Title: The Hollow Place
Warnings: shounen-ai, plus quite a bit of violence in this one, along with guns. plus, as a bonus, fake moral dilemmas. gasp.
Disclaimer: Beyblade and all associated terms, characters, etc. are not mine. no money is being made off this fic.
Length: 8 100
Note: i know it's not possible to hack a security keypad thingamajiggy. sue me. also this one is very anvilicious and rabbits on about self-defence and violence and war what is it good for? and etc. this is solely because i am trying to make the characters somewhat less sociopathic than myself. DO NOT TAKE ANY OF IT SERIOUSLY.
Other Note: haha i have internet again. after, like, what, a year? sigh. gave up on this fic ages ago, just posting what chapters already exist.
Tyson woke a second before the rising bell, and lay still as it rang. His arm ached worse than ever: it was starting to swell badly, and when he poked tentatively at the bandaging, he could feel the heat of the infection through the cloth. He didn't unbandage it. He didn't want to look at it. It would be fine. It would. He'd bladed with way worse, and won. He wasn't about to let some stupid little scratch slow him down.
There was a thick, muggy feeling at the back of his throat, and his teeth ached. For a moment, as he rolled over onto his stomach to stare at the cement floor, he felt a buzz go through him. Somewhere, he could still feel Black Dragoon. It had seen him, and it had known him. He had the sneaky suspicion that it needed him, that it wanted him to make it work. He missed Dragoon more than ever.
Someone rattled on his door. "Up!" a voice yelled. "Now! Immediately!"
"Coming, coming," he muttered, and sat up.
"Cellars," Kai said. Dranzer was already in his hand. "Cellars, now. Come."
They would leave footprints in the snow, but that couldn't be helped. Flakes were drifting down quickly, but not quickly enough. Kai led the way to a doorway set into the western wing. Padlocked again. He took aim with Dranzer, fired; the lock melted, fell dripping to the snow.
"Well, that's not conspicuous," Ray hissed as they hurried inside.
"Better here than in plain sight," Kenny said; they were racing down a flight of narrow stone stairs now in what was almost total darkness. "We're sitting ducks out there."
"And we're as good as trapped in here," Ray argued. "Is there at least another way out?"
Ray made a sound of exasperation, but Kenny cut in: "We can ambush them if we wait at the bottom – the stairs are narrow, and they'll be at a disadvantage. So we need to be quiet."
Max almost tripped as the stairs ended, stumbling forwards; from above came voices. Kai snapped on a light to reveal a small room stacked high with crates and cardboard boxes; in the far wall was another door, this one of stainless steel, protected by padlock and security camera. That hadn't been there before.
"Security camera," Kenny pointed out. "Careful. We need to hide. Now."
Kai immediately headed for a pile of crates near the stainless steel door, intending to be as close to the security camera as possible in case he needed to shoot it out; but Ray had the same idea and got there first, so Kai settled for crouching up against the wall in the shadows between two teetering piles of rusty scrap metal and planking.
The first person to enter the room was Garland, blindfolded and unsteady on his feet. A tall, powerfully-built man with dark red hair gripped his arm. In Russian, he called up the stairs, "Lights are on. Careful."
A second man followed him in. He cast around the room briefly, then said, in an undertone, "It is the kids from Japan after all. I can see two of 'em. They can't understand us. Go stand under the security camera, give the alert. Pretend to open the door but do not let them in."
Kai stepped calmly from his hiding place, took aim, and shot out the security camera. Before he could turn and aim at the man, what felt awfully like the barrel of a gun was pressed to the softness at the base of his skull: icy-cold against his skin.
"Thank you very much," said one of the men. "Honestly, Hiwatari, I thought you were intelligent. Excellent aim, though."
"Everyone out where I can see!" the red-haired man roared in broken Japanese, striding past Kai. "Beyblade on ground, hands up!"
"Nice, Kai," Ray snapped, peering around the edge of a stack of crates. "Really nice."
"How many here?" the red-haired man asked.
"Just us two," Kai said. "The others have been instructed to call the police if we don't return from Russia within a week."
"Well, that's plenty of time," the other man said; his Japanese was much more fluent. "And I can see you there, in that corner. And you. Out. Now."
Max and Kenny emerged.
"Tate, Kon, and the engineer kid. They're on the list, am I right?" the red-haired man said, in Russian.
"Yes. We take them. But he's not interested in Hiwatari this time."
"Can't be. He was an original, back in the day. I've been here longer than you."
"He's not on the list, Kuleshov. We kill him."
"Yeah, but –"
"ALRIGHT, YOU BASTARDS! STICK 'EM UP! WE HAVE THE PLACE SURROUNDED!"
"Oh, dear Lord, have mercy," Kenny whispered, covering his eyes with his hands.
Daichi charged down the stairs, Strata Dragoon levelled. "Back away from Kai and nobody gets hurt!" he yelled. "I'm warnin' ya, I'm Tyson Granger's official tag team partner, and I'm gonna kick some ass!"
"Who the hell are you?" Kuleshov demanded.
"I'm your worst nightmare, punk," Daichi informed him, lifting his chin. "Now drop the gun!"
