* * *
As the helicopter descended, Hyperion looked down to see a small tower in what looked like a desiccated riverbed. As the landing skids touched the helipad, his heart sank. He reluctantly stepped out, straightened his tie, smoothed back his hair, and waited for Polus to walk around.
“For what it’s worth, I think you’re doing the right thing,” Polus said. He looked pale and tired.
“It’s not worth much. Why are you so nervous? We’re in your territory.”
“Yeah. But that doesn’t mean anything to her.”
One of Themis’s soldiers approached them and saluted. “Follow me, sirs. Ms Themis is waiting.”
The walk across the rooftop was silent, except for the diminishing whips of the helicopter’s blade. They went down a single flight of stairs, and down a long hallway. The last door on the end was shut, and no windows showed the inside.
“Soundproof?” Hyperion asked.
“Against anything quieter than a gunshot,” Polus said. The soldier took his place by the door to guard it.
Hyperion reached for the handle. Before he touched it, the door opened from the inside several inches. A woman with fine wrinkles and dark grey hair tilted her head and smiled thinly.
“Gentlemen,” she said laconically. She let them in and locked the door behind them.
Polus smiled and extended his hand. “It’s good to see you again, Themis.”
“Oh please, Frederick, there’s no need to be so formal, we have shared a bed together. And a couch, and a kitchen counter as a recall.”
Polus dropped his hand. “Good God, Themis…”
“And call me Patricia, I’ve never liked the silly nicknames William thought up.” She looked at Hyperion. His jaw tightened, but he said nothing. She looked back and forth between the two men and smiled. “Your faces are so red. We have much to discuss, so let’s get started.”
She took a seat at a circular table in the center of the room. Hyperion shot a dirty look at Polus, then sat down on her left. Polus sat down and leaned back.
“First, we should discuss the fugitive Nyriki Rocco,” he said. “Then we can discuss our alliance.”
“And William’s trains,” said Themis.
“What about them?” Hyperion said, leaning forward. He fought back his anger at her calling him William and challenging his authority.
“If we’re going to be joining our efforts against Chimera, we should have a unified rail system, which we can’t do if yours never stop.”
“If they stop, terrorists can board them.”
“They seem to be boarding anyway. You’re just making things difficult for everyone else.”
“She has a point,” said Polus. “It hasn’t slowed down Chimera. Or Rocco.”
“We also need to discuss our last meeting,” Hyperion said.
“Two minutes,” Themis said. “I thought you’d start on that sooner.”
“He has the right to ask,” Polus said. “We didn’t exactly leave on the best terms.”
“Well,” Themis said, sitting upright, “let’s discuss.”
* * *
Myers felt like an idiot. Not only was he in the most excruciating pain he’d ever felt in his life, but it was his fault. He kept provoking Oscar. He was uncooperative and snide. He didn’t know what came over him. He felt threatened and fought back the only way he could—with his words.
He couldn’t help but think it was a poor decision.
Oscar and the gruff man had left. Time slipped away, and his head was filled with nothing but the blackness around him and the occasional burst of atomic fire that struck his nightmares when he drifted into sleep. Or unconsciousness, he couldn’t tell.
The door opened, and a dull yellow light fell across the floor. To Myers it looked more intense than the sun.
“Can you stand?” a familiar voice asked.
“Right before I fall over, yeah, I’m a little tied up here.” Why am I provoking him again? he wondered, immediately regretting his choice of words. The man untied him and helped him up, putting his arm around Myers’ shoulder to help him walk. Myers reluctantly did the same.
“Normally,” the man said, “I wouldn’t put up with that insubordination, but considering the circumstances, I’ll let it slide. Once.” As they passed through the doorframe, Myers looked up and managed a smile.
“Never thought I’d see you here, Beleros. Sir.”
“Heard a scuffle outside and thought I’d investigate. What the hell happened?”
“I don’t know, sir.” He cringed with pain. “I walked outside and they put a bag over my head and knocked me out. Hyperion thugs?”
“More than likely. I can’t believe they’d be so bold, picking you up right outside our base.” He kicked open a door. The brightness of the sun, even shrouded by the perpetual grey, almost blinded him.
“Suspect, more like. Not enough to raid it and cause a panic.” Beleros swore. “They’re getting bolder. We need to do something. When we get back, you can rest up. We’ll need you.”
“What about my mission?”
“I’ll have Erik do it. Come on, we’ve got a ways to go.”
The two made their way through an expanse of dirt back to the city, Beleros walking slowly to keep pace with Myers’ hobbling, labored steps.