It takes me a few hours, but I manage to make it to Doc’s museum. Smashing in the door (I wonder how many doors this place has gone through), I go inside and grab the WWII uniform in the display case. It fits surprisingly well, and I have to wonder what sort of giant guy wore this back in the day.
The generator and the space heater are still there, so I haul those over next to the WWII-era cot and move some of the display cases around to make a bit of a shelter. I pull the half-shattered door back into place, too, keeping it in place with an empty bookcase. It’s more to cut off the wind than anything else. Then I lay down on the cot.
I’m not sure how much longer it is before I wake up to someone banging on the door. I sit up, knocking over the space heater, which falls to the floor with a clatter. Damnit! I look at the door.
Someone’s pushing very hard. The bookcase has almost fallen over already. They’ve probably got the place surrounded already. I pick up the WWII-era gun, realize it’s a model, and grab the samurai sword.
The bookcase falls over, the door swings open, and Heather nearly falls into the room.
Her mouth drops open. The toolbox in her hand clatters to the floor.
I spread my hands. “Heather,” I whisper. “I can explain …”
“Square!” she whispers, placing her hands on her mouth. “They said you were dead!”
“The guys. They said you went to the Tower and tried to escape or something and got shot all to pieces!”
Oh. Well, that’s not too far off. “That was Dolphin. He’s dead. They took me … look, it’s a long story.” I’m starting to understand the potential here. “Can you go back to camp and get the guys?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I can do that.” She hesitates, then runs full at me (narrowly missing the sword) and gives me a giant hug. “Square, I thought you were dead!”
It feels good to have someone who actually cares about that. “I’m fine. We’re all going to be fine. Can you get the guys now?”
“Damn, man! What were you and Dolphin not thinking?” Ball Buster slaps me on the head. “How the hell were we supposed to get up to you before that helicopter exploded?”
I ignored the question. “Is Wolfe back on base yet?”
“Not so far as we can tell,” Sidewinder says.
Apparently, Side’s part of the group now. Heather came back, too, but she’s just huddled in the corner, picking at the sleeve of her parka. I wonder if she knows about Red Spruce, yet. It’s been a day or two.
“She left yesterday,’ Sidewinder continues, “but they called in a special gunship for her. Haven’t seen it back since.”
“They’re still clearing off the landing pad,” Mouse says. “There are all sorts of construction up there. Some major repairs going on. Wolfe won’t be able to land.”
“Well, she’s going to bring all sorts of fury when she gets back,” I say. “If we’re going to make a move, it needs to be now.”
“Especially since they can’t launch air power very well right now,” Ball Buster says.
Sue casts a quick look at Sidewinder. “You sure you wanna talk about this now?”
“Forget it,” I say. “They were hinting at putting that De-Escalation Protocol into effect.” I’m starting to realize what those DEP boxes in Eddie’s garage were. “There were a lot of those surgery suites down there; I don’t want to find what they’re supposed to be used for.”
“So, what’s your escape plan?” Sidewinder asks.
“Not much of one,” Mouse says. “Still, at this point … well, the sunken fish goes sideways, so what else have we got to lose?”
Must be a Turkish expression, but I get the idea. “He’s right. Things can hardly get any worse. It’s go time.”
Mouse frowns. “Go … now?”
“The plan isn’t bad. We just never could figure out how to get off the island and get to land in time,” Ball Buster says. “These guys … Templars, you say they’re called?”
“I’m not saying they’re great with names.”
“No, I’m good with the name, so long as camel jockey here doesn’t mind.”
“Dude …” I close my eyes.
“If they’ll get us a ride out, they can call themselves whatever they like,” Mouse says. “What’s the island? Bering? Where is that?”
“Can’t remember having seen it when we were looking.” I glance around the museum. “There’s gotta be a map here, right?”
“Hold tight.” Sue darts over. By the entrance is a large map of the Arctic region. He scans through the Aleutian islands. “I don’t see no Bering Island on this.”
“It’s not in Alaska,” Heather speaks up, drawing our attention. “It’s in Russia. Part of the Komandorsky Islands. Bering Island and Medny Island. There used to be an Aleut settlement there.”
“Russia?” Sue looks at the other side of the map. “Damn. Sure enough. Lotta water in between us and them.”
“But that means we won’t have to worry about any DEVAS outposts,” Ball Buster says. “And they’ll probably assume we’re headed east toward Alaska. This could actually work, Square.”
“Do you guys know how to operate a boat?” Heather asks. “Do you have supplies?”
“Supplies?” Mouse asks.
“Two days on the open water,” Heather replies. “You’re going to need some food, a med kit, life jackets, probably camping gear to be on the safe side. Do you have some?”
We all exchange glances. Obviously not.
“And I’m guessing you don’t know where the sea mines are either. But I do. And I can get the other things.” She looks at all of us. “I was planning on talking to you guys about this yesterday, actually. Eddie won’t help you, but I can. In exchange for something.”
That gets my attention. “Okay,” I say.
She looks straight into my eyes. “Take me with you.”
“What?” I say.
“No way,” Sue says. Sidewinder scoffs.
“Eddie has me go out on the water to meet the smugglers that he brings out here,” Heather says. “I’ve been in the sub several times.” She nods at the map. “Do any of you know how to set a course? How to follow one? What if you miss the islands?”
We don’t really need to look. Sue said it already: there’s a lot of water out there.
“She’s right,” Ball Buster says. Surprisingly.
Sue looks at him. “She’ll slow us down.”
“Without me, you’re not going anywhere at all,” Heather says. She tilts her head and folds her arms. I know that look: Jess had it sometimes. That was usually the point I’d give up arguing.
