They were not out of the weeds yet. Sebastian banished the red-haired agent and waste-of-space cop to the cabin. He flipped levers as Trent did the main job of wheeling the jet onto the runway. Sebastian ignored everything he knew about the missiles Triumphia liked to deploy on its enemies, and focused on getting the jet into the air.
“Hurry, Trent,” Sebastian shouted. He winced as bullets hit his baby from every direction.
“Yes sir,” Trent grinned. Good man, Trent. He had been one of the first people who volunteered to try the Memory Maker, when Bash Industries was still in its infancy. Sebastian had met the commercial pilot at a premiere league basketball game. Turns out Trent went to every single game. He was just an average guy, but Sebastian liked Trent’s loyalty, a loyalty that existed before Sebastian hooked Trent up to the Memory Maker and encouraged him to do his bidding. Trent was disposable, but Sebastian would still end up giving him a raise.
In the distance, Sebastian could see a tank being wheeled out from the Citadel.They sped toward the runway, and Sebastian decided he couldn’t watch this mess any longer. He stumbled into the main cabin, belting himself to the nearest seat. At the rear of the plane, Chase and Agent X were sitting next to one another. Chase had a hand on her shoulder. How sweet, Sebastian thought sarcastically, right when we’re all about to die.
The jet suddenly took off into the air with a breakneck speed Sebastian reserved for Zone Drones. His stomach turned circles and he closed his eyes. As they achieved liftoff, his ears thundered and popped.
Then an explosion. The jet shuddered with impact. Something, maybe a missile, had clipped the left wing. He waited for the jet to plummet and crash, but they remained airborne. After a few agonizing minutes, Sebastian opened one eye, then two, and looked tentatively out the window at the darkening territory below. Finally, he let out the breath he had been holding. Triumphia wasn’t using the motion-tracking missiles. Either they hadn’t been prepared for Sebastian’s escape, or they didn’t care enough to kill him.
Sebastian sat back, taking two minutes to collect himself. There was no way he was going to let his fellow flight members see into his secret turmoil.
“Are either of you going to explain what happened back there?” Chase said gruffly.
“I’ve heard enough from you today,” Sebastian turned around, thinking about everything the detective had said in his office that morning. Chase’s investigation of the street kids left a bad taste in Sebastian’s mouth, and he couldn’t believe his bad luck. How had Chase become part of his rescue mission? Not that Sebastian needed to be rescued. Sebastian prided himself in his intelligence, and he would have gotten out of that situation… eventually.
Chase still had his hand pressed against the agent’s shoulder. Sebastian looked closer, and realized that Agent X was bleeding through her once-pristine outfit. Was she shot? Sebastian knew all about the Malum soldiers and their infamous pain tolerance. He seriously wondered why a Malum soldier would get her hands on his private jet and risk her life to get him out of jail, but he couldn’t make it obvious.
Agent X sighed, “Chase, you’ve probably gathered that I don’t work for January Fields and Goliath. I work for Triumphia. I was born and raised there, part of the Malum mercenaries.”
“So that means you’re a stone-cold killer?” Chase said with a prickly laugh.
“I was sent here to do a job. It’s not my fault the researcher was in the line of fire,” Agent X snapped.
“She was a common civilian.”
Sebastian tried to hide his annoyance. What Sebastian knew, and Chase and Agent X didn’t, was that most researchers were already under the tyrant’s spell. Once you were part of Triumphia’s regime, you lost your agency, just like a worker bee who had to devote their life to the queen. She hadn’t been a common civilian at all. She hooked people up to a Memory Maker every day, and that came with its own consequences.
Agent X said, “You don’t get to judge me for explaining my life.”
Sebastian jumped on the opportunity to ask. “Explain away, Agent.”
“I was assigned to capture you and take you to Triumphia,” Agent X said. “You’re very popular in Corver City. Too popular. Why is that?”
“I’m a genius,” Sebastian said smoothly. “So you failed your mission? You weren’t the one to kidnap me… what, did it take you too long?”
Her stoic face showed a quick flash of anger. He’d hit a sore spot.
“I didn’t fail. Tell me, Sebastian, is less than 24 hours a failure?”
“But now you can’t face your superiors until you figure out why Triumphia sent more experienced agents to intercept you. Do you even know why you were sent to kidnap me?”
Agent X seemed speechless.
“Hey, have some respect,” Chase interjected, seeming to forget he was mad about the researcher.
Only one more thing Sebastian needed to know: how did the agent have access to his private jet? Was loyal Trent somehow under Triumphia’s thumb? “I’m sorry,” Sebastian lied, completely manipulating the conversation. “I’m still impressed by your quick thinking. You contacted my pilot and used my narc bombs, and I don’t even know how you got his number.”
“You’re smart, you should be able to figure that out,” Agent X said.
Touché. This conversation wasn’t going anywhere. Sebastian could feel the adrenaline leaving his body, his limbs heavy with exhaustion. At least these two weren’t trying to kill and torture him.
He unbuckled his seatbelt and said, “I’m going to have a word with my pilot. When I come back, my weapons better be exactly where you found them, or there will be dire consequences.”