Wyatt and his compatriots stage a bold rescue and escape, but what awaits them? Refaeli bounced like a sack of potatoes in the seat as the truck jounced through the trees.
Wyatt and his compatriots stage a bold rescue and escape, but what awaits them?
Refaeli bounced like a sack of potatoes in the seat as the truck jounced through the trees. We lost a wing mirror to a tree trunk and cracks spread across the windshield from the lashing branches, which snapped like gunshots as we plowed through them.
Refaeli gritted her teeth. “There’s so much radio chatter, my head’s going split.”
I braced against the dashboard. “They have any idea where we are?”
“Let’s just say they’re having a hard time telling what our numbers are.” She flashed a wicked smile.
The truck caught air over the rise and came down on a groaning suspension. There was a metallic ping-snap of something breaking in the rear. The steering wheel vibrated in Refaeli’s hands as we crossed open ground. Then we smashed through a fence and both sides of a sheet metal shed before emerging between a sprawl of outbuildings that obscured us from the guard towers.
“Down!” I pulled Donovan below the dashboard.
My shoulder was thrown into the dashboard as my back was showered with fragments of masonry and glass. I coughed and covered my mouth against the dust, squinting through the haze.
Donovan I checked first. His arm looked no worse for wear. And from his wide-eyed look, the crash seemed to have livened him up.
Refaeli, on the other hand, was glassy-eyed and unfocused, but the best I could tell, she hadn’t taken a blow to the head, and the rest of her looked more or less unharmed.
I touched her shoulder. She almost jumped out of her skin as she pointed her needler at me.
“Woah!” My hands went up.
She drew in a deep breath and stowed her needler with a shaky hand. “Sorry. Just… a little jarred. How’s Donovan?”
He gave a pained grunt. “I’ll live.”
“Then we need to leave. Now!” She tried to pry open the driver-side door. “They’re sending troops this way, and lots of them, by the sound of it.”
Over the bricks and debris strewn across the hood, storage shelves stretched into darkness, punctuated here and there by overhead lamps. Past the shelves, at the opposite end of the storage room, in a space surrounded by stacked crates, was an entry door illuminated by a naked lightbulb.
While Refaeli struggled with her door, I was able to get out on the passenger side and get Donovan down and on his feet.
I braced as he wheezed for breath. “Will you be able to keep up?”
He gave me a sour look. “My legs aren’t broken.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught Refaeli climbing out over the hood. She leapt down but left behind bloody handprints and winced as she pulled glass from her hands. That reminded me of the stitched hole in my side, which decided to flare up.
“Can you tell the way to Angstrom?”
Refaeli dusted herself off. “We came in from the north, and apparently he’s at the south end of the building, where the barracks are.”
“So we have to cross the entire building.” I nodded and headed for the door.
Lady Luck wasn’t with us when soldiers piled through before we reached it. ButLady Luck is fickle. They weren’t looking our way when they came through.
I ran forward, firing both pistols, taking the first three out of the door, which put an abrupt halt to their advance. The fresh corpses slowed them.
I slid for the cover of a sturdy crate and one of the soldiers tossed in a grenade, which missed us entirely. I didn’t return fire and signaled for Refaeli to hold hers.
They came through cautiously, their eyes tracking with the barrels of their guns.
I slid forward and did my best impression of a snake, till I was within a few feet of them. The soldier closest to me had grenades on a bandolier. I yanked the pin from one and rolled into cover as he turned to fire.
He never got the chance.
Even behind the cover of heavy crates, I was deafened and jarred by the blast. As I opened my eyes, through the settling dust, I saw the hole left by shrapnel above my head.
I rose from cover. The scene was a morass of meat and blood, but a couple of the soldiers were still alive and faintly groaning. Never leave a live enemy behind you—I shot them, holstered the pistols, and picked up a submachine gun that was intact.
Refaeli came out of cover with Donovan.
I gestured with the submachine gun. “Lead the way.”
She crossed her arms. “I don’t exactly have a map in my head.”
“Better than me blindly running down hallways. And I’ll be at your side the whole way.”
“Hopefully, I won’t just be your bullet sponge.” She hefted her needler and went for the door.
I thought about handing Donovan a pistol, but didn’t feel like getting shot by accident. “Stay behind me.” I followed Refaeli.
