The hours started to blur together. I sat in the corner of the room, closing my eyes every time someone yelled or the zip of electric shots buzzed around us. The ATS was close. It seemed too much to hope that Darion was really okay.
Micah is gone. I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again. Darion is all I have left. Can’t I just have this one good thing in my life?
Gloria squeezed my shoulder. “Don’t worry, Eve. Most the people up there would die to save Robin Hood’s sister. He’s saved us all in one way or another. You’re safe.”
“His name is Micah,” I whispered.
Gloria chewed on her lip. “Yeah. He’ll be okay.” She forced a smile. “I’ve seen him weather some really tough situations.”
I cringed. “Yeah. Probably.”
Able scooted closer. “What was it like growing up with Robin--Micah,” he corrected hurriedly when he saw the scowl on my face.
The mischievous grin on Able’s face slid off. He was probably trying to help, to distract me. I felt bad but didn’t offer any more.
“Yeah, probably,” Able went on. “I mean, how else would he have gotten to where he is now? A lot of people tell me I’m a lot like him.” He smiled again, leaning closer.Gloria snorted with laughter. I cleared my throat. “Oh. Really?”
“Yeah.” He nodded enthusiastically. “It takes a certain guy to sacrifice like that, you know? Not everyone can do what Rob--Micah and I do.”
I glanced at Gloria. Her shoulders shook with silent laughter. “No. Not everyone’s like Micah,” I agreed. I rubbed my hand across my forehead and wiped the sweat on my jeans. The room only had one small vent. The air wasn’t enough to keep it comfortably cool, even in the middle of the night.
“That kid you’re with...President Isoli’s son? Is he your boyfriend?” Able leaned toward me so our shoulders touched.
“Well...?” I turned to Gloria for help. She wiggled her eyebrows suggestively but didn’t call Able off.
Able reached down for my hand and rubbed the back of it. “I’m sure all the guys tell you how beautiful you are.”
I gently pulled my hand away. I cleared my throat and looked helplessly at Gloria. “Thank you,” I said when she didn’t offer any help.
Able rubbed his rejected hand along his pants. He kept uncomfortable eye contact with me, making me feel awkward. “I’m sure you don’t want any relationships right now. Not with your whole life up in the air, right? I can understand that. You know, I’m tough, but I’m sensitive too.”Gloria’s voice shook with laughter when she finally spoke up. “Able, cut it out. I’m sure she doesn’t need reminded every thirty seconds that we’re in a tight spot.”
I stood up, needing to get away from Able and closer to the vent. I didn’t know what contributed more to the overwhelming claustrophobia creeping over me--Able or the oppressive heat in the room. I slid my fingers through my dark hair, twisting it quickly into a braid, anything to keep the heaviness off my neck. “Can we open the door, just for a minute?” I asked Gloria. “I can hardly breathe.”
Gloria shook her head. “We’re locked down until we secure the building.”
“Any chance ATS will just give up?”
She laughed. “They haven’t any of the times I’ve faced them.”
“I wish there was a window.” I walked toward the vent and raised my hand to it.
“It’d be nice to know what’s going on,” Gloria agreed.
The electric buzzes that intermittently came close to the vent increased. The air crackled. The hairs on my arm stood up. “Something’s happening out there.”Gloria walked toward me. She paused underneath the vent and then looked longingly at her still silent radio. She’d turned it off before we came into the room to reduce the risk of the ATS tracking her signal. “More fighters. Someone got backup.” She walked away from the vent. “Hope it was us.”
I jumped when the crackling erupted outside the iron door. Gloria jumped back to her feet. She grabbed my arm, shoving me behind her. Able’s arm gripped my shoulder. I resisted the urge to shake it off. They raised their paralyzers and pointed them at the door.The lock disengaged with a clank. Gloria pushed us back. When the iron door slid open, a black clad girl with deep brown hair stood in front of a pile of ATS officers. I immediately assumed she was on our side, but Gloria didn’t relax her stance or lower her paralyzer.
The girl’s boots slapped against the linoleum floor when she stepped inside. Her paralyzer lay against her side. She held out her other hand. “I’m here to extract Eve.”
Gloria didn’t move. “I’ll admit you don’t look like ATS, but you’re dreaming if you think I’m going to just turn her over to you because you say so.”
