The air knocked cleanly from Finn’s lungs as his chest collided with the cold metal floor of the basement. Groaning, he tried to lift his aching head — he had to get back on his feet, he had to get back on his feet right now — but as soon as he pushed his palms to the floor to jump up like a prizefighter, weight pushed him back down.
One of Mica’s henchmen crushed his foot into his wrist. Another stepped on the small of his back and another (or was it the same one? Were they all on him now? He couldn’t tell.), reached and gripped the back of his hair, pushing his head down into the ground.
Laughing, the man lifted Finn’s head, as if to help him up, and then shoved it down again sharply with a thud of metal.
He tasted blood in his mouth. Rusty and bitter.
Grimacing, Finn turned his head to the side, scraping his forehead against the floor. In the haze of the dark room, he squinted, glimpsing the figure of Mica pacing the perimeter of the room, back and forth, as if he were nervous. But his voice was excited. “I told you! I told you, Finnegan Riley!” he laughed. “I will not be made a fool of.”
The rest of his words were drowned out by a groan as Finn’s arm was twisted round to his back, pinning him in place. Over his head, he anticipated more than he actually saw the bat being lifted over him. It was not the first time his pilot’s one-step-ahead instincts kicked in and hopefully not the last, although he was generally much more confident in the air than he was on his feet. Or flat on the ground, as it were. But he’d gotten out of fights the scrappy way before, hadn’t he? Well, hadn’t he?
In the flash of the moment before the sawed-off bat was arched high in the air, Finn gritted his teeth and shot his free hand out, seizing the man’s leg and tugging it sharply in one motion so he staggered to the ground.
With a tremendous heave of effort, Finn put his palms to the ground and jumped to his feet.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Corra crossed through the back alleys of Genesi, her heart pounding in her throat. Panic gripped her. How could she have been so stupid? What if she couldn’t fix this? She couldn’t run the Beacon on her own. She needed her pilot and she needed her co-captain. They had to get Finn back.
Fortunately, out of some sense of duty, obligation, or simple kindness for an old friend, Alyx had risen to the occasion. Corra had never seen the girl fire a gun before, but now that she knew her origins, she got the sense that she couldn’t possibly be that bad at it. And any help was better than no help.
Corra stopped at a junction of alleyways and looked down at her hand where she had hurriedly scribbled the address they were looking for. “This way,” she called to Alyx and dashed down the road.
As she chased after, Alyx called, “So what’d your friend do to piss these guys off?”
Corra gritted her teeth, grimacing. “He punched their boss.”
“That sounds like a fun story.”
“It was supposed to be a quick job,” Corra explained hurriedly. “Just get the money from the guy, hand over his product and leave.”
“What happened? He wasn’t cooperative?” Alyx guessed.
“Oh he was cooperative. He was just an ass.” Corra rolled her eyes. “Riley didn’t take too lightly to his manner, got overcome by an urge to be chivalrous and–”
She slowed to a stop in front of a building. The address she had on her hand matched the number on the door. It was a shop. A butcher shop.
A lump formed in her throat. If they were trying to scare her, it was working.
“And here we are…” she finished, taking a step towards the door.
Alyx stood beside her, looking up at the sign. Clearly, her mind was in the same place as Corra’s. “And they want their money back?”
“Or they’ll kill him,” Corra muttered, finally swallowing the lump. “But I don’t have the money anymore.” She’d already given it to Callahan who was hardly likely to give it back, no matter how friendly he and Finn had seemed. The deal was done, it was too late and surely Mica knew that.
The worry must have shown on her face. “But that’s why we have these,” said Alyx, her tone encouraging as she lifted her rifle under her arm and cocked it.
Corra smiled at her sideways. “Thanks for helping with this. You didn’t have to. Really.”
“Nonsense,” Alyx replied simply. “You rescued me, least I can do is help rescue your friend. Besides. If I’m going with you on your ship, probably best the captains are still alive, don’t you think?”
“Alive and hopefully somewhat uninjured…” Corra muttered, though already she was doubting that was even a possibility. She had yet to meet a man in Mica’s position that didn’t have an unhealthy obsession with revenge.
She stepped forward and pushed open the door, afraid of what she’d find on the other side. “Let’s go.”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
The man’s shoulders gave one last sickening crack as Finn shoved him back into the stone wall. Finn’s other hand cracked over the man’s face, twice, and that was finally enough to make him stop struggling.
Short of breath and squinting through the blood in his eyes — he was running on pure fear and adrenaline now — Finn stepped back on his heel, watching as the man’s eyes rolled, and then slid to the floor, unconscious. So there were two left now — three if you counted Mica — which we were not odds that Finn found particularly favorable.
He managed to pull his torso back and duck just as another man rounded on him with the bat, but there was really nowhere to go, nowhere to flee, a truth that came to fruition a second later. The second man seized Finn’s neck from behind and shoved his back against the pillar in the room.
Grinning like he’d finally gotten his reward, Mica took the bat in his hand himself and stepped closer. Teasingly, he raised it for a moment, as if testing just how much Finn would flinch, and Finn was certain the bat was about to meet his face — but instead, Mica laughed and then did something else entirely.
He shoved the bat against Finn’s throat. The metal pressed hard against his Adam’s apple and Finn’s lungs strained with effort. His head swam, and his throat burned — he couldn’t breathe —
The voice cracked through the air like a whip. Mica’s grip on the bat loosened on his throat and sweet fresh oxygen rushed into his lungs; it took him a moment of catching his breath before Finn realized who it was that had shouted.
Silhouetted against the doorway, a long rifle aimed at Mica’s chest, Corra stood wearing a mask of fury like he’d never seen before. How had she found him down here? As far as Finn knew, they were in the basement of some butcher shop. How had she — ?
Finn blinked the blood out of his eyes. Corra wasn’t alone — a young woman with a maze of tattoos stood at her side, her own gun trained on Mica’s hired help. He had no idea who she was, but he was in no position to question who had come to his aid.
And Corra certainly had. In a dark voice, Corra growled, “Drop him now or so help me God I will shoot you in the head.”