“Wow, this place is small,” Corrie said as Erik led her into the apartment. “I thought Anya was exaggerating when she talked about it.” Erik ignored the flash of pain from Corrie’s words. She was just making conversation, not trying to remind him of what he had lost.
“Yeah, well they won’t look for you here,” Erik replied, “The master bedroom is at the end of the hall. You can use that one.” He walked into the second bedroom and started peeling off his gear and armor. He stopped as he noticed that Corrie was standing in the doorway and watching him.
“This is your place, why don’t you take the master?” Corrie asked.
“For the same reason I haven’t been to this place for a couple of years,” Erik answered, trying to keep the pain out of his voice. He wasn’t as successful as he thought, because Corrie strode into the room and gave him a sisterly hug. Erik braced as her arms came around him, but relented and let him enjoy the warmth of the physical contact. He didn’t care how long they stood there. He had missed Corrie’s comforting presence.
“I’m surprised you kept this place,” Corrie said, finally breaking the silence.
“I didn’t,” Erik answered, finally shrugging out of her embrace. “It’s owned by one of my family’s companies. They’ve just been nice enough to let me use it again.” He gave her a crooked smile. “You should go get cleaned up.”
“I’m not the only one,” Corrie said, punching Erik in the shoulder, “You’re a bit whiff too.”
“If I may remind you, your highness, I was doing that until you came in and interrupted me,” Erik shot back.
“I did not interrupt you. I was checking on the well-being of one of my subjects. My concern is never considered an interruption,” Corrie said in a lofty tone. “I will now tend to myself while you make yourself presentable for such august personage, such as myself.”
“If you’re not careful, I’ll make you cook for yourself,” Erik said. Corrie stuck her tongue out at him as she walked back to the master bedroom. They spent the next few hours getting cleaned up followed by cleaning their gear and weapons. They worked in a companionable silence that Erik felt relaxing, especially considering the tension of getting off of Battle Island. Dodging delvers and their minions was bad enough, but they also had to evade the Army patrols out doing search and destroy missions against the Dark Towers. Having to cart around Ensign Bartley as well just increased the difficulty.
“I hope that girl will be okay,” Corrie said as if she was reading Erik’s mind.
“She should be fine,” Erik said, “You did a good job on the emergency patchwork and the ship’s captain said he’d make sure that she made it to the Hospitallers.” He turned back to look at Corrie as he heard her stop working.
“Seriously Erik, how long do we have before someone finds out that I’m not dead?” Corrie asked. There was an odd spike of determination in her emotions when she asked the question. Erik frowned as he realized she was planning something. He mentally frowned, careful not to let the expression on his face. Corrie wasn’t exactly known for the timidity of her plans.
“Probably twenty-four hours,” Erik answered, “It could be fifteen or it could be thirty. It’ll depend on when the Hospitallers call the base to tell them they have one of the Army’s ensigns. Even if it’s fifteen, we should be long gone from Battle City by then.” He looked her straight in the eye. “Why?”
“I’ve been going over what happened in my head,” Corrie answered. “I was at five thousand feet doing a wide sweep when my wing suddenly exploded. At first, I thought it was just a structural failure because nothing the Dark Towers has should be able to hit a plane that high up. Then, I was too busy trying to survive my plane disintegrating to figure out what happened.” Corrie went silent, and Erik could feel the determination building in her as she mentally prepared herself to lay out her plan.
“Whoever did this is waiting to find out if I’m dead,” Corrie said, “This may be the best window we’ll have to find out who’s behind this and why they’re trying to kill me.”
“I thought intelligence was my job, not yours,” Erik said.
“No, intelligence was Samantha’s job. You’ve always been more of a well-trained thug,” Corrie said in a teasing tone. Erik just rolled his eyes. Corrie’s expression grew serious again. “Listen, whoever is behind this must have had some help from inside the Army. How else did they know I was flying and where? It’s not like pilots have a set schedule.”
“Granted,” Erik said, not liking the spike of excitement in Corrie’s emotions.
“I know my fellow officers,” Corrie said, “They play the political game almost as hard as they fight the Dark Towers in the field. Probably more so in the Air Forces than the ground pounders. If one of them set me up, they’re going to keep the evidence of who they’re working for until I’m confirmed dead. They’d need the leverage on their partners if the Imperial Guard came looking.” Erik took one look at the excited light in Corrie’s eyes.
“You want to go get that evidence,” Erik said, with a resigned tone.
“Of course,” Corrie said, a predatory smile spreading across her face.
“Corrie, I just pulled you off that island so that we could get you someplace safe,” Erik said, “A lot of work has gone into getting you back to the palace, and a lot of people have put themselves on the line for you. I’m sure the Saint is going to tear the fort apart looking for whoever was behind you getting shot down. Can we at least wait until we have you back behind a wall of Imperial Guard?”
“Erik, if I show back up at the palace, the bastards behind this will circle the wagons and we’ll never find out who it was,” Corrie said. “Erik, please. You’re the only one I’d trust to help me do this.” He sighed and felt Corrie’s soaring excitement.
“You said the same thing when we stole your father’s car because you had to go talk with Jamie Harrington,” Erik shot back. Corrie smiled at the jab. She knew that if he was bringing up their past capers, then he was already mentally preparing to go on another.
“That would have worked if you hadn’t missed the turn,” Corrie said, standing up.
“You were the one who was driving and managed to crash the car into Harrington Keep,” Erik protested.
“Which I wouldn’t have done if you hadn’t missed telling me the turn,” Corrie said as if that should have evident even to a small child. She gave him a wide smile.
“I’ll make some calls and see what I can arrange,” Erik said, reaching for his phone.