Luc smiled as if he knew what I was thinking. “Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Surprised about anything, that is.”
He stood, and I was shocked to discover that he was almost as tall as Daemon. “I was six when I decided to play chicken with a speeding cab. It won. Lost the coolest bike evah and a lot of blood, but lucky me, my childhood friend was an alien.”
“How…how did you get away from Daedalus?” And so young, I wanted to add.
Luc moved over to the table, his steps smooth and effortless. “I was their star pupil.” His grin was wicked, almost disturbing. “Never trust the one who excels. Isn’t that right, Blake?”
Leaning against the wall, Blake gave a lopsided shrug. “Sounds about right.”
“Why?” Luc sat on the edge of the desk. “Because eventually the pupil becomes smarter than the teacher, and I had some really, really intelligent teachers. So.” He clapped his hands together. “You must be Daemon Black.”
If Daemon was surprised Luc knew his name, he didn’t show it. “That would be me.”
The kid’s ridiculously long lashes lowered. “I’ve heard of you. Blake’s a big fan.”
Blake raised a middle finger.
Daemon said drily, “Glad to know my fan club is far reaching.”
Luc cocked his head to the side. “And what a fan club—oh, my bad, I didn’t introduce you to your fellow Luxen all-star. This guy goes by Paris. Why? I don’t know.”
Paris smiled tightly as he extended his hand toward Daemon. “Always nice to meet another not bound by old beliefs and unnecessary rules.”
Daemon shook his hand. “Same. How did you fall in with him?”
Luc laughed. “Long story for a different day—if there is a different day.” Those extraordinary peepers slid back to me. “Do you have any idea what they will do to you if they realize you’re a fully functional hybrid?” He tipped his head down, grinning. “We are so very rare. Three of us together is actually quite amazing.”
“I have a good imagination,” I said.
“Do you?” Luc’s brows rose. “I doubt Blake has even told you the half of it—the worst of it.”
I glanced at Blake. His expression went on lockdown. An icy wind ran up my spine that had nothing to do with my lack of clothing.
“But you know that.” Luc stood and stretched, like a cat after a nap. “And still you are willing to take the huge risk of going into the hornet’s nest.”
“We really don’t have a choice.” Daemon shot the quiet Blake a dark look. “So are you going to give us the codes or not?”
Luc shrugged, running his fingers over the stacks of money. “What’s in it for me?”
I exhaled roughly. “Other than pissing off Daedalus, we really don’t have much to offer.”
“Hmm, I don’t know about that.” He picked up a cluster of hundreds secured with a rubber band. A second later, the edges of the bills curled inward, paper melting until the scorched scent filled the air and nothing remained.
I was envious, considering the whole using-light-for-heat-and-fire thing completely passed me over. “What can we do for you?”
“Obviously money’s not an issue,” Daemon added.
Luc’s lips twitched. “Money isn’t needed.” He brushed his fingers off on his jeans. “Power isn’t, either. Honestly, the only thing I need is a favor.”
Blake snapped off the wall. “Luc—”
His eyes narrowed. “A favor is all I want—one that I can collect at any time. That’s what I want in return, and I’ll give you all you need to know.”
Well, that sounded easy. “O—”
“Wait,” Daemon cut me off. “You want us to agree to a favor without knowing what that favor is?”
Luc nodded. “Where’s the risk if you know everything?”
“Where’s the intelligence if we don’t?” Daemon shot back.
The kid laughed. “I like you. A lot. But my help doesn’t come without its own peril in exchange.”
“God, you’re like the preteen mafia,” I muttered.
“Something like that.” He flashed a beatific smile. “What you—all of you—don’t understand is there are things much, much bigger than a brother’s girlfriend or a friend…or even ending up under the man’s thumb. There’s change brewing behind the winds, and the winds are going to be fierce.” He looked at Daemon. “The government fears the Luxen, because they represent mankind’s fall from the top of the food chain. To fix that, they’ve created something much stronger than a Luxen. And I’m not talking about ordinary little baby hybrids.”
I shivered. “What are you talking about?”
His purplish eyes met mine, but he said nothing.
Paris folded his arms. “Not to be rude, but if you’re not willing to deal, there’s the door.”
Daemon and I exchanged looks. I honestly didn’t know what to say. It seriously was like making a deal with the mafia—with a creepy kid-mafia boss.
“Guys,” Blake said. “He’s our only chance.”
“Christ,” Daemon muttered. “Fine. We owe you a favor.”
Luc’s eyes gleamed. “And you?”
I sighed. “Sure. Why not.”
“Awesome! Paris?” He held out his hand. Paris bent down, grabbed a small MacBook Air, and handed it over. “Give me a sec.”
We watched him punch away at the keyboard, brows drawn in concentration. While we waited, a door at the back of the room opened and the young girl from the stage peeked her head into the room.
