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Skyler and his friends spent the rest of the day most of the night scoping out the building they assumed their friends were held in. It was away from the majority of public eyes and well-guarded, but it didn't seem as guarded as the correctional facility. It seemed easy enough to get into. The inside would be the tricky part.
After a day of rest, they set out. As hard as they tried, no one could convince the youngest of the kids to stay behind. Everyone wanted to help. Hannah compromised with the younger kids by giving them lookout positions. Skyler was nervous about letting them go with, but they were enthusiastic to help. Some of them had family in there. No one wanted to be left out. On the way, Victor intercept them.
"Just wanted to see you kiddos off," he said. "Are you sure you don't want us along?"
"You've done more than enough for us," Skyler said. "We can't ask you to risk more than you have. Thanks for all your help, Victor, and for letting us camp out with you guys."
"Our pleasure." Victor smiled. He shook Skyler's hand. "Good luck, boyo. Try not to get yourselves killed."
"You're warning the right guy." Wes smirked. Hannah swatted him.
"Thanks again." Skyler smiled.
They circled the outskirts of the city to reach the building before heading into the old sector. It was growing dark, and the growing shadows gave Skyler relief. Shadows would be their allies tonight.
No work was being done yet on that side of the sector, so it was easy to travel through. Even still, they split into several groups, ducking down different streets to meet back up later.
The building had been a hotel once upon a time. It was tall and looked like it had been an amazing piece of architecture. Skyler stared at it. The windows were boarded up, letting no light seep through. It had been portioned off with very tall fencing and tight coils of barbed wire. Jumping over wouldn't be possible this time.
"I say we just charge," Wes whispered where they hid in an old building. "Take the gates first and bull our way in."
"They'll shoot us down." Hannah rolled her eyes. "Or our friends. We need to be smart about this. Smart has gotten us this far."
"What if we try what we did before?" Skyler suggested. "Have a few of us call attention and the rest of us head in."
"You've done that before?" Kate said.
"When we rescued our friends the first time," Wes explained. "That could work... we have stuff to cut the fence?"
"Yeah." Hannah nodded. "Three cutters."
"Good. Tag, you wanna join our game of cat and mouse?" Wes stood.
"Hold on." Hannah blinked. "You're going?"
"Why not?" Wes shrugged. "I need the exercise."
"I'm game." Tag rose, holstering his pistol. "Who else?"
Wes rounded up a few other Coyotes who could run fast, and they set out. Skyler led the others close to the fence and hid among the rubble.
Shouting broke the silent night. Skyler heard his friends taunting the guards and running off, and the guards were yelling and demanding backup. A Coyote circled back around and dashed the other way, angering the guard into firing their weapons into the dark.
"Go," Skyler hissed to the three kids with fence cutters. "Clip during the gunfire. Run that way if you're seen."
Wes and his group sprang back and forth, laughing and sounding as if this was the time of their lives until guards chased after them. Skyler's heart stopped as silence fell after gunfire, but then Wes and the others came hooting back carrying the guns of their pursuers.
This horrified the guards within the fence. Wes and his team took cover as gunfire pelted them. Skyler looked at the cutters. They were almost done. Gunfire from Wes's team followed, and the cutters jumped back in alarm. But when no bullets zinged across, they hurried back to work.
"Go," Hannah said when the cutters pulled back a section of fence. A few more waves of guards had appeared, but every time they disappeared into the shadows, Wes and the Coyotes returned with more spoils. The guards stopped coming, but from the one-side radio conversations Skyler guessed the guards in front were expecting an attack there, thinking the back end was only a diversion from the front.
Kate and two other Coyotes slipped inside the fence and attacked the guards. Skyler couldn't help but stare as he watched Kate whip her knife around effortlessly, bring down one guard with ease before turning quickly to help her friend.
"Our turn." Skyler rose. "Remember, we get in, and we get back out. No delays. Save reunions for later."
Kate motioned them to the back door as she tied up the guards. Darcy ran ahead and got to work deactivating the card lock. She made record time and yanked the door open while Kip mimicked one guard's voice to keep the other side of the building "updated."
