20 - The Flames and the Fury (II)

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II

They found the lab where her mother seemed to have a good stash of oddities on the third floor. They'd only been there once, a few hours ago, before they'd wandered home for dinner attempting to pretend they'd never discovered the floating bunker of a room. Mikie slipped through the door, her boots light on the tile. She'd heard her mother not even minutes earlier, voice raised over a sharp slew of hissing on the second floor. She knew Maria was back with the others, could feel it in her bones. Half the eyes on the street now would be West and the others' watching out for them. The rest?

That was the scary part.

She caught Reem sigh shakily as they stared at the door. No lights were on up here. She intended to keep it that way.

"Grab as much as you can carry." Her voice was nothing more than a timid whisper, with enough weakness to make her wince. She hated the sound of it, the fear. How had she ever learned to shut it all out before?

Pax's tail thumped against the ground expectantly. Mikie eyed the walkie at her hip and flicked the green light on. Soft static greeted her, but she knew Andy and Max must be nestled somewhere safe with the other one. They had to be.

A single nod and they went in.

The room was dark, sterile as ever. But this lab was different from all the rest. Instead of beakers and Bunsen burners in the closets, they found artillery. Cleaned and hung with manic perfection. Bullets sat in boxes, most of them half-opened or half-used under each rack of guns, and the scent of metal mixed with the sting of bleach that filled the space. She and Reem moved as quickly as they could, attaching clips to their belts, stowing their weapons of choice before moving to the next ones. They wanted to leave her mother with nothing.

Nothing but a potentially life-threatening army of Virals that hopefully might possibly overrun her.

Still, Mikie flinched at the thought. This was their mother they were out to destroy, after all. Could she really do it? She considered the pistol in her hands and stashed it in her belt with shaking fingers. If it came down to it could she really kill her own mother?

If it meant saving herself, saving Andy—she swallowed—she'd have to.

The walkie crackled at her hip.

"Bear traps are laid." Troy's voice was bogged down from the humidity. "Damn it's hot here."

She could almost smile. Except she knew what bear traps meant. They weren't the ones their grandfathers used on hunting trips, that's for sure.

"We've got mines set," she whispered to Reem. He froze across the room, turning to her slowly. His eyes were wide but in the dark, she couldn't tell if it was with fear or something else.

"Where?" was his only question.

She paused, wondering. "Knowing West, he'll only leave one exit on the base untouched. He'll funnel us out. Knowing Maria's downstairs, I have a good feeling that he knows we're here. So our building is safe." She cut him a look. "For now, at least."

"Which means we should head which way from here?" He shouldered his backpack, the one they'd conveniently left behind earlier. She didn't know what he'd packed but if she had to guess there was probably a medkit and dog food along for the ride with the ammo. Pax sniffed at the bag, hopeful. Definitely dog food.

"North, through the houses." She hated to say it but it made sense for West to lead them that way. It's where most of the camp would be able to hide out, and where they'd have the best aerial views of sniping any virals that tried to catch them. "We just have to make it through the neighborhood."

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