Zack jumped out of the cell and began storming down the hallway toward the stairs, moving passed the stunned Igneous and Hobbar. Chip grinned as Zack neared.
“Not the racer? Sorry about th-”
Zack punched Chip and grabbed the hacker’s shirt. It didn’t wipe the smile away, but Zack could see the change in Chip’s eyes. Chip knew he’d gone one comment too far.
“Where is she?”
“I honestly don’t know,” he said. “I’d been hoping that I could talk you into the Pyrhian prophet’s cell, but all the others are genuinely unlocked. Maybe Murk released her again already, since I didn’t have time to give context to the instructions to have her kidnapped.”
“Where else might they try to hold her?”
“I really don’t know,” said Chip.
Zack wasn’t sure how far he could trust his instincts on the hacker, but he felt that Chip was being honest enough. He let go of Chip’s shirt.
“I don’t want a word from you until we’re out of here, unless it’s to talk down more guards,” said Zack. “If I get out of Helix in one piece, I might not tell Murk how helpful you’ve been. If you do anything else to mess with me, and I mean anything, you won’t make it back to that dusty penthouse of yours.”
Rapid footsteps echoed from the top of the stairs. Chip looked from Zack’s eyes to the staircase and back. Zack either didn’t notice the noise or didn’t care.
“Are we clear?” asked Zack.
“Very,” said Chip.
Zack pushed the hacker in the direction of the steps.
“Now get us out of here.”
“Should we do anything about the… prisoner in there?” asked Hobbar. “He’s… he doesn’t look well.”
Hobbar looked at the Pyrhian in the cell. He was curled into a tense crouch on the cell’s floor.
“I don’t think he’s breathing,” said Hobbar.
“He doesn’t need to breathe,” said Igneous.
Two humans raced into the hall, a man in a suit and a woman in a soft cap and more casual garb. The two paused when they saw the people already in the hall.
“Chip,” said the woman.
“Jen,” said Chip. “Good to see you.”
Rillem looked passed the group and saw the unlocked door. He raced toward the door, prompting Zack to tense, but Chip held up a hand. The man looked into the cell and groaned.
“He got out.”
“What?” said Hobbar. The Crinlian looked passed the man back into the cell and saw that the Pyrhian air man was, in fact, missing.
“How did he get out?” asked Zack.
“He’d only need a crack. Tell me that you didn’t open the door because you thought the racer was going to be here? I hate to say it, Chip, but we’ve lost Carmen Shift. She got out.”
Chip looked at Zack carefully. Zack’s mind raced.
“That’s it exactly,” said Zack. “It was the only locked cell, so we… looked there.”
“Didn’t you install the special lock, Chip?” asked Rillem. “You should’ve known what cell this was.”
“Who are you?” asked Jen, looking at Zack.
“I know you,” said Jen, taking a step back toward the stairs. A look of realization crossed her face before she turned to race up the stairs. Zack ran after her. Igneous was faster.
Igneous pushed past Zack and made it to the staircase as Jen ran up. Igneous couldn’t catch up on the stairs, designed for smaller human feet as they were. Jen ran through the door to the hall, gaining more ground as Igneous slowed to squeeze through the door frame. Jen rounded the corner before the elevators just as Igneous fully emerged into the hallway.
Igneous ran through the open space, moving much faster now and gaining ground. She turned the corner, leaving an indentation in the floor as her stony feet propelled her in a different direction, and launched toward Jen as she neared the elevators.
Igneous tackled the human just before reaching the elevator controls, and pinned her to the floor.
Both of the elevators chimed, and the doors slid apart. One elevator contained two Pyrhian rock men. The other held four humans and Murk. The Pyrhian water man flowed out of the elevator door, and observed Igneous and Jen carefully.
“Hello, Igneous,” said Murk. “it’s been a while.”