May was feeling a lot more optimistic about not dropping dead. She was still horrified at the thought that the original her was gone and she might be nothing more than a copy, but she was certain that the boost was over by now. She’d been staking out the hospital for several minutes now without any indications there was an issue. She wasn’t in a position to test it, but she was also fairly sure her ability to create surrogates was returning to her.
That was of some comfort. For a few minutes, the fear of spontaneous and permanent death faded, only to be replaced by the concern that she might survive but without her abilities. The spreading feeling of inner energy she associated with being able to create new bodies was of great comfort.
But not, she hoped, too much of a distraction to figure out how to get into Saint Celeste’s undetected. It shouldn’t be that much trouble given she excelled at being stealthy. In addition to all of her training in the area, she’d been breaking into well secured military bases all week. Admittedly, she’d had the use of surrogates and clones.
It was a lot easier to be brave when she didn’t have to worry too much about dying if they caught her and shot her. It was also easier to sneak into places when she had multiple, perfectly coordinated bodies at her disposal to create distractions or observe patrols from different angles. The hospital didn’t have patrols, but there were quite a few injured soldiers and their not as injured comrades pouring into the E.R.
After ten minutes of observing the hospital, May caught a lucky break in the form of an eighteen wheeler barreling into the building. She was a little concerned, given that didn’t seem like Jared’s style, but it was as good a distraction as she was going to get. She surreptitiously entered a side door as the building went even more haywire than it already was.
Unfortunately she’d never visited Lilly before, so wasn’t really sure where the room was other than being on the third floor. She wasted precious minutes trying to get to a wall map without anyone seeing her and was seriously wondering if she could knock out one of the nurses rushing about and steal her clothes without anyone else noticing. But she finally managed to snag a glance at a wall map out of anyone’s eyesight and figured out how to get to Lilly’s room.
May could guess she’d missed something important by the char marks on the wall. She saw that Jared was crouching against the wall, hand out in an offensive gesture, head cocked in her direction but eyes completely unfocused.
“May, thank God, you’re alive,” Jared said, voice quavering, lowering his hand slightly. “There’s a gun in here somewhere, you might want to grab it if you don’t have one yet.” May spotted the gun and quickly picked it up.
“What happened?” she asked hesitantly.
“Short story, my sister woke up, dropped dead, then Kevin Knight took her body after kicking my ass. Pretty sure I torched his arm though. I made the stupid mistake of trying to keep him alive so I could question him about who else was involved with destroying Sunlight City and where they were. Bastard blinded me with his powers and it’s not healing. I… might need a bit of brain surgery to fix it.”
“Not exactly a good time for that. I’m guessing from your lack of disguise that the holograph machines are out…”
“Yes, there was a bit of a car accident,” Jared said. May winced, knowing exactly whose fault that was. “Don’t suppose you have a pair of the contacts that can see Kevin?”
“No, Krieg never gave me any or he wouldn’t have gotten the drop on me in the first place. In the twerp’s defense, he had no way of knowing I’d get boosted into being able to duplicate items and no reason to think Kevin would be coming for me independently.”
“Damn, we should have gotten Krieg to give us a lot more of those things. You should take mine then. My guess is he’s long gone, but just in case he’s hanging around after all, my pair isn’t going to do me any good.”
“Maybe not, but unless you happen to have his cleanser on hand then I’m not too sure I can switch them into my eyes without damaging them,” she said after a moment’s thought. She didn’t like the idea of fighting Kevin again without being able to see him, but Jared’s eyesight might still return and if she damaged the contacts now they were screwed if they ran into him again in another encounter. She didn’t know how likely that was, but probably more likely than it was for him to have hung around lying in wait for them.
“Okay, well then, you should get out of here,” Jared said softly.
“We’re getting out of here together,” she said puzzled.
“I’m blind and we have no disguises. I’ll only slow you down,” Jared said.
“I don’t care, I’m not leaving without you.” May said stubbornly. “So get your ass up and hold on to me.” She put his arm around her neck and started towards the door. Delays aside, wishing even more so that I stole a nurse’s uniform. Bet no one would question me helping out an injured person then.
If someone spotted them now, she doubted highly that the wig she was wearing would be a sufficient disguise to keep them from being stopped. And with Jared in his current condition, they couldn’t handle more than a couple of soldiers without seriously risking their lives.
The hallway was surprisingly clear though and she got Jared to the stairwell. “We’re going to take the fast way down. Well, faster, is that ok?”
“Great… can’t really argue with that.”
“Good,” she said. His lack of enthusiasm indicated that he knew what she was about to do. She gave a sharp shove and he went over the railing, dropping down through the stairwell to the ground floor. She flinched as he ricocheted off of the guardrail a couple of times on his way down. Yeah, that’s got to hurt.
But she was able to bound down the flights of stairs in seconds without having to guide him and by the time she’d reached him he was already picking himself up off the ground.
“I hate the fast way,” he said. “What now?”