"Kid, I don't know if you've thought about this much," the other man said, pressing the gun more firmly against Kai's head, "but no matter what you do, Hiwatari dies."
"You shoot him, I shoot you," Daichi shrugged. "So you better not touch him! Oi, Chief, what's it called when there's two people and either way it's gonna hurt both of 'em? Like, the one guy can't take the other down 'cause the other guy'll take him down too, and the other guy can't take the first guy down 'cause the first guy'll get him?"
"Um – a stalemate?" the Chief suggested, in a quavering voice.
"Yeah, it's one of those!"
"Oh, you have got to be kidding me," Kuleshov muttered in Russian, and strode forward.
Three things happened at once. Daichi pulled the ripcord and whooped, "Let it rip!" – Kai hurled himself to the side, ducked round and rammed his shoulder into his captor's back – and the room went white with the force of Daichi's attack. Blind, Kai stumbled, crashed into the man, and started fumbling desperately for the gun. After-images were jittering wildly in his eyes, and his head was ringing; the man was underneath him, one hand clawing at his throat, the other clutching the gun, which rattled against the floor as Kai held the man's wrist down.
The man kicked Kai hard in the stomach, and he doubled over, winded. The next second the gun was tucked neatly under his chin.
He heard a click.
"Back off," Ray's voice said.
The gun slid from the man's grasp, across Kai's throat and to the floor. Kai sprang to his feet, breathing hard, to see Ray, Max and Daichi, Beyblades at the ready. Kuleshov was lying sprawled on his back, bleeding profusely from a Beyblade wound to the head.
"I don't have access to the security codes," the man said, smoothly, keeping his hands raised. "Kuleshov's higher up than me. I can't get you in. And I don't think you're likely to kill me, either."
"Yeah, 'cause we're not like you," Max agreed. "'Sides, getting in's not a problem. Chief?"
"Give me a minute," Kenny called, hurrying over to the keypad. "Sheesh. It's more than just pushing buttons, you know. And nobody kill anybody, alright?"
In the corner, Garland stirred and moaned. "Oh, hey," Max said, hurrying over to him and pulling off his blindfold. "Forgot about you. How're you feeling, man?"
"Like hell," Garland informed him, rubbing his forehead woozily. "What is going on here?"
"What's going on is that we're kicking kidnapper butt!" Daichi whooped.
"Oh, God, it's you clowns. Quit yelling, it's going right through my head."
"Hey, we just saved your life, you long-haired freak!"
"Can you people keep your Martian under control, please? Urgh, I feel sick." He leaned back against the wall briefly, wiped his face. "Hey, Tate, are these the guys that took Brooklyn?"
"Yeah, and they took Tyson, too," Max said, grimly. "And now we're going to get him back."
"Speaking of Tyson," Kai broke in, addressing the man, "I really hope, for your own sake, that you didn't miss out on so many promotions that you can't tell us why you're kidnapping people."
"I'm not telling you anything," the man said, flatly. "What're you going to do, call the police? You've taken out the surveillance camera, geniuses – no evidence of anything. So I'm in the company of a missing Beyblader, so what? Means nothing. I'm a Russian citizen and a high-standing businessman. You can't touch me."
It was then that Kai picked up the gun.
"You OK?" Brooklyn asked, as he always did when Tyson came into the mess hall in the morning. "Arm?"
"It's only a flesh wound."
Brooklyn smiled. "That," he said, "is the spirit. Have a gold star."
"I will if it's edible. I swear, I'd rather eat Daichi's cooking than this gunk."
"We're scheduled for training together today," Brooklyn said, after a bit. "Morning session, straight after breakfast. Apparently it's an exhibition match for potential investors."
Tyson gave a loud snort. "Yeah, to show off their messed-up new mutant blade. Boris is such a dumbass."
"That's what my remedials was last night. They've got Black Dragoon now. Trying to get me to use it."
Brooklyn absorbed that information. He had gone rather pale; the deep circles under his eyes stood out sharply. "I don't think you should tell anyone else," he said, finally. "If you're not going to use it, then it's better that no one else does, either."
Brooklyn looked nervously over his shoulder, but they were alone at their end of the table, except for Haruka and Johnny, who were glowering together about something a little way off. "And you're not going to use it at all?"
"Do I look like some kind of – of no-good power-hungry disloyal freak? Is that it?" Tyson spluttered, outraged. "I have a bitbeast, OK? Don't need another one, thanks all the same." He tried to fold his arms behind his head nonchalantly, but couldn't; it hurt too much. He changed the motion into a stretch instead, which still hurt, and frowned. He added, "Besides, I saw what Black Dranzer did to Kai."
"Taking other people's bitbeasts can hardly be called good etiquette, I agree," Brooklyn said, lightly. "And he defected from your team almost on the eve of the World Championships, as I recall?"
"It wasn't his fault," Tyson said, instantly. "It wasn't fair on him. He was a kid, just this lonely kid, and they'd messed around with his head so much he didn't even have a choice. I mean, back then – I saw him, saw what it was like for him! We all wanted to be the strongest, sure – but then they go and offer him that, they offer him that chance! What was he gonna do, say no? He didn't – he didn't really think of us as his buddies then, not like he does now – he didn't see it as betraying us."
