They exchanged tense smiles as Blaise approached. Eden’s heart threatened to rise to his throat and choke him as he met those deep green eyes behind their wire frames. But for the first time in what felt like months, Eden was not met with cold callousness. Blaise’s expression softened somehow, and a cautious smile formed over his lips as he looked at Eden. He nodded in greeting before turning to his father.
“She’s ready,” Blaise said, holding out his comm. “Her team is headed there now.” As he turned to Eden, he asked, “Are you ready?”
Eden nodded despite the tightness in his throat. “Yes,” he said.
They set off into the deepest expanse of the warehouse district, hooded and cloaked, with Blaise leading the way. Harker and Iris stayed behind, tending to August, while Micah and Delta followed in Eden’s wake, supporting merely him with their presence. Booker, too, trailed along behind. Of the five of them, he was the one the most familiar with Clara and how she liked to work. Though his attendance unnerved Eden, it was undoubtedly for the best.
The building itself was easy to find: arguably the most run-down in the entire area with cracked windows and graffitied brick walls that were beginning to crumble. It was nowhere near any life in Tartarus and obviously had not been used in several years, if ever. They tramped through the rubble and dirt, entering the building through a side door overlooking an empty alleyway.
On the inside, this warehouse looked just like any other building in Tartarus. There were no distinguishing characteristics, which was most likely why Clara had chosen it. Rats and roaches crawled about in the pervasive darkness, their quiet clickings the only scant noise in the gloomy silence. Dust had long since covered every exposed surface, a heavy layer of grime and decay that drifted into the air as the movement of their bodies disturbed it.
Micah stood at Eden’s side, silent yet comforting, like a small phantom, powerful and radiant. Eden smiled and took his hand under his cloak. His heart began to race as Micah’s fingers wound through his own, though he could feel the sweat of his palm, the shaking of his bones.
“What are you thinking, Eden?” Fear seemed to break through Micah’s usually well-positioned mask of placid composure. “Where’s your head?”
“I’m not sure,” he whispered back. It was true. There was little he was sure about. Little else besides the feeling of Micah’s hand in his own.
A creaking at the side door announced a new arrival. Eden broke from his quiet contemplation as a diminutive, dark-skinned woman stepped into the darkness, holding a lantern and carrying a bulky black bag over her shoulder. She was followed by two larger EPs, dressed in full riot gear. Immediately, Eden’s heart set to beating erratically. Had they been betrayed? He sensed Booker and Micah stiffening beside him, saw Booker’s hand twitch at his side.
“Booker,” she responded in a smooth, deep voice. Slowly, she raised her hands in the air as if in surrender. “You recognize my men, Dirk and Rivero. They’re here to ensure my protection. I’m sure you understand.”
Booker nodded. “You have what you need to get this done?”
“Of course. If you’ll allow it, we’ll begin. We don’t have much time.”
Tightly, he nodded and gestured for her to come forward. “Have your men lay their weapons down over here,” he said, indicating the wall behind him. “We don’t want anyone getting hurt.”
“Do it,” Clara commanded the EPs behind her. They complied, laying their rifles down by Booker’s feet. Clara eyed Booker with a smirk on her face, crow’s feet decorating the skin beside her eyelids. “And here I thought you would be able to trust me by now.”
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