Luc’s head jerked up. “Not now.”
The girl’s frown was epic, but she closed the door. “She’s the girl on—”
“Don’t finish that sentence if you want me to continue. Don’t even talk about her. Frankly, you’ve never even seen her,” Luc said, eyes fastened on the screen again. “All deals will be off.”
I clamped my mouth shut even though I had a thousand questions about how the two of them got away and how they were surviving virtually unprotected.
Finally, Luc placed the laptop on the desk. The screen was split into four sections, black and white, also grainy, like security film. One image contained woods. Another was of a tall fence and gate, the other a security booth, and the final one showed a man in uniform patrolling another section of fence.
“Say hello to Mount Weather—owned by FEMA, secured by Homeland Security. Nestled away in the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s used as a training facility and a stowaway for all the pretty officials in case someone bombs us,” Luc said, snickering. “Also known as a complete front for the DOD and Daedalus, because underground, there are six-hundred thousand mother-effin’ square feet for training and torture.”
Blake stared at the screen. “You hacked into their security systems?”
He shrugged. “Like I said, star pupil and all. See this section here.” He pointed to the screen where a guard patrolled the fence, almost blending into the grainy background. “This is the ‘secret’ entrance that doesn’t exist. Very few people are aware of it—Blakey-boy is.”
Luc tapped the space bar, and the camera moved to the right. A gate came into view. “Here’s the dealio: Sunday evening at nine p.m. is going to be your best bet. It’s a shift change and staffing is at a minimum—only two guards will be patrolling this gate. ’Cause, you know, Sunday is kind of a down day.”
Paris whipped out a pad and a pen.
“This gate is your first obstacle of choice. You’ll need to take out the guards, but that’s a duh. I’ll make sure the cameras are down between nine and nine fifteen—you know, pull a Jurassic Park moment. You’ll have fifteen minutes to get in, get your buddies, and get the hell out. So don’t let a spitting dragon take you down.”
Daemon choked on a laugh.
“Fifteen minutes,” Blake murmured, nodding. “Doable. Once inside the compound, the entrance leads to elevators. We can take them down to the tenth floor and go right up to the cell.”
“Great.” Luc tapped his finger on the gate. “The code to this gate is Icarus. See a trend?” He laughed. “You get inside the compound, you’ll see three doors side by side.”
Blake nodded again. “The middle door—I know. The code?”
“Wait. Where do the other doors take you?” I asked.
“To the great Oz,” Luc said, tapping the space bar until the camera was now focused on the doors. “Actually, nowhere interesting. Just offices and actual FEMA stuff. Anyone want to guess what the code to this door is?”
“Daedalus?” I threw out.
He grinned. “Close. The code to this door is Labyrinth. It’s a hard word to spell, I know, but make sure you do it correctly. You get one chance. Enter the wrong code and it’ll get ugly. Take the elevator to the sixth floor like Blake said and then you enter the code DAEDALUS—all caps. Voilà!”
Daemon shook his head, doubtful. “There’re only codes to enter? That’s their security?”
“Ha!” Luc hit a few buttons and the screen went black. “I’m doing more than giving you codes and taking down cameras, my new BFF. I’m going to take down their eye recognition software. It can go down for about ten to fifteen minutes a day without raising an eyebrow.”
“What happens if we’re still in there and it goes back up?” I asked.
Luc raised his hands. “Uh, kind of like being on a plane that’s about to crash. Stick your head between your knees and kiss ’em good-bye.”
“Oh, that sounds great,” I said. “So you’re like a mutant hacker, too?”
He winked. “But be careful. I’m not taking down any other security precautions they may’ve decided to put up. That will raise concerns.”
“Whoa.” Daemon frowned. “What other security precautions could they have?”
“They rotate the codes every other day, I’ve discovered. Other than that, nothing but guards, but it’s a shift change.” Blake grinned. “We’ll be fine. We got this.”
Paris handed over a sheet with the codes scribbled down. Daemon snatched it before Blake could and slipped it into his pocket. “Thank you,” he said.
Returning to the couch and his DS, Luc dropped down, his smile fading. “Don’t thank me yet. Actually, don’t thank me at all. I don’t exist, you know, not until I need my favor.” He flipped open his DS. “Just remember, this Sunday at nine p.m. You have fifteen minutes and that is all.”
“Okay.” I drew out the word, glancing at Blake. I would love to know how these two met. “Well, I guess…”
“We’ll be going,” Daemon supplied, taking my hand. “It was nice, kind of, meeting you all.”
“Whatevs,” he said, thumbs flying over the game board. Luc’s voice stopped us at the door. “You have no idea what waits for you. Be careful. I would hate for my dealing to be one-sided if you all get yourselves killed…or worse.”