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Hannah glanced behind her as Skyler and Kip caught up to them. Her brother's expression was set, and once again it made her miss her little brother before this whacked out world made him grow up.
None of the cyborgs entered the stairwell except for the doorways they already passed. But the cyborgs seemed to still be adjusting to moving around and didn't seem to be making any fast progress.
Finally they reached the top, but they all collapsed on the stairs to recover. With the elevators down, Horatio wouldn't be going anywhere if he was still up there. Skyler was the first to get up. Hannah could see bruising on his neck from where cyborg Cody squeezed. Hannah stood too with his help, and the others reluctantly got up. Wes' hand brushed against hers, sending a shiver through her. She had been nearly ready to kiss him when she saw him and he freed her. Kiss him and not let go.
Of course her brother and their friends would have been watching, but she intended to fix that when this was all over. Hannah smiled at the idea as she followed Skyler through the door. They took a few wrong turns, but finally found the office.
Hannah jumped when they were met by a lady in a nicely tailored blouse and skirt. She stood in their path to the doors, but Skyler walked up to her.
"Where is he?" He demanded. The lady crossed her arms.
"You're not allowed up here--"
"Where is he?!" Skyler shouted. The lady jumped and stepped back. "I'm not in the mood for game right now. Where. Is. Horatio?"
The lady – Hannah guessed she was the secretary – didn't answer. Wes stepped past Hannah and lifted a pistol to her.
"Wes!" Hannah yelped.
"Skyler's right. We don't have time to discuss where we can or can't be or where he is or isn't." Wes' eyes never left his target. "Answer him."
"Don't say a word, Miss Cadden." Osborne Hayes appeared, his own pistol raised to Wes. Kip and Jonah both brought their guns level with Hayes. The man looked at them, then at Skyler. "So you escaped again. Horatio really ought to give you a tracker."
"We know how to deal with those." Skyler shrugged. "But right now we need to know where he is."
"Lower the gun, boy." Hayes cocked his pistol. Hannah jumped when Kip fired his weapon. Hayes screamed, dropping his gun and clutching his arm. Jonah stepped forward and slid it out of reach.
"He's not here!" The lady said quickly. "Well he was, but he left! He told me to stall anyone coming up here!"
"What if it had been cyborgs?" Skyler asked. "Did he have a plan for you if that had happened?"
"He left Mr. Hayes for my protection."
"Against however many cyborgs come up here?"
"Ma'am," Kip said, waving Skyler back. "It's important we find him. His cyborgs are going berserk downstairs and they're making their way up. Horatio has the killswitch, but he won't use it. Where did he go?"
"I don't know! He said to stall so he could get downstairs--"
Skyler spun around and bolted.
"Skyler?!" Hannah blinked. She heard Wes snarl.
"He was up here, waiting for us to get to his office so he could get out." Wes lowered his un-cocked pistol and turned to Hannah. "Come on."
"We'll take care of these two while you cover Skyler." Jonah said. "Kip, you should probably have Emma get ready with the antidote."
Hannah raced after her brother while Jonah was still speaking. "Skyler!" She struggled to catch up with him on the stairs. "Little bro, slow down a fraction, will you?"
"Sorry!" Skyler didn't slow at all. Hannah grumbled and flew down the steps, Wes right behind her. Her heart thudded when she glimpsed Horatio just yards from Skyler, and she picked up her pace. She yelped in alarm when Horatio made a sudden stop and jumped aside. When Skyler couldn't stop fast enough, Horatio shoved him and bolted through a door. Hannah forgot about Horatio and ran to Skyler. He had tumbled a third of the way down the stairs before catching the rail.
"Follow him!" Skyler gasped. Hannah helped him up just as a cyborg stepped into view. Instead of a right hand it had a gun.
"Go go go!" Wes pulled them both up the steps and through the door.
Oh lucky them they found five more.
There was another group of assorted Jumpers and Coyotes, bigger this time, trying to avoid the swinging metal arms and the bullets from two of them. Horatio was also caught in the chaos, and Skyler ran for him. Hannah followed him, but a cyborg stepped in her path, shoving her aside. Hannah crashed into a Coyote and they both tumbled over each other. The cyborg loomed over them, watching with blank eyes that could have been a girl in high school.
"Skyler!" Hannah yelped, still trying to disentangle herself from the ridiculously lanky boy she had bumped into. The cyborg lifted its gun arm.
Wes slammed into its arm, jerking the gun off course and firing into the floor, while Skyler hurtled into the cyborg from the other side, bringing it to the ground. But the cyborg fought back, swinging a fist into Skyler's shoulder and kicking Wes in the gut.
"Hannah go!" Skyler yelled. "We need that killswitch now!"
Hannah got to her feet, pushed some by the Coyote and using the momentum to start running for the mayor, who was trying to duck back to the stairs. But the cyborg from the stairs had finally reached them and was trying to fit inside. The cyborg had been a massively muscular guy before.
