Four: Break Out (Break In)

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I pull the hood over my face, my pulse speeding up the further I walk. This is stupid. Why am I doing this again?

Breathe, Ari. Focus. You'll be fine.

But I won't be fine, because I'm about to smash the only barrier between the radiation outside and the safety of the inside. What the heck was I thinking? What the heck am I thinking?

I finger the tip of the crowbar in my hands, provided by Callista, who refused any further involvement. Nestled into my back pocket is Titus' keycard, a present from Thea. I try to ignore the way my heartbeat speeds up, the way my breath shortens, and the way my hands tremble, but to no avail. Despite Titus' fighting skills, he always called me the brave one, the only one in our family willing to do whatever it took to get a job done.

I let out a scoff. If only he could see me now. I feel anything but bravery. More like heart stopping terror.

I drop to one knee, turning on the flashlight in my pocket. My ghost is still there, unconscious and barely breathing. Some of the blood has dried, but he still looks terrible. His breathing is erratic, his chest heaving as he fights to survive. Poor guy. He must be in terrible pain. Standing up, I brush some debris and pebbles from the knees of my dark jeans before heading to the device that opens the airlock. I could still turn back. I could just let him die. Except I can't, really. And I want answers only he can provide.

Curiosity killed the cat.

But satisfaction brought it back? Maybe?

I touch the keycard to the device, and with a hiss, the first door opens. Nothing. No alarm, no guards. Well. So far, so good. I touch the keycard again, and the blue light turns red with a buzz. Keycard invalid. Unauthorized access.

Well. Crap. Time for plan B. Also known as plan stupid. I toss the crowbar up and down in my hand for a little bit, gauging the weight of it as well as steeling my nerves for the moments to come.

I can't do this. I can't do this. I can't... let him die.

With a yell of effort, I smash the crowbar into the glass. Barely a scratch. My ghost lifts his head up slightly, his eyes now bloodshot as he looks up at the upcoming destruction. No longer looking coherent, his bloodshot eyes are glassed over, distant. As if watching everything from a detached body. His lips move, as if he's saying something, but we both know I can't hear him. Ignoring whatever he's trying to say, I slip a small glass cutter from my backpack, moving four bottles of water and a few medical supplies aside to pull it out. For a few seconds, I look at the strange device, trying to figure out how to use it. I stole it from my father's room; he'd always had one in case of emergency. With an irritating scraping noise, I use it to weaken the glass. Designed to keep anything and everything out, the glass that the doors and dome are composed of is nearly unbreakable. Nearly. I hope. Crowbar time. Again. This is gonna hurt.

Thunk. The scratch lengthens.

Thunk. White-hot pain races up my arm, and I place my other hand onto the metal tool for support.

Thunk. The minuscule beginnings of a crack appear on the glass.

Thunk. With whatever strength I have left, I smash the crowbar into the glass again. The crack doesn't change.

Crack. The crack spreads into a longer, paper-thin line.

Crack. The glass shatters into a spiderweb of breaks, just as a red light turns on above the door. Snapping the keycard from my pocket, I touch it to the access panel and yank my hand back inside. Now with only a few feet of room left, arm throbbing, and one chance to get the door open, I raise the crowbar once again.

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