I hardly knew what happened after that—it was all a blur of adrenaline and gunshots. Crawling on our hands and knees, somehow I reached the staircase leading back down to the main hall of the chateau. Liam thrust me back up to my feet once we were inside and shoved me forward.
“Where?” I cried.
Behind us, Francis swore. I glanced back at him and saw that he was limping as he ran. He’d been hit in the leg.
Outside the windows of the dining room, a hovercraft bearing the seal of the Republic touched down on the lawn. Liam sprinted straight for the heavy double doors leading to the patio and out to the lawn, dragging me by the hand behind him.
“No way! Are you crazy?” I tried to jerk my hand away from his, but he held me like a vice, dragging me inexorably forward. “Liam! That’s them!”
“Trust me!” he shouted back.
Sniper bullets riddled the ground as we ran, and the wide side door slid open on the hovercraft. When I got close enough, Liam flung me toward it.
“Get her!” he shouted at someone in the opening.
But he turned around, running back to help Francis just as a pair of arms grabbed me from behind.
“Rebecca, get in here!”
I recognized the voice, but it didn’t immediately register. Nilesh, frantic and wide-eyed, pinned me against the side of the hovercraft so that I couldn’t see out, but I was no longer in the bullets’ trajectory. Deeper in the interior of the craft, I saw Larissa and Dr. Yin, and several men I did not recognize. One of them leaned out of the hovercraft opening with a rifle.
“Liam!” came my strangled cry, as I struggled against Nilesh.
“They’re almost here!”
The man at the hovercraft opening lay down his rifle and reached arms out to haul Francis inside.
“Go, go, go!” Dr. Yin shouted in the direction of what was presumably the pilot bot.
“Wait!” I yelled, just as Liam let out a strangled cry. The man at the opening hauled him inside too, just as the hovercraft swept up off the ground. I fought Nilesh off, but he released me now anyway. All of us crowded around Francis and Liam at once.
“Hepzibah!” said the man who had hauled them aboard grimly.
A little medic bot, about Madeline’s size, wheeled over to inspect their wounds.
Madeline, I realized with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’d left her behind, in my room.
“Shot twice,” Hepzibah declared in her tinny voice as she inspected Francis. Larissa hovered just behind Hepzibah, her face almost as white as Francis’s. “One embedded bullet in the right gastrocnemius muscle, and one graze on the left deltoid. Second wound is superficial. First wound requires pressure to avoid shock. Will wait to extract the bullet until patient is stable.”
“Here, let me!” Larissa breathed, taking the gauze from the bot and wrapping it around Francis’s right leg.
“What about Liam?” I heard my own voice say, but it didn’t seem like mine. Blood blossomed across his chest. He was pale and clammy, and wasn’t breathing right. I felt like I couldn’t breathe right either.
After pressing her hand to Liam’s chest in several places, Hepzibah asserted, “He has a pneumothorax.”
“What does that mean?” I demanded.
“Shh, Rebecca, get out of the way,” murmured Dr. Yin, pulling me clear as Hepzibah produced a remarkably large needle. With one smooth thrust, she shoved it into Liam’s chest.
I screamed, clamping my hands over my mouth.
“The bullet passed through his chest and collapsed the upper lobe of his right lung,” Hepzibah explained, completely ignoring my scream. “The chest tube should allow his lung to re-inflate. Next we need to stop the bleeding. Apply pressure here.” She took the arm of nearest person to her, which happened to be me, and placed gauze in my hands, guiding them to Liam’s wound.
I might have been hyperventilating. My hands tingled and my vision narrowed like I was looking through a tunnel. All I could see was Liam’s pallid face and bloody chest, with my bloody hands on top of it.
Liam’s glazed eyes focused on me at last.
“You okay?” he croaked.
An hysterical giggle bubbled up to my throat, but came out as a hiccup. “Shut up,” I gasped, sinking my weight onto his wound. I saw him wince, and that seemed to snap me back. I couldn’t panic. Not right now. “Liam! Keep breathing. …Okay?” I added shrilly when he didn’t reply right away.
“Anything for you, Bec.” I could barely hear him; I only knew what he said by reading his lips.
“Where are we going?” Larissa asked no one in particular. She sounded dazed.
“To a safehouse. Off the grid,” said the man who held the rifle.
“Who sent you?” I demanded. “How did you know where to find us?”
“M directed us,” the man replied, gesturing to the cockpit.
“M? Is she here?” I followed his gaze to the front of the craft. “Harriet Albright?”
As if on cue, a figure emerged from the shadows of the cockpit. I recognized the way she moved at once, but my brain did not register it right away. Once she came into the light, my mind went blank. The dissonance between what I knew and what I was seeing simply would not compute.
She sighed. “Hello Rebecca.”
I stared at her. “Mom?”
End Book 1
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