Chapter Twenty-six

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"Seems to Arcee it's the important thing," said Adrestia.

"Arcee will do what is right."

"I don't doubt that, but she's keeping you from getting the recognition you deserve. You all had a part in recovering the Matrix."

"Whatever Arcee's motives are doesn't matter as long as the Matrix is returned," said Ratchet gruffly.

"And if the Matrix chooses her?" said Kita.

"She will make an excellent leader," said Ratchet. "You will have to remain here. You cannot survive on our planet." his eyes brightened.

He seems happy about that. "Ryan has to stay, too."

"I am deciding if I want to stay. Ryan and I can accomplish much together."

Great. Arcee leaves, and I'm stuck with Ratchet. At least I have Kimmy...but, will she want me if I don't have Arcee? I'm not special or useful then. That's...That's not right. That's worst case scenario thinking. Kimmy loves me for me, and I better get used to the idea. They already call me Your Highness. Who would have ever dreamed that?

Bumblebee stopped. "End of the line." He set Kita and Adrestia down.

Kita walked to the edge and looked over. It was a long way down, and she couldn't see the bottom making all the hair on the back of her neck stand up. Adrestia came up next to her.

"So, all those dumb things I did before," said Kita.

"Yeah?"

"They don't look half as dumb as this."

Adrestia laughed. "This is probably the safest thing you've done."

The rest of the operators arrived and donned their gear. In twos and threes, they stepped off the reef and sank into the dark water below. Boxer found Kita and helped her put on her fins and mask. He jumped into the water.

Kita gulped. Oh, slag me. She stepped off, her dry bag slung over her shoulder. Landing in the water, she did her best to float. Boxer motioned for her to dive. I don't want to go into the dark, deep water. Kita dove, kicking with her fins as bubbles from her mask rose to the surface. Boxer took her hand and guided her down the cliff face toward a group of lights.

Boxer turned his light on. The lava tube was a big black spot in the side of the cliff face. The lights disappeared into the opening. When they reached the opening, Boxer placed Kita's hand on the underwater scooter and started it. The device pulled them forward into the darkness.

***

Boxer helped Kita out of the water. Chemical lights lit the darkness revealing the black sides of the lava tube. The operators lined the walls as they took off their scuba gear and readied their combat load. Kita took off her fins and mask and followed Boxer to an empty spot. Adrestia and Reynolds joined them.

Adrestia shook the water from her M-4 rifle. "That was a wild swim."

Not the word I would use. "I think I'll stick to the pool." Kita ran her hand through her hair feeling the salt water. Yuck. No showers around here, either. Kita took off her dry bag and stripped off her wetsuit. Boxer took it from her and laid it out to dry. She put on her uniform, folded up her dry bag, and put it next to her wetsuit.

Bumblebee emerged from the water, his eyes glowing in the dark. He walked to Adrestia. "Pretty gnarly drop. You miss the grab, and it's a long walk back to Cali."

"Maybe Arcee will miss it," said Kita.

"Oh, dudette, harsh."

"She can use the time to think about what's important to her."

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