Alexander threw the interrogation table out of the way and withdrew a key-card from his pocket.

"Lets get you out of this seat," he said, stepping over Christine's prone form to swipe the card in front of the control panel on the wall. The magnetic locks binding her ankles to the chair popped open. Alice hadn't even realized she'd been bound.

"You—You're not the spy?" she asked, bewildered. Her emotional outburst earlier now seemed completely inappropriate.

"Traitor? Maybe. But I wasn't the one who sold us out."

"Who was it, then?"

He rolled Christine over onto her back and withdrew a sleek black remote control from her pocket. "I have no idea. They thought it was me. Long story," he said.

"What's that?" Alice asked, gesturing towards the remote control.

"A neural inhibitor, among other things," Alexander replied, pointing it at her and pressing the surface.

Alice gasped. It felt like taking a deep breath after being held underwater too long, or suddenly waking up from a dream. Everything in her mind that had felt foggy or unclear came into sudden focus. She no longer felt sleepy and slow. She rubbed her ankles, which started hurting. She was hungry and cold, too.

"It's what they were using to control you. Fun, isn't it?" he said, pressing a button and tossing the device to her.

She felt a warmth blossom within her like fire in her veins, drowning out the cold and hunger. Adrenaline. Alexander had just given her an artificial boost of adrenaline.

"Alex—I'm..." She leaped to her feet and embraced him. "I'm glad you're here. And I'm sorry I thought you were a traitor."

"You can thank me later," he said. "Now, come on, let's get out of here."

Alice nodded and stepped back, determination smoldering in her eyes. "We need guns."

Alexander smiled. "This way," he said, leading her out of the room.

Just outside the door were two fully loaded Raptors with their former possessors lying dead next to them. Alexander grabbed one and tossed the second to Alice, who promptly slung the strap over her shoulder and set the weapon to fully automatic.

"Alright, so which way is out?" she asked, looking down the hallway ahead and to her right. The interrogation room lay at the corner of two hallways that connected at a right angle, neither one of which looked like an exit.

"I came in from the left, but that entrance is heavily guarded," he said. "There might be better way out to the right."

"You don't know how we're getting out of here?" she asked incredulously.

"I'd like to think of it as improvising," he shot back. "What, have you got any brilliant ideas?"

"To the right," she said urgently.

"Oh? What makes you so sure all of a—"

Without hesitating, she grabbed him by the collar and tackled him into the hallway directly ahead of them. He landed on his back with a painful thud, not helped by the fact that she landed almost directly on top of him. A moment later, a volley of automatic gunfire spattered against the wall where they had been standing.

"Feds. They cut off the exits first."

"How many?" Alexander asked, wincing as he climbed to his feet.

Alice peeked around the corner. "Five."

"We can take them."

"Not before more arrive. Where's our backup?" she asked, spraying some suppressing fire down the hallway.

"There is none."

"What? You mean you're here alone?"

"Laskin isn't going to send a rescue team until the spy is found. After you disappeared, he thought it was me, so he came down to the medical bay in the middle of the night for a chat. It made your interrogation look like tea and cookies."

"He tortured you?"

"It hurt. A lot. I decided I wasn't going to stick around for act two. So here I am."

"With no exit strategy? No weapons?"

"I got us this far, didn't I?" he replied indignantly.

She fired another few rounds down the hallway. "Hate to break it to you, Houdini, but getting into a prison is the easy part."

"Then let's get moving," he said. He took off at a jog down the hallway, leaving Alice to hold the Feds at bay. He knew that if they stayed at that intersection too long a second group would arrive from the left, cornering them. The trick was to find an exit before that happened. The hallway branched to the left about twenty meters farther down. Alexander approached cautiously, not wanting to be caught off guard by the prison's security.

Luckily there was no one around the corner. "This way is clear—but it's a dead end. Just some administrative offices," Alexander announced, spotting a helpful sign on the wall.

"Keep searching," she called back.

He quickly moved on, passing various doors and a restroom. The hallway branched off to the left again after another twenty meters. More administrative offices. For a prison that did not officially exist, the facility sure kept a lot of records, Alexander noted. In his head, he retraced his steps from earlier in the day. The next hallway from the left would lead to an exit—one surrounded by concrete security towers and Feds, but an exit nonetheless.

He approached the corner with apprehension enough to warrant switching the Raptor's setting to fully automatic. Since he had come in this way, chances were the Feds would too. He took off his sunglasses and held them at waist height to reflect the hallway around the corner. In the warped reflection provided by the dark lens, he spotted twelve armor-clad figures stealthily approaching his position. A second later he heard a shot and the glass of the right lens exploded in his hand.

"Alice!" he shouted, dashing back down the hallway. "Move it! This way!"

