I reach out to touch him, afraid he’s an illusion, that I’ve finally lost the sanity no one believed I really had. He’s blurry and I blink, hot tears dripping onto his bare skin. There are puncture holes from needles, burn marks like someone hooked him to wires. Probably trying to fry his internal tracking. His eyes find mine, bright hazel. Mateo helps me with the straps, easing Travis up from the bench. I stare at him while Mateo scrounges for water, still not convinced he’s real.
He gives me a weary smile. “I knew you’d come for me.”
I crush him in a hug, not caring if Mateo sees me vulnerable, sees that the great Dylan Davis fears like a normal human. Travis puts a hand on my head, not minding the blood, and I feel him laugh.
“You haven’t lost your touch.”
I move back and smile, pulling myself together. “I suppose not. Rex is here, in the system.”
“Hey, Rex. Thanks for letting her loose to find me.”
“Trav, where’s Emilia?”
Travis sighs, downing the packet of water Mateo hands him. “I don’t know. Not here, I don’t think. They showed me video of her in a lab, but it looked different than this one. Where am I?”
He frowns. “Paek?”
I shake my head. “All a cover. Watanabe.”
“I haven’t figured that out yet. Rex, scan for Emilia.”
“That won’t be necessary, Ms. Davis.”
I freeze, the voice echoing in the small lab. My vision flips almost automatically, looking for the transmission source. There’s a camera in the corner, a small speaker on it, its wires hot and connected. Shit. That’s not part of the system Rex is in. I’m mid-ping to him when the alarms hit.
“Goodbye, Ms. Davis.”
I sprint to the camera, hooking into the feed fast as I can, capturing a chunk of the source data before it goes dark. Rex is pinging my display, lines of heavily-armed guards advancing on us.
“Mateo, get him to the roof!”
He pulls Travis up, shouldering most of his weight, and is out the door. I retrieve the Kataoka and follow, sticking a thermal charge on the back of the door. There are footsteps in the stairwell as we ascend, heavy steps that mean business. I drop a charge, pressing against the wall as the blast echoes in the narrow space, the smell of burned flesh thick on the air. I rig another one on the door to the eleventh floor, urging Mateo to pick up the pace. Rex is there, in my display, camera images flowing in my vision.
“Forget that, find the source of the outside feed.”
I send him everything I got from the camera, praying its enough to at least get a city. The steps are getting closer. I stop, motioning Mateo to keep going. The first head comes around the corner, splattering against the wall as I let loose with the Kataoka. I’m a kid in a candy shop, nowhere for these assholes to run. I fire until the clip discharges, throwing my last thermal charge and sprinting upstairs. Mateo is strapping Travis into the helicopter.
“Lock it down, Rex!”
I run to his side, loading another clip and keeping my gun trained on the door as Rex jacks out. He looks like gasping death, and I heft him over my shoulder, carrying him to the chopper. Mateo is there, taking Rex from me and getting him strapped into the back. I pull my dry suit from the bag, sliding into it. Mateo nods to me, getting Travis and Rex started on theirs as I strap myself into the pilot’s seat. The door is moving, clanging, guards clamoring to get onto the roof.
The door gives as the rotors start up, the first man through going down with a hiss, Falk’s bullet ripping through and through. Mateo is leaning out the side of the chopper firing wildly, keeping anyone from getting bright ideas. He pulls out a thermal charge and I remind myself to offer the kid a job. The door goes up in a fireball as the chopper lifts off, a thunderous roar as we careen towards the bay. I figure we have a minute before cops are on us. I need to get them to safety before that.
Mateo slips out of his harness and helps Rex with the mask to his suit. I bring the chopper low, keeping it steady and slowly weaving through the buildings. I can see the neon swatch of the harbor ahead and I punch it, dipping low enough to noise complaints from the street. Mateo is unbuckling them, efficiently tethering them to him, taking their lives as part of his own. I give him the signal as soon as we’re past the docks, grinning with relief as the first blast hits.
It rips into the side, sending shrapnel flying. I feel it dig into my shoulder, burning chunks that I barely register with all the adrenaline pumping through my system. There’s another blast coming and I pull a hard left to avoid it, hoping everyone in back is okay as I dump them unceremoniously into the icy harbor below. I straighten out and punch it, rushing forwards, far as I can while unhooking. I almost tear through the dash implanting Rex’s device, the one that will let me pilot this as I fall.
One deep breath later and I’m rocketing towards a wall of frothing water. I turn the chopper away from me as I do, the controls clumsy as my body fights blackout. I throw it on a straight course, hoping the guy firing has good enough aim to hit it. Icy water grips me as the explosion rings in my ears, made larger by the host of charges we left in the back seat. No one could survive that inferno. I let the current take me, not fighting its battering hug, flipping my beacon on and hoping someone is listening as darkness swims in my vision.
