It is New Year’s Eve, and we’re bringing chaos to the King’s doorstep.
I can hear the army’s chants and stomping feet, even from so far away. It started with a band of rebels; whole families of protesters – and it’s going to end with them.
“All set?” I say, inching towards the spot where the streets’ lights fall through the gutters. Fadel’s concerned eyes are gone now, masked by unflinching confidence and adrenaline. Shehab’s face is unreadable as ever. Amirah, Faris’s cousin, who happened to have military training, grins at me when I strap in my last weapon.
I was right. The rampage of the few thousand rebels marching towards the Royal Palace, especially on the night of a celebration for which his whole cabinet is present, alerts all security points. As my small unit and I march through the underground tunnels, Seif speaks through our earpieces. “Three out of four of the security points around the building have reported to the front gates,” he informs me, “The last point, made up of five men, has spread out to guard those within the palace. Besides them, that leaves you with twenty guards inside.”
“Thank you, Seif,” I respond.
We have made sure to be only stealthy enough with the preparations that the King’s Guard would lightly suspect a storm coming their way, so that they would plan for riots and angry mobs, not an infiltration.
There it is. That electrocuted, damned metal door leading into the lion’s den.
I look up to the camera I had placed there weeks ago. I give it a thumbs up, signaling for Seif to start the process of disarming the security system. Meanwhile, we listen to the other surveillance cameras Seif had hacked into – the ones from the meeting room.
Shattering glass. Then, outraged but hushed voices. “Oh, Your Majesty, I’m so sorry!” says the servant, whose voice was far more than familiar to me.
A grunt. “You’re a new face, aren’t you?” says whom I can only assume is the bloody King. “Let it be known I won’t take your incompetence lightly – even if you’re frightful over some pathetic kids’ screams. Clean it up, girl.”
“Yes, Sir. I’m so sorry, Sir,” she says and then a door is shut, leaving me to assume Aya has left the room.
Aya and her husband, Hafez, had come to me, only a day after I came back from her place. “I want to help you,” she had said, “My parents ran, and I’ve been hiding ever since I could remember. I want to be proud of something I do for once.”
So, we had used her as our girl on the inside, and she had done her task well. Hafez is in there with her, acting as a servant, too. You see, two of the King’s people had ‘mysteriously’ disappeared only a couple of weeks ago, and replacements were urgently needed to aid for the upcoming New Year’s Eve event.
“Only five minutes, guys. Go,” Seif whispers right after the buzz of electricity suddenly drops.
The moment Shehab kicks the door open, we are faced with two guards on the other side, who frantically begin to call in a warning through their coms – but Fadel cuts one across the chest, and I kick him outside into the tunnel, his head hitting the ground like a stone. Amirah pommels the other with her gun’s rear, knocking him to the floor. Shehab drags him next to his partner. When we turn back, we find two more running towards us.
Three minutes and twenty seconds.
Amirah attacks one. Fadel moves towards the other before he suddenly thumps to the ground, revealing Aya behind him, a pan raised over her head.
We dispose of both, and while we do, Aya and Hafez usher the rest of the innocent housekeepers, servants, and maids out of the Palace.
Two minutes and five seconds.
“Go, go, go,” Hafez says as they hurry out. That pompous bastard; how many helpers does he need?
One minute and thirty seconds.
As the last of them leave, Aya pulls me into a death-grip. “You come out of here alive, you hear me?” she demands. I only nod before she throws her arms around me for a fleeting second. Her husband’s face strikes me; he’s almost a stranger to me and although I have just had him and his wife on a suicide mission, he looks almost grateful.
“Remember, straight through the tunnels and out through the gutters,” I say, and she nods before she grabs her husband’s hand and leaves, slamming the door behind her shut.
Seconds later, the buzz is back, and Seif informs me that the security system is back up. I hear gunshots from upstairs and outside, but all I can do is pray that they remember what we taught them and that they never stop fighting.
A look at the other’s faces revs me up again, and I nod towards our way. As we move forward, guards never stop coming, alerts going every which way, but we fight with teeth and claw – blood spills and men fall, but we don’t stop. They outnumber us, but they’re coming at different points in time, so they aren’t too hard to get rid of. Through our earpieces, Seif warns us of every coming threat.
Fadel and I fight alongside each other, then back-to-back, aiding each other the way we always have. A guard – not just any guard but Sarwat comes my way, but I dodge him easily. He is far too large to keep up with my speed, or anyone’s.
Twisting his hand, I disarm him, but he uses his other arm to pull me in a chokehold.
“Didn’t know you had it in you, Enawi,” Sarwat says.
Having turned around, I see that while Fadel fights one man, another is inching towards him. “Fadel! Your right!” My shouts don’t distract him, but alert him quickly enough that he swerves from the other as he kicks the first. Meanwhile, I use the oldest rule in the book to get out of the brute’s grip.
After having elbowed Sarwat, then knocked the breath out of him, we are clear to exit the room. I’ll deal with Sarwat later.
Far too easily, I notice Fadel’s limp. “What happened?” I ask in a hushed tone as we scope out for anyone in the hallway.
“Knife to the thigh,” he replies, “Nothing to worry about.”
“Try to hide the limp when fighting, so no one would use it against you. If it’s deep, put pressure on it with –” As I say this, he reaches to touch what I can only assume is a forming bruise on my face and then he eyes the shallow cut on my arm.
“Be careful,” he says in a low voice.
“At least it’s not a knife to the thigh,” I try to joke, but he only grits his teeth. To be fair, though, I fared better than him or Shehab, with Amirah the least injured or perhaps untouched completely. Shehab is limping as well, and I can’t help but think that his elbow is at an incredibly odd angle, but he shrugs it off.
As we turn the corridor, we are yet again faced by more opponents.
I instinctively step in front of Shehab, knowing he wouldn’t be able to fight with that arm. The swish of bone meeting flesh, the crack of bones, and the thumps of bodies as they fall is all I hear as we cross the corridors like it’s a battlefield, but it feels like no heavy feat, for all of us are fighting for a cause that we believe in.