46 - Liberation

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I gasp as Travis's arms and shackles drop. He is free and collapses right on top of me. Unable to bear his unexpected weight, we crumble onto the floor together. He curses under his breath and apologizes as he struggles to get to his feet. I'm up first, and I hold my hand out to him, but he denies it, too stunned to realize what just happened. 0533 was the password?

He was a part of the operation after all.

Travis bends his arms in and out and shakes them million and two times. "Shit, I'm weak." He places his hands on either sides of my face and pulls me in to kiss my forehead. "You're the best," he says and kisses me again, this time on the lips. "Thank you."

I stand stiff as stone.

"I can't feel anything past my shoulders," he notes. "Totally numb."

I stutter when I try to speak, flustered and lightheaded. From the kisses, from the release, everything. Travis hugs me around the waist and presses our bodies together, making tingles explode inside my stomach. "You don't know how long I've waited for this moment, Aurora. I can't believe I have you back," he murmurs. "When do you want to get out of here?" he mumbles into my neck.

"Right now would be great, except they may all be waiting outside the door."

He leans back and frowns. "Why would they be doing that?"

"Will you do something for me?" I ask him.

He exhales, saying, "Anything."

"Focus. Please, Travis." At the mention of that he immediately releases his hold on me. I hurt him. I can tell. "I'm really sorry. Really. It wasn't supposed to come out like that, but can we be serious for a minute?"

He gnaws on his lip and flexes his fingers. "Mhm."

"We have to leave or they'll lock you up for good or kill you. So listen, there's a Landing Zone exit that Brink and I have taken a few times that will take us outside—dammit."

Travis's brows pull together. "What?"

"You won't be able to breathe. Shit! Okay, so I'm going to have to find a ventilator that can convert the air...okay so I have to look for one. Um...stay here. I'll be—"

He latches onto my eyes and holds his gaze. "Are you kidding? I'm coming with you. I'm free now, and I'm not leaving your side."

I gulp, afraid he'll get hurt. This isn't Earth, and these people are not regular humans. They can and will attack him if they see him. Not to mention he's also extremely weak. But he's been locked in that room for over a month, so I allow him to come along.

"Okay, here's the plan. We find a ventilator for you in the lab, which is also where the antidote is stored--and the exit. By the way, try not to freak out," I add before widening the door. Fortunately, there's no sign of the others lurking around, so we book it through a crowd of Programmables. Initially, he stays on my tail, but the further we go, the more he lags behind.

We enter the lab and I scramble for the face masks, perched evenly on a cart in perfect little rows. I snatch one up and hear him gasping for breath behind me. I turn to see him clutching onto a table for support. That's when I recall that there's no oxygen in any of the hallways. No wonder he fell behind. I click the mask onto his face and he sighs with relief as oxygen fills his lungs. I feel horribly guilty.

"I thought I was dead for a second."

"That was my fault. Are you okay? I forgot all about the lack of oxygen in these rooms. It's an option here, not required," I inform him as I rush over to a Programmable.

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