I trace the trigger housing on my gun and count the remaining clones congregated around the room. We’re grossly outnumbered. And Owen is weaponless. This can’t end well if we don’t comply.
“You have thirty seconds to accept my terms,” Lyong says, a nettled edge to his voice.
I shiver, picturing his one-eyed tic appraising me in a monitor somewhere as he talks, his papery skin rippling with the effort of speech. I can’t see a way out of the situation that gives me any chance of saving Owen, other than to negotiate. Hesitantly, I raise my arms and step forward.
“My brother’s injured,” I yell. “If you give us your word you’ll help him, we’ll turn over our weapons.”
My heart strains in my chest. I’m counting on Mason and Sven to hold their fire. I wait for what seems like forever, steeling myself for Lyong’s response.
The intercom crackles to life, but Lyong’s words are drowned out in a barrage of gunfire. I pitch sideways beneath a conveyer belt and huddle in a ball, shaking. Debris pelts me from every angle; chunks of seat cushions, shredded medical tubing, shards of glass from exploding computer screens. A pungent chemical smell fills the air.
All over the room, disoriented Schutz Clones fly backward. I stare in disbelief as they writhe in death throes, ossifying before my eyes. Mason bolts across the floor and rolls under the belt beside me. His eyes gleam like cat’s eyes in the dim light. “It’s the Council,” he yells, between breaths. “They’ve penetrated the Craniopolis!”
I blink as I digest what he’s saying, my ears roaring.
Mason slams a fresh cartridge into his gun, his knuckles bleeding profusely. “They must have triggered the explosion. They’ve been planning an attack for months.”
My brain slowly wraps itself around the information. There’s still a chance of getting out of here alive. I unload my pack and roll over into sniper position. “Then let’s finish this.” I lock eyes with Mason. “For Owen.”
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