"It's in the past," Brooklyn comforted him. "Water under the bridge, right?"
"Still pisses me off – messing around with people like that. Hello, Beyblading's a sport! It's for fun! Not the money, or the power. Bunch of jerks. I hate them all."
"What are you going to –"
"I'm gonna tell 'em that if they think I'm using any of their crappy blades then they can forget about it." Tyson pushed his plate away and leaned forward, putting his chin on the table and sighing. It still felt weird not to be wearing his cap. He wondered where it had gotten to – they had taken it and everything else away on his arrival. "I just want to go home," he said. "This place blows."
"On the bright side, if any more bladers get taken someone'll have to do something sooner or later," Brooklyn pointed out. "It has to be pretty obvious by now that Boris is involved somehow."
"Everyone thought he was gone after BEGA," Tyson replied morosely, yawning. "I thought he was gone after BEGA. Stupid bastard. Can't believe you ever worked for him." Then he winced. "Sorry, man, didn't mean it in a bad way. Dead tired, that's all." He yawned again. "At least he's not still after Kai. That would be really bad."
"You talk about Kai a lot, you know that?"
Horribly, Tyson felt himself flush. "So what?" he demanded. "Hey, we've had this conversation. Straight male friend, remember?"
"Mm, I remember. But you're in love with him anyway."
Tyson sat up slowly, turned his face away. "So what?" he repeated, swallowing.
"Just pointing it out," Brooklyn said, mildly. "In case you hadn't realised it yet."
"I – I realised it – round about the first time I ever met him," Tyson managed to get out, and even remembering that made his stomach clench. "Look, I don't talk about being – about it," he added, his voice a bit choppy and rough. "I mean, Maxie knows 'cause I was freaked out and I needed to talk to someone, and he was the only person around, but no one else. Not 'cause I don't trust my friends, not 'cause I think any of you guys would act weird about it, just 'cause – 'cause it's not that important, OK? It's not the most important thing about me, not the – not something that everyone has to know. Not yet."
"Does Kai know?"
"Don't tell him!" Tyson yelped, swinging around to face Brooklyn in a panic. "You cannot tell him! Dude, seriously, I – I'm serious! If you tell him, I swear I will personally kick your ass from here to the end of forever. Are you – hey, quit it! Quit laughing!"
"I'm not laughing," Brooklyn said, laughing.
"Dirty rotten no-good interfering weirdo," Tyson muttered. He was still very pink. "I'm gonna get you for this." He hunched over, shot a sidelong glance at Brooklyn, and then muttered, to change the subject, "So, um, uh, what kind of fun and games d'you think they have planned for us today?"
It was at precisely that point that Boris entered the room and answered Tyson's question.
The gun was surprisingly light, much lighter than he had expected, and very cold. Gingerly, he slid his finger into position over the trigger, feeling as though the entire thing could explode at any given moment, and tapped it lightly against the man's temple. "You've taken our friends," he said; he could feel his cheeks going hot, partly from fury and partly from shame under the gaze of the others, but he didn't care. His hand was perfectly steady. His heart was pounding. "We are going to get them back. We would appreciate any information you can give us, starting with where Tyson is and how we can find him."
All around there was dead silence. Kenny had stopped working on the security keypad and was standing stock-still, mouth hanging open. Kai didn't look at him, or at anyone else. His arm started to shake; he gripped it with his free hand.
The man turned slightly on his knees, turned until the gun was pressed dead into the centre of his forehead so that he could look up at Kai. His eyes – brown, brown like Tyson's, although not at all like Tyson's because no one else in the world could ever have eyes like his, eyes like autumn, like late light over the rooftops – met Kai's, held their gaze. There was faint sarcasm on his broad pale face, but sincerity in his voice. "You're not going to hurt me," he said. "You know you're not. You don't have it in you. You're here looking for your friend, aren't you? For Granger. What's going to say when he hears you've killed someone just to find him?"
"Kai, stop it," Max said, sharply. "We don't have time for this, OK?"
"We don't have time for this!" Kai snapped, pressing the gun harder into the man's forehead. "I want information and I want it now, please."
"I've had it with you, Kai!" Ray shouted. "You've been nothing but a liability this entire time! You refuse to work with us, you're off in your own little world, you act like you're the only one suffering! I cannot believe you are doing this. I really thought I knew you better."
"I hate guns," Kai told him, never looking away from the man's eyes. "I hate them. You know I do. But we need to stop playing around. You think they won't be armed? You honestly think we can go in there and expect to live if we're not prepared?"
"Tyson wouldn't –"
"Tyson is the person I am trying to save! And I don't care what it takes!"
"You really are pathetic without him around, you know that?"
"Stop it!" Kenny shouted, his voice shrill. "Stop it, all of you! We don't need him, Kai! I can get us in easily, I can hack the mainframe in about two seconds – just leave him alone!"
Kai stood there a moment more, but he already knew that he was defeated. There was a light of smug but genuine satisfaction in the man's eyes, and Kai had to look away, feeling, ridiculously, as though he were weak. The man had read him easily and had been proved right; Kai had bluffed and had lost.
