Change of Plans

I don't think I was out for very long, but when I came to I was on the ground, slumped against a slimy wall, a lone argon lamp sputtering spasmodically over my head. Murphy's enormous back was illuminated by the lamp's violet flickering. Near him stood Chase and Scilla with the cart piled high with cash boxes. They were whispering urgently together, but their voices wavered in and out of audibility like a faulty communicator.

Across the concrete floor to my left, I saw a pale, limp hand. My eyes followed the hand up an arm and onto Kris's wan face, which was streaked with blood and filth. Her gray eyes locked with mine. I could tell she was in pain, but at least she was alive.

I tried to move. It was an effort at first. Pain reverberated around the inside of my skull like an improperly beaten gong. But besides that, some dizziness, and some badly bruised ribs, I seemed fine. I crawled over to Kris and took her hand.

"Are you okay?" I asked pointlessly. Obviously she wasn't.

"Been better," she croaked as I traced the elongated splotch of blood down her side to her thigh.  Something had rent her pant leg and the flesh underneath it. The wound was ugly and bloody, but I couldn't see much of it, as somebody had made a rushed attempt to bandage it. The wrappings were completely soaked through already.

"You'll be fine," I told her. Kris nodded, then leaned her head back on the ground.

"Good, you're both up." Chase had shuffled over to us. "We need to move."

"Move where?" I asked. "Where are we anyway?"

"This is just a service corridor," supplied Scilla. "We were all supposed to be out of here by now while we still had the confusion of the EMP on our side. But without you, I couldn't get to the rendezvous quick enough."

"And we both had to blow our covers saving your sorry hides," Chase followed up acidly, gesturing to himself and Murphy. I thought this was all very nice of them until I remembered that I still had the master key card, our sole ticket out of here.

"Ideas?" said Scilla. It wasn't a question. It was a threat. I had jeopardized us all by abandoning the plan. Now I had better magic a way for us all to get out of this fix, or else I had outlived my usefulness.

I briefly contemplated playing my trump card, but I had promised Lucatz I would leave that up to him . . . but where was Lucatz?

"He broke protocol," Chase replied when I asked. "We can't afford to go after him."

"What happened to him?"

"Wayne got him," said Chase.

"Jeremy Wayne is here?" I spluttered.

"Where else do you think that thing in the arena came from?" Kris said. Everyone's eyes turned to her. "He's got some sort of facility in the building," she explained, "and he's been making nasty things."

Kris's face was colorless. Her lips had turned a worrisome shade of gray and her hand felt very cold in mine.

"She needs help," I said, almost pleadingly.

"We don't have the time to play doctor," said Scilla coldly. "We need to get out of here. Now." 

"No one's getting out of here right away," I said, giving Kris's hand a squeeze in what I hoped was a reassuring way.

Scilla slipped a bolt out of her quiver and loaded it into her crossbow.

I had to pull a solution out nothing, and I had to do it fast. I could practically sense Wex holding his breath on the other end of my earpiece. He was waiting for me to say it, but I couldn't. Not yet. I needed the Raven and his team to save not just Kris, but Vengeance too. I knew I wouldn't get another chance.

"We have to get Lucatz," I said, trying to keep my voice pacifyingly calm.

Scilla paused with her crossbow trained on my neck.

"The Kamarov File," I said hoarsely. "He has it."

I sensed Scilla's finger twitch ever so slightly off of the trigger. I became aware of the steady drip-drip of a leaky pipe down the corridor. Feet moving two levels above us. Then the Raven spoke, his voice whispering in over our earpieces.

"That's impossible."

"It's not," I said. "I've had it with me all this time. Or at least, I did until recently." I released Kris's hand and revealed the barely-healed scar on my palm.

"Ingenious," purred the Raven. "Prove it."

"I know what's in it," I said, and then I told him, because I was sure this was something only the Raven could know.

There was a long silence after I finished.

"You think tonight's rake was a lot?" I said. "That's nothing compared to what the File's worth."

"What about all this?" Scilla nodded to the cash cart.

My eyes wandered up to the leaky pipe overhead. "The water shutoff," I said. "We'll shut off the water and store the cash in the pipes. Then we'll come back later to pick it up."

"Will that work?" asked Chase.

"It did once," I said.

The End

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