“You’re a smart-ass,” Daemon said, shoulders stiffening. “And I don’t like you.”

“And I don’t care.” Archer turned to me. “Give me the LH-11.”

My fingers tightened around it. “Hell no.”

His eyes narrowed. “Okay. I know what you guys are about to do. Even though I warned you not to do it, you’re planning on letting the freak show out, and then what? Making a run for it? Besides the fact you don’t know how to get to that building, you’re going to need your hands, and you don’t want to stick yourself with that needle. Trust me.”

Indecision flooded me. “You don’t understand. Every time we’ve trusted someone, we’ve been burned. Handing this over…”

“Luc’s never betrayed you, has he?” When I shook my head, Archer grimaced. “And I would never betray Luc. Even I’m a bit scared of that little shit.”

I glanced at Daemon. “What do you think?”

There was a moment of silence, and then he said, “If you screw us over, I will not think twice about killing you in front of God and everyone. You got that?”

“But we need to get the LH-11 out of the compound,” I said.

“I’m going with you guys, like it or not.” Archer winked. “I hear the Olive Garden is a good restaurant to try out.”

I remembered our conversation about him having a normal life, and for some reason that made what I was about to do a little easier. I didn’t understand why he was helping us or Luc, or why he hadn’t gotten this before, but like he said, we were already in too deep. Swallowing hard, I handed over the syringe and felt like I was handing over my life, which in a way I was. He took it, grabbed his beret, and wrapped it around the syringe, then shoved the bundle in his front cargo pocket.


“Let’s get this show on the road,” Daemon said, eyeing Archer as he reached down and squeezed my hand briefly.

“You’re wearing a piece of opal?” Archer asked.

“Yes.” He flashed a daring grin. “Nancy’s crush on me is useful, huh?” He waved his wrist around, and the red inside the opal seemed to flicker. “Time to be awesome.”

“Turn into Nancy.” Archer hit the floor button. “Quickly.”

Daemon’s form flickered and morphed, shortening several inches. His waves straightened into thin, dark hair pulled into a ponytail. His features blurred completely. Boobs appeared. That’s about when I knew where he was going with this. A drab woman’s pantsuit later, Nancy Husher stood beside me.

But it wasn’t Nancy.

“That’s so freaky,” I murmured, eyeing him/her/whatever for a telltale sign that it was really Daemon.

She smirked.

Yep. It was still Daemon.

“Do you think this is going to work?” I asked him.

“I’m going to say the glass is half full on that.”

I tucked loose strands of hair behind my ear. “That’s reassuring.”

“We’re going to let the kids loose, and then we’re going to get back on this elevator and head to ground level.” He eyed Archer with every ounce of authority Nancy carried. “I’m going to give her the opal when we get outside.” He glanced at me. “Don’t argue with me about that. You’re going to need it because we are going to run, and we’ll run faster than we’ve ever run before. Can you do that?”

This plan did not sound good to me. There was nothing but a desert wasteland outside, probably for a hundred miles, but I nodded. “Well, we know they won’t kill you. You’re too awesome.”

“You betcha. Ready?”

I wanted to say no, but I said yes, and then Archer hit the button for the ninth floor. As the elevator jerked into movement, my heart pounded.

It stopped on the fifth floor.

Crap. We had not planned on that.

“It’s okay,” Archer said. “This is how you access building B.”

Terror pooled in my stomach as we stepped out into the wide hallway. All of this could be a trap or another setup, but there was no going back.

Archer placed his hand on my shoulder, like he normally would when he was escorting me around. If that made Daemon unhappy, he didn’t show it. His expression remained in the cool disdain that was all Nancy.

There were people in the hall, but no one really paid any attention to us. We made it to the end of the hall and got in a wider elevator. Archer hit a button marked B, and the elevator kicked into gear. Once it stopped, we entered another hall and went straight across to yet another elevator, and then he chose the ninth floor.

Nine floors underground. Ugh.

It seemed like a long way to travel for the little origins to get out, but then again, they were like baby Einsteins on crack.

Mouth dry, I willed my heart to slow down before I had a panic attack. Within seconds, the elevator stopped, and the doors opened. Archer stepped aside, letting Daemon and me walk out first. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him hit the stop button.

The elevator had opened into a small, windowless lobby. Two soldiers were posted in front of double doors. They straightened immediately when they saw us.

“Ms. Husher. Officer Archer,” the one on the right said, nodding. “May I ask why you’re bringing her down here?”

Daemon stepped forward, clasping his hands together in total Nancy fashion. “I thought it would be a good idea for her to see our greatest achievements in their own environment. Perhaps it will give her a better understanding of things here.”

