Chapter 27


By the time the power went out, Riyad’s legs were cramped from kneeling in the fire escape. He barely felt them; it was all he could do to keep Yoko and Hiroki in sight. They moved much faster than anyone should be able to and it was hard to keep track of where they were, let alone which of them might have the upper hand.

Nyr had joined him not long ago and was ostensibly keeping track of the SPD’s radio transmissions. More than that, though, he was leaning in close over Riyad’s shoulder and murmuring questions like “Is Yoko okay?”, “What do you see?”, “What if they finish before the others are ready?”

After the first few queries, Riyad stopped answering. Every time he opened his mouth to speak, he lost sight of the fighters on the ground. Besides, the answers didn’t seem to have much effect on Nyr; he’d just repeat his question a moment later, as though he couldn’t remember having already asked it. So the only answers Riyad gave were noncommittal grunts that Nyr seemed to be more or less satisfied with.

When the power went out, both he and Nyr jumped. Riyad cursed, switching the binoculars to night vision. The SPD radio frequency went dead, but in his ear, Jin yelped in surprise.

“A-are you okay?” Nyr asked while Riyad cast about anxiously for Yoko and Hiroki on the ground.

Jin took several deep breaths before answering. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m just stuck in the elevator.”

“Can you get out through the hatch in the roof?”

“Probably, but I can’t see a damn thing.” Regardless of his protest, a clattering sound and a couple of soft grunts indicated that Jin was doing just that.

Finally locating Yoko and Hiroki in the street below, Riyad relaxed only to tense again an instant later. Hiroki had drawn a weapon, and although that shouldn’t have surprised Riyad, something about the knife he was holding set him on edge.

Vaguely, he heard Nyr speaking: “--Just be careful of the canisters on the roof.”

“Canisters?” Jin didn’t give him a chance to respond. “You planted bombs in this building?!”

“Y-yeah.”

There was a crashing sound and Jin squawked, “Why would you do that?!”

“You told me to!” Nyr’s voice spiraled up several notes.

“Shut up,” Riyad snapped before either of them could push their anxiety any closer to the edge of panic. “Both of you. Just be quiet for a minute.”

He ignored Jin’s muttered protests, concentrating on the knife in Hiroki’s hand as it flashed against Yoko’s tonfa. As he stared at it, trying to figure out what it was that was so off about it, his fingertips began to tingle against the plastic of the binoculars. It was several moments before that familiar sensation gained his attention and he realized what he was looking at.

“Yoko, the knife!” he yelled into his headset. “There’s something--”

He swallowed his words in surprise as Yoko misstepped and Hiroki surged forward, pinning him against the wall of a building easily and driving the knife into Yoko’s shoulder. Riyad bit his tongue hard and clenched his hands around his binoculars. His fingers were on fire.

“Thank you.”

Riyad jumped at Hiroki’s voice in his ear, and he felt Nyr do the same beside him. Through the binoculars, he could see Hiroki leaning down with his mouth next to Yoko’s ear, using his body weight to keep his brother motionless against the wall.

“It’s time we moved on, mm?”

Stunned by how quickly Hiroki had ended the fight and appalled that it might be his fault that it had happened that way, Riyad could only stammer in reply. “W-wha--?”

Hiroki didn’t wait for him to find his voice. He pushed away from Yoko and hopped back a couple of steps--

--And lifted into the air.

Unable to do anything but stare, Riyad watched as Hiroki rose up to his own eyelevel on the fire escape landing. An odd, unwholesome light that reflected the one coming from the ziggurat emanated from his body. Lowering his now-useless binoculars, which had switched out of night vision mode, Riyad could faintly hear laughter bouncing off of the darkened buildings. He shuddered in repulsion and barely noticed Nyr’s fingers biting fearfully into his shoulder.

But Hiroki ignored them, rising even higher and drifting away, toward the building where the Shards were gathered. Riyad stared after him, breathing in short gasps.

“What’s happening?” Jin asked into the silence after Hiroki’s laughter had faded.

With shaking hands, Riyad brought his binoculars up to his eyes again. Whatever animal terror that sight had awakened was fading now, and he swallowed hard before speaking.

“Yoko?” The words still rasped out of a dry throat and he swallowed again. “How bad is it?”

“What. Happened,” Jin repeated crossly. His voice echoed and Riyad had a feeling he was still in the elevator shaft.

Before Riyad could answer, Yoko spoke, voice low and strained. “It’s beyond our control now.” Riyad watched him bend to retrieve his fallen weapons from the ground, along with a long piece of what looked like cloth that he hadn’t noticed before. “We must wait.”

“Easy for you to say,” Jin snapped. “You’re not stuck on top of an elevator, in the dark, with a bomb.”

Yoko didn’t deign to respond and Riyad sighed, finally easing into a different position. Wincing as blood rushed back into his legs, he had to use Nyr to climb to his feet. For his part, Nyr flailed as he overbalanced, and grabbed at Riyad’s pants to stay upright. It took a moment for both of them to finally regain their footing and avoid falling off of the fire escape altogether.

Riyad was still breathless, but almost laughing despite the situation by the time he spoke again. “Hang on, Jin. We’re going down to Yoko, and then we’ll come and help you out.”

“Well don’t hurry or anything.”

“We won’t.”