Day 1

Leo stood on the airstrip, her bag by her side, waiting for Alex, Maya, and Ray. Her phone was sitting in her hand, her text stream with Sam open.

She could text him, she could talk to him again. She could try to make him understand.

But where would that get them? Sam coming along sulkng, liable to question orders and make a mistake or do something stupid out of spite.

He would abandon her now. Now when she needed him most. When things were at their most tough. Leaving when things get hard was the only things that his uncles had ever taught him. All he’d ever know to do when things get hard.

But what happened when it was all over? The news had been blasting her criminal record all over the world. Everyone knew that she had trafficked guns, stolen cars, brought in contraband electronics. Alex was a decorated soldier and Ray a boy protecting his sister. Sam was an ex-soldier with no decorations and a questionable military record. She and Maya were orphans with a criminal record. There wasn't a chance in hell they'd get away without serving time.

Now Sam wanted to stay out of the whole mess, stay home and not risk his neck. Not even to clear his own name.

But did it actually matter in the end? Not to them, but to Alex and Ray it could mean the world. They could live normal lives after all of this was over. They could live on their own and not stick to gether and contantly jump from place to place. 

Once the major heat was off them then she and her sister could go into hiding. Possibly with Sam. But Alex and Ray weren’t cut out for this kind of life. Leo couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but Ray didn’t seem to be cut out for this kind of life. There’d been something off about him for a while.

But Sam didn’t want to talk to her. Would he actually wait for her, even for just a couple days while they chased down this last wild goose?

Was this the last clue? Or would there just be another clue and another stop and one more mission and one more thing to complete? Would they just chase and chase until their legs wouldn’t carry them? Or until they were caputred?

It was too much to think about. It was too much to fit into a text message.

Sam was faithful, but he might not be if she just up and abandoned him. She should just go and talk to him and tell him everything.

She grabbed her bag and started to run toward the encampment again. She passed Alex and Maya.

“Leo! Tell Ray to hustle his buns!” Maya yelled at her back.

“You still coming?” Alex’s voice was almost drowned out by the bustle of the rest of the camp.

“Yes! I just forgot something!”

She kept running, searching desperately for their tent in the sea of grey canvas and camoflauge netting. 

1331 B, that was the number. 

1331 B. Where did it go?

She almost ran past it, skidding to a halt, almost tripping someone behind her, she dove into the canvas. He’d be sitting on his cot, reading a comic book.

But his bunk was empty. His bag was gone.

She’d missed him. He’d left. Probably for Russia, for somehwere safer.

Ray stood at the door to the little private jet, the ex-property of some well-to-do business man who probably had an abandoned house in the hills of Nice. Leo still wasn’t on the plan and the pilot was getting antsy.

“If we don’t get in the air now, the IJS will see us and this whole base wil be blown.”

“I said to give her a minute!” Alex got in his face, forcing him backwards into the cockpit. “The only way this war eds is if she gets on this plane!”

“You put a lot of faith into your techy.” The pilot mumbled as he sat down.

“Yeah, well.” Alex turned back toward the open plane door, “You should put more faith in yours.”

He finally spotted her emerge from the tents, she was at a dead run, her rolling suitcase slung across her back.

She took the stairs up to the jet two at a time. Ray almost had to catch her. He took her case and brought it in while she panted behind.

“Did you find what you forgot?” Alex asked, raising an eyebrow.

“It was gone by the time I got there.”

“I’m sorry.”

Ray looked back and forth from girl to girl. He was missing something here. It sounded like what she was missing was much deeper than a simple item.

“I think that I’m missing something.” Ray said.

“I went back for Sam.” Leo shook her head. “He’d already left by the time I got there.”

“Where did he go?” Ray gaped.

“Anyone’s guess.” Alex stepped back up to the cockpit. “Mine is Russia. He did like that place ann awful lot.”

“He did.”

“Is he waiting for you and Maya there?” Ray took a couple tenative steps toward Leo.

