Chapter 24


Nyr’s hands shook slightly as he tethered the last three of the canisters Jin had prepared together and made sure they were settled securely in place. Red light streamed up from the hatch in the ceiling of the elevator, reflecting off of the metal and up into the darkness stretching up the shaft above him. The color made him feel queasy. He hung his head, breathing deeply and wishing for the pills he had purposely left at home.

This had to be the craziest thing he had done in his life. Climbing on top of an elevator with a bunch of fake explosives in an attempt to defraud to police department was not something he had ever expected out of his job, nor was it something he would have agreed to when he’d first been hired.

If Du’shan were alive, it would have been him planting the explosives. Du’shan had always done the dangerous and dirty work that no one else had wanted to.

Nyr closed his eyes briefly, gathering himself, and then shifted and dropped back into the elevator proper. He might not be as brave or reckless as Du’shan, but he would help however he could, even it meant breaking the law. Under the circumstances, committing a felony seemed like a trifling matter compared to the alternative.

After securing the hatch cover back in place, Nyr turned to the elevator’s control panel, taking up the device he had connected to the wires behind the faceplate. It was the same one Yoko had used before, when he’d gone to his brother’s apartment; he’d given it to Nyr the night before and over the course of the last seven hours, Nyr had gotten very accustomed to using it to remain unseen by the SPD as he worked.

As he disconnected the device, the emergency lighting in the elevator went out and it began to move downward. He had just long enough to replace the faceplate cover and remove his gloves before the doors slid open. Smiling politely, Nyr held the door for an elderly man and the small boy holding his hand, then made his way toward the building’s exit.

He didn’t turn off the interference device until after he was outside on the exterior skyway, when he retrieved his headset and pressed it into his ear. Switching it on, he winced at the sudden chatter in his ear; Riyad seemed to be trying to carry on simultaneous conversations with Jin, who was griping about heights, Caine, who sounded like he was about to fall asleep, and Yoko, who said almost nothing at all. Not wanting to add to the confusion, Nyr waited in silence as he walked along the skyway to an empty U-tram.

It was five minutes into his ride downward that he realized he probably shouldn’t wait much longer. Clearing his throat, he tried to wrestle his voice into some semblance of strength.

“Riyad?”

“Nyr!” Riyad audibly pounced on him. Nyr winced again, but couldn’t help a small smile from curling his mouth.

“Yes. I’m um--” Doubting the security of their radio link, he said the least incriminating thing he could think of: “I’m done.”

“Great. I think the Shards are almost ready to--”

Caine’s dry chuckle interrupted him. “We’ll need a bit longer. Make the calls you need to make.”

Nyr dug in his pocket for his phone and stared at it quietly for a moment. “You’re...you’re sure this is going to work out?” He hurriedly added, “I mean, I know you’ve all worked hard, but--”

“Don’t worry,” Riyad reassured. “Surge said this would work--”

“I said it would probably work.”

“--And Jin and Rabbit both double-checked it.” Riyad spoke over the interruption and Nyr could imagine the perturbed angle of his eyebrows. He was probably pinching the bridge of his nose, wishing that they didn’t have so many pessimists in the group. “It’ll be fine.”

Nyr nodded, then blushed slightly as he remembered none of them could see him. He smiled despite himself and the situation; Riyad’s confident tone felt like it was seeping into him, if only a little. “I know. I’ll be back in a minute.”

Switching the radio back off, he pressed a preprogrammed button on his phone to call in the bomb threat.


Riyad sighed as Nyr’s line went dead and shifted into a more comfortable position on the fire escape where he was crouched. They were all taking risks tonight, and while Nyr wasn’t scaling any buildings, he would go to prison for a very long time if the SPD managed to track his call. Surge had built in some kind of protection on his phone, and Jin had set up Yoko’s interference device to disrupt the signal as a failsafe, but Riyad couldn’t blame Nyr for being nervous anyway.

Raising his binoculars to his eyes, he decided that they would all get bonuses when this was over. As silly as it was to give himself a bonus out of his own pocket, after all of this, he felt he deserved it.

In his ear, Riyad could hear the murmur of Jin and Caine speaking to each other on the ziggurat, barely picked up by their headsets.

“--if I cut the line, it’s going to snap back and break the windows on that building.”

“Leave it then. It won’t hurt anything.”

“Well the ladder down’s in place. I bolted it into--” They weren’t speaking directly into their radios, and Riyad lost Jin’s next few words in a fumbling rustle of fabric. “--so if you need to get going, it’s ready.”

“Thank you, Jin.” And a moment later, with an amused tone, Caine added, “You need to join Riyad.”

“Yeah...yeah. I’m going.”

Nodding in satisfaction that things were going along smoothly, Riyad watched Yoko where he stood on the corner. His weapons weren’t immediately visible, but he’d shown them to Riyad briefly before they’d left headquarters: a pair of telescoping, collapsible tonfa. They weren’t particularly impressive, but from what little he’d been told about Yoko’s martial abilities, Riyad supposed they didn’t have to be.

“Yoko?”

“Nn.”

“You’re sure Hiroki’s going to come this way?”

“You’ve asked me that already, Riyad Shihar.” A pause. “Four times.”

“You didn’t give me an answer any of the times I asked.”

There was a moment of silence before Yoko responded, filled by muted chatter from the second radio unit beside Riyad on the rusted grating of the fire escape. He thumbed a dial slightly, turning up the volume on the SPD’s channel, and listened to a dispatcher reporting a bomb threat at the east and Coreward edge of the sector.

It was just one more thing he could check off his mental list as having gone right so far. Riyad ran a hand through his hair. Yoko shifted in the view of Riyad’s binoculars, but he was facing away and Riyad couldn’t see his expression.

“His pride requires this confrontation,” Yoko said at length. “He’ll come.”

Riyad was no stranger to contention between siblings, but he knew this went far beyond anything he had experience with. He wondered if Yoko wished it could be otherwise. “We’re counting on it.”

“I know.”

Concerned, Riyad kept his eyes on Yoko’s unmoving figure while they waited for something to happen.