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I’m going to kill him, Austin thinks, his pulse pounding in his ears as he storms out of the Underground’s infirmary. For what he did to Jacob, for what he’s doing to Rainer and Dallas - I’ll kill him. Judging by everything I’ve heard today, the world would be better off if Abbott Kilgannon had died a long time ago.
What if you can’t? another voice in his head, one that sounds too much like Richard for comfort, chines in. He reaches the hallway where Dallas and Rainer split off from him and Finn, and turns down it, keeping his eyes peeled for any sign of a struggle. You couldn’t even kill Gen when you were supposed to. You were still trying to worm your way out of the duel, even at the last minute. And then you just gave up and let Landis take over for you.
Abbott’s a monster, he thinks. I’ve killed monsters before.
“Austin!” a voice from behind him says, slightly out of breath, like this isn’t the first time it’s called his name. Austin turns on his heel to see Finn chasing after him, looking not angry, but frantic.
“Austin, wait,” Finn says, as he finally falls into step beside Austin. “Let me help you. You’ll only get yourself turned around, down here.”
“Your help has gotten me nowhere so far,” Austin snaps. “Obviously nobody down here knows anything, and Abbott got in under our noses while we were wasting our time.”
“Look, I’m just as pissed as you are,” Finn says. “I don’t exactly relish the idea of that bastard sneaking in to try and off you all, but -”
“But nothing,” Austin says. There’s a slightly ajar door up ahead, and he speeds towards it, Finn struggling to match his pace. “He’s here, and I’m going to find him. And when I do -”
“What, you’re going to kill him?” Finn asks. “Have you ever even killed anyone before?”
“That’s none of your business,” Austin growls.
Finn seems about to retort, but stops, as they reach the door. There’s no sound coming from within, no activity, just an eerie silence. Austin pushes lightly on the door, opening it a little wider, and peers inside. The interior is largely bare, a stripped-down dorm room of sorts, with a bed that’s really just a mattress sitting on a frame, and a couple stacked storage bins pushed into one corner. On the side of the bed farthest from Austin and Finn, there’s a dark shape sprawled on the floor, only halfway visible from the doorway. Austin rushes into the room, and towards the shape, the sound of his pulse once again drowning out any warnings Finn might have to give.
It’s Rainer. They’re lying face-up, a pool of their own blood soaking the floor behind their head, and for a brief, horrifying moment, Austin is sure that they’re dead. But at a second glance, he can see them breathing shallowly, blinking up at him.
“Rainer,” Austin says, kneeling on the floor next to them. “What happened? Was he here?”
“Dallas,” Rainer says, their voice faint. Their eyes are unfocused - it’s hard to say, but they’re probably concussed, or disoriented from blood loss. Either way, they need a doctor, and soon.
“What happened to Dallas?” Austin asks. He bends down a little closer, towards Rainer. “Was Abbott here? Did he attack you?”
Rainer struggles to sit up, wincing in pain. “He was…I didn’t even see him. Just hit me…and I blacked out. Hurts like a bitch.”
“Don’t sit up,” Austin says hurriedly, helping Rainer lie back down on the floor. “Did you see anything before you blacked out? Did you hear them leave?”
“No,” Rainer shakes their head. “But Dallas…his chip…”
“His chip?” Austin asks.
“We microchip the criminals in rehab.” Rainer closes their eyes, pronouncing each word with a visible amount of effort. “So we can track them down…if they run off.”
So as long as Dallas is with Abbott, we’ll be able to see where Abbott is. Smart. Austin straightens up a little, thinking. He might even have gone voluntarily, knowing we can use the chip to find him again.
“Does Abbott know about the microchips?” Finn asks. It’s a question Austin hadn’t considered - Abbott was probably at the DPR while it was being put in place, but how much interaction did he really have with the criminal rehabilitation program?
“Abbott knows…helped implant some of them.” Rainer fumbles for something in the pocket of their dress, eventually sliding out a sleek, rectangular device with a screen that takes up the majority of its surface. They hold it up towards Austin. “Here. The tracker.”
Austin takes the device, exchanging a look with Finn as he does so. Unless it’s his imagination, they’re both thinking the same thing. Abbott knows about the chips, so he’ll probably try and take Dallas’s out as soon as he can. We’ve got to catch up to him before that happens.
