Alberich’s mind raced. He’s here! Is he? Was it Lukas? Should he try to run? It could just be someone who works there. He held his breath and listened to the steps as they echoed in the warehouse. He clutched the kampdator, eyes glued to the opening of his hiding place. The wedge shape created by the rounded edge of the storage discs leaning over his corner burned into his vision. He felt like an insect hiding beneath a roll of coins.
The slow gate seemed to be walking away but just as Alberich felt he could breathe again, the footsteps began to approach again. He was walking up and down the aisles between the containers. This man was looking for something and he was taking his time. Alberich was going to have to run.
As gently as he could, Alberich placed the kampdator on the floor and used the wall to quietly heave his massive frame to a crouched position. His lungs were screaming at him to breathe and he forced himself to suck in air slowly. Alberich wished he’d had a chance to get a new change of clothes, he reeked. Lukas would probably find him by smell alone.
The man started whistling. Alberich heard the proud melody leap and fall in a way that was hauntingly familiar. Something tickled the back of his mind and Alberich squeezed his eyes shut. He could feel the other memories stirring as a wave of déjà vu crept over him, and it was tempting to give in, let them flood back and take over. It had gotten him out of situations like this before, but waking up to the aftermath was getting harder to deal with. So, he focused on his breathing and tried to clear his head. He didn’t notice when the footsteps and whistling stopped.
“There you are.”
His eyes shot open to see Lukas’ head peaking in, hanging sideways from behind the edge of the last container. His tone had been playful and he had a grin on his face. He was speaking the language Alberich had heard nowhere else but from Lukas, and yet he could understand it perfectly. For the moment, the large man was frozen in his crouched position.
“Take your time,” Lukas walked across the opening to lean against the wall; his gray, seamless suit already matching the concrete behind him. “I don’t know why you insist on playing these games. You insist on running away, and yet, here make yourself so easy to find… I assume that was intentional?”
Alberich dropped his head.
Lukas tsked, “Ooh, and I know you had such high hopes with this one.”
Cael clung to the bike and managed another attempt to sit up. The throbbing between his eyes had lessened but there wasn’t much to see in the tiny room, anyway. Just him and Ilya’s bike, alone in the glow of the laveli pad on his arm. He remembered his idea about accessing the ship’s computer and leaned over his arm to try. Something odd caught his eye by the wall and he leaned forward and screamed when he saw his right foot missing.
Lukas slid down the wall and leaned his head back as he sat there. He was staring up at the ceiling, but Alberich knew all of his senses were on full alert.
“Aren’t you tired, Alberich?”
“Of you chasing me? Sure.” He answered in common speech, slowly placing a hand on the kampdator.
Lukas smiled to himself and shook his head. “You have it all wrong, my friend.”
Cael managed to calm himself when he realized his leg and absent foot didn’t hurt. He wiggled his toes and felt them press up against the inside of his shoe, so his foot was still there, somewhere. He tried to pull his leg back and saw the dark sock at his ankle reappear. Oh, it was just in the wall. So the it couldn’t seal with his foot in the way. That was very nice of Lukas to keep that safety precaution activated. Cael was certain he could work with this.
“Your memories are incomplete, Alberich. You run because you’re confused. Things aren’t as they were.”
Alberich pressed at one of the kampdator keys.
Cael was in the middle of convincing the ship’s computer to talk to him when Alberich’s messages came scrolling across the pad on his arm.
He’s here. He’s here. He’s here. He’s here. He’s here. He’s here.
Working on it.
Alberich watched the man casually sitting at the mouth of his hiding place.
“Am I confused about what you did to Dr. Vitor-Bieito? Is she even still alive?”
Lukas looked over at him with a wounded look, “Of course she is. You see, this is what I’m talking about.”
“No need to worry.”
“Where is she?”
“She doesn’t matter! None of them matter, Alberich. If you would just come with me, no one else would have to get hurt!”
Alberich continued to press at the kampdator keys as Lukas turned away.
“And if you’ll recall, the recent death toll was not taken by me.”
Cael had just been kicked out of the ship’s computer again when he saw the second message from Alberich.
He’s here. He’s here. He’s here. He’s here. He’s here. He’s here.
He growled in frustration.
New plan. Well, Plan B, sort of. He’s not going to hurt you. Let him take you back to his ship.
And after thinking about it.
Then after thinking about it a little more.
And don’t lose my stuff.
Alberich stared at the words in disbelief.
Lukas looked over again.
“What’s he saying?”
Without replying, Alberich picked up Cael’s suitcase and kampdator, and began shimmying his way between the two storage containers nearest him.
Lukas deftly hopped to his feet and followed around to the other side. As soon as the large man cleared the containers he started running. The man in gray sighed and picked up his pace to a light trot.
Cael experimented with the wall, tapping around his ankle with his free foot. It seemed solid enough. He pushed his snared leg forward and the wall accommodated by expanding the hole.
