Episode XI - Aftermath

I woke up the same way I had first woken up on that alien world- alone, confused, and with a spinning head. My one hope- the one thing that kept me going though all the pain and horror, wasn't to be. This wasn't Earth, but some other strange planet. After all I had been though, Overwatch simply scooped me up, and just dumped me on another godforsaken rock. At least this world was inhabited, though. Many species of aliens lived here, too many for me to count. This new planet wasn't as barren and ravaged as the wasteland I had fought on, but it was certainly not anything urban. Spaceships came and went all the time, none ever staying for long. This must be some kind of exchange station, or refuelling stop, or something like that. I soon found a living working in a mine, going underground for hours- sometimes days at a time, with a crew of other bizarre aliens. Within a few weeks I was able to get my own little place- a broken-down shanty in the middle of nowhere. The band on my arm was finally gone, and at least I was alive... if you could call this living. When I had awoken here, Overwatch had left me with my revolver, and just one bullet. At first, I wasn't sure why. But as the weeks turned into months, and the nightmares grew more and more frequent, I came to realize their reason. Every time I thought of eating the barrel, I tried to think of one good reason not to do it this time.

That reason was always the same. Mylan. Not a day went by that I didn't think of her. And every time I turned my revolver towards myself, I couldn't escape the idea that if I pulled that trigger I would be wasting her sacrifice. This is my life. I had to live it. For her.

Then, about one year later...

There I was, inside a small tavern. My usual spot was right up at the barstool, a few empty glasses in front of me, my head resting on my hands. Everything here tasted like shit, but I couldn't care less. I just kept coming here to forget everything for awhile. Someone else came to sit down a few stools away from me, but I couldn't be bothered to lift my head to see who. Probably some other unlucky dead-ender like me. Suddenly, the portly bartender dropped a full glass in front of me. "I didn't order anything," I muttered.

"You didn't," he said, "She did for you."

I turned my head to the side to look at whoever this was. My jaw dropped. "Mylan?"

Between two thick walls of long, black hair, a smile came through on the stranger's lips. "Did you miss me?"

Maybe I've been drinking a little too much.

She wore something like a poncho that covered most of her, the only thing recognizable as Mylan was what little of her face came through her long hair. As I tried to find the words I needed to ask her everything, she stood up and put her hand on my shoulder. "Come on, let's get out of here."

I opened the door to my crappy house. "It isn't much," I said, leading her inside, "but it's what I've been calling home."

Mylan looked around, unimpressed. "How can you live like this?" She asked, looking at the holes in the walls.

"I manage," I shrugged.

Mylan hummed. "So," she said, "You want to ask me something, huh?"

That was an understatement. I led her to my torn and ratty couch, and as soon as we sat down, my tongue was on auto-pilot. "How are you still alive?"

Mylan smirked. "Back on the wasteland planet, when we broke out of Grendan's hideout, you found me tied down, right?"

"Yeah."

"Didn't Maruta have you tied down once before, too?" She asked. I nodded. "If it's anything like what he did with me, he let you figure out what was really going on."

"Trying to fake death to fool the bands." I said. "Wait, that's how you did it? He already gave it to you?"

Mylan nodded.

"But- but you shot yourself! In the head!"

"Not really," She said. Looking at the confused look on my face, she continued. "My guns were all energy weapons. They're designed to turn energy into focused bursts. I was in the army on Makria, remember? You don't get far without knowing your weapons inside and out."

"So what did you do with it?"

"Modified it's programming," she said. "Something I added myself back on Makria. Instead of a focused energy burst, I rigged it to fire a low-voltage electrical discharge."

"Why?"

"Comes in handy," She said.

"So, what does that have to do with the junk Maruta put in you?"

"He talked to himself a lot," she said. "He kept saying he needed a trigger for the chemical to work. Something that would produce a reaction to get the band to register death. He figured that something like a jolt of electricity would work, and was just about to hit me with one when they dragged you in."

I had to take a moment to let this all sink in. "Why didn't you tell me?" I asked.

"I-" Mylan stammered, "I knew I was taking a huge risk with your reaction. If I was ever going to pull it off, I had to make sure Overwatch would buy it. Your reaction had to be genuine."

Wow. "Then what? How'd you get off the planet?"

"That..." Mylan paused, "That's what I think was Grendan's plan all along. I woke up on a pile of bodies in a cargo hold."

"Cargo hold? You mean like in a spaceship?"

"Exactly," said Mylan. "Grendan's big idea was to kill everyone, except Maruta. Then, they'd feign turning on each other, triggering Maruta's formula in both of them. When Overwatch would come in to clean up, they'd have to do something with the bodies. With Grendan and Maruta only pretending to be dead though, whatever machine Overwatch was using would be theirs to take over."

"And in that case, the spaceship."

"Right. Grendan was going to hijack some Overwatch technology, and use it against them."

Huh. It all made perfect sense. "Someone like Grendan with technology like Overwatch's," I muttered, "That's a scary thought."

"Tell me about it," said Mylan. "But then you killed Maruta, so... congratulations on maybe saving the universe."

Me. Possibly having saved the universe. "I guess I did," I murmured.

"Anyway," Mylan continued before my head could get too big, "I snuck onto an escape pod, and shot myself into space. I've been planethopping ever since, keeping a low profile."

This was getting a little too hard to believe. "How did you find me?" I asked.

"I'm a mercenary," She said, "I need work. I was sniffing out jobs when I heard about a alien that nobody had seen before suddenly appearing on a refuelling station. Dark brown hair, pale skin, every description matched you... except for the new beard."

I rubbed the plentiful hair on my chin. "You like it?"

Mylan shrugged. "It's alright. Anyway, I thought I should stop by, see if it really was you. Make sure you were doing okay."

"Okay, yeah," I muttered, "I'm doing okay. I'm still alive, right?"

"How's the arm?" She asked.

I looked at my right forearm. The long, ugly scar that Jahood had left looked back at me. "Better," I said. "Doesn't hurt as much as it used to."

"You wanna' come with me?"

"Yes!" I blurted out.

"Hm. Thought so," said Mylan. "Whenever you're ready, we'll go."

As Mylan was about to get up, I grabbed her arm. "You... you really didn't mean what you said, did you?" I asked.

"Said about what?" She asked.

"About-" I paused. This was going to be hard. "About how I deserved life more than you."

Mylan suddenly froze. Those bright silver eyes looked like they were seeing a lot of memories, none of them pleasant. Her lower lip trembled, and after a long silence she hung her head and finally said, "Starting out, you don't have the luxury of choosing your jobs."

I held her by her other arm too now. "You weren't sure it would work, were you?"

Mylan shook her head.

My heart began racing. I could tell that hers was too. I had to say something- anything. "Listen, Mylan," I began, not sure where I was going, "I don't know what you've done, and I don't want to know. I'm not going to ask. I know you're not a heartless monster, otherwise you would have shot me the first time you saw me. I looked up to you, Mylan. I loved how strong you were. I love you."

Mylan's eyes suddenly focused on mine. Wait, what did I just say?

Mylan's gaze strayed low. "What are you trying to do, sweep me off my feet?"

Her words didn't have that same commanding tone that I had become used to. She was still acting tough. I had to match it. "I wouldn't say if it if I didn't mean it."

I felt her arms relax. When I gently pulled her towards me, she didn't resist. As her head fell against my shoulder, she said, "That's what I like about you." I shuffled over closer to her, and as I slid my arm over her shoulder, I felt her melt against me. "I thought you wanted to get going," She said.

"Whenever you're ready, Mylan," I said, "Whenever you're ready."