” I could really use a sandwich and pots of coffee. I know a great little all night diner not too far from here.”
Leadership comes naturally to Reag.
The food and caffeine is bliss. The diner is cozy, almost empty, soft music and soft lighting.
“We should get back, make sure the rest are ok.” Calinda worries.
“Our people know what to do, after all that’s happened. We have to think, what if the mercs have been watching us. You took a big chance in your campaign to rescue her.” He indicates me with a sideways wink. I feel the little glow of my image in his mind, the way he sees me.
“Me?” Calinda retorts archly, “You were making it loud and clear that Dorie was your number one target, that we all must die for your sins!”
“Bicker, bicker.” He is wry, not angry. “We have our own little armageddon to plan.”
Strangely, I am home. I am me, the essence of me.
The last of the other patrons have gone. I don’t feel the presence of the staff. We three are on full alert. We sense hostiles approaching. They have no reason to capture prisoners.
Nerice is suddenly aflutter.
“He’s here. They sent him after me, back in the city. Before I died. I was dying. Things got really crazy there. I didn’t remember. He linked. That’s why I’m a ghost. He kept part of me here as a tool. I didn’t know. If you let me in, though, I can help you kill him. Then we’ll all be safe.”
“Nerice, you know who he is. Get to him. Get him to let you in. Then, report back to me.”
This merc empath agent had pulled part of Nerice out of death to use her for the nefarious purposes of his superiors. I am glad we could not do that to Romy and Arden. She is not her true self, only a ghost, rapaciously in need, no warmth, no feeling.
The three of us link in for secrecy and strength. This is what we were made for.
Reag is, of course, armed. He passes out explosive sticks which ignite by code pressed onto a small wired-in keyboard. He tells us the code: F-R-E-E.
There’s also a disorienting spray, to muddy the trail if you get beyond view and block your mind for a bit. I pocket these. We are listening for our chance.
Nerice has persuaded her way into the merc freak, now feeding him false information, and sending his real information to me. There are eight of them, young, well-trained, well-disciplined. We laugh, remembering when we were like them.
We get out in front of them. Reag has an automatic weapon, of course. He mows down several.
Nerice gets her wish, and dies in battle.
We throw back our explosives. Those not dead or dying are in hiding. We spray the disorienting chemical to keep them from following. Then, we double back to the car.
One bright lad had us covered. He made directly for the car, and met us there. Sad for him, we overpowered and took him along.
“They won’t hesitate to kill you or negotiate to save me,” he boldly lets us know.
“We know,” we tell him.