It was all supposed to be part of a plan. Yeah, well, as previously mentioned—a lot, I believe—the plan sucked. We weren’t really expecting it to go well, I admit, but there’s a difference between a bit of trepidation and the realization that you just got in way over your head.
That was pretty much where April and I were right as the goons surrounded us.
Okay, so it was the electric shock they gave us the next minute that made it clear we were in trouble again. Supposedly Larabee had given us both trackers that were resistant to the idea of an electromagnetic pulse, but the comms were immediately gone, and quite frankly, the shock hurt. A lot.
And my usually calm wife… She kind of freaked out a bit.
Okay, she’d hate me for saying it, but a lot.
Clayton looked at the crowd closing in on them and quickly pulled April close to him. He didn’t have any real illusions about fighting their out of this—besides which, that wasn’t the plan—he just wasn’t that good and there were way too many of them. The van was going to be packed like a clown car when they were all inside it. Still, he knew that even if he went through a bunch of random age shifts, he could take whatever their attackers might do better than her. He’d survive.
“We are so dead,” she whispered, and Clay nodded unhappily.
“We’re going to get you out of there, guys. Just hold tight,” Larabee promised through the comms, and Clay wished he was reassured by that, but he wasn’t.
Something hit him in the back, and he didn’t really have any time to figure out what it was as the current passed through him, knocking him to the ground. He tried to let go of April, hoping that he’d at least taken the brunt of that and cursing himself because he’d made it easy for them to get them both at the same time.
A couple of the goons picked up April, and Clayton tried to reach for her, but of course, that was about when his body decided to react to the pain by shifting his age. He couldn’t do anything. They picked him up and threw him in next to April, which was at least something. The pain wasn’t as bad, but he was still twitching, and he had a feeling he was going to end up passing out again as soon as his body decided to shift again for pain management.
Silence. Great. Not that Clay had expected anything different, but he knew that it wasn’t a good sign. He pulled himself closer to April, aware of the looks he was getting. They hadn’t expected him to be able to move after that.
Either that, or he’d freaked them out by the age shift. It was possible. He doubted Kilbourne told them exactly what they were dealing with in Clayton.
She forced her eyes open and looked at him. “That… hurt… So damn… tired… Going to… kill… someone…”
“Shh,” Clay told her, combing back her hair. “Good news is I took it pretty well. Maybe I am a superhero.”
She rolled her eyes and passed out, and he sighed, but soon enough, he felt the twinge in his fingers and gave in as the second age shift happened, knocking him out cold.
“Not good. Not good at all.”
She threw her arms around him, and Clay didn’t even care about the residual aches flaring up a little as she did. At least they hadn’t been separated. They’d been locked in a big, wide room with nothing in it. Plenty of room to pace and think about how stupid the plan was, but at the same time, nothing useful, at least not that he could see.
“Uh, April, I think that’s officially the longest hug you’ve ever given me, and that’s after you thought I might have died.”
She pulled back and looked at him. “I can’t believe I was so stupid. I can’t believe I didn’t think of that. I can’t believe I was willing to be any part of this. I must be insane.”
“It was a lousy plan. We all agreed on that, but you were the one that wanted to go with me to the diner. Well, Larabee wanted to go, too, but he’s tech support and needs to be in the van,” Clay began, but that hadn’t helped any with her rant. She had started rocking then, her head in her knees, whatever her latest babble was, it was completely unintelligible now.
Clay dragged himself up again, touching her back. “I’m not really sure what that stun gun was capable of doing, to be honest—but you know—this will probably piss you off—but you know, I’m fine. I shifted a couple times, and it’s all gone except for the ache from shifting, so I’m good.”
She shook her head, not looking up from her knees. He moved around in front of her, lifting her head so he could look at her face. “I’ve never seen you like this before. What’s wrong? I mean, other than the obvious.”
April started to say something and burst into tears, and he got nothing out of that one. Maybe they’d drugged her with something else. They’d have to get her checked out once they got out of here. He touched her face, wiping away the tears. “Hey, Ninety-Nine. My superhero. I know you’re in there. I’d expect this if Larabee had just come in wearing another skin-tight spandex number, but we’re far away from that right now. I need you.”
She forced a smile. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wig out like that. It’s just—Oh, I can’t explain it. We have to find a way out of here.”
“That’s more like you,” Clay told her with relief. He didn’t know what had caused that, but he knew they were going to have her looked at by someone because she had never reacted like that. Ever. It just wasn’t her.
“Oh, Clay. They’re so stupid.”
“Really? I couldn’t even figure out where the door is.”
She shook her head. “We don’t need a door. We have you.”
He frowned, then he saw where she was pointing. Great. A ventilation shaft. His favorite thing in the world. Perfect.
“Get me up there, and I can get the grill off.”
“I am glad that you’re back in take-charge mode, April, don’t get me wrong because whatever that was—that was just way too weird and has me very worried about you—but you’re overlooking the obvious. Only I can get in there. You’re small, but not small enough.”
“I know. But you’ll find a way back in here to let me out.”
“We have no idea where that ventilation shaft goes.”
She nodded. “I know, but I trust you. I know you won’t abandon me. You’ll come back for me because—lame superpower or not—you are my hero.”