He changed his hold on the gun and brought the butt of the handgrip down hard against the man's temple. Brown eyes rolled back horribly, and the man slumped.
"Right," Ray said, stepping forward instantly and bending over the man, unzipping his heavy anorak and starting to search the pockets. "Has he got a cell phone? Or an ID card or something? Maxie, you search the other guy. Take anything we can use and disarm him if necessary. Daichi, can find any rope in this place? There's got to be some somewhere."
"I'm in," Kenny called. He sounded on the edge of tears. "I've got the code. We're in."
"Just a sec," Ray said, as Daichi handed him a heavy spool of rough red rope. "Kai, give me a hand."
Together, Ray and Kai tied the two men up and dragged them up against the wall. Kai's fingers were shaking, but he tried not to let anyone see. He kept his eyes down. Stronger than this, he repeated to himself over and over again, stronger than anything, stronger than everything, as strong as you have to be for him: but he didn't know which kind of strength was the right kind anymore. He was going off the rails badly.
They found a heavy sheet of metal leaning against one of the walls. It took all five of them to lift it, and when they had settled it on top of the men, it restrained them without being harmful. Kuleshov was waking up now, flickering his eyes and groaning; the wound on his head was no longer bleeding quite so severely, and he looked healthy enough.
"You guys going in?" Garland asked.
"No, we have reservations for dinner, maybe a spot of sight-seeing afterwards," Kai said. He was still shaking, which only served to put him in a very bad mood. He wasn't ashamed. He was angry. He was angry at Ray for not understanding, for not realising what had to be done. He didn't want to have to be the bad guy on the team, the nutcase, the weak link. That wasn't him: it never had been. It was just that no one else seemed to understand that people got hurt in real life, and that not every arch-villain was interested in staking dominion of the free world on the outcome of a Beyblading match.
Garland raised an eyebrow at him, and then said, "Get a grip on yourself. I'm offering to stay here and keep watch, that's all."
"That would be good," Ray said, taking charge effortlessly. "Thanks. Chief, what's the plan?"
"If we can set off any kind alarm, that might be useful," Kenny said. "Should be pretty easy – a fire alarm or something, something that would get everyone confused. Or we could always wait for the police."
"Eh, boring," Max said, risking a grin. "Uh, speaking of the police and people who were supposed to phone them, where's Hil?"
And, far too late but perfectly on cue, Hilary came tumbling down the stairs with her eyes tightly closed and her fists raised. "I've got a black belt and I'm not afraid to use it!" she yelled. And then, looking around, "Gah, Daichi, you little idiot! You were supposed to give me the signal!"
"Oh. Yeah." Daichi shrugged. "Knew I forgot something."
"I thought you'd all been kidnapped or something! You IDIOT! What's the point of being back-up if the numbskull you're supposed to back up forgets about you? There I was, freaking out over NOTHING – oh! Hi, Garland! You OK?"
"Fine," Garland sighed. "I'm just great. Surrounded by a bunch of inept kids, but fine nonetheless."
"Aw, you know you love us really!" Max grinned. The tension had dissolved, and he was doing his best to keep it that way.
"I'm starting to think Hiro was right about you guys. Insane, the lot of you. Good bladers, but insane."
"Hey, he can't say that! That's hurtful!"
"Guys, guys, come on," Kenny insisted, hopping anxiously from foot to foot. "They'll have noticed the security camera's out by now – we have to hurry –"
"Alright, alright. Let's go."
Tyson spat blood.
This was not a good thing.
Up in the observations booth, which was set into the wall perhaps five metres above the arena, Boris sighed, and reached for the microphone. "Tyson, I did tell you that there would be trouble if you continued to be so uncooperative," he remarked, his voice echoing through the stadium.
Tyson wiped his mouth on the back of his good hand, which shook. "Trouble? You call this trouble?" he called. "Weird, 'cause I call it a walk in the park."
"He needs antibiotics for that arm!" Brooklyn shouted. "You're killing him! If it gets any worse it'll have to be amputated!"
"I doubt that," Boris replied, coolly. "But you're right: it is approaching the stage at which it might become troublesome. Very well, then. Tyson, if you cooperate, we'll see that you get some proper medical treatment, how's that? We have EMTs and doctors among our staff. If you'll just work with us, then I'll stop withholding treatment and you'll feel much better in no time."
"I am not using your pathetic excuse for a blade and I'm definitely not using it to fight my friend!" Tyson roared. Then he sat down, passed a hand across his face. He didn't feel too good. "Just give it up, you dickhead!" he shouted, a faint metallic whine rising and falling in his ears. They had Black Dragoon somewhere nearby, locked up in a heavily-insulated box in the observations booth: he could feel it, greasy as old clingfilm, smothering him like a plastic bag across the face. When he closed his eyes it was to see a bleached sepia skyscape, a dead brittle dome of air ready to crack apart with dark lightning. His clothes were rinsed through with static.
Brooklyn was at his side, hand on his shoulder; the contact earthed a sharp snapping spark into Tyson, who flinched. "It's just me," Brooklyn said, quietly, misunderstanding Tyson's reaction. "Tyson, you have to do what they tell you to do. Just this once. Please."
