Alan bent over the two operators’ unconscious bodies, pulling their walkie talkies off their utility belts. He tossed one to Marshall, who caught it.
“I almost thought you weren’t going to come,” Marshall admitted.
Alan chuckled, unbuttoning the shirt of the lanky blonde-haired man, and tossing it to Marshall.
“I hope this fits,” Alan joked.
“It’s… snug,” Marshall groaned, as the buttons felt like they might pop off. The pants were the same story; the same length, but the width was a little constrictive. Marshall looked down at the walkie talkie in his hand.
“What channel are we on?”
“Eleven,” Alan replied, finishing up with his clothes. “I think their security is always on seven.”
“You know, you didn’t mention you could move things with your mind. I thought you were a magnet?”
Alan looked up, “I didn’t know I could either. That was part of my sentence. They thought I was lying.”
Marshall shrugged, “What’s next?”
“I noticed teleportation messes with the magnetic fields. That’s why the never put cameras in here. Would’ve just shorted them out every time. But the rest of the place has eyes and ears. We’ll sneak around better in these uniforms. You’re going to A block to break Castor and Nick out. It’ll be a left fork in the road once we get out of here. I’ll go to B block to find Athena. We’ll try to meet up at the exit and get a teleporter to get us out of here.”
“Okay,” Marshall nodded.
“Give me a hand here,” Alan said, and they pulled the two operators to the side of the central room, away from the doorway. Marshall clapped his hands together, as if dust had collected from the work. Alan chuckled a little, and pointed at the almost seamless wall off to their right.
“The door’s right there. Are you ready?”
Marshall nodded, adjusting his new, tight uniform.
“I feel dirty in this thing, but, yeah, I’m ready.”
Alan walked up to the wall and the doorway split open with a soft whooshing noise. The metallic hallway seemed so much longer now that Alan wasn’t being dragged through it by the guards. Alan swallowed the lump in his throat, and led Marshall on their first steps down the hall. Alan could hear every boot step clang on the metal-grated floors, the sound rattling hollow in his ears. Alan cleared his throat as they reached the A block fork.
“Well, this is you,” Alan said. Marshall nodded.
“Good luck, kid.”
Alan watched Marshall turn the corner and begin the long walk down the A block corridor. Alan was finally aware he might be looking at his friend for the last time, a sinking weight in his gut. He shook off the feeling, exhaled a deep breath, and continued on his long trek to the B block.
The hallway felt a lot longer without Marshall standing next to Alan. The hallway was lonely, and Alan was left with his thoughts. Athena. Castor. Nick. They were all casualties of a war that Alan couldn’t quite understand yet. Alan didn’t really know how things had gotten so bad for people like him. The events of the past few years had been a blur, with announcements from the federal news flashing warning signs here and there. But really, Alan had been absent-minded and content in his relationship with Elizabeth. Like a satellite, Alan had orbited Elizabeth. Now, he was in retrograde, burning up in the atmosphere. And it felt exhilarating.
During his time in B block, Alan knew that most of the guards took the maintenance hall, which ran a full circle around the central hub where the Department met. It was a way for guards and other workers to get around without having to interrupt meetings or get locked out of their blocks during Department meetings. Alan was going to use it to find a shortcut from the hub to B block, and, hopefully, find Athena.
Alan swiped his badge across the maintenance hatch, and the doorway slid open. The hall was an endless curve. It was a little disorienting at first, but Alan found his footing staring at the floor. It didn’t take long to reach the hatch leading into the B block hallway.
Alan’s boots, which were a tad loose for his taste, clanged onto the B block metal floor and echoed down the hall. The cells were filled with different people. But no Athena. Alan walked back down the hall, and found one of the first inmates.
“Where’s the girl?”
“The traitor?” the man asked smugly, with a deep chuckle in his throat.
“Yeah. The traitor,” Alan said, his voice clearly annoyed.
“Man, I don’t know where she went, but I know where she ain’t,” the inmate waved his hands around. He stood up from his cot, and looked Alan in the eye. “Wait, a minute.”
“Tell me where she went, and I’ll bust you out of here,” Alan said, his voice stern with purpose. The lights strobed and finally died, bathing the hall in a red hue. It reminded Alan of Athena and his previous escape. Marshall must’ve started commotion in A block.
The inmate gave a skeptical glance at the lighting, then at Alan. He cleared his throat and pressed his face to the thick, bullet-proof glass. The inmate shook his head, finally making his decision.
