“How are you feeling?”
“I’ll let you know when I’m awake.” Elvira replied, and Solana swatted her arm. It was a beautiful morning, light and breezy, and in the ancient sedan Elvira had stolen for them it was only a little warm. Solana had been furious when she’d asked Elvira to secure a ride and she came back with a rust-bucket coupe that had – she claimed – ‘old world charm.’ Apparently charm meant no air conditioning and peeling pleather on bucket seats.
“Apprehensive?” Elvira asked her, and Solana resisted a sigh. They’d planned a week and a half for this, and it didn’t feel like nearly enough time, and they were only three people and two of them were injured and their futures were riding on it and competition was fierce and yes, she was a tad bit apprehensive.
“Nah.” She answered, and Elvira looked skeptical. “Oh, just let me keep up team moral, okay? Jesucristo.”
“Team’s not here yet. Just your girlfriend.” Elvira said, and Solana made a gagging noise. “I know, I’m right there with ya.”
Solana only gazed over her shoulder, out the passenger window, where Candy’s small home lay a little less rigged to blow than the last time they’d been around. Candy was getting ready at hopefully hyper-speed: she’d woken up late, undoubtedly because she was moping. She seemed to be doing that more than usual lately.
“Think she’ll be okay?” Elvira read her mind. Solana tried to read her expression, but whatever she was thinking, positive or negative, it alluded her. Sometimes with these things it seemed like Elvira was flying by the seat of her pants, anyway – she was not the most emotionally cognizant girl in the world. Thank god Solana was at least a slightly positive person or their team would somehow be even more of an emotional wreck.
“In our moment of need, she has to be.” Solana said, and Candy’s front door opened. She hurried out as quickly as anyone with a cane balancing three massive guns could, and Elvira snorted and didn’t bother getting out to help her. Candy made her way to the street, reached the car door, and Solana humored her girlfriend by pulling up a few inches. Elvira howled with laughter, but Candy didn’t look so amused as she took a few steps over and opened the passenger door.
“You guys are assholes.” She threw the guns over Elvira’s head into the backseat. “Move.”
Elvira climbed out and pushed her seat forward so Candy could climb in the back. Her cane almost hit Solana in the face three times as she hauled herself around the chair and she had to wonder if her girlfriend got them a two-door with this exact scenario in mind.
“Good morning to you, too.” Solana said as Elvira put down the seat and sat back in, then put on her game face. “Listen ladies, we’ve worked hard, we’ve done all our research, now’s the time to get results. I’m confident in us. Let’s go out and kick ass today.”
“Well said, Solana.” Elvira smiled thinly. “Very calming. Wish I’d heard it before I had nervous diarrhea all morning.”
“Asqueroso. Can’t you be normal for one minute?” Solana asked and looked over her girlfriend’s black lace top and ripped up shorts. “Your tan is going to be so weird in that.”
“And we’re absolutely taking the time to tan once we pull this off.” Candy leaned forward with a much-missed mischievous smile: it seemed not even this business with Shay could hold back her excitement. “Just think – mai tais and lounge chairs on the deck of the Commodus!”
“Well, we have to get that plane first.” Solana said thoughtfully. She’d taken that responsibility only because she couldn’t trust her beautiful dumbass girlfriend or love-struck Candy to carefully land a small aircraft. She just hoped she was up to the challenge – she’d studied everything she could find on flying, but if she was being honest with herself she was off her game as much as the other two. Her shoulder was doing great but still worried her, and she was admittedly slightly anxious what with her life being on the line. Still, she seemed like the best option and as quasi-leader she had to suck it up and do what was best.
They drove to an airplane base where flight instructors worked and where Solana planned to steal a small Cessna that was allegedly one of the easier planes to fly. Elvira got out to hop into the driver’s seat and surprised her with a big smooch goodbye, to which Candy responded with a great deal of gagging and groaning as she too stepped out, leaving her cane behind.
“Just remember.” She said to Elvira as Candy handed her a massive rifle. “We’ve all got our walkies, but I won’t be in range until I fly right over, so if there’s an issue you’re on your own.”
“There’s not gonna be an issue.” Elvira waved her hand. “Drive to the port. Await your arrival. Control security on the outside.”
“And don’t get killed.” Candy added helpfully, and Elvira winked and did some finger guns. Solana took that as her own way of trying not to freak out, which was something she was going through herself. Her girlfriend was going to be all alone dealing with some of the world’s tightest security, after all.
“I’ll see you later, babe.” Solana said instead of lingering on those thoughts, and Elvira gave her another over-the-top kiss that left Candy grumbling under her breath. The pair watched her speed off before Candy handed the gun she was holding over to Solana and stepped over to the high chainlink fence. She crouched and held her hands flat to give Solana a boost – she had to go first with the hurt shoulder.
