The door opened slowly. Five pistols, clutched in wavering hands, pointed at the opening. Five pairs of eyes watched it expectantly.
Edging out came the bulky form of Rachel, metal legs scraping on the floor. Her neck was being held by a besuited, musclebound thug with a scar running down one cheek. Behind them came another man whose hands seemed to have crystals of ice forming on them.
“Keep back,” ordered the thug gruffly, “or the robot gets it.”
Three of the five facility guards looked as though they were going to open fire anyway. Agent Price, standing at the end of the line, grunted meaningfully. The guns were lowered slowly, but all eyes remained fixed on the face of Rachel’s captor.
Amadeus exited the room after them. Price gave him a questioning look.
“The Source is safe,” Amadeus reassured him, “but they got Rachel. We need to let them go.”
“Please don’t let them hurt me,” Rachel said. Her voice, as usual, was devoid of all feeling.
The thug and his companion continued to edge down the corridor. Rachel went with them, arms by her side.
“Where’s the Director?” Amadeus asked eventually, “She’s usually pretty concerned when someone tries to steal from her.”
Price shrugged. Telling where the Director was at any given moment was pretty difficult.
“I haven’t had any contact from her,” he said after a while, “so it seems like I’m in charge.”
“Okay boss-man,” said Bryony, one of the new guards and a thorn in Price’s side since the day she’d joined, “if you are the one calling the shots now, why the hell aren’t we doing our job?”
“Because they have a hostage,” Price had always known giving the guards guns was a mistake. They tended to get a little trigger-happy.
“So what?” Bryony put her head to one side, “you’re bullet proof aren’t you rust-bucket?”
“I am,” Rachel said, hesitating, “but I don’t want to see what happens if my head is snapped off. My neck tendons are quite fragile.”
Bryony stepped closer to Price and whispered to him.
“Come on,” she said, “how much does the Director even care about that thing anyway?”
Price shook his head. The problem was that she honestly had a point. The Director was big on cutting your losses when the going got tough. Rachel was an nice oddity but nothing more. The Director was the kind of person who didn’t get easily attached to people. He found it difficult to reconcile himself with this sort of thing, however.
“I’m sorry,” Rachel interrupted his thoughts, “what did you say?”
“What?” Bryony looked up at her.
“You called me a ‘thing’,” Rachel said, “I find that quite hurtful.”
“It doesn’t sound like it,” Bryony replied.
“I can’t help the fact that my voice does not convey emotion as effectively as yours.”
The scar-faced man who held Rachel’s neck growled and told her to shut up. She stopped talking, but her eyes followed Bryony as they receded down the corridor away from them.
“That thing gives me the creeps,” Bryony shivered when they were out of earshot, “should we follow them?”
“Carefully,” Price nodded, “keep your distance, guns down. If a single shot is fired whoever shoots it will have me to answer to me, alright?”
The others all nodded and mumbled their assent and they moved off after the hostage takers, slowly and carefully. Amadeus had already gone on ahead of them. Price watched his back suspiciously. The movements of the kid were too confident, almost like he knew something they didn’t. He always seemed to.
Something about this whole thing seemed off. First the voice over the intercom, which had sounded weird, and now this. How had they even managed to get their hands on Rachel in the first place? Presumably they’d taken her as insurance before entering the room with the Source. How they’d known the Director had either the Source or Rachel was a mystery, since they were supposed to be secrets. They must have insider information of some kind. Price couldn’t help but glance at Bryony. She was reckless and rebellious, sure, but he couldn’t actually imagine her betraying them. Besides, from what he’d heard she was no fan of super-humans.
They’d reached the stairs up to the higher levels of the facility. Rachel stepped up them, her muscular captor ahead of her, grasping her neck and walking backwards. The man with the frosty hands looked as though he’d rather have Rachel between him and the people with guns behind him like his colleague. He kept on glancing back nervously and readjusting his tie.
Amadeus mounted the steps cautiously, careful not to make any sudden moves. Price jogged to keep up with him and came alongside when they were half way up.
“How do we think they got in?” He asked, glancing at Amadeus out of the corner of his eye.
“I think someone must have allowed them to enter,” Amadeus replied, keeping his eyes fixed on the back of the man in front, “we may well have a mole in the organisation.”
“You think it dug up through the floor?” Said someone behind him. There was a ripple of sniggers. Price rolled his eyes. The entrance examinations weren’t rigorous, you just had to be able to shoot a gun and unwilling to ask many questions about what you had to shoot it at.
They reached the top of the stairs and continued down the corridor, doors on either side of them branching off to different areas of the building. They were a few rooms away from freedom for the would-be thieves. Price could feel the others behind him growing impatient. They hadn’t seen any action since they’d signed up and their trigger-fingers were itching.
Stepping through a door the burly man sped up, escape in sight, forcing Rachel into a noisy shuffling half-run, feet screeching against the ground. They came to the exit, opened it and stepped out into the outside world.
All eyes turned. The Director dashed into view from behind. She pointed an accusatory finger at Amadeus.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”