I refuse to answer any further questions regarding my idea, mostly because I haven’t come up with one yet. The Geek reveals a hidden stash of food within the shipping container, so we eat and rest for a couple hours before moving forward with our plan. My plan. My lack of a plan, to be more precise.
“I still can’t believe you’ve been hiding all this from me, Geek.” I dig into a small bag of potato chips.
“Like I said, if you had put in the ear pieces, I would have been more than willing to let you know about the food, but—“
“No, not the food, the whole spy thing.”
“Oh, yeah. It’s not like I didn’t want to tell you. I really didn’t know how to bring it up. And once this whole thing with the rebellion started, well, I guess I felt embarrassed.”
“Hey, you know, whatever. I’m glad you didn’t turn out to be the bad guy,” I smile.
“Speaking of which,” he frowns. “There’s probably one more thing I should fess up about.”
“Oh no,” I scowl. “Come on, kid. Please don’t tell me you’re the real Miss Nile and the nukes were your idea so you didn’t have to start up an exercise regimen or something.”
“Yeah, great. Thanks. Make fun of my weight. Never mind. Forget I said anything.”
“Cyrus has been a little overwhelmed with everything, Billy,” Eve apologizes for me. “I’m sure he didn’t mean it.”
“She’s right,” I agree. “I’m sorry. What did you want to say?”
“Okay, well, although I don’t think this really makes me the bad guy, you’re definitely not going to be very happy with it.”
“I can’t say I’m very happy with much you’ve told me today,” I reply.
“Good point. Probably makes this the best time to get it out then, huh? So, you know, back when you were first on the run with Bruno and you were talking with Eve?”
“Maybe. What, were you listening in?”
“Wait,” Eve cuts in. “When are you talking about? You mean after they broke me out of prison.”
“You mean before you broke Cyrus out of prison?” she asks.
“No, this was after they were out of the prison, after Miss Nile took me into custody, when Bruno was trying to convince Cyrus to run to Boston instead of saving you.”
“I’m pretty sure I don’t remember talking to Cyrus between the two prison breaks,” Eve says, cocking her head to the side. “I might have been in pretty bad shape in between the interrogations, but I’m fairly certain I would remember something like that.”
“That’s because you didn’t talk to him,” The Geek says flatly.
“Oh, wait, I remember,” I cut in. “Yeah, she totally did talk to me. She tried to convince me not to come save her.”
“You did talk to someone who tried to change your mind, but it wasn’t Eve,” The Geek confesses. “It was me.”
“What?” Eve and I say simultaneously.
“Like I said, you’re not going to be too happy about this. But I used my voice modulator software to make me sound like Eve so I could convince you to finish the run.”
“Wait.” My temper rises. “You pretended to be Eve so I wouldn’t rescue her from the prison?”
“Why, Billy?” Eve asks, seeming hurt. “I know I would have probably told Cyrus the same thing, but if you had any clue what I was going through in there, why would you possibly want to keep me down there?”
“I’m not proud, okay,” he says, looking at his feet. “But it was early on in my time with The Agora. They were trying to use me against you.”
“So, you’re saying they made you do it?” Eve asks, hopeful.
“Yes, and no,” he answers. “They wanted me to convince Cyrus to finish the run. I was the one who came up with the idea of using you, Eve.”
“Oh, well that’s different,” Eve allows.
“How is that different? You lied to me! You could have given me some sort of code or something which would let me know you were okay, you could have—“
“Cyrus, relax.” Eve places her hand on my shoulder. “I’m sure he had to be careful, especially since he was still being held hostage.”
“I did. And it really wasn’t something I had much of an option on. But that still doesn’t make me feel any better about it. I’m sorry, Cyrus. And to you too, Eve. If I were in Cyrus’ place, I would have made you my primary concern as well.”
“Thanks for being honest with us, Billy.” Eve hugs him.
“Cyrus?” The Geek says, looking at me. “Can you forgive me?”
“I have spent so much time over the past few weeks being lied to by every single person I’ve encountered. I had really hoped you would be someone I could trust.”
“Cyrus,” Eve frowns. “You can’t blame him for this.”
“I can.” I turn my back on them.
“Please, Cyrus, if I can forgive him, surely—“
“No,” The Geek cuts her off. “He’s right. I crossed a line. I probably shouldn’t have even said anything about it. I wanted to clear the air, make sure I was being honest from here on out.”
“See, Cyrus, you can trust him.”
I don’t respond.
