Chase kept glancing at her with this deer-in-the-headlights expression, but Agent X didn’t have enough time to process her feelings. She had been trained to fight from a young age, and to incapacitate her enemies, not to be some sort of hero. The shot was justified. She didn’t have the time to have an entire conversation with the researcher while the alarms were sounding. Everyone in the Hub would have heard the narc bomb. Agents would be crawling up and down the halls. But the recovery room door had a lock on it, unlike most doors in the Hub, so they had a few more seconds before soldiers arrived and broke down the door.
As Agent X pulled on her disguise, a fresh lab coat and name tag from the nearest cabinet, Sebastian explained how they could escape. The recovery room was a secret suite. One of the cabinets opened into a supply room, which contained a chute that led down to the fourth-floor laundry room. If there was no one in the laundry room, they were set. No one would expect three researchers on the fourth floor. They could hide their weapons in their coats and confidently walk outside to the hangar, where Sebastian’s pilot would be waiting.
Agent X had no idea what this recovery room place was even for. She hated being at a disadvantage, but the only times she had left the Citadel had been for outdoor training. The Hub was a different beast, and Sebastian knew much more than she did. But once they were outside, that was her territory. She knew Malum’s schedule. If Agent X timed this right, she, Chase, and Sebastian would get to the hangar at 6 p.m, right when the evening shift arrived and the 6 a.m. shift went back to the Citadel for showers and sleep.
She watched Sebastian strut through the cabinet door. Chase’s piercing eyes stared into her soul. If she didn’t know better, she would peg him as afraid, but he was a cop. He’d definitely hurt bad guys in his time. The woman hadn’t been bad, but Agent X didn’t have another choice!
“Go,” she said, pointing ahead.
“You go,” he said.
This was ridiculous. She rolled her eyes, sweeping through the cabinet door. Sebastian pointed to the wide laundry chute. Citadel standard meant you always carried a rope around your waist, and Agent X was glad for her training. She tied the rope around a coat hook and lowered it down the chute, testing her weight to see if it would hold. It did.
“Ladies first,” Chase snapped. It wasn’t just her imagination. He was definitely angry
“Suit yourself.” She lowered herself into a room with six industrial-sized washing machines. She thanked her lucky stars the place was empty, but there was a security camera installed on the ceiling. She told Chase and Sebastian to move quickly, and they clambered down the rope. Sebastian hoisted a full laundry bag over his shoulder as part of his disguise. Agent X didn’t like the guy, but he was smart in a pinch.
With one huge, collective breath, the three insurgents opened the door to the fourth floor. They used the elevator this time. The elevator had a polished marble floor and was full of government employees fearfully covering their ears. Agent X was glad for the commotion. Without the loud alarms, the Hub employees might have looked twice at three scientists they’d never seen, but everyone was afraid for their lives.
Agent X wondered about her own life. What was the whole point of this mission, if she was risking everything to do the exact opposite of her assignment? Was she crazy?
They spilled into the foyer, where a line led out the door. Agent X’s high hopes sank as she saw two agents with DNA scanners, but at least there were only two. Soldiers ran past them, heading for the fifth floor.
“See where we are?” she said, pointing to Sebastian’s private jet, which was conveniently parked on the tarmac. She checked her device. 5:58 p.m. “We’ll have to split up, but follow me. On three.”
“Wait,” Chase said.
Sebastian dropped his laundry bag. Agent X took the shoulders of the short woman in front of her and pushed. She stumbled out of line, and the agents’ attention went to her while Agent X sprinted in the other direction. Shouts. Shots. Running like the wind. Suddenly she was back in training, hurdling down the stairs and over the curb, her torso falling faster than her legs. She was always fast, which put her up in the ranks. Fast, but not the best when it came to endurance. It didn’t matter, the hangar was close enough, if she could just get to it–
Pain shot up her shoulder. No. She stumbled, falling, and she got up. She could do this. Agent X heard footsteps thundering behind her, and she prayed it was Chase and Sebastian. She prayed to be a bluebird in a meadow and fly faster than the wind. Finally, she slipped into the break room, heart pounding like a drum.
Inside was Sebastian’s pilot, eating a piece of jerky. The look on his face was priceless.
“Plane, now!” Sebastian commanded.
The pilot must have been well-paid because he dropped the jerky on the floor. Now for the trickiest part of the mission. The agents were all outside on the tarmac, in the middle of shift change. All of them were on high alert, having seen Agent X run to the break room. She had only one narc bomb left.
She pressed down on the safety lever and pulled the pin, sprinting onto the tarmac. She ran like a wild woman toward the agents. Another bullet hit her vest, strong enough to knock the wind out of her, and she threw the glorified hand grenade with all her might. The narcolepsy bomb exploded, and two dozen soldiers fell to the floor.
Sebastian’s pilot began the long, slow process of firing up the jet while Sebastain manned the lever to fold up the stairs. Through the cockpit window, Agent X saw Malum soldiers moving in droves from the Citadel to the hangar. Below, the haze cleared. The commander was still standing. She’d had the good sense to use her bio shield. Now, the commander shot several rounds of ammo at the cockpit, and Agent X contorted her body, bracing for impact. But the windows were bulletproof. Sebastian’s pilot remained unfazed.
“Oh my god,” Agent X heard herself say. Her body felt like a live wire, every movement an electric shock. Pain bloomed up her neck. She looked down to see blood soaked through her sleeve.