Somehow she managed to keep her lip buttoned despite the entire stream of freaked out “no, no, no, not now, NO” running at full volume inside her head. What did she do with an extra patient? An extra important patient who had not even made it into one of the sub-bullet point list of contingencies because no one, ever, had made it free from The Silent Room once its programs had been initiated? There had been a lot of contingencies in The Plan. A hundred options for what to do if an extra individual made it into the plan at individual points along the escape line. She’d already had to initiate more than one. This was not one of them.
The man lying on the floor was very definitely one of the new “high profile” patients. He still had his prisoner cuff on his left wrist. From the rise of his chest, he looked like he was still breathing. Did she dare aid him? Did she dare not? What if his escape brought the guards rushing into these hallways? What if the doors only opened because she was passing? Seconds counted at this point.
She listened down the hallways for a moment, for any sounds of rushing guards. Silence hung in the air like an enveloping cloud. Keeping her right hand elevated, the capped needle of the syringe pointing up and out lest she accidentally endanger the disconnect serum, she managed to get down on one knee and gently shake the man’s shoulder.
He let out a long low groan.
“Shhh, you have to be quiet, or I can’t help you,” her words a whisper of breath near his left ear. Whether he heard her or simply had come to the end of this particular groan, he didn’t groan a second time.
When she looked back down, a set of eyes looked up at her through the cascade of curls. Okay, so he was alert. That was better than any of the alternatives.
She looked up at the countdown timer above the door. It read S3, so about a third of the way through the cycle. She managed to draw his arm halfway over her shoulder, then she gestured for him to stand up. Gripping fiercely onto, he made a fumbling attempt to get to his feet as she slowly stood up.
It took much, much too long. First to get to his feet. Then to begin making tentative steps down the hall in the direction of the pass through to which she was heading. Sweat began to bead on her forehead. She felt the countdown in her body like a physical presence. The hundred feet remaining seemed impossibly far. Finally she broke.
“Quick,” she murmured softly in his ear. “Quicker than you can possibly have energy for I know. But we have to get to the end of the hall or neither of us will make it out of this.” Somewhere he found the strength to walk a little faster.
By the time they reached the door, she heard the locks unsealing in the far hall and the low voices of the guards beginning to zig and zag through the hexagonal walkways on their evening check. There would be no sliding through unobtrusively under her own name now. She fished under her tunic and pulled out an emergency temporary bypass card. She waved it near the sensor, holding her breath until it opened the restricted access hall. Dragging the patient through, she just managed to get them through and push the door closed when the voices turned into the hallway they had just abandoned.
A minute later, the first of the guards must have discovered the open doorway to The Silent Room as she heard the shouts go up and the locks sliding into place on the doors behind them as the immediate lock down procedure was engaged. She’d have to use two of the escape hatches then. Hope there were enough Resistance members there to help at all points.
On the left wall she found a hatch door leading to a larger laundry checkpoints. It would have to do. She leaned him against the wall and fished a sensor out of her pocket, pressing it into his hand. Then she showed him how to open the door and pull it shut after himself.
“Sorry,” she whispered. “You’ll have to go without me. Get in the closet and slide down the laundry chute. Keep beneath the sheets if you can, and press the sensor until it flashes red once. Someone should find you from there. Hopefully, I’ll have to catch you on the far side.”
Somehow he didn’t argue, just slid one foot into the closet. Maybe the doors opening and closing and the crashing boots… As he got the second foot moving, she turned and made a run for the far end of this hallway while keeping a tight grip on the syringe. Already the serum was beginning to darken in color from too much time at room temperature.
She heard a faint series of thuds from the laundry chute as she slid through the next set of doors. A moment after that she heard all the emergency locks slide into place on all the doors up and down the hall.