I took a deep breath and climbed the latter, as the voice of John Popov had told me to do so, moving stiffly, careful not to ruin the careful placing of the book underneath my shirt and inside my armpit. My eyes widened when I saw Zuri dressed in a guard’s uniform instead of John at the top to greet me. “Zuri?” I asked her quietly in disbelief. She smiled largely and hugged me with tears in her eyes. I broke free from her embrace after a moment. “Where have you been you jerk?” I asked and punched her lightly, just hard enough to get my point across.
She snorted. “Well I’ve missed you too,” she said sarcastically.
“I basically watched you die,” I said. “Gosh, I told you not to talk like that, you huge drama queen. I knew you’d be fine.”
Zuri laughed again. “I came really close to dying before Elizabeth came and had me help her get you out and test your abilities in exchange for healing me,” she said.
“Wait, so I didn’t actually have to solve all those weird puzzles, you could’ve just come and gotten me out that whole time?” I asked angrily, my mind flashing to the amount of stress I could’ve simply avoided.
She thought for a moment before nodding. “Yeah,” she said. “Sorry about that.”
“We can deal with that later,” I told her. “But for now, we have to find a way to meet Elizabeth in the lab without anyone noticing.”
“Oh yeah,” she said, hitting her forehead with the palm of her hand. “Do you have that book you got?”
“Because that’s actually the official clue generator for this entire facility’s passwords,” she said. “We gave that to you after an entire team of the smartest people in America tried to crack it for months,” she said casually.
“That’s really stupid,” I said. “I mean what if I’d lost it?”
“Then we’d be really screwed,” she said, flipping the book open and scanning the words quickly. She looked up at me with great shock.
“Do you know German?”
“This book is written in German,” she told me. I snatched the book from her hands and read through it, all of the words appearing in English. I looked at her with great confusion. “Astonishing,” she muttered.
Zuri laughed. “It’s nothing, it’s just… so clear that you most definitely are the one Dr. Brown needs.”
“Needs for what?” I asked. Zuri was about to reply when the sound of footsteps coming from down the hall which gave us a few moments to prepare for the guards’ arrival. I dove for the chair and pulled Zuri down into the seat in front of me. She quickly grabbed the book back and shoved it into the bag I hadn’t even noticed she had hanging at her side. The guards were just outside the door at this point. Zuri quickly grabbed the cattle prod and raised it into the air the way John had. She began to stare at the floor the moment the guards entered the room, she seemed to be concentrating but there wasn’t time to worry about what it was.
“Stand,” one of the guards demanded. I did as I was told. Zuri followed my action a moment late. They moved me into the center of their strange protection and were confused when Zuri stepped with me. “You are not scheduled to come until later,” one of the guards told her.
She sighed deeply. “I am coming with direct orders from Dr. Brown,” she said with the voice of John Popov. “You don’t want to be the one to explain to him why I did not come after I was told directly by him that I was to report with this umnik to the laboratory, do you?” she asked commandingly.
Two guards in the front exchanged worried glances before nodding and allowing her to come. This gave us both a false sense of hope. My worry had masked the sound of a man in the back of the crowd making the phone call which would blow our cover. I ignored his worried talking and thought it was nothing more than speaking to a friend in the group. I should have known, as shortly after we had begun to walk down to the lab, a guard from the back demanded that everyone stop, telling the rest of them that he had checked with Dr. Brown and he had said that she was not an authorized passenger. Zuri cursed in her own voice and seemed to relieve her concentration. The guards immediately pointed their guns at her. She cursed again and told me to cover my ears. I did as I was told and watched her open her mouth. I couldn’t hear a thing as the faces of the guards went from angered and threatening to nervous and embarrassed. Zuri chuckled and told me to run. I did as I was told, the smell of raw sewage filling my nose far stronger than that of mold.