Parker-1 took a moment to smooth his uniform, then stepped into the operating theatre. It was unusually full – Enforcer Crawford, Ryan, Jones and the patient-to-be: former recruit Mimosa.
Annoyance leaked over the link. ^This is going to be interesting,^ his twin said. ^I’d still prefer to–^
Parker-1 shook his head. ^I’m her primary; I’m taking lead.^
^You’ve been taking lead all day.^
^I haven’t heard you complaining.^
His twin snaked in behind him, his hand trailing across his back. One more brief bit of contact before they started working. It would suffice.
‘You understand the brief as I’ve explained it to you?’ Crawford said.
Parker-1 affected his professional expression: dispassionate interest, with a tone of polite respect. It was a package that most people found far more amenable than his twin’s rough expressions and rougher words.
‘It was rather brief, sir,’ he said. ‘The–’ He hesitated at calling the young woman a “recruit”, as the title was no longer accurate. ‘The patient has had her heart replaced with a piece of the Dajulveed mirror. We’re to attempt to remove it, whilst ensuring continuation of life?’
‘If you can, Agent,’ Crawford said. ‘I don’t intend to tell you how to do your job, but if we could start with attempting to remove the bulk of the mirror?’
Parker-1 felt some of his twin’s annoyance over their private link.
^If he doesn’t want to tell us how to do our job, why is he telling us how to do our job?^
Behind the other agents, his twin smirked, and he felt some of -2’s annoyance slip away.
‘That was going to be our first step, sir,’ Parker-1 said evenly. ‘After an initial test to see if there is continuation after removing a sample.’
The former recruit shifted her weight from one foot to the other, swaying uncomfortably like a impatient child.
‘We’ll leave you to prepare,’ Crawford said, ushering the other agents out.
[Yo,] Jones said as he passed, initiating a Vox video chat. [I’m passing you the initial data I’ve been able to collect.]
Parker-1 accepted the chat, and some of his other HUD functions went grey so that he was better able to focus on the video window.
An attachment icon appeared beneath the chat, and he accepted the file.
^Ask him if he wants to watch,^ -2 said. ^I think he likes to watch.^
^I was about to offer.^
[Do you want a live feed?] Parker-1 asked. [This isn’t one of our areas of expertise, so if you’ve got input, we’ll welcome it.]
[A feed would be excellent,] Jones said. [I won’t be up on the observation deck, it seems…] The tech gave a tired expression. [I expect Taylor to be supremely unhappy with this situation when he finds out, and I cannot concentrate when that man is destroying furniture.]
Parker-1 grimaced. [If that arsehole makes too much noise, I will be sedating him.]
Jones shrugged, and the video chat ended. The HUD window automatically resized, Jones’ standard profile picture replacing the larger video window, and the file remained ready for opening or editing.
Parker-1 tagged the file to sort out the metadata later and opened it, browsing lazily through the contents as he walked to the terrified-looking former recruit. ‘Do you remember me?’
She looked up at him, blue eyes wide. ‘I’m not good at people, but you two make an impression. And I know you’re not the–’ She faltered. ‘And I’m pretty sure you’re my doctor, cause you’re not stomping and scary.’
‘Be nice,’ Parker-2 said, brandishing a rib spreader in her general direction. ‘I’m about to be digging around in your chest cavity.’
Mimosa hunched in on herself and stared down at the floor.
‘We can’t operate with you wearing that,’ -1 said, looking at the grey training outfit. He clicked his fingers, and the former recruit’s clothes were swapped for a surgical gown and a pair of scrub pants. ‘Up onto the bed.’
Mimosa gave him a wary look, then turned, sat on the low bed, and lay down.
Parker-1 flicked open the operating theatre’s controls and elevated the bed to their preferred height. He slit the gown down the centre and began to prep the area, angling the light to shine on the scars over her heart.
‘This would have hurt a lot, or not at all,’ he commented, giving her four small shots of blue – enough to give them all the detail on the area they could need, as well as monitor her vital signs…and let them take any emergency actions that might be necessary.
‘Do you have any known powers?’ Parker-2 asked. ‘Resistances? Defensive capabilities?’
Mimosa sucked in her lips and shrugged. ‘Healing?’
A feeling of deviousness came over the link, flashes of his twin’s plan landing in his mind. ^Don’t.^
^Can’t help myself, gorgeous.^ His twin picked up her hand and sliced into the back of her hand with a scalpel.
‘Jesus, what the fuck?’ Mimosa said as she sat up, the edges of her gown flapping open.