“Surely there’s something else we could give you?” Mouse asks.
“No. It’s this or nothing,” Heather says.
“Heather, this isn’t like … running away from home,” I say, feeling patronizing as soon as I say it.
“Obviously,” she gives a huff. “You realize I don’t have a home? Uncle died two years ago. I live either in Eddie’s garage, Doc’s apartment, or Big Sis’s couch.”
Big Sis. Red Spruce. Right.
“Doc and Big Sis were the closest to family I had, and the only reason Eddie was treating me decently.” She bites her lip. “And now they’re gone.”
None of us say anything, but I can see Sue glaring at me. I guess what he’s thinking: You cannot be falling for this shit.
But I sort of am. It makes as much sense as anything. “I say she goes.”
“I agree,” Ball Buster says. Again, surprisingly.
“Fuck that shit,” Sue says. “Hell no.”
“Too risky,” Sidewinder says. “The only way this works is if we can make tracks, fast. Hard to do that with a tag-along.”
“We can’t do it very well without a boating captain,” Ball Buster says.
I look to the others. “Mouse?”
Mouse is scratching the stubble on his chin. “She goes,” he says, finally. “The soldiers know the seas. We need to know them better.”
“Hell, she could be working with them, for all we know,” Sue says.
Mouse smiles. “If she is, then we definitely can’t leave her behind.”
There’s a beat of silence as we process that. Heather herself seems a little puzzled, then she smiles as it hits.
“Shit,” Sidewinder sighs, as the penny drops. “We really shouldn’t have mentioned where we were going.”
In the end, we send Heather off with Sidewinder to get the supplies. Out of all of us, he’s the only one still technically allowed to visit the base. The rest of us set off to look for the boat. I take the sword with me; there’s too many people who want me dead right now.
I glance back towards Mouse. “You’re sure the base won’t sense all you guys are out here?”
“No clue,” Mouse says. “But it seems like if they were going to do something, they’d have done it already.”
That’s not very reassuring, and I can tell Ball Buster feels the same way. “Sue, keep an eye on the air,” he says.
“Fuck that. You keep an eye on the air,” Sue says.
“I’m watching,” Mouse says. “But what do you plan to do if a helicopter or something shows, exactly?”
Nobody has a real answer to that. “Where’d these Templars say the boat was again?” Ball Buster asks.
“A small bay, they said.”
“That could be just about fucking anywhere,” Sue says.
“Anywhere on the west side, yes,” I say. “You got any better ideas?”
He growls but says nothing more.
We start to hunt along the coastline, but nothing shows itself, and as time wears on, I can tell the guys are getting nervous. I’m not too thrilled myself. The Templars said that “any true Nephilim” should be able to find the boat, but I have no clue what the fuck that’s even supposed to mean. Do we have some sort of secret vision?
Finally, Sue smacks his head. “We’re going about this the wrong way.” Kneeling, he touches the ground.
I feel like an idiot. Of course. We have our haptic sensing or whatever you want to call it. That would allow us to sense things that the guards wouldn’t be able to see.
Sue opens his eyes. “Nothing,” he says, sounding disappointed.
“No, but you’ve got the right idea, I’m pretty sure,” I say. “But we might still be in the wrong place.”
“We don’t have time to scout out the entire west coast,” Ball Buster says.
“We don’t have to,” I say. “We’ve been doing nightly runs the whole time. By this point, we know where the bays are, right?” The others nod. “So, we split up and do the sensing things. I’ll head back along our route and see what we missed.”
They nod and take off.
I search the other bays, but I don’t find anything. I’m really starting to get worried. Were these guys just yanking my chain? I tell myself to calm down, that maybe the others found something, but it’s difficult. It’s getting dark already.
I stare at the water, thinking. Where would I hide a boat if I wanted to hide it where only a Nephilim could find it? It would need to be a place they could only sense. I thought they might have hidden it in an underwater cave or something, but I guess that would be a bit too much of a coincidence. So, what else? They could pile rocks on it. Maybe we can make illusions and they did that.
I focus on the water. Hiding a boat underwater. That would be clever. And hard for anyone to get to if they weren’t Nephilim. But our sensing doesn’t work in liquids.
Unless Dolphin was wrong.
I slowly approach the waterfront, still thinking. What if it wasn’t that you couldn’t sense through liquids, but your sense couldn’t handle the vibrationary difference between a solid and a liquid? If you could only sense through solids when touching solids, then maybe … I take a breath and stick my hand into the water.
It’s cold. Freezing cold. And it’s hard for me to focus, but the moment I do, I nearly cheer in triumph, because I can feel the boat. It’s a little bit up the coast where I can feel a definitely boat-shaped hole in the water.
It’s the work of a few moments to dash over there. At the edge of the coast, I swallow and pause, remembering how cold the water was. And that ice looks really thick. We’ve been hearing about hypothermia the whole time we’re here.
But there’s not a way around it. So I toss aside the sword and jump, smashing through the ice and into the freezing cold water.
The cold takes my breath away. It’s not just cold that touches your skin; it’s cold that holds on, that presses into you, that makes all your muscles shrivel up into sad little sacks.
I’ve landed right next to the boat. There’s a couple weights on the side (big rocks, chained on) keeping it underwater. I rip them off, and the boat shoots up towards the surface.
But oh, it’s freezing. It feels like fire under my skin.
I come up gasping, splashing among the shards of ice. The air’s colder still, and I feel the little warmth I have being sucked away. Out of nowhere, I feel an arm, and I grab onto it. I hold onto it for dear life as the person heaves me out of the water and onto the unbroken ice.
“Holy shit,” Ball Buster says.