“Reality is on fire,” Jester said it in a very matter of fact way, before adding, “purple fire.”
“Is it spreading?” I asked.
He shook his head. “Shrinking, but slowly, and it looks ominous.”
“It’s around the door thing?”
“Is that what that was? A door? Yeah, it’s mostly around some tech stuff at the base.”
“Then it’s fine. Get people to stand back, in case it blows.”
“We already did,” Jester said. He didn’t move from his spot underneath the shelter of the bus stop.
The street was now crowded with police cars that didn’t match each other, Jester’s patrol bus, and two ambulances. My hand was bandaged, and the Malfunctions were being looked after. The patrol had done its work, and Jester was keeping me company, under the guise of getting updates on the situation. That had taken two minutes, really, he’d stepped away to report to others, and he’d just come back.
As for the rest- it was only in the wake of the event that I could really take stock of just how much of a battlefield this neighborhood had become in a very short span of time. There were a lot of combatants, disabled or otherwise not putting up a fight, who were being put in the patrol bus.
“Are you okay? Really okay?” Jester asked me. “I know we’re not close, and that’s a very personal question, but…”
“We worked together.”
“For a bit over a year, and even this week, I was going into work and thinking I could bug you about some power classification thing or something I saw online. I forget what.”
“You miss me?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
He shrugged, shoulders straining against the straps of his vest- the stripped-down PRT armor with the identifying marks scraped off. In the cold weather, he was wearing a jacket over the vest. His tattoo wasn’t visible beneath the long sleeves.
“I kind of miss you guys too,” I said.
“That’s a very nice generic, ‘you guys’. A deft deflection from saying you miss me in particular, Miss Dallon.”
“Is that your way of saying you’re not okay? You miss when things were simpler?” he asked. “Because holy shit, um, I told Gil to wake me up or pull me in if your team ever needs anything, and I keep getting brought in for really messed up shit.”
“You don’t have to,” I said.
“I like it! Don’t get me wrong. Not the messed up stuff-”
“You’re losing me. You like it but you don’t like it?”
“I like you,” he said, before his eyes registered the words, and he gave a fraction-of-a-second-late, “-guys.”
He spoke with more energy and verve, as if he could stampede all over that exchange, leaving it behind him. “I did this whole Patrol thing because powers kick ass and I thought if I didn’t have powers, I could still be the guy in uniform that the big goddamn hero turns to and says, ‘Hey, guy with the cool callsign, are you going to have our backs?’ and I could say yes.”
“Cool callsign, huh? That’s an integral part of this fantasy?”
“It’s not a fantasy. It’s a mission. I’m going to become an instructor and team leader one day, and it’ll be mandatory. No gun until you have a decent nick. Exceptions if you have a badass last name and you go by that name.”
“I feel sorry for your students.”
“Quiet, you,” he said.
Another patrol bus drove up. Jester raised his hand, and behind the glare of the headlights and the windshield with ice at the edges, the driver raised a hand in response.
I punched Jester in the arm. “Thanks. For backing us up. You were there at the Fallen thing, you were there for Swansong.”
“You’re welcome,” Jester said. “It’s nothing big. Trying to help out when I can, help the people who are doing the big stuff… like tearing through seventy-five jerks with tinker guns.”
He indicated the neighborhood street. The road was low quality beneath puddles and ice, already cracking less than a year after it had been laid down, and the wet surface reflected the flashing blue and red light of emergency vehicles.
“Fifty at most,” I said.
“How’s Swansong?” he asked.
I raised my eyebrows.
“I guarded her, kept watch, like you said. Spent enough time doing it I’m invested, and she’s cool.”
I had no idea how she was. The question was enough to get me to check my phone for any status updates.
“I’m going to see her shortly,” I spoke slowly as I scrolled. “Last I heard, yeah, she was okay. But with everything going on-”
I stopped myself.
“She’s in prison, though. How would she be involved?”
Damn it, Jester, why did you catch on to that?
“Nah. She feels like her hands are tied,” I covered. “And that’s hard.”
Byron was at the periphery. A cop had stopped him, but a moment later, was calling out to someone else. Getting backup, since it was no doubt intimidating to have a guy in armor show up at the edge of the battlefield.
“I should go,” I said. “Good luck with dealing with that patch of reality being on fire.”
“It’s really cool, if you haven’t seen. It’s like if they froze lightning and then set it on fire.”
