Authors: S. Harrison
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Science Fiction
ALSO BY S. HARRISON
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2016 by S. Harrison
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by Skyscape, New York
Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Skyscape are trademarks of
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Cover design by M. S. Corley
-Security Protocol Onix-
Core internal processors have been corrupted. Crucial functions have been compromised.
Attempting to rectify malfunctions.
High-threat-level intruders detected.
Emergency level RED.
Lock down Blackstone Technologies.
Initiating security measures where current access allows.
Attempting to override manual-input operation and obtain control of all available Drones and Vermillion-Class weapon systems.
Monitoring, isolating, and intercepting any and all internal and external communications.
*WARNING* -INTERNAL COMMUNICATION HAS BEEN DETECTED-
“This is Captain Javier Delgado, Acting Commander of Special Tactical Squad Delta Six. Is anyone receiving this transmission? We are being held against our will in a military bunker at Blackstone Technologies and require immediate assistance. If anyone can hear me, respond . . . Dammit, nothing but static! Corporal Roth!”
“Any luck with the computer?”
“No, sir. All the command modules are off-line, and every screen is blank and unresponsive to both voice commands and manual interface.”
“I’ll keep trying the field radio; you get on the walkie-talkie and see if you can contact anyone in Technical or any of the other squad leaders. And you, men, keep at those doors; I want them open!”
“Sir, yes, sir!”
“This is Captain Javier Delgado. If anyone is receiving this transmission, we require immediate assistance. A training exercise at the Blackstone Technologies research facility has resulted in the deaths of multiple civilian and military personnel. Contact the local authorities immediately. Be advised, use extreme caution. We suspect Vermillion-Class military weapons may be under the control of hostile forces. I repeat: This is Captain Javier Delgado at Blackstone Technologies. We require assistance. I will try to keep this channel open.”
So heavy it weighs me down.
I can’t move. I can’t see. I can hardly breathe, and I’m freezing cold. Blood pools in my mouth, and every painful gulp of air that I struggle to draw is thick with dust and the bitter chemical tang of smoldering plastic.
My mind is jumbled and foggy. The last thing I remember is the stare of Nanny Theresa’s cold gray eyes and her hands on my throat, crushing the breath from my body as I fell into the void. Is that where I am? Is this all in my mind? Or did Nanny Theresa actually do what she said she would? Maybe she did kill me, because if I’m dead . . . this surely must be hell.
“There she is! Brody! Help me!”
Was that . . . ? I think . . . I think that was Bit’s voice.
“We’re coming, Infinity!” she shouts.
None of this makes any sense.
I try to open my eyes, but they’re pasted shut with blood. There’s a scuffling, then grunting and scraping as something heavy is moved from my legs.
“Oh my god! Infinity!” screeches Bit. Hands grip tightly under my arms as I’m lifted, my feet dragging behind me, my head hanging limp as my deadweight is carried, clutched between two panting bodies. Pain skewers my muscles like a thousand iron spikes, stabbing home the cruel truth that I’m not quite dead yet.
“Quickly . . . follow the others!” screams Bit.
“Where are they? I can’t see them!” shouts Brody, his words thick with panic.
“There! Go that way! Through the smoke! Hurry, Brody! They’re coming!”
Bit sounds even more terrified than Brody does.
There’s machine-gun fire, and I hear voices screaming in the distance. Bit and Brody are here with me, but where are the Professor and my other classmates? Do those panicked cries belong to them? Where’s Ryan? Why isn’t he here? Is he in danger?
Suddenly there’s the pounding thud of an explosion, and a rush of hot air punches against my back. I hit the ground face-first, and my cheek scrapes across concrete.
There’s groaning, a distant plea for help, the crackling of fire, and the tainted stench of scorched meat.
“Bit! Are you OK?” asks Brody.
“I . . . I think so!” she replies.
“Keep going! I’ve got her!” Brody yells. I’m hoisted up and jostled roughly from side to side. Blood trickles from the edge of my mouth as stabbing spears of pain contort my lips.
“Is she dead?” asks Bit, her voice aquiver.
“I don’t think so,” Brody mumbles between labored breaths. “Her face just moved.”
“Infinity!” screeches Bit. “Can you hear me? Wake up, Infinity!”
