A Short Story by Sara Hannigan
It was the best of times, and the worst of times.
-A Tale of Two Cities by: Mark Twain
So many things could go wrong if she made even the slightest mistake. Everyone was counting on her to get the job done. Everyone expected for her to pull through.
It was an unfamiliar feeling, but not unpleasant. All of her life she had been considered second-rate. Now she had the chance to prove herself, no matter how unusual the method.
"Now, you must move swiftly, disabling the alarms as you go. We got the codes, so you shouldn't need to use your gifts." Her friend and leader, Ottavio, gestured to the blueprints of the police building. "Once you reach the computer lab, you'll have exactly ten minutes to delete the files. After that, we cannot guarantee that no one will catch you." The seventeen-year-old boy's black eyes flickered upward, locking with hers. "Do you understand, Kaitlyn?"
The young woman pushed her thoughts aside and continued, shifting so her black trench coat rested more securely on her shoulders. She stepped next to an alarm system and typed in the codes with a certain air of experience. There was a moment of silence, then a soft beep signaling that the alarm system was disabled. Kait let out a soft breath and continued, keeping her footsteps light and listening for any sound.
"I want you to delete your files last, Kait."
The girl frowned. "Why, Ottavio?" She studied the Italian curiously, searching for any hint of emotion in the Italian's dark face. There was none.
The man shifted so his black hair fell over his eyes. "That way, if you get caught, our identities will be protected."
The unspoken "when" hung in the air between the two friends. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Ottavio didn't expect her to succeed. Kait set her jaw. She would delete those files, and not just to help her fellow gang members. She now had something to prove.
The door to the computer lab slid open easily, not even creaking. Kait stepped inside. She moved carefully so her worn sneakers didn't scuff the polished floor. After a quick look around, Kait sank into the nearest chair and typed in the password.
"We can only give you ten minutes because they will eventually see someone trying to access the files," Gadget, Ottavio's second-in-command, explained, brushing his flaming red hair behind his ears. He was a strange one, but then, most people who were such talented inventors were. Gadget didn't wear normal clothes like the rest of the gang, choosing instead to wear a brilliant blue jumpsuit. And yet it fit him, in a twisted way. "No tech for this mission, I'm afraid. The cops would pick it up in two seconds flat."
"I know, Gadget," Kait said dryly. "I'm the tech expert here, remember? More experience…?"
"Experience isn't everything! You get a hot head and you'll screw everything up."
"I'll try to remember that."
Shaking her head, Kait called up the files, looking for keywords so she could find her friends'. Ottavio's file came up first. It was unusually short, listing his name, experiment number, his gifts –the ability to find any gifted person within a certain range and get anyone to do anything he wished with a simple question -and the date of his "death" after the experiment went wrong. There was also a picture. Familiar black eyes stared out at her, framed by a drawn face. He was dressed nicely, in a black jacket, white shirt, and black pants. A charming smile was on his lips. He looked like a friendly, chivalrous aristocrat. Kait knew better. Past that friendly smile was a heart as cold as steel, and a clever mind. Oh, he could play the part that his looks had given him, and he could play it better than any born into the role. And she had fallen for it when she had first met him.
Her head was pounding, and her sight was blurry. Pressure was being applied to her shoulders, and her first reaction was to fight it.
"Singora," a male's voice said quietly, his hands keeping her pinned. "None of us mean you any harm."
Kait stopped moving, gasping. Even such limited movements made her tired, and she didn't know why.
"W-w-whe..." She frowned. Was that her voice? It sounded so raspy… "Where am I?"
"You are in a safe place, singora. That is all you need to know."
Her vision began to clear, and she could now see the speaker. He was a handsome man, about two years older than her fourteen years of age. He flashed a charming smile, and she instantly felt that she could trust him. He was nicely dressed…perhaps she was in a private hospital, or a rich man's home…anything was possible.
She smiled and fell asleep.
She shook her head to clear it of memories and pressed a link to delete Ottavio's file. One down, three to go. Gadget's and DreamWalker's.
DreamWalker had come into the group a little before Kait had arrived. She was a Spanish girl, with long black hair that often covered her dark face. Her black eyes were oddly blank. She often dressed in black, including shorts and a turtleneck to hide the scar that had made her unable to speak. She had gained her nickname when Ottavio discovered her ability to walk into anything and become it, including dreams. She usually only spoke to Ottavio, using telepathy, but occasionally she said things to Gadget. Only once had she said anything to Kaitlyn…
Kait had been bent over a new device that would make food. No one in the group could cook, and ordering food was dangerous. Gadget was asleep, so it was her turn to work on it. She didn't even notice when Dream sat next to her.
'Kait', the girl said suddenly. The other woman jumped as the voice vibrated in her head. It had been a while since she had last talked to anyone telepathically.
"What's up, Dream?" Kait asked cautiously, sitting and putting the screwdriver down.
'I want to wish you luck on your mission. I am sure you will do wonderfully.'
For a first conversation, it hadn't been that bad. "Thanks, Dream."
The girl nodded and walked off. Kait returned to work.
It didn't take her long to find Gadget's file. It was slightly longer than the Italians, simply because he had a mental record. The file reported that his gift –control over electricity –was completely useless because of his apparent paranoia. It said that he had been put into a deep sleep for later use.
"How did you escape?" Kait had once asked the boy.
Gadget glanced up and smiled, his electric blue eyes sparkling. "I suffered from insomnia even after they gave me the treatment. I faked sleep. When they left, I got up, turned off the power, and walked out. They never reported it. The easiest thing I've ever done. How about you? How'd you make it out?"
She didn't answer for quite a while. When she finally did, her voice was as bland and flat as could be. "I don't remember."
DreamWalker was last. Kait expected her file to be the hardest to find. For one thing, she didn't know Dream's name or experiment number. So she was quite surprised when it turned out to be the first file. Absently, she opened it and scanned the information.
Dream had been part of an experiment that forced her to change people's imaginings and personalities. The removal of her vocal cords had been an accident, and she had supposedly faded into the body of a young soldier, and had never let go of him. Whether or not that was true was a completely different story.
Kait shook her head and deleted that file as well. Just one left. Hers.
Her file was the easiest to find. She scanned its contents. Kaitlyn Miserem, telepath. A microchip had been implanted into her mind to monitor her brain activity, but her brain had chained to adapt to it. She had gained control over electronic objects, and destroyed the lab she had been in, killing several in the process.
Glass shattered, people screamed, and electricity sparked.
She stumbled through the room, her bare feet sliding on the slick floor. She clutched her bald head, her thumb on the square scar where her hairline should have been.
The cold hit her like knives, causing her to shudder violently as she continued out. The world was spinning, and she felt herself starting to fall. She didn't try to stop it, and simply laid there, stretched out on the cold concrete, all alone.
Kait shook her head violently to dispel the memory and hit delete, just as the lights turned on.
Ottavio, Gadget and Dream watched as Kait walked in. They watched as she disabled the alarms, and they watched as she was dragged out of the building, her hair straggling over her face. They didn't move as the cars drove away, or when the lights turned off once again.
Gadget stirred slightly. "Shouldn't we go after her?"
"What would the point of that be?" the Italian asked. "The police have her. She will be sent back to a lab, and we won't be able to do anything about it."
"But we could try…she would do the same for us…"
"We will do nothing. She did her job; that is all that matters."
"Do you question my orders, Gadget?"
"No, I don't, Ottavio."
"Good." The man's face was blank as he turned and walked off. After a moment, the red-head followed. Only Dream stayed, gazing at the building.
'Good luck, Kait,' the girl whispered. She then turned and ran after the other two.