I had to clamp my mouth shut, because the words that came out of his mouth were so like Nancy that I wanted to laugh. Not a normal laugh, either, but that crazy, hysterical giggling kind.

The guards exchanged looks. Mr. Talkative stepped forward. “I’m not sure if that’s a good idea.”

“Are you questioning me?” said Daemon, in the snootiest Nancy voice ever.

I bit down on my lower lip.

“No, ma’am, but this area is closed to all personnel that don’t have clearance and…and to guests.” Mr. Talkative glanced at me and then Archer. “That was the order you gave.”

“Then I should be able to bring who I want down here, don’t you think?”

With each heartbeat, I knew we were running out of time. The hand on my shoulder tightened, and I knew even Archer was thinking that.

“Y-Yes, but this goes against protocol,” Mr. Talkative stuttered. “We can’t—”

“You know what?” Daemon took a step forward, glancing up. I didn’t see any cameras, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there. “Protocol this.”

Daemon/Nancy threw out his hand and a bolt of light erupted from his palm. The arc of energy split in two, one smacking into the chest of Mr. Talkative and the other into the silent guard. They went down, smoke wafting up from their bodies. The smell of burned clothing and flesh hit my nose.

“Well, that’s one way of doing it,” Archer said drily. “No turning back now.”

Daemon/Nancy cast him a look. “Can you open these doors?”

Archer stepped forward and bent. The red light on the panel flipped green. The airtight seal popped, and the doors slid open.

Half expecting someone to jump out and point a gun at our faces as we walked into an open area of the ninth floor, I held my breath. No one stopped us, but we did get a couple of weird looks from the staff milling about.

The floor was a different layout than the ones I’d seen, shaped like a circle with several doors and long windows. In the middle was something that reminded me of a nursing station.

Archer dropped his hand, and I felt something cool pressed into mine. I looked down, startled to find I was holding a gun. “No safety, Katy.” Then he stepped up beside Daemon. In a low voice, he said, “We’ve got to do this fast. See the double doors there? That’s where they should be at this time of day.” He paused. “They already know we’re here.”

A chill snaked down my spine. The gun felt way too heavy in my hand.

“Well, that isn’t creepy or anything.” Daemon glanced at me. “Stay close.”

I nodded, and then we started around the station toward the double doors with two tiny windows. Archer was right behind us.

A man stepped out. “Ms. Husher—”

Daemon threw his arm out, hitting the guy in the chest with a broad swipe. The man went up in the air, white lab coat flapping like the wings of a dove before he smashed into the window of the center station. The glass splintered but did not break as the man slid down.

Someone screamed; the sound was jarring. Another man in a lab coat rushed toward the opening to the station. Archer spun around, catching him around the neck. A second later, a blur of white shot past my face and smacked into the opposite wall.

Chaos erupted.

Archer blocked the entrance to the station, which must’ve had stuff we didn’t want them to get access to, sending one person flying after another until the remaining staff had huddled against the door—the door we needed to get into.

Daemon stepped before them, the pupils of his eyes turning white. “If I were you guys, I would move out of the way.”

Most of them ran like rats. Two stayed. “We can’t let you do this. You don’t understand what they’re capable of—”

I raised the gun. “Move.”

They moved.

Which was a good thing because I had never shot a gun before. Not like I didn’t know how to use one, but pulling the trigger seemed harder than moving a finger. “Thank you,” I said, and then felt stupid for saying that.

Daemon hurried to the door, still in Nancy form. I saw a panel and realized we’d need Archer. I started to turn to him, but the sound of locks turning echoed like thunder. I whipped around, my breath stalling in my chest as the doors receded into the walls.

Daemon took a step back. So did I. Neither of us had been prepared for this.

Micah met us at the door of the classroom. All the chairs were filled with little boys of different ages. Same haircuts. Same black pants. Same white shirts. All had a look of disturbingly keen intelligence, and they were turned in their seats, staring at us. At the front of the classroom, a woman lay on the floor, facedown.

“Thank you.” Micah smiled, stepping out. He stopped in front of Archer and lifted his arm. A thin black bracelet circled his wrist.

Silently, Archer moved his fingers over the bracelet, and there was a soft click. It slipped from Micah’s arm and clattered to the floor. I had no idea what that was, but I figured it was important.

Micah turned to where the remaining staff huddled together. His head tilted to the side. “All we want to do is play. None of you let us play.”

That’s when the screams started.

The staff started dropping like hot potatoes, hitting the floor on their knees, clutching their heads. Micah kept smiling.

“Come on,” Archer said, wheeling a chair toward the door. He shoved it in place, keeping the door open.

Glancing back at the classroom, I saw that the boys were on their feet, moving toward the door. Yeah, it was definitely time to go.

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