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Skyler led the way to the hideout. Adrenaline spiked through him, and he tried to calm down. He needed to keep a clear head. They would be fine.
It felt weird, traveling the familiar streets to their hideout. It was a rather long way from the Coyote hideout, so they had to spend the night in various buildings in small groups before regrouping and traveling the rest of the way. They made it by late afternoon, but stopped a couple blocks away. Skyler, Wes, and Kate approached the warehouse cautiously. It felt weird, coming back after so long. Skyler knew he shouldn't, but he felt safe under the old, rusting roof among the support beams and the catwalk where Jumpers would keep watch in the shadows.
The place was empty, so Skyler headed for the entrance to the old hideout. The trash and garbage covering up the trapdoor that led to it had been tossed aside, and the trapdoor was wide open, a thick layer of dust all around.
"Is it supposed to be open?" Kate asked.
"Probably," Skyler replied. "The Nabbers probably left it open the day they found us."
"So Horatio knows where this place is?" Kate hissed.
"Yeah, but who would be stupid enough to come back?" Wes smirked. "Oh wait, we are. Live a little."
Kate glared at him. Skyler stepped carefully, making his way down the old steps into the dark tunnel. He reached out and touched the wall, smiling when he felt the dusty Christmas lights that still hung there.
"Lights are still here," Skyler whispered up. "If we can find a generator or something, we can have light."
"We can sneak back to our place and take the solar panels," Kate said.
"Those things are heavy, though," Skyler whispered in dismay.
"Still more affordable than a generator."
"We can discuss power sources later," Wes whispered. "Let's see what the Nabbers left behind for us, and if we have out root out any unwanted inmates."
The trio silently made their way through the tunnels, flashlight beams shining down others briefly as they came to the main cavern. Kate whistled softly as her light roved over the cavern.
"Welcome to our hideout," Wes said. "A bit dark and drab, but it grows on you."
Skyler headed down a tunnel to the boys' cave. The beds were all still there, and the little room with all of the clothes were there too. The girls' cave was the same. It appeared that the Nabbers only grabbed the Jumpers and left everything else. Kate went off alone and explored the tunnels, and came back satisfied.
"Yo," Wes called to Skyler as they were rummaging through various items. Skyler turned in time to catch a small device. "Your precious toy."
Skyler looked at the device. He remembered filching it from the factory when an executive had foolishly forgotten it. No one had been able to make it work, and it was put aside.
"You think Darcy could get into this?" Skyler asked.
"I think she would have a heyday trying," Wes said. "That girl is a total nerd, Skyler. She can probably crack anything."
Kate's light joined theirs. "Should we bring everyone in? The tunnels look clear."
"Yeah." Skyler nodded. "We need the hands. We have a bit of work to do to make sure this place stays safe and defensible."
The Coyotes and Jumpers got to work. They blocked up all but the main entrance and the emergency exit the Jumpers had used to escape the Nabbers. Space was a little bit tight, but everyone was nicely settled. Watches were made up, and everyone began to relax a little more.
Then they began to make plans. They would watch the back entrance into Horatio's underground lab for an opportunity to rescue Kip, and somehow prepare to attack if they had to. That meant finding weapons. The Coyotes had a handful firearms, but not nearly enough to launch an attack, and not many kids actually knew how to properly use them.
They also needed more manpower. A bunch of young adults and kids wouldn't hold out against fully trained adults for long. If they couldn't find skill, they would have to make up for it in numbers.
"Let's rest and calm down a bit before we launch into a warpath," Conway said. "We're all high on adrenaline and fear and we don't need that during any sort of strategic planning. We're tired, and it's only going to make us fight with each other."
"Is Horatio going to wait?" Wes asked. "No. He's going to keep pounding on our doorstep. It's time we returned the favor."
"We're going to lose more of us if we blindly rush in," Conway said. "He's got some of us. He's probably going to spend a little while trying to get information before he sends his cronies back out."
"All the more reason to not wait!" Wes exclaimed. "We can't give him time to find us again. We don't have anywhere else to go."
"Wes," Hannah said gently. "We need to rest. We're exhausted and emotionally drained right now. Some of us are physically hurt. None of us are in any condition to be making such big decisions right now."
"Guys, Skyler snapped. "We can't do this right now. If we keep fighting each other Horatio's going to take us out before we have time to realize what happened. I want to plan right now too, but we need to rest."
"You're one to talk," Wes muttered. Skyler glared at him.
"I was shot by one of their tranq guns a few weeks ago. I wouldn't be here if Emma hadn't come out to stop them from hauling me off. I had planned recklessly then, but I was lucky and had help."
"You had no plan, stupid," Wes grunted.
"I'm just saying none of us might get that lucky again," Skyler said. "No plan nearly got me captured. A plan made when we're exhausted and emotionally compromised is going to have holes, and we can't afford to do that." Skyler looked at Wes. "We rest. Then we plan. Use as little power as we can to avoid detection, and keep watch."
