The Grey Edge: Chapter Eleven

The gym seemed to be spinning. Everything seemed to be spinning. The world was out of alignment. The world was wrong. He was wrong. The world was wrong.
Taylor swung both fists as Grigori appeared in front of him.
‘You knew!’ he raged, punching, kicking, making every movement towards the taller agent an attack, some hit, some were dodged, some were knocked away.
‘You didn’t,’ Grigori said as he grabbed his leg, stopping what should have been a kick to his blond head. ‘You needed to be shown.’
‘I thought-’ he started as he wrenched his leg away.
‘I know what you thought,’ Grigori said as he shifted behind him, and grabbed his arms. ‘What I don’t understand is why you thought that.’
He flipped the Russian over him, slammed him to the ground, and began to walk back towards his office.
‘With every bit of logic telling you that you that you were alive,’ Grigori said as he stood, rubbing his neck, ‘why on earth would think you were dead?’
He turned and ran at Grigori, pushing him to the ground again, swinging his fists again and again. ‘Shut up, just shut up, just shut up!’
[Tell me,] Grigori ordered.
‘Leave me alone!’
[You thought you were dead!]
‘Leave me alone!’
[I’m your friend, talk to me.]
Blood dripped from his eyes, clear, thin, blood, that dripped down onto Grigori’s uniform.
He slumped, all strength leaving him as he straddled the other agent.
‘You must have nearly died a hundred times since…since then,’ Grigori said, ‘I’ve never seen it get to you like this.’
‘It-’ he started. ‘I-’ More blood leaked down his face and fell onto his friend’s uniform. ‘Because it was exactly like it was then. It felt the same.’
Grigori slipped a hand up his shirt, and placed a hand where the hole had been. ‘You didn’t die, Taylor, she saved you.’
‘It’s my strongest memory,’ he said, wiping the blood away from his eyes. ‘My strongest memory is the one where I am weakest. It felt like dying again. I felt…dead again.’
‘Are you all right now? The answer doesn’t have to be yes.’
He stood, stumbled back to the bleachers, and wiped the last of the blood away from his eyes. ‘Magnolia,’ he said after a minute.
‘The first thing you need to do is order her to stay put,’ Grigori said, ‘I know what you’re like, and all of your bad habits are rubbing off on her. She needs to be in bed for a couple of days, at least, understand?’
‘Completely in lov-’ The Russian coughed. ‘Completely in lovely amounts of pain, though I’m sure the twins are doing their best to keep her drugged up. All the burns have had grafts put on, so there’ll be no lasting visible damage, though they were really, really bad, so she needs time to heal. Inhaled an absolutely unhealthy amount of smoke, so no way you can swing her around by her neck at the moment, most of her hair is gone, but I’ll cover that – I know a hairdresser or two.’
He looked up. ‘What aren’t you saying?’
‘What she did,’ Grigori said, ‘if she’d had to sustain it for even a minute more, she would have had a stroke. She nearly killed herself getting you out of there. You’ve…you’ve trained a good recruit, you’re a lucky man.’
‘She’s a good recruit,’ he said.
‘Is that all?’
He thought about Magnolia for a moment. About her training. Her legs. Her performance. Her skin. Her kill count. Her curves. Her legs. Her- Her devotion to duty. Her quick mind. Her legs. Her excellence in hand-to-hand skills. Her ability to take down an enemy.
He focused himself. ‘She’s a very good recruit,’ he said.
‘And what do you think about her as a person?’ Grigori asked. ‘Or about the way she looks? Or-’
‘I don’t understand the question.’
‘You don’t want to understand the question,’ Grigori snapped.
‘Stop it.’
‘Taylor…’ Grigori stopped, sighed, and pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. ‘Look, we will continue this conversation later, what’s important now is I found where the video came from.’
‘I’m amazing, that’s how. Look, if you’re coming, you need to clean yourself up, and dress in something that isn’t your uniform. I got us an appointment to speak with director, who also happens to be the company owner. We’ve got two hours to get there, so are you coming or not?’
‘What about-’
‘Ryan can’t do shit except make apologies until Magnolia is up and around, and ready to make her report. Clarke is doing his best to placate while your crime scene guys go over that place with a fine-tooth comb. You, in fact, have the rest of day off due to injury.’
