With his head turned to shield his eyes from the blinding lights, Avril told Laurill, “Check the power supply. Maybe we can disconnect it.”
Laurill didn’t respond, and when Avril looked at her, she returned his gaze with a hopeless expression on her face.
“It’s too late,” Laurill said, squinting and tilting her head away from the lights.
“Come on. Laurill, you didn’t sneak in here to give up straight away.”
Laurill covered her eyes with her hands and said, “I’m sorry, Avril.”
The hydraulics sounded, and the rear loading door opened, descending slowly to the ground.
“Don’t be,” Avril said. “Is there a cable? Anything you can pull out to cut the power? It’s designed to hold jammers, but not to stop anybody else.”
“We figured you might have company, so it’s a self-contained unit. You can’t deactivate it with anything but this.” The bondsan held up the handheld device as he stepped up into the back of the vehicle.
“Run!” Avril shouted. “Go the same way you got in.”
The bondsan, Avril thought it was Thorn, said, “She can’t. Shadow-walkers need shadows, and we made sure there aren’t any.”
Two more bondsan appeared at Thorn’s shoulders.
Laurill dropped to her knees and said, “I’m sorry.”
“Run,” Avril said, in defiance of the facts of their situation.
Laurill couldn’t, and now his death would be as meaningless as his life.
A female bondsan stepped up into the assault vehicle and cuffed Laurill then retreated.
Laurill sobbed on her knees.
Avril squinted through the glare at Thorn where he stood on the loading ramp. He felt a desperation to convince the first-sworn to let them go in a way he hadn’t thought possible when he was their only prisoner.
The interior of the car rocked again, and Zin materialized and stumbled forward, facing Avril.
She thrust a fist into the air and declared, “I got it. I knew I would, but you didn’t believe me.” Zin pointed at Avril and smiled with triumph.
“Yep,” she cut him off. “I wasn’t sure, so I forgive you. It’s fragile and complicated and hard to hold it all in and remember, even a tiny distraction could unravel—”
Zin fell forward with a dart embedded in her neck.
Behind her, Thorn lowered a tranquilizer gun.
The bondsan who’d cuffed Laurill restrained Zin.
Thorn said, “Two for one. It’s unusual to see this kind of loyalty among the unbound. There might be hope for you yet.”
Thorn stepped back, grinning, and the rear door closed again, sealing them inside.
“Is she okay?” Avril asked, looking at Zin, who was still face down on the floor.
With her hands behind her back, Laurill shuffled across to the unconscious woman and leaned over her. She placed an ear to Zin’s mouth and reported, “She’s breathing.”
Laurill kneeled back up.
Avril wanted to shout his frustration, but he held his tongue, determined to find a new way of protecting Zin and Laurill, now that they were trapped with him and stalling the bondsan wouldn’t do them any good.
Avril’s plan to overload the device he was connected to still seemed like the best option. If he jammed it, perhaps he could jam something else, and they could get away. He tried to look over his shoulder at the car’s cab, but he couldn’t turn far enough without receiving a shock.
“Are we alone?” Avril asked.
“Huh? Oh, yeah.” Laurill said, the despair in her tone replaced by something else. Focused on finding a way out, Avril didn’t notice the difference.
“If I can jam the lights, will that give you enough shadows to get out of here?”
He didn’t know how shadow-walking worked, but hopefully, they’d figure out a way to get her free.
“You go one way, and I’ll take this car,” Avril said.
“Uh-huh,” Laurill responded, and this time her tone told him she wasn’t even listening to him.
Avril turned the other way to see what she was doing. She kneeled up, her head tilted to one side, her bottom lip caught between teeth, and her eyes turned inward as she struggled with something behind her back.
“What are… That was an act?” Avril asked.
“Yeah, but don’t get too excited. We’re not out of here yet.” She twisted and squinted then said, “I didn’t expect them to have you in that thing.”
“You knew they’d catch you?”
“I hoped they wouldn’t, but I like to be prepared,” Laurill said. The intense concentration on her face transformed into a grin. “Got it.”
“How did you know they wouldn’t search you?”
“I convinced you I was a helpless little girl in over her head, didn’t I?”
Avril swore. “They might have checked you.”
Laurill nodded. “But they didn’t.”
She shuffled forward and around Zin, so she had her back to Avril. Her hands were still cuffed behind her back, but in her left hand, she held an object that looked like a pen with a button on one side.
Laurill looked over her shoulder at him and said, “Laser-scalpel. Be careful. It—”
“Are you serious? I can barely see my own hands, and if I slip and get shocked—”
“I can’t see mine at all. Anyway, I trust you.” Laurill frowned at her own comment, then added with some surprise, “Huh, weird.”
“If my arms touch this ring while I’m cutting through those cuffs—”
“At least they’re not behind your back. Get on with it.” Laurill held out the scalpel.
“Why do you even have a laser-scalpel?” Avril accepted the device and turned it over in his hands to examine it.
“Because it’s useful for situations like this,” Laurill said.
Avril blew out a breath. “How many situations like this have you been in?”
“Hurry up,” Laurill said, ignoring his question.
Avril thought they’d have a lot to learn about each other when they got out of this.