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I have this old nightmare. I wake up back in my cage, and it was all a dream.

None of it ever happened.

Max.

Being freed.

Learning to fly.

None of it.

It was just a dream. And for the first week after we escaped I spent every night dreading going to sleep for fear of waking up back in the lab.

I cracked open my eyes. Saw bars and slammed them shut again. If it had all been a dream I wasn’t going to wake up again. Ever.

“Hawk, wake up,” I heard tapped out on a bar and I kept my eyes resolutely closed.

“Hawk,” the tapping continued and I continued to ignore it. “Hawk we need you.”

“Wake up,” it pleaded.

“Wake up,” the Voice whispered, at exactly the same time and I wrenched my eyes open grumpily.

I saw cages, not particularly surprisingly, Tapper was directly opposite me, Cam right next to her, no sign of Gale or Weird but it was definitely the Lab.

Shit.

I started panicking, looking wildly around the room. These were custom built cages, so no chance of escape by kicking down the door and they were capped off by a solid sheet of metal, completely escape proof. No way out.

Hello claustrophobia.

“Hawk stop panicking and think,” the Voice snapped as I started to rattle the bars, and surprisingly I actually paused for a moment and looked properly at the room.

The first thing I realised was that, apart from Taps, Cam and I, it was completely empty. The Lab was never empty; they could always think of a new way to mess with DNA, also Tapper and Cam were in totally the wrong place. Neither had been anywhere near me back in the old days and my only regular neighbour had been Gale, moreover I was still in my own clothes rather than the flimsy gowns the lab provided. Maybe it hadn’t been just a dream.

I shook my head to clear out the rest of the sedatives and tried to focus, panic would be useful later but it’s pretty useless when you’re trying to escape from anywhere.

“Talk?” I tapped out to Tapper who looked like she’d been awake at least long enough to know what was going on. She shook her head sadly, gesturing down the row of cages where I could just about see a heavy pair of boots. No talking then, the Erasers didn’t like noisy watches as us talking made the White Coats distinctly uncomfortable.

“Gale? Weird?” I asked, still tapping and Tapper shrugged.

“I think captured,” Cam cut in, also rapping out the message. “I went down first though.”

“What’s going on down there?” a voice hollered down the hall, distinctly Eraserish.  We switched to flashing the messages; the Eraser was apparently smarter than the usual kind, though so is pocket lint.

“Seen a way out?” I asked and Tapper just looked at me in way I think she picked up from Gale, Cam just shook his head.

“Just like back home isn’t it?” Cam flashed and I glowered at him.

He was right though; there wasn’t a way out. Screw the low self confidence and trying to avoid Eraser patrols that kept us trapped before. Weird, and I suppose now Gale, was the one who could open locks with her mind. Fat lot of good being able to talk to computers could do when there’s a very solid, very physical, lock between you a freedom, and don’t get me started how useless origami would be in this situation.

“Would you like a way out Hawk?” the Voice asked smugly.

“I thought you weren’t talking to me?” I thought back grumpily.

“Funny, I thought you didn’t want to talk to me,” the Voice said loftily. “Now did you want a way out or not?”

I can help myself,” I snapped back.

“Hawk,” the Voice said testily. “You’re in a cage with no hope of rescue and we both know there’s no chance of you escaping. Swallow your pride already, admit you’re lost, and ask for help.”

“I’m not lost,” I pointed out, just to be contrary. “I know exactly where I am.” I thought about it for a moment. “Way south of New York, Florida maybe.”

Wasn’t that where that Batchelder person was supposed to be? Maybe it was just a coincidence?

Yeah right. I smelt a set up.

The Voice didn’t say anything for a while and finally, after about ten minutes of steadfast stubbornness and realising that there really was no way out I gave in and asked for help.

“Okay Voice,” I thought dejectedly. “Name your price.”

“Maybe start listening to me more,” the Voice said after a moment’s consideration, “And maybe accept that I really am working for your best interests.”

“That wasn’t a price,” I pointed out.

“Best, interests, Hawk,” the Voice said slowly. “That means I don’t want to demand anything of you.”

“How do you know what my best interests are?” I asked, cleverly I think.

“Hawk,” the Voice sighed. “Stop looking a gift horse in the mouth and tell Cam to be ready.”

I heard a door click open at the end of the room and whipped round to try and see who’d come in. No such luck as it happened, there too much steel in the way, stupid cages.

