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The semi stopped moving. Everyone began to stir and whisper until someone near the doors shushed them. Skyler shifted into a crouch and peered toward the doors, where Victor and the other homeless men sat with Fred's shady friends.
They heard voices. Skyler recognized his dad's voice and started to stand, but Hannah grabbed his arm.
"No one move," she whispered.
Skyler's eyes went wide when he heard alarmed voices, and then silence. The bolt on the semi doors was shoved back and the doors opened.
"Come on," Arnold whispered. "Somebody give me a hand with these two."
"What did you do?!" Skyler looked at two unmoving security guards. "Dad--"
"Relax, they're just unconscious," his father assured him. "Get moving."
"Thank you, sir," Kip said."You and your wife should get away from here. Get out of the city."
"If our children stay, we stay," Arnold said firmly. "We won't leave them again."
Skyler smiled. Hannah hugged him before they snuck inside through the back door. The lab they needed was on the second floor, but they needed to cover all three floors. They split into three groups and each took a floor. Skyler, Hannah, and Wes were among the group to cover the second floor.
"Four nerds in there," Wes whispered, peeking around a corner to a one-way window that looked into the lab. "This'll be fun."
Hannah cocked her gun. "Let's steal a lab."
They ran into their first problem right away: the door required a keycard.
"Well now what?" Wes frowned at the offending security. Skyler pushed past and pounded on the door. A younger Coyote scurried to the one-way window.
"They're all looking at the door," he reported. "Do it again!"
Skyler did. He jumped when an older Coyote shouted, "FBI. Open up!"
One Coyote snapped at him for being stupid.
"They're hurrying to clean up!" The Coyote at the window laughed. One of them's at the door!"
"Back, back!" Skyler hissed. The kids parted on either side. A moment later the door slid into the wall, revealing a frazzled man. Skyler stepped up, pistol raised. "Hi. We want your lab."
Kip was at the door of the lobby to greet Emma as she and Grace hurried in.
"Hi." he kissed her, forcing himself not to linger. "Your team's waiting upstairs."
"You guys were fast," Emma said.
"Eh, I think it helps when we're not invading a government building." Kip grinned. "How much time do you need?"
"For one batch? Four hours."
"We have all night." Kip grinned. "No one's raised an alarm we know of, so it's all yours."
"I'll work fast," she promised and hurried to the stairs.
Skyler turned as Emma and Grace entered. He avoided Grace's eyes and looked at Emma. "We put the scientists in a closet down the hall. They're guarded, and so is everyone else on this floor."
"Thanks." Emma nodded. "I need everyone but Grace out. Knock on the window if we have a problem."
The next few hours were spent waiting, they herded any people they had into a small room, keeping close watch. Sure enough, even just the appearance of knowing how to use a gun gave the Coyotes and Jumpers an advantage. No one challenged their dominance. The adults were a bonus, because most of them actually did know how to use one.
Skyler began to grow impatient. He watched as Emma worked inside the lab, often consulting a white board covered in formulas that made no sense to him. Grace hurried around wherever Emma directed and sometimes wrote notes and showed them in front of the window, indicating their progress.
They worked late into the night. A few Jumpers found a shift chart, and learned the morning shift was coming in soon. This was communicated, and Emma packed up their three batches of antidote and very carefully had them transported to her car. Hostages were locked in varying rooms before Skyler and his friends made a mad dash to the semi. There was laughter as they shot down halls and raced each other to the truck until Kip hissed for silence.
"Skyler." Grace came over. Skyler tensed, but pushed down the bitter feeling and turned to her. Grace handed him a small vial. "Here. A sample of the antidote. Just in case something happens to it all... we can use that."
"And you're giving it to me because....?"
"We just need to keep it separate," Grace laughed. "Good work."
"Yeah... you too."
"You alright?" Grace looked at him. Skyler nodded quickly.
"All aboard," Kip whispered. Skyler turned away and climbed into the semi, scooting in between one of the homeless and Kip. The semi was already three blocks away by the time they heard police sirens going off. Skyler fingered the capped vial in the pouch of his hoodie. They could stop this. They had a possible cure.
They dropped off Fred's friends along the way, then Victor and his group were brought back to the cemetery. They would make it look as if only they had been living there, to buy Skyler and his friends some time if Horatio came snooping. The cemetery was also where the tired teens would also get off.
