“We have to do something,” Mouse whispered, speaking my thoughts out loud.
I took a deep breath and straightened my shoulders. They’d gone too far. Who would put an innocent person in that position?
We pulled back into the building. I switched the dial on my assault rifle from automatic to semi-automatic. I’d need every bullet I had.
There had been nobody in sight, but they had been watching. Of that I was sure. They would have the upper ground, whether the higher floors of the building or the trees on the other side. Somehow, we needed to see them before they saw us.
We had to get higher.
I led the way to the staircase that would take us upstairs. The door to the stairwell was locked, unlike that to the lower levels, but I couldn’t hear any noise behind it. I positioned the gun at the lock, below the handle, and with an ear-splitting crack blew the door from its latch. They would all know where we were now—the sudden surge in heart rates and the pounding of steps confirmed it.
Mouse and I kneeled at the door, sheltering behind the wall on either side. When the men in tactile armor appeared at the far end of the corridor, we shot.
We aimed for their arms and legs, not torsos and heads. Neither of us needed more deaths than necessary on our consciences. I already had plenty.
I shot the first in the leg and he tumbled to the floor. The second took a hit to his arm and spun into the wall. Over a dozen men passed through the door. Within moments, they all lay scattered across the white floor, oozing blood from various wounds. Some tried to scramble to their feet, but very few succeeded.
We closed the door and wedged it shut with debris. I climbed the stairs, two at a time, and paused in front of the other door at the top. Not a sound crept from behind it.
The second floor of the building was clear. It housed sleeping quarters for the soldiers and scientists. Our brief exploration turned up nothing of interest so we returned to the stairs and climbed higher.
The third floor corridor was lined with plush carpet and the doors leading from the hallway were crafted from polished wood. I froze. A sweet, flowery scent tickled my nose.
She’d been here, the woman on the motorbike.
The perfume was faint, twisted with something rich and leathery. She was long gone, just like everyone else.
Mouse and I moved swiftly down the corridor, checking the doors on the right, overlooking the grass outside, first.
The first two were simple offices with small windows that didn’t open. There wasn’t much of interest, simply spreadsheets and numbers.
The third room was larger, and darker, with a large oak desk right in the center. Along the paneled walls were six photos—one of each of the other girls, two of me, and one of a girl I'd never seen before. Why was I there twice? And who was the stranger?
I strode across the rug and jerked the desk drawers open. I didn’t bother trying the computer; the monitor wasn’t connected to anything. Like those downstairs had stood on their own, so too did this.
The first drawer held stationery, the second had blank paper, but the third caught my eye. It was a sort of filing cabinet with dozens of folders, organized by number in descending order and starting at number three hundred seventy six.
Three hundred seventy-six was my number, the number they’d assigned in lieu of a name when I was born.
I pulled the folder free and flicked it open on the desk to reveal another photo of my face. There were dozens of pages filled with text and diagrams. I pulled out the next and Nicole’s picture stared at me from the front page. I pulled out a pile that went right back to three hundred and sixty.
“We need to take these,” I said. “Is there anything to carry them in?”
Mouse rooted around in the cupboards until she found an old laptop case. I disregarded the files, they’d weigh me down, and shoved the pages into the bag.
As I pulled the zip closed, my eyes fell upon a small crack of light running across the floor. I followed it and, as I touched the wall, it moved beneath my fingers. It was fabric; a thick set of drapes so dark they’d blended with the wall in the shadows. I twitched them to one side expecting a window. It was an entire room, the outer wall completely made of glass.