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Skyler again felt antsy. He was cooped up in the hideout while the others stalked Osborne Hayes, and he didn't like it. He needed something to do. Eventually he found employment in training younger Coyotes to jump fences, and trained with Tag to fight. Both activities usually left him sweating and exhausted, but satisfied. It kept his mind and body busy.
Skyler and his friends slowly gathered information on Osborne. He spent a lot of his time in City Hall, but made frequent trips to a storage facility, often with an entourage of Nabbers. But whatever storage unit they accessed, it was too deep among the units and unable to to be watched. Osborne and his group would leave the storage facility shortly after arriving, but no one could figure out what he was doing.
Skyler focused on teaching the younger Coyotes again. Since he couldn't join in on the stakeouts, Skyler kept his mind and body busy with exercise and teaching. He realized how much these kids looked up to him, and it made him a little nervous. Skipper eased his mind when she joined in to help train. Skyler smiled, watching as she demonstrated to the Coyotes what Skyler wanted them to do. She had become quite the expert in it, even though she had spent most of her time in their old mechanic's garage hideout.
And then the world exploded.
A few days later, Emma visited. Skyler was passing the entrance when she came, so he redirected his course and jogged up to her.
"Hey Emma." he smiled as he approached. "Kip's--" Skyler nearly tripped over himself when Emma firmly turned him around and firmly pushed him along with her. "Emma? What's wrong?"
"Get the others," Emma said. "Kip, Hannah, Wes, Tag, and Kate. Now."
Skyler bolted, nervous now. He rounded up his friends and met Emma in one of the shelters. She was pacing, chewing her thumbnail.
"Em?" Kip went forward. "Em, what's wrong?"
"Madi's been arrested," Emma blurted.
Skyler froze and nearly forgot to breathe. Madison? Arrested?
"Why?" Wes finished his thoughts.
"Spreading lies about Horatio." Emma shrugged. "He's caught on to our magazine scheme. She was arrested this morning."
Kip wrapped Emma in a hug, whispering gently to her. Skyler ran a hand through his hair. This couldn't be happening.
"I'll see if Fred can visit her," Wes said. "Make sure she is actually in a prison, and not a cyborg factory."
"Wes!" Hannah glared.
"What?" Wes glared back. "Don't you want to make sure?"
"Tell him to be careful," Kip warned. Wes nodded and looked at Hannah. "Wanna come with?"
"Sure." Hannah nodded. She looked at Skyler. "You gonna be okay?"
"Go on." Skyler smiled. "I'll work on plans to rescue the Jumpers."
Hannah nodded and hurried after Wes. Skyler took a slow breath. He turned and headed off.
"Where are you going?" Kip asked.
"I need to think."
Skyler headed behind the shelters and jumped the fence of the cemetery, landing silently on the other side. He headed deeper into the forest. His heart and his throat felt too tight. He needed to calm down. Madison would be fine. She would.
Skyler swallowed. He could not afford to panic right now. He needed to focus on stopping Hayes from supplying guns, or rescuing his friends.
"Go any further and you'll get lost."
Skyler spun around, pulling out his switchblade. Sitting with his back to a tree was Jonah. Skyler had walked right by him.
"What are you doing out here?" Jonah asked.
"I needed to get away," Skyler replied. "Sorry."
"Nah, s'okay." Jonah scooted over. "I could use company. Everything at camp okay?"
Skyler sat down by Jonah. "Madison's been arrested."
"What?!" Jonah stared at him. "Serious?"
Skyler nodded. "This morning... and I don't know what I'm gonna do. Wes is going to get Fred to visit Madi, but we have to stop Hayes, we need to rescue our friends. Then there's Horatio himself we have to deal with, and whatever reason he wants Hannah and me for--"
"Hey." Jonah pushed him lightly. "Chill. Calm down, breathe, and take it a small step at a time. You're trying to take it all in at once and that's gonna make your head explode. You don't always have to figure stuff out alone, Skyler. It's what you have us for."
Skyler looked at him. Jonah smiled. "Focus on Hayes. We can't do much for Madi right now, so let's work on what we know."
Skyler smiled back. "We just need to get into that storage facility."
"Yeah." Jonah nodded. "Find out what goodies they've got in there."
"Yeah..." Skyler dug his toe into the dirt. "How are you doing?" Skyler felt like a jerk for not having asked earlier, having whined about his own problems and not asked about those of his friend's.
Jonah just shrugged. "Well as anybody would be, I guess. I don't whether to be happy he's okay, or hate him for joining the bad guys."
