The four kids run down the hall, turning corners abruptly, following Jack as he follows the mental map he got from the doctor. They race into unfamiliar territory, far from their frequent haunts of the dorms, training rooms, and cafeteria.
Jack’s nerves vibrate like the spark of a flint with each step. He compares it to the rush he’s felt skirting the law, but this time it’s different. This time it doesn’t feel like youthful exuberance or defiance. It feels right.
The hallway is thin, with a door every few yards. Drop-ceiling fluorescents whoosh by.
“I don’t understand how we got past the guards,” Maya says.
Sabine opens her mouth to speak, but Chris talks over her. “They’ll be coming for us soon enough.”
“How do you know where we’re going, Jack?” Maya asks
“It’s wild, isn’t it? It’s like the back of my hand.”
“That is unbelievable, man,” Chris says.
Jack wonders if Chris is jealous of him now, having manifested with a new and extremely useful ability so quickly. As far as Jack knew, Chris only managed to nudge a clock off a nightstand.
Jack hasn’t had a moment to consider what happened. He feels smarter. While he didn’t download the doctor’s entire mind, only some of it, he’s overloaded with new information nonetheless. He doesn’t have her complete store of knowledge, experiences, or life story. He can’t see where she went to school, her hometown, or her childhood memories. But he has everything related to what they were talking about when it happened, key facts that were in the forefront of her mind, as well as some basic habits or rote thought processes she kept in her short-term memory. Still, it feels like a lot to Jack.
They come to a door blocking the hallway. It has a keycard lock.
Jack finds himself reaching for his keycard, then catches himself with a little smile. “Right. I don’t have a card. She does.”
“What now?” Maya asks.
Jack looks around the keycard mechanism. He remembers there’s a voice-activation back-up system, but knows that won’t work either.
“Wait,” Chris says. He backs up and stares at the lock mechanism.
Jack watches as Chris’s eyes intensify, his chest rising and falling quickly from the long run.
Maya looks on in awe. “He’s trying to use his power.”
Sabine watches as if it’s an everyday occurrence, like she’s been running around on the playground and this is just another game.
The bolt retreats into the door with a clunk, a light turns green on the card reader, and a little beep sounds.
Chris audibly pushes out his breath, then jumps in the air with all his might and hoots like a wild animal.
The kids share a short victory laugh.
“Oh my god, that was amazing!” Maya says.
Jack pulls the door open. “Let’s hope the whole place isn’t on alert now after all that racket.”
“Shut up, man. Who cares? Did you see what I just did?”
Maya, Jack and Sabine run through the door, but Chris lags behind. He drops to one knee.
“Uh-oh,” Jack says. “Sabine, can you help him?”
“He hasn’t been practicing,” Sabine scolds. She runs back and touches him.
Jack looks both ways down the hall. “Hurry!”
Chris’s face, flush with red, begins to drain of tension, and he looks up to the others. “You are an amazing kid, do you know that?”
“Yes,” Sabine says.
They run down another hall that comes to a T. Jack leads left. The halls all look like.
“You’re sure you know where we’re going?” Maya asks.
“I know exactly where I’m going.”
“I’m getting tired of running,” Sabine says, trailing a step or two behind the rest of them.
Jack hears heavy footsteps behind them. The circuitous route he took through the building should have headed off security, but he knew they would eventually find them. There are too many security cameras.
From around a corner, several men wearing black suits appear, turning into the hall from the opposite end of the T, chasing after them at full speed.
“Uh oh. Here they come.” Jack grabs Sabine by the hand and tries to pull her along. “Sabine, can you try to run faster—as fast as you possibly can?”
“I’m trying.” She’s on the verge of tears.
Jack calculates how far they have to go. He doesn’t think they’re going to make it. “Maya, can you stop them?” he asks, panting.
“No,” she says, as if the idea is preposterous. “Not while I’m running. I think I’d have to stop and concentrate.”
“Chris, can you?” Jack yells ahead to Chris, who’s two paces in front of the pack.
“I don’t think so,” Chris says, looking back.
Jack knows they can’t stop all the men, or even resist them. If they nab them, they’ll lock them up in the brig, and they’ll be lucky if they ever get out. The nukes will launch, and it will all be Jack’s fault for not getting them out of this building.
“That’s enough, kids. There’s no where you can go.” The man’s voice is too loud and too close for Jack. He doesn’t want to look back.
“Chris,” Maya says, “Can you do something?”
“I’d have to stop. They’d catch us.”
“They’re going to catch us anyway!”
They approach a side hall. “Right!” Jack yells. Chris cuts right. The others follow. At the end of the hall is an exit door. As they turn, Jack notices a metal track for an emergency gate on the ceiling where the halls connect.
Chris goes into high gear, bolting ahead of them like an Olympic sprinter in the final stretch.
“Wait, Chris!” Maya yells.
Sabine screams. Jack looks back. One of the men is close enough to flick her flapping hair with his hands as she runs.
Jack can’t pull her any faster. They’re never going to make it.