The dark haired beauty reached into jacket and pulled out an ID. “Captain Alba Vega, intelligence division of the National Rebel Army.”
The muscles on the back of Gloria’s neck tightened. “You might be more official than me, but I’m not turning Eve over to anyone I can’t trust. I’ve fought with Micah a lot longer than you have, I guarantee it.”Captain Vega moved forward again. “I understand your caution, but there’s nothing you can do. My orders are to take Eve to the rendezvous point to meet her brother. I guarantee she’ll be safer at the rebel headquarters than here in this safe-room with ATS on the front door.”
“What about Darion?” I interrupted.
“Two other members of our team have been tasked with extracting him.” Captain Vega tried to peer around Gloria at me. Commotion on the stairs distracted all of us from the stand down. Captain Vega’sparalyzer came up, though she pointed it away from Gloria. “We don’t have time to argue about this.”
“Your only choice is to take us with you then. I’m not letting her out of my sight. My gut tells me I shouldn’t even let her out of this room,” Gloria snapped.
Captain Vega sighed impatiently. “Fine. Let’s go.” Waving her gun forward, she strode out of the safe-room, probably expecting us to follow.
“Stay behind me,” Gloria ordered me.
I nodded, even though I knew she couldn’t see me.
Captain Vega led us through the maze of hallways, her paralyzer now chest height, waiting for an ATS attack. Gloria kept one hand on my arm and swiveled her own paralyzer right and left. Able walked backwards, bumping into me every other step until Gloria snapped at him, “Knock it off.”
After a tense ten minutes, we came to an abandoned apartment. Captain Vega strode over to the window. In a flash of movement, she yanked the slender, black backpack from her back and pulled out a heavy-looking black rope. She secured a knot around an armchair with quick hands and pushed the chair up next to the window. “Who’s first?”Gloria took my arm and stepped forward. “Me, then Eve. You can follow. Able will keep watch.”
Captain Vega shrugged. “Alright.”
I shook my head. “I’m not going without Darion.”
Captain Vega rolled her eyes. “I can’t contact my team to confirm his extraction. We’re under radio silence right now. If Isoli finds out we sent a team into Phoenix, he’ll march the entire National Army into the city. We won’t have any chance of taking it.” She stepped closer to me. “Listen. The Rebel Army needs Micah to lead a regiment into Phoenix to incite the people here to open rebellion against Isoli. Micah won’t do it until he knows you’re safe. That’s the deal. You’re coming with me.”
I threw up my hands. “You’re all insane! Do you actually think you’re going to win anything?”
Gloria’s eyes widened. I suppose she expected more fervor from Robin Hood’s sister. “Let’s just go, Eve. I’ll call Tanner once we’re on the ground and confirm Darion’s location, okay?”
I hesitated. I needed Darion. Finally I nodded. Gloria squeezed my arm and threw her leg out the window. “Here goes.” She grinned reassuringly and disappeared over the ledge. I leaned closer, watching her repel down the side of the building, dropping softly to the sidewalk forty feet below.
“Put these on.” Captain Vega shoved a pair of gloves at me. I pulled them on before taking the rope in my hands. “Grip tight. Be careful but move as quickly as you can. We don’t have all night. Lean back away from the wall and let the rope hold your weight. It’s tested on heavy machinery, three times your weight, so don’t worry. It’ll hold.”
I nodded. I put one foot on the window ledge, then the other.
Captain Vega handed me a section of rope. “Lean back,” she reminded me.
I gripped the rope between my hands, surprised at the traction the gloves gave me. Shakily I leaned back into the darkness and took my first step, then my second. On the third I slipped. My body rocked forward, slamming into the brick wall. I tightened my hands around the rope, trying to regain my footing. My weight pulled me downward. The rope slid through my gloved hands. I screamed involuntarily as the sidewalk loomed closer and closer.
Gloria’s hands wrapped around my waist, breaking my fall. We both tumbled painfully to the ground. Gloria rolled over and stood up. “Guess that was quick,” she teased.
I nodded, standing up and testing my weight, making sure I wasn’t hurt. Captain Vega dropped to the ground a moment later.
“That wasn’t exactly what I meant by quick, but it works.” She grinned at me. Captain Vega turned to Gloria. “Sorry, I can’t take you any further,” she said coldly. She lifted her paralyzer gun and shot.