"We don't know what's going on, Jonah," Skyler said.
"I guess," Jonah said again. "But it's still hard..."
"I know," Skyler said. "But we'll figure it out." He pushed Jonah gently as he stood up. "C'mon. Let's go infiltrate a storage unit."
"What, now?" Jonah blinked. "Skyler, you're not even supposed to--"
"Since when do I follow rules?" Skyler grinned. "I'm sick of hanging around. I need to do something, Jonah. Horatio is busy trying to recover his political image, Madison's been arrested. We need to do something now."
"Dude, Kip's gonna kill you." Jonah followed him back to the cemetery.
"Maybe." Skyler jumped the fence. "But he'll have to catch me--"
"Catch you doing what?" Kate asked. Skyler froze and looked up. Kate stood before him, watching them both.
"Umm." Skyler glanced at Jonah. "Going... out?"
"To where?" Kate crossed her arms.
Skyler sighed. There would be no avoiding Kate. "We're going to the storage unit, to find out what's in it."
Kate nodded. "I'll go with."
"You'll-- what?" Skyler blinked. "Kate--"
"I'm not letting you both run off without help," Kate said. "Skyler, you don't even know what the place looks like, and Jonah's only been a few times. I've watched the place more, and I've scouted around it. You need me."
"You're not gonna tell Kip?"
"I would've told him already if I was," Kate replied. "Now are we going or not?"
"Yeah. Let's go."
They reached the storage facility a little while later. Skyler glanced around the area. They weren't too deep into the city, but they were too close for his Jumper instincts to be at ease. They walked apart from each other at varying distances until they found a quiet spot by the units, then Skyler leaped the fence, grabbing the chain link fencing and pulling himself up to the top. He paused for only a second to catch his breath before twisting and swinging his legs up and over before dropping.
It was growing dark, but Skyler still crouched, shrinking back into shadow and scanning for any security. He gave a soft bird whistle, and a few seconds later he heard the fence rattle slightly and Kate's small frame drop over the other side. Another few seconds after that Jonah dropped over.
Kate took the lead then, taking them down aisles of units. There were so many of them. Any one of them could belong to Hayes. Skyler split off from his friends and headed for the entrance. Maybe there was a chart or file.
The person on duty looked to be closing up for the night. Skyler darted to the wall and peeked in the window. The person on duty was an older man, with a cell phone pinched between his ear and shoulder as he cleaned up and talked.
A strong hand clamped over his mouth and grabbed his arm, pulling him back into deeper shadow. Skyler's yelp was muffled as he struggled. Someone else whacked him over the head.
"What are you doing?!" Jonah hissed. "This was your genius plan to come here. You trying to get us all caught?"
Skyler pulled Jonah's hand away. "We need to figure out which unit is Hayes'. There should be records in there."
Jonah glanced at the window. "Well, how do we get past Grandpa in there?"
"We don't," Kate said. "Back! Back, back, back!"
Skyler grunted when he was pushed backward to the opposite wall from where the door and window were located. He crept to the corner and peered around. He could hear a car engine idling and people taking before the gates opened, screeching and creaking all the way. Skyler ducked back as two cars drove through. They looked more like vans, but heavy duty vans.
"Odds those belong to Hayes?" Jonah asked.
"Let's go find out." Skyler started off. "We can always come back here later."
The trio followed the vans, always staying just enough behind to watch which turn the vehicles made before darting to it. They followed deep into the maze of units until the vans stopped just a little before where Skyler and his friends had entered from.
They watched as several men climbed out, all in black like the Nabbers would wear. Skyler shifted uneasily as he watched Hayes step into the light of the vans. A unit was opened and the men stepped inside. Hayes have an order from the outside, watching them all carefully.
"Gently!" Hayes snapped. "Horatio would like his cyborg munitions to remain intact. He can't very well use them if they're dented."
Skyler felt his whole body tense. He glared as he watched the men load things into the first van, then the second. Hayes then stepped into one of them as the unit door was shut and locked. The vans continued onward and Skyler heard them circle back around on the other side of the unit to head back to the gate.
"Anybody catch the unit number?"
"No," Kate said, staring straight ahead, "but I see it."
They waited a full five minutes before moving. Kate never let her eyes leave the unit, and when they sprinted for it they found the number 77 by it.
"Remember that number," Skyler said. "Kate--"
There was a click, and Kate opened the unit a few inches. She waited, listening for any alarms. Skyler listened for any sound of the vans coming back. When nothing happened, Kate slid the unit door up all the way and they looked inside.