“I have no idea. That’s what he said before we left. But…”

Leo didn’t have to finish that sentence. Ray knew that this could take a long time. He wasn’t sure if it was socially accepted for him to hug Leo. But she looked like she might need something.

He just stepped forward and tried to hug her. Did you put your hands on the back and waist? Not the back of the head, that felt like something you shouldn’t do. Don’t hold her in place, that’s really agressive, that’s not what we are going for. 

She stiffend in his arms and he felt like he’d done something wrong. But then she relaxed into his hug. He didn’t know how long to hold her. When did he let go?

“Hey, Ray.” Her voice was muffled in his shoulder.

“Yup, got you.” He let go of her, and she smiled at him.

“Leo,” he said and stopped, looking for the right words. “I’m sure he’s just cooling down. He’ll get into contact soon.”

“What if he gets turned into Parker?”

Ray’s heart sunk. He’d hoped her brain hadn’t gone there yet.

“Then we try to make sure he doesn’t get turned into Parker.”

“You mean use him as bait?” Alex was sitting and buckling up.

“I actually hadn’t thought of that.” Leo sat down in the seat acorss the aisle. “But I could do it. I could track his phone if he hasn’t ditched it.”

“What’s something he will never get rid of?” Maya said with a glint in her eye.

“The helmet.” Leo nodded, pulling her laptop out of her backpack.

“Not suure if this flight is equipped with Wi-Fi.” Ray said, watching as Leo’s fingers were already flying across the keyboard.

“It’s not.” Leo said, not looking up from her keyboard. “But if you give me the firmware you installed on the helmet, then I can build an autorun while we fly. I have most of the catalogs saved on my disk. I won’t have to build it from scratch.”

Ray pulled out his tablet and air-dropped the firmware file to Leo, who continued to type through the notification pinging her. Knowing Leo she probably had several keystrokes to get the files…

“Herman, take last downloaded file and cross reference through the catalogs on file.”

“Affirmative.” Herman’s semi-lifelike voice came through her speaker.

“I don’t…” Maya’s head was in her hands. “Your computer nerd stuff has always been a source of bewilderment and frustration. That hasn’t really changed. But I’m glad you have it now. You are a scary unit.”

Sam sat on the small boat, as it took him off the coast. He hadn’t remembered that it got so cold on the water. He tried wrapping himself up a bit more with his jacket.

He put his hand on his pocket. He hadn’t felt his pocket buzz a thousand times. Leo hadn’t texted him yet, asking him where he’d gone. Maybe she’d just got on the plane without a second glance.

His hearbeat sped up at the thought. He’d been with her through everything. Through the early stages of running an underground business, though Israel, through countless computer crashes, through increased border security, and mental breakdowns.

And she hadn’t come back. She hadn’t texted him.

He was completely replaceable to her. Swapped out like a part in a machine or a codey-thing for another codey-thing.

He could just text her and tell her he was going. He could just say good-bye.

No. “Good-bye” would feel to final. Maybe he could just say “see you when you get back”.

She’d have some way of tracking him and he wasn’t going to give up a link like his phone. He needed her to find him once this was all over.

She could just track him somehow.

But what if his phone got compromised and he had to ditch it?

Well, without Leo, by the time he knew his phone was compromised, he was probably too close to death for anything to matter.

He looked back at the shanty town of tents and watched as a small jet took off from the runway. Skimming low over the sea and then turning fast up the coast, headed toward New York.

She’d have turned off her phone by now. And still no text. That was it. That was her answer.

“My kingdom for a magazine.” Maya moaned, sitting sidways in her seat. “I never remebered how boring flights could be without something to READ.”

“Leo got me ‘Calvin and Hobbes’.” Ray held up his tablet triumphantly. “Want me to airdrop it to you?”

“I’m desperate enough to need it.” Maya said, pulling out her tablet.

“Hey.” Alex pulled herself out of cleaning her weapon, the guts of her rifle littering the table in front of her.

Zoe FleischerComment