“Rainer needs a doctor,” Austin says aloud, rising to his feet.
“I can take them to the infirmary.” Finn stoops down, scooping Rainer up into a clumsy bridal carry, one arm supporting their back and the other under their knees. “Unless you’d rather have me drop them off at the Department.”
Austin looks up at him. “You could do that without getting caught?”
“I got into your brother’s hospital room without being caught, didn’t I?” Finn smiles cheekily.
“Fine,” Austin says, “take them to the DPR, then. I’d rather people not think you were holding us hostage down here.”
Finn laughs, but doesn’t bother to argue, carrying Rainer out of the room.
Austin examines the tracking device carefully. There’s a button about halfway up its side, and as he presses down on it with his thumb, the whole screen lights up. On it is a display with Dallas’s photo, paragraphs of information (presumably from his DPR file), and a small thumbnail of a map with a glowing, blue dot. Tentatively, Austin taps the screen with his thumb, just over where the map is.
The map enlarges, filling the screen. It’s a map of the city, the above-ground Havenwood, though it should still be fairly easy to navigate. The blue dot remains in place, showing what Austin assumes is Dallas’s location. Not far from that, on the map, is a green dot. Experimentally, Austin moves out into the hall, watching the screen. Confirming his suspicions, the green dot moves a fraction of an inch towards the blue one.
After a few false starts, moving this way and that down the hallway to gauge exactly where he should be walking, Austin sets off after Dallas. The blue dot on the map isn’t moving, which must mean that Abbott is taking the microchip out of Dallas right now, or it’s already out, and just lying on the floor somewhere. Austin’s heart hammers as he watches the tracking device’s screen, expecting for the signal to be lost any second, the dot to suddenly and unceremoniously wink out on the map. His pace quickens into a run almost unconsciously.
The green dot grows closer and closer to the blue one, and eclipses it just as Austin stops in front of a door in a hallway he doesn’t think he’s been down before. He’s well and thoroughly lost, now, but presumably Dallas can help navigate their way back to the infirmary, once this is all over.
Austin reaches for the door handle, and pauses, considering. I need a plan. I can’t just go in there and expect Abbott to go down without a fight.
But, he thinks, Abbott’s a coward, according to everyone else. He’s never personally attacked anyone before Jacob. He’s a scientist, for God’s sake. If it comes down to it, then yeah, I can probably take him in a fight.
He grips the handle firmly, with new resolve, and opens the door.
The room inside is roughly half the size of the one Rainer was in, a box-like space resembling a doctor’s office more than anything. An operating table takes up much of the middle of the room, and just behind it, near a countertop that takes up much of the back wall, is Dallas. He’s hunched over, his back to the door, and doesn’t seem to notice Austin’s arrival, more occupied with something in front of him. One of his arms is bent at the elbow, resting on the countertop, and the other is moving in careful, minute motions, though Austin can’t see what he’s working on. There’s no sign of Abbott, anywhere in the room.
“Dallas,” Austin says.
Dallas jumps sharply, and turns around. As he does so, it becomes apparent that both of his sleeves are rolled up above the elbow, blood flowing freely from a neat, surgical cut in the forearm of his left arm. A scalpel dangles from his right hand. He grins lazily at Austin, leaning back against the countertop.
“Well, Jesus, you shouldn’t scare a guy like that. I cut one wrong nerve, and I might as well be cutting my whole hand off.”
“Where’s Abbott?” Austin asks, shoving the tracking device into his back pocket.
“Abbott?” Dallas laughs. “Can’t say I’ve seen him.”
Austin’s pulse quiets in his ears, and he reaches behind him to lock the door, still blocking it with his body. The preternatural sense that usually warns him of impending danger hasn’t yet kicked in, but he’s smart enough to know when things are about to get very bad, very fast.
“What are you doing?” he asks, though he suspects he already knows the answer.
“Cutting out my microchip,” Dallas says, like it’s the most obvious answer in the world. Like he’s disappointed in Austin for even asking. He turns around again, putting his arm back up on the countertop. “Just figured I’d escape while I was already down here. Pretty silly to look a gift horse in the mouth, you know?”