Wes glared, but he said nothing. Everyone looked up when Darcy came in.
"Ooh, nice room." Darcy looked around. "Is this the super secret war room?"
"Kip's bedroom." Skyler smiled. "Have you rested?"
"Do you think I could rest when there's so much to do here?" Darcy grinned. Skyler gave her a funny look. "Yessss, I rested. I actually slept an hour and a half. Happy?"
"Eh, enough." Skyler reached for the exec's device and tossed it to her. "Think you can crack that?"
"I can try." Darcy's eyes were focused on the device. "I'll need time to do it properly so it won't set off any alarms or protective data wipes."
Skyler nodded. "Good luck."
Darcy grinned like a girl at Christmas and hurried away.
"You're her new best friend, Skyler," Conway laughed. "I'm gonna lose my Coyotes to Jumpers at this rate."
"It's my natural charm," Skyler replied. "But that reminds me: How many Coyotes do you think would be interested in a little bit of Fence Jumper 101? Who knows what we'll be facing, so we all know how to make fast escapes. Fences don't make them fast, but they shouldn't be able to make them impossible."
"I think quite a lot of us," Conway said. "I'll recommend it to all of them, if you guys are willing to teach."
Skyler nodded. "After we've rested."
The hideout was silent with sleep that night. Everyone slept deeply, and far into the next morning. Conway went into the city to deliver messages to Madison and Emma, letting them know where they were and how many of them had been taken. Skyler and Grace took a handful of Coyotes, of all ages, to the park. They started them on the smaller fence and directed how to best jump. It felt nice, jumping fences for the fun of it. Not rushing, simply vaulting over the fence and only having to land in one place instead of taking off at a run.
Most of the Coyotes were quick learners, and some of the older ones were already trying out the taller fence. Grace coordinated them while Skyler continued to tutor the ones still at the small fence. It felt good being able to teach people these things, the things he felt were vital to survival. He remembered Cody teaching him, and he used Cody's teaching with the Coyotes.
These are your kids now. Skyler smiled at the thought. Cody had always thought of the other Jumpers as his siblings, and now Skyler knew the feeling. They were family. They were his family.
"You looked a lot like Cody over there," Grace said during a break. She passed him his water bottle, and he downed two huge gulps before smiling.
"I use what he's taught me," he said. He watched a couple younger Coyotes tackle the tall fence. "And hope I did well."
"You are doing well." Grace looked at him. "You're giving these guys a fighting chance. You saw some of them. Fence jumping isn't in the Coyote gene pool. You've put it there." She smiled. "You made Cody a part of their lives, too."
Skyler smiled slightly, digging the toe of his sneaker into the dirt. He looked up when Grace leaned against him.
"You're like Cody in a lot of ways," she murmured. "You never gave up on me. He wouldn't have either."
"Cody never gave up on anyone." Skyler smiled. "Not if he could help it. I'm still debating giving up on Wes."
Grace laughed. "Cut him some slack. He's a jerk, but you can count on him."
"I know." Skyler nodded. "I've had his back for the past two years... I probably wouldn't be around otherwise."
"See?" Grace smiled gently. "Wes is a good guy. And he likes your sister."
Skyler groaned. "Yeah, I know. It's disgusting. I'm pretty sure she doesn't return the feeling."
"Mmm, I think she does," Grace laughed. "I've seen them look at each other. And last night, the way Hannah spoke to him. She knows how he works." She laughed again. "Well don't look so distraught! It's not a bad thing!"
"But how did I not see that?" Skyler asked. "Why didn't she tell me?"
"She doesn't have to tell you everything, Skyler. She's an adult. So are you. You guys don't have to share everything. I'm sure whatever it is between them they'll be careful. They know that takings things too far is not what we need right now."
"They'd better know," Skyler grunted. "Or else Wes is getting a bat to the face."
Grace rolled her eyes. "I don't think you can stop them from liking each other. Just be there if she needs a friendly ear to listen to her. Don't get so caught up in planning that you aren't there for her. You've had her to listen to you, now she's gonna need you."
Wes and Hannah themselves showed up a little later with a new group of Coyotes, so Skyler and Grace took their group back to the hideout. Skyler glanced over his shoulder at them, but Wes was busy trying to retain some order among their younger pupils while Hannah tested the fences.
"Good job today." Grace gave Skyler a side-hug when they returned home. "You're a good teacher."
"You too," Skyler replied, watching her walk away. He smiled, but then frowned, trying to place the feeling inside him. It didn't take him long to realize what it was. He liked Grace, as more than just a friend.
An excited shout from Darcy pulled him from those thoughts. He turned in time to see her running to him.
"I did it!" she cried. "I hacked it! And you're gonna want to see what I found."