"Brooklyn, you will maintain your distance," came the voice over the loudspeakers.
"He's injured!" Brooklyn shouted up. "You cannot force him to blade as he is now! He needs medical treatment immediately!"
"You will maintain your distance or you will both be punished. Return to your position – oh, what is it now?"
The microphone cut out with a screech of static. Tyson looked up just in time to see Boris conversing with someone, and looking very angry. He stood up, snapped something at an assistant who stood nearby, and strode out of the operations booth. "Session adjourned," the assistant said into the microphone, in Japanese heavily accented with Russian. "Paramedics will assist you shortly, Granger-san."
"You can't keep doing this," Brooklyn was saying to Tyson, anxiously. "The moment you're incapacitated…oh, who knows what they'll do to you?"
"Wonder what got Boris so worked up? He looked pretty pissed," Tyson mused, ignoring Brooklyn. He felt like he was speaking through a large amount of very sticky toffee: for a moment, the entire world flickered yellow-grey, and he almost gagged on the thick scent of burning. Stupid no-good messed-up evil mutant bitbeast…
"I'm sure he'll be fine," Brooklyn said, dryly. "Can't say the same for you, though."
"Hey, whatever's bad for him is good for us, right?"
"Right, but –"
And that was when the alarms started to blare through the building. Red lights flickered on high above the arena, flashing madly. Brooklyn looked up, startled, one hand tightening on Tyson's shoulder, the other reaching instinctively for Zeus, which he had tucked into his pocket. For Tyson, the sudden raucous cacophony on top of the pain, dizziness and taint of electricity was altogether too much. "Oh, come on," he muttered, clenching his teeth. "Geez, I should have stayed in bed…"
"Oi, you two!" a guard called, jogging up to them with a pair of paramedics, to judge by the first aid kit they carried between them, close behind. "Emergency evacuation, effective as of now. We need to get you to the main arena. Come on, let's go."
"Why?" Brooklyn asked, very politely, as he helped Tyson to his feet.
"Doesn't concern you. Hell, doesn't concern me, apparently. Man, this job blows. And so does the pay." He grabbed Brooklyn's arm and started chivvying him and Tyson along, towards one of the side entrances to the arena. He swiped his ID card and motioned for the paramedics to go first, keeping a close hold on Brooklyn to prevent any chance of escape. Brooklyn, for his part, kept a close hold on Tyson to avoid any chance of him passing out.
The small passage was cramped, far too cramped for five people, and was unpleasantly filled with flat fluorescent lighting that stabbed at Tyson's eyes. However, the pressure of Black Dragoon lessened the further they went from the arena, and soon the ringing in his ears subsided, and he was able to breathe without choking on what tasted like acrid grey smoke. "I'm OK," he said to Brooklyn. "It's better now. Sheesh, let go already. You're cutting off the circulation in my arm."
"Hey, no talking, you two," the guard said, and added to Tyson, "As soon as we get you to the main arena we'll have a look at that arm, OK?"
"About time," Brooklyn said. "It could kill him."
"Sorry to hear that," the guard said, quite unconcernedly, though not entirely unkindly. "Sooner we get there, sooner your buddy gets better, right? Exactly. Move it."
And then out of nowhere, there came a gust of fresh air, a sudden bitter-bright tang of rain and wind and clean clear power. It filled Tyson up with shivering icy water, making his fingers tingle with electricity and lessening for a moment the slow thud of his headache.
He must have gone pale, or staggered, or something, because Brooklyn said, "Can't you do something for him?"
"You keep your mouth shut," the guard said to him, but one of the paramedics had already set first aid case down on the floor and was starting to open it up. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"It's madness letting people walk around in the condition he's in," the paramedic said, pulling out a syringe and small vial of some clear serum. "He can't blade damaged. And you're important, aren't you? Granger?"
"Most important person I know," Tyson said, breathlessly. For now at least, the ache in his arm was muted, and he was quivering, abuzz with adrenaline. He felt as though he could have lit up a city powergrid with just a touch of his fingers; he felt as though he were made of thin paper, shielding and containing a great steely light. He could feel Dragoon as clearly as he could feel the smooth cement wall behind his back.
"Look, I'm aware that this is most likely just a drill, but if we're late they'll get pissed off, and I'm not getting myself in trouble just because some kid can't walk straight. Hit him over the head and carry him or something, but don't waste my time."
"I was told to examine him and get him fixed up," the paramedic said, taking Tyson's arm and starting to roll up the sleeve. "Boris' personal orders. Granger is important for this project. They pay you to shout and wave guns around, that's great. They pay me to make sure we don't end up with dead bodies."
The guard stared at the paramedic in disbelief for a moment, and then shrugged, clearly fed up. "Fine," he said. "Fine. You fix him up and you catch up to us as soon as you can. Or, wait, you know what? Do whatever the hell you want. If you're late for whatever goddamn drill they've got planned, it's your fault." He took hold of Brooklyn's arm again, started to hustle him down the passage while the other paramedic followed, head down, eyes dead ahead, not wanting trouble.
"Tyson!" Brooklyn called back. "I'll see you –"
"It's OK," Tyson called, turning his head to look away as the needle slid into his arm. "It's OK. It'll be alright."
