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Skyler stared at Wes. The older boy shifted uneasily.
"Fred's been arrested. What else do you want me to say?" Wes shrugged. "One of his pals saw it happen. He's been connected to the correctional facility break-out. His name was on the visitor's list there, and when he visited Madison the other day."
Skyler frowned. "This isn't good, Wes--"
"You think I don't know that?" Wes snapped. "Fred knows where we're at. If Horatio interrogates him, we're really screwed."
Skyler ran a hand through his hair. "What do we do? We don't have anywhere else to go. But if we leave Victor and his people will be caught and questioned, or worse."
"I say we get our butts in gear and start hitting back," Wes said. "You and I both want to get moving, so why not now? Let's start being the ones on offensive. No more of this snap out and hurry back and hide. We hit, and we hit hard and we don't back down."
"And I'm with you on that," Skyler said, "but it's everyone else we need to convince. Kip's not going to go for it, and we still need to find a lab for Emma. Who knows how long it's going to take to make the antidote?"
"Skyler, we probably outnumber Horatio's Nabbers." Wes crossed his arms. "With those guns we filched, we could hold hold them off a long time. Horatio's not gonna call in help from the outside. His secret would be out faster than anything."
Skyler frowned, thinking. "We're going to have to do a lot of arguing with them."
"Ehh, we'll manage." Wes smirked. "Arguing and conflict is what we're good at."
Skyler grinned. "Well, let's find people who agree with us. The more hasty idiots we have, the more presence we'll have."
"Cool. I'll go find Skipper."
"Absolutely not!" Skyler stared at him. "I'm not letting her anywhere near--"
"Skyler she's like your shadow. There's no keeping her out of the loop when you're in it." Wes rolled his eyes. "So you go and find Darcy. We'll save Hannah and Kip for last."
Skyler was startled at how easy it was to convince Darcy. Under her computer-whiz personality she was impatient to do something again. No more lurking and plotting.
Unfortunately, Hannah found out as they were slowly "recruiting." She couldn't find Wes, so she cornered Skyler.
"What do you think you're doing?" Hannah demanded.
"What?" Skyler looked at her, feigning innocence. "I'm just--"
"Do not play stupid with me." Hannah glared. "You don't sneak around talking to people quietly for no reason."
"You saw that?"
"Kind of hard not to."
Skyler took a breath, then explained. Hannah stared at him, her eyes wide. "Are you nuts?! Skyler this is ridiculous! We have no plan, no lab--"
"I know," Skyler hissed, grabbing her arm and pulling her into a corner. "I know. But what choice do we have? We're waiting too long. We either sit around and antagonize Horatio and eventually get caught, or go after him with all the force we can muster, even if we get caught."
"Skyler, Mom and Dad would kill you."
"They'd understand," he said. "They would. They know what we're doing is dangerous." Skyler looked at her. "We've come this far, Hannah. We're so close. Won't you help? You and me?" Skyler smiled. "It's been you and me from day one in this mess. I want this mess to end the same way."
Hannah smiled and took his hand. "You and me, little brother. Always."
A small smirk twitched at Skyler's lips. "What about Wes?"
Hannah gasped and punched him. Skyler staggered back, laughing. "You're a jerk, Skyler."
"But you know it's true." Skyler grinned, ducking away from another swing. "Alright, stop stop!" Hannah paused her attack, watching him with narrowed eyes. Skyler relaxed on the teasing. "He's still an idiot sometimes, but I'm glad you like him. I'm glad you have someone."
Hannah blushed. "You are?"
"Yeah." Skyler nodded. "You've taken care of me all this time. You deserve someone who can take care of you."
Hannah's eyes narrowed at him again. "You're trying to get me to agree to your stupid plans."
"What? Never!" Skyler laughed. "But is it working?"
"Yes." Hannah hugged him. "Just be careful. Wes or no Wes, I can't lose you."
"You too." Skyler hugged her back. "Not again..."
By the time Kip got wind of the scheming, it was already too late. He was outnumbered, and he gave in. Victor heard of their plans and offered to help.