“Cam, be ready,” I signed, on the off chance that this was the Voice’s grand plan to get us out. He looked at me confused and I just shrugged, one of these days I’m going to have to break the Voice to someone other than Gale. On the other hand given the number of funny looks she gave me I might put it off another month or so.

“This aint’ your project doctor,” I heard the gruff voice say. “Shouldn’t you be watching your own bird kids?”

Hmm, now that was suspicious, though if I remember from that list there were quite a lot of bird kids out there. Still my mind immediately sprung to Max and her flock, I really don’t know what ever happened to them.

“I assure you that all the avian experiments are never far from my mind,” he said loftily in a tone that was strangely familiar. “And I have clearance to visit these particular specimens.”

“I’ve still got to keep an eye on you,” the Eraser said sulkily.

“I’m not surprised,” he said resignedly and I heard footfalls approaching.

A pair of legs appeared in front of me, something that if you live the majority of your life in a ground level cage, you get used to. You also can read something about the person from the bottom foot and a half. The heavy black boots were undoubtedly an Erasers and the other guy was wearing… running shoes? Okay that was odd. I could tell he was a White Coat though from his coat tails.

He crouched down to look at Taps and Cam, keeping his back to me.

“Watch your hands,” the Eraser warned the White Coat. “These ones that have been outside; don’t know their place anymore.”

When I got out, I would be having some choice words with that Eraser about that statement. Actually, maybe some choice blows, stupid arrogant Erasers.

Suddenly there was the jingle of metal on tile and I saw a set of three keys land on the floor right next to Cam’s cage. Cam’s hand shot out and he dragged it back through the bars before I could even blink and the White Coat rose to leave, too bad the Eraser had heard the keys too.

“What the hell was that?” the Eraser barked, crouching down to peer into cages, grabbing the White Coat’s leg to stop him moving.

“What are you going on about now?” the White Coat asked irately, trying to shake the Eraser off but the Eraser ignored him.

“Show me what’s in your hands?” he ordered Cam, well that tore it. Cam raised his empty palms and the Eraser looked at him suspiciously, his eyes flickering around the cage, there wasn’t much of it though and certainly no place you could hide a set of keys.

“Will you let go of my leg now?” the White Coat asked sounding bored.

“Yes,” the Eraser muttered, releasing his grip. “Sir,” he added as an afterthought.

“Good,” the White Coat said, beginning to walk off.

The Eraser stood by our cages as he left and muttered to himself, “arrogant son of a bitch.” Personally I think it was a case of the pot calling the kettle black but who am I to judge. He stalked off back down the corridor of cages, kicking Cam’s as he went.

“Well?” I signed to Cam after he was out of sight. Cam smiled mysteriously and waved his hand dramatically over a piece of floor where the keys shimmered into sight.

“‘Camed’,” he signed proudly.

“Trust me now?” the Voice cut in.

“You know I don’t,” I thought back and signed to Cam “Give it two minutes.”

Two minutes later when I hoped the Eraser had gone back to doing whatever it was he had been doing, we quietly unlocked the doors to our cages and I desperately tried to come up with a plan. For the record rushing Erasers is not a good survival tactic.

In the end I decided just to leg it.

The cage door slammed open and I sprinted in the opposite direction to the Eraser, blood pounding in my ears and accelerating as I heard a yell of surprise from the other side of the room. There was a second bang behind me that marked the Eraser barging past the still open cage door and I attempted to skid to a stop far too late and ended up crashing into a door, scrabbling around wildly to find the electronic lock.

Which it didn’t have. I think they’re wising up to me.

“Shit,” I swore, rounding on the Eraser who was barrelling towards me and dropped into a defensive pose, my eyes flickering around wildly, looking for another way out.

“No where to run bird boy,” the Eraser growled, slowing to a walk as I concluded that he was right. There wasn’t even a window to squeeze through and he was between me and the other door.

“Any chance of us leaving without a fight?” I asked hopefully, smiling nervously.

“Ha!” he barked, looming over me and I pressed myself against the door. “Why, do you think you can take me on?”

“No,” I said simply and there was a loud ‘thump’ as Tapper hit him over the head with a massive two-handed blow.

“Actually,” I explained as he dropped like a sack of potatoes. “It was because Taps was sneaking up behind you.” I then kicked him in the head for good measure.

“Gale’s right,” Tapper said irately shaking her smarting hands as I searched the very unconscious Eraser for a set of keys. “You have to be dramatic don’t you? Also ow.”

