Even before they’d entered the brownstone, Bluewolf knew that Vivian had returned. It was a good sign. To say the evening had been successful was a matter of opinion. Ryu had reported – through Kaye – that both Kardiac and the kid, Major Freedom, were in critical but stable condition. Melody was on the edge of exhaustion after the row with Corin’s cult, and Ryu wasn’t faring much better according to Kaye’s translation. The ringing in his ears had finally subsided and had slipped into an odd quiet. Odd because he’d never experienced total and complete silence before. And even though the GCPD was busy tagging all the evidence they’d managed to obtain – and there was an alarming amount – if it were to be looked at as a war of attrition, they would be on the losing end.
“Vivian’s here,” he said. He could feel the vibration of his vocal cords well enough to know that he hadn’t spoken too loudly.
“I know,” replied his fiancée, as she gave a quick nod. Things were going to be awkward until Aaron either healed or they came to grips with the alternative.
They found her in the dining room. Vivian’s face was aglow, lit by the tiny LCD of the portable computer she huddled over. “Good. You’re alive,” she began, “You’re going to want to take a seat. This is some pretty heavy – ” she looked up when Kaye cleared her throat.
“He can’t hear you, Viv. Our tussle with Rant and Rave didn’t go as well as expected.” Kaye motioned for Aaron to sit next to Vivian, while she slid into chair on the other side.
“It was a pretty rough night all around, actually.”
A look of concern passed over Vivian’s face. She slid the computer over to Aaron, and then turned back to Kaye. “Is he… I mean, is everyone okay?”
Kaye glanced at Aaron, who was focused on the data readout before him. “From talking to Roo, it sounds like Eddy took the blue ribbon for the festivities,” she took a deep breath before continuing. “He’s stabilized now, but apparently it was a little touchy there for a while. Strategoi is taking care of him.”
Vivian’s eyes widened slightly and she passed a look between Aaron and Kaye, “He’d probably be safer in a normal hospital. The Strategoi facility isn’t as safe as you’d like to think. We need to –”
“Go.” Aaron finished for her. His voice was low and quiet. At first Kaye couldn’t be sure if he was simply trying to modulate his voice because he couldn’t hear himself, but the look in his eyes told her otherwise. “You two stay. I have to go.”
Kaye stood up, nearly knocking her chair over, “I’ll be damned if you think –” Again, it was the look in his eyes that made her stop. A level of unspoken communication that let her know that things were not in a good way.
Aaron copied the files to a data stick, and gave the stick to Vivian. “I’ll need to borrow this,” he said, indicating the computer. There was no way he was going to download anything to the Strategoi network right now. The least of all this information. “Vivian can explain everything. I’ll be back soon.”
The steel doors slid open with a hiss that he couldn’t hear. Bluewolf brushed past Ryu and Corin, neither acknowledging them by sight, or able to hear them calling after him. He could, however, feel their footfalls trailing along behind him. He pushed open the door to the observation room where Jenna was watching over a seemingly sedate Kardiac. Her mouth moved, but her words fell on – hopefully temporarily – deaf ears. He grabbed her by the arm, and pulled her into a nearby supply closet. Ryu and Corin quickly followed, exchanging confused looks with one another and Jenna.
Wolf opened up the portable computer and accessed the data Vivian had acquired. He gave them all a look, “Just. Read.” He forced the computer into Jenna’s hands. Ryu and Corin perched over her shoulders, to see what all the fuss was about. After several minutes of silence, Ryu let out a low whistle.
“Well… that explains a good deal,” he clapped Jenna on the shoulder, “You want us to come with?”
Jenna’s form seemed to shrink. This was the last thing she had expected to find out. She shook her head, “No, just Blue will be fine.” She looked up at him, the pain in her eyes clearly undisguised, and nodded toward the door. “Let’s get this over with…”
Jenna and Bluewolf threaded their way through the busy corridors of Strategoi. It was odd to think that even at this hour, there were hundreds of people at work beneath the surface of Garrison City. Jenna palmed a biometric scanner that opened a door to a short side corridor. Once the door closed behind them, a panel opened at the end of the hall, revealing another palm-print reader along with a retinal scanner. When the door didn’t open immediately, she spoke into a flush-mounted microphone.
“Agent Jenna Fairchild escorting authorized visitor.”
At that the door slid open to another corridor. This one almost the complete opposite from the one they just left. It was a ghost-town in comparison.
Jenna’s pace picked up as she navigated her way through a series of turns before stopping before a large set of steel doors.
She looked up at Wolf, “I just want you to know, that once you’re able to hear me, we’re going to have a long conversation.”
He couldn’t hear her words, but Bluewolf could certainly read their delivery. He simply nodded in reply.
She looked away, sighing heavily while keying a code into the keypad beside the door. There was a snap-hiss as the doors parted and a waft of cool air washed over them. They stepped into a large computer lab. They weaved around massive equipment racks until they found the sole human occupant of the room.
A seventeen-year old kid swiveled around in his chair, “Hey gorgeous, how’s –” The kid trailed off as he found himself staring down the barrel of Jenna’s sidearm.
“Bug, we need to have a talk…”