“Now we leave,” May said, grabbing him by the arm and leading him to an emergency exit. If this wasn’t an emergency then she didn’t know what was. She glanced through the window and saw jeeps of soldiers arriving. There was also the faint whir of helicopter blades in the air. “Or maybe not. So you think brain surgery might bring back your eyesight, huh? Don’t suppose it can be the blunt, shot through the head again type?”
“We’re surrounded, aren’t we?”
“Yes,” May sighed.
“Well that’s unfortunate. I don’t know if I can survive being shot through the head without the boost. But if I did, then I suspect it would restore my sight if you destroy the part of my brain processing optical information. If I remember what Mirkov told us, Kevin basically turns off that portion of the brain. It’s not technically damaged, so it’s not healing like it normally would. But if it’s removed completely then I’ll most likely regenerate it in its original state.”
“Still, being as this is a hospital and all, perhaps we can find a better instrument to -“
“Or I can surrender.”
“Surrender?” May asked.
“Yes,” he said. “If we try to fight, I’ll probably live, but you won’t. I can’t endanger you. If I surrender, you might be able to hide out until it’s safe to escape. They won’t be as thorough if they think they have their main quarry. Especially not if you’re able to make a surrogate and surrender it with me.”
“But Jared,” she said, resistant to the idea of losing him.
“But nothing, May,” he said firmly, grabbing her into a hug. “I don’t plan on staying in whatever prison they throw me into for long. I can almost guarantee it’ll be easier escaping from there then this hospital. And if Patrick’s still alive then I can hopefully free him too. After that… I don’t know how, but I promise I’ll find you. Just stay alive until then, ok?”
May didn’t want to leave him, but he was right. “Then we need to find somewhere without cameras so they can’t see me make a surrogate,” she said. Leading him back into the hallway, she spotted a bathroom sign and led them into the ladies’ restroom. A small part of her was glad that Jared was blind as she stripped out of her clothes and created a surrogate. “I’ll hide in the ceiling tiles and control the surrogate from there.”
“Ok, take the gun. Just in case,” Jared said.
She nodded once, then lifted herself up between the stalls and removed a ceiling tile. She hoped it would hold her body weight, but she couldn’t think of anywhere else she might hide unnoticed for a long enough time for Jared’s plan to work. Plus, if she were lucky enough to escape, she might be able to drop down later onto someone using the toilet and steal her clothes. Walking through the hospital naked probably won’t go over too well.
Once she settled in, she transferred most of her consciousness to the surrogate and got dressed again. She held Jared’s hand and led him out of the bathroom.
“Now for the tricky part, leaving without getting filled full of bullets,” Jared said.
“They just surrounded us a couple of minutes ago. There are probably quite a lot of civilians left in the hospital. Hopefully that means they won’t be too trigger-happy. We could always take one hostage to give them pause if need be.”
“Probably the smart thing to do, but I think I have enough blood on my hands today without risking them shooting a hostage,” Jared said sadly. “Besides, this hall looks pretty deserted. I don’t want to go running around the hospital trying to find someone when we can get this over with by just walking back out that door over there.”
May nodded. They walked to the door and paused, listening to the sounds of soldier getting in position outside. “Hey, before you go get yourself arrested, what were you going to say earlier in the car?”
Jared paused, then embraced her and whispered in her ear. Then he gave her a kiss and May found herself pushing her consciousness as deep into the surrogate as she could, kissing him back as fervently as she was able. But it only lasted a moment, and then Jared pulled away. “I’m sorry I got you dragged into this May. Please don’t get caught.”
“Don’t be an idiot, we already went over this. It isn’t your fault. So I won’t get caught, but you better not get yourself shot in the head again. Got it?”
“Got it. Ok, let’s do this,” Jared said. She opened the door slightly. “Hey! We’re surrendering. White flag and all that. Please don’t open fire. I have information about Black Rain that you might want to hear.”
There was silence for a moment and then a voice crackled over a bullhorn “Guess it’s rather pointless to ask you to disarm, but you will come out with your hands on your head and slowly lay facedown on the ground or we are going to open fire and not stop until there’s nothing left of you to regenerate.”
Guess they learned from what happened when they had actually disarmed him. She still heard the whir of chopper blades and wondered if they’d decided to bring in the heavy artillery. Can Jared survive a few missiles? That was when she recognized one of the turrets in the back of an armored jeep as the A-32 energy projector. Or that might do the trick.
None of her clones had seen one of those chasing them and she wondered where it came from. But with the power to disintegrate a tank, even Jared might not heal from a hit by one of those things. Surrender’s looking more and more like the right call. I hope they actually let us. In Redartica, it wouldn’t be uncommon to shoot someone who’d surrendered in the back of the head.
They stepped out tentatively, hands on their heads. Good grief, it’s like they called in half the army, she thought as she saw the full measure of forces surrounding them. There were two more jeeps with A-32’s. She knew each one must have cost at least ten million dollars. Dozens of soldiers leveled more conventional assault rifles at them.
Slowly they kneeled to the ground and lay face down. The soldiers began their approach.