Colosseum Plaza was the last stop on the train's route, and at this time of night, Kris and I were one of the few people journeying that far. Our cabin-mates ignored us - evidently taking us for a pair of scruffy workers, or perhaps a pair of jacked-out drug addicts looking for new hunting grounds to get our next fix. We certainly looked drained enough to be either.
The constant rattling and banging of the train was surprisingly soothing, and as we rode, I found my mind wandering. Random snippets of memory flashed before my eyes like brightly coloured fish, appearing and disappearing in the blink of an eye, leaving colours tattooed on the back of my eyelids. I remembered our days spent in Lucatz's cellar, scrambling out through the pipes under the arena, plotting with Kris in any corner we could find. Jeremy Wayne's leering, fleshy face popped out like a pantomime villain at irregular intervals, echoes of him screaming over the walls in the Arena as Vengeance went for my throat.
Vengeance. I had hardly thought of my hellish ex-cellmate in weeks - not that I'd had much time, with the more pressing need for food and water forever looming overhead. I wondered what he was doing. Probably still spitting bits of steel and blood out of his mouth, I thought, and a drunken laugh bubbled in my throat. That was, if Wayne hadn't worked out he'd had a role in our escape. I didn't want to think what would have happened to him then.
Then, suddenly, Kris was shaking my arm and half-towing me out of my seat. We stumbled out of the station and through a series of empty streets until we found the Plaza. The place appeared to be deserted, but I could feel unseen eyes trailing our every movement. I didn't have a watch, but I suspected we'd arrived at the perfect time. Everything always did, with the Raven.
We stood, side-by-side, in silence for a short while. It may have been my addled brain playing tricks on me, but I could have sworn I heard people scuttling around in the shadows nearby, like rats.
Then, seemingly out of thin air, a lone figure appeared off to our right. It was hard to make anything out in the unlit Plaza, but from the vague shape I could make out in the gloom, they looked to be wearing some sort of large trenchcoat. I felt a small shiver run through me as I looked for any tell-tale signs of weapons, but found none. Strangely, that was no help.
The figure stopped about three paces from us, regarding us silently. I could see no sign of eyes - they must have had a hood up or something, I couldn't tell in the dark - but the intensity of it made me shiver again.
"Hello Gavin," said a soft voice, at last. "It's been a long while, hasn't it? And Kris too, what a pleasant surprise. I've heard all about you from the Arena."
"Will you help us?" I blurted. I didn't like this place - the feeling of being watched grew stronger with every minute, and the fact we were out in the open was bad enough.
The figure laughed, "No need to be hasty. Nobody's going to jump out of the walls at you here. Well, unless I tell them to."
I swallowed a lump in my throat. The figure looked upwards absent-mindedly and shoved its hands in its pockets.
"I had a little think about your plan," it said. "It's ambitious, and I'm impressed you're willing to take the risk. Are you still willing?"
"Yes," I said.
The figure laughed again, "Not you. I was talking to Kris here - from what I gather, she's the one who'll be turning herself into the authorities on our behalf."
Kris looked the figure dead in the face and nodded stiffly. I felt a surge of respect for her strength. She was holding her nerve a lot better than I was.
"Hmm," the figure nodded quietly. "Alright."
There was another long silence.
"What do you want the money for?"
The question caught me off guard. I stared and spluttered for a moment, which illicited another trilling laugh from our companion.
"I ..." I searched my brain for a lie, any lie, that I could use as a temporary shield. "I'm ... I'll ..."
The figure shook its head at me, "Don't try and lie to me - you know I don't take well to it. Besides, I don't make a habit of sealing deals with dirty great secrets in the middle. Unless they're mine."
I paused. If I told the truth, I could compromise everything - heck knows the plan was mad enough without mentioning the fact that I planned to rescue the most dangerous inmate of the Arena from under Jeremy Wayne's nose - but if I lied ... if I lied, we would have no way of getting into the Arena at all. I couldn't let that happen. I owed it to more than myself to make this plan work.
"Vengeance." I said shortly.
The figure made a small noise of confusion, then snorted, "Oh dear me, a grudge is it? Well, I suppose that's your business - is it Jeremy Wayne you want? Hah, I don't blame you. There are several places on that man I'd like to introduce to a sharp object. Best of luck with that. Oh, and before I forget," - the figure extended a gloved hand towards me - "welcome to the team, Mr Ryder."
I shook the hand, and let out a sigh of relief on the inside. The Raven would be furious when he discovered that his minion had fabricated a truth instead of making me cough up the whole story, but that wasn't my problem. We had the Raven on our side now. And our plan was one step closer to success.