New York City, Earth Prime
I stumble into the abandoned warehouse, blood still flowing from my wounds and my head spinning. Callway and his people see me, and recoil in disgust, though they try to hide it. My mind is swirling, but one thought keeps repeating over and over in my mind.
She didn't kill me.
"Can you track the plane!" I demand.
Callway opens his mouth slightly, but nothing comes out right away.
I slam my fist on a table, to look mad, but actually releasing my frustration.
"TRACK IT NOW!" I shout.
"Sir," Callway begins.
"Someone came to check on our progress," he says.
"WHO?" I shouted again.
He motions for me to turn around. I look into a shadowed area of the warehouse and see a man in full techno-organic armor stand. He walks slowly towards me, his hands behind his back and his fixated on mine.
"Alpha," I say standing straight.
He stands before me, his face expressionless.
"It seems you had quite the battle," he says calmly in his hollow voice.
I nod slowly. Despite the nanite's that help my body adjust to the techno-organic transformation, and thus accelerate any healing I need, I'm still showing signs of the beating Skye gave me. My face is still swollen, blood is everywhere on my uniform, and my head is ringing. She could have killed me.
Alpha motions for me to follow him, and we walk away from Callway and the two techs. We proceed into the shadows, where they can't see us clearly.
"I am not surprised at your failure," he says softly.
She didn't kill me.
"My lord, I did not have my battle suit, nor did I intend to go into battle," I begin. "I was hoping to draw agent 1313 out, and I believed they would wish to be discreet as we are."
"As did I," he responds. "Yet you see how unpredictable, unruly, and utterly foolish these rebels from my world can be."
She didn't kill me.
"You also see how skilled they are," he adds. "They've had a lifetime of fighting against others like you and I. They're experience is far greater than yours. When I say I'm not surprised at your failure, it is not out of disrespect to you."
"Thank you…my lord," I say slowly.
Alpha and Iverson don't tolerate failure. I've risen through the ranks precisely because I never fail. I've had too. I've had to be the best. Yet I've also had to find ways to stop them. Today I hope I gave them enough cause to search into agent 1313, or Alia's, past. Find out why they want her so much, what makes her indispensable to them.
"If anyone failed today, it is Iverson," Alpha continues.
I cock an eyebrow.
"Iverson?" I ask.
Alpha turns to me, and stares directly into my eyes.
"Yes," he says. "He is outliving his usefulness by the day. We've needed his resources, and his willingness to establish a new world order, but his arrogance is remarkable."
"Does this mean you've regained your trust in me?" I ask.
She didn't kill me.
"I never lost it," he says quietly. "Iverson cannot accept responsibilities for his failures, so he blamed you. This is why we must dispose of him soon."
"Why not now?" I ask.
He checks over his shoulder and see's everyone is still busy at their computers.
"Unfortunately we still need him," he says. "We need a public persona, a host, to carry out our plans. However, soon we may not need him."
"I see," I respond quietly. "But what of the others from your world?"
He puts a hand to his chin and looks off into the distance.
"What was the name of their liaison? Or their host?" he asks.
"We were able to connect them to an FBI agent named Clarissa Decker," I begin. "I used her to draw them out…"
"No, not her," he says. "The other one, the one she was working with."
"Orion," I say, as casually as possible. "A Bradley Orion."
"Orion," he repeats the name airily.
Once again he checks over his shoulder, then turns back to me.
"I am going to charge you with something very important," he says.
"We must find them," he says. "Agent 1313 is with Orion, and they must be captured together. The others matter little, but we must capture those two. If they die, you will die, understood."
I nod again.
"I will continue tracking them…"
"No," Alpha interrupts.
I cock an eyebrow.
"I will reassign you to team up with Zannah, who is currently in Manhattan with Iverson," he continues. "They are on a special assignment and will fill you in on the details when you arrive."
I tilt my head and narrow my eyes.
"What of Orion?" I ask .
A wide grin spreads across Alpha's face.
"We will let Orion continue his search while we follow him," Alpha said. "And soon, he will lead us to what we are looking for."
