Chapter 15:


Code: Zero Defect

Eventually, we stumbled upon a massive parking garage filled with nothing but empty space.

"Alright, you're in the clear," Astrid said through the comms. "Doesn't look like Sigastiris is giving chase."

"Then we rest here," Holiday commanded.

She gently lowered her body and sat me on the ground. With extreme caution, she rolled up my sweatpants to find a huge bullet hole with blood still dripping down.

"Shit..." Holiday muttered. "Don't move."

"Let me do it," Zephyr said, pushing herself out of Minerva's arms.

Holiday met her with an angry glare. "You're in no condition to be doing anything right now."

"With all due respect, Captain, I'm the only one here with ample knowledge of human anatomy."

It took Holiday a few seconds to think before she finally let out a sigh. She then lifted herself off the ground and stood to the side for Zephyr to begin. Minerva rushed over with a satchel filled with medical supplies.

Just like the last time I got injured, Zephyr began the first aid process. Since the bullet completely pierced through my leg, there wasn't a need to remove anything. Instead, she applied some kind of liquid that burned my skin. As painful as it was, I kept still.

After that, she wiped off the excess blood and attached a small device next to the hole.

"What is that?" I asked.

"A cellular reconstruction module," she replied as if I was supposed to know what it meant.

When she saw the confused look on my face, she sighed.

"It'll heal your leg faster. That's all you need to know."

"G-got it," I said. "Thanks."

"Thank Minerva. She's the one who made it."

"Eh? I did? Oh, yeah, I did!" Minerva exclaimed with a huge grin.

Zephyr finished up by wrapping a bandage around my entire shin. I feel kind of bad. Every time I get injured, she's the one who has to take care of me.

"Thank you," I said.

"Don't mention it," Zephyr replied as she stood.

"What about you?" Holiday asked. "You just faced off against a general."

"The fight didn't last long enough for me to sustain any considerable injuries. I'm in no need of first aid."

"Is that so? Good."

Holiday began walking up to her. As soon as she was within reach, she lifted her hand and threw it across Zephyr's face. The thundering crackle filled the empty parking garage. It echoed so loud that the entire city probably heard it, but the silence that followed was much more deafening.

While Holiday fixed her disdainful gaze on her, Zephyr neglected to tilt her head back. Her face was blank, an unexpected reaction to having been slapped. It seemed like she knew full well where this was going.

"What... were you thinking?" Holiday muttered as calmly as she could, but her anger was obvious.

Finally, Zephyr turned back, her expression unchanging.

"Do you care that little about your life that you would go overdrive?!" Holiday's rage continued. "You know what it does to us—to you, and yet... I don't understand! Why didn't you just run? Why didn't you just... I don't know! Anything but that?!"

I never thought Holiday could make a face like that. However, it flowed so naturally. Her dismay seeped through more so than her confident exterior.

Her emotions and words... were filled with so much sorrow. It was as if this wasn't the first time she had shown those feelings.

"Answer me, Zephyr," she growled.

"Would you?" Zephyr rebuked.

And that was all it took for Holiday to take a step back. Her eyes widened as if her mind was being filled with that exact scenario. She bit her lips, suppressing whatever words would've come out had she not.

"Look at him, Captain," Zephyr said. "That's Nemesis's kid brother right there. Would you have run without him?"

Holiday shifted her eyes to me. I can see it... Regret. It's the exact same look Mother has whenever she looks at our family portrait.

"Either way, what I did would've prompted this conversation all over again," Zephyr sneered with a subtle hint of anger. "I stayed, ready to give my life to protect him. That was against your orders, and I admit to that. But then what? What if I ran? Ran and left him behind?"

I tilted my head down in shame while Holiday kept her silence. I can't deny that I'm only alive right now because Zephyr decided to stay. The reason? I'm Nelia's little brother. That's all there is to it, but that's exactly the problem. I'm so weak compared to them, and it almost cost Zephyr her life.

"I'll tell you, Captain," she continued. "You would've done the exact same thing. You would've told me the exact same thing. Because you wouldn't have been able to leave him either."

As much as it seemed like Holiday wanted to speak, nothing came out of her mouth.

"We failed her once," Zephyr muttered. "Do you really think... our minds can handle a second time?"

Holiday fell to the ground and buried her head into her legs.

Nemesis of Calypso... These guys hold her in such high regard. It makes me wonder just how long she's been their captain and what kind of influence she had on them.

Calypso was a famous spec-ops squad that gained their reputation as the main assault team during the Reclamation. As far as I know, Nelia never showed up once, yet they speak of her as if she has done so much for them.

The fact that Nelia's death affected not only her family, but these guys as well... It makes me sad.

"Ehhh? Why's it so quiet in here?" asked a familiar voice.

I looked up to see Loki approaching us from the entrance of the garage. While Zephyr and Loki pretty much ignored her presence, Minerva perked right up and greeted her with a welcoming smile.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"Why wouldn't I be?" Loki scoffed. "Army or whatever, they're all the same if they don't have a code that can match me. Anyway, why's the mood so depressing?"

"Um... W-well..."

Loki turned away from her to look at me. She took a second to access the bandages on my leg before tilting her eyes at the other two, who made it way too obvious that something had happened between them.

"Tsk, what the hell..." she muttered. "Hey, wake up, guys. We need to move before the army reaches us."

With a heavy breath, Holiday picked herself up and wore a confident look once more.

"Astrid," she said.

"You're clear to move further through the abandoned sector," Astrid replied. "Multiple hostile forces are sweeping through the entire area. Army. Stealth is the only option here. Kill only if you have to. Get caught, and Sigastiris will show up for sure. We don't know what other general might be in the area as well, so exercise the utmost caution."

"Understood. Strider, can you walk?"

With Zephyr's help, I was able to stand. Much to my surprise, the pain in my leg was nearly gone, but walking on my own still proved to be slightly difficult. I'm not too familiar with advanced tech like... what did she call it? A cellular reconstruction module? Well, whatever it is, it's clearly working.

"I can manage," I said.

Holiday nodded her head. "Good. Alright, Calypso. Let's move."

What began as a personal vendetta against the corrupted coatsmen somehow turned into a skirmish against the army. I've never been so close to death, and it's all because of Calypso. I can't say that I'm all too happy with how it turned out.

If I make it out of here alive, my name will be associated with Calypso forever. It won't just be the coatsmen who come after me. It'll be the army, possibly the Queen's Guards as well.

A tough change, for sure, but it was gonna happen eventually. I just didn't expect it to be so soon.

None of that matters now. What's done is done. I just need to focus on getting out of here.