Dominic stared at the blinking red numbers for three whole seconds before the true horror of the situation sank in and snapped his body into motion.
>> He activated the device! We have less then five minutes until it blows, Dominic sent to the others.
He frantically queried his navigation software for the nearest airlock. It seemed to take an eternity for the system to respond with a route that would take him out of the room, through several locked doors, and assuming that the map was accurate, to a maintenance airlock at the front of shaft three.
> Can you deactivate it? Max sent.
>> I don’t think so, Dominic sent.
He forwarded the navigation data to the others and leapt from the dais with all the force his legs could provide. He soared over the crowd of stunned nobles and slammed into the deck only five meters from the exit highlighted in his navigation overlay. He hit the deck hard and dropped into a tumble, clutching the ticking bomb to his chest in his left fist as he rolled through the crowd. Max and Natalia followed, screaming for everyone to stay back as Natalia punctuated the order with low-yield blasts of microwave energy. Dominic stumbled back to his feet and shoved through the stunned crowd, then out the door into a new hallway.
>> Raven! Can you tell me if the path I uploaded is accurate?
It took Raven four long seconds to reply, > It looks clear, but it looks like they sealed the last hatch before the airlock. The whole door is painted over and… I think I see some ripples around the edge, like it was welded shut, or maybe they coated the edges in epoxy.
Damn it, Dominic thought. There had to be some way out of shaft three. Like Natalia, Dominic was armed with a microwave beam for crowd suppression when facing biological humans, as well as a low-energy plasma beam that could damage synthetic opponents by frying their cases, but neither of them possessed the sort of high-powered beam weapon that the Steward agents had used to obliterate Kamon. He continued to run, sliding around corners and pushing from walls to move as quickly as he could, as he examined the device and forwarded the images to Raven.
>> See if you can find a way to disable this. I don’t know if we’ll make it to the airlock.
> I’m on it, Raven sent.
Dominic reached the sealed door with Max only a few seconds behind. He slammed to a stop against the wall beside the hatch and examined the seams. They had indeed been welded shut.
“Can you get through?” Max said, skidding to a stop beside him.
“We might be able to cut through if we had time, but…” Dominic glanced at the timer. “We’ve got less than four minutes left.”
“Can’t you disable it?”
> There is nothing to disable, Raven sent over the common channel. The device isn’t bomb, it’s a transfer unit.