She couldn't let Horatio leave this room. It was probably much worse the further down they went, and that meant less of a chance to survive and save everyone else.
A scream of pain from a Jumper made Hannah shake with fury, and she made her decision. She made a mad dash for Horatio, and he only saw her coming at the last second. She rammed her shoulder into his chest, pushing him away from the door and putting herself between him and it, hoping her friends could keep the cyborgs all distracted.
"Give me the device, Horatio!" Hannah demanded. "This has to stop! People will die!"
"No! I can still control them!" Horatio held the killswitch possessively. "I just need--"
"Wrong answer." Hannah lunged for him again, fully intended to make every use of her nails and teeth if she had to. She didn't feel confident enough to use a gun in such a closed space with so many others around.
She grabbed for the killswitch, clawing Horatio's cheek as he tried to shove her away. She heard another scream, and her heart went cold. She couldn't tell if that was Skyler.
"Let go of me!" Horatio bellowed, grabbing her hair and yanking back. Hannah's fingers had been inches from the device, and she yelped, tears pricking her eyes. She twisted and swung her foot into Horatio's side, using his grip on her to lean back to make the kick easier.
Horatio let go of both her and the killswitch, gripping his side. Hannah fell back. She glimpsed a Coyote crumple and a Jumper run to his aid, but the cyborg's attention was on Hannah and Horatio, hearing the mayor's roars.
Scrambling for the killswitch, Hannah saw Horstio begin to recover. She also saw Wes pinned beneath high school girl cyborg and Skyler slamming the butt of his pistol over its head. The other cyborg was closing the distance fast.
"No!" Horatio yelled in alarm, pulling something from within his coat. Hannah swept the master button closer to her, looked it over fast and switched off the safety before slamming her switch down on the button.
Something exploded, and pain slammed into her.
Skyler was at a loss as to how to get the cyborg off of Wes. He didn't want to shoot her, but the cyborg didn't seem affected by being hit over the head.
Gunfire had quieted from the cyborgs, maybe running out of ammunition, but there was another gunshot, and a female scream. The cyborg froze, all of them did, and then crumpled to the floor. Wes snarled when the cyborg fell on him.
Skyler whirled around to locate Hannah. There were a lot of Jumpers and Coyotes standing around, looking shocked and terrified at the cyborgs, half expecting them to get back up.
Then he saw Horatio standing over a body, a pistol trained on her. Skyler's heart jumped to his throat. "Hannah!"
He ran over, tripped on a cyborg's arm, and fell. Horatio made his escape, everyone too shocked to move to stop him. Skyler scrambled to his feet and raced to Hannah. Blood was blossoming from her side.
"Hannah." Skyler dropped to his knees, gathering Hannah in his arms. "Hannah, Hannah stay awake. Come on, stay awake."
Hannah moaned. She looked up at him. "It worked?"
"Yeah." Skyler nodded, pressing his hand to the wound. "Stay with me, sis. You did it. You stopped them. The cyborgs are shut down."
Hannah winced. "It hurts." Her voice sounded so small. Skyler swallowed back panic.
"I know, I know. We'll get help. You're gonna be okay." Skyler looked up to find help, but the others were trying to find the wounded. He saw at least three – a Coyote and two Jumpers – who looked far too still to be alive.
"Horatio," Hannah gasped. "He's getting away."
"I don't care," Skyler said. "I'm taking care of you."
"Catch him," her voice was strained. "He can't get away."
"I'm not leaving you--"
"Skyler." Wes limped over. Skyler looked up at him, desperate to know what to do. "I'll keep her safe. We need to make sure Horatio doesn't escape. I can't run, and everybody else is too shaken up. Go. Hunt him down and give him a fist for me. Kip's probably called Emma to get her over here with the cure, so we can get to work with these things."
Skyler nodded, taking a slow breath to steady himself as he let Wes take his place. He looked Wes in the eyes. "Don't let her die."
"I would rather die first than let her die," Wes replied. "Now start moving."
Skyler raced into the stairwell. He ached all over, but he didn't let himself rest. Not until this was finished.
The stairs had a downed cyborg on them, a terrified Jumper watching it, cornered.
"It won't hurt you," Skyler said. "They're all shut down. Where did the mayor go?"
"H-he came down a m-minute ago." the Jumper pointed down the staircase. "That way. He th-threatened to shoot me."
Skyler launched over the cyborg to get to the next stair level and kept going. His legs burned, but he finally reached the bottom and burst out into the hall. He found Horatio surrounded by Jumpers, some of them pointing guns. A little apart from them stood Emma with Kip and a group of people in white coats and another group in military uniform.
"Horatio!" Skyler roared. His building anger and hatred exploded as he stormed over.
"Skyler?" Kip blinked. Skyler ignored him, shoving through the Jumper ring and advancing on Horatio. "Skyler wait--"
Skyler slammed his fist into Horatio's jaw.