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The pain had taken away Skyler's breath, and he was still trying to catch up even after Grace gave him the antidote.
But when Skyler heard the cyborgs were out of control, his breath fled again.
Skyler stared at Horatio. Rage boiled up inside of him. "You did this. Your project is murdering the city!"
"No, no!" Horatio looked horrified. "They shouldn't! They can still be controlled! I can control them!"
"We need that master button now," Wes said.
"We need to get out of here first," Kip said.
"No!" Horatio stepped forward, but Tag cocked his pistol. "I can control them!"
"No you can't, Horatio." Skyler glared. "You screwed up big time."
"Still need to get out of here," Kip repeated. He looked at Horatio. "We'll use him as leverage."
It took a minute, but the guards on the other side of the door finally backed off. Kip took Tag's place, pressing the barrel of the pistol to Horatio's temple. Wes put the guards' guns into a closet, then he, Jonah, and Tag knocked the guards out. Jonah did the honors of slamming the butt of a pistol over Devon's head, but not before speaking quietly to him. He wouldn't tell anyone what had been said.
"Ow!" Horatio hissed as Kip forced him onward.
"You're lucky I don't do worse," Kip growled. Skyler glanced at him nervously. He'd never seen Kip this vicious before. He looked angry enough to shoot right then.
The elevator only took them to the third floor before it stopped. Skyler pushed back the fading throbs of pain and helped pry open the doors. He jumped when a cluster of Jumpers and Coyotes dashed past, but then came running back, exclaiming excitedly.
"Save it for later!" Wes waved them off. "Get out of the building! The cyborgs are out of control!"
"We know." a Coyote boy nodded. "We just locked one in a closet--" Wood exploded in that direction. "Or, we did…"
"Get out of here! Take the stairs!"
The boy's face blanched. Skyler groaned. "We'll distract it. You guys just get ready to run for the stairs when it's clear."
Skyler took off toward the sound of crashing. He froze when he rounded the corner. The cyborg was right ahead, looking a bit dazed but no less powerful. Skyler felt his stomach flip at the sight of metal fused with flesh. It was still sickening. This cyborg's torso was mostly metal, and its human hands had been enlarged with mechanical ones. Half of its face was metal, but even behind the metal and slightly inflamed skin, the face touched a familiarity in Skyler.
However, the cyborg charging him gave him little time to dwell on it. Skyler dashed down a corridor into a maze of cubicles. Skyler found a second cyborg harassing running employees as they dashed for the stairs.
The second cyborg crashed into cubicles. Skyler rushed on. He grabbed a book and winged it at the cyborg. "Hey!"
Skyler only realized how stupid this was until after he flung the book, but he went with it. The cyborg's attention was instantly on him, but another book hit its fully human head.
"Hey Iron Man!" Wes yelled. "Over here!"
"Could you be any more dated?" Skyler yelled, running from the first cyborg.
"I could, but I'm not as old as Kip." Wes smirked. Skyler grinned and jumped over a collapsed cubicle as the cyborg chased him. He scowled when he remembered he had given the antidote to Grace, now in a syringe and ready to use if they had to.
"Grace!" Skyler hollered, narrowly missing getting struck by a mechanical arm. "We need that antidote!"
Skyler heard her yell back, but gunfire drowned it out. Skyler rolled out of the way and took shelter under a desk. He realized in horror that he had cornered himself. He had ducked into an office, not a cubicle.
"This one has a gun!" Wes shouted. "That's not fair!"
"Just get to the stairs!" someone yelled back. "Where is Skyler?!"
Skyler peered around the desk. He could see his friends racing around, trying to avoid the cyborgs while getting to the stairs.
Then the first cyborg entered the office. Skyler ducked back, but the cyborg came forward, steps heavy but sure. Skyler scrambled out from under the desk seconds before the cyborg smashed it to pieces. Skyler slammed into the wall and twisted, looking up at the cyborg's one good eye.
And he jolted at the closer look at its face. He stared, shock freezing him in place, dismay and desperation making him panic.
The cyborg's blank yet hard gaze bored into him. The longer Skyler looked, the more convinced he was. The right height, the hair, the eyes… it was Cody.
"What did they do to you…" Skyler's mouth felt dry. "You… no. Cody…"
The cyborg hesitated, but then advanced, stepping over the ruined desk. Skyler scooted along the wall. "Cody, no. It's me, Skyler. You've gotta remember! This isn't you!" The cyborg was closing the distance fast. "Cody! Snap out of it--"
The kick came fast and hard. Skyler yelped, grabbing his side. Panic shot through him as a mechanical hand closed around his throat.