“I got a close-up taste of it,” I said, raising my hand, where I’d pulled my glove on over bandages, the bandages peeking out the end, and tapped the bandage. “And you guys should keep your distance until it burns out, to be safe.”
I headed in Byron’s direction. He was still held up with police, but they didn’t seem as bothered. He indicated me, and I gave them a wave and thumbs-up.
The Major Malfunctions broke away from the paramedics, hurrying to my side. I paused, letting them catch up, while keeping an eye on Byron to make sure he was alright.
“Are you going after the pharmacist?” Withdrawal asked.
“Not sure yet. We’re rendezvousing with the rest of the team. Once we know what we’re doing, we’ll be in touch with everyone. You guys should rest, resupply, if you feel like you’re done, that’s perfectly okay. If not, let us know that you’re game, and we’ll let you know as soon as we know more.”
“I’m out of accelerant,” Withdrawal said. “And my exoskeleton took a beating.”
“It should be go-goo or speedslime or something,” Finale murmured. “And if you’re going to call it that, your suit should be a go-suit.”
I had the impression this was a discussion they’d had before.
“You guys are battered, burned, and bruised. You did more than your fair share- you did great. I totally did not mean to get you involved in something that intense. If you want to sit out, I will absolutely not think less of you for it.”
“I was gonna say,” Withdrawal said. “Accelerant is gone, Finale is spent, and Caryatid got burned-”
“It’s not a big deal,” Caryatid said. “Antares got burned too.”
“-and,” Withdrawal pressed on, voice muffled by mask, insistent as he fought against getting sidetracked, “I think I speak for everyone when I say we found out the pharmacist was up to something, we started this, and it would be satisfying to be involved when it wraps up. I want to get her.”
“Yes,” Caryatid said.
I looked at Finale.
“I want what they want,” she mumbled, evading eye contact.
“Sit back, recover, reload your slime, heal. We will be in touch,” I said. “We have to step carefully when it involves the prison. They’re wary of us, and they won’t believe us if we try convincing them that their staff member is a problem.”
“Alright,” Withdrawal said, his head turning, attention between Finale and me. I saw him take a deep breath, halfway through which he seemed to notice something about the frame he was wearing, his hand going to one shoulder to touch the metal there. It stayed there as he exhaled. “We’ll hang back for now. Thanks.”
I could see the tension release in Finale’s shoulders.
“Thank you,” I said.
Byron opened the car door as I approached. He’d apparently fended off the police. I waved for him to get back in, glancing at the cops to make sure he hadn’t complicated things by setting them against Goddess.
“Didn’t you get permission to take the box?” he asked.
“Yeah. I’ll get it.”
“It’s heavy, and you’re injured,” he said. “I’ll help.”
I wanted to protest. I shut my mouth. Master-stranger protocols. They didn’t really apply here, since this had nothing to do with Goddess, but maybe it was better to get used to letting him give the orders.
The box was roughly the size of a coffin, and it did take the both of us to get it into the trunk, the back seats folded down. Byron slammed the back closed.
“No injuries?” I asked.
“Benefit of being long-ranged. I got zapped a few times, nothing too bad. Weak guns.”
“Nonlethal,” I said, my voice quieter. “Just about all of it, as far as I could tell. Pharmacist excepted. I think it might be part of how they get recruits, now.”
Byron’s breath fogged, a lingering aftermath of a sharp, sudden exhalation. A swear expressed unspoken.
I didn’t miss the sideways look he gave me. His train of thought was easy enough to follow. Recruits. Altered mental states. ‘Quote-Brainwashing-unquote’.
The second patrol bus was picking up the wounded and disabled. It had come stocked with blankets, tending to those who’d been splashed or left lying against cold ground. The thralls didn’t fight or argue much.
“Thanks for having my back,” I said.
“I felt stuck, looking after the Majors, I saw you needed help, but getting there was tough.”
“It’s fine,” I said. “He’s… he has an answer to anything, and I was the threat that stuck out. They brought out the anti-air brute-binding measure, that’s on me. I could have been more strategic. We’ll figure something out. We have other teams, we have Goddess…”
“And-” Byron started. “Sit with me? I won’t go fast. We’re not rushing.”
We both climbed into the car, and I was glad for the warmth that was blowing in noisily from the fans. Byron had to work a bit to get in, with the weight and less comfortable aspects of having armor on. For me, it was just the breastplate, and I could use my unburned hand to loosen it.
