The landscape was dead. Blasted trees, craters, dust, grey. The sky was grey, the dirt was grey, everything was grey. Rocco had been around the country, and it was the same everywhere.
He felt his life force ebbing. Only once had he felt like this before. The worst part was that he knew how unlikely surviving was. Face to face with his own mortality again.
The ride to Redway was bumpy and unpleasant. Tariro kept silent the whole time. Rocco slipped in and out of consciousness His vision blackened as the churning of the motor and the rumble of dirt under rubber lulled him into oblivion.
“All right, John. You check that hotel over there, I’ll talk to the council.”
Fox nodded, and they split up. John knocked on the door to the council hall. A very angry angry man answered. His hand was wrapped with a bandage.
“What do you want, stranger?”
“Same thing as you, councilman…?”
“And what would that be?”
“The bandages on your hand are covering a wound, aren’t they? And I don’t think you’re doing any manual labor.”
“What do you want?” His face was reddening.
John leaned in. “Nyriki Rocco. Had a scrape with him, huh? He’s like that. I’m an agent of Mr. Hyperion. You’re not the only one who wants Rocco dead.”
“Come on in. Let’s talk.”
“Name’s John, by the way.”
“Mr. Polus, could you have picked a more detestable spot to speak with me? A back alley isn’t exactly conducive to a profitable discussion.”
“We’re not talking here, Hyperion. Let’s head to my office now.”
“How about we meet in mine?”
Mr. Polus laughed. “Still don’t trust me, do you, Hyperion?”
“Mistrust is profitable these days, isn’t it, Mr. Polus?”
“Come on, can we just let bygones, be—”
“Don’t waste my time, Mr. Polus. Be in my office tomorrow morning.”
“Ever the Commander.” Mr. Polus’s tone darkened. “Those days are gone, Hyperion. Time to let go.”
“If it’s so important,” he said with a sneer, “you’ll be there.”
“This blood’s only as bad as you let it be.”
“It wasn’t I who poisoned it. Goodnight, Mr. Polus.”
Myers knew that running away wasn’t a good decision. He also knew that joining a group of terrorists was a bad idea. But still, he left the mine with the name of a man who knew one of the Chimera rebels.
The man lived in Oceanside, so it was a short trip. Myers took a deep breath and knocked on the door. A thin woman with sullen eyes opened the door.
“Name’s Myers, foreman at the Oceanside mine. I’m looking for Harry.”
“Harry!” she shouted. “The foreman’s here to see you!”
Hell of a voice for a corpse. He waited for a moment.
“What do you need?” Harry asked.
“Our mutual friend Kim sent me. She said you had a friend I might want to be friends with.”
Harry grabbed Myers by the collar and pulled him inside, slamming the door.
“Wait, wait! I don’t want any trouble!”
“Shut your mouth. We’ll talk in the basement.”
The basement was dank and smelled like rotten wood. Myers grimaced, but sat in the chair Harry offered him.
“So you’re looking to make friends?”
“ I’ve been relieved of duty.”
“And why would my friend want to be friends with a man who lost his job?”
“Because it’s his damn fault I’m out of it. He keeps hitting the mines—”
“You got a grudge?”
“What? No, look, I don’t care about the Estates, or the government, or anyone like that. All I want is a job so I don’t starve to death.”
“You have family?”
“None that I care about.”
“So it’s just you?”
“Yeah, just me.”
“Good.” He crossed his arms. “No ties. Healthy amount of desperation. You just might do. Look for Jim at the only good bar in Corona. About an hour north of here.”
“That’s… not very specific.”
“No, it’s not. But you’re a smart man, you’ll figure it out.”
“Right. Thanks for you time, Harry.” They shook hands, and Myers left. Corona was a couple hours north, so he headed toward the railroad tracks to wait for a train.
John and Axel sat in Axel’s office.
“So now you understand why I want him dead,” said Axel.
“Assault, theft, destruction of property. Not the worst he’s done. You’re pretty lucky, Mr. Jegkrig. But yeah. Lot of people want him dead. All for similar reasons.”
“You have a plan for taking him down?”
“Yeah. Fox and I have a few tranqs we were planning on using. No gun though.”
Axel grimaced. “You want him alive?”
“Mr. Hyperion wants him alive. But trust me, some things are worse than death. A one on one conversation with a pissed off Mr. Hyperion is one of them.”
“I want vengeance. Justice. I want him dead.”