Chapter 286

                There was no warning before they broke into the lab. No subtle signs or arrows pointed the way, not even a dated poster urging everyone to keep their safety glasses on during experiments. One moment they were in yet another metal hallway, and then they were through, stepping into an open area filled with computers, desks, and medical equipment. Wordlessly, George went right for the computer, while Joan started tearing through the desks reading files. Adam, still in Quentin’s form, followed Joan’s lead, albeit at a much slower pace, while Persephone began looking over the lab’s supplies. Raze tapped Globe gently, pointing to a door on the other side of the room. It was heavily reinforced, stronger than anything they’d encountered so far. With a thought, Globe locked it down, as well as the one they’d come through, making sure nothing else entered the lab. They would have to breach the door eventually, that much was obvious, but not until they were ready.

                “God… they really did use Intra for this.” Joan’s face had gone pale as she stared into a manila folder, perusing the contents. “I won’t show you, but there are pictures. Photos of his body, his brain… this is…”

                “More of the same on here,” George called. “I’m punching through the security as fast as I can, its decent, but not HCP-level and definitely not designed to keep out an amped-up robot. Should be able to have it on a flash drive shortly.”

                Globe heard the words and processed them, his attention still on scanning the room for potential threats. “I suppose it’s too much to hope that this place would be connected to the internet. And this far underground, I’m sure cellular options are out. Shims, can you pop a portal? I have a hunch this next part is going to be even harder, and I’d like to know we got the truth out there, just in case.”

                “I’ve tried a few times already, no luck. Charles must have teleporters here acting as anchors. Probably a lot of them, and almost certainly enhanced given what we’ve seen already. Even with the extra power from Quentin, I can’t punch through that many working against me.”

                Not great news, but about what Globe had expected. Charles Adair was a smart man, one who had ample resources and time to plan. Keeping enemies from teleporting away was likely among the first things he’d considered; especially since he knew Globe didn’t understand spatial movement enough to counteract it. Such was the issue with working against former teammates. Unfortunately, it put them at a crossroads. Beyond that reinforced door, Globe knew he was likely to find the human subjects. Shelby, without a doubt, maybe others who’d gotten less-functional versions of the procedure. Perhaps even Intra’s remains, if they were still being preserved. He had to press on, leaving people behind wasn’t an option, but he also couldn’t afford to risk everything they’d worked so hard for. If they had proof, then it needed to leave this place. Even if Globe didn’t.

                “When the download is finished, all of you retreat. Raze, start smashing your way through walls if you have to. Get far enough away that Shims can open a portal, and bring that data to someone we trust. Go to Lander, take it to Blaine or Graham DeSoto if you can reach them, or Sean Pendleton if you can’t. Even if Charles wants to follow, he can’t risk storming the campus with all eyes of the DVA on it.”

                “And what will you be doing while we run away?” Raze asked.

                Globe pointed to the looming door at the end of the room. “Securing the innocents. Or their remains. I can’t abandon them, but they also don’t take a higher priority than bringing the truth to light. This way, we get to do both.”

                “Good plan, shitty execution.” Clarissa walked over to Joan, who was skimming a new stack of files. “Given that you’re amplified, do you think you’re strong enough to carry me?”

                “Not at top speed,” Joan replied. “Should be doable though, and with all that extra power my mid-speed is still damn fast.”

                “Then once George finishes, you take me out of here. By now they’ve probably cleared all the doors we sealed, so hopefully it will be a straight shot. We get far enough away for me to pop a portal, then drop off the information at Lander. The rest of the team stays with our fearless leader to make sure he actually gets those innocent people back to the top, and himself along with them.” Clarissa paused, looking to the others. “Any arguments?”

                Hesitantly, Globe started to speak. “It puts more of us at risk than-”

                “Not you, we already know you’ll go for the self-sacrifice move if we give you a chance,” Clarissa snapped. “I meant from the rest of the team.”

                “We’re fine.” Persephone was looking through the medical equipment now, searching for useful tools that might come in handy in the next fight. “We knew what we were signing up for when we followed Globe down here.”

                “I can’t ask the rest of you to stay for this, not when we’ve already gotten so much of what we came for,” Globe protested.

                Clarissa made her way back over and laid a firm hand on his arm. “What did I say last night? I understand that the mission comes first, and that’s what we’re prioritizing. Data is just numbers and files on a computer. Charles will fight it, and he’s got the lawyers to potentially win. We need proof: victims, faces, remains. We need to show the world what was happening in this lab. Yes, it’s smart for Joan and me to ensure some of this makes it out, but the job isn’t done. Let the team do what they came here for and see it through to the end.”

                A long moment passed between them, but eventually Globe tilted his head forward in a nod. “I suppose you’re right, as usual. At least you’ll be safely out of here. That’s something.”

                “Please, you think I’m not coming back as soon as that data is in safe hands? With Joan’s speed, we’ll catch up to you in no time. Faster if I can find those anchors and take them out.”

                “Both of you had better hurry then.” It was always disturbing to hear the mature tones of Adam in Quentin’s voice, but it was an experience they’d all grown used to. “Getting here took a while, since we couldn’t rip through everything without risking the roof coming down. My guess is that the last of us have about twenty minutes left on the enhanced charges, so maybe take Joan for a top-off from Quentin on the way back.”

                “Whatever you want to do, I’d suggest getting it in gear.” At the computer, George was pulling out a jump-drive from a USB port. “It’s done. This has everything from their files. Decades of research and experimentation, all right there for anyone to see.” He held it out, and Clarissa accepted, tucking the jump-drive away carefully. “Get that out of here, no matter what. If you do, then maybe all of this was worth something after all.”

                “We will,” Clarissa promised. “And then we’ll be back, right Joan?”

                “So fast it won’t even seem like we were gone.” Joan didn’t waste a moment, scooping Clarissa up in her arms and taking a position to sprint as soon as the path was clear. “Globe, if you’d open our exit, please.”

                Globe’s hand raised, pointing at the last door they’d come through. Just before he forced it to re-open, however, he gave Clarissa one last glance. “Be cautious, please. I would really like to avoid attending another funeral, if possible. Especially yours.”

                “Of course. When one thinks of Heroes, safety and discretion are the first things that come to mind.” Clarissa flashed him a smile, wild and full of life, the sort of grin she hadn’t worn since her Hero days. It was a sight Globe never thought he’d see again, and it was gone too soon as Joan zipped out of the room, Clarissa clutched tightly in her arms.

                With those two gone, Globe turned his attention to the reinforced door still barring the way and looked around to his team. “I hope everyone is ready, because Charles will have put the best he has guarding Shelby. Let’s go show them why we’re better.”