Brooklyn rounded the corner with the guard and was gone. Tyson was already calculating what would happen, torn between choices: go after Brooklyn and help him out as soon as he had taken out this guy, or try to find Dragoon? Common sense said find Dragoon; Tyson said help out his friend. Always better to have company.
The paramedic was silent, bent over Tyson's arm, holding the syringe steady: Tyson could see only the top of his head, his dark hair. Tyson sized him up as best he could: short but well-built. Probably knew how to break bones as well as set them, if he was working for Boris; and although he had seemed fairly decent, Tyson knew better than to underestimate him just because he was a med guy and not some thug.
"You done sticking that in me?" he complained. He had a completely irrational fear of the needle breaking off inside his arm, and decided to wait until the injection was done before he did anything.
"Be quiet," the paramedic said, withdrawing the tip of the needle and bending down to reach into the first aid kit for bandages.
Tyson kicked out, hard, and caught him in the stomach. He fell over onto his side, coughing. Tyson kicked him again, breathing hard and gritting his teeth desperately, and then dropped to his knees, grabbing a fistful of the man's hair, getting a knee into the pit of his stomach and pressing down to prevent him from getting up. One strong purposeful hand thrust up towards Tyson's face, aiming for his eyes, and he leaned back, losing his hold on the man's hair.
The man forced Tyson off him and sat up, blue eyes darting wildly from side to side before he lurched towards the first aid kit, grabbed a heavy glass bottle, probably of disinfectant. Before Tyson could fully understand the situation, the bottle was zooming down towards his face through the air. He twisted wildly to the side, hearing the bottle break on stone, pushed himself up, threw himself headlong at the man. He wished he had a stick, a pipe, anything he could use as some kind of surrogate kendo bokken – but that wouldn't help, because kendo was an art, and this wasn't an art at all – it wasn't even self-defence, but a blatant attack, trying actively to injure another person, to cause someone else pain –
He felt the air currents whipping around them both as he drew back his fist and punched it directly into the man's face. He had broken noses before, had felt bone crunch under his knuckles when he'd taken down that guy who'd tried to dart him when he first got taken, felt it happen again now. There was a gasping red heat in his face, behind his eyes, a fever-warm fire-dry squeamishness as he punched again and again. On the fourth blow, the man sagged underneath him, fell still, breath whiffling in and out of his nose. His nostrils were gleaming dark with gathering blood.
Tyson stood up, his face flushed. He leaned against the wall for a moment, and did what he had avoided doing for as long as possible now – he looked down at his arm. It was swollen badly, and hot to the touch: mottled purple at the gaping mouth of the wide wound, with fine feathery red lines stretching up and up in a pale corona. Red lines were not a good thing, he recalled vaguely. He looked away, down at the man lying groaning incoherently on the floor; pressed his good hand against his forehead, ran his fingers through his hair, breathed out shakily. He felt sick and drained, as though his insides had been scooped out leaving the thin walls of his body to crisp and dry in the stinging air, red as a hand held in front of the sun.
Then felt cross with himself for being such an emo about it all. Ray would have done the same thing. Hilary would have done the same thing, and she wouldn't have worried about it afterwards. Girls were like that: they knew about having to fight, having to stop caring about everything except what was most important. Most importantly, Kai would have done the same thing. It was Boris who had started this, not Tyson, and Tyson was going to get out no matter the cost. That was how things worked, wasn't it? That was what you were supposed to do: yourself, your friends, and no one else. Anyone who hurt you hindered your chance of survival. That was what you had to learn here.
"Stupid crappy messed-up place," he spat, shaky with loathing as he glared at the walls. "I hate it here. I hate it. I hate what you bastards did to Kai and I hate what you're doing to Brooklyn and Oliver and me and everyone here. I hate it and I'm getting the hell out, you got that?"
No one answered him. There was no one to hear him. He stopped talking to himself and pulled his sleeve down over the wound in his arm so that he wouldn't have to see it and panic about it.
He should probably tie the man up – in point of fact, there were whole spools of bandages and sports tape in the first aid kit that would be ideal for the job – but he didn't have the strength or the stomach to do it. He turned away, set his face to the cool stream of bright wind that meant Dragoon was close by, and headed off to find Brooklyn.
"Are you sure it's supposed to do that?" Hilary wailed over the siren. "Oh, man, this was a really dumb plan."
"You think so?" Kenny squeaked, madly sarcastic. "You really think so, Hilary? Funny, because I was just thinking the same thing!"
"Take a chill pill, my little pals," Max said, swinging the chair around and collapsing elegantly into it. "Ah, awesome, I love these computer chairs." He twirled around on it, laughing. "Woohoo! Fully-guaranteed orthopaedic satisfaction."
"YOU ARE NOT HELPING THE SITUATION."
Kenny leaned his head against the wall. "You guys, we just set off a fire alarm. Without a fire."
"Yeah, I can kind of hear that."
"Well – well, there's a law against it! There has to be! There's a law against everything we do lately!"
Max clapped Kenny on the back (which almost resulted in his glasses being forever lost under the bank of closed-circuit television screens) and whirled around in his chair again. "Oi, Rope Squad! Status report!"