As different as this world was, it seemed like military bases the multiverse over all looked the same—drab, worn, and showing their age more than an overworked whore.
We wound our way through the labyrinth of halls toward the south of the building. More than once, Refaeli’s neuralink or my enhanced ears kept from being caught by a patrol coming our direction. A sign with la prison militaire and the heavy steel doors told us that we’d = reached the stockade.
The six guards outside those doors were probably a good indicator that we’d found Angstrom and whomever else they had taken. We spied them from around a corner.
One of the guards opened the door and the man who came out was not what I expected—one of the corporate heads that was at Angstrom’s get-together on Calpe Mons station and had gone through the wormhole. With him was an escort of this world’s bizarro-Frenchies.
“What the hell is he doing here!?” Refaeli hissed under her breath.
I shrugged. “I’d say he sold us out. Doesn’t change the fact that we need to get Angstrom.” I had an idea. “Could you fake one of their radio messages?”
“Of course. Why?”
“Get them to shut off the power in this building. Say they need to isolate us, or something.”
She snorted. “Or something… I’ll see what I can do.”
She went silent. Apparently, she could do all of it in her head, even the voice. Scary thought.
The lights went out. The soldiers at the door started barking at each other in that weird French of theirs. And I could see it all in the dark.
I put Refaeli’s hand on my shoulder. She did the same to Donovan. Then we moved, smooth and silent, but not rushed.
I waited for a soldier inside to open the door before I shattered the silence with submachine gun and mowed them down. The strobing flashes from the muzzle dazzled my eyes. I got a hold of the door handle, but didn’t peek around the edge.
Then someone tugged and tried to close it, but I swung the barrel around the lip of the door and pulled the trigger. Another soldier fell sprawling to the floor, gurgling his life away.
Rounds pinged off the door and I pulled back.
With the submachine gun unslung, I tossed it down the hall to clatter onto the hard floor. The two soldiers still in the room tracked the sound. I drew one of my pistols and took them both with shots to the head.
In one corner was Angstrom’s slack body and a dark patch on the wall behind, his blood and brains. A lot of curses rolled through my head.
In the other corner cowered one of his scientists, his hands covering his head.
“Get them to turn the lights back on,” I whispered into Refaeli’s ear.
She squeezed my arm in reply. Half a minute later, there was light, and I had to blink at the brilliance.
She and Donovan gasped at what they now saw with their own eyes.
I tapped the scientist on the head. He flinched away from the touch.
“Do you want to leave or not?”
He startled at the sound of my voice and pulled his hands away to reveal a shrewish face. His watery gaze grew hopeless as he looked at Angstrom’s corpse. “There’s nowhere to go.”
I scrunched my brow. “What!?”
“The controller for the wormhole was tied to his bio-signs, a dead-man switch. We can’t go home.”
I went cold. “So we can’t leave at all?”
He paused at this. “We can’t go home.”
“Wait…” I thought about his words. “We can’t go back to our world, or we can’t leave?”
He swiped his hand over his face. “In theory, we could open another wormhole—”
“Don’t you need a whole lot of equipment to do that? How can you do it with one small controller?”
“The array back on the station opened a wormhole from scratch. The controller just anchors one end of it. But with the other end of the wormhole closed, it’s just a singularity. We could track particle superpositions and connect it to another singularity to make a new wormhole, but it would be to a nearly random—”
I held up a hand to cut him off. “There’s a nuclear bomb about to go off. Where’s the controller?”
He numbly pointed behind me.
I turned. There the controller sat on a table. I snatched it up and tossed it to him. “Open a damned wormhole. Now.”
He gaped for a moment, then frantically worked the controls.
Refaeli and Donovan were as white as sheets.
I snapped my fingers in front of their faces.
Refaeli shook her head. “We’re…”
“We’re not going to die today.” I pointed to the scientist. “He…” I turned to him. “What’s your name?”
He looked up from his work. “Reyansh. Reyansh Zacharias.”
“Reyansh is getting us out of here.”
Refaeli’s eyes widened. “I hope so. They just dropped the bomb!”
Reyansh nearly lost the remote at these words, but a moment later space fell in on itself and we were staring at a spherical mirror that reflected another world.
I screamed at them. “Go!”
The end…for now.