"You kids be careful." Arnold hugged Skyler and Hannah. "We'll always have a place for you back home if you need a place to lie low."
"Thanks Dad." Skyler smiled. "But it would be best if we didn't. Not until this ends."
"We'll be careful," Hannah said. "Thanks for your help."
Arnold looked at them and hugged them again. "Please, be so careful..."
"We will." Skyler nodded. "Horatio can't pin us down easy."
The younger Coyotes were ecstatic to have them back. They had even gotten perimeter watches going. With nowhere else to hide, they would have to camp out. The faster they could stop Horatio, the sooner they could find a proper home.
"Adding Jumpers to this lot won't be easy on our supplies," Wes murmured. "So many of us, so many of them..."
"Not much longer," Skyler said. "We'll rescue them, and we'll storm City Hall. No waiting, no hiding. We do this or we don't."
"But what about after?" Wes asked. "Some of these guys and girls don't have a place to go like you and Hannah do, Skyler."
"We'll figure something out," Skyler said, looking at him. "We will."
Most of the Coyotes and Jumpers slept in the day. Skyler was too pumped with adrenaline to sleep, but he humored Hannah and tried to rest. He handed her the vial to keep safe. She would have a better chance of not breaking it than he did.
Horatio swallowed the aspirin and sighed, sitting back in his chair. These Jumpers were impossible. He had thought he caught them all, but the ones that escaped seemed to have found more of the brats. They never seemed to give up. And now they actually broke into a laboratory.
But why? Horatio could not figure that out. What could a bunch of kids do there? That lab had no importance to him.
"Sir?" Alexis' voice came through the intercom.
"What?" Horatio mumbled. "If it's Hayes I don't want to see him."
"It's your nephew, sir. Conway."
Horatio frowned and sat forward. "Conway?"
"Send him in," Horatio said quickly. He looked up to see Conway entering, dressed in clean jeans and shirt. They didn't look hurriedly donned. That had been a recent change in his nephew. It looked as if he spent more time making himself presentable.
"Conway." Horatio smiled. "What a surprise. What can I do for you?"
Conway approached the desk. "I know about the Jumpers."
Horatio paused. "Excuse me?"
"I know you're holding them prisoner." Conway shrugged. "Not hard to find out."
Horatio frowned. "Where are you going with this, Conway?"
"I want to know what you plan on doing with them," Conway said. "And if I can help. You've got Claire helping. I want to help too."
"You've never showed interest in this before," Horatio said carefully, suspiciously.
"You're never around enough to know," Conway replied, bitterness in his tone. "Always busy or around people who shouldn't overhear."
"Fair enough." Horatio sat back. "I could use your help. I'm only keeping those Jumpers around because they will draw in the rest. There's a new horde of kids playing at Fence Jumpers now, and they may be joined by the ones who escaped me."
"They're bait," Conway said.
"Yes. But these Jumpers or whatever they call themselves now have been hitting other places, which makes me think they are preparing to rescue their friends at last."
"Where've they been going?"
"They broke into the correctional facility," Horatio sighed. "Letting many criminals escape, including Christopher Oliver."
"The Jumper leader."
"More or less. They also broke into Mr. Hayes' storage unit, taking the firearms I need to equip the cyborgs."
"Gutsy," Conway said. "I heard on the news they broke into a lab? Why?"
"I don't know." Horatio frowned. "That's what I don't understand... everything else was to be expected, but this..."
"They're just trying to throw you off," Conway said. "Catch you off guard and make you paranoid."
Horatio looked at him. "Is that so?"
Conway shrugged. "Why else would they?" He sat down. "Put me on guard in your labs here. I know them well. You and Hayes can focus resources on the Jumpers."
Horatio considered this. Granted it was strange for Conway to show interest in something like this, but his proposal and theory held some truth and usefulness.
"Alright," Horatio said. "Have Devon show you what to do. But I expect that you will keep up with your other activities--"
"I know." Conway nodded. "I've never fallen behind, have I? Except when I was sick?"
Horatio nodded. "Yes, I just wanted to be clear. Go on now. I have work to do."
Conway nodded and went to the door. "Thanks, Uncle."
"Thank you, my boy." Horatio smiled. "Have a good day."