“I told you it would hurt,” I said nonchalantly, digging out a key card, regular keys and taking his gun.

“Right,” I announced, cocking the pistol in as showy way as I could manage. “It’s hero time.”

Tapper smacked her forehead.

The corridor was deserted, quite lucky seeing as without computer assistance I’m about as good a shot as a Bond villain guard, and we snuck along the walls keeping our eyes peeled for cameras. Actually we spotted the first camera in about ten seconds and I got Cam to give me a boost.

“Okay,” I reported, hoping back onto the ground. “Gale and Weird aren’t on this floor and that’s the only one these cameras are connected to.”

“Where to then?” Tapper asked glancing up and down the corridor.

“I need to find a computer,” I explained. “There’s an empty office about a hundred yards that way.”

“And the cameras?” she asked meaningfully.

“Will be showing deserted rooms until I say otherwise,” I completed. “Now let’s get moving.”

We didn’t meet anyone on our way there. Maybe it was night time; I didn’t know. My internal clock was so out of whack that I didn’t even know what day it was to tell the truth. Anyway we quickly got into the office; I may not be able to open locks with my mind but there is something to be said for just crashing into the damn thing. It’s quite satisfying too.

I couldn’t even be bothered to boot up the computer, just ripped the wireless card clean out of the back and it took about two seconds for me to get online. I was pleasantly surprised that I could run the card without it being plugged into anything; also, if anyone asks, I totally knew that before I tore it out of the machine.

“Okay, we’re in Florida,” I said quickly, crouching behind the desk next to Taps and Cam who were watching the door. I’ll give you one guess as to which one had the gun. “Itex HQ, it’s Wednesday, Security aren’t alerted yet and Gale and Weird are sedated in the third basement.”

“Plan?” Tapper asked succinctly.

“There’s a stairwell two corridors over,” I reported. “It should go all the way to the bottom and it’s the most lightly guarded.”

Gale would have asked ‘lightly?’ at this point, but Tapper hasn’t developed those kinds of survival reflexes yet.

“Wait,” I said suddenly, grabbing Cam just as he started to rise. “There’s an alarm gone up, probably someone noticed our Eraser friend, we’ve got to get moving.”

“Lead on,” Tapper said giving me the gun back, and I herded them out of the door and started to run. At that point I heard a yell and whirled to see an Eraser at a turn in the corridor already going for his gun.

The computers quickly told me three things, one he was only two dozen yards away at best and there was no way he could miss from that range. Two, if we ran we’d get shot in the back and three there was no way I was good enough with a gun to hit him in one of the two places where shooting someone actually knocks them out.

Cripple shot it was then.

My gun barked once as I brought it up and the Erasers leg crumpled beneath him as the bullet shattered the bone. The second shot hit him in the right arm as he fell and the third hit him in the left a half a second later, all before he’d even hit the ground.

“Wow,” Cam said simply, appearing at my shoulder in that annoying way he has.

I took a quick glance at the Eraser and decided that he’d probably live. “We’ve got to get moving,” I said hurriedly, coming to my senses. “Someone had to hear that.”

We set off at a blind run, me occasionally jumping to grab cameras and get a picture of were the Erasers were, so maybe not that blind. It was odd, I would have expected Itex HQ to have more guards, maybe they were all busy somewhere. Of course finding out just where they were would have to wait, and knowing our luck we’d find out when we ran into them.

“Wait,” I hissed, skidding to a stop at a corner and putting my arm out to catch Cam before he went running right into a trap. “They’re right there.”

I poked my head cautiously round the corner and hastily withdrew it again, there were two Erasers guarding the door to the stairwell a good thirty yards away as well as four Fly Boys and who knew what they’d do if we went running in there. Judging from the rather large guns they were carrying, nothing pleasant.

“If this doesn’t work,” I said quietly, formulating a plan in my mind. “Take a right and a left, use the lift, and get the hell out of here.”

“What?” Cam asked, sounding confused.

“Do it!” I barked, probably to loud for my own good. “If this doesn’t work, do it.”

I ignored Cam’s blank look, Tapper knew what I was talking about, she may not actually know what was round that corner but she knew if I was giving a back up plan, our chances were pretty slim. I began to quietly up the amount of processing power. I may not be able to draw power on mass like I used to but a clever little worm virus I cooked up subtly stole a good chunk of power. I’d be spotted in under a minute but for a little while at least I was getting instructions from every computer on the eastern seaboard.

