In Which We Make War Plans
No one got much sleep. I barely got any at all. Afternoon the next day (by then it was the same day, just later), Adam told me to go speak to Logan and Holly about the events to come.
Holly wasn’t hard to reach. My phone was loaded with multiple missed calls from her. She was all but unintelligible on most of them, demanding to know why the hell I hadn’t called her, why she was learning of my victory and subsequent trial from Fred. “Call me back and tell me everything,” she snapped.
She hadn’t calmed down; she picked up on the first ring. “Hailee! Dear God, Hailee!” she gasped, her voice so high and sharp it nearly broke my eardrum “I thought you were dead.” Her voice trembled as she said that, and I realized she was close to tears.
A tiny spike of guilt, like a nail, went through my heart. “I’m sorry, Holly. I swear, I called as soon as I could.”
“Tell me everything. Ev-er-y-thing, Hailee, right now. Go.”
“What has Fred told you?”
“You fought Adam. You won, but you didn’t kill him. His pack was pissed off. Last I heard they were sentencing you to exile or something.”
“That’s about it. There’s really nothing more to tell.”
“I want details,” she insisted.
So I gave her details. She listened, wide-eyed, occasionally covering her mouth with her hand in shock. “Damn,” she whispered when I was finished. “How do you do these things, Hailee?”
“I did it because I had to! I didn’t want to. It wasn’t like Adam gave me a choice, he attacked me.”
“But I would have run away,” she said. “I would have screamed for help and hid behind a dumpster. How are you not scared of anything, Hailee?”
I shrugged. “I’ve been groomed for this since I was thirteen, Holly. I’ve thought of pretty much anything that could happen, and it doesn’t scare me.”
“It would scare the hell out of me.”
“That’s why I think about it. I think about it over and over and over again, until I’m numb to it.”
It was silent for several seconds. “Where are you?” I asked.
“Are you busy?”
“I’m...on a date. Yes, yes I’m busy.”
“When can I see you?”
“I don’t know, Hailee! Sometime!” She said something to Francis that I couldn’t make out. “Is it important?”
“It’s important. It’s about the site, about what you’ve been doing.”
“You know I’m not running the site anymore. I wanted to be more directly involved.”
“Well, then you can be directly involved. That would be great, in fact. But we need your, um, your particular skills.”
“We’re launching a full-scale attack against the hunter base.”
Silence. Four, five, six, seven seconds of nothing on Holly’s end. “We’re coming over there.”
“Francis doesn’t have to — ”
“We’re coming over there.” She hung up on me.
I sighed. Well, that solved my problem, at least.
I was sitting outside the pack house, involuntarily dozing a little, when Holly and Francis walked up. “Hailee!”
“You’re tired. I get it. What was this nonsense I heard about an all-scale attack?”
“It wasn’t nonsense.” I attempted to stand, but found it wasn’t worth the effort.
Holly sat down on the concrete beside me, and Francis beside her. To anyone passing by (anyone who didn’t overhear our conversation), we were just three teen girls in combat boots loitering outside a warehouse shooting the breeze. I felt like I should be smoking a cigarette, just to complete the look. “What do you need me to do?”
“Get with Thalia. Find out what you can and get it to me. Exactly like you used to do on the site.”
Holly nodded. “Shouldn’t be hard.”
Francis made a noise, somewhere between scared and excited squeaking. “Am I going to.... I mean, is there something I can do to help, too?”
“There’s no need for you to get involved,” I said, right as Holly opened her mouth to say most likely the same thing. She nodded gratefully at me. “We have enough people on our side, I think. It’s risky for, ah, civilians.”
“Holly’s a civilian. She’s human, at any rate, not one of you.”
“Holly chose to be park of this. She pretty much insisted, actually.”
“Well, I insist too.”
Stubborn, stubborn humans. “Why?” I asked. “You don’t know me, or any of us, really, besides Jason.”
Francis shrugged. “I hate seeing anyone be hurt. Whether I know them or not.”
I certainly shared that sentiment. “If you insist,” I said. “Just know that it will be dangerous. We’re basically about to declare war on an ancient guild of seriously angry people with access to heavy artillery. Cyberwar, hacking, that’s one thing, this is a beast of an entirely different sort.”
She nodded. “I understand.”
“What Holly’s used to,” I continued, “no offense intended to Holly, is sneaky. It’s about as sophisticated as conflict gets, and what we’re about to get ourselves into is not. What we’re going to do now relies on pure brute force. Line the troops up on opposite sides of the field and charge. May the strongest army win.”
“Bring it on,” Holly said.
Francis looked somewhat more worried by the prospect, but she nodded. “I’m game,” she said.
“So,” Holly repeated, “what do you need us to do?”
I sighed. “That’s part of the problem. Beyond finding out what we can — and I’m not even sure what it is we need to find — I have no idea how to go about this. Neither does Adam or anybody else, which is inconvenient.”
The Lord doth work in mysterious ways, Gram always used to say,and she may have been right, because that was the exact moment a plan started to form in the back of my mind.
It was a crazy plan. A terrible plan. A plan that would probably end up getting us all killed. But it was a plan, and that was more than I’d had five minutes ago.
I jumped up. “I need to find Adam.”
Adam agreed that the plan was crazy, stupid, and liable to end in death, but he also agreed it was the only plan anyone had offered. “You think it’s even possible?” he asked.
“I know it’s possible,” I answered. “I’ve done it.”
The corners of his mouth turned up slightly. “That’s right,” he said. “You have.”
We went straight to planning. “We can’t break in the way I did before,” I told him.
“They’ll be expecting that.”
“Right. There will be much more security after the first break-in. Getting in will be hard, getting out will be harder.”
Adam nodded vigorously. By this time we were both pacing, making broad gestures with our hands as we spoke. We discussed Break-In 2.0 until we were both blue in the face, ultimately only ending up with thirty percent of a plan...which was thirty percent more than we started with.
When I went to Fred and Levi with our thirty percent of a plan, they were concerned. “We could do a lot of damage by striking first,” Levi said, thinking out loud. “But it could be a blow to us, too.”
“I know that. But anything we do could be a blow to us now, Levi. The Defenders aren’t going to stop. They will destroy us, when they get to us. Striking first is necessary, and striking hard. It isn’t going to be easy, or pretty. We’re going to lose people.”
I paused. People were going to die if we went through with this plan. Good people. Our people. Friends.
People were going to die if we didn’t go through with it, too.
“We have to try.”
Fred nodded. “She’s right. We have to try something. It’s not foolproof, but it is a strategy.”
“You’re talking about freeing at least twenty prisoners....”
“Not only that,” I reminded him. “Taking prisoners of our own.”
“Now that,” Levi butted in, “is the part that’s crazy.”
I agreed with him. “It is crazy. Crazy enough to get the Defenders’ attention.”
“And what do you intend to do after you get their attention?”
I sighed, leaning against the wall. “Truth be told, that depends entirely on what happens, and we won’t know what’s going to happen until we do it.”
“There will be no going back,” Levi said. “This is our declaration of war.”
“A war we’re going to win,” I said firmly.
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