“Yellow’s always so calm and collected. She has so many mods installed she’s like a cyborg or something,” Val said. “Only time I’ve seen her with some real human emotions is when she was talking about you.”
“She got those mods, the first of them at least, because of a bomb that was meant for me,” Duran said.
Val didn’t say anything after that. She concentrated on checking a few readouts on the helicopter and making sure all the gear was tied down.
“I’ve gotta say,” Val said eventually. “I’ve never met anyone as good as you at brooding.”
Duran laughed in spite of everything going on in his head and in the world.
“If you’re trying to ease my tension, it’s not really going to work, but I do appreciate the effort.”
“Ah well,” Val said. “It was worth a shot. We’re ready to go, boys and girls. Get strapped in.”
Blackstone came over and shook Duran’s hand.
“I wish I was coming. Haven’t been active in the resistance for years, but still.”
“Not to put too fine a point on it,” Gent said. “But you’re really old, Blackstone.”
“Thanks for that,” Blackstone said. “Just do what you have to do and get out of there safe, alright?”
“I know it’s a corporate headquarters, but the security can’t be that tight.”
“Don’t say that,” another one of the Blue Skies rebels said. “You’re going to jinx us.”
“Yeah, famous last words,” Duran said.
The helicopters blades started to spin. Dust swirled around Blackstone as he and the other driver headed back to the vehicles. Duran and the rest climbed into the helicopter. Val gestured for him to join her in the cockpit, but he shook his head. Gent took the cracked leather seat instead. Duran wanted to stay in the back, in case he needed to make a quick exit. He didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but he wished he was going in alone.
Then he remembered they weren’t here for him, they were here for Yellow. She had just been a shadowy resistance figure yesterday, pulling strings in the darkness of the nets, but today she was a real woman. A real woman who could blow dozens of covers if Ares Corp. got to her.
Victor, the helicopter, shuddered as it strained to lift off the ground. The whole craft was shaking so bad Duran was sure every bolt and rivet was going to come flying off. Val patted the dashboard like she was trying to calm a wild animal. When that didn’t work, she punched it. The engines kicked into a higher gear and their ascent became a bit more even.
“Everything okay?” Duran cupped a hand over the radio mic as he spoke.
“You don’t need to shout,” Val said. “Just talk normally and I can hear you fine. And yes, everything is okay. Victor is just particular.”
Duran shared a worried look with Gent. Duran didn’t want to burn through all his adrenaline before they even got there. He focused on his breathing, but it was still the longest forty-seven minutes he’d ever experienced.