Well psyche time over, time for the fight.

I rounded the corner at a dead sprint, I didn’t roar, I didn’t hesitate and I was long past the point to be afraid, heck about ninety percent of my consciousness wasn’t even in my body. There was one thing worrying me though. I didn’t have enough bullets to immobilise.

The gun roared just as an Eraser turned and the bullet hit him right between the eyes, hopefully it was quick. I hit the second in almost exactly the same place, you’d need a ruler to spot the difference and both seemed to drop in slow motion, as if drowning. A particularly quick Fly Boy opened fire as I sprinted closer, and I swung the gun around, bullets that I knew wouldn’t hit screaming past me, fractions of inches away.

My gun roared again and the bullet neatly severed the Fly Boy’s wrist servos, in theory preventing it from firing, unfortunately Fly Boy’s don’t have definite kill zones. I managed to clip the wrist of another Fly Boy before it started firing and my gun ran dry with ten yards to go.

The remaining two Fly Boys guns roared into life as I let the useless gun drop from my hand and began charging the lighting around my fingers. This was the part where I didn’t expect to survive; I bellowed a wordless cry as I threw myself forwards and bullets roared past scant millimetres from my stomach, one making a neat hole in my coat hem and another glancing off my shoe.

I caught the two, kind of immobilised, Fly Boys beneath their chins and used them as a pivot, hurling myself over and back, drawing my legs in to prevent me breaking them on the ceiling and simultaneously blasting the two robots with electricity. My feet connected with the Fly Boy right behind them I hit it like a tonne of bricks, my mind reeling from the lightning feedback and I desperately started recharging. The Fly Boy toppled backwards and I stuck to it like glue, grabbing its neighbour’s head as I passed and unloading another truck load of voltage into its head. It was getting seriously hard to think at this point, partly because zapping people gives me the mother of all headaches, but mostly because I was losing power fast. Stupid anti virus software.

The last Fly Boy hit the ground with an almighty crash and I looked into its false eyes, I knew it didn’t see with them but there was some satisfaction in hitting back at something Lab. Even if it wasn’t sentient.

“You will…” the Fly Boy began in a very fake sounding voice and I dropped a massive static charge into what passed for its brain.

At that point I rolled off the fallen Fly Boy and lay on the tiles panting, covering my eyes to fight off the onrushing migraine. I have got to stop using the damn lightning; at least punching the Fly Boys wouldn’t knock me out for a five minutes.

“You okay Hawk?” I heard Cam ask over the static in my ears, and I thought very loudly.

“Do I look okay?” but couldn’t actually get my mouth working.

“Now that was foolish,” the Voice interjected.

“Hell yeah,” I agreed. I probably shouldn’t agree with the Voice, I think it’s a sign of the apocalypse or something.

“Hawk?” Tapper asked concernedly.

“Yeah I’m up, I’m up,” I muttered getting shakily to my feet and balking as I saw the dead Erasers. I wasn’t going to think about them, it had been. Necessary. Nothing more and I certainly hadn’t enjoyed it. “We should get moving.”

We swiped the assault rifles from the Fly Boys and I popped the key card lock so we could slip into the stairwell and hurry down. The third basement was even quieter than our level, they didn’t even have the lights on in some places, and we snuck around the sporadic Eraser patrols with ease, though we had some advantage in that we could get information from the cameras while they only ‘thought’ they could.

“Okay, so they’ve got Gale and Weird’s room guarded,” I reported in a whisper, dropping back to ground level and holding the others at an intersection to the corridor of said room. “There’s also a lot of Erasers just come onto this floor, I think they’ve figured we’re down here.”

“So no guns?” Tapper asked.

“Actually I was thinking get in there and run like hell,” I said frankly. “Cam, on my signal, jump round that corner and fire everything you’ve got.”

“Roger,” he said brightly, flicking the safety off the gun and putting it on full automatic grinning like a loon as he did so.

“Subtle, Hawk,” Tapper said rolling her eyes in the annoying way she’s picked up from Gale.

“Hey,” I said nonchalantly, cocking the rifle. “I don’t have a middle name, and if I didn’t it would not be subtle. Okay, now Cam.”

Cam leapt round the corridor with a roar, me right on his tail and opened fire; bullets pinging wildly off the walls, floor, ceiling, Fly Boys and Erasers. The Fly Boys brought their guns up as the Erasers dove for what cover you can find in a fairly narrow corridor, mostly doors FYI, and I started squeezing off short bursts of fire.