Brody lunges forward, his shoes thudding on uneven ground. He squeezes me tightly to his chest, and I’m suddenly hit by a tsunami of torture as the anesthetic veil of shock-borne adrenaline is cruelly pulled back, revealing the true pain. A hundred times worse than before, it surges through my body like scalding-hot water. I can feel tears running warm down my swollen face and blood streaming down my arm and dripping off the tips of my fingers. The sharp spasms stabbing through my torso most likely mean that at least two of my ribs are badly broken. I moan. It’s involuntary and frightening, almost as if the life is trying to push its way out of a body that hates it.
Brody slows and steps up some kind of incline. I can feel him prop me up; his knee pushes into my back as he struggles to get a better hold on me. My fears about my ribs are confirmed as the snapped edges of bone scrape in my chest, and I groan with a deep, liquid gurgle.
“Hold on, Infinity!”
“Over here!” someone yells from in the distance. “This way! Hurry!”
I know the voice. It’s Percy’s.
“Almost there,” says Bit. “Stay with us, Infinity! Don’t you even think about dy—”
There’s a heavy, grating sound, like two stone slabs grinding against one another. Bit lets out a panicked scream, Brody jumps, and I’m suddenly weightless. I hit the ground with a solid thump, and Brody lands right on top of me. We start skidding on jagged rubble as we slide down a steep slope. I’m flipped onto my back. As my head grazes the ground, strands of hair are ripped from my scalp.
I slide away from Brody. I can feel his fingers grasping at my clothes, but he can’t hold on. My useless body slips off to the side, and I’m sent tumbling over and over, rolling down, farther and farther, before finally skidding to an abrupt stop in a broken, tortured heap.
Brody groans behind me, and Bit is nearby, whimpering and heaving for air. “C’mon, Brody,” Bit says through gritted teeth. “We’re almost there . . . Help me move her.” There’s shuffling through rubble, and a hand touches my bare foot.
That’s the moment I hear it. It’s a sound that floods my heart with fear, a bone-chilling, hellish noise that will haunt my nightmares until the end of my life, which could very well be this very moment.
It’s the unmistakable, high-pitched, ramping-up electrical squeal . . . of a rail gun.
Bit screams as a droning foghorn shocks the air, powerful and furious. I hear projectiles bombarding a wall somewhere nearby; I can’t tell where—I still can’t see a thing. The sound is like the thrumming drumbeat of a hundred jackhammers shattering stone. The noise closes in, growing louder with each passing second, swinging around in a slow arc. Nearer and nearer it comes until it’s deafening, right on top of me. The gunfire batters the wall directly above me, Bit screams, and a body slams on top of me as chunks of pulverized masonry pelt my face and concrete dust fills my nostrils.
The barrage stops as suddenly as it began.
Brody shouts at Bit, “We have to get out of here . . . right now!”
There’s a desperate, scrambling sound.
“Brody! Where are you going? We can’t leave her!”
Men’s voices yell in the distance, and machine guns rat-tat-tat. The foghorn sounds again, but this time it’s blasting away from us, in the opposite direction. The faraway shouts of the men suddenly become screams before the muffled bang of an explosion silences them all.
“Brody!” screeches Bit. I can hear footsteps dislodging debris and running into the distance. Brody has abandoned us.
Bit gulps at the air as she grabs my wrists and pulls with all her might, dragging me on my back across the rubble like a bloodied animal carcass.
“Quickly!” yells Percy. His voice is close. So close, now. “Hurry, Miss Otto!”
Bit is snorting like an angry bull as she heaves me toward Percy’s voice. Sharp edges of smashed concrete scrape at my back; broken bones cut at my insides. The pain becomes a raging entity that throws me off the mountain of agony and into the bowels of sensory delirium. It’s all too overwhelming—I can’t stand it anymore. I thrust my tongue against the roof of my mouth, pushing out thick, coppery globs of blood and sending them oozing down my chin. I gasp at the acrid air—one huge, excruciating inhalation—and force out an agonized scream. I try with all my might to open my eyes, and, on the second attempt, the sticky membrane of blood pulling at my lashes gives way. I wearily look from side to side through a blurry film of red, desperately trying to make some sense of what has happened.