There are arms around me, voices swimming through the waves. I take a deep breath that’s immediately knocked out of me as I find my back connecting with the hard deck of a boat. I cough, more water than air coming out, gasping and ripping the mask off my dry suit. Mateo is over me, lips moving. I’m pushing him away, rolling, following instinct. Where’s Travis?
I spot him on the other side of the deck, a man I don’t recognize bending over him. Rex is behind him, passed out but breathing, his suit intact. I can smell the blood, the coppery tang permeating the air, praying its mine as I crawl towards Travis. Mateo tries to stop me, a hand on my shoulder, but something in my expression makes him let me go. I pull the man off Travis, pushing him towards the steering.
“Get us to shore!”
The man nods, his eyes wild with panic, and I look at Travis. There’s a piece of metal sticking out of his side, deep enough that the rational part of me knows he’s dead. His hand finds mine, surprising the shit out of me, and I cling to the bloody mess of it. He’s trying to say something, a gurgle of blood coming out of his mouth. I lean in the whole world fading into the background.
“Dyl, you have to-”
He coughs again and I grip his hand, pushing his hair out of his face. “Shh, Travis, don’t talk. You’re going to be fine. I’ve got you.”
I’m lying and we both know it, his face oddly calm in the face of the abyss. “Dyl, just listen. For once.”
I nod, dripping pain on to his chest as my eyes run.
“You have to find Emilia.”
“We’re going to find her, Travis. You and me, just like when we took down Makita.”
He’s smiling, a slow smile that’s fading, his grip on my hand loosening.
“No, no, no, Travis, stay with me. Don’t you fucking do this.”
He lifts a hand and touches my face, leaving a bloody streak as he loses strength.
“Don’t you fucking die on me, Travis. I can’t do this without you.”
His eyes are dimming. Someone is screaming, a sound of anguish. There are hands on me, trying to pull me back, and I shove them off, hugging Travis. Don’t die, Travis, please. The arms return in force, pulling me back into an embrace. Rex’s voice is there, in my ear, but I don’t hear him. His arms are firmly around me as I scream, holding me steady in the storm.
We dock half an hour later, my lungs raw and spent. Ziv is there, confusion on his face as I step off the boat, not hearing whatever he says. I clap Ziv on the shoulder, walking past him and sitting on the crates littering the smuggler’s dock. Mateo is there, talking in low tones with Ziv, the pair glancing over at me. Rex is there, carrying Travis’s body with the man whose name I never learned. I watch with dead eyes as they lay him gently on the ground, joining Ziv and Mateo in hushed discussion.
I know I should join them, pull myself together and lead this time like I’m supposed to. My eyes are trapped, swimming with tears and locked onto Travis. He looks peaceful. Someone closed his eyes. The shrapnel has been pulled out of his side, a bloody maw marring him. I exhale slowly, my vision narrowing, threatening to close and send me into darkness. Instead, I dip my head between my knees, taking deep breaths and counting, slowly counting, pulling together the thousand pieces my mind is in.
It takes minutes, the conversation in front of my slowly dying, each looking uncomfortable, unsure. I stand, taking another deep breath, wiping as much of Travis’s blood from my face as I can before stepping forward. They fall silent as I do, avoiding eye contact.
“Thank you for driving the boat,” I say to the man, mustering up a smile.
He looks unnerved, taking my offered hand and shaking it slowly. “You’re welcome. I’m sorry about-”
“Ziv, do you have a way to get Travis’s body back to Makita?”
He nods, his head dipping to stare at the ground.
“I’d appreciate that. Thank you. Rex, can you pay Mateo and send Falk his cut?”
“Dylan, you need to-”
“What I need, Rex, is to find the son of a bitch that killed my best friend.”
Mateo pales, whatever he might have suspected getting confirmed.
“Mateo, I’d like to keep you on retainer for now, if that’s amenable to you. We can work out the pricing later.”
He nods, his face calm. “Of course. Whatever you need.”
“You’re with me, then. Rex, we’ll meet you at the room later.”
He lunges and I let him pull me aside. “Dylan, stop. You need to think this through.”
“I’ve thought about it, Rex, and now I’m acting on those thoughts.”
“Dylan, you don’t even have your guns.”
I unzip the dry suit, pulling out the Noda and Kataoka. “I’ll be fine, Rex. Go back to the hotel. Organize a funeral for Travis.”
He tries to stop me, hand gripping my arm as I start leaving. I yank free, keeping my temper under control as much as I can. I hear him stop Mateo, hushed tones warning him, trying to talk him out of my insanity. To his credit, Mateo doesn’t relent, reassuring Rex that he has my back and joining me.
“Where to?” he asks softly.
“Back. I know who fired that shot.”
He nods, fading into darkness with me. I’m coming for you, Falk.