“Don’t fuck up.” Candy advised as Solana gripped her arm for support and climbed up.
“If I fuck up I have the guns.” Solana said obviously, and Candy rolled her eyes and boosted her up as much as she could. Solana grabbed the fence, shoved the guns under her armpit and climbed to the top, where a spiral of barbed wire didn’t want her to go forward. She’d originally wanted to buy a pair of bolt cutters and snap the fence at ground level, but time constraints in both planning and execution made that impossible, so she merely waited for Candy to throw an old denim jacket. Once that was tossed up she smoothed it out and climbed up as she felt the fence move from Candy’s own ascent: in a flash she pulled herself over and leapt to the ground. A shockwave started at her feet and zipped right up to her shoulder, but the pain eased by the time Candy was at her side. When she straightened out Solana handed her one of the guns.
“Move as fast as you can.” Candy advised, and Solana nodded sharply. The whole area was flat and clear for the planes and the very small runways. It wasn’t huge like Miami International, just enough to get a few little planes off the ground, but it was some distance to run for a woman who shouldn’t have even been on that one leg. Solana held her gun as menacingly as she could and bolted – when she glanced behind her she saw Candy do the same at a far slower pace.
Solana hauled absolute ass to reach the closest plane possible. She caught them during run-off – they were poised to take off with their engine running but the brake on – and rushed to the driver’s side to pull open the door. The plane was just starting up, the engine rumbling and the propeller beginning to spin, and she grabbed a man she assumed to be an instructor.
“Can I borrow this?” She yelled above the noise, then yanked the surprised man out and threw him on the ground, his headphones following. She climbed in quickly and pointed her gun at the passengers, an elderly couple who looked wildly flustered. “You might wanna go.”
They shrieked, but the lady stayed in her seat and the man kept standing over her, so she shrugged, grabbed the throttle and surged forward. The plane began to taxi at a far faster pace than Solana assumed a professional pilot would recommend, and at the end of the runway she spotted Candy’s slow run in her direction. She gunned it and leaned over the passengers, both of whom began to scream again as she opened the passenger door.
“Seriously, time to go!” She yelled over them, but they made no move to leave. Candy kept running her way and she very much hoped she could grab her and then get over the fence.
“Oh, screw this, Karen!” The man yelled, and hopped out without further ado. He hit the runway and rolled harmlessly aside as they got closer to Candy and Candy got closer to them.
“Listen to him, Karen!” Solana yelled, and Candy grabbed the open door and jumped in. Karen screamed.
“Sorry!” Candy said, then grabbed Solana’s new friend by the arm. “Tuck and roll!”
She shoved her out the door and watched to see if she was safe – from her lack of horror Solana assumed Karen landed in one piece.
“Really sorry! I promise this isn’t a terrorist thing!” She yelled over her shoulder, a superficial kindness. Solana rolled her eyes as she sat down and strapped in.
“Don’t even worry about them, they weren’t wearing seatbelts.” She said, and aimed for the fence in front of them – Candy’s jacket was still tragically dangling from the barbed wire up top.
“That’s against federal regulations!” Candy, who’d had her heart set on flying today until she learned she needed two feet to control the brakes, gasped. “We should report this place to the FAA!”
“Maybe let’s worry about clearing this fence first.” Solana said before she laid even further into the throttle. They rushed towards the chainlink as Solana’s heart leapt into her throat, but she stayed calm and lifted them up. For one terrifying moment she heard the tail scraping against asphalt, and then they were airborne.
“Landing gear.” Candy warned, and Solana scrambled to find the switch. Candy flicked it for her and they soared over the fence with only a little ding of metal – they’d barely touched it, no harm no foul.
“Holy shit, I think we did it.” Solana let herself take a breath. “¡Madre de Dios! We did it!”
“Give yourself the credit, I just threw you over a fence.” Candy said, and carefully took the gun Solana held awkwardly in her lap. “Now there’s just getting there.”
Solana nodded and headed south. Flying was actually fantastic, a fact that didn’t surprise her at all. Aside from her ears popping and the wind bouncing them around she was having a blast taking in the view. When she glanced Candy’s way she spotted some wistful gazing and struggled not to snort or roll her eyes like Elvira, that beautiful asshole, usually would.
“It’s gonna be okay, Candy.” Solana spoke up after a long moment. “No need for all the despair.”
“Yeah.” Candy said dully. “We got this.”
“We do got this! And when we’re done you’re gonna get the girl, we’re gonna steal Mirabelle’s empire out from under her feet, and she’ll leave us alone forever.”
“Yeah.” Candy said dully again.
“Not yeah. Yeah! Yay! Whoooo!” Solana corrected, and Candy fought a smile. “We’re having fun and we’re pulling this off! Give me a cheerier yeah!”
