Then it all stopped. The car was still, tilted heavily to the right. Michael looked out the busted window and saw nothing but the ground far below.
The stillness after all the noise of the crash was spooky, as if they’d been on a roller coaster and time froze before the ride had quite finished. There were groans, the sounds of harsh breathing, and a distant honk or two from the street below.
Michael’s thoughts immediately went to the cop—he braced himself, ready to struggle and fight him off. But the man wasn’t moving. He was lying completely still on the floorboard, his head tilted at a weird angle against the passenger-side door.
“Are you guys okay?” Michael whispered, carefully shifting to get a look at the rest of the car. He was scared that one wrong move might make the entire vehicle slide loose.
Bryson grumbled something from the backseat, but Michael couldn’t see him.
Sarah held on to the steering wheel with both hands so she wouldn’t slide toward Michael and the cop. She nodded. Behind her shoulders, he could see the wreckage of brick and glass through the broken window of her door, a dusty darkness beyond that. The plastic and metal of the hovercar itself was twisted and bent, its mangled body precariously held in place by the building’s ruined edges.
Bryson’s head appeared in the opening between the protective glass doors—which were still intact—behind the front seat. “This thing could fall any second. Let’s get out of here.”
“Is he dead?” Sarah asked, her eyes fixed on the unmoving cop. The cracked visor of his helmet jutted to the side, but they couldn’t see his face, pressed up against the door.
“I don’t know,” Michael answered. His muscles ached from the weird position in which he lay. He didn’t know how much longer he could stand it. “Go, Sarah. Climb out. I feel like my arms and legs are about to fall asleep.”
“What if it shifts?” she asked.
“You wanna be inside when it does?” Bryson answered. “The back door is blocked by a bunch of broken brick. We have to go through your window.”
She carefully moved her feet around until she found a solid purchase; then she reached up, gripping the underside of the window. From there she pulled herself to a bent piece of metal jutting out of the brick wall of the building. She tested it first, and soon she was climbing up and out of the car, disappearing into the darkness. Michael could hear the rattle of shifting bricks.
“You go next,” Michael said to Bryson. “I need to get myself into a better position.” He started working on that while his friend climbed into the front seat, using the steering wheel like a ladder rung.
“Perfect place to attack a cop,” Bryson said over his shoulder, moving up through the broken window, using the same hand- and footholds Sarah had. “Right across the street from his police station, for all his chums to get a good look-see. They’ll be swarming all over this building in five minutes, guns cocked and fingers itchy.”
“Sorry.” Michael groaned—his muscles ached so much; fire burned in his tissues. “Next time I’ll attack the cop sooner. Promise.”
“Good.” Bryson got himself into the building, then turned around so he could reach back into the car and help.
Michael was ready, having twisted himself around just enough to free his hands and get his feet beneath him, planted on the torso of the cop. He found the steering wheel, gripped it, curled his arms in a pull-up. Bryson grabbed him by the shirt and pulled as well. Kicking to find a foothold wherever he could, Michael clambered up the seat of the sideways car and toward the opening of the smashed window.
There was a heavy, grating groan of metal, along with the splintering of brick, as the car shifted downward. Bryson’s grip slipped, and Michael, in a rush of terror that filled his throat, fell several inches before wedging his foot on the brake handle between the front seats. Someone screamed; then, with a crunch, the car came to a stop, though the moan of bending metal and shifting bricks continued.
“Get out of there!” Sarah yelled.
“Trying!” Michael shouted back.
Bryson had a firm hold of his shirt again and yanked, grunting with the effort. The fear that had choked Michael lit a fire of adrenaline in his muscles, and he clawed and kicked his way up and through the window, crawling over Bryson’s body in his haste and crashing into Sarah. She hugged him fiercely, both of them breathing heavily.
“Dude, you just put your foot in my mouth,” Bryson grumbled.
The car shifted again, causing a rattling cascade of broken bricks. Michael thought it would surely fall this time, but it stopped. Somewhere in the building, alarms clanged.
“Come on,” Sarah said, getting to her feet and pulling Michael up to his. They were in some kind of conference room with a large table and chairs, luckily unoccupied.
Bryson was by their side, brushing the dust from his shirt and pants. “Yeah, like I said, they’ll be swarming on us in no time.”
Michael got a good look at the demolished wall behind them: bricks scattered across the carpet, torn drywall, lengths of wire and pipes snaking out, the scratched and dented hovercar somehow still clinging to it all. He thought of the cop.
“We have to help him,” he whispered, though that was the last thing on earth he wanted to do.
“His buddies will be here soon enough to get him out,” Bryson replied. “If that thing was gonna fall, it would’ve taken the dive already. We have to go. Now.”
Michael was relieved someone else made the decision—a part of him knew the guy might be dead, and that it was his fault. He fought off the thought and nodded, still trying to catch his breath. Sarah grabbed his hand and the three of them ran for the door of the conference room.
Alarms bleated in the hallways, a few people running for the stairwells, though most seemed to have escaped already. That, or it was a slow day at the office. Leaving the conference room had been the easy decision, Michael thought, but what now?
“There’s no way we can just blend in,” Sarah said. She’d let go of Michael’s hand, and he had the silly urge to take hers right back. “I’m sure they know what we look like.”
“No doubt,” Michael agreed. “The cops’ll have our faces memorized.”
“Maybe we can hide in the basement,” Sarah said. They were all walking toward the closest stairwell door—a woman cast a nervous glance at them right before she went through. “We obviously can’t waltz out the front entrance. We’ll have to climb through a window or … go through a garage. Back door, emergency exit, something.”