It’s true that there aren’t one hit kill spots on Fly Boys; on the other hand if you hit one in the throat three times you are going to hit something vital. All six Fly Boys were down before they’d fired a dozen rounds between them, half the Erasers were wounded and the rest were hiding behind whatever they could find that at least looked bullet proof.

Computer assisted gun fights; it’s just not fair anymore, though I was probably going to get it in the neck for stealing power for that one as well.

“We have got to use these more often,” Cam said awed as I let my empty clip rattle to the floor.

“Tell me about it,” I said simply, reloading and tossing Cam another clip, we actually probably should do something more crafty next time; I only had two clips left.

“You Erasers won’t get shot if you run now!” I roared over the lingering echoes and watched grimly as any of the Erasers that could still stand helped their comrades limp away. Erasers usually have worse survival instincts than me but there really is only one choice when facing down the barrels of assault rifles.

“They’ll have heard that for three floors,” Tapper said dryly, appearing behind us.

“In that case we need to go faster,” I said simply, jogging to the door and kicking it open.

The room actually looked quite comfortable, kind of like a large private room in a hospital, of course without the TV, windows or hope of ever escaping. Gale and Weird weren’t hard to spot, both hooked up to a tonne of medical equipment and drips, they looked like they were going to be there for the long haul. In all honesty it wouldn’t surprise me if the lab never actually woke them up, Gale could easily overcome any guards they had and Weird could take down the damn whole building.

I suppose it was a good thing we were there to rescue them then.

“How do we wake them up then?” Tapper asked softly.

“Well I was hoping the same way as last time,” I admitted, walking over to where Weird was lying peacefully and disconnected every drip I could find. Nothing happened.

“Okay, the other time,” I said, slapping Weird round the face and legging it back towards the door as the whole room seemed to hold its breath. There was a dull roar as the equipment was blasted way from Weird, the bed collapsing beneath her and she hovered in a green corona, slowly rotating to upright, a fine mist boiling into existence around her and evaporating almost instantly. Don’t ask me what it was; I’ve just stopped asking with Weird.

“Done?” I asked her as her eyes flickered open and she staggered clasping her head.

“Ow,” she said pinching the bridge of her nose and rubbing her eyes. “I have such a headache. What happened?”

“Well the Erasers snuck up on us,” I began. “They sedated you over a thousand foot drop, you fell, I caught, I got knocked out, we got captured, woke up in cages, busted out, beat up an Eraser, found a computer, found you, fought our way through, woke you up and there now are about two hundred or so bad guys coming to kill us.” I took a deep gulp of breath.

“Nice summary,” Tapper said, rolling her eyes as I moved over to Gale, unplugging everything that either dripped or went beep. She didn’t stir.

“Can you wake her up?” I asked Weird who I think was still trying to work out what I said.

“Probably not,” she said apologetically. “I don’t know how to remove chemicals from the blood.”

“Didn’t you just do that?” Cam cut in tactfully.

“Didn’t your heat just beat? Weird asked shrugging. “Do you know how you did that?”

“Touché Weird,” I said shrugging. “Now, we really have to go before…”

At that point an Eraser appeared in the doorway and yelled, brining his gun up as he did so. Note to self: Erasers have dramatic timing, stop giving them leads. He looked quite surprised when nothing happen and even more surprised when an invisible force picked him up bodily and sent him crashing into a wall.

“You know, I just realised something,” Weird said, apparently not fazed by the fact she’d just thrown an Eraser with her mind. “I’ve spent all this time stopping bullets when I could just have stopped them pulling the trigger.”

“Hey, I don’t know how this stuff works,” I said casually. “Now Cam, Taps, get Gale and we can finally get out of here.”

Tapper and Cam picked up Gale in a two man lift; fortunately she didn’t weigh much, I can’t say for sure how much exactly – officially because I don’t know, but actually because Gale would kill me if it went worldwide. We set off towards the main elevator which was about two hundred yards away; I reckon I was feeling kind of cocky with Weird back on our side because going out the front door is never the smartest decision.

“Hawk I need your help,” the Voice said suddenly.

“You?” I asked sarcastically, going round a corner gun first and waving the others on when I saw it was clear. “Pinch me I must be dreaming.”

“Hawk this is not the time for joking around,” the Voice said sounding deadly serious. “I need you to shut down the largest power source in the facility; you should have access to it.”

