24: CAPE TOWN THROWDOWN

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We reached Cape Town at around nine in the morning, when the city was just reaching a point of wakefulness. Everyone was awake again, the SUV was inching closer and closer to us, and according to Bravo, we were still across town from Gray's beach house.

"How long?" I asked, driving with two hands now instead of one. Though I had a keen feeling that I was going substantially over whatever speed limit, I couldn't say I cared.

The SUV was no longer trying to be inconspicuous. It remained in my rearview mirror with every turn, and every increase of speed. I couldn't see in the windows -- they were tinted black -- and the vehicle was plateless . . . not that calling the cops would've done anything.

"Twenty minutes, fifteen if you keep driving like this," Legion answered.

I ignored his smart remark in favor of pressing further down on the gas pedal.

"Can't lead them straight there," Rebel remarked calmly. I could see him focused on me, his eyes shining in the morning light. "We're going to need a distraction. Losing them doesn't seem like an option."

"We could blow up the car," Sergeant volunteered.

"Not without getting out of it, we can't," Gunner disagreed immediately. "Look, they haven't started shooting yet--"

Before he could finish his sentence, a blaring siren cut through the air. My gaze cut to my left, where a duo of cop cars were whizzing down a side street, headed straight toward us.

Given there were two of them, I knew there was no way I was being singled out for speeding. "Bastards," I growled under my breath, taking an abrupt left down the next side street and nearly hitting a stand on the sidewalk in the process. "They called the police."

"Not sure if that's worse than shooting or not," Legion commented.

"It draws attention we don't want," Rebel said flatly. "Trust me, it's worse." His reached for me then, grabbing my arm and forcing me to glance at him for a split-second. "We need to pull a Paris." The short look I'd granted him was just enough that I could see the somberness in his eyes.

I did my best to suppress a groan. "You know, we need to come up with a better term for that disaster, because I actually happen to enjoy Paris--"

"Risk," Rebel cut in pointedly. "We're in close quarters, we've gotta ditch the car -- do it."

I growled lowly, purposefully shaking his hand off me and dedicating my complete attention to my driving. "Fine."

I vaguely heard someone clear their throat, followed by Legion asking, "What exactly does 'a Paris' entail?"

I didn't answer. I couldn't. I was too busy focusing. If I was going to pull a Paris, I needed to time everything perfectly. I blocked out the sound of the wailing sirens, the glimmer of silver that still shone in my rearview, the flashing lights that glowed in my sideview mirrors . . .

In the very distant back of my conscious, I heard Rebel say, "Special kind of car crash. You're gonna want to hold onto something."

That was the last thing anyone got to say before I acted. I twisted the wheel to the left at near inhuman speed, never letting up on the gas pedal, and thus forcing the vehicle to be thrown clear in the air, onto its side. It rolled immediately, skidding and screeching across the road in a roar of sparks and ear-splitting sound.

The vehicle came to a stop on its roof. All five of us responded faster than any normal person would after such a crash. I wriggled out of my window, removing my handgun from its holster in the same fluid movement. Without looking, I flipped the safety off and racked the gun, eyes lingering on the approaching cop cars and SUV.

The soft foom of the vehicle I'd just crawled out of catching on fire drew my attention away.

Fire began to lick at the sky, eating away at the metal already, and it was at that moment that I realized Rebel and Team Bravo were on the other side of the vehicle. Gunner was left on my side, nearest to the cops, and I forced myself to take a steadying breath.

Rebel and I made eye contact over the overturned vehicle. No words needed be exchanged; we knew how this worked. He arched a brow at me, his attention flicking between myself and the approaching threat, and I responded with a confident nod. He smiled ever-so-slightly before taking off, and that was all the cue I needed to turn away from him.

Gunner lingered at my side now, his eyes narrowed not on the cops, but the SUV, his machine gun resting comfortably in his hands. "Plan?" he asked.

"I'd say use your powers," I murmured, assessing the street we were on quickly, "but I'd rather not cause a public scene. So instead we're going with Plan B."

"Why do I have a feeling I'm going to hate Plan B?" he asked.

"Because you've got okay instincts." That was all I could say before the cops were climbing out of their cars, weapons raised, demanding we drop ours and get on the ground. The SUV was rolling to a stop then, too, but they weren't the clear and present -- the cops were.

So I did what I do best. I fired off three shots in quick succession; two taking out a tire on each cop car, the third drilling straight through the middle of the windshield of the SUV in warning. As I had fired, I moved; I grabbed Gunner's wrist and yanked him around our flaming vehicle, heading for another side road.

"Don't fire," I instructed him as we began to run, "unless I say so. Got it?"

He managed a nod as he ran, keeping up with me as I had expected he would. "Where are we going?" he asked, slinging the strap of the machine gun over his shoulder as he ran.

"Docks," I replied, picking up the pace and taking a sharp turn that led us straight onto a main road. I dodged through the crowds on the sidewalk with ease, assuming Gunner would find a way to keep up. "Keep your eyes on me!" I shouted over my shoulder, turning just in time to see the SUV burst onto the street. "Wow, they really want to start something," I muttered under my breath, smiling manically all the while.

"Our tail is back!" Gunner shouted from somewhere behind me.

"Noticed!" I retorted, weaving my way through a group of woman that shrieked once they noticed the gun in my hand. "Just shut up, and run!"

And run we did. I could see the docks in the distance, growing larger with every bounding step I took, and though this entire ordeal was a substantial kink in our original plan . . . I couldn't help but be excited. To say I had missed the action would be an understatement.

I heard the chatter of a machine gun then, and though my first instinct was about to be to yell at Gunner in reprimand, I turned just in time to see the weapon sticking out of the SUV. I turned mid-run, throwing myself into a stop as I threw my free hand up.

And I broke my own rule.

The gunfire fell to the ground as though the bullets were nothing more than lamely thrown pebbles, and though I briefly heard Gunner ask "Can I shoot them now?!" all I did was grin widely and turn and continue to run.

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