As soon as the jet door opened,, Braya pointed her pistol right between Chase’s shoulder blades. He froze. He was eight years old again, watching his dad be shoved through the door of his childhood home. He felt her lips behind his ear. “Trust me,” she whispered, sending shivers down his spine.
Chase put his hands by his ears, a false act of submission. As they descended the steel steps, he took in the scene. A vast number of soldiers were positioned around the open area of the Hub’s hangar. All of them were incredibly thin, still, and menacing. Braya’s maps had been correct: next to the hangar was a huge, pentagon-shaped building with honeycomb-shaped windows and at least twenty soldiers stationed outside.
He was led forward with the gun. Braya’s heels clicked behind him as they were intercepted by a white-uniformed woman. “Agent, state your business.”
“Agent, I present hostage Sebastian Mulgraves.”
“Agent, this is unprecedented. Sebastian Mulgraves was just delivered.”
“You made a mistake. This is the real Sebastian. I would know; this is my assignment.”
Chase’s heart dropped into his stomach. My assignment? Braya was clearly not part of Goliath retail. She spoke in a cold, tinny way that mimicked the lieutenant’s abrupt speech.
“You allege Agents K9 and K10 are mistaken?”
“Very well. Follow me.”
Chase felt a cool hand on his back, nudging him forward. The white-uniformed lieutenant led them past the entrance of the Hub. They rounded the corner of the building and crossed the boardwalk, to where the Citadel gleamed, cylindrical and breathtakingly tall. Just like Heathrow Heights, it had floor-to-ceiling windows. Chase could see people marching inside. From his perspective, they looked like small ants; and he knew if any of them looked outside, they would see him, miniscule in comparison to the huge regime they had created.
Chase didn’t like big corporations and big government. He HATED Bash Industries with a passion, and the two times his Dad had taken him to DarkWinds, he had spent the entire time asking to leave. It just felt evil. Whatever this place was, it was ten times worse than anything he had ever witnessed. The lieutenant walked like a robot programmed to look like a dancer. She nodded to the security guards and glided through the Citadel’s towering doors.
The hallways were long and winding, probably to confuse visitors. When Chase had visited DarkWinds as a kid, he had gotten a lot of strange looks. People weren’t used to seeing visitors. But in the Citadel, none of the agents looked at him. Either they were trained to mind their business, or they had so many prisoners come through the doors that this was old news. The thought chilled him to the bone.
The prison itself was strange. Chase, Braya, and the lieutenant entered a small elevator capsule, which took them to a huge operations room with two dozen thin hallways branching off. Each hallway seemed to lead to a single cell. There were twelve officers in the operations room. They were completely still and silent, which was just creepy. Who were these people and why weren’t they sitting around and playing cards like the Corver City police department?
The lieutenant said, “Agents, I present Agent…”
“Agent X,” said the red-haired woman next to him. “And Sebastian Mulgraves.”
The agent nearest to the computers said, “Sebastian is already in C17.”
“You have the wrong guy.”
Chase was surprised by Braya’s cool confidence. What if they could prove he wasn’t Sebastian? What then? They were outnumbered 6 to 1.
The lieutenant scoffed. “Agent X alleges Agents K9 and K10 made a mistake. Members of our elite team.”
“So prove me wrong,” she said loudly. “Scan his DNA.”
Chase felt himself be shoved forward, into the arms of an entire squad of silent, menacing soldiers. Adrenaline pumped through his veins. He was handcuffed to the desk, and an officer came at him with a tiny device that was the shape of a barcode scanner. “What is that?” he spit.
“DNA scanner,” was the robotic reply.
A way to scan his DNA immediately? Like taking his temperature? There was no way anyone had that kind of technology. Chase felt all eyes on him as the machine was forced into his mouth and held up against the inside of his cheek. It was violating, and worse, when the device was removed, the officer’s eyes widened. “This is not—”
BANG. The world was gray and his ears rang. Chase quickly crouched, trying to cover his head with his cuffed hands. Around him, there were the sounds of a scuffle. Guns going off. Chase squeezed his eyes shut, waiting for the pain to hit.
Through the gray haze, he heard Braya. It sounded like she was yelling from miles away. “You’re fine. Chase. You’re fine.”
“You’re okay!” he asked, reaching out to her. He felt the cuffs unlock around his hands. The particles started to clear, revealing over a dozen bodies.
“Let’s find him. We don’t have much time before they wake up.”