Skyler and Hannah tracked Emma into the city. While it was dangerous, they were both eager to hear news of their friends. They would have preferred to wear hoodies and jeans, typical Jumper gear, but they would look conspicuous in the heat of summer. So the Coyotes outfitted them to fit in. Skyler had jeans and a T-shirt, and Hannah was assigned shorts and a tank top.
"I feel far too exposed already," Hannah muttered as she and Skyler headed into the city. "Why do you get the jeans?"
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"As much as it greatly depresses me," Skyler said with a smirk as he helped his sister over the fence, "I cannot wear such things without making all the girls flee in terror."
"Skyler, you make them flee in terror already."
"Shots fired!" Skyler pretended to look wounded. "My own sister!"
Hannah laughed as they cautiously slipped into the stream of traffic. Skyler forced his nerves to relax and ignored the voice screaming in his head to get out of there. All they had to do was stay out of trouble. That was all.
As decided, they found Emma a couple blocks from City Hall. They kept their distance, and when she spotted them she walked toward City Hall. Hannah linked her arm through Skyler's and hung on him. As awkward as that was, Skyler swallowed a grimace and pulled her closer, sliding his arm out and taking her hand, swinging it a little and giving her a grin.
"Next time we have to play the boyfriend-girlfriend card you and Wes do it," Skyler said, still grinning.
"Excuse me?" Hannah looked at him. "You and me make a GREAT couple!"
"Eww, Hannah!" Skyler grimaced. Hannah giggled and kissed his cheek.
"You're gonna make some girl either really lucky or really desperate for a way out," she teased. "Come on. We haven't been out just you and me in ages!"
Skyler grinned again and spotted Emma's red hair ahead of them. He reached up to fiddle with his ear, and Hannah pinched him.
"Leave it," she said cheerfully. "The earpiece is fine. Now buy me a lemonade."
Skyler smirked and glanced across the street as Emma headed into City Hall. He and Hannah ducked into a cute little cafe and got a frozen lemonade and a sundae to split. They found a close enough to the window so they could keep an eye on the doors of the Hall.
"Where do you think he'll take her?" Hannah asked.
"I don't know," Skyler murmured. "If he doesn't..."
Skyler didn't really want to finish that sentence. If Emma didn't leave City Hall, that might mean the Jumpers were held prisoner under the Hall. The last time they attempted a break-in, Cody was killed trying to rescue Skyler.
"Hey." Hannah reached over and took his hand. Skyler looked at her. "It's gonna be okay, bro. We'll find them. All of them."
They waited a half hour before their earpieces crackled to life with Darcy's voice.
"Guys, Conway just got a text from Emma. She says she's going underground."
Skyler gripped his spoon. Hannah bit her lip.
"Okay," Skyler murmured. "How does Conway have a phone, anyways?"
"How do I have a laptop? We find this stuff and fix it. Come on back, guys. We can't do anything now until Emma comes back."
"Skyler." Hannah looked at him. "There's nothing we can do now. Just wait and see what Emma says."
Skyler frowned, feeling frustrated and nervous, but he let Hannah lead him out of the cafe back toward the hideout.
For the fifth time, Kip was grinding the links of the handcuffs against a variety of objects, trying to figure out what would work best, when something on the other side of the door beeped. He hurriedly stopped and sat down at the desk chair in his cell.
As cells go, it wasn't too bad. A comfortable bed, a dresser, a desk table and chair. Kip was suspicious, however. Horatio hadn't told him any of his plans, but if they involved such fine living after two years of literal torture, Kip didn't want to hope for the best in this situation.
Emma waited as Horatio entered a passcode, looking away politely, but looking back again when Horatio was busy. She quickly committed them to memory as the machine beeped.
"Now," Horatio said. "He may seem hostile, but I assure you you are very safe."
"Thank you," Emma said. "But, I'm still not sure what we're doing down here, sir."
"You quite possibly saved my nephew, Dr. Kelly," Horatio said as the door slid open. "I was careless and may have been exposed to the virus he caught, and in turn I may have exposed him."
Emma turned as they entered, the guard escorting them in.
Kip looked up at his visitors.
Their eyes locked instantly.
Emma caught back a gasp and gave a minute shake of her head when Kip opened his mouth to speak. It was hard, trying to keep down all of the joy and relief and fear Emma felt. What was he doing here?!
"Dr. Kelly," Horatio said, oblivious to the silent, desperate reunion, "this is Christopher Oliver. He is a criminal, but he and I have... plans, for his future. All I ask is that you confirm he is not ill. I have not seen any symptoms, but you are the doctor here."
"Of course, sir." Emma smiled pleasantly, her alarm rising. "Hello, Mr. Oliver."
Kip stared at Emma, his heart flying into his throat. He swallowed it back into place and gave a short nod. "Hello... Dr. Kelly..." He looked up at her as she set her bag on the desk. Her red hair was pulled back like it always would be whenever she was working. What was she doing here? Of all places?
"May I ask what plans the two of you have?" Emma asked, her voice just barely keeping steady as she ran through the motions of a general checkup. Kip submitted himself to her treatment, re-familiarizing himself with her light, gentle touch. He looked up at her briefly, not hearing her conversation with Horatio.
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"That is confidential, I'm afraid," Horatio said, watching her work. "But he will help me further my progress to what I want. And in return, I give him his freedom."
Kip's brain registered the conversation then. Freedom?
Emma continued to work, her mind racing. "And what is it that you want?"
Kip coughed, muttered a "pardon me." Emma gave him a sharp glare, but a hint of exasperated amusement.
"Victory, sir?" She kept her voice light and amused. "The elections aren't for three months."
Horatio paused for a moment. "Best to start early. Starting on time or late never wins as much as starting early."
"That's true," Emma laughed pleasantly. She had to get out of there before she burst with her whirling emotions. She didn't think she could keep up the act with Kip around. "Well, I think Mr. Oliver is in fine health. I can come back with a vaccine that may help him fight off anything, and for you, if you believe you may have caught what Conway had."
"Thank you, Dr. Kelly." Horatio nodded. "Please, this way. My receptionist has your payment. Won't you join me for a late lunch?"
Kip looked up at them. She was leaving already? Why? Why was she working with him?
Emma's heart nearly broke at the almost desperate look on Kip's face, but she turned her back to him to look at Horatio. That nearly killed her. "Thank you, but I'm afraid--"
"I insist." Horatio smiled. "I know a quaint little cafe just across the street."
Emma's heart skipped a beat in alarm. But she forced herself to stay calm. Skyler and Hannah were clear. Everything would be fine.
Kip looked between them. No. She couldn't leave. Not now. He started to stand, and the guard's gun was leveled at his chest. Emma turned quickly in alarm.
"Sit down, Mr. Oliver." Horatio touched Emma's arm soothingly. Kip saw her just barely suppress a shudder. Kip frowned and sat back down, ignoring the gun still directed at him. Was she working under duress? Was she in trouble? What happened?
"Then I suppose I must accept." Emma smiled brightly. "Do they have a tuna melt? I am very much in the mood for one."
"I think they do," Kip cut in before Horatio could reply, resigning himself to her leaving. "But I haven't been there in a while."
Emma's heart flew at his voice, despite the news their coded discussion brought.
Was he alone?
Yes, he was.
Either Kip just didn't know about the prisoner Jumpers, or he really was alone.
Emma departed with Horatio, risking one last glance at Kip before the door slid shut.