“I’ll give you guys some time alone,” The Geek says sadly. “I should probably clear the decks so we can get on our way.”
The Geek disappears from the shipping container to once again urge everyone on the barge island to go below decks for our departure.
“That wasn’t very nice,” Eve reprimands me.
“I don’t have to be nice. I’m sick and tired of being lied to.”
“I get that, but you still should give him a break. If you had any clue what it’s like to go through the types of things they put me through when I was—“
“I don’t have to give anyone a break, okay? I didn’t want any of this. I didn’t ask for any of it. I was only supposed to be doing a stupid run, a job. Instead, it turns out my brother was sending me out to save the world and he didn’t even give me a heads up about it.”
“I understand you’re mad, but—“
“I’m not mad, I’m furious. Everyone has been using me to get their own ways, even my brother apparently. And now he tells me he used my feelings for you against me? I can’t accept that.”
“No buts. I’m done talking about it. Let’s get this job over with. If we’re alive after it all, maybe then I’ll be willing to discuss it further.”
Eve looks at me, sadness plastered across her face. I feel myself want to give in and say it’s okay, but the rage still burns within me. I’m done with being lied to. I’m done with being used. If I have to save the country, so be it. But I don’t have to be happy about being put in this situation.
The Geek returns a few minutes later. His face seems filled with uncertain determination.
“Alright, let’s go.” He opens the large doors to the outside world.
“Cyrus,” Eve whispers to me. “At least give him a little wiggle room for now. He’s got to be terrified. And he obviously feels terrible about all this.”
“Fine,” I mutter unhappily. I take a deep breath and walk up to my brother. “You ready for this?” I ask.
“I guess,” he says timidly. “I’ve never had to be so directly involved in one of your crazed plans before. It’s a little nerve-wracking.”
“Crazed?” I ask, feigning pain. “You never seemed to think they’re so crazed when you’re hiding behind that computer screen of yours.”
“What are you talking about?” he returns quickly. “Every single time you come up with one of these ideas I tell you it is the worst possible thing you’ve ever come up with. Every single time.”
“I know. I wanted to get you riled up for a minute,” I force a laugh.
“How can you joke at a time like this,” The Geek asks, visibly shaking. “We’re planning on going into the lion’s den and placing ourselves within the lion’s mouth with absolutely no idea of how we’re going to get out of it again. Aren’t you a little bit nervous?”
“Ah, come on,” I say, nudging him in the shoulder as we arrive at the edge of the barge. “Loosen up. We’ve been through worse before.”
“This coming from the same guy who has spent the last three days whining about every single part of the process of getting here,” Eve chuckles.
“Hey now, hoping luck is on your side is one thing. Jumping off a cliff to a tiny pool of water is something else completely.”
“Right,” Eve nods.
I wrap my arm around The Geek. “Look, we’re all a little scared here. What we’re doing has very little chance of ending well for any of us. But since you two are so focused on trying to keep the world from being blown up, giving ourselves up really is the only option we have, isn’t it? Other than heading off to Canada like I keep trying to convince you guys—“
“Cyrus is right, Billy. We’re going up against the most powerful person in the country, at least if what you’ve told us about her is true. She’s basically said she’s going to blow everything up if we don’t get ourselves on top of that tower and prove we’re the ones she’s looking for. We can’t let that happen.”
“Alright,” The Geek says with a sigh. His shoulders slump as he attempts to fill himself with resolve. After another deep breath, he steps out of the container and gestures to a ladder which heads down the side of the metal box we’re on. “I’ve got a speed boat waiting for us down below. It’s still relatively dark out, even if the sun is rising. We should be able to get to shore without anyone noticing. Hopefully.”
“Okay.” I head toward the ladder.
“There’s one more thing we should probably talk about before we start,” he says, stopping me in my tracks.
“What?” I ask skeptically. “What else could there possibly be to warn us about?”
“Well,” he stammers, “um, I don’t really know how to say this, but it’s about a mile from where we’ll park the boat to get to Hancock Tower.”
“Okay,” I shrug. “Not a problem. We’ll be on the front stoop before the sun even hits it.”
“Right, well,” he says further, obviously struggling with finding the right words.
“Spit it out already,” I yell, frustrated it’s taken this long to get off of this stupid boat.
“Look, it’s just,” he sighs. “I know you two are fast and all and can get yourselves there without any trouble and I’m not trying to say I’m completely useless or anything, but you know, take a look at me and you’ll see I’m not exactly—“
“Oh,” I say with a relieved sigh and a light laugh. “You’re worried about being able to keep up with us?”