“Yeah!” Candy attempted again, this time almost decent.
“Yeah!” Solana encouraged.
“God, you’re a fucking babysitter.” Candy groaned, but at least was smiling now.
“Yeah!” Solana yelled, and with a laugh from Candy they fell into comfortable silence as she kept flying. For the last few minutes of their flight Solana loved that she didn’t need to load the GPS on her phone or slow down and peer around corners – she spotted the ship from miles away. Unfortunately after awhile she spotted another problem.
“What is this guy doing?” Candy squinted at a sight-seeing plane that had been flying above them but was beginning to descend. “Honk at him.”
“Por el amor de Cristo, even in the sky I have to deal with morons.” Solana grumbled as they began their final approach. This helicopter was only two or three minutes ahead of them, and she kept her eye on it until complete confusion hit her – the helicopter hovered over the massive cruise ship at the very end of the port, then began to descend. “¿Qué demonios?”
“Is it not a tourist chopper?” Candy leaned in and furrowed her brow. “Maybe there’s an emergency on the boat.”
“Oh, great.” Solana threw up her hands in frustration. “Now we have to deal with first responders?”
“Can we still land?” Candy asked anxiously, and Solana sighed and nodded. “Okay, at least we’ll have them on hand in case someone gets hurt.”
“I couldn’t care less if someone’s hurt.” Solana grumbled as she cut the engine, and Candy gave her a look. “Fine. I would care somewhat. Just not enough to warrant a strange helicopter on the tennis court.”
The plane slowed in its descent and the ship got larger and larger with each passing second – now that Solana saw it up close she realized it was dauntingly massive, very dauntingly massive for three people to steer. She sucked in a breath and approached the deck: she had to believe they would pull through. There was no alternative.
“As soon as we touch down all hell is gonna break loose.” She said, and Candy clutched the guns and nodded. “We’re gonna move calmly and quickly.”
“Gotcha.” She replied, and Solana swallowed her nerves and spurred the engine back to life. A moment later they were bumping and skidding down a thankfully empty deck with only a few inches to give on either side, and Solana thanked every god out there as they slowed to a halt. They hopped and hobbled out of the plane with the knowledge that soon a swarm of security would be on them.
“Guns up.” Solana advised and let herself grow a hard shell, hard enough to stow her nerves and soft thoughts and all those damn feelings so she could function as a proper menace. “We need to get to controls, stat.”
They ran about 100 feet across the deck, chilled by heavy, salty sea waves, and burst into the bridge. A whole host of men in white were standing there, and in a moment they raised their hands – Solana knew she and Candy cut a formidable figure. She prowled towards the best dressed man in the room, the one she assumed to be captain, and he gave her a look of defiance.
“We’re commandeering the ship.” She announced to the room as she looked him dead in the eye. “Wanna steer us out of here?”
“No thank you.” He responded calmly, and Solana cocked her rifle.
“You’re gonna get us out of here, buddy, or someone else will.” She threatened, her voice low, and he stared her down with a firm pride.
“No thank you.” He said again, forcefully, and Solana hesitated for just a second, the gun pointed right at his chest. Finally she broke, groaned, and hit him over the head with the butt of her weapon too swiftly for anyone to react. He collapsed to the floor with a yelp but stayed conscious as he cradled his likely fractured skull.
“You!” She pointed at the closest man. “Can you steer this bad boy?”
“No thank you.” He said, and Solana lost her cool.
“You’ve got almost eight hundred people on this boat right now, right? You want us to start picking them off? No? Someone get on the fucking wheel, now.” She demanded. No one looked like they were about to obey her – she hadn’t expected any retaliation here. One stepped forward, arms raised in a measured stance.
“Listen, it’s all okay. We’re willing to listen to demands. If you’d just–”
“Solana! Oh my god, someone answer me!” Solana and Candy’s pockets yelled in unison. Candy pulled out the walkie-talkie with a false look of calm, controlled in front of the ship’s crew.
“Elvira, what’s wrong?” She asked, and Solana started.
“Security!” She yelled, and shot at a window where a man in uniform had slunk up. The glass shattered as he dove for cover and she rose the walkie up to her mouth. “Keep ‘em tight, El, we’ve got guards over here already, we don’t need Port Authority!”
“That’s the problem!” Elvira yelled, her breath ragged. “Port Authority, ship detail, whoever, whatever, it’s taken care of! They’re here!”
“Who’s here?” Candy asked, then motioned to Solana. She darted hard to her right just as another shot fired off, and her replying blast missed again. She hadn’t expected the on-ship security detail to be armed, either. They just weren’t able to research such a secure target in such a small amount of time and now it was really cramping their style.
