Getting There

Whether I knew what I was doing or not, it was not easy to be as patient as we needed to be. Our money soon ran out and we had no resources in reserve. In the relatively lawless Underurbs, we had been able to swipe a meal or some money here and there, but it was much harder to do this under the glaring, bug-like eyes of ubiquitous security cameras on the surface. In the Underurbs, every bridge and alleyway was a potential place to sleep; here every bridge and alleyway was a potential trap and we spent much of our time looking over our shoulders for pursuing police.

Soon the two of us were hungry, tired, scared, and miserable. I was beginning to think coming up here was a bad idea. We had nowhere to hide. There was no safe place to go. We kept on the move constantly, sleeping for only a few hours a night in dark tram stations, terrified that each transportation security officer that passed had discovered our identities. We began having to dumpster dive for food. We risked getting sick, but it was better than no food at all.

My only hope was that the Raven would contact us soon; he was the only person who could give us some semblance of asylum. If he didn't help us and quickly  I had decided to journey back down to the Underurbs. It was simply too dangerous to stay here on the surface. And the more exhausted and worn down we became, the more likely it became that one of us would make a mistake. . . .

But despite the ever-present exhaustion, the gnawing hunger, and the threat of any random person recognizing us, it was Kris I felt the worst about. She looked pale and haggard, her eyes red from lack of sleep and days of prolonged tension. I had dragged her into this mess, even though she had warned me it was a terribly risky plan. She made no complaint, however, though I wished she would have.

"Tomorrow night we'll leave," I said. "If we don't get some kind of signal by then, we'll just have to assume he's given up on us. We'll have to try to get by without his help."

"Mmhmm," Kris murmured softly, half asleep. We were in an almost empty tram station, seated on a row of benches next to the tracks. Kris had been sitting beside me, absently reading the arrivals and departures screen, but tiredness had finally overcome her and her head had slipped sideways onto my shoulder.

I decided to let her rest and bring up the subject in the morning. I too felt utterly drained, but I forced myself to keep my eyes open and keep watch. I stared out across the tracks as a tram came whooshing in like a chrome-coated serpent. The slipstream it generated tickled my hair ever so slightly. The doors slid open and a handful of passengers trickled out onto the platform.

That's when I saw her. Dark skin, dark clothes, dark glasses, and trains of dark, labyrinthine hair twisting over her head and down her back like tangled rigging. It was the woman who had been watching us at the Remmington, and she was making straight for us.

I shook Kris awake. She blinked, bleary-eyed, but her gaze soon focused and locked onto the woman striding toward us. We both sat up, Kris's hand dropping instinctively to her hip as I took note of the nearby fire extinguisher I could use as an improvised weapon at a moment's notice.

The woman kept on walking, and my heart rate rose with her every step. My mind raced through a myriad of possibilities: She was an undercover police agent; an Arena assassin; Wayne's personal hit-woman. But as my eyes combed her body for weapons, I caught sight of a familiar gesture in her left hand. It was so slight and so fleeting it was gone when I blinked, but I was sure I had seen it. I didn't relax, but I grasped Kris's arm, wordlessly telling her not to draw her gun.

The dark woman walked right by our bench without sparing us a glance. The sound of her boots clacked away across the platform and a couple of crumpled scraps of paper swirled in her wake as the tram hummed and sped off with a rushing sound.

"Who is she?" Kris hissed as I let go of her. "What was that all about?"

I didn't respond, but instead ducked quickly and snapped up the two slips of paper she had surreptitiously dropped before they blew away across the station.

"Tram tickets," I muttered, showing them to Kris. "Colosseum Plaza at twelve-fourteen."

"That's the next one out from here," said Kris, squinting up at the arrivals screen.

I flipped over the tickets. A short message was scrawled in the corner of the slip. It was a street address.

"What does this mean?" whispered Kris.

"We've got ourselves a deal. This is the Raven's rendezvous point and he wants to hear our plan."

"Gavin, do you have a plan?"

"I'm getting there."

With a roaring sound, another tram hurtled into the station and swung smoothly to a stop on its mag-lev rails. Kris and I both stood up and strode purposefully toward it as the doors opened. I scanned our tickets at the gate, then found us two seats by the window. With an escalating whine, the tram gathered speed, then shot out of the station and into the rainy night.

The End

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