‘Then yes,’ he said, ‘I’m coming.’ He required himself into his uniform, minus his jacket, and stood for inspection.
‘I said,’ Grigori repeated, ‘Not your uniform.’
‘I don’t have anything else,’ he said.
Grigori sighed. ‘Fine, just stand still, let me work.’
He felt strange clothes against his skin, shirts appearing and disappearing, pants disappearing without anything to replace them, his jacket disappearing off into the ether and his sense of pride dwindling as he stood like a mannequin, waiting for his friend to finish picking out an outfit.
The selection of shirts finally stopped sliding across his skin, and pants appeared on his bare legs. He looked down at himself. Flat black pants, a matching jacket, and a shirt.
Pants. Shirt. Jacket.
‘How is this any different to what I was wearing?’
Grigori made a tutting sound and patted him on the head. ‘You’ve got a lot to learn about clothes. Trust me, this is a lot different. For one, this doesn’t immediately scream “agent”, and we’re trying to blend in.’
Similar clothes appeared on Grigori, and the Russian smiled. ‘I presume you know where the nearest door is? Once we’re in town, we can catch a cab, but we’re probably going to be reliant on their public transport for the first leg of the journey.’
‘It’s this way,’ he said as he shifted them across the city.
An abandoned shop stood there, paint peeling and in disrepair. He walked across to the door, Grigori right behind him, looked a the door, then stepped sideways into the staircase down into fairyland.
‘You should get them to install a door in your basement,’ Grigori said as they descended the dark stairs.
‘Our basement isn’t like yours,’ he said, hitting his head on a low section of roof. ‘If you’ll remember.’
‘Do you ever get the urge just to put those poor bastards out of their misery?’
‘I thought you were in favour of experiments.’
‘You’re different,’ Grigori said. ‘You at least get out to see the sun. You aren’t locked away with no hope of a better life. You…you at least have the chance to live, even if you don’t take the opportunity to.’
‘My job is my life, stop thinking it isn’t good enough.’
‘There’s more to life than being an agent, Agent Taylor,’ Grigori said as they stepped out into fairyland.
‘For people like you, maybe,’ he said as they started down the road.
‘And people like me are what?’ Grigori said as he stopped to look at the bus stop sign. ‘Bus isn’t due for half an hour, we just missed one, if we walk a bit, maybe fifteen minutes, we’ll hit an express stop, should get us into town sooner.’
‘I don’t mind.’
‘You sure?’ Grigori asked as he caught up. ‘You aren’t me, you haven’t been building up your strength in non-system areas. You aren’t the energizer bunny, you know.’
‘I can do whatever you can do,’ he said.
Grigori raised his eyebrows. ‘Really? Can you successfully integrate a tricycle as prop during a foursome?’
He just stared at the man, then back to the road ahead.
‘I thought as much,’ the Russian said. ‘You can’t do everything I can do.’
‘When it comes to important things,’ he argued, ‘I can.’
‘Doesn’t matter,’ Grigori said, ‘I can still kick your ass.’
‘Tell me about him.’
‘Not much to say,’ he replied, ‘he makes porn, what do you need to know?’
‘You know the questions I need answers to.’
‘She only did one film, the one you saw,’ Grigori said, ‘so you don’t have to worry.’
He stared at the taller agent. ‘Do you really think I care?’
‘If I knew what you cared about, or how much you cared, my life would be a lot easier,’ Grigori said, ‘you are so needlessly complicated.’
‘Her life before the Agency doesn’t matter.’
‘So you’d be ok if I had lied and had a print out of her twenty films in my pocket?’
He stopped walking and stared at Grigori. ‘Stop it.’
‘You said you didn’t care.’
‘I don’t!’
‘So what’s the difference between one and twenty?’
‘It really was only one, though,’ Grigori said. ‘She wasn’t exploited that much, you don’t need to worry.’
‘I don’t worry.’
‘You looked worried when you thought you were dead.’
‘A weak moment,’ he said, staring at the ground, ‘even you can forgive that.’
‘Stop thinking,’ Grigori said, ‘that you need forgiveness, and maybe you’ll get somewhere. Come on, we don’t want to miss the bus, I’ll tell you the rest once we get into town.’