“They! They! The two girls making fun of my outfit and shooting at me!” Elvira screeched, and Solana paled. When she looked to Candy she was wide-eyed, and a burst of panic strangled her for a moment.
“You told her?” She asked, a little unsettled by the sickly alarm in her voice, but Candy was quick to shake her head. “Are you sure?”
“There’s no way. I didn’t tell her the ship, the date, anything.” Candy said, and looked horrified but certain enough for Solana to accept it just for now. “I should text her – I should–”
“No, I need you below decks.” Solana said, both because it was true and because she didn’t want Candy to get distracted now. “You need to encourage the crewmen to power this fucker up because there’s no way in hell no one in here hasn’t signaled to them somehow. Go out the other side, shoot if you’re shot at, brandish that gun enough to get the ball rolling.”
“Is anyone gonna help me out over here or what?” Elvira yelled, and Solana felt frazzled with the balancing act she was trying to manage. “There’s people everywhere, we’re sealed up but it’s chaos down here!”
“Are you on the ship? Are they?” Solana asked quickly as she attempted to steady her nerves, for her own sake, for her friends’ sake, and so the crew wouldn’t see them as even more an unorganized mess as they already were.
“I’m on board, I’m in a corridor near the atrium.” Elvira answered quickly. “I have no idea where they are but I’m sure the minute I show my face they’ll put a hole in it to let me know.”
“Is Shay down there?” Candy asked, and Solana fumed just as Elvira said no.
“What the hell are you still doing here? Get down to the belly of this ship, we need to get into open water ASAP!” Solana burst out, but Candy, with her shoulders slumped, hesitated.
“What are we gonna do about Mirabelle?” She asked cautiously, and Solana felt a little more than overwhelmed with a thousand problems and a dozen sailors stuffed into a room together.
“I don’t know!” She yelled, and a gunshot broke another window and shot past her. A man grabbed his arm and screeched. “Where does this guy keep coming from?”
“Solana, what do I do?” Elvira called, a little bit manic with desperation. She knew it must have been really bad, wherever she was.
“Round up the passengers and put them on lock down, we don’t need mass hysteria right now. And don’t get shot!” She added, then turned to Candy. “I’m gonna kick your ass if you don’t haul it downstairs right. Damn. Now.”
“Don’t hurt any of them.” Candy requested as gently as she could, and Solana took a deep breath. She was good at that, at being the leader when she had to be, at keeping this shit-for-brains team together when they needed it. But she was starting to get the feeling that they were finally in over their heads. She sighed.
“I have to do something.” She said, all her anger gone, and as depressed as Candy obviously was at that she only nodded. Then, finally, she turned and ran out the other side of the bridge to get below decks. Solana watched her go for a moment, mentally gathered herself, and knelt down in front of the top officer, who was still sat on the floor with his head in his hands.
“Tell me captain, what happens if we’re moving full speed and no one’s steering us and giving orders? Do you think we’d clear the dock in one piece in that state?” She asked with a light smile. A gunshot blasted again and one of the men swore and clutched his leg. “¡Qué cabrón!”
She stood and pointed her gun only to watch the guard fall over, his shirt a bloodied mess. A groan unwittingly escaped her – she hadn’t shot the man, but she could take a guess as to who did.
“You!” Mirabelle Bravo stood in the doorway, shocked and appalled by Solana’s very existence. Solana felt much the same way, and her gun was on Mirabelle before the older woman could lift her own. “I knew you would sabotage our heist!”
“What? You’re sabotaging our heist!” Solana said, scandalized, then felt some knowledge dawn on her.
“I didn’t know you’d be here!” They both said at once, then scowled in unison.
“So we chose to steal the exact same ship.” Mirabelle said slowly, teeth gritted.
“On the exact same day.” Solana finished in a similar state. “You really ought to reschedule.”
“Not likely.” Mirabelle said, and looked around at the mess within the bridge. “If you think for one second you’re gonna–”
“What? Beat you?” Solana asked, her tone challenging. “You bet we fucking will. I’ve got a gun on your chest and I’m already right where you need to be, so now’s a good time to step up or run like hell.”
Mirabelle looked at her, looked at her gun, looked around the room. Solana hadn’t expected the hesitation, but Mirabelle didn’t lift the gun in her own hand and seemed to be keeping her expression blank on purpose.
“This isn’t over.” She said after a long moment, and turned and ran off. Solana made no move to follow her, but somehow instinctively knew a great deal of things at once. One, that no matter what Mirabelle’s response was, she had no plans on actually shooting her, not when Candy had pouted so much about it. Two, that there was no way Mirabelle’s team was actually leaving the ship right now, which meant a fight had to be brewing and she’d have to shoot someone down eventually.
And three: that they had all been doomed to fail from the start.