The transition from unconsciousness to reality was confused, jarring, and unpleasant.
“What? What?” he muttered. From his point of view, Molly had been screaming at him to come to for ages and eons, taking form after form in her eternal persistence.
“Quiet,” she cautioned. “I wanted to let you rest longer, but there isn’t time.”
“There’s never enough time.” He felt oddly detached from his own body. “Where am I?”
“None of that, now. Think, and you’ll remember. I’ve been listening in on communications going in and out of the Island. The Yang Brothers have breached the defenses.”
“The Yang—-they haven’t that kind of firepower. They basically foreswear the use of all weapons that don’t involve a punch in the face.”
“They aren’t alone. The Sons of Valhalla and Marco’s cabal are both in on the assault.”
“Let them duke it out with the good Doctor. We’ll be rid of them all.”
Molly sat in one of the ergonomically correct comfy chairs the government had had designed to encourage efficiency and creativity. Molly used them mostly for twirling in circles. She stared at him, exasperated. “You do know why they’re here, don’t you?”
“For the Island.”
She stood suddenly, and started backing medicine, syringes, and other supplies into a black duffel bag. “We don’t have time for this. Stand up. We have to move. The sweeps are getting close.”
Clint decided to obey. She had the pain pills he’d need later. He awkwardly sat, his center of gravity titling uncertainly back and forth, like a top ready to stop spinning. His entire body was numb. Sitting, he felt as if he were hovering just above the operating table.
“Careful,” she said. “You’re systems are screwed up, and the rest of your body is heavily drugged.”
“What did you do?”
“I dumped some half-completed, backward-engineered Doctor Destructo nanites into your chest. We were trying to get them to repair cells and microchips. They haven’t been tested fully. Hello, guinea pig.”
“Hello.” Edging off the table, he found that his balance settled to a near equilibrium after a few seconds of motionlessness. “What are the side effects, doc?”
“Nausea, constipation, sudden shocks, loss of balance, unplanned restarts, unresponsive limbs, pestilence, famine, and death.” Molly zipped close the bag. “You ready?”
“As a hippo in a tutu.”
“That doesn’t make any sense, Clint.”
“You’ve never seen Fantasia?”
“I’ve seen it, but I don’t see what that has to do with—”
“I was just saying whatever popped into my head. It’s funny. Cheer up. We’re not dead yet.”
The first few steps ended with Clint face first on the ground. Even after he hit the floor, he felt he was still falling. “I think I liked it better when I was bleeding to death. At least that was dignified.”
“As a hippo in a tutu.” Molly helped him to his feet. “That’s how you use that particular simile.”
“Well, call me an uneducated lout and get it over with.”
“All right. Let’s go, you uneducated lout.”
The next steps, more tentative, almost glacially slow, went smoothly. He was learning to compensate for his lack of balance. The trick was not to trust his eyes, but the firm resistance of the floor beneath his feet. He slid his boots across the floor, hardly lifting them as he moved forward.
“Really, we don’t have any time.”
“And how do you know that.” Slide—slide—slide.
“While I was patching you up, I used your communications system. With the right tweaking, I caught most of the transmissions in the area.”
“You used me for my mind.”
“If you want to put it that way.”
He’d managed to exit the lab, and he thought he was really getting the rhythm of walking again. He was afraid to stop now that he’d got started. Molly glanced at him. “Segway?”
“I can make it.”
Molly nodded. She understood. He wanted to be able to move on his own again, and taking the easy way wouldn’t help him do that.
“What’s the plan, Molly?”
“I thought I’d leave that up to you.”
“Have you contacted General Hugh?”
“No. I couldn’t find a way to do it that wouldn’t be tracked. They have the Island’s sensors at their disposal. Listening in took some creative approaches not to be detected.”
“Why are they here, Molly? You conveniently dodged that question.”
“Yes I did. I thought you were smart enough to figure that one out. Maybe you need more processing power installed.”
A sudden notice pinged in Clint’s brain. He knew the information rather then heard it. “Someone’s just entered this block.”
“Oh, and I hooked you into the security network. Up?”
Clint absorbed the details he’d not realized were at his fingertips. They’ve been searching for us, starting at the bottom, forcing us to the surface.”
“They want you Clint. All of them. That’s why they’re here. You’ve made a lot of enemies. They’ve all been defeated at one time or another, but you haven’t been. How many times have different groups tried to kill you since yesterday afternoon, counting the nuke? And you’re still here, almost in one piece.”
“I take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’.”
“It makes them mad, Clint. It makes them furious.”
They slid into a small lunchroom. Across from where they entered was a second door, leading to a parallel hallway. Peering through it’s window, they saw the door to the staircase guarded by a single soldier.
“Only one,” Clint said.
“There’s fighting up above. That there’s on here and probably at every other staircase or elevator door despite that shows how much Doctor Destructo wants to be the one to tear you to pieces.”
“Do you have your access card?”
“You can’t run it. They’d track it.”
“Fine.” Clint scooted over to the vending machine, unsheathed his micron blade, and cut through the glass. He quickly ate a turnover, a Snickers bar, and two bags of chips. “It’s mostly air,” he said when Molly watched him take the second. She helped herself as well, starting with a bag of M&Ms. Clint then cut a hole in the pop machine and drank down two. Then he took a third.
“Watch this,” he said.
He held the can in his fist, swinging his arm in large circles to satisfy himself he had the control he needed. The feeling was beginning to return. Dull pain hovered beneath the skin.
He grabbed the handle of the door, turning it carefully, and edged the door open as the guard looked the other way. With a snap of his arm, he released the full pop can. It collided solidly with the guard’s head. He fell limply to the ground.
“Show off,” Molly said.
“That’s why they hate me, I guess.”
They quickly crossed the hallway, pushed the unconscious guard aside, took his rifle, knives, and walkie-talkie, and ducked into the staircase.