Alice pulled away from her post and started running towards him. He heard the thud of two dozen boots from behind. There was little choice but to take cover in the administrative offices.

"Alexander! Look out! Flashba—"

There was a flash of light and a deafening bang, and everything around him went silent. Luckily, he had been facing away from the concussion grenade, otherwise he would have been blinded as well. Alice was not so fortunate. She had attempted to cover her eyes with her forearm, but hadn't been quick enough. She stumbled down the hallway, deaf and blind, unable to find the hallway to the administrative offices.

Alexander sprinted towards her at full tilt, barely reaching her in time. He grabbed her by the waist and used his momentum to sling the both of them towards the nearest administrative hallway. He couldn't hear the bullets whizzing by them in the hallway since his ears were still ringing, but he could see their impacts against the walls and floor around him. The all-too-familiar feeling of adrenaline filled his limbs. They tumbled to safety, and once again found themselves lying atop one another. There was no time to celebrate their miraculous escape, however, because their pursuers would be coming around the corner any second.

Alexander made use of what little head start they had gotten over the Feds to find an exit. Alice stumbled along behind him as he led her by the wrist, frantically trying the doorhandles of the administrative offices. Fortunately, one turned before the Feds could corner them in the hallway. They tumbled into a dark room, shut the door behind themselves, and locked it before anyone could see which door they'd gone through. Moments later, twelve boots thundered past outside. Alexander felt someone jiggle the doorknob, and watched a flashlight beam dance around the inside of the room. Luckily, he and Alice were pressed into the small crevice between the door and the line of cubicles beside it, so they avoided detection. Presently the Fed moved on, casting them once again darkness.

Alice shook her head to clear it of the ringing noise. "Where are we?" she whispered.

"Administrative Offices. They'll be back soon, though. Can you see?"

"Mostly stars."

"Then follow me."

Alexander moved forward in a crouch, wending his way into the small maze of cubicles and quickly putting some cover between them and the door. At the far end of the room there was another door leading to a corner office. It was unlocked, so they slipped inside for a brief respite. The office had no windows; the only light was afforded by the glowing digits of a clock face reading 12:51.

"Where is everybody?" Alexander asked. "It's the middle of the day. All these cubicles ought to be full."

"Everyone is home for the holidays."

"A few hostages would've been be nice," he grumbled.

"To what end? They would only slow us down."

"Slow us down? Alice, assess the situation! We're trapped in here. This is a dead end, and the Feds have sealed off the only exit. Hostages would buy us time and space enough to think of something. Right now our ride out of here is looking more and more like a body bag."

"Then, let's improvise."

"Improvising requires time, space, and options, none of which we have."

"We don't need them. What we need is a schematic. The blueprints of this facility. And as luck would have it, we're trapped in a hidden room with an administrative computer and a web connection."

Alice sat down in the chair and booted the machine up. The soft glow of the monitor lit the room. After a brief search, she found the document she was looking for. "Here we go."

"Alright, what are we looking at?" Alexander said, gesturing at the blue-and-white lines crisscrossing the screen.

"This must be the detention block I was in earlier. Look. 1084—they labeled my cell."

"Scroll up. We're in the northern part of the facility."

"Wait. They're holding Joel, Peter, and Jane here as well. We have to find which cells they're in."

"We don't have time for that—"

"It'll only take a minute to find which cells they're in."

"We don't have a minute. The guards could walk through that door and find us any second, and we won't be doing them any good locked up ourselves."

She opened a search window. "If they keep records of recent transfers, they'll come right up."

The computer took a few seconds to scan the database, but the search came back empty. "Odd... I would have thought their records would be up to date," she muttered. Tense seconds passed as she redefined the search parameters.


"If you complain, it'll only slow me down. Now help me, Alexander, or get out of the way."

He sighed, exasperated. "Separatist prisoners have higher security than run-of-the-mill political dissidents. The clearance code you need is S51A."

She gave him a bewildered look. "How do you know that?"

"Just do the search. Trust me."

She was clearly confused, but entered the code anyway. The screen immediately displayed the information she needed.

"Print what we need, then lets get out of here," Alexander instructed. "A small schematic and the cell list should do."

Alice complied. Two sheets of paper dropped out of the printer by their feet and fluttered to the floor. Alexander stooped to pick them up and stowed them in his pocket. Alice pulled the chair to the center of the room, right beneath the air-conditioning duct in the ceiling, and quickly got to unscrewing the grate with the blade of a nail file she found in the desk.

Then, two beams of light fell on them, midway into their escape. A pair of Feds barged in through the cubicles and advanced quickly on the corner office. "Freeze!"

"Hostages. Are more than good. Theyyy'rrreeee Great!" -Tony the Tiger