United as One

Page 30

The two of us walk down one of Patience Creek’s many nondescript hallways. While the military presence has most of these hallways humming with activity as they get their operation running, this part of the facility has been left pretty much alone. We’re in the small section that was built to hold prisoners, and, at the moment, we’ve only got one of those.

“All these new Garde popping up around the world, you’d think one of them would have the flying Legacy,” Nine says.

“Maybe one of them does,” I reply. “But we don’t have the time to find them.”

“All right, all right,” Nine finally concedes, shaking his head. “Just let it be known, for the record, I’m against this.”

“Yeah, I get that. You put a signpost through his chest just a couple of days ago.”

“Ah, that’s a nice memory.”

“Your reservations are clear.”

“I’ll kill him if he tries anything.”

I glance at Nine. “I know. Why do you think I made you come along?”

Nine and I stop talking when we reach the padded room where we’re holding Five. The reinforced steel door only has a small porthole for a window and opens with a heavy-duty wheel like you might find in a bank vault or on a submarine. There are two guards posted in front, grim-looking marines clutching automatic assault rifles that wouldn’t do them a bit of good if Five managed to break out. They both look surprised to see us.

“I need him,” I say to the guards, nodding towards the locked door.

They exchange a look. “He’s a prisoner,” one of them says.

“I know. He’s our prisoner,” I reply.

“We are definitely not planning to let him loose,” Nine adds.

One of the guards steps aside and mutters something into a walkie-talkie. I let this all play out. Might as well make it look like I respect Lawson’s authority here.

The guard returns, shrugs his shoulders and produces a key ring.

“The general would like you to come see him on . . . another matter,” the guard tells me as he unlocks a mechanism that holds a three-prong wheel in place.

“Oooh, you’re in trouble,” Nine says.

“You can tell him I’ll catch up with him as soon as we’re done here,” I reply to the marine.

I figure word has reached Lawson that Six and the others left the base without notifying him. I’ve got no intention of wasting my time explaining our moves to the general; if he wants an update, he can come find me. I’ve got things to do. Of course, I don’t say any of that to the guard.

The wheel creaks when the soldier turns it, the door swings open and both guards step aside in a hurry.

“Wondered when you would visit.”

Five sits cross-legged on the floor of his padded cell and smiles at me and Nine. His arms are secured in a straitjacket, his legs in a pair of loose-fitting pajama pants and he’s barefoot. The floor underneath him is like one big cushion. There’s nothing in this room for Five to touch that would allow him to activate his Externa. Worst-case scenario, he turns his skin to cotton.

I didn’t supervise Five’s imprisonment. I wasn’t really in an emotional state to worry about him, so Nine and Sam arranged this setup. Looking at the padded room, you’d think it was specifically designed to hold Five. Lucky for us the spies who’d originally built this place were prepared for every possibility, including one of their number losing their mind in a post-apocalyptic scenario.

Five’s face is still bruised and swollen from where Nine decked him right after our battle on Liberty Island. In securing him down here, Sam and Nine even took away the grubby patch of gauze he’d been keeping over his eye. The empty socket stares at me.

“I need your help,” I say. The words leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

Five cocks his head to the side so that his good eye is focused on me. “You saved my life, John. I know you’ll never trust me. Not after everything that’s happened. But I’m at your service.”

Next to me, Nine groans. “I want to barf.”

Five turns to Nine. “You know, I accept responsibility for my actions, Nine. I know that what I did was . . . misguided. But when will you accept your part?”

“My part?”

“Always running your goddamn mouth,” Five growls. “If you only shut up once in a while . . .”

“So my jokes turned you into a psychotic traitor,” responds Nine. I notice his fists are clenched. He looks at me. “This is a stupid idea, John.”

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