"Horatio's expecting just kids," he said. "He won't be expecting us adults. Scruffy ones, mind, but we'll catch him off guard. I'll bet you that Fred fellow's gang would help us out too."
"Quite possibly," Kip agreed. "But we just need a--"
"Found it!" Emma burst into the shelter where they had congregated. Everyone jumped. Emma's face was flushed and smiling. "I found one! It's perfect!"
"Where?" Kip came over. "Did you run all this way?"
"What? No, I drove." Emma kissed his cheek. "The Schelznik Laboratory at the west side of the city. They have the equipment and most of the ingredients I need, but I snagged the rest from the hospital I'm at. Those won't be missed."
"Great!" Skyler grinned. "Because we're going to get it right now."
"Sorry?" Emma blinked. "Now? You haven't even--"
"Now as in very soon," Kip corrected. "We'll scope out the place and head in right away. These kids are impatient to get started."
Emma looked at the Jumpers and Coyotes present. "Just be careful. All of you."
The stakeout was fast and easy. Breaking into a lab seemed loads easier than a criminal correctional facility or City Hall. All of the Jumpers and Coyotes were going except for the very youngest. They would be hiding out deeper in the forest to wait for the others. Wes was able to recruit several friends of Fred's to join them, and as predicted they all had their own guns.
The stolen guns were distributed amongst the Jumpers and Coyotes and the homeless men. Most of the kids didn't know how to use them, but Tag, Wes, and Skyler made sure they at least looked like they knew what they were doing.
That night, they prepared to head out. There would be two groups. The first group would be the invasion team. They would step in and take over. The second group would mostly help Emma, or stand guard closeby if the first group was broken through.
Skyler was in the first group with Hannah and Wes. Tag would be leading that one, as he had at the correctional facility. Skyler checked and rechecked his pistol, and helped a few girls load theirs. He looked up when he heard Grace's voice calling a greeting.
And watched as she and Tag met halfway across the nearly cleared-out cemetery to kiss.
Skyler felt as if his heart had just dropped into his gut and been punched. He stared as they talked. Tag watched her, his eyes intense but gentle. He nodded and she kissed him again. Skyler looked away, stung.
"Hey," Kate's voice made him jump. "Easy there. You okay?"
"Yeah, what's up?" Skyler turned to her, flicking one last glance at Tag and Grace. Kate followed his eyes.
"They hit it off well when they met." Kate shrugged. "You didn't--"
"Is there something you needed, Kate?" Skyler interrupted too sharply. He winced. "Sorry."
"Delivering a message," Kate replied carefully. "You sure you're gonna be okay with this? With Tag?"
Kate could see right through him. "Yeah. I'll be fine."
"Whom she likes is her business, not mine," Skyler muttered. "I had never said anything to her about it, so it's my fault."
"I really don't want to do this right now Kate." Skyler looked at her. "Please. Not now. What's the message?"
"Oh, right. Your parents are helping."
"What?!" Skyler stared. "Since when did that happen?"
"Since I don't know," Kate replied. "Your dad's shuttling all of us in his semi and to the back, like he's making a delivery."
Skyler nodded. He pocketed his switchblade and holstered his pistol, making sure the safety was on. "When's he getting here?"
"We're going to him," Kate said. "We'll head out now, and he will drive out of Cinci and back around in closer to the lab."
Skyler followed just behind Tag as they crept to the idling semi. Skyler lifted a hand in greeting to his dad, who waved back as Skyler passed. Jumpers and Coyotes clambered into the empty semi, withdrawing into the barely lit darkness before the doors closed and swallowed them in complete darkness. Skyler was sitting between Hannah and a Coyote boy when his dad started driving, making his roundabout way back into Cincinnati. He shivered nervously.
"We'll be okay," Hannah whispered, her hand finding his. "So many of us can't be beaten easily. It'll give Emma enough time to make the antidote and we go."
"Hope so." Skyler leaned against her. "But it'll take a while to make it..."
"Maybe, but we'll hold down the fort until she's done," Hannah said. "You'll see. Horatio's never beaten us before. He won't expect us going to a lab of all places. He'll have security busy everywhere else."
Skyler smirked. "We're not as predictable as he thinks."
"Eh, shows how much more clever we are."