“We have an issue,” Byron said, as he pulled the car around in a u-turn. “It means things might not go that smoothly.”
“The changing powers?” I guessed. “The ebb and flow between you two isn’t favoring you as much.”
“Not that,” Byron said. We were approaching a turn, and he turned to look over one shoulder. “Is my left side clear? Wearing a helmet while driving is not good for the peripheral vision.”
I twisted around to look. “Clear.”
He turned, moving more slowly than usual. More emergency vehicles were coming in the opposite direction, heading to the site we’d just left.
“Tristan and I made arrangements. I’m getting calls. They’re impatient, and Tristan didn’t pick them because they were easygoing.”
I could hear the friction of Byron’s glove on the material of the steering wheel as he gripped it tighter.
“The people from Lord of Loss’ territory?”
“Ah, you caught that.”
When we’d gone to the other Earth to track down the Fallen sypmpathizers from Cheit, there had been a group of people who Tristan had paid attention to. They were in Lord of Loss and Marquis’ orbit, which suggested things. Professional, off the grid.
“Hit men?” I asked.
“Is there a term for people worse than hit men?”
“How does that work? Hit men are generally pretty bad, they’re professional, they’re about as criminal as you get. How do you get more extreme than that?”
“They don’t kill,” Byron said.
I set my jaw. Too many complicated thoughts were stirred up by that line of thinking. My first, almost hopeful thought was that he meant they were worse as in less-effective. The summary thoughts led me down a trail that made me think about my sister.
“An end worse than death,” Byron clarified, unhelpfully.
“I got it,” I said, my voice tense.
The car’s tires cut through the wet, icy roads. It was far from being good hero transportation. Only the fact that license plates didn’t mean anything kept it somewhat anonymous. If anyone cared to pay attention, it’d be a problem.
Fates worse than death. As an idea, it was too close, too fresh.
Fuck, my burned hand hurt.
“Why in the upside-down fuck would you pick people worse than hit men?” I asked.
“I didn’t,” Byron said.
“It was Tristan?”
“He decided on it and moved forward. He does this thing where things get bad, and he sees a possible solution- he gets all gung-ho for it.”
“So he hires a fate-worse-than-death hitman?”
“He said it was extreme enough that he’d have to stay in line. I was witness to it, as I am to all things Tristan. Then it was done with.”
“And you’re okay with that?”
“I’m resigned to it,” Byron said. “It happened, and by the time I wrapped my mind around it and did my own research, it was done. Too hard to revoke, and things were better. They were almost good for the first time in years.”
“Things go wrong, Byron. This exact situation, it’s one of those things.”
“What the hell are the particulars, here? Who are these guys?”
“Barcode. Most of the time they deal in death. But they have contacts, the sort of people who might be out in one of Marquis’ cabins in the middle of nowhere, not wanting to be bothered. I don’t know for sure where those contacts are, though.”
“And one of those is a striker. A dealer in human parts. They take people apart with physical blows as if they’re dolls. Takes an arm and a leg, literally, takes kidneys, hearts, genitals, whatever people are willing or desperate to buy.”
“No,” I said.
“If one of us steps out of line or try to game the system, he makes being swapped in just as miserable or worse than being inside-”
“No, Byron. Just- stop? Please. No details.”
The car sped along a road, down a street that, even with the periodic streetlight, was mostly too dark to see. The city wasn’t that bright around us, with lights in windows easily confused with the light catching on the edges of raindrops and flecks of frost.
“What’s the procedure?” I asked. “Forget the consequence- it’s bad. I get it. How do you do it?”
“We meet up every few days. We confirm we’re okay, we swap. There are two or three people who show up, sometimes with backup, whoever they’re working with at the time. One is usually a thinker. They can read people. Read us.”
My phone lit up, brighter in my lap than any light outside or on the dash. It was Lookout. They were close to our destination.
“They read people. For altered mental states?”
“Yep. Drugs. Amnesia. Brainwashing.”
He put emphasis on that last point.
“So you would go. You’d swap over to Tristan-”
“And whether he cooperates or not, he’s under her influence. They come after me.”
I closed my eyes. “What if the thinker doesn’t show?”
“And Tristan doesn’t sound the alarm? There’s no guarantee he switches back to me, for one thing.”
“And the deadline?”
“Last night,” Byron spoke in the kind of monotone reserved for those trying very hard to keep their voices level. At my look of surprise, he elaborated, “We had the TV show. They were willing to delay.”
