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Embry’s heart slammed into triple time as the alarm blared. Fuck. Clearly her absence had been discovered. But she didn’t slow the fingers that flew over the keyboard. She checked the video feed of the security camera just outside the lab. No one yet. She’d made it through the first three firewalls and was beating her head against the fourth.
“C’mon. C’mon,” she chanted.
She was almost there. She’d almost cracked the security around the information on Level 36. It was an awful risk she was taking, banking that this was where her father was being held. But there wasn’t time to search the entire system, certainly not now that the soldiers had been alerted. It was a calculated risk.
Her eyes went to the video feed again. Still nothing.
Just another few minutes . . .
There! She was in.
She accessed a separate video feed for Level 36, and the widescreen monitor was swallowed by a grid of cameras. Each one focused on a different room. No, not rooms, Embry realized. Cells. It was a detention level. Even from the tiny images, she could tell the walls were iron. There were narrow cots in some of the rooms. A metal toilet. And prisoners. So many prisoners. “Oh my God.”
Conscious that she could be found any minute, Embry scanned each cell, searching for a familiar broad shouldered figure. And though she saw many Mirus species represented—Christ, they even had a banshee— her father was not among them.
“Damn it!” Her fisted hands struck the table and rattled a rack of test tubes further down.
She didn’t have any more time. There was no telling how they’d reacted when the alarm was triggered. No telling what they were doing to Gage. Her heart clenched at that, terror for his safety weakening her limbs. She needed to move to get that power grid down.
Resolved, she closed out of the cellblock video feed, intending to upload the virus and get out. Then she saw the folder labeled Project Prometheus. What have we here? She opened the folder and clicked on an icon.
Of course the files were encrypted. That could wait for later. She dragged the lot of them onto a portable hard drive, fidgeting impatiently as they transferred at a snail’s pace. You’d think the government would have something faster than USB 2.0.
She checked the video feed to the hall again and thought about killing the lights. But here, a dark room would be more suspicious than one with every light burning. As the files continued to transfer, she went over the schematics she’d pulled up for the rest of the base. A main power generator was one floor up. If she could take it out, they might have a shot. Assuming none of the bunker doors sealed as a result. Blowing through iron would take more time than they could steal. And there was the tiny matter of not knowing where either Gage or her father were at this moment.
The files finished transferring. She dragged the virus file onto the desktop. Taking one last look at the hall on the monitor—still empty—she snagged the hard drive, stuffing it into one of the pockets of her cargo pants, and double clicked the virus. The entire network would crash in minutes.
She raced into the hall, making for the stairwell. Just as she reached it, the elevator doors slid open. Bolting inside, she heard the shouts behind her as she ran up to Level 32. Footsteps pounded from above and below, a staccato beat punctuated by the panicked thrum of her heart. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Of course nothing here burns. She dove through the door for SL-32, no longer trying to hide, just to make it to the generator. Taking precious seconds, she heated the knob to molten, praying that the lock would fuse. Then she ran.
There were soldiers on this level. She could hear them down the hallway, doing a sweep of the rooms. Closing in.
She wasn’t going to make it out. Not from this far down, this deep in the belly of the beast. The realization of it bled through her. But she had no time to mourn. She had to take out that generator. She had to give her father and Gage a chance.
The door was locked. Every damn thing in this base was locked. Riding on temper and desperation, she blew the lock apart, the door flying back on its hinges, warped and blackened. If they didn’t know exactly where she was before, they did now.
Embry raced through, following the conduit pipes down another hall and to the right. And there they were. Not one generator, but a series of five. The drone of them echoed off the concrete walls of the big room. She wouldn’t be able to hear anybody coming. But there was only one way in, one way out.
Positioning herself halfway between the generators and the hallway, Embry dropped her shields and released the fire. Flames spun out from her hands in each direction, flowing like water exactly where she directed it. With one stream she blocked the entrance. Hopefully it would be too hot for the soldiers to approach, and hot enough to melt any bullets before they got to her. The other stream she let build and swell, stretching to encompass all five generators.
The steel began to creak and groan as it expanded. Faintly, beneath the roar of flame, Embry could hear shouting. They’d found her.
Her limbs began to shake as she cranked up the heat. Pain pulsed through her brain from the effort of controlling both streams at differing levels of intensity. Sweat trickled down her brow, evaporating before it reached her chin.
Something popped. At first, Embry thought her fire wall wasn’t keeping the bullets at bay. Then she realized with a series of successive snaps that the rivets on the generators were flying loose and bouncing off the concrete walls. Steam began to billow. Almost there . . .
With a scream of metal, the first generator blew. She dove to the floor as shrapnel flew through the air. A second and third explosion rocked the base as the next ones exploded. Debris rained down, burning her clothes, slicing her flesh. The wall of flames blocking the hallway was extinguished, but she managed to maintain the line to the generators. There were people in the hall, hesitating to cross the superheated threshold. Unable to re-establish the fire wall, she shot a succession of fire balls to hold them at bay until she could demolish the last two sources of power.
Thinking of Gage and drawing deep on her fire, she threw one last burst toward the remaining generators. With an explosion that left her deaf and half blind, she succeeded. Then everything went dark.
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