"All guards tied up, sir!" Ray called cheerfully. "And gagged."
"Unfortunately, we can't say the same for any of you," Kai muttered.
"Did anyone actually think about what we do after we get this far?" Kenny bawled. "We're in hostile territory and we don't even have a map!"
"Take it easy, Chief," Ray said, coming to stand next to Kenny, and peering up at the tiny array of screens. "Maxie, cut it out. Can you see Tyson on anywhere?"
"I don't think this place has access to all the video feed," Kenny babbled, nervously. "I mean, I'd assume there to be far more CCTV cameras in an establishment like this. I think this is just a small outpost, just this top level's security – it obviously goes down much deeper."
"OK, well, can we see anything else that might help?"
"I don't know – listen, people might start coming up here pretty soon, especially if this is the only exit –"
"They won't," Kai said, tapping a notice board that was crammed with sheets of Cyrillic – employee information. "Says here that if there's a fire warning, everyone is supposed to head for the main arena to be evacuated from there."
"How do you evacuate from the main arena?" Kenny demanded. "It's underground! That's insane!"
"I think he's right," Hilary said, pointing at the screens. "Look, this one's from, like, the top gallery thing – you can see down into the arena a bit there. There's loads of people there."
"OK, so we're safe up here for a while," Max said. "So now what? We could try and halt the evacuation until the police get here. That would be good, right? If we could trap everyone inside the arena, keep everything in one place?"
"Yeah, can't you do a lockdown?" Hilary agreed.
"Maybe – not from here, I don't think – well, I could try –"
Kai, staring at the tiny jittering screens, saw something that almost made his heart stop. "There," he said, and drew a shaky breath. "Right there."
Hilary's face lit up. "Tyson!" she squeaked, clapped her hands over her mouth in excitement. "Yes! Yes, he's OK!"
Onscreen, a figure, hunched and indistinct but instantly recognisable, could be seen creeping carefully down a corridor overlooking the arena. He turned once, looking over his shoulder, and then started to hurry. He passed quickly from that screen and blurred briefly across the next, and the next, before disappearing entirely.
"Chief, which cameras were those?" Ray asked. Kai was already at the door, Dranzer loaded. "Where is he?"
"I don't know. They're all surveillance from this floor, I think –"
"Kai, wait!" Ray shouted.
He was speaking to empty air.
The dizziness was coming back now. He knew that he had taken a wrong turn at some point while he had been trying to follow the most logical path to the main arena, still somehow determined to find Brooklyn. He had sacrificed desperately-needed medical attention in order to knock out a man who had been trying to help him, probably costing the guy his job at the very least in the process, and he was having a hard time justifying his actions if they hadn't been in the name of saving his friends.
He had absolutely no idea where he was now. The grey corridors stretched on and on, broken only occasionally by a dark door, some of which were labelled in kanji, others in Cyrillic, a few in a mixture of both, and most not at all. It was the lighting that was going to drive him crazy, endless dead lines of fluorescent wash that bleached everything hollow and ringing, that made his eyes water and blur – or else it would be the air, the empty tasteless air that didn't move and didn't function, that suffocated when it should replenish, starved when it should nourish. He had always hated air conditioning – pretty stupid pet hate to have in Japan, Kenny had pointed out – had always gotten edgy in waiting rooms and boardrooms and the kinds of gyms and exercise halls that were too clean and too perfect. If he wanted to Beyblade he would Beyblade in the dojo, with the smell of wood and varnish and Gramps' cooking all around him, and if he wanted to breathe he would breathe proper air.
Like looking for colour on a blank page, for motion in death, for footholds in a sheer frictionless sheet of ice.
The corridors blurred in front of him. They had turned the alarms off, he noticed – he hadn't even thought about it, but now the silence was constricting, crippling. He didn't know where to go. He didn't even know what they used all these rooms for. Maybe this was where people slept, guards and med guys and techies and everyone. Personnel quarters, or whatever they were called. He didn't know and he didn't care. He found a short flight of stairs, stumbled down it, missing the last three steps and almost landing flat on his face.
Whenever he coughed, blood came up, which wasn't good. If his ribs had been hurting him, that would at least mean a break of some sort, which wasn't that bad apart from the risk of puncture and the pain; but they weren't sore at all, and he was not fond of the notion that he might have sustained internal bleeding during his battle with Brooklyn. Whatever the med guy had given him didn't seem to be doing anything much. Most likely some kind of antibiotic, although it could have been a tranquiliser for all he knew. It certainly hadn't been any kind of analgesic: the pain in his arm ebbed away and surged back in a random pattern of tides that left it almost impossible for him to stay on his feet. He was also extremely thirsty, and kept having to swallow, his throat feeling red and ragged.
"Man, this is stupid," he said aloud, leaning against the wall to huff momentarily. He needed a rest, but the odds were good that his escape had already been reported, and if he was going to rest it wasn't going to be slap bang in the middle of a goddamn corridor. He needed somewhere to hide at the very least, and then a way of getting out. He had abandoned any daring rescue plans a while ago. His planned course of action currently went something along the lines of get out, get the police, get help. If that came to nothing, he could at least try and find a telephone before they caught him again. "Come on," he said, forcing himself away from the wall. "Come on. What the hell's your problem? Cry baby."
