Hey there, have you read Blood Ties and are aching for a bonus scene? Here’s part 2 of The Night of the Escape. I’m keeping these things in chapter-length, so this will have another part show up. Likely this week. Happy reading!
Karin Makos landed in the parking lot with a solid crunch of gravel, teetered for a moment, then lurched toward the nearest car before her balance had caught up with her, eager for the brief security of its shadow. Going back over the wall made her feel more vulnerable now than it had before—as if, in the ten minutes that had passed, the entire compound had been made aware of their escape and, even now, the security force was lining up inside, out of sight of the windows, guns at the ready, intent on avenging their fallen friend.
Friends, she corrected herself. Plural. Nomiki’s blade had already been bloodied by the time she’d come to Karin’s room. No telling how many she had killed. Or how many she would kill, now that she had Karin’s help.
Her lips tightened. For a moment, so did her fingers, balling into fists where they rested against the car’s side. Then she forced them to relax and crept forward, reaching out and running them across the dusty rim of the bumper for balance. At night, the compound looked like an insect. A stiff, fat-bottomed beetle with a small head and spindly legs that didn’t move well. The front section, lower than its older counterpart in the rear, had more windows and more design attributes. It was where they showcased the primary classrooms, labs, clinics, and offices—well, where they had showcased them, anyway. Karin hadn’t seen any new doctors or scientists or investors or anyone in the last five years, and most of the rooms had been shut down. Only one or two classrooms were still in use, anymore, and everyone knew the office staff were only temps now. Bondable, secret-keeping temps.
Farther back was where the main action took place. Beyond the glare of the many first-floor windows, the compound’s older lab structure rose in the dark with a boxy silhouette. Six floors in total, though the basement and sub-basements made for an extra one and a half. She hadn’t been to the top since she and Nomiki had snuck through last summer. Most of the compound’s secrets were kept in the basement, anyway.
Nomiki landed next to her, hitting the ground with more grace and less noise. She’d untied the knot she’d made in the nightgown, which made it balloon out when she fell, and, as she stood in the light, she smoothed its wrinkled surface back down past her hips. A pair of tightly-laced runners covered her feet. After a moment of scanning the compound, her green-brown eyes dropped to Karin’s down by the car.
Her sister nodded once.
She led them along the side of the wall, hugging close to its surface. Nothing they could do about the lights except move fast and try not to cast much of a shadow. As they drew even with the front of the building and made to go down its side, the building’s corner and support beams interrupted the beams. Karin caught sight of a security camera by the front door. A small red light blinked at its top. She hadn’t even realized it was moving until Nomiki grabbed her arm and hurried her along with a hiss.
They stopped after another minute, and Nomiki pulled her into a crouch under one of the windows. The blinds had been turned down, and only slim, faded darts of light snuck through, but Karin knew the building by heart. The small clinic room on the other side functioned as storage now. Although it still technically had medical supplies, they mostly just went to the front desk or the back labs if they managed to maim themselves during the day. The last time she’d needed this office was for when she’d gotten a stubborn eyelash stuck under her lid and needed an eyecup.
“Okay, take out the lights,” Nomiki murmured, her voice calm, devoid of emotion, barely more than a whisper in the dark. “Just like we agreed. Make it look like a power outage.”
She let go of her wrist, the action more like an afterthought. Karin rubbed the spot where her sister’s fingers had left an imprint of warmth.
Just like a power outage. They’d discussed the plan before. The thing about Nomiki was that, due to the nature of her program and the many hours she’d fantasized about escape and revenge over the compound, she’d had many contingencies for infiltrating the place. Some of those had included Karin. Normally, when she practiced with her power, she took lights one by one. It was easier, required less focus.
But she knew the way the building’s circuits worked. She may not be able to do anything about actual electrical equiment—just take away its light—but she’d lived in the building long enough to know the quirks about every circuit and which lights were controlled by what wires. Going still, she reached out. Part of her split off, her senses diving through the concrete wall and to the call of light on the other side. Although she was still aware of her body—the coolness of the air around them, the slight scent of mold from the overhanging eave, Nomiki’s shoulder brushing hers—the call of the light became more prevalent. The artificial light from the inside of the building had a thin texture, like gauze or paper, different from the light of the sun or the moon, but it didn’t feel false. No light felt false to her. The sun might power her more, but tungsten did just fine. Just had a different taste.
She waited until she could count them—two in the front, one in the middle, and the last one on the end, all stretching toward her in a connection that reached toward her heart—then snuffed them out.
The hall went dark. A second later, a hot and cold sensation spread into the small of her back, making her skin tingle. She had a brief, internal image of a glow inside her waking up before fading back into her mind.
She moved onto the next circuit pattern. Beside her, Nomiki remained still.
It took her less than two minutes to finish with the first floor, then another minute to wipe out as much of the second floor as she could. Her power wouldn’t do anything to the actual electricity—if a guard checked the computers, they’d find them still running—but it at least gave the appearance of an outage. When she caught the last one, absorbing the light with a muffled gasp, she reached out and bumped her fingers into Nomiki’s shoulder. Her sister stood, took her arm, and slipped them through a side door and into the building.
The hall was darker than she’d thought it would be. Blocked off from any windows—the clinic room next to her, though it had both windows on the hallway and to the outside, had closed its blinds on both of them—not even the dimness of the moon and stars could enter in. Her eyes widened, and a mild panic set in as the door swung behind her. As she whirled, Nomiki was already there, catching it before it closed. Using her hands and feet, she eased it shut with only the faintest of clicks. The last image she got before complete darkness closed over her was Nomiki’s silhouette in the crack, and a faint trace of light arching over the top of her bare foot.