“Yeah,” he says, sighing as well.
“Don’t worry,” Eve says cheerfully. “We’re still almost two whole days early for the drop, right? What’s the rush? We can walk. It would probably make us less conspicuous.”
“Yeah, kiddo,” I say, lightly punching his shoulder. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll take it easy on you. This time. If you decide you want to join us on future runs though, you’re definitely going to have to do some training.”
The Geek smiles wordlessly.
“So, I can go down now?” I ask.
“Yeah,” The Geek answers. “You two might want to sit in the back,” he says. I’m already halfway down the ladder to the boat tied to the bottom rung. “I’ve got a change of clothes for you two back there.”
“Great,” Eve says as I’m already jumping into the back of the boat. Eve is close behind me. Looking up, I see The Geek has only managed to get himself down the first couple rungs. I groan inwardly as I suddenly come to the realization how slow this final leg of the run is going to be.
“Be patient with him,” Eve says under her breath. “Remember, he’s your little brother and we’re here to help him.”
“I know,” I respond in kind. “I’m just not sure I’ve ever moved at such a slow pace before.”
“Let’s see what clothes he’s got for us. It’ll give us enough to do while we wait.”
I look up and see he’s now approximately a third of the way down the ladder.
“Cyrus,” Eve says accusingly.
“Fine,” I agree and turn my attention toward the small chest sitting between the two seats in back.
Eve opens the chest and pulls out the clothing she finds immediately on top. A wool gray trenchcoat. She holds it up in front of herself.
“I thought we were trying to not draw attention to ourselves,” I say.
“Actually,” Eve disagrees, “seeing as Boston is a major financial district and it’s early fall, this is exactly the sort of thing people around here would wear on their way to work.”
“And,” The Geek says from above, as he makes his way cautiously down the last few rungs to the boat, “I figured it would be the perfect way to hide your normal running clothes, which you’ll find under the coats. I know we’re hoping, or maybe I should say I’m hoping, we won’t have to run, but we should be ready for anything. I’ve even got my own running gear,” he says, showcasing the pair of blue Chuck Taylors he’s wearing.
“Good call,” I say happily, the boat rocking in response to The Geek climbing in.
“Go ahead and get yourselves dressed.” He sits down in the driver’s seat, behind the windscreen. “It won’t take but a minute to get to shore.”
I look at Eve as she pulls the rest of the clothes out of the small black trunk. Two pairs of jeans, two pairs of Chuck Taylors, one pair red, one pink, two pairs of socks, two white T-shirts, and two of the before-mentioned trench coats.
“How’d you know my size?” Eve asks, looking at one of the two pairs of pants.
“Oh, come on.” The Geek laughs and the boat pulls forward. “I have access to pretty much every piece of information known to mankind. You think I couldn’t figure out your pant size?”
Eve shrugs as she effortlessly pulls off the jumpsuit she had been swimming in for the past day. I stare as I realize how easily she has gotten herself down to nothing but a bra and panties.
“Hey there, tiger,” Eve says, noticing my stare. “Don’t go getting yourself any ideas now. We’ve got work to do.”
I shake myself awake at her comment and reach over to grab the pair of jeans still left on the pile. She’s already pulling up her pants as I manage to get my slacks off. The moment is weird, but I can’t help but be reminded of what had happened in the shipping container not so long ago. And the bathroom in Tonawanda. Or the moment at the prison.
“Cyrus!” Eve snaps her fingers.
“Right,” I say confusedly. “Right.”
I pull on my own jeans and take off the shirt to finish getting dressed. Within minutes I’ve got the trench coat over the whole ensemble.
“We’re trying to look inconspicuous, Cy.” Eve laughs and turns down my upturned collar.
“What?” I retort. “Shouldn’t we try to hide our faces or something? We are some of the most recognized people around right now.”
“It’ll be dark still when we get there,” The Geek yells back at us over the now-roaring engine. “If you two keep your heads down, I think we’ll be alright.”
“Okay,” Eve says. “Then I think we’re ready.”
“As ready as we’ll ever be,” I agree.
“Good,” The Geek yells again. “Now can someone help me get ready?”
“I didn’t see another coat in there or anything,” Eve replies.
“No, I mean, help me calm down. I’m feeling like I might be having a heart attack.”
Go to Chapter Twenty-Nine