I am here.
"What?" Tyson muttered, clutching his bad arm against his side and pushing onwards. "What? Great, hearing things. Woo."
I am here, close to you.
"Wait, what?" Tyson yelped, spinning around wildly and staring up and down the corridor, snapped out of his stupor by the sheer shock. "Uh. Oh. Um." He winced, aware that he was going to look pretty stupid if it turned out he was just imagining this. "Dragoon?" he said, tentatively.
All four of us are here.
"Where, damn it? And how come?"
We are in this together. Keep going as you are now.
"How'd you get here?" Tyson yelled. "Hello? Ah, come on, dude, give me a break! How did you get here?"
But he knew that Dragoon had said all that was going to be said. He realised that he had stopped walking, and also that the pain in his arm had cleared; he took the opportunity while it lasted, and hurried onwards. Bitbeasts were probably worth listening to, although it might help if they gave a little more information. The air was suddenly richer, though: rougher, harsher, cleaner, far better than fake recycled breath. He felt a breeze tug at his fingertips, whistle down the passageway, nudge him in the right direction.
"Cool," he said, making his voice sound as loud as he could, setting it against the pressing walls like a weapon. "I always did like you, Dragoon old pal. Unless that was a hallucination. Which would be weird."
But the shell of cement, the swallowing throat, the hard hands of the earth pressing down on you: to iron your lungs flat, to buckle your ribs, to fold the bones of your jaw in half lengthwise like a paper plate: to crumble your skull into the ground and turn your blood into mud. He was seeing bad things now whenever he closed his eyes, bad stupid claustrophobic things. He breathed in deeply, wished for someone else to be there with him, although then it would mean two people in trouble. He just needed someone to talk to. On the topic of company, all four of them were here? All four sacred spirits?
He had looked down at Kai, heavy and still and lifeless on the pavement, and he had reached down and taken his hand, rough and square and steady, and he had almost dared to kiss that hand, almost and not quite. Dragoon had fallen nearby, and Kai would have picked it up – he had to have, he had to have –
Kai, if you're here –
Even though his heart clenched at the thought, Tyson didn't know whether he would be happy or angry to see Kai: not here, not in this grey place, not here under the ice, not again.
He kept going, following the air, following the warm faint tingle of natural electricity that he sensed from somewhere. He was growing dizzy again, so dizzy that he could barely breathe. He was staring at a white snowfield, every breath rasping black against his throat. He wasn't inside of his head anymore: he had been squeezed out of his body, been pushed away. The streaks of light that spiralled across his vision fizzed and crackled, charged with pure incandescent power, and for a moment he could almost believe that he had found his way out of the grey place: that someone had taken his hand and pulled him up, into a place where he could watch stars and planets turn and swing, and see the glitter of a thousand thousand far-away fires reflected on bright water as it passed over that face, those eyes…
He slumped against the wall. Just a minute's rest would be enough. Every breath was so cold that it sliced his lungs like a knife, but it was real pain, sharp with adrenaline and salty with blood, instead of the ceaseless, stale ache that had crippled him for so long.
After some length of time – although whether it really was only a minute, or closer to an hour, or a year, he didn't know – something made him look up. Afterwards he recalled it as a touch to the depths of his mind: a chord struck somewhere deep inside, a dissonance resolving. Kai was standing in front of him, not five metres away – it was Kai, it was, and Tyson knew because he was frowning –
- the wall, the mystery, the thing keeping him out, the thing keeping him away: the sorrow, the loss, the hollow place underneath the ice, the hollow place behind the ribs, behind the bone-cage: the emptiness where the heart once was –
- and then anxious hands were grasping him by the shoulders, cupping his face roughly, forcing him to look up; and a voice was saying, "Tyson! Tyson!"
Tyson grinned tiredly. "Long time no see, bro," he said. "Five more minutes?" He pushed the hands away and, by dint of clinging to the wall, managed to stand up. He wobbled, swayed, and crumpled. Arms caught him and cradled him, held him tight. He blinked. This person smelled like Kai. That was weird. No one in the world smelled like Kai except Kai.
"Why," he said, muffledly, his face pressed against a huge puffy anorak, "do you smell like Kai?"
"We have to hurry," said the same voice as before. "Can you walk?"
Tyson was aware of a vague ringing emptiness, and then a flight of steps, and then a journey back down into the cold darkness, back into the stale static grey place. So. They must have found him. They were taking him back. Of course. They always win. Back into the greyness. He'd been thinking something nice, hadn't he? A nice dream, about Kai. It was so annoying when you forgot dreams –
There was a sudden horrible pain and he jerked awake. "Owwww!" he complained, gasping. "What'd you have to do that for? Can't a guy get any sleep around here?"
Kai said, in a very odd voice, "What did they do to you? You need antibiotics immediately, this looks infected. Hold still."
Tyson said, in an equally odd voice, "What are you doing here?"
"Rescuing you, Einstein," Kai answered, and started unwinding his scarf. "Surprise."
it is 7 AM and I haven't slept yet. yay. thanks for reading, kids, you are all sexyfine and i love you loads. :)