Chapter 12

The curtains were drawn and the door was locked, both of them. Avery paced back and forth in her comfortable living room, feeling it close in around her, the weight of her years of knowledge, of the past, of the future, at war with her immediate moral compass. Clutched tightly in her hand was her well-worn cell phone. It was hot from use, its battery nearly dead.

Suddenly she stopped, taking a huge breath, and dropped down hard, frustrated, on the couch behind her. She reached out to pick up her mug, her drink gone cold in its neglect. She drank anyway, the lukewarm tea cool against her fevered throat. She felt at it absently. Maybe with the swinging weather she was getting a cold. Avery made a mental note to dig out her box of woollen scarves, a product of her decade long knitting phase in her 60s.

With one hand she pulled her glasses off and massaged the side of her head. With her other, newly free from her mug, she woke her phone up, dialling from memory one fifteen digit number.

Across the room, nestled into place on her cluttered shelves, a wooden box sat. The small row of red lights along its top blinked feebly at one end, pulsing slowly in beat with every third ring of her phone. After several minutes the call finally connected, a tired, gravelly voice answering at the other end.

"It's beginning." She told the person on the end of the line. A series of rough questions came at her next. Avery bore them patiently, most of her responses consisting of "I don't know." Several times she was troubled with how much information to pass on. In those instances she held her tongue, continuing with her "I don't know"s.

Avery had confided the entire story only to one other person, her sometimes partner Kenn, a person who avoided any direct contact with the party on the phone. "Yes I've informed him." She snapped, somewhat impatiently to the voice in her ear. She took a breath to try and control her exasperation. "I've told you all I know. Please put me through to Chapin."

The gravelly voice gave some sarcastic answer and the line immediately burst into some inappropriately upbeat tune. Avery didn't recognize it, they all sounded the same to her. She shook her head and lowered the phone, notching the volume up. This could take some time, she knew from experience.

At some point she decided that hot, diluted tea was better than anything cold and she passed through to the kitchen to reheat the kettle. Her hand was wrapped around the handle when a heavy knock sounded at the door.

Avery jumped just a bit, sloshing a bit of water on the floor. She had not been expecting company, and had not heard the guest come up. Aside from that, she was positive she had checked the downstairs doors before retiring to her apartment.

Slowly, she crossed to the door and cracked it open, swinging it wide almost immediately. Her face fell as she took in the person across from her, standing damp from the snow on the little landing in front of her door.

"I'm so, terribly sorry." Avery said, softly through the silence. She moved to one side. "Please, come in."

Beth stood alone in her room. She had left the park early, of her own volition, after telling Spider, honestly, that she had a headache from the day's events. Charles had driven her home, silently, in the back of Spider's towncar, and their housekeeper, sometimes nanny, sometimes nurse, Mrs. Barbant had seen her to her room.

The woman had helped Beth into her pyjamas, made sure she brushed her teeth and gave her her medication to take for the night, a tiny blue pill that tasted like crushed pine needles. Normally Beth took it, wordlessly and without water, as she had that night, but tonight something was different.

As soon as Mrs. Barbant had said her goodbyes, leaving Beth to get into bed on her own, but turning out the light as she left, Beth opened her mouth and spat the bitter blue pill onto her carpet. Almost as an afterthought, she kicked the sticky thing under her bed where it hopefully would not be found for a long while.

Beth knew very well the risks of her gamble, but she did not worry. Beth knew a lot of things, as she had learned over the past ten years, sitting day in and day out at the side of a very powerful man, sitting and doing nothing but watch. Beth knew it had been almost twelve hours since her last little blue pill, just as she knew she was never to go for twelve hours without taking one, the consequences could be deadly. But she knew she was right in this.

Things were changing, rapidly. She had been told that much over the last decade, during her time as ward of the businessman they called Spider. She had finally began to suspect as much herself over the past few months, as Spider and his workers made plans, leaked plans, and modified their own. It had all been leading up to these last few days. And they had found what they had sought. Not in the way intended, initially the news flooding into Spider's office had seemed bleak, and she had absorbed that knowledge too, as stoic as she ever was under that little blue pill, resigning herself to years more of the treatment.

Until she had felt it, earlier today. The shock - not an electrical shock, she was far too familiar with those, but a shock of a different kind of energy. A shock wave that rocked out across the city. A shock that had passed from skin to skin. And by this shock, she knew that her time had come.

The first wave of cramps rocked her body, the cramps signalling the little blue drug leaving her system, and Beth pulled herself into her giant bed as a second wave hit. She set her teeth against the coming storm. She knew what was coming, she was prepared for this and all she had to do was wait out the night. Beth had waited a long time for this moment, but Beth was good at waiting. Though she was not nearly as patient as her guardian, who had waited for far longer.