The Gemini Hustle: Chapter 13

The Gemini Hustle: Chapter

Chapter 13

Ray had a brief moment of hope when, on regaining consciousness, he to find Gavin no longer wore the glove.

Unfortunately, Gavin now held Ray’s vibro-dagger, which he now turned from side to side, seemingly enjoying the play of light over the sleek blade.

“Looks like the final act,” Sims said from where he leaned against a wall. “Usually, I don’t stick around for this bit, but this is one time I think I’ll enjoy the show.”

“I appreciate your support,” Gavin murmured.

At which point Ray started to laugh, surprising himself, which was nothing to what he felt when he heard himself say, “You—you are pathetic, Sims.”

Was he trying to get himself killed?

Relax . . .

At the soft remonstrance, Ray blinked and his eyes darted from side to side, seeking the woman who’d uttered it, only to find no one in the room but himself and his tormenters. What the hell?

Jessyn says to trust, the voice continued, which was when Ray realized that the voice was, somehow, inside his thoughts and accompanied by a sensation of cool water in a deep stream that he instinctively associated with Jessyn.

So, either the pain had driven him over the edge, or—

Or, the non-voice cut in. Definitely or. And if you want to live, you must continue as you began.

Right, Ray thought and forged on, pushing the green-eyed monster—jealousy, not Gavin—as far as he could.

“Sure, the competition will be gone,” he said to Sims, who’d straightened from the wall, “but Jesus H.—she’s a Rasalkan. You don’t think Jessyn will know what happened? And who made it happen?”

“And why should we care what one Rasalkan believes?”

The question was quiet, flat, and came from Gavin.

She is not just a Rasalkan, the voice murmured, and Ray was pretty sure the owner of that voice was ticked. She is of House Szado, and she is the Lady’s nhaiad.

Ray, looking at Gavin’s slender, handsome, utterly empty face, felt the thrum of the vibro-blade all the way to his bones. “You should care,” he said, “because she’s not just a Rasalkan, she’s the Lady’s.”

“So?” Gavin asked.

Well done, the voice in Ray’s head murmured.

“Gav.” Sims held out a hand. “Hold on.”

“No,” Gavin said, showing the first signs of emotion Ray had witnessed. “Sims . . . you promised,” he added, sounding almost like a child denied a long-coveted trip to Disney Planet.

“I know, I know,” Sims soothed, “but—we can’t fuck with House Szado.”

“We don’t work for House Szado,” Gavin pointed out.

“We’re with the Black Rose,” Sims countered. “That includes Szado.”

“Sims . . . Gavin stepped closer, the thrumming blade in his shaking hand. “. . . Brother . . . I need this.”

No, not a child, Ray realized, but an addict.

And as he watched Sims wrestle between placating his blood brother and staying in House Szado’s good graces, Ray couldn’t say, for certain, which of the two evils Sims would choose.

Trust Jessyn, the voice in his head murmured.

Always, Ray thought, surprising himself as he did, but as he did, he saw Sims eyes cloud, then narrow, then he blinked and sighed.

“No,” Gavin said.

Sims looked at his brother with an expression of regret and, Ray thought, not a little fear. “I’ll make it up to you.”

“You always say that.”

“And I always deliver,” Sims countered. “Let’s just get through the summit. Once that’s done, we’ll find you a release.” He held out his hand. “One more day.”

Ray held his breath, unsure if Sims had gotten through to his brother, but then Gavin shuddered, seeming to deflate, and shut off the vibro-blade.

“One more day,” Gavin echoed. “You swear.”

“I swear,” Sims agreed.

“I’ll hold you to it,” Gavin said, but he handed over the blade.

“Great,” Ray said. “So, can I go, now?”

* * *

“Gemini,” Neishi’s voice, deep, sultry, and dearly hated, pulled Harry from a dream of fire. “What do you think?”

“I think that had to hurt,” he heard Gemini reply.

Harry blinked away what felt like years’ worth of sweat and tears to see Gemini standing in front of him, head bent and turned up to better see Harry’s face.

“It did,” Neishi replied, and Harry saw her feet slide into view as she joined Gemini. “But you were right about his resistance,” she added. “Your Mr. Finn has an unexpected talent for escaping torture.”

“How?” Gemini asked, straightening so Harry could no longer see his face.

“By hiding in an even greater suffering.”

“Is that so?” Gemini’s left hand, now holding a dagger, rose into Harry’s line of sight. “I bet I can help him find some greater suffering.”

“As you should,” Neishi agreed. “But I don’t think it will help.”

The blade froze. “Because . . . ?”

