Greetings, renegades! I must say, I’m proud of you. After blowing up the entire school (yourself included), you’ve really taken advantage of your second lease on life. You’ve got the key to a bomb that could wipe out the entire machine civilization, and you think you know where it’s stored. But the sentries are closing in on you, and you just pushed a button to make your old robot pal Sev self-destruct. Faced with a dizzying array of choices, y’all voted to B. Shake your head sadly and follow Chance toward Unit 25.

It seems that the time for hesitation is through. LET’S FINISH THIS!

Chapter 25: You Only Got Four Minutes

Even though Sev asked you to press her freckle, er, button, you can’t help but feel guilty at the loss of your second friend in as many hours. You look down at Sev for one last second and muster a smile as she looks up at you, grins, and waves you on. “4… 3…”

“We’ve gotta go. Please.” Chance’s blue eyes plead with you, then he faces forward and begins quickly crawling through the duct. You hurry along behind him as fast as you can, but you can’t escape the sound of a small explosion. “Good-bye, Sev,” you whisper.

Without turning around, Chance’s voice reaches out to you gently. “She just bought us more time, you know. And Sev would do anything to prevent other people from being turned into… well, something like her.”

You swallow the lump in your throat. “I know, you’re right. Although being like her, sometimes it doesn’t seem so bad. She was perfect. Well, at least, until her wires got crossed towards the end.”

You collide into Chance, who has suddenly stopped and turned halfway around, his face inches from yours. “Don’t ever, EVER say that. Being perfect means you’re not human. And the thought of the machines taking you and…” He trails off, his eyes fiercely glittering in the darkness. Even though you know you have to keep going, you can’t help but feel this might be your last chance to finally choose the right boy, and as your lips meet his, your heart sings in confirmation. The air duct certainly isn’t your ideal romantic scenario, but as you run your fingers through his soft hair and feel his mouth dancing hungrily over yours, you figure it’ll do.

That is, until your head bonks against the side of the duct, making a loud noise that echoes down the duct. You both freeze, your lips still locked, as you listen for sounds that you’ve been discovered. A few seconds of silence tick by, and you decide it’s safe to breath again, when suddenly a ceiling tile is torn out below you.

“Two little lovebirds, sitting in a tree! Or should I say air duct? Hmm, that doesn’t really rhyme with K-I-S-S-I-N-G though.” You look down, shocked to see Tiny’s broad face smiling up at you. You pull away from Chance and take Tiny’s hand, who guides you down from the ceiling then immediately wraps you in a bear hug. “Oh my darling lab partner, it looks like you’ve finally gotten good at chemistry!” He giggles as your face turns a deep red. Chance leaps down to the floor and touches Tiny’s shoulder.

“Tiny, we don’t have much time. We need to know where Rolex stored his secret project. He said it was in a special place, and we figured you would know.”

Tiny nods softly, and you’re amazed to see a flicker of emotion in his eyes. “Oh yes, the specialist of the specials.” He rolls up his shirt, then presses a spot on his sternum, popping open a panel over his heart. Even though you should be used to it by now, you gasp at the glowing lights and wires that are now exposed. Tiny smiles sadly. “Since they took out the real thing, Rolex wanted to put something here, so I would remember.” He reaches inside the panel, gingerly pulling aside some wires, and pulls out a small metal cube, dwarfed by his massive hands. He offers it to you.

“Thank you, Tiny.” You say softly, holding it carefully in your hands. “Do you know how this works?”

“Just put in the key and turn it to the right. Easy peasy!” He starts to clap then widens his eyes. “Oh heavens, we must haul ass!” He pushes you and Chance towards the door and into a hallway that looks very similar to your escape from the security cell. “Unit 25 is just a few doors down, darlings. Let’s skip along now before those nasty sentries show up.”

The three of you race down the hallway as sirens begin wailing loudly. You count the numbers on the doors as you whiz by them… 21… 22… 23…24…

You reach the door to Unit 25 and almost slam into it. As you reach for the handle, Tiny grabs your hand. “No touchie, sweetheart. It’ll fry you alive.” He steps in front of you, then places a hand on the door above the handle, disabling the electromagnetic lock. The door swings open.

“You two kiddos go on ahead. I’ll make sure these sentries don’t rudely interrupt you.” Tiny gives you a quick peck on the cheek and winks. “Now go put the B in biotch and destroy those machines.”

You nod, holding back tears, as Chance grabs your arm. “I’m sorry, but we’ve got to keep moving.” You start heading through the entryway of the room and sneak one last look at Tiny. He blows you a kiss then slams the door shut with an ominous thud.

“We’ve got to get into the core before we launch the bomb,” Chance says, leading you through a series of rooms. There’s electronic panels and screens everywhere, eerily blinking and glowing in the silence. “That way we can make sure we wipe them all out in one blow.”

You follow him, your body tensed with a sudden flood of memories of this cold, dead place. Something is bubbling up in your brain, and you tell yourself to keep moving in spite of it.

It only takes a moment for you to reach the core, a giant, cavernous room with a massive cylinder of wires and metal glowing in the center. “This is it,” Chance whispers, squeezing your hand. “This is where it all ends.”

“And begins,” you say, looking up at him and memorizing every detail of his face. Because you realize now what happened to you in Unit 25, and you know what you have to do to make sure it never happens again.

You hear the sounds of sentries rapidly approaching, so you take out the key and slip it carefully into the metal cube.

“We’re going to win,” Chance says, his face breaking into a radiant grin. “We’re going to start again, you and me.”

You bring your lips to his for one final, precious kiss. “No, Chance, just you. So make it count, for me.”

As you watch his eyes widen with surprise, you know that the world will be all right. This boy will make certain of it. So you twist the key to the right, and as your vision begins to blink in and out, you transmit one final message.

“ROBOTICIZE THIS, MOTHERFUCKERS!”

THE END

Sarah splits her time between Dallas and Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.