Parker-1 stepped forward, dismissed the scalpel, then pushed his twin back a step.
Mimosa grabbed the edges of the gown with the hand that wasn’t bleeding and held it closed over her chest, leaving her bleeding hand sitting on her knee, blood soaking into the pale blue pants.
^That was dangerous!^
^One of us had to take the chance,^ Parker-2 said. ^I’d rather it be me than you.^ Parker-2 stroked his own chin, but the sensation easily came through the link – comfort felt but not seen.
They appeared to be fine – the woman hadn’t spontaneously exploded or produced deadly gases. There was no immediate reaction to harm.
Parker-1 stepped forward and pulled Mimosa’s hand away from her knee to look at the wound – a wound that was already closing over. They watched, fascination and trepidation mixing freely over the link, as the wound healed, leaving no trace of the cut.
‘Interesting,’ Parker-2 said.
‘Why the fuck did you do that?’ Mimosa demanded, her anger apparently more important than the fear.
‘Because you’ve got mirror in your damn chest,’ his twin spat. ‘And I don’t know if anyone has explained the concept to you, but things like you are usually dangerous.’
The fear and the supplication returned as she looked at the floor again. ‘Well, I’m not.’
-2, however, wasn’t finished. ‘People have used it to make themselves immortal; to kill anyone who attacks them, to prevent all injury. The fact that you haven’t is a statistical anomaly.’
Mimosa scooted back – so much as she could on the narrow operating table. ‘I would–’ Her head sank further. ‘I think healing’s pretty passive.’
‘It’s going to make surgery a bitch,’ Parker-2 said, voicing both their thoughts.
Mimosa shook her head back and forth. She looked helpless.
‘Lie back,’ Parker-1 said, knowing his twin wasn’t making things any better. ‘I’m going to have to redo some of this prep.’
‘Is he going to stab me again?’ she asked as she lay back and let the gown fall open.
^Do you want to argue with that much mirror?^
^You’re infuriating, dearest.^
Parker-2 walked behind him, his hand tracing along -1’s beltline as he passed, and headed towards the next tray of instruments.
‘Do you think I’m going to die?’ Mimosa asked quietly, and for a moment, Parker-1 wasn’t sure that she was asking him, so much as the world at large.
‘We’ll do our best to ensure that doesn’t happen,’ he said. ‘I’m going to restrain you, because we won’t be sedating you the first time. We may need some feedback. You need to give us short, precise answers.’
‘I’m good at being short and precise,’ she muttered. ‘It’s practically my raison d’etre.’
Parker-1 moved around the operating table, strapping her arms and legs into padded restraints, then finished prepping the area over where her heart should have been.
He looked up to the observation deck, saw Crawford there, leaning casually against the rail – as calm and collected as someone of his station should be. Ryan paced like a man waiting for the gallows or for a pregnant wife to pop.
He opened a video chat with -2 and Crawford. [We’re ready to begin, sir.]
In the video, Crawford nodded, while his head stayed stationary in the real world. [In your own time, Agents.]
Parker-1 pinged Jones and sent the live feed as his twin approached with two scalpels.
It was short work to expose the mirror.
^I didn’t want to believe the scans,^ -2 muttered over the link. ^It looks like a damn decoration.^
^It is a little too whimsical for something that could end the world.^
It was shaped like a heart – a romanticised heart, rather than the functional organ they were so much more adept at dealing with.
Parker-1 stared at it. They’d never been so close to mirror before. They were doctors. They had no need to know more about mirrors. Even the pieces that came around under heavy guard and in heavy plastic blocks never came by Medical.
A piece this large could do almost anything.
^What would you wish for?^ -2 asked.
^I have you. I don’t need anything else.^
He picked up a small tech-designed laser cutter and reinitiated the video chat with Crawford. [Sir, we’re ready to try removing a sample.]
This time, Crawford nodded in the real world in unison with the version of himself in the video chat. [Go ahead. We’ve taken all the precautions that we can.]
Parker-1 cut the connection and turned on the laser, the blue guiding light flaring to life. The cutter was usually used to cut out pieces of bone or remnants of fae – things that couldn’t be shifted, for one reason or another.
Theoretically, it should cut the mirror.
He pressed the laser to the closest edge of the heart, dialled the intensity up to three out of ten with his thumb, and moved it a few inches.
The first attempt at the first cut.
Rainbow light exploded in his eyes, a high-pitched noise whined in his ears, and everything went white.