“I want justice. And I want to free the boy who didn’t kill my brother.”
Kaede grunts in disbelief. “You’re living a sweet life, you know. Tucked in a cozy apartment in some rich sector. You know if the Republic finds out you’ve been talking to me, they’ll put you in front of a firing squad. Same as Day.”
The mention of Day standing before a firing squad sends chills down my spine. From the corner of eye, I see Tess wince as well. “I know,” I reply. “Are you going to help me?”
“You’re fond of Day, aren’t you?” Kaede says.
I hope the darkness hides the rising color in my cheeks. “That’s irrelevant.”
She lets out a laugh. “What a joke! Poor little rich girl’s fallen in love with the Republic’s most famous criminal. And it’s even worse since you’re the reason he’s there in the first place. Right?”
Stay calm. “Are you going to help me?” I ask again.
Kaede shrugs. “We’ve always wanted Day. He’d make a perfect Runner for us, y’know? But we’re not in the business of doing good deeds. We’re professionals, we have a long agenda, and it doesn’t involve charity projects.” Tess opens her mouth to protest, but Kaede motions for her to stay quiet. “Day may be a popular figure out here on the streets, but he’s still one guy. What’s in it for us? Just the joy of getting him on board? The Patriots aren’t going to risk a dozen lives just to free a single criminal. It’s inefficient.”
Tess lets out a sigh. I exchange a look with her, and I can tell that this is something she’s been trying in vain to convince Kaede to do ever since Day was arrested. This might even be the reason why Tess joined the Patriots in the first place—to beg them to save Day.
“I know.” I take off my backpack and toss it to Kaede. She doesn’t open it. “That’s why I brought this. There are two hundred thousand Notes in there, minus what I handed you earlier. A decent fortune. It’s my reward money for capturing Day, and it should be enough payment for your assistance.” My voice lowers. “I’ve also included an electro-bomb. Level three. Worth six thousand Notes. It’ll disable guns for two minutes in a half-mile radius. I’m sure you know how difficult it can be to get one on the black market.”
Kaede unzips the backpack and sorts through the contents. She doesn’t say anything, but I can see the pleasure in her body language, the way she hunches hungrily over the bills and runs her good hand across their crisp surfaces. She lets out a grunt of delight when she reaches the electro-bomb, and her eyes widen when she holds up the metallic sphere to inspect it. Tess watches her with hopeful eyes.
“This is pocket change to the Patriots,” she says after she finishes. “But you’re right—it might be enough to convince my boss to let me help you out. But how can we be sure this isn’t a trap? You sold Day to the Republic. What if you’re lying to me too?”
Pocket change? The Patriots must have deep pockets. But I just nod. “You have a right to be suspicious of me,” I say. “But think of it this way. You can walk away right now, with two hundred thousand Notes and a rather handy weapon, and never lift a finger to help me. I’m putting my trust in you and in the Patriots. I’m begging you to put your trust in me.”
Kaede takes a deep breath. I can tell she’s still not convinced. “Well, what did you have in mind?”
My heart skips a beat. I smile genuinely at her. “First things first. Day’s brother John. I plan to help him escape tomorrow night. No earlier than eleven P.M., no later than eleven thirty.” Kaede gives me an incredulous look, but I ignore her. “A fake death—a claim that John’s infected with the plague. If I can help him escape from Batalla Hall tomorrow night, I’ll need you and a couple of Patriots to get him out of the sector. Keep him safe.”
“We’ll be there, if you can make it.”
“Good. Now, Day is obviously going to be trickier. His execution happens two evenings from now, at exactly six P.M. Ten minutes before that, I’ll be the first person leading him to the firing squad yard. I have a secure access ID—I should be able to get Day out through one of the east hall’s six back exits. Have some Patriots wait for us there. I expect a crowd of at least two thousand to show up for the execution, which means a crew of at least eighty security guards. The back exits need to be as sparsely guarded as possible. Do something—anything—to make sure most of the soldiers have to go help there. If the first block past Batalla Hall doesn’t have a lot of security, you’ll have enough of a head start to escape.”
Kaede raises an eyebrow. “You’re suicidal. You know how impossible this sounds?”
“Yes.” I pause. “But I don’t really have much choice.”
“Well, go on. What about the square?”
“Diversion.” My eyes lock onto Kaede’s. “Create chaos in Batalla Square, as much chaos as you can manage. Enough chaos to force most of the soldiers guarding the back exits to enter the square and help contain the crowd—if only for a couple of minutes. That’s what the electro-bomb might help you with. Set it off in the air, and it’ll shake up the ground in Batalla Hall and around it. It shouldn’t hurt anyone, but it’ll definitely stir up some panic. And if the guns in the vicinity are disabled, they can’t shoot at Day even if they see him escaping along a rooftop. They’ll have to chase him or try their luck with less accurate stun guns.”