THE GIRL WAS SICK, HER SKIN CLAMMY, HER attempts to get away from him pathetic and weak. Reston wished he could get rid of her, just drop her and run, but he didn't dare. She was his ticket through the forces on the surface; surely they wouldn't kill one of their own. Still, he wished the stupid girl wasn't so ill; she was slowing him down, hardly able to walk, and he had no choice but to continue dragging her along, north through the back corridor, then east at the far corner of the facility, heading for the connecting door to the cell block. From the cells the service elevator was a two-minute walk.

Almost there, almost done with this impossible, incredible night, not much farther...


He was an extremely important man, he was a respected member of a group that had more money and power than most countries, he was Jay Walling- ford Reston - and here he was being hunted in his own facility, forced to take a hostage, to hold a gun to the head of a sick girl and sneak out like some criminal; it was ludicrous, just unbelievable. "Too tight," the girl whispered, her voice strangled and rasping. "Too bad," he answered, continuing to drag her along by her slender throat, her head tucked through his arm; she should have thought of that before she decided to invade the Planet. He pulled her through the door that led into the cell block, feeling better with each step he took. Each was another step closer to escape, to survival. He would not be gunned down by some pious, self-righteous group of visionless thugs; he'd kill himself first. Past the empty cells, almost to the door - and the girl stumbled, falling into him so hard that she almost knocked him down. She gripped him tightly, trying to regain her balance, and Reston felt a sudden insane rush of anger at her, of rage. Stupid bitch, assassin, spy, I should shoot you right here, now, blow your slack, stupid brain across the walls...

He regained control before he could pull the trigger, but the loss of composure frightened him a little. It would have been a mistake, and a costly one. "Do that again and I'll kill you," he said coldly, and kicked at the door that led into the main hall, pleased at the merciless quality of his voice. He sounded strong, like a man who wouldn't hesitate to kill if it served his purposes - which, he was coming to dis- cover, was what he was. Through the door and into the hall...

"Let her go, Reston!"

John and Red were at the corner, both of them with weapons trained on him. Blocking the path to the elevator. Immediately, Reston dragged the girl back, they'd just have to go back into the cell block while he decided how to handle... "Forget it," Red growled. "They're right behind you, we saw them tailing you. You're trapped."

-- Advertisement --

Reston pushed the gun barrel against the girl's head, desperate, I've got the hostage, they can't, they have to let me go... "I'll kill her!" He backed up again, moving toward the anteroom of the test program, the girl staggering

to stay on her feet. "And then we'll kill you," John said, not a whisper of lie in his deep voice. "If you hurt her, we'll hurt you. Let her go and we leave."

Reston reached the closed metal door and reached around for the control panel, hitting the button that would unlock the gate and the hatch into One. "You can't possibly expect me to believe that," he sneered as the sheet metal slid up; there was only one Dac left alive and he'd left their kennel open - I can climb, I can still get away from them, it's not too late!

At that second, the door to the cell block opened and the other two stepped out - stepped in between the gunmen and him, and he acted before he had time to think, taking his chance. Reston pushed the girl away, hard, throwing her toward all four of them and he jumped left in the same motion, hitting the hatch with his shoulder. The door into One flew open and he was through, slam- ming it closed. There was a bolt and he threw it, the the metal making a sound like music. As long as he stayed away from the clearings, he was safe. They couldn't touch him. Strong hands caught her before she could crash into the ground - and she could breathe again - and John and Leon were alive... the relief was an ocean of warmth rising up over her, making her feel even weaker than she already was. The extended chokehold had taken most of what little strength she'd had. In fact, now that she thought about it, Rebecca felt an awful lot like death on two legs; like crap on a cracker, as she used to say when she was a child... Claire held her steady - it was Claire's strong hands that she'd felt - and everyone gathered around her, John picking her up easily. Rebecca closed her eyes, relaxing into her exhaustion. "Are you alright?" David asked, and she nodded, relieved and happy that they were together again, that no one had been hurt -

- no one but me, anyway

-and she knew that once she had a chance to rest, she'd be fine. "We have to get out of here, now," Leon said, an urgency in his voice that made Rebecca open her eyes, the warm and sleepy feelings instantly gone. "What is it?" David asked, his voice going just as sharp. John turned and started carrying her down the hall, quickly, calling back over his shoulder. "We'll tell you on the way up, but we've gotta go ASAP, no joke."John?" She said, and he looked down at her,

throwing her a small smile, his dark eyes telling a different story."We'll be fine," he said, "you just relax, start making up stories to tell us about your war wounds."

She'd never seen him look so uneasy, and she started to tell him that she was wounded, not stupid when a tremendous, thundering crash came from somewhere ahead, a sound like walls being torn down, like glass exploding, like a bull in a china shop - and John spun around, running back the way they'd come - then she couldn't see, but heard Claire's gasp, heard David say, "Oh, my God," in breathless disbelief, and felt her tired heart start to pound in fear. Something very bad was coming.

-- Advertisement --