Chapter Fourteen

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We rush after Luuk, leaving the agents crouched behind us with dirty glares. He shuts the door and it locks. Then he sprints down a long, wide hall toward odd cylinders that line the walls. I frown... this is where the strange columns of liquid are that I felt when he broke my collar. Tall, floor-to-ceiling tanks. They're green, glowing from LEDs inside the tube. Like the vision Anitra showed us...

There's people in here.

Naked, drifting asleep in the green, sludgy water. The only thing they're wearing is a breathing mask with a long tube that snakes from the top of the tank down to their mouths and nose. And these people...

I recognize them.

They're the patients from the evacuated cells.

"Galina!" Nia shouts from down the hall. She beckons for me to hurry. "Come on!"

I take one last look at the young man floating in the eerie green glow, the hum of air filters working on the sides of the tanks. I chase after her. I don't need to stay and evaluate this to know that whatever this is... It's not a treatment for theophrenia.

Luuk leads us to the last tank, one of several that's empty, its lights dull and lifeless. He turns to Erin. "There's a large cave system underground, which is part of the reason this facility was made here. Easier to use what was already in place. But there's a group of locals who have been paying off the officials at this facility, and agents won't go past a certain point in the cave systems. It's going to be dark, but once you get down there, keep running until you meet with the man at the end of the tunnel. Don't stop. Erin... you first, since you're the one they want dead."

She eyes the tube uneasily. "I'm not stepping into that thing."

"I just need you to hold onto me," he says gently. "I've got the teleportation ring, and since I've been practicing, I should be able to get both of us into the tunnel without seeing it. But I'm still not good enough to take multiple—"

Erin throws her arms around his shoulders, holding him in a fierce death-grip of a hug. "Don't explain. Just go."

The two of them vanish.

I suck in a breath. Did they make it into the tunnel all right? Do I really want to trust that he's taking us to safety? Is there really much of a choice? The rows of tanks loom down the hall, dizzying. I'd rather trust Luuk than whoever runs this place.

Nia shifts from foot to foot, still holding Anitra on her shoulder. "Do you think he's coming back?"

"Of course," I say, trying to reassure myself as much as her. "He has to."

Nia side-eyes me... a kind of reminder that he doesn't have to return. Once he's safe, why bother with us?

"Anitra," I say. "He'll come back for her."

Nia arches an eyebrow, but I don't tell her the stories Anitra told me while she was half-asleep and testing her powers. I don't tell her how much Anitra likes Luuk... how much she hopes he likes her. I'm fairly certain she's the reason he came to our cell in particular, even when he could have caused mass chaos with a major breakout.

A flash of violet spreads across the wall, our shadows flickering against the empty tank. I frown. Something shimmers in the reflection...

I spin around. A seething, glowing violet disk swirls behind us on the other side of the wall a little ways from the door. It ripples and undulates, casting strange shadows on the floor. A round, gray ball flies through, clinking as it lands on the floor in front of us.

Gas hisses from its valve.

Nia and I both run forward at the same time, but Nia stumbles under Anitra's weight the moment we reach the mist surrounding the grenade. The sense of plumbing around me fades as I get too close, and I quickly back away from the mist.

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