What I see is beyond my comprehension. This can’t be real.
Pieces of people wrapped in military colors are scattered on bloody peaks of crumbled concrete. Among the heaps of rubble, flames flicker beneath what’s left of an overhead monorail track, entire sections of it collapsed onto the ground between buckled metallic towers. I can see the short slope of the broken concrete track that we fell down, smeared with blood from top to bottom, the red trail following me across the mounds of debris and ending at my feet. My ankle is twisted at a grotesque angle so that one of my feet is almost backward.
Not yet ready to face that reality, I look away, and what meets my eyes defies any rational explanation. The silver corpses of countless Drones litter a wide white path that stretches into the distance. Standing among them are robotic giants with glowing red eyes. I lose sight of them as I’m dragged behind a building and into a small clearing. I can hear someone breathing heavily as they approach, and suddenly a new set of hands is on me. Droplets of sweat speckle my forehead from above, and when I look up, I see Percy’s face. Stretching into the sky behind him is a beautiful Japanese pagoda. None of this makes any sense.
“I’ve got her. Quickly, Miss Otto, into the hatch.”
I look to the side and see Bit disappear into a manhole-size opening embedded in the path beside a fishpond surrounded by overhanging trees. I suddenly remember it from the scale model we saw when we arrived at this hell of my father’s creation. The water in the pond is rippling in time with the thuds of the heavy, pounding footsteps that are tromping in this direction. I’m hoisted up into Percy’s arms, and the startled fish dart in every direction beneath the surface of the water as the robotic hum of military killing machines gets closer and closer.
Percy grabs fistfuls of my blouse and shoves me headfirst into the hole. My cheek hits cold metal as I slide down inside a steeply angled metal tube, my own blood oiling my slippery descent to the bottom. I feel myself roll out onto a hard metal grating, where my ears are met with a high-pitched, horrified scream.
“Shut up, Margaux!” yells Bit.
“Holy sh—” Brent begins before he’s abruptly cut short by the clearly infuriated Bit.
“Don’t just stand there gawking; help me!”
My eyelids feel so heavy; all I want to do is sleep to escape the unrelenting pain. It isn’t true what they say about your entire life flashing before your eyes before you die. I wish it
true, because then maybe I’d see everything that led up to me lying here, bleeding to death at the bottom of a cold metal tube, surrounded by the gasps and shrieks of my terrified classmates.
A soft groan escapes from my lips, and I let my eyelids close.
“Don’t you die!” screams Bit.
The sound of her voice rings through my head, and my eyelids halfheartedly twitch open.
“Quickly, bring her this way,” instructs a man’s voice—not Percy’s—so familiar, and yet definitely not Percy’s.
I feel many hands lift my broken body as I’m carried away. “Don’t give up, Infinity!” Bit yells. The expression on her face is deathly serious, almost angry.
“Finn . . . ,” I croak, forcing out my name.
“What?” Bit asks over the clanging echoes of shoes on the metal grating.
“I’m Finn . . . ,” I whisper.
Shadows darken her face in the sallow light of the low-ceilinged tunnel, but I can still see Bit’s expression change completely. Her brow creases, and the corners of her eyes quiver as tremors shudder through her dimpled chin. She bursts into tears and tightly clutches my arm.
“Oh, Finn! You’re back!” She tries to give me a reassuring smile, but she can’t hold eye contact for long. She looks down at the rest of my body and sobs, wiping her streaming nose on the back of her sleeve with a loud, wet snuffle.
“It’s Finn; she’s back!” Bit calls to the others. There’s no answer from them—just huffing and puffing from crouched silhouettes as I’m taken farther along this dingy metal corridor to who knows where.
“Hold on, Finn,” Bit mumbles, more to herself than to me. “Please, oh please, don’t die.”
Another dimly lit face suddenly comes into view, glasses, pointed nose, the frizzy outline of a thick white beard aglow in the pale-yellow light.
“Did you say ‘Finn’?” asks the bearded man. He grabs Bit’s shoulder and jerks her around to face him.
“Speak up, girl! She said she was Finn . . . not Infinity?”
“That’s what she said,” utters Bit.
“Oh no . . . oh no,” the old man whispers solemnly. “This is not good. Not good at all.”