“And why should I help you?” I asked sceptically, advancing slowing down the next corridor, already finding this ‘power source’ the Voice was talking about.

“I will owe you a favour,” the Voice said after a moment.

“Deal,” I agreed instantly, shutting down whatever the hell it was. I couldn’t actually tell that anything happened, but the Voice stopped bugging me so I assumed it worked.

An Eraser suddenly rounded the corner and our eyes met for a moment, I think he was just as surprised as me, then we both went for our guns. He never actually got his up, as it was just then when there was a clamour of tearing metal and a large chunk of heating duct tore its way through the flimsy ceiling tiles and slammed into his head. It left a dent that I thought only happened in cartoons and he slumped to the floor, out like a light, the gun rattling to the ground.

The second Eraser actually managed to get off two shots by jumping round the corner and taking Weird by surprise. It would have been impressive too, but the bullets roared to a stop within about two inches and he slumped as an invisible force cracked him across the back of his head.

“Nice,” I said, walking up and nudging the two Erasers with my foot to make sure they were unconscious. “But what happened to not hurting people with your power?”

“They tried to kill me,” she said in a small voice.

“They’ve been shooting at us on and off for about three weeks,” I said rolling my eyes. “Not to mention what happened at the Lab. Do you really think that haven’t been trying to kill you up until now?”

“Maybe,” she said, even quieter. “Bullets don’t really bother me and I could kill them far more easily than they could.”

“What’s easier than shooting an eight year old?” I said bitterly, looking away from Weird and down another corridor. I swear when I get out of here I am not going into a building for a week, I mean would it kill them to decorate a little? Seriously, the blank featureless wall décor gets old really fast.

“Hawk,” Weird said sounding deadly serious, dragging me around with a little physic push to look right into her eyes. “It would be as easy as blowing out a candle.”

There was a sudden boom and the whole building shook almost throwing me to the ground.

“What the hell was that?” I exclaimed, distracting myself from Weird’s grim promise.

“A bomb,” Weird reported, cocking her head. “First, maybe second floor.”

“Voice?” I thought as dust trickled down from the ceiling.

“I suggest you use the distraction Hawk,” the Voice answered. “I have my own affairs to deal with.”

“Great,” I muttered. “Weird is the ceiling going to fall on us?”

“No,” she said, as if it was obvious.

“Let’s go then.”

The corridor up to the elevator, another completely non-descript corridor I might add, was deserted, which smelled of a trap to me.

“It’s clear,” Weird informed me as if reading my mind. “There’s a lot on the next few floors though.”

“And we’re taking the elevator,” I concluded. “This is so a trap.”

“The stairs are right there,” Tapper pointed out, sounding a little out of breath from carrying Gale.

“Actually I think I’d prefer the metal box,” I admitted. “At least then I’d have something solid between us and them.” I really wished that the cameras between floors were connected. Apparently they should have been but ‘someone’ ripped those cables out, the Lab’s really wising up to me. Maybe not Weird though.

I may have mentioned I hate elevators, though they have one redeemable quality over stairs which is you can’t shoot through them. I still hate them though. It was just as I was contemplating just how much I dislike being locked in a small metal box that the carriage’s lights cut out and the elevator ground to a stop, the emergency lights flickering on a dull red.

“Trap,” I said concluded confidently and ran my hand along the top of the door to find the motor. “Weird, where are the Erasers?”

“Above and below us,” she reported. “We’re between the first and second basement. Nice work avoiding the trap by the way.”

“We’re underground,” I said testily. “It was always going to end in a fight.” I found the motor and pulsed power through it, opening the doors by about six inches, fortunately the Erasers hadn’t thought to open the doors on their side or that might have been yet another foolish decision my rapidly growing list.

“Weird can you knock out the Erasers?” I asked hurriedly, sizing up the gap between us and the next floor. It was a good two feet, plenty of wiggle room, but you’d be a sitting duck for anyone waiting on the other side. Also you’d still need to climb a flight of stairs while being shot at.

“I couldn’t be sure of not killing them,” she said after a moment’s thought.

“How about something like a flash bang then?” I suggested.

“Flashes I can do,” she said vehemently. “Lights are easy.” Suddenly there was a flare of light through the crack between the doors and I flinched away, feeling the skin sear on the back of my hand.

“Done,” she said off-handly and I rolled my eyes before dragging open the doors.

