turned around, pulling my arms into a position where could easily fight or fire off the sonics.
A black cloud of Rook’s bird bots flew down the corridor toward the door to the room.
For a second, I thought it was a good thing. If Rook had set up the bird bots to kill people, it might mean he didn’t have a nuke.
On the other hand it might mean he intended the bird bots to occupy attackers so that they wouldn’t escape before the nuke went off.
Either way, the birds flew like little black missiles—too fast to dodge or casually take down.
Before Cassie or I managed to stop it, one flew through the door, and dove into the chest of one of the people near me.
There wasn’t any question of whether the person was dead. I’m not going to go into detail, but there wasn’t.
Maybe Cassie could have stopped it, but she had to deal with a horde of birds targeting her.
I did what I could.
I couldn’t react quickly enough to stop that first one, but I shot off four EMP bots into the middle of the cloud flying toward us.
Maybe as many as twenty went down, but more were coming.
Cassie opened up with the gun, the brilliant white beam even taking down bird bots next to the ones she hit. The Rocket suit filtered out the worst of the beam’s light, but it still hurt to watch it.
Worse, we hadn’t gotten to talk much about what had happened in the control room.
I didn’t have time to say anything when she swept the beam across the transparent wall to blast at the bird bots behind it.
The wall shattered, and the section of the second floor that it had supported fell in with it.