“They took her to C block, man. I don’t think you got a chance; but if you make it, I’ll be right here.”
Alan nodded, and ran off to find Athena in C block.
Marshall grimaced as he sent an A block guard into the metal wall across from the cells, knocking him out cold. Another guard pulled his assault rifle and watched the bullets rip through Marshall’s uniform, then glance off Marshall’s impervious skin. Marshall’s strength ran all the way down to the marrow, a miraculous feat shared by most strength-based mutations. Marshall grabbed the rifle out of the guard’s hands and smashed the metal down like it was clay, letting the pieces rattle as they fell on the metal floor.
Marshall grabbed the guard and gently knocked him on the helmet, causing the guard to pass out instantly. It took a lot of practice to be careful with his abilities, but now it was second nature.
“Marshall? Damn, it’s good to see you,” Castor shouted from his cell. “I told Nick you guys would come back for us.”
“Where is Nick?” Marshall looked around.
“They re-assigned him to a foundry, smelting or some nonsense. Where’s the kid?”
“He’s looking for Athena,” Marshall said.
“Athena’s here too. What a reunion we got going. The control panel’s over there, boss.”
Marshall walked over to the guard post, which had a large electrical panel, a metal desk with a computer and a stack of paperwork sitting on it.
“Just flip the switch, and I can get us out of here,” Castor assured Marshall. Marshall nodded, and grabbed the switch on the electrical panel, just as another guard came in.
Unfortunately, the guard was strong like Marshall. He grabbed Marshall by the arm, and wrenched him into the A block doorway. Marshall could feel his body aching as he peeled himself off the metal wall, leaving a Marshall-sized dent in it. But as soon as he pulled himself off, the guard shoved Marshall right back into the wall.
“Stand down!” the guard shouted as he slammed Marshall’s head into the wall again. And again. Marshall could feel his head was starting to get warm, blood definitely trickling down the side of his face. “Stand down – gah!”
Castor’s red-hot hand grabbed the guard’s right shoulder and pulled him off of Marshall, who then slid onto the floor. The guard turned into the momentum and shoved Castor to the ground.
“Get back in your cell, now!”
“Screw you,” Castor groaned, as he tried picking himself up. The guard shoved Castor again, this time sending him into the back wall near the guard post. Castor winced as his left arm – still aflame – melted through the wall near the electrical panel. Castor tried to bring his arm back out of the wall, but could feel it catch on the metal, so he gave up.
“That’s what I thought,” the guard taunted, as he stood over Castor’s body.
“Yeah, yeah. Big tough guy,” Castor joked.
“Ahem,” Marshall cleared his throat, and the guard turned around to haymaker to the face. Total Knock Out. Marshall picked the guard up and – using his eye beams – welded the guard’s outline to the wall.
“I’d clap, but – ya know,” Castor nodded to his arm tangled in the metal, “You seem to have found your calling, boss.”
“Shut up,” Marshall joked, and ripped the metal away around Castor’s arm. “That better, you big baby?”
Castor rolled his eyes, and pulled his bleeding arm out of the giant hole in the wall. Castor looked at the electrical panel then the hole.
“I have an idea.”
“I’m listening,” Marshall replied.
Castor’s hands glowed white-hot. He followed the electrical panel wiring back into the hole. Castor concentrated, the heat traveling down the wires through the wall, and out of the room. Marshall could see the line of heat glowing as it traveled around the room where the electrical wire was placed.
“What’re you doing?”
“Sending a shock to the electrical grid,” Castor replied through clenched teeth. He pushed even further and the wire started melting around his hand. The metal wall started to warp, bowing under the extreme heat. Lights began to strobe, then died, bathing the pair in a red light. “That should buy us a little more time.”
Guards in tactical gear passed Alan as they ran toward the source of all the commotion. The light was still dimly red, and Alan used the panic to sneak his way into C block’s usually secure gateway. Alan could tell its construction was a large circular room like the hub, but it was made up of small labs stitched together with a honeycomb of hallways. And like the hub, C block had a circular hall running along the outside of the block.
Unlike the rest of the wings, C block was bathed in sickly fluorescent light still.
Alan looked back through the doorway and saw that B block was still blood-red. He wondered if C block ran on its own power source for a reason. Alan shrugged, and made his way down the central hall that bisected the circular complex. He stood at the intersection and saw that the detention area was down to the right. But Alan’s gut told him the large ‘Special Projects’ sign on his left would be where Athena was being held for the neural data mine.