It’s impossibly hot. My entire body is drenched with sweat and I awake to the realization I’m completely bound from the neck down. I open my eyes to find I’m still in the silver sleeping bag and currently melting into a puddle on the bench in the back of Bruno’s plane.
“Water,” I croak.
Eve jumps to her feet, looking as though I might have woken her from her own slumber, and appears at my side.
“What, Cyrus?” she asks.
“Need water. Too hot.”
“Yeah, of course.” She smiles and looks over her shoulder. “You can turn down the heat.”
“Great!” Bruno cheers. “How’s he look?”
“He needs some water,” she says. It feels weird to have people talking about me when I’m sitting right here, but I’m not feeling quite energetic enough to speak for myself.
“Oh, crap,” Bruno groans. “Didn’t think about it. He’s lying on the stash. Maxy, sweetheart, could you check the glove compartment there and see if there’s any more water hiding? I always keep a couple bottles up front.”
I hear Maxine moan a little as she too wakes. She groggily reaches forward and opens the compartment. “Here you go, girlie.” Maxine lifts a half-empty bottle of water over her shoulder.
Eve runs to the front of the plane, grabs it, and returns to my side. She opens the bottle and places it against my lips. “I’m feeling a bit of déjà vu.” She smirks.
I’m too busy sipping the water as it is poured down my throat to answer.
“Seems like one of us is always in the midst of trying to save the other,” she continues as I cough in response to too much water being poured into my mouth. She pulls the bottle away.
“I think I still owe you one.”
“Not a chance, tiger,” she smiles. “At best, we’re even. But pulling me out of prison buys you at least another three life saves.”
“Fine,” I croak. “We’re even.” I wrestle my hand out of the sleeping bag and hold it out to her. She grabs it and we shake on our gentlemen’s agreement. “Now, can you get me out of this? I’m roasting.”
Eve looks over her shoulder again. “You think it’s alright if I help him out of the bag?”
“It should be okay,” Maxine responds. “Time to let his body do the work.”
“Looks like you’re being given the go-ahead for freedom.” Eve begins unzipping the bag. As soon as she starts, both she and I remember my current state of undress inside the bag. “Um, Bruno,” she says as her cheeks turn red, “got a change of clothes for Cyrus? I think I might have nabbed the last set.”
“The bathroom should have another cupboard right next to whichever one you pulled your garb out of. Can never have enough spare clothes around when you’re smuggling,” he laughs.
Eve disappears and reappears rather quickly. She’s wearing a pair of long dark blue coveralls. She seems to be drowning in the size of them, but she’s managed to roll up the sleeves and legs enough to allow her to be able to move around without too much trouble.
She hands me a pile of fabric, which I unfold to see as a white button-up collared shirt and a pair of black slacks.
“A little formal, isn’t it?” I ask.
“It’s all I could find. There was a blazer too,” she smiles.
“I think I’ll be alright.” I struggle to pull the pants into the bag with me.
With a significant amount of trouble, I get the pants pulled over my sweat-covered legs and ask Eve to help me unzip the bag the rest of the way. Sliding the shirt around my back, I fumble with the buttons as me and Eve both sit down in the two seats immediately behind Bruno and Maxine.
“So, where are we?” I ask, my energy starting to return.
“We’ve been circling over Boston for about an hour now,” Bruno replies. “I didn’t really want to risk a landing with you in the state you were. Gonna have to land soon though. Starting to get low on fuel.”
“Cool,” Eve replies. “We got a plan?”
“That still depends on Cyrus,” Bruno says, looking over his shoulder at me.
“What?” I ask as though I’m being accused of treason. “Why me?”
“Last I checked, you weren’t so interested in helping Golden Dawn.”
“Do I really have a choice anymore?”
“That’s not how the GD works, Cyrus,” Bruno says sincerely. “Look, I know we may appear to be just like all those other groups out there, hidden agendas and secret double agent espionage craziness. But we try to ensure the people working for us do so of their own free will. There’s a whole lot of trouble in this world. We want to make it better, not make it worse by forcing people to do our bidding.”
“So, you’re saying I don’t have to do anything to pay you back for all you’ve done to help us?” I ask.
“Of course not. We would have pulled you out of prison either way.”
“Oh, so now you’re taking credit for that?” I ask. “I’m sure The Geek wouldn’t appreciate it.”
“You really think Billy could do all that by himself?”
“Hey, you bring up a good question,” Eve cuts in. “How could you be running Golden Dawn if you were locked up in Fort Devens?”
“We have our methods. And being set up in Devens was great for the cause. I gathered quite a lot of intel while I was down there.”
“Doesn’t really sound like much of an answer to me,” I join in.
“Let’s say my imprisonment wasn’t as confining as it is for most people in Devens.”
“Sounds like about the kind of answer I expected,” I scowl. “So, if I don’t have to help you out, where are you going to drop me off?”
“Boston, of course,” Bruno answers. “We don’t have anywhere else close enough to refuel. Pewakee might be possible, but it would be cutting it really tight.”
“That’s perfect, isn’t it?” I grumble.
“What do you mean?” Bruno asks, looking hurt.
“What I mean is you’ve set this up perfectly so I’ll have to help you, even if I choose not to.”
“I still don’t understand,” Bruno replies.
“Okay, so, you’ve already agreed we’re landing in Boston, right?”
“The place where the SP HQ is located, right?”
“Which also just so happens to be the very place where I was captured not two days ago, right?”
“Fine, three. However long it was, it’s still the one place in the whole world where I don’t want to be seen.”
“Right, but why does it mean you need to work for us?”
“Because how else am I supposed to get out of Boston?”
“Cyrus, relax. We need to stop for a refuel. It’s possible our landing will attract some attention, but all we’d need to do is hide out for a little bit until the dust settles. You could hang out in the plane while we take care of business. Remember, this thing is fully stocked with MREs and water, and there’s a bathroom in back which we can empty with the press of a button. There’s absolutely nothing saying you ever need to step onto Boston soil, if you don’t want to. Like I said, we’re not going to pressure you into doing anything.”
“Oh,” I say in surprise.
“Now, since we are going to be in Boston and there are a few things I need to take care of in order to ensure the world doesn’t get blown up in the next couple of days, me and Maxine here, and Eve, if she wants, of course, are going to take a little trip outside of the plane while we’re waiting for the dust to settle.”
“Of course you are,” I groan.
“But like I said, you are under absolutely no obligation to step foot outside of this plane at all. I’m completely serious.”
“Yeah, right. Of course I’m not.”
“I’m being honest here. No pressure whatsoever.”
“Right. Except we both know you’re ignoring one piece of this absolutely stupid puzzle.”
“What piece do you mean?” Maxine asks me.
“Eve is obviously going to go along on this ridiculous mission with you and try to save the country, which means I really have no choice in the matter.”
“You don’t have to come with me, Cy,” Eve provides.
“You said it yourself, we’re even. There’s no reason for you to get any further involved. You’ve done more than your part.”
“Yep.” I step out of my seat and walk to the back of the plane.
“Where are you going?” Bruno asks.
“To see if my shoes are dried out yet. I’m going to need to lace up and stretch before we start. I’m feeling mighty sore.”
Go to Chapter Twenty-Three