Scene 3, Chap 4, Book 8


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But we have to release you first.

It was well past midnight, several hours after Agent Kyles had lobbed the verbal grenade at Maximus’s feet, after which she left without a word or explanation.

He’d used the time to wash up, check his wounds, work out the remaining kinks in his body and take stock of his surroundings.

She hadn’t tried to keep him prisoner. He’d been free to move about and leave the premises, which he did, to check and secure the perimeter.

He determined that they were somewhere near Jamaica, Queens. Agent Kyles’ hideout was an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of town. It had all the necessary amenities, however, so Maximus couldn’t complain.

Just now, she quietly entered the small, rectangular safe house and bolted the door behind her, arms loaded with food and water.


Minutes later, she seared on a skillet (just barely) a half dozen slabs of T-bone steaks before piling them on a disposable plate for each of them along with a couple of bread rolls. The meat could hardly be called rare, with the amount of blood it was pooled in.

No vegetables. Which suited Maximus just fine. He hated vegetables. He was a meat and potatoes kind of male. With a regular dose of fresh blood on the side.

They ate in silence. It wasn’t exactly comfortable.

While Maximus sorted through possible scenarios in his head about how he got here, why Ariel Kyles was helping him, and what should be his next move, she didn’t seem to think about much at all beyond supper.

Supper and him.

Every time he looked up from his plate, he found her staring at him.

She wasn’t trying to catch his eye though. Her gaze was riveted on his mouth and jaw as he chewed, his throat when he swallowed. She stared at his shoulders and chest aplenty too. Sometimes for such long durations she forgot to eat her own food, her mouth going slack mid-chew.

She stared at him as if he was dessert.

He cleared his throat.

She blinked at the disturbance and slowly raised her eyes to his.

“I met up with your comrade, the ninja,” she informed him casually, as if it was an insignificant piece of information that didn’t really need mentioning.


“Yes,” she confirmed. “Let him know you’re still alive and whole, and that you’ll make contact in due course.”

“He believed you?”

She shrugged, unconcerned.

“Why would I lie? Besides, the video I showed him of you sleeping through your wounds seemed to convince him.”

She plopped the last piece of nearly raw steak into her mouth.

“Now, we can focus on our mission.”

She communicated the rest to him through her mind: releasing you.

Maximus shut down.

An overwhelming sense of foreboding descended upon him.

He’d spent his entire existence keeping himself bottled up, locked in. He shouldn’t ever be released. He didn’t want to be released.

Did he?

What did that even mean?

“First thing’s first,” she cut through his mental paralysis, “we need to get out of here.”

With efficiency and animal grace, she tossed their dishes in the trash and went about packing a number of items into a black utility backpack and a military duffle bag.

Knives, guns, ammo, MREs, first aid, binoculars, canteen, magnesium, rope, goggles. She also managed to squeeze in a couple of vacuum sealed snow parka and gloves.

“These should fit.”

She brought over a roll of thick socks, a pullover, and a pair of heavy duty combat boots.

It was June in New York. The weather was usually sunny and already climbing to eighty degrees during the day. Although the nights could still get chilly, it didn’t warrant so many layers, especially with the type of body heat Maximus packed.

Looked like they were going on a trip.

“You have a particular destination in mind?” he asked as he pulled on the gear.

“Siberia,” she replied matter-of-factly, as if that was the only logical destination. “I have a ride for us on a cargo plane heading out of JFK at oh two hundred.”

“What’s in Siberia?”

“You tell me.” She gave him a scrutinizing look. “You’re the one who keeps dreaming about it.”

How would she know about his dreams?

“Through the cerebral link we share,” she answered the question he’d barely thought as if he’d spoken out loud.

“Through her.”

He wished it went both ways, this link. He couldn’t glean anything of her thoughts at all, not unless she pushed them at him.

Which reminded him—“Why do you say Simca is inside you? How can that be?”

Agent Kyles shrugged as she strapped on a utility belt.

“I guess I was the nearest viable host body on hand when her soul departed upon her death. You should know better than me. I’m just extrapolating based on the research I’ve accumulated on your Kind after a decade of digging.”

“I’ve never been to Siberia,” he pointed out.

“That’s why we’re going,” she asserted. “Your other dreams come from memories. Ancient Rome, Alexandria, the wilds of Africa. This is the only one that comes as a vision. One in which you are surrounded by snow and ice on top of a jagged mountain range. The topography in your visions matches the Mid-Siberian mountains.”

Now that she spoke about it, Maximus felt compelled to go there. He didn’t know why. He didn’t know what awaited him, but she was right.

He had to find out.

“How do you know all this?”

He was badly shaken, though he tried to hide it.

The woman seemed to have peered into his very soul!

She’d seen things he’d never clearly seen himself. And he didn’t even know why she was helping him.

She tapped a finger to her temple.

“I triangulated the images from your dreams to real locations around the world. I haven’t been sitting idle while you’ve been getting your beauty sleep for the past three days.”

He stared at her flummoxed. She was…incredible.

She motioned with a tilt of her head to the door.

“Time to head out. You strong enough to keep up?”

Maximus stood with his long legs braced apart, breathing deeply in and out. He still felt weak from his barely healed wounds, but, yes, he should be able to keep up with a wisp of a human woman. Her tough-ass competence notwithstanding.

He just wasn’t sure he was ready to follow her lead. He didn’t trust her despite having depended on her while at his most vulnerable.

“You’re not afraid of little ‘ole me, are you, Mad Max?” she prodded when he didn’t move or answer.

He bristled reflexively at the name she called him.

She teased him so easily, and with such affectionate familiarity. It confused the hell out of him.

But then she pierced him with that uncanny golden green stare, suddenly dead serious.

“You know you have to do this, Maximus. You know it’s time. What have you got to lose?”

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