As we walked toward the stairs, I noticed a message in my HUD. It said, “Connection lost.” Everyone near me still showed as green, but everyone else had gone red including Kayla. That meant that we had no backup or any way to tell anyone we needed help. Plus, everyone back at base was probably freaking out now or would be soon.
“Hey,” I said, “We just lost everybody. I’m going to run back into the room and tell them what’s going on.”
“Hurry,” Daniel said.
I gave them a wave as I ran back. The doors to the storage room had locked behind us, so I needed to smash them open in order to go inside. It wasn’t hard.
Leaving the doors lying on the floor behind me, I watched as the connection changed to one bar and everyone’s icons turned green again. This not only included Kayla, but also the Probationers.
The second Kayla’s icon turned green I said, “Control? We’re going into what’s turning out to be a massive underground base. We’re going to lose contact as we go in, so you won’t know what happened until we’re done. On the bright side, we’ve got Blue and Accelerando, so we’re not underpowered.”
Talking a little higher and faster than normal, Kayla said, “Do you have to go down now? Is there any chance you can wait?”
“The Mystic seems to think the sooner, the better. Remember Rook? The guy blew up his base after he lost. There are people that don’t deserve to die down there and from what we’ve seen, it’s not impossible that they’d leave civilians down there to press the self-destruct.”
Kayla let out a breath, “Alright, I’ll send a yellow and call back the jet so we can get people in to help.”
Another voice cut in and The Atoner’s icon blinked, “We’ve nearly finished up in the warehouse. We’ll be able to help sooner than anyone you’ve got at your base.”
“Alright,” I said, wondering if the guy would think differently when he saw the place. “To follow us, go to the lobby. There will be a hole in the floor that opens into a storage room. Go left to follow the stairs down. We’re leaving as soon as I get off the call. “
“Got it. We’ll be right behind you. Out.” The Atoner’s green became paler, indicating that while I could still reach him, he was currently using another channel.
“Gotta go,” I told Kayla, and ran out of the room, turning left to follow the rest of the group. They’d made it to the end of the hall, stopping right next to the doors to the stairwell. Izzy was the last in line, taller than anyone in the group but Daniel. As I came to a stop, she turned to the others, “He’s here. I think we can go.”
We walked down the stairs, turning two times before coming to the third floor down from where we’d started—the one where the walls had windows that started from the concrete floor, going up to the ceiling.
We stopped on the landing, seeing the energy generator, mechs, the long line of platforms that ran up the side of the far wall, and people running around the floor far below. Even more, I heard distant shouts and a murmur of noises that had to be some combination of people and machines.
Looking down the stairs, I noticed one more thing—the scattered, burned bits of my bot. Following the possible paths from where I remembered it had been in the air, I looked up, noticing a large, green, rectangular box that hung above the stairway. It had four circular protrusions arranged equally distant from each other.
There were two other boxes just like it that hung above the stairway. Part of me wondered why they’d put them here, but I supposed that might be a good choice. People will stop to look out a window. You shoot them while they’re distracted.
At about the same time I noticed the boxes, Yoselin said, “I think the boxes are lasers.”
“Makes sense,” Daniel said, angling his head to look down toward the basement. “There’s a choice here. Depending on what we do, it gets harder or easier. I don’t know which for sure, but if we break the windows and fly straight down, avoiding the stairway, we at least avoid the lasers.”
“Huh,” I said, “we could. I don’t like how that puts us flying down the side of the wall in plain view of everyone down there, but I also don’t like how running down the stairs means dodging lasers.”
Jaclyn frowned, her eyes darting between the stairway and the massive drop outside the windows. “I think we can make dropping work. Blue and I can go first. She can carry me down or I’ll run down the wall. Either way, we can get down there before anyone can do anything. Then while they’re distracted, the rest of you fly down.”
“That’s not a bad idea,” I said. “How do you guys think we should handle it down there? I’ve got someone I need to find and obviously we’ve got to get anyone we can out of the Nine’s clutches, but with regards to the tech, even though I’d like to look at it, I’m half-tempted to destroy anything we can since anything we don’t trash is something the Nine can use later.”