“Overkill much?” I asked looking at onto the corridor, which I could at least say wasn’t exactly like all the others. The others didn’t have a blanket of stunned/unconscious Erasers and blackened walls with the white outlines where the Erasers had apparently gotten in the way of the light.

“I may have overdone it a little,” she admitted, wincing, and I crawled through the gap, avoiding the hot metal and helped her up.

“Just a little,” I agreed sarcastically, pulling Gale through the gap. “How the hell did you get them to all be looking at it anyway?”

“Pilot light,” she explained sheepishly as both Cam and Tapper scrambled through the gap and I heard an Eraser like yell from below.

“They opened the door,” Tapper explained quickly.

“Right then,” I said with annoying cheeriness. “Time to exit, stage right.”

If Gale had been awake at the point she would have then attempted to kill me as I then ran for the stairs, on my left.

“Go, go, go!” I roared as we burst into the stairwell, drowning out the yells of the Erasers below us and I ducked as a bullet pinged off the banister next to my hand.

“Weird!” I yelled anxiously as I hurried her and the others past, taking off after them a moment later.

“Working on it,” she shot back, as yet more bullets ricochet off the concrete. Fortunately you can’t aim worth a jot while running up stairs; unfortunately one of them was bound to get lucky eventually.

I felt my ears pop as the pressure dropped, a sure sign that Weird was doing something, and ice began to form on the steps beneath my feet.

“Weird,” I snapped as I slipped almost fell.

“Can’t stop now,” she blurted as Cam and Taps burst out of the stairwell and into the lobby. “Just get off the stairs.”

I didn’t need telling twice as I sprinted up the stairs, fissures shooting through the concrete and felt my shoes begin to stick to the surface, it was getting that cold. What the hell was Weird trying to do? There was a tumultuous crack as the entire stairway shook and I leapt without thinking, proving that at least some small part of me has some common sense.

I landed with a bang on my stomach, skidding to a stop on the landing and wincing as I heard the crashing of the stairs collapsing behind me.

“Couldn’t you have just pushed them down?” I asked, getting to my feet and holding my head. Guns are really noisy in an enclosed space, though I think most of my headache was from the fact that I’d hit my head on my gun when I landed.

“Weird?” I asked when she didn’t reply and I looked round to see her aura flaring as she shook so fast her outline blurred. Suddenly a shot whistled over my head and I whirled to see an Eraser on the lower landing taking careful aim and I desperately tried to bring my gun up in time. A lightning bolt flashed over my shoulder and hit the Eraser right in the chest sending him smashing into the wall, which he then slid down, stone dead.

“Shit,” Weird swore, as I dragged her into the lobby before any more Erasers showed up. “I didn’t mean to do that.”

“Well, why didn’t you just dump the heat into the air?” I asked casting my eyes around the lobby that was apparently deserted; I could even see the front doors from where I was. There was no way would be that easy though.

“Have you any idea how cold you have to get concrete before it falls apart?” Weird protested sounding distraught. “I was trying to avoid cooking people alive.”

“Guys,” Tapper interjected. “Run maybe?”

“Yeah, that might be smart,” I agreed and set off at a run towards the doors.

Note to self: check external cameras before running out of the building. I dove to the ground as the sixty or so Erasers plus Fly Boys hiding behind cars opened fire and I heard the thuds of Weird, Cam, and Taps landing next to me, dropping Gale as they did so which she would be extremely pissed about when she woke up.

A foot thick wall of asphalt shot up in front of me and I crawled towards it, curling into a ball to prevent myself being hit by either a ricochet or a head shot. Would it really have killed Weird to make the damn thing a few feet higher?

“Weird!” I roared of the thunder of gunfire. I had to yell even though she was about six inches from me also sheltering behind the wall,

“Too many bullets,” she screamed back as we dragged Gale out of the firing line. “And I can’t see the triggers.”

“Well do something,” I snapped. “My power’s kind of limited against this many people.”

This is a general announcement to the Governments of the world. Please build an orbital laser cannon so I can use it in situations like these. Thank you.

The guns stopped firing suddenly, probably so they could reload and I heard a haughty voice call over the echoes. “Experiments!”  He was probably a White Coat. “Surrender now and you can go back to your nice safe cages unharmed!”

“We’d rather die!” I yelled over the wall and immediately ducked back down as the Erasers took that as an excuse to start firing again.

“Why did I say that?” I asked exasperated to no one in particular. “If we got captured we could just escape again.”