“Because his sheltering pain is not physical,” she said, then murmured, “I smell burning.”

“Well, you did sort of . . .” Gemini’s blade poked at one of the blistered streaks on Harry’s chest.

“Burning wood,” Neishi clarified. “I smell what he is smelling, over and over again.” She paused, hissed. “He has had psionic conditioning,” the empath said, her voice sharpening. “Rasalkan conditioning.”

Which didn’t sound right to Harry, but even he could admit he wasn’t thinking too clearly at present.

“Is that so?” Gemini asked Neishi. “Is that so?” he asked again, sliding the blade up Harry’s cheek. “Time to tell the truth, Harry. Trust me, you’ll feel better when you tell the truth.”

As he spoke, his voice became richer, more cultivated, less Gemini-like.

“You owe us that much,” Seth told him.

Make him angry.

“What?” Harry croaked, annoyed that, on top of everything else, he suddenly had a headache.

Seth’s expression softened. “I said, you owe us the truth.”

Make. Him. Angry.

Harry wondered if the torture had driven him to madness.

There is only one way to find out.

Harry forced his head up in time to see Neishi’s expression shift, suddenly alert.

Make . . .

“The only thing I owe you,” the words burst from Harry’s cracked lips, “is a lifetime membership in the Titan Super-Max Club—and maybe a new face, seeing as you ruined the last one.”

“Harry,” Seth’s voice took on a warning edge, “don’t do this.”

“Do what?” he gasped out the question. “Point out you’re nothing but a pissant wannabe Big Bad with self-esteem issues?”

Okay, not his strongest.

Obviously, the voice that was, he now realized, in his head agreed.

Not helpful, he thought back.

“Dammit, Harry—”

“Listen to me, you pathetic little shit,” Harry cut in. “We were never friends, do you hear me? Never. I felt . . . I felt sorry for you.”

“No. That’s not tr—”

“Sorry for a spineless wuss who caved the second things got too tough in the Kelm—”

“It wasn’t—”

“Gemini.” Neishi put a hand on Seth’s arm.

“I am not Gemini!”

“No,” Harry agreed, “you’re not. Gemini has a spine.”

Seth.” Neishi’s eyes flicked hatred at Harry. “You are—”

“A loser,” Harry rasped on. “A cipher with some cy-skills and nothing else.”

“Lies!” Seth hissed.

“So what’d you do?” Harry asked, pushing himself, pushing Seth. “You let Gemini take over. Things fell apart, and you, you mewling coward, you couldn’t hold, so you gave your body to Gemini . . . a liar and a cheat and a two-bit hacker who used your brains and your body to fuck you over but goo—”

“LIAR!”

“Seth!” Neishi jumped between the two men, but Seth had already buried his blade in Harry’s shoulder.

“I am not a two-bit hacker,” Gemini told him.

Dimly, Harry heard Neishi assert what slim control she could over the frothing Gemini before walking him out of the room, slamming the door behind them.

This left Harry alone—still hanging from the ceiling—still with a knife in his shoulder.

Well? What are you waiting for?

He almost rolled his eyes. “I’m going to assume you’ve never been strung up by the wrists for any length of time?”

I see your point.

Then, even as the voice faded, Harry experienced an adrenal rush so strong he almost jerked a shoulder from its socket.

A single heartbeat later, he was using his previously inert arms to pull himself up, and up—just high enough for his left hand to get the knife out of his right shoulder and slice through the rope.

He hit the ground rolling, hands unwrapping themselves from the bindings as he asked, “Did you do that?”

What do you think?

Harry grunted, came up to his feet, and grabbed Neishi’s case from the table before heading for the exit.

There is a guard about to enter.

Harry grimaced but didn’t stop. Instead, he used his momentum to slam the metal case into the face of the man who was just walking into the cell. “Thanks,” he said.

The voice in his head chose not to answer, so Harry, still holding Neishi’s briefcase of horrors, dashed through the door and headed to the right.

Left.

He huffed out a frustrated breath, but he turned left.

* * *

Ray could barely believe it but, minutes after the face-off between Gavin and Sims, he was out on the street, fully dressed, all his gear returned.

Sure, the street looked like something out of a horror movie, and he could barely stand up straight, but hey, he was alive, right?

“Well, looky what’s here.” A rough voice emerged from the shadows.

Ray cast a blurry eye to the heavens. “Seriously?”

“Looks like Harvest came early, eh, mates?” another voice chimed in.

“I gots dibs on his shoes,” a third someone singsonged.

“I call the chrono on his wrist,” a fourth observed.