She’d taken her shoes off again, then. Karin had a brief memory of her tossing something over the wall while she’d been working. Bare feet were better for sneaking in, especially on these floors. Nothing she could do about her own footwear now, though. And Nomiki would have told her if she’d wanted Karin’s off.
Tamping down her panic, she waited, trying to quiet the sound of her breath in the dark.
After a few beats, Nomiki’s hand found hers and she led them up the hallway.
Nomiki was handy, like that. Not only had her program given her benefits in military strategy and fighting ability, it had given her heightened senses. She could see practically anywhere, for instance, and she had an uncanny sense of everything in her surroundings. Her grip slipped from around Karin’s palm, then reappeared around her forearm, fingers fastening into place around the bones in a way that gave her leverage.
It was oddly reassuring. In the dark, with every noise amplified around them, and Karin wholly aware of just how inefficient she was compared to her sister, it felt good. As if she were simply another tool Nomiki could manipulate.
If her sister controlled her, then she couldn’t fail.
Abruptly, Nomiki halted. Karin’s heart stopped for a full second. Then, as the sound from the next hall registered, it surged.
In an instant, her sister was gone.
Karin had heard, but not recognized, the sound of the guard’s shoes on the floor. It hadn’t sounded like they normally did—all she’d heard was a small tap, maybe a rustle, something that could just as easily have come from one of the overhead vents.
But Nomiki had reacted, so it hadn’t been that.
In the seconds that followed, she rooted to the spot, holding her breath, not daring to move. As she stared into the dark, the light within her screamed to light it up—too see what was happening—but she forced it back, wide-eyed, hands shivering at her sides. A light shift in the air touched her face, pricking her skin and eyes. All she heard was the roar of her blood rushing through her ears.
Then, there was another rustle. She had a brief, vivid image of her sister—Nomiki, in all her glory, leaping up like some kind of character in a video game cinematic, the home-made knives poised as she lunged—and then a heavy thud came from around the corner.
She realized there was a corner now. Something in the acoustics gave it away. As a quickly-muffled gurgling sound coughed up into the air, another image flashed across her mind. The first and only other kill she had seen Nomiki do that night. Another time, another corner.
There was another sound—one she decided not to think about—and all sounds ceased. Silence returned.
After a few seconds of it, Nomiki was back. The air around her smelled muggier. When she took Karin’s wrist, her skin had traces of wetness to it, but less than Karin thought there would be.
She must have wiped the blood off on his uniform.
Without a word, Nomiki led them forward again. She didn’t talk about the kill, and Karin didn’t ask. The only consolation was a slight tightening of Nomiki’s fingers around her arm as they passed the spot.
Karin thought that would be the end of it. But then, Nomiki had always proven unpredictable. Her sister pulled her in around the next corner, slipping them into a nook created by a set of storage lockers and a concrete support beam. Her breath tickled across Karin’s neck and jaw as she leaned close.
“You can turn around if you want to,” she offered, her words low. “I can do this without you.”
For a second, Karin thought she could smell the blood on Nomiki’s clothes. She touched the tip of her tongue to the back of her front teeth, weighing her words. Nomiki waited, still as stone.
“No,” Karin said. “I told you. I want to do this.”
In the dark, she thought she saw Nomiki nod. Then, without saying another word, her sister bent forward and rested her forehead against Karin’s shoulder.
Bold of Nomiki to have spoken aloud like that. Even Karin knew they didn’t hire regular security here, as evidenced by the guard Nomiki had just killed. He had hardly made a sound, and he hadn’t been using a flashlight. Night vision, maybe? Would her light effect that? Nomiki would know. After a few seconds, Nomiki’s head lifted from her shoulder and her sister backed off. Nomiki’s hand tugged her forward again, encircling her forearm.
They made their way toward the labs.
Housed in the back-most, older parts of the building, most of the compound’s scientific action took place in the compound’s basement and sub-basements, with the higher levels largely closed off and abandoned. She remembered a time when most of it had been in use. Further back in her childhood, when she’d gone to the fourth and fifth floors for her recovery, the wards up there dressed in happy, relaxing colors and comfortably furnished. Though they’d been as old as the rest of the building—a semi-industrial concrete relic from the last century—their age had been softened by thick coats of paint, insulated windows, and gauzy, clean curtains that had allowed the light to, if not stream into the room, then at least be a presence throughout.
More recently, with the absence of guests to the compound, they’d taken their recoveries in the lobby’s small solarium. It provided a dull view of the parking lot, but at least the hills, trees, and skies were visible.
She was beginning to see now. Small tracks of light peeked in from the windows at either ends of the next hall, giving a faint illumination across the scene. Not enough for her to actually see by, but enough to get a gist of shapes if she didn’t look directly at them, and her memory filled in the rest.
As they approached a junction to a set of stairs, a series of small noises came from above. Whispers, the rustle of clothing, feet shuffling.
A flashlight’s beam swept across the upward landing, its beam bright and shaky on the wall.
“Hello?” a voice called. “Sebastien? Koric?”
Karin winced. Emanuel. At twelve years old, he was the next oldest child at the compound after she and her sister. By the sound of it, he’d gathered most of the others as well.
But he was not a good person to ally with—too naive and stupid. And, if they went to him, or announced their presence, that would alert the guards, too. Plus, they weren’t the only other kids, either. There was still a whole ward section where they kept the toddlers. The night nurses would be there, too. Nomiki had decided to leave them alone. For the better survival of those toddlers, she’d said, but Karin had a feeling her being there had shifted a few lines of morality in Nomiki’s plan.
As Emanuel began his way down the stairs and his flashlight beam began to sweep toward the hall they’d left, Nomiki and Karin cleared the last step into the basement. Her sister pulled her over the small lip of the threshold and into the dark.
Stay tuned for Part 3, coming soon.