‘You do realise,’ Stef said, ‘this makes us bad action movie heroes, right?’
‘How so?’
‘Elevator shafts, ventilation ducts, all that kind of stuff, it’s so…tropey. It isn’t supposed to happen in real life.’
He chuckled. ‘We’re lucky that we have those. Some Agencies…they completely seal up during a blackout. It’s more those involved in research, or who have articles of importance. No elevator shaft, where we are would be a solid block of concrete, no ventilation shafts – no air flow, they’d have to break windows in order to breathe.’

‘…that’s the scary kind of paranoia.’
‘Come on,’ he said, ‘we’re almost there.’ He adjusted the riot shield on his back, grabbed the crowbar hanging off the side of the ladder and wedged open the tech floor elevator.
‘I-DEN-TI-FY!’ shouted a voice from the other side as soon as light began to peek into the shaft.
‘It’s just us.’
She rested her head against the ladder. ‘A fscking Dalek, we have a fucking Dalek here and no-one told me?’
‘A what?’
A beam of light shot into the shaft and she yanked on his leg, pulling him back down the ladder a little. ‘Psychotic killer pepper pot!’
‘Shut down,’ came a command. Jones’ head appeared through the crack of the door. ‘Sorry about that.’
‘Technically, it isn’t, I just sampled the voice,’ Jones said as he offered a hand to Ryan. ‘It’s a good voice for a watchdog.’
Ryan made it up onto the next floor, stood, then lifted her out. ‘Any casualties?’ he asked the tech.
Jones made a point of brushing some dust from his hair, then shook his head. ‘Nothing too serious, and that’s about the only good thing we can take away from this.’
‘Yes,’ Ryan concurred as they made their way down the hallway, and past the not-a-Dalek, ‘we still don’t know how many Solstice-’
‘It isn’t them I’m worried about.’ Jones said, running a hand through his hair then sighed. I could really use a scrunchy… yeah, you heard me!’
She reached down to her webbing, flipped open one of the random pockets and pulled out a rubber band. ‘This good enough?’
Jones mumbled thanks and tied back his hair as they walked into his more-than-slightly disheveled lab.
‘So what are you worried about?’
The tech sat heavily in his chair. ‘Think about it, sir, we’ve been breached.’
‘I know-’
‘We can’t require, we can’t shift, all of the building macros are down, I mean…we would have to crawl up to the fifteenth floor if we wanted to get to the Parkers.’
Jones looked up. ‘If everything is down, what else do you think is switched off?’
Ryan dropped his shield onto the nearest table and pulled off his helmet. ‘Oh gods, I didn’t event think about them.’
‘Now you see my point?’ Jones asked.
‘Them who?’ she asked. ‘This isn’t a good time for non-specifics!’
Jones spun on his chair, fingers steepled in the style of C. Montgomery Burns. ‘The Agency has a deep, dark, secret. Well, more deep than dark, because it involved the basement. But it’s kind of dark, which is why we haven’t told you. Not that it’s really relevant. But it may get you stabbed so…sorry about that.’ He looked away for a minute, then back. ‘The basement is where we keep all of our experiments.’
‘I’m guessing you don’t mean those stupid science fair volcanoes.’
Jones reached for a half-full bottle of Mountain Dew and took a swig. ‘If you’d failed, there’s a good chance you might have ended up down there.’ He drained the bottle. ‘Sometimes when we’re testing software, or building new software, we have to use full agent coding, or at least a decent chunk of it. That, obviously, means that we have a lot of conscious experiments. We don’t recycle them all, we just…’ he trailed off, turned back to his computer and began to type something.
‘We just lock them up in the basement and forget about them,’ Ryan finished. ‘It isn’t pleasant, it’s just what happens.’
She tried to process all of this. ‘So basically, on top of however many Solstice have come to kill us, there’s also a bunch of revenge-driven agents running around?’
Her head dropped. ‘I’ll be in the wibble corner.’
‘This wasn’t in your plan?’
‘No,’ she bit her lip, ‘but it will be next time. If we live until next time.’