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- "All doors open before you."
"Mom?" she called doubtfully, hearing her voice echo in the empty space.
"Back here," answered her mother, and Helena's stomach dropped.
She pulled open a rusty door and found her mother in a low concrete room, frantically packing the contents of a long table into duffel bags. Along the far wall, another woman was balling up a plastic tarp. The room smelled like chemicals.
A man shouldering a large black bag pushed his way past her in a cloud of cologne, alcohol, and sour sweat.
Helena noticed a small signal jammer blinking orange on the table. Behind it, an Exo was waist-deep in a rebar-lined fracture in the floor.
"Tight fit," he grunted as he wriggled his way deeper into the gap, "but I'm guessing he didn't get far. I'll find him." He vanished into the hole.
"What's going on?" Helena asked.
"Don't ask questions," her mother said as she shrugged a damp strand of blonde hair out of her face. "We need to get moving." She nodded toward the far corner of the room. "You take that pile."
Helena crossed her arms warily. "Mom, what are you doing out here?"
"I don't have time to talk about this now," her mother snapped. "You don't know what's going on. You didn't see them looking through the windows. You didn't hear what this one said in the ramen shop."
For the first time, her mother looked up. Dangerous intensity burned in her eyes. "They're using the dark to blind us, and we're not going to let it happen. Now help me."
Helena walked slowly to the trash piled in the corner. Towels soaked with blue fluid. Rubbery tubes, strange scraps of metal. A laminated card that read "TEMPORARY."
Her voice was small. "Mama, what did you do?"