She froze, staring. No rise and fall of his chest, no air coming from his mouth. Hands shaking, she pressed two fingers to one side of his neck, then the other, then his wrist. No pulse.
Maria sat back on her heels, heart pounding, her breathing suddenly loud in the silent corridor. She could see the Company employees’ chests moving. Only Jack had died.
“Oh my God,” she mumbled, voice trembling. “What do I…” The other earpiece. She touched it once. “Sarah Jane? Are you there?” Quiet static filled her ear.
Jack was dead, she couldn’t reach Sarah Jane, and she couldn’t remember what little CPR she’d been taught in school.
But Jack couldn’t be dead. It wasn’t possible. He’d just been moving, talking, in control–protecting her, trying to help Luke, and now he was dead because he’d tried to save them–
Maria, there are two types of people in the world: those who panic, and then there’s us.
Okay. No panicking. She couldn’t save Jack, but she might still be able to help Luke. Jack had that map–she could get to his cell, hope the Company people stayed unconscious, and…what, get him out with the sonic lipstick? What if Luke was unconscious? And Jack, she couldn’t just leave him here–
“There are people who panic, and then there’s us,” she repeated under her breath, making herself move past the paralysis. She had half a plan, and that was something. Trying not to touch Jack’s body, she eased the map display out of his pocket and stood, gripping the sonic lipstick in her other hand. The display screen was blank–the power surge had somehow knocked it out too–but she pressed its power button and the map filled the screen again, to her immense relief.
She had to go past all three bodies, and that simple fact nearly brought back all the panic she needed to suppress–but without giving herself time to think about it, she relieved both Jack and the Company man of their guns, hanging onto Jack’s old-fashioned revolver, finger carefully away from the trigger, and sticking the other in one pocket. Only Jack had been fast enough to cock the hammer on his weapon, and she didn’t know enough about guns to know how to ease it off again.
Before she could think too much and stop herself, she broke into a trot down the hallway, leaving them behind as soon as she turned the corner. The map led her straight on for a bit, then around another turn and another, the hallways still dim and silent. She couldn’t even hear anything like ventilation, and this far underground–no, she was not going to add running out of air to her list of things to worry about. She couldn’t do anything about it except go faster anyway.
As she neared the spot marked on the screen, she began to see more people–all unconscious, sprawled in such a way she guessed they’d been out long before they hit the floor. None looked close to waking, but she picked up her pace anyway, thoroughly spooked.
How far had this…whatever it was…spread? Was everyone in the building unconscious, all the electricity offline? It might even have gone further, for that matter–
She turned down yet another corridor and stopped. “Luke!”
He didn’t look up. He was wearing a thin hospital gown of some kind–a lot like the way he’d been dressed when Maria had first met him, except then he’d looked alert and healthy, if confused. Now he was staggering, one hand on the wall for balance, the other pressed to his temple as if only that kept his head from splitting apart, eyes squeezed shut, face tight with pain. Both wrists and ankles were scraped nearly raw, and a trickle of blood came from his nose. As she watched, Luke doubled over, clapping both hands over his eyes. He stumbled against the wall and nearly fell.
Maria jammed the lipstick and map display in the pocket of her jacket and lunged to catch him. “Luke, oh my God, what did they–”
“Don’t touch me!” he cried, flinching back toward the wall. The quick movement seemed too much for him, and he slid down to his knees, still gripping his head in both hands.
The bottom fell out of Maria’s stomach. They’d come too late, maybe minutes too late–the Company had already made him their slave and harnessed his abilities, leaving him as good as gone, and Jack was dead for no reason at all–
Ruthlessly she crushed her panic, again, and crouched by Luke. He was shaking. “It’s me, Maria. I’m here with Sarah Jane and–and Jack came for you too. We’re going to get you out, okay?” She reached for his shoulder tentatively.
He twitched back, said hoarsely, “Don’t, I might…you could…” But his eyes opened then, and despite how bloodshot they looked, his obvious recognition when he looked at her made her want to shout with relief. He could remember them, then, he might be okay–and she nearly missed the next thing he said: “You died…you and Clyde both, and your dad, and–and the other kids at school–I saw it, I saw you die–but me and Sarah Jane, he kept us like–like pets, like toys–he wanted us to see–”
Alarmed all over again, she said, “Luke, we’ve got to get out of here–there was some kind of weird explosion and everyone’s knocked out, but–”
“I think…that was me.” He braced a hand on the wall and tried to stand. “I felt–everything was burning, and I couldn’t–couldn’t stop it, something snapped loose and–and went out of me, but I didn’t mean to–” He pushed himself upright, swaying, and Maria reached to steady him. Again he pulled back. “Don’t–I don’t want to hurt you–”
So Luke had accidentally released some kind of psychic blast that rendered everyone unconscious and knocked out all the electricity? Well, he had pulled down the moon, after all…
Luke had killed Jack?
Sickened, Maria shook off the thought, doubly grateful for the dampener she wore. It had to have protected Sarah Jane too, then. “I’m okay, see? I didn’t get knocked out or anything. I’ll be fine.” He nodded, finally, and she pulled his arm over her shoulders, her other arm wrapped around his waist, careful all the same not to touch skin against skin. She had to keep the gun pointed at the floor, too, which made things awkward and left no hands free for the map, so she’d just have to remember what turns to take.
Luke’s eyes flicked to hers, open only to slits, and she got the distinct impression he was seeing something other than her. “Gun,” he whispered.
He tugged it from her hand, moved his fingers over it without even looking. The hammer clicked back into place, then the cylinder popped up to reveal its full load of bullets. He snapped it shut again and kept the gun, finger near the trigger, still not looking at it.
Maria decided she really didn’t want to know where he’d learned that. “Come on,” she said, fishing out the map reader, “this way…”
Luke began to shuffle painfully forward, and she kept careful pace with him, holding on tighter every time he stumbled. At this rate they’d never make it out in time, but judging by how much he was leaning on her, only her help was keeping him upright and moving: he couldn’t go any faster.
He staggered again, nearly taking her down with him, and his breathing went ragged, then turned into a barely audible moan: “Stop it–don’t–” More blood leaked from his nose as lines of strain deepened across his face.
“What did they do to you?” Maria whispered.
His eyes opened again, briefly, and she stared; they weren’t just bloodshot now but entirely red in places where a few tiny capillaries had burst. “Didn’t. Not…them. Not really.” He managed a few more paces, moving as if every step cost him. “I’ve got memories that aren’t mine, I’m remembering things that never happened–the end of the world and he’s killing everyone and everything’s full of fire and death–” He took a breath that sounded half like a sob. “My head…is killing me…”
“Okay,” Maria said, trying to take more of his weight, “we’re just going to keep walking, we’ll go as slow as you need, one step at a time, Sarah Jane’s waiting for us–” Sarah Jane. Where was she? Luke would never make it up all these stairs, and the lifts wouldn’t be working, unless she could fix them with the sonic lipstick which was a very distant possibility at best–and then they still had to get back, two years in the future, and she had no idea–
No panicking. One step at a time. She maneuvered them around two unconscious Company employees. At least none of them seemed to be waking up, and that was good, because Luke couldn’t possibly run in this state–
Footsteps, loud in the silence, maybe someone running, getting closer very fast. Luke raised the gun; tremors up and down his arm made the muzzle waver.
Maria fumbled with the map. There had to be somewhere to hide, or another way out–but no, there was nothing until the hall where the footsteps were coming from, and they had to go that way. She backed up, very nearly pulling Luke off balance, and then the footsteps’ owner came around the owner and it was Jack.