"Cody," Skyler gasped, trying to pry the hand away. "Cody, don't. It's me. It's me--" he choked as Cody squeezed. He couldn't breathe, and he could feel the pressure growing worse quickly. Spots flashed in his vision. He writhed, trying to scramble backward, but Cody – or what had been Cody – pinned him down.
Skyler vaguely heard a shout, then he was yanked up halfway before Cody let go. Skyler hit the ground, losing air before he could even regain it. He coughed and choked, jerking with each effort to open up his throat to breathe. He heard shouting all around him, then someone sitting him upright.
"'ody," Skyler choked out.
"Shut up and breathe," Jonah instructed. "Grace is injecting him now."
"I said shut up, idiot. The other one is down for the count. Tag was able to shoot him. We didn't have much choice…"
Hannah appeared in his vision. "Are you alright?!" She checked his neck. Skyler winced when he touched it. "Sorry, sorry!"
Skyler sucked in air, trying to stop his shaking. He looked over at Cody, now on the ground with Grace straddling him, a syringe in his neck, and Kip and Wes holding him down.
"Don't know yet. It'll take a while."
Skyler slumped back, letting Jonah support him. Breathing came easier when he wasn't trying to hold himself up. "Where's Horatio?"
Kip looked frustrated. "He escaped us. Things got so chaotic he pushed me over and ran. He's probably already to his office by now."
"He needs to be stopped." Skyler tried to stand up. "We need that button--"
"Careful Skyler." Hannah put a hand on his shoulder to keep him down.
"I'm done being careful," Skyler said. He looked at her. "We need to stop him once and for all. These cyborgs are attacking everyone and anyone. We don't have time to waste being careful."
Hannah frowned, then nodded. She held out a hand and Skyler gripped it, letting her pull him up. He held on to it. "I'm not going to let him hurt you again."
"I won't let him hurt you either." Hannah looked up at him. "We started this together, we'll finish it together."
"He hurt you?" Wes was looking at Hannah worriedly. Hannah blushed and showed him the injection site on her arm. His face grew dark.
Skyler looked at Cody, mixed up with metal. It wasn't as much as the other cyborg, but it was still enough to make him sick. How many internal organs had been replaced or taken out entirely? Would he be able to even function if this antidote worked?
"I'll look after him." Grace smiled at Skyler. "Go on and be the hero, Jumper."
Skyler smiled a little. He headed for the stairs, feeling a little dizzy. Tag was standing over the other cyborg, his pistol trained on it even though it wasn't moving. Skyler wanted him to come with them, and it made his next words even harder to say. "Grace is staying here to keep an eye on Cody." He motioned in her direction. "We used the antidote sample on him."
Tag nodded. "I'll stay here."
Skyler nodded, wishing he hadn't said anything. But he knew Grace would have wanted Tag there, for his presence as well as his protection for her.
He felt Hannah touch his arm as they raced up the staircase. "That was good of you."
"What?" Skyler looked at her.
"Giving him the option to stay with Grace," Hannah said. "He likes her, but so do you."
"So?" Skyler felt his face grow hot. "She likes him. Can't do anything about it. I just want her safe." Skyler looked at her. "How did you know, anyway?"
"I'm your sister, dork." Hannah grinned. "You've liked her for a long time. Why--"
"It was never the right time," Skyler said. "Or I chickened out. Too late now." Skyler pressed onward, saving his breath for the climb. It still hurt, the regret of never saying anything, but he felt better knowing she was safe.
Nearly every lower floor had screaming. Skyler hated not trying to help, but he told himself that helping these people would be by getting that button.
It was hard to breathe when they were nearly at the top, and eventually Skyler was forced to stop for a minute. Kip stayed behind with him while the others went on ahead.
"I'm okay," Skyler wheezed, sinking down on a step.
"No you're not," Kip snorted. "You were nearly strangled, and then you started climbing stairs. You're an idiot is what you are."
Skyler smiled faintly, growing drowsy. He blinked when Kip shook his shoulder. "Stay awake, kiddo. We're almost there." Skyler nodded and pushed to his feet with Kip's help. The older man clapped his shoulder. "Almost done, Skyler."
"Hope so." Skyler started climbing. "'Cause I'm really, really done."