“Fellas, come on. Can’t we talk about this?” Ray threw up both hands in anticipation of the rush he knew was coming and had nil chance of winning.

And then . . .

“On second thought, looks like some rats already snacked on him,” another voice—female, and achingly familiar—flowed from behind Ray.

“On second thought, looks like some rats already snacked on him,” the first would-be thief echoed.

“Clothes don’t look like much, anyway,” the woman spoke again.

“Clothes don’t look like much, anyway,” the second thief offered.

“And that watch probably fell off a shuttle,” she suggested. “Why don’t we let this poor gentleman go his way?”

“Why don’t we let this poor gentleman go his way?” The first thief picked up the thread, and while Ray stared, all four predators backed away and melted into the dark from whence they’d come.

A moment later, a soft hand fell on Ray’s arm, and he turned to see—“Jessyn?”

“I am very pleased to see you,” she said.

Ray looked from Jessyn to the empty street around them, then back. “Did you just do the Jedi mind trick?”

At which point the little glimmer of strength that had gotten him this far dissipated utterly, leaving only darkness.

* * *

The rest of what Harry believed the weirdest escape in the history of escapes—and he’d broken out of the Kelm—continued with the occasional prompt to turn, take the emergency stairs and, every so often, a sudden injunction to duck through a door and wait while heavy footsteps clumped past. And all the while his heart pounded loud enough he half-expected it to echo.

At long last, however, he emerged in a back alley, somewhere in the city.

The sliver of sky between the buildings was shading to violet in the east.

The morning air chilled the perspiration on his bare skin, stinging the burns and fogging his breath.

To his left, only a few meters away, a black sedan flashed its headlights before one of the wing doors popped open.

Harry tucked Neishi’s case more securely under his arm and made for the car at a determined limp.

On reaching the sedan, he leaned down and looked in, and saw her.

She still wore the dress that looked like smoke.

“Lady,” he greeted the woman who had so recently walked through his memories and who, he felt certain, had just now saved him from an ugly death. “How did you find me?”

“Later,” she said before adding, “They will be looking for you by now.”

Harry sighed and climbed into the car.

He hadn’t even gotten his ass all the way down in the seat before the adrenal secretion the Lady had released in his system gave out, and he was sound asleep.

* * *

“Mr. Finn.”

“G’way.”

“I would, but you are on top of me.”

“What?” Harry’s eyes peeled open to view what had been a very nice dress, until some idiot had gotten blood all over it. “Sorry,” the idiot said, and started to push himself up, but only managed to topple himself from the seat. “Oops.”

“A little help, Mr. Degas,” Eineen Marifanne’s voice floated back, addressing someone else Harry couldn’t see.

Harry’s arm floated up in an approximation of a wave. “Hey, Captain.”

“I have him,” a male voice that had the flavor of New Verdun crept up from around Harry’s feet—presumably this Degas person—before a hand caught his arm and heaved him expertly from the floor of the car.

“Hi,” Harry greeted the fellow.

The Lady, freed from a lapful of Harry, sighed and said, “Upstairs.”

* * *

“Mmm. Jessyn . . . you smell good.”

“Thank you. But I am not Jessyn. I am Tahna.”

Ray was stretched out on his back and his head cradled in someone’s lap. “You were in my head,” he said, grinning with pleasure at having sussed this out.

“With Jessyn’s help, yes.”

Jessyn,” he sighed the name and tried to open his eyes again. They refused to budge. “Where is she?”

“We’ve made it.” Another voice, this one male and sort of familiar, replied.

Ray detected movement, heard the sound of car doors sliding open, and then he was hoisted up, pulled across a hard, fabric-covered surface, and bracketed between a pair of strong bodies.

Then they were moving, carrying him along.

His ears registered the rhythmic thump and clip of variously shod feet on pavement.

“Where are we?” he asked—whomever. “And where’s Jess—”

“Shh. Be quiet, Ray. Please.” Jessyn’s voice came from somewhere behind him. “Don’t worry. You are safe now.”

“And heavy,” the familiar voice said.

“Mollin! M’man!” Pleased to have identified the voice, Ray’s eyes cracked just enough to catch a glimpse of copper to his left.

“Shhh,” Jessyn said.

His eyes creaked open a little farther, and he saw Jessyn and an unfamiliar young woman with red-gold hair standing each to one side of an elevator, the doors of which were opening to display another party already inside.

“Harry!” he said as his rescuers shuffled him aboard.

“Ray,” the other man, likewise slung over a pair of shoulders, greeted him. “You look—”

“—like shit,” both men said at once.

“But seriously,” Harry added as the doors closed on the rescue operation, “how’d you find us?”

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