“Okay,” I said.
“Tight time limit,” Byron said, and his voice was tense. “I can maybe fend them off for tonight, we did say we were busy. I’ve been thinking about other options since after you and I had our skirmish.”
It was hard to think of the skirmish and not find the doubts welling, my mind immediately going to the perspective of how Byron was a problem first. The protocols didn’t jump immediately to mind.
“How did he even find these guys?”
“Ha,” Byron said the word, humorless. The car swerved a bit on what looked like normal, not-icy ground, and he corrected. “I saw it happen and I don’t even know. I smile and it’s… it’s an expression. He smiles and people like him. He gets online and finds people we used to fight, people we threw in jail, asks how they’re doing, finds common ground in the world ending, fishes. A couple weeks later, somehow he has these guys, with a clandestine system for getting in touch. I didn’t even think it would happen, so I just let him do his thing, focused on my own things, and… surprise, it all came together, am I willing to shell out some of my own cash so it’s not one party paying the scary mercenaries? I should know not to underestimate him when he sets his mind to something.”
“Okay,” I said. “Then we have a time limit. Goddess, prison, pharmacist, make sure Rain and Ashley are okay. Tonight?”
“Tonight, yeah. All of that tonight. Then if we can’t fix it by then, you’re going to need to put me into a coma. Say I was hurt in the field.”
“If they have that thinker, and if I’m actually brainwashed, then they’ll catch on.”
“A neutral third party then,” Byron said.
“And we lose our one unaffected person in the chain of command for the master-stranger protocol.”
I folded my arms, being careful with my burned hand, and stared out the window, thinking. I had to anticipate what the others would say and do, I had to second-guess Byron while at the same time supporting him, and I needed to think about Teacher and his motives and goals. Even simpler things were made that much more problematic by the things in their orbit, like Amy’s proximity to Goddess.
We drove in silence. There was no radio, and our only soundtrack was the noise of the wheels through wet ice and the patter against the car roof. I’d spent relatively little time in cars and vehicles for the past seven or so years, even during my stint with the patrol block, and my awareness of the individual noises was harder to block out.
Not that I minded. White noise was a good grounding for contemplation, and the sounds were alien enough that I wasn’t reminded of anything particular.
I checked my phone and found it marked with the ‘no service’ icon. No internet waypoints, no cell.
I wanted to have neat and tidy answers and excuses like I had with Kenzie before we’d left, where I’d been able to keep her from going off and doing her thing to try and be helpful. Or so I was hoping. I didn’t have much of anything.
That left the battle plan. In twisting ideas around in my head, trying to think of how we might help Goddess in a way that Byron might approve of, or deal with a prison with a massive red button, where our enemy could run roughshod and we couldn’t…
It was all backward.
The most un-superhero hatchback found its parking space at the desolate parking garage. Natalie’s bug was already parked in a spot. It was startling, on a level, to recognize how small that car was, that Natalie had to be the person driving it, and the rest of the team had fit in it.
The answer, of course, was that two of our members were in jail. A third was in Goddess’ company, no doubt enjoying how very simple and clear life was.
We were seven, eight if we included our tertiary member Natalie. Three were gone. That left three for the car, Byron and myself.
Capricorn and I got out of the car. The others were waiting. Natalie was fidgeting, her eyes wide.
Was it a good thing or a bad thing that they hadn’t been able to keep her in the dark?
“Swansong and Precipice are sitting out. No holograms for right now. They’re more focused on immediate happenings in the prison,” Sveta said.
“Sounds good,” I said.
“Can I see the tech?” Lookout asked.
“Sure. As soon as we unload it. Can you give us a hand, Nat?” Capricorn asked, popping the trunk open.
I saw Natalie studying us, wary like she thought I’d suddenly grab her or something. I saw Sveta studying Capricorn in particular, suspicious. Still, Natalie helped, and we slid the box out of the back of the car and down to the floor of the parking garage. Sveta snatched up a few things on the ground that we might have tripped on.
The lights of the garage were only half-illuminated, and the half that were illuminated were dim, the glows orange and diffuse. There weren’t many cars, and the cars looked like they had been there for a while, with rust and dust creeping over their exteriors. For a couple, it looked like people might have been living in them.
“So cool,” Lookout said. “It’s not every day that I get to look at a tinker’s stuff.”
“There’s a time limit,” I said. “If we move, we need to move tonight.”
“I remember you guys talking about not wanting to overwork K- Lookout,” Natalie said.
