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Wes watched Conway and the other Coyotes and Jumpers carefully. He and Tag had already had to prevent two of the Coyotes from clobbering Conway's head in. The Jumpers just looked confused, then alarmed when Conway summarized his story. Everyone protested when Wes proposed their next plan.
Wes began to wonder if this was how Skyler felt, being in charge. Or at least feeling like it. A lot of pressure and weight went with every action or word. Tag was probably older than Wes, but their group looked to Wes for the next step. Wes hated it, but what choice did he have? It had been his grand idea to go back, so he had to follow through. It didn't make being relied upon to make the decisions any easier, but it helped that Tag took some of the load too. Even Grace helped. Wes and Tag were the motivational ones. Grace was the soothing presence. She came with a side of kick-butt attitude, but still.
"So we just follow him in?!" A Coyote said. "What if it's a trap?"
"But what if it's not?" Wes countered. "Guys, Conway has been your leader for ages. Yeah, he's a lying jerk, but why would he come back, alone, if he wasn't telling the truth?"
"Uhh, to lure us in?"
"Wouldn't it be easier to pick us off out here than hunt for us in the city?" Wes replied, trying to stay calm. "I'm not saying let's all jump in and trust him again--"
"I'm right here, you know."
"Shut up. Anyways, I'm not saying that, I'm saying he's got our best bet at getting us in." Wes looked at Conway. "Alright, time for some details on this plan."
"Getting in through the front will be best," Conway said. "I can swipe some security passes for you to get you down below."
"What about that secret entrance Horatio has?"
"Yeah, you don't want to do that. He's got cameras on that place. One sight of anybody not a guard and he knows. Through the front, we can trickle in, or pretend to be a school group. Those are always coming in. But we'll want to move fast. Some of us take the stairs, and others take the special elevator."
"Won't they shut down the elevator?"
"Pffth, have you not met Darcy?" Conway grinned. "She's gonna be key here. Have her make the power flash or go dark for a few minutes while you guys are in there. The guards will probably be looking for incoming threats while the place is vulnerable, not threats already inside."
"So what do we do when we're in the lab?"
"We get them out of there."
At their rendezvous with the others, Wes relayed this new plan. Kate looked as cold as one of her knives and said nothing. Darcy only nodded, looking less excited than Wes expected. Conway had gone ahead to fetch them their passes, but when he came back, his face was pale.
"What?" Wes asked immediately. "What's wrong?"
"We have a bit of a problem," Conway said, his voice was small and quiet.
Conway started to speak, but Kate marched over and slapped him. Wes cried out in alarm and jumped forward, but Tag beat him to it and pulled her back.
"Kate, this is a really bad time!" Wes hissed. "We can pick fights later!"
Kate glared at Conway, but said nothing. Conway righted himself, touching his cheek gingerly. "My uncle has unveiled the cyborgs."
Wes stared at him. "What do you mean, unveiled?"
"He's gone public," Conway said. "Just now on the news. He's introduced them as this city's next generation of security. He even hinted at going out to the entire province."
"How did the public take it?" Wes asked, incredulous.
"No riots in the streets." Conway shrugged. "At least not yet. The cyborgs in the streets might have put a damper on any uprising."
"They're already out?!"
"If it seems inefficient to wait for anything, my uncle won't wait. I saw at least five on my way back here."
"Skyler and Hannah…?"
"They're not cyborgs," Conway assured him. "I texted Claire, who said our uncle was going to wait for their processing until he was sure they were ready for it. And, he's angry with Skyler…"
"He's going to torture them." Wes paled. He felt sick at the idea of Hannah being hurt.
Conway nodded. "But not to the point of crippling them. They've got a blood type he needs, so he wants them--"
"Back up. Blood type?"
"I'll explain on the way. We're wasting time here." Conway looked at the others. "You found everyone…?"
"Yeah." Wes nodded. "All the Jumpers, and all of your Coyotes. Not one left behind. Except Skyler and Hannah…"
"That's not your fault, Wes," Conway said. "Don't do that to yourself. Focus on getting them out. We need to work fast and hit hard."
Skyler, between the occasional throbs of pain, had watched the cyborg unveiling with horror on a screen in the corner. He had seen cyborgs only once before, long ago. And today they still looked as repulsive as they had then, but the skin wasn't inflamed. The transition between flesh and metal looked cleaner, smoother. It was still sickening, but Skyler couldn't deny they looked brutal and powerful. Many had Hayes' guns equipped in place of hands.
That's when Skyler learned about the master button.
He had been fighting back a wave of pain (Horatio had "neglected" to give him something to relieve the pain) when Hannah called his attention to the screen. A reporter had just asked what plans were in place if the cyborgs became uncontrollable, like a technical bug.
"We have every precaution in place," Horatio said. "But in cases of extreme emergencies, I have a device that, when pressed, will shut down the cyborgs immediately."
Skyler tried to think about this. A master button. It could shut down the cyborgs.
"We need that," he gasped. Even talking hurt. Hannah looked at him sadly.
"Take it easy," she said. "We need to get out of here first and get you that pain killer stuff."
"Screw the pain killer." Skyler pulled at the restraints. "I'll be fine. We need that button." He had to stop frequently with each small wave of pain. They worked at it for a long time, but got nowhere.
Skyler yelled in frustration, slamming his head back against the stiff hospital bed mattress. Hannah looked at him. "Breathe, little brother. We're gonna be okay."
"No we won't, Hannah!" Skyler snapped. "We're trapped here! We have no way out, and no way of telling the others where we are! We don't even know if they got away!"
"Don't talk like that." Hannah shook her head. "We can't give up so soon, Skyler."
Skyler glared at the ceiling. Hannah went on. "We have to have hope. We got a lot of them out before we were seen. Skyler, we got our friends out of there. After two years of searching, we did it. You did it." She watched him. "Don't give up now. My little brother would never give up."
Skyler kept silent. He swallowed and looked at her. "I'm really scared, Hannah…"
"I am too." Hannah nodded. "But what will a little hope hurt? You have a lot of it, even though you try to hide it, or call it determination. It's still hope. You're optimistic, so start acting like it."
Skyler nodded and looked around the room. "Well, short of scooting these beds out to the hall, we could break our wrists--"
"Okay, let's not confuse hope with desperation just yet."
Horatio watched, pride and pleasure swelling in his chest, as his cyborgs took up their positions in the streets. They were glorious: powerful, intimidating, ready for action, easily controlled. Simply glorious. He was eager to begin his conquest, but he knew he needed to take it a step at a time. There was no rush. The cyborgs had been received fairly well. They would stand and be available to the public to view and grow accustomed to. He had only released the cyborgs made of the homeless or orphaned, so there was little to no fear of them being recognized. After that, perhaps a week or two, Horatio would begin. He would slowly work his way outward. He would get what he wanted.
This time, there was no Skyler Pelton to stand in his way. Not even the Fence Jumpers and their new friends could stop him now. The Peltons would be at the head of his conquest.