“Experience says you’re overly dramatic,” Tapper said fairly.

“Touché,” I said shrugging and noticed Weird who was bent double with her hands steepled. “Weird what are you doing?”

“They definitely would have killed me right?” she asked in a small voice.

“If I hadn’t caught you yes,” I answered. “Why what…”

“And they want to kill us now?” she queried, interrupting me.

“Well they certainly aren’t using darts anymore,” I said looking at the sheer number of bullet holes in the side of the building. I didn’t even want to think about what the other side of our chunk of asphalt looked like.

“It still won’t justify this,” she said sighing deeply and pulled her hands apart.

There was a slight ripple in the air and instant silence fell, disturbed a moment later by muffled thuds as the bodies fell to the ground. Emphasis on the word bodies. Living people don’t fall like that. A lone gun fired, the shot echoing across the car park and I poked my head over the wall only to confirm my suspicions.

They were all dead.

Every, last, one of them.

“Nothing could justify that,” Weird said tearfully, appearing at my side.

I couldn’t believe Weird had actually caused so much death. Erasers were lying slumped against the cars, their fallen comrades or just collapsed on the ground with not a scratch on them. The Fly Boys were worse, they just stood there with dead expressions, the lights in their eyes extinguished, and the few White Coats scattered around were just as bad as the Erasers. Nothing stirred, for a moment it seamed like we were the only living creatures in the world.

“I should have just blasted us away,” she said breaking into sobs.

I put my arm around her a little fearfully. “There, there Weird,” I said, as ineffectually as always, still in shock. “There, there.”

As easy as blowing out a candle indeed.

***

It was the next day when Gale finally woke up. Not surprisingly we’d escaped, even though it took us ten minutes to calm Weird down enough for us to fly away, I think somehow that no-one particularly wanted to attack us after that demonstration of force.

“Tapper filled me in,” Gale explained, slipping onto the branch I was keeping watch from, not that there was much to keep watch for. We’d flown north and camped in a forest and they probably would even start searching for us until their superiors yelled at them anyway. You’d be surprised just how much people aren’t willing to die for, so I was mostly just watching the sunrise.

“You heard what Weird did then,” I said simply, it wasn’t technically a question. That would have been the first thing Tapper told her.

“Yep,” Gale confirmed. “How do you think she’s taking it?”

“Well,” I said, pretending to think about it for a moment. “The last time she accidentally killed two Erasers she didn’t use her powers for three days and you two almost killed each other over whether or not telekinesis was evil. So I’d say she’s not going to take it well.”

“What did you say to her last time?” Gale asked suddenly.

“That there were too many people trying to kill us to deal with them peacefully,” I explained. “That’s not going to cut it this time, not after killing that many, and on purpose this time too.”

“I can’t imagine what its like to wield that kind of power,” Gale said sadly. “I guess we don’t really have a reference.”

“Hey, I could probably organise a tactical nuclear strike if I wanted to,” I pointed out defensively.

Gale thought about that one for a moment.

“Didn’t want to know that Hawk,” she said frankly. “Anyway, Weird aside, what do we do now?”

“Well, running from the Lab probably wont work,” I admitted. “Just about everywhere has some Itex presence. Hiding would be nigh on impossible too, though I can’t say fighting would be a good choice either.”

“Could we take them down?” Gale asked curiously.

“I wouldn’t know where to start,” I said shrugging dejectedly. “There are people in charge even I can’t find out about. It could take decades to wear Itex down to the point where it isn’t a threat anymore, if we ever manage that. It would almost certainly take our whole lives, mostly because even our luck can’t hold out that long and we’d be killed in the attempt.”

“Very optimistic Hawk,” Gale said rolling her eyes, she knew it was true though. “And how about running?”

“They’d find us,” I said simply. “But that could take years, and I might still be able to do some damage to them on the side. We’d get chased away from whatever lives we managed to build every so often though so anything we ever achieved would be ultimately futile, not to mention the fact we’d have to live in utmost secrecy.”

“Nice choices,” Gale said sarcastically.

“Why do you think I was trying to offload the decision onto you?” I asked shrugging and got a glare for my trouble.

“Flip a coin then,” she suggested.

“You got one?” I asked.

“Right here,” she said handing it to me. “Let’s say heads we run.”

“And tails we fight,” I completed flicking it into the air.

“Call it,” I said jokingly as it sang through the air and I caught it on the back of my hand. “Heads or tails?

The End

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