Still wary, even as she protested.
“I’m conserving my energy for the times and nights when it really matters and my talents are needed,” Lookout said, kneeling beside the now-open box. “And everything’s intact!”
“I smashed one box,” I said. “They unpacked and activated one. This was one of two others.”
Natalie looked downright desperate to figure out what was going on, suppressed alarm clear on her face. She couldn’t ask, though, not without signifying that something was wrong.
“We’re going forward with Chris’s disconnected cells idea,” Sveta said.
I approached her, reaching out. She put her hand in mine, and I gave it a waggle.
Tension across her face seemed to ease slightly with that. The smaller signs of anxiety like free tendrils finding their perch or the rustle of movement inside her shell of a body were muted in a similar way.
“Disconnected cells,” I echoed, confirming I’d heard.
“She has two other groups. We’ll move in coordination once we know for sure what we’re doing.”
Natalie touched her phone, which was in her jacket pocket. The layers she wore seemed overly warm for even this shitty weather, but I could see that she’d gone easy on the top beneath the sweatshirt and jacket. No doubt choosing clothes that didn’t press on her cut.
She didn’t draw out the phone, though, or tamper with it in a way that made me think she’d opened a call to emergency services, holding a button too long or tapping one area of the screen while the phone was still in a pocket.
I let myself relax.
“What’s the verdict?” I asked.
“Still studying it, but…” Lookout pulled out her phone, held it out, and clicked a button. A little square robot face with hearts for eyes pirouetted across the screen, providing the object of focus for a side-wipe screen transition. What was left in its wake was gibberish data. “Portal to another world, obviously. You mentioned that already, over the phone.”
I nodded. I was hyperaware of everyone’s state at this point. Natalie’s anxiety was creeping up. Capricorn was quiet, lost in thought. Lookout was lost in her work, naturally. And Sveta…
She didn’t look like she was wholly in control of herself. More tendrils snaked out here and there, finding gaps and crevices, or old damage. They weren’t the long tendrils- those were managed. It was only the shortest, narrowest ones.
It sucked that she could accept the hand-waggle, but she gave me a look with doubt in her eyes when she didn’t think I was paying attention.
Lookout was humming. “Hmm. Okay. Can you get my laptop? Oh, and the projector disc. I’ll image it.”
I got the computer. Kenzie tinkered, plugging projector disc and phone into the laptop, while holding the phone out near the door in a box.
“I can’t get the teleporter working, I don’t think,” Lookout said. The bun-encasement at the back of her head opened up, making eye contact with me, while she hunched over her work. “But I know space and coordinates, and these things were made with coordinates built in.”
It took three tries before it worked- a three-dimensional map, incomplete, with some rooms and areas simply in blocked-out estimations of building dimensions, other areas hyperdetailed. The route we’d traveled was as clear as day.
Everything about the three-dimensional replication was cast aside as the image zoomed in on the pharmacist’s destination point. The image was supplemented by more rectangles that had video feeds.
“This is pretty awful work,” Lookout said.
“It looks good,” I replied, but I was lost in my observations. The pharmacist was in the room I had to assume was the pharmacy. The black trash bag was emptied, pill bottles put on a shelf with other bottles. I pointed at her.
“Can we get video of the area when she would have been leaving the scene?” Capricorn asked.
“Maybe. I use the cell networks, and they’re hinky right now. Some of this is old or out of sync.”
“Is that accident or intention?” Capricorn asked. “The towers being down?”
“I don’t know,” Lookout replied, even though I suspected he hadn’t really been asking for her verdict.
What is the pharmacist doing, and how does it factor into Teacher’s agenda?
“Can you get eyes on security, while you’re at it?” I asked. “I’m curious who was watching the monitors when a woman with punk hair and a purple metal shirt waltzed through a door made of lightning.”
Natalie shifted her weight from foot to foot.
Capricorn checked his phone, which was gripped in one gloved hand. “Feeling the time limit.”
Another call from the guys?
“Working as fast as I can,” Lookout said.
There. It hitched and glitched here and there, but the image split into two rectangular screens. In one, the electrical door appeared. The pharmacist came through with the latter portion of a leap. In the other, we had a view of one of the security guards reach out and change the image on the screen away from the violently flickering image.
“We want to know who he is,” Capricorn said.
“Already on it.”