"Be quiet!" Skyler warned. The small hallway was dim and empty. "They're probably in the hotel rooms. We need to find the keys to make this quick."
"Most likely at the front," Hannah whispered. "Darcy, you take a group of kids and start hacking into the rooms. Some of you stay here to help everyone out."
Skyler snuck down the halls until he came to the lobby. It was devoid of furniture except the front desk, where two guards stood, looking alert and ready.
He felt the grip of a gun be put into his hand. Looking down, he saw the tranq pistol they had stolen years ago. Skyler grinned at Hannah, who smiled as she checked hers.
The guards crumpled. Skyler waved a few Coyotes forward and while they tied up the guards Skyler searched for a key. He found several, but the master card key he found on one of the guards.
Excitement raced through him as they carefully began to unlock doors. But the first rooms turned up empty.
"Probably on the upper floors," Hannah said. Skyler nodded and headed for the stairs as Darcy and her group joined them. Skyler didn't know how long they had, and he didn't want to be there any longer than he had to.
The second floor had two guards, but they paced the halls, so it was easy to sneak up behind them and knock them out. Skyler started down one hall while Darcy took another. His heart soared when he heard quiet voices inside. He grinned and knocked. The voices immediately hushed.
"Room service," Skyler whispered, turning the doorknob. Hannah rolled her eyes. The kids inside could be heard scrambling.
"You're terrible," Hannah whispered.
"I know." Skyler grinned. "But I can't help myself."
He entered and was greeted by gasps and soft exclamations. Hannah swung her flashlight around, finding each face. Skyler nearly melted, recognizing the Fence Jumpers. They looked tired and disheveled, but otherwise healthy.
"Hey guys." Skyler smiled. "Come on, we're getting you all out of here."
The Jumpers got up and hurried over. "Slowly, slowly! Head downstairs, there's a friend who will direct you to the backdoor. Once there, get outside and through the hole in the fence. Kip will--" he was interrupted by questions. "Kip's fine, but I need you to listen. Kip will show you where to go to get out." Skyler described to them the building to hide in. The Jumpers snuck off, whispering until Wes hissed them into silence.
Skyler moved on to the next door and repeated the message, and Hannah took the key to open the next door. As one person relayed the instructions, another would take the key and move on to the next. Not all rooms were used, but Skyler was thrilled with finding even just some of his friends on that floor.
"Two more floors to go," Wes muttered. "We'll be here all night. Our luck can't hold much longer."
As if to spite him, they made it to the last floor unopposed. Skyler has to stop for a minute, relief making his legs shake, when they found all of the Jumpers. They started on the Coyotes next, who were just as thrilled to see them as the Jumpers had been.
"We can do this, Hannah," Skyler said. "We're almost done."
"Come on." Hannah grinned. "We can relax and celebrate later."
But then chaos woke up.
Gunfire sounded from outside. Skyler jolted in alarm and ran to a window before he remembered they were boarded off.
"Hurry!" He urged. "We've overstayed our welcome!"
Coyotes raced for the stairs, and some broke off for the elevator. Skyler wanted to correct them, but realized they were right: the guards would expect them from the stairs, not two places at once.
Skyler raced down the stairs, Hannah right behind him. They were the last to go, making sure everyone was heading down before they were.
There were guards everywhere, but the Coyotes attacked without hesitation, and it startled the guards.
"Go!" Skyler yelled. Coyotes bolted while Skyler and his team held off the guards. But more guards appeared through the front door.
"Time to go, Skyler!" Wes yelled, herding the others down the hall. Skyler nodded and started after the them.
Hannah yelled his name, and he froze. Skyler whirled around to see Hannah held captive, and Osborne Hayes standing in front of him.
"So nice to see you again, Mr. Pelton." Hayes smiled. "Mayor Vernalti has been waiting a very long time for you and your sister."
Something punctured Skyler's neck. He jerked with a cry, but strong hand kept him still until the sedative took effect.
"No!" Hannah yelled. "No! Skyler!"
Skyler blinked, his legs giving out. The darkness closed in before he could respond.