Orion, Drake, Skye, Alia, Soran
Somewhere over the Pacific Ocean
Drake, Alia, and Soran are all sleeping soundly in their chairs. I haven't been able to sleep soundly in such a long time. Every time I close my eyes the same faces, places, and events all replay themselves for me. Drake is somehow able to push it aside, probably because he's open about his emotions. He's not the annoying kind who wears them on his sleeves, just open. I used to think he embraced his fears; stare them right in the eye and refuse to give into them.
Myself on the other hand. Alright, I'll admit, I keep them bottled up. And why shouldn't I? It's my business and no one else's, and I can handle it. I'm just as strong as I ever was, and I've never lost a fight because I stumbled, hesitated, or missed my mark.
Except I didn't kill Shay.
That is the newest thought that swirls my mind whenever I close my eyes. I opened them, and my fists were clenched so hard together my skin was pale white. I could have, I should have, but I didn't. I couldn't.
No, I could have….I didn't want too. I stopped myself. Why? I don't know.
I hear a door click and see Clarissa emerge from the cockpit. Her eyes are heavy and her hair is disheveled. Unfortunately, she still looks pretty, she always looked pretty. She begins pouring some dark powder into some sort of distiller and pressed a button for hot water to cycle through it. It produces a black liquid which she pours into a ceramic cup and turns to me.
She takes a sip and a sour expression fills her face.
"No cream and sugar," she says shrugging.
I stare at her blankly. She steps towards us and see's Drake, Alia, and Soran all sleeping. She looks back at me.
"Would you like a cup?" she asks. "It'll help you stay awake."
My face doesn't move. Drake leapt off a building to save her, and he actually did it. Despite myself, I'm glad. Her counterpart killed my Shay, but I know she's the not the same person. I only hope they are that much different.
She nods uncomfortably at my silence and walks towards me. I straighten myself, never taking my eyes off her. She sits down next to me.
"Take a wiff," she says holding the cup out towards me.
I do, it smells horrible, and a sour expression fills my face.
"Terrible isn't it," she says.
"Yup, we all think that at first," she says taking a sip. "But, it's an acquired taste, you have to get used to it. There are things you can put in it," she continues. "Cream, sugar, syrup. It'll make it taste different, more desirable, but doesn't completely change the flavor. At the end, you have to learn to like and accept its basic flavor."
I turn away from her and look out the dark window. I sense her slouch her shoulders. I know what she's trying to do, and I'm not interested.
"I'm sorry," she says quietly.
I turn back to her.
"For what?" I ask.
"For what I did in your world," she says.
"It wasn't you," I respond.
"No, but you can't help but see her when you look at me, and honestly, I feel terrible that someone who is suppose to be me would do that."
I stare into her green eyes. She holds them steady, a sign of sincerity.
"He loved her more than anything else in the entire world," I say quietly looking at Drake.
She looks over her shoulder at him.
"She didn't know what she had," she says quietly.
I swallow as I see her eyes stare at him.
"He's also never ran so fast in his life," I add.
She looks back to me, meets my eyes for a moment, then looks away. After taking another sip of her black liquid, she reaches into her jacket and pulls out a small, rectangular object.
"How about a peace offering," she says holding it out towards me.
I tilt my head at it.
"What is it?" I ask.
"This is called a flash drive," she begins. "I was searching for information on Shay, this worlds Shay."
"I'm not interested in this worlds Shay," I say quickly.
Except I didn't kill him.
She shakes her head.
"That's not what this is," she says. "While searching, I found….I found you. This worlds you."
This had never occurred to me. I have a counterpart in this world, just as Alia and Clarissa have a counterpart in ours.
"Me?" I say.
Clarissa nods slowly, very slowly.
"Unfortunately, the information isn't all great, and I'm not sure how you'll take it," she says.
"Why?" I ask. "Where am I?"
"Go ahead and read it if you want," she says handing it too me. "We have a computer in the back."
I stare at the drive. Meanwhile, Clarissa gets up and heads back towards the cockpit. Before she reaches the door she pauses.
"I also have more," she says.
I glance up at her.
"Why don't you just give it to me all at once?" I ask.
She bites her lip.
"Read that," she says. "And if you want the rest, just ask."
She opens the door and rejoins Orion, leaving me alone with all my thoughts again.