I got to watch the pharmacist get settled, torch the portal from her end of it, and then set to work, pulling things from the bag and organizing them in a painstaking way… then getting the baggie of orange- I presumed orange because the image wasn’t great enough quality to contrast the warm colors and it was close-powder.
That was the main attraction in our little theater here, enacted in a neutral location that put us closer to the portal. On the sidelines, Lookout’s system was pulling out schedules and images. We had one pharmacist and one security guard confirmed as Thralls – or whatever it was when they weren’t outright brainwashed.
It was like dominoes falling. Security guard confirmed compromised. Schedule came up, as did address. Then there were the images, from prison video, from online, and from traffic lights that recorded those who passed through intersections. On a map, routes he regularly traveled were highlighted.
From that guy, another guy, tracking destinations and more, the system clearly inferred other moles in the prison staff. As portraits lined up, they became brighter or darker as new information came to light.
“Victoria? Can I talk with you?” Natalie asked.
Right fucking now? The dominoes are falling. We’re getting a sense of what we’re fighting here.
“Can you give me a minute?” I asked.
“I’m kind of freaking out.”
“Okay. As soon as we make sure everyone is contributing. Tress, try to communicate to Precipice and Swansong that they should absolutely not take their medication of the day. We still don’t know what that woman is doing. Lookout, where are you at?”
“I don’t know. I’m trying to figure out this door. I might be able to open it, but it’s going to mean taking this stuff back to my workshop, where I was fiddling with the teleporter project. I can kludge them together and give us a way to move to where the woman with the purple shirt went.”
“How long?” Capricorn asked. Byron was concerned about the time.
“Four, five hours? Closer to four if I have someone helping.”
I looked at Capricorn. We couldn’t afford four or five hours.
“No. We’ll go with another tack. We do this backwards.”
“Backwards?” Sveta asked.
“Cryptid thinks Teacher’s plan is to get them to close off access to that world. If Goddess is baited into going in there and they close the gate behind her, or worse, catch her between realities.”
“Why do you-?” Natalie started. She stopped as Capricorn moved slightly. A nudge or small wave, easily missed.
For all that he’d talked about his brother, he did okay when it came to convincing others.
I went on, “If he closes off that reality, especially with another person at the helm, then he can raid it continually, gathering thralls at his leisure. So let’s get ahead of him, start from his win condition.”
“That sounds like a thing your mom would say,” Natalie murmured. Her earlier insistence on talking to me was forgotten. She had stars in her eyes as emotions that clearly mingled with the worried curiosity, the fixed stares, and the nervousness.
“It very much is,” I said, agreeing. “If they’re running with cash in hand, take that cash. At best, if we can do that, we force a draw. Teacher wants to lock off the area and loot it? We beat him to the punch and close it off first.”
I looked Lookout’s way as I finished saying that.
“Do you want me to rig that?” she asked.
“Can you? Use the data you have from that door, and figure out a way to scramble coordinates so they don’t let people in, or so they don’t let people out?”
“I can make it so they can’t leave,” Lookout said.
“Perfect,” I said, smiling. As an option, it fit with timeframes Byron had outlined, and it helped to sway an otherwise untenable situation to our favor.
It made a kind of sense that Lookout’s toolkit would point in that direction. It was easier to destroy or distort than it was to create. Here, in the midst of it all, when so many other things were tainted with doubts and small betrayals, it was good to know that we could potentially be the ones with the keys.
It made too much sense. I wasn’t supposed to be following my instincts like this. I had to stop myself, and look to Byron.
“Yes,” he said. “Sealing him in there or sealing him away will be very good plays, if timed right. For now, we should inform the other teams we were talking to, see if anyone can do something about the bombs that are strapped to our teammates’ ankles, and while we’re doing it, we should be very, very careful to keep the cells discrete.”
Keep them away from Goddess?
“What about the medication?” Sveta asked. “I think they give those out around mealtimes, and as dark as it is outside-”
“It’s only the evening now,” I finished. “Meals aren’t that far off.”
“Do we roll the dice?” Capricorn asked. “We have some sense of who is compromised. If we reach out to prison staff and get them to stall-”
It wasn’t so easy as that. Too risky.
I shook my head, and he didn’t press for it.
“We tap other sources for help, we see what they have to say, and we see if they’re game for this,” I suggested. “Bigger powers. Maybe ones that can disable the bomb threat.”
“The Wardens?” Natalie asked.
“Goddess,” Sveta and I spoke in near-sync, with a distracted Lookout a syllable behind.