Maribel says, "I'll get the knife. We should have something to defend ourselves."
Tony wants to stop her. He’s not sure he can trust her. But he and Eric exchange a glance, and Tony knows they’re on the same page. If necessary, they can overpower her easily.
But Tony isn’t sure if he can trust Eric either.
Neo barks, “Hey! Give me a hand with the door!”
The three men shove against the door with their shoulders. “On three!” yells Eric, the biggest of the group. “One, two…” They shove as one, muscles straining.
Maribel stands back, knife clutched in a shaking hand. The door gives and the three men stumble forward onto the corporate carpet.
It’s completely silent. Ahead, the maze of cubicles waits, stretching across the expanse of carpet like the corn maze Tony got lost in as a child. The huge, open-floor-plan suite of offices is flanked by picture windows on the left. Outside, the city below is bright and cheerful in the morning light.
“Sherry?” Eric calls.
“Shhh!” Maribel hisses. She pulls her iPhone out of her pocket and starts dialing one-handed, the knife trembling in her other hand.
“Why?” Neo demands. “Let’s get the fuck out of here.” He breaks free from the group and strides toward the elevators.
Overhead, speakers crackle to life and a voice booms out. “Not so fast.” Burdwell’s voice is distorted with feedback. “There are rules in this game. The first rule is you should never go anywhere alone.”
Everyone turns their eyes on Neo.
“The second rule is, no phone calls.”
Their eyes snap to Maribel. Her thumb is frozen over the screen of her phone.
A low chuckle from the ceiling. “All right, fine, go ahead and try. You won’t be able to enjoy the game until you know the score.”
Maribel hits the green Call button. The phone pauses, dots trailing across the screen, and then an alert pops up: Call Failed.
He can see us, Tony realizes. He searches the ceiling for any sign of cameras but comes up short.
The speakers crackle. “Cell phone reception has been blocked in here, and there’s no wifi, so let’s move on. The goal of the game is to get out of the building. Proceed!”
“Come on!” Neo yells. He runs toward the elevators.
“Wait,” Eric calls after him. “Let’s think about this! It could be--”
Neo runs past a bank of windows, a row of chest-high filing cabinets flanking his other side.
The filing cabinet explodes. In a spray of blood and dust, Neo is launched left toward the windows. Tony, Maribel, and Eric are flung back onto their butts.
Neo hits the window. Tony braces for the window to crack, but then--
Neo flies through it. There’s no window. It’s an empty pane.
It’s a silent moment. Tony’s ears are numb and hollow from the explosionß. Neo’s flight through the air, his plummet to the ground twenty-three floors below, is without sound.
Maybe he’s already dead, Tony thinks, prays.
Breaking the silence, a faint, faraway scream.
And then nothing.
Maribel makes a wailing sound, turns, and vomits on the carpet.
Eric pushes himself to his knees, wobbling a bit. “What the fuck do we do?”