“Ah!” He laughed in relief. “Happy birthday to ME!”
Alberich tried to pick up the pace once he made it out of the warehouse, but his weight and the thin air caught up with him quickly. He struggled to keep moving, gasping in the thin, freezing air, and glanced back to see Lukas casually strolling behind him.
“I can’t tell, are you cooperating?”
Alberich, breathing too hard to reply, just adjusted his grip on Cael’s suitcase and kept his feet moving.
“I see. You’re still hoping he can get you out of this. You put too much faith in these people. Though I admit, even I was fooled by this last one.”
Lukas’ tiny ship sat waiting in the distance. Alberich tried to focus on it, but his vision was tunneling. He hadn’t realized he was falling until Lukas caught him.
“I got you.” His tone was reassuring as he took the kampdator from under the large man’s arm. Lukas wrapped the arm around his shoulders and they began walking again. Alberich was too exhausted to fight him off and submitted to leaning on him. He found the gray man bore his weight easily, and was practically carrying him to the wing.
“I don’t know why I believed he would hold true to his word about destroying all of the Legion.”
“We…we did. Everyone…”
“What I heard was YOU whipping everyone into action.”
Alberich bit his lip. They were already nearing ship’s ramp.
“But I guess I couldn’t have expected him to sacrifice himself.”
An engine roared to life at the top of the ramp, and out flew Cael on Ilya’s bike. He slammed into both Alberich and Lukas and they all tumbled backwards on the pavement. Alberich woke up face down, crumpled over heavily on one shoulder. His face was numb but he was sure it was a mess from skidding on the pavement. He heard Cael’s voice through a tinny haze as someone pulled weakly at his hand.
“Get up! Get up you fat bastard!”
He rolled onto his side and dragged the wiry man to his knees before they had enough leverage to get him off the ground. Alberich looked over and saw Lukas on his back, grimacing but slowly coming to as well.
“Come on, come on! On the bike, let’s move it!”
Cael righted the bike and Alberich wearily eyed the small, rickety contraption.
“Just get on!”
Alberich obeyed, and awkwardly straddled the seat as Cael grabbed his suitcase from the pavement.
“I don’t, I don’t think I can drive this.”
“No worries,” Cael ran to the kampdator. “Just start the engine.”
A horrible rattling of glass and metal could be heard inside the cracked box. Cael sighed and dropped it down again as Alberich managed to get the bike to cough and sputter back to life.
Lukas groaned and rolled onto his hands and knees.
“Cael, he’s waking up, Cael!”
“I can see that. Catch!” He tossed the suitcase at Alberich who caught it with his belly and pinned it there with one arm. Cael hopped backwards and perched on the handlebars. “Okay! Ah, hold on!” He twisted the handlebar revved the engine. “Feet up, please.”
Alberich picked up his feet and flung his free arm around Cael as the bike lurched forward. Unfortunately, they were slow to accelerate after that. He looked back and Lukas was standing again.
“This was a horrible plan.”
“Don’t be so pessimistic.”
“He’s already standing.”
Cael leaned over to look back, causing the bike to dip and turn sharply to the left.
“Don’t do that! What happened to the rest of Plan B?”
“What, alerting the authorities? Let’s go right.” They slowly skirted around one of the clunkier looking ships. “I made the call while I was waiting for you guys, but it’s not as if they’re in on the plan. I can’t simply make them appear.”
“Oh God, he’s running now!”
Cael tried to push the bike to go faster, but there wasn’t much more speed they could get out of it.
“How close is he?”
Alberich quickly glanced back.
“He’s just behind the last ship we passed.”
“So, he’s catching up… very quickly.”
“What did you say when you made the call??”
“I said he was a spy working for the Manana Corporation. I figured with everything going on, it would be considered, you know, a priorit-”
Cael was cut off when the sky lit up with blinding lights and every siren went off at once. Despite the shock they managed to stay upright on the bike. As soon as they cleared the next ship they were met with a line of utility vehicles, much like those that Cael had seen earlier, except these had been panted blue and white with matching blinking lights.
There was a voice on a speaker barking orders at them, but they couldn’t understand it over the sirens. When threatening looking guns popped up from around the vehicles, Cael brought the bike to a stop.
The voice barked something else they couldn’t understand. Cael slid off the bike and took a few steps with his hands up. That seemed to anger the voice as the barking grew more frantic and all the guns trained directly on him.
“No! Wait! Not us! The man chasing us!” Cael was using both arms to point behind him and looked back to see Lukas had disappeared. Of course.
He felt something sting his neck, and before he could even bring a hand up to check it, the ground slammed him sideways. Alberich’s face hit the ground near him. Cael could see the large features relaxing as the paralysis spread through all the muscles, but they managed to make eye contact as the authorities reached them. Alberich’s breathing grew shallow.
“You… are so… bad at this.”