Going Solo

I left most of the hard work to Scilla and Murphy. Creeping through the tunnels, I lead them to a manhole cover, similar to the one Kris and I had surfaced through all those weeks ago, and left them to deal with the spoils. Though the money held little interest for me, I had to keep up the charade - for my friends' sake as well as mine. Every time my thoughts turned to them, I felt sick. Kris, wounded by some unknown horror in the Arena, Vengeance nowhere to be seen. And Lucatz in Wayne's hands.

When I asked Wed how it had happened through my ear-piece, he simply grunted. "Idiot broke into the commentators' box and took hold of the microphone - he was aiming for some sort of distraction tactic, but by my guess he didn't think it out too well. Security had him before he even got to the door."

I swallowed. Lucatz and I had not been close in recent years, but the thought of what he would suffer from Wayne was a dark one. Though I hoped our disparate looks would defy the biological link, there was no way Wayne wouldn't guess that we were associated. I could only hope that Lucatz wouldn't be Kris' foe's next opponent. Or victim.

Kris herself was not as bad as I had feared. Though she was in terrible pain, and the wound was deep and long, Chase had performed some basic first-aid while I and she were unconscious. He continued to work on her now, with me sitting at her side, chewing his lip and glancing up at us occsionally from under his sleek silver hair. Though I trusted him more than I did several other members of his team, his silence and unblinking gaze was somewhat eerie.

"Kris," I whispered to her as Chase worked, hoping to distract her from her pain, "what happened in there? What went wrong?"

"Nothing," she hissed back through gritted teeth, "nothing went wrong from the outset. I was in the cell, the guards brought me out, showed me to the crowd . . . then . . . that thing . . ."

"What thing?"

"The thing that nearly reduced me to bird food!" Kris snapped, eyes flashing with momentary anger. 

"What was it?" I pressed on. "If it wasn't Vengeance, what the hell did Wayne-"

"How would I know?" Kris cut me off fiercely. "I was too busy trying to keep it from splattering me over the wall, wasn't I?" She looked down at the bloody ruin on her thigh, sagging against the wall. She was exhausted, and I felt my face smart as Chase chuckled wryly under his breath.

Finally, Chase sat back on his heels and looked at his handiwork. "That's my best. It ought to hold until we can finish off this mad enterprise, then we'll see about getting some proper sutres in there. If necessary."

He added the last words almost as an afterthought. Bile rose in my throat; perhaps the Raven was wiser to our little scheme than I thought. No, he couldn't be - he would have killed us long before. Besides, it was Lucatz who . . . ah. I swallowed. It may have been my own paranoia, but it did seem to me that the team were less than happy about the proposition of rescuing my brother. Even if he did have a priceless file in his posession.

When I emerged from my reverie, I found Chase's unblinking eyes still watching me. Scilla and Murphy's footsteps were just audible in the silent tunnel air, and I was back in the hot seat. 

"Wex," I said, "Kris mentioned that Wayne had a facility somewhere in here. Can you find any way of locating it?"

Wex grunted, and Chase raised a quizical eyebrow at me. I waited until the figures of Scilla and Murphy were more distinct, then explained myself in a low voice.

"Where better for Wayne to keep his illegal doings than under a pile of murderers and convicted criminals? If you were him, and you'd just caught someone breaking in, where would you put them to ensure they wouldn't get out again? There are hundreds of cells down there, and hundreds more places to hide things beyond the reach of anyone, even the guards. If Lucatz is anywhere in this hellhole, he's down there. And the File with him."

"He's right," Wex's voice crackled through our earpieces again. "I can't find the place per se, but there's a wonderfully enigmatic black spot about half a mile under your feet."

"And how do you propose we get down there?" Scilla asked me pointedly.

I swallowed a pointed retort. "After this security scare, there will be more security than ever about. However, Wayne has no idea we're still in the building, so most of it will be focussed on scouring the upper levels, the exit doors, and street patrols. If we head down from here, we're not likely to meet anyone we can't . . . deal with."

Scilla's brow furrowed, but Chase nodded warily in agreement. "Fair enough."

"One little problem with your plan." The sudden interruption of the Raven's voice made all of us jump. "I am not willing to take any extraneous risks on this venture, Mr Ryder. Besides" - there was almost a hint of dark amusement in the voice now - "your friend is in no fit state to be gallivanting around in tunnels after that little episode."

Kris grunted irritably, "I'm fine. Don't you go planning any funerals just yet."

The Raven chuckled, "Of course not. But back to my point. The way I see it, Mr Ryder, it was Lucatz's own foolishness that got him entangled in his current predicament, and your idea to get him out. However, I shall make you a little proposition. My people will help you down, but once there, you are on your own. Retrieve the File for me - and your brother, if it pleases you - and I will forget all about this little fiasco. Return without it . . . well. Let's just say that wouldn't be adviseable."

In answer to her boss' words, Scilla patted her crossbow. I sighed. This was not an offer. It was an order.

"What about her?" I asked sullenly.

"She'll be with us until you get back," said Chase. "I can keep an eye on the wound, and if we're lucky I might be able to get my hands on something from the med supplies in here."

"Consider her safety your deposit," whispered the Raven. I shivered, but judging by the lack of reaction in the others, that message had been intended only for me. I swallowed and looked over at Kris. To my surprise, she was staring at me with wide-eyed ferocity.

"You are not going down there on your own," she said breathily.

I just shook my head. She could argue all she wanted, but she could not help me now. She had saved my life once, and now I would repay the debt to her. Though our company was hardly friendly, with posession of the File resting in my hands, the Raven could hardly afford to leave her. The safety of his team was compromised enough by Lucatz, let alone Kris too.

"Give me a few minutes," I said. "Wex, can you give me any more information on the location of the black spot? I can try and plan a way through the cells, then, the ones that aren't usually inhabited . . . how big a space? So I could fit comfortably through that gap? Alright, what about if I had someone else with me? Hmm? Oh, right . . ."

As Wex and I thrashed out my route - doubtless with the Raven listening in - I concentrated all my effort into avoiding Kris' eyes. Though she might never forgive me, I would not let her endanger herself again. Especially not through helping me.

I already risked losing enough people because of that.

The End

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