It landed on the closest nearby building, and I heard a clink as it hit. I waited a moment, feeling the rope drop to slackness, and then carefully gave the line in my hands a gentle tug.
For a heart-stopping second, it slid loosely, suggesting that the grappling hook had failed to catch on a target. But then, just as I cursed and prepared myself to haul it in for another throw, I felt the line suddenly flex with tension.
“We’ve got a line!” I shouted to Danni over the pop of gunfire, pulling the rope tight and hauling it around the doorframe. “Come on!”
I could see Danni leaning up against the side of the doorframe, sheltered from bullets that now poured in through the open holes. She had popped the revolver open, but I saw her trembling fingers struggling to fit the new bullets into their chambers.
“Leave it!” I shouted, beckoning to her. My own shoulder still throbbed where I’d been hit, but I still pulled out my gun and sent a few shots back through the open door. I doubted I’d hit anyone, but it at least forced the shooters to take cover and stop firing for a moment.
Danni gritted her teeth as she pushed herself across the floor to me, but I scooped her up in my arms as best I could manage. We hurried over to where the rope descended out through the shattered glass, into empty space.
For just a second, we both looked into each other’s eyes, knowing how risky this next move would be. Impulsively, despite the lines of pain that were clear on her face, Danni pulled herself even closer to me and kissed me soundly on the mouth.
“See you on the other side, Jasper,” she whispered as she broke away, reaching out and looping her arms around the rope.
I couldn’t say anything; my mouth felt slack as she threw a leg over the rope as well and, with nothing bracing her, she slid out the window.
I was tempted to stay there, to watch as she descended. But the bullets now once again pouring in through the doorway, growing closer to my position as the other shooters became emboldened, told me that I had to move. I put my gun away, but before I reached up to grab the rope, I fished out my pocketwatch and flipped it open.
A minute until the clock struck nine. I didn’t have any time to spare.
I reached up and grabbed the rope, praying for it to hold me as I trusted it with my weight. For a moment, I felt the rope give a sickening lurch, but I knew that I didn’t have any other option. I kicked off, and my stomach dropped down to my feet as I plunged out of the building, sliding along the rope.
As I exited through the shattered window, I realized that I was sliding down the rope head-first, making it difficult to know when the other building was approaching. I craned my head around, twisting my neck in order to time when to clamp down on the rope to slow myself.
The other building rushed up towards me. I tightened my grip on the rope until I could feel the threads burning my fingers, just barely managing to slow myself enough to survive the landing. I hit at the far side, tumbling off of the rope and rolling across the building’s roof.
As I finally slowed, I flipped over and pulled myself up to my feet, looking around for Danni. I spotted her a few feet away, still looking pale but hurrying over to help me up. She didn’t appear too injured, I saw with a wave of thankfulness.
“Are you okay?” she asked, as she reached down to help me up.
I let her lend me her uncertain support, but as we rose up, a bullet ricocheted off the roof only a couple feet from our position. The shooters up on the sixth floor of the tower now stood in front of the broken window, their guns still firing down at us.
There was nowhere to take cover. All we could do was crouch, looking up at the high tower of the Organization behind me-
-just as it suddenly erupted into orange flame, with a roar like a giant’s howl.
In that moment, as we both stared up, the entire tower vanished as multiple explosions around its base burst up through the ground. Huge gouts of flame shot up, lapping at the sides of the tower like a hungry tongue. The roars of multiple explosions washed over us like shock waves, obliterating all other noise.
It was exactly nine o’clock AM.