Strength of Purpose

Someone had survived. It wasn’t one of the agents Coats had dropped down with, but it was better than being alone. Especially since he was hardly alone.

He’d expended seven rounds on their attackers. Only one of them had gone down. However, it had stayed down, so he counted it a clear enough win. The prize: getting clear with the kid.

There was no way to be entirely certain that any of the buildings were secure. Instead, Coats found one with a fire escape and began hauling them upwards. His arms ached by the third floor, with four more before they would reach the roof.

“You doing all right, Simon?”

The kid’s chin scraped against Coats’s shoulder. He wasn’t shaking, for which Coats was immensely grateful.

Suddenly, he wished that one of the others was there. Not for the reason he had done since things had gone piriformis. More specific and arguably idiotic than that. “Sorry it’s just you and me,” he heard himself say. Speech had a calming effect on most people. “My friends are all better at this sort of thing.”

“Your friends?”

There was none of the rasp in Simon’s voice that had slowly begun leaving Coats’s. Although the kid did sound smaller than his actual physical presence. Coats shifted him and started up the next flight of stairs. “Yeah. Local government called us in as a favour–we’re kind of like heroes for hire.”

“Oh. How come you said they’re better?”

Coats tried to laugh, but the sound wouldn’t come. “The fire escape made me think of it.” He grunted with effort. Too out of breath to talk, really, but having started, he didn’t like to just stop. “Holiday is a big guy. He could carry both of us up to the roof without noticing the extra weight.”

They didn’t have much farther to go. Still, he knew that Holiday would have been faster. With more circus-y strongman finesse.

“And Cressida is…” He pressed his lips together to shut himself up. No reason to bring up Cressida. Even someone as young as Simon would not appreciate being told that she would have been better at easing his fear.

Besides that, Coats couldn’t bring himself to talk after saying her name. The rasp returned with a vengeance.

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