‘Fine, you won’t talk to me at the Agency, I’ll talk to you-’ Emma looked around the strange surroundings – the living room of an apartment. ‘Where exactly are we?’
Ryan turned – looking back at her from the doorway to one of the rooms, the guilt obvious on his face. ‘We’ll go back to the Agency,’ he said, trying to shift the guilt from his face.
She shook her head. ‘No. I’ve waited a month for you to speak to me on your own terms, now we’ll be speaking on mine.’ She walked toward him. ‘For one, where is this? It’s not really your style, so un-’ She looked into bedroom beyond him and saw the unmoving body in the bed. ‘What the bloody-?’ She tried to push past him, but he restrained her for a moment.
‘Just move.’
He lowered his hands and stepped aside so that she could pass.
She stared at the body in the bed – there was no question that it was dead. ‘That’s your recruit,’ she said as she scanned the face. ‘The one that-’ She raised a hand to her mouth. ‘Arcane mother of Chaos Ryan, if you’re into dead flesh, you’ve got trashmaids in your river, you didn’t have to-’
‘It’s not what you think,’ he said quietly, floundering for an answer.
‘You reported her dead. You reported her body stolen by Solstice. You- And all this time you’ve been-?’ She walked closer. ‘Dead girls in pyjamas is your kink? I guess the suits really do hide all.’
‘Are you going to let me explain?’ he said, shifting in front of her.
A glint caught her eye and she shoved him aside and pushed open the pyjama top. She stared at the wound for a moment, then tore the pyjama top open to get a get a better look. The mirror shone back at her. She reached for it, but he slapped her hand away.
‘Don’t touch it,’ he growled.
She straightened herself to look at him. ‘Mirror,’ she said at last. ‘You’re harbouring a piece of mirror?’ He said nothing. ‘I’d almost prefer that it had been the corpse-shagging, at least that’s easy to put on a report. “Sexual deviant, please punish”. But this… This is why you’ve been ignoring me? This is your dirty little secret? This is what you’ve… By the gods, Ryan, what were you thinking?’
‘It seemed to be the only thing to do.’
‘Mirrors must be destroyed.’
‘I know.’
‘Then destroy it!’ she said, pointing an angry finger at the wound. ‘Destroy it and maybe you can salvage something of your life-’
‘Mirrors must be destroyed,’ she repeated. ‘There’s a damn rulebook, have you ever read it? Don’t you ever feel it, scratching at the back of your mind when you disobey the rules? We are meant to be the order in this world, when you corrupt it, well then you’re no better than a fae. Or a demon.’
‘She died as the result of an accident. This is to try and remedy this.’
‘Are you a newborn?’ she asked through gritted teeth. ‘People do not come back from the Lady’s realm.’
‘She didn’t go to Death.’
‘That doesn’t change anything.’
‘It changes everything.’
‘No Ryan, it doesn’t change anything. Your feelings don’t change anything.’
‘If it had been a gunshot, and she’d used mirror to heal herself-’
‘Then it could have been left off the official record. According to all documentation…documentation you filed – she’s dead. Dead, Ryan, that’s why it doesn’t change anything.’
He shook his head, trying to retain his composure – he’d known that explanations were inevitable, but hadn’t known it would happen like this. He’d wanted it on his terms, not on Emma’s. Not on Taylor’s. Not on the Enforcers’. ‘What do you want me to say?’
‘There’s nothing you can say. Reach in there, pull the mirror out and destroy it.’
‘They wouldn’t go easy on me, even if I did that.’
‘No,’ she said. ‘I guess they wouldn’t.’ She stood still for a moment. ‘You aren’t trying to run, I’ll credit you that. I guess a part of you is still an agent.’ She stared at him. ‘Destroy the mirror.’
‘I can’t.’
She shook her head, and lifted her hand, her gun appearing in it as she did so.
She lowered her gun, just a little.
‘You’d thank me.’ He swung around and punched her. She caught it on the chin and did nothing but glare. ‘You would thank me, because you’d still be around, you wouldn’t be recycled and floating around in the collective unconscious.’
‘I’m not going to let you hurt her.’
‘There’s no her to hurt. That is a fucking corpse!’
‘If she didn’t go to Death, she’s not dead.’
‘No pulse. No breath. And even for a hacker, that skin tone isn’t healthy. She’s dead, deceased! This girl wouldn’t move if you put fifty-thousand volts through her!’ She paused for a moment. ‘If there’s no mirror, there’s no crime.’
He narrowed his eyes and straightened his back. ‘And if there’s no crime, I’ll be recycled over nothing.’
‘Reach in there and destroy the mirror, and allow me to bug you for a year, and there’ll be no need to speak of this again.’ She gave him a sad smile. ‘I can see what you wanted to do. I can understand attachment to recruits, but you know what the mirrors can do.’
He punched her again and turned to look at the heart, all of his thoughts on hold – there was nothing he could do, he wasn’t in control.
‘Even if she had woken up,’ Emma continued, ‘and even that wasn’t a certainty, you don’t know what would have woken up. There’s not one recorded case of a person being successfully reanimated.’
‘Not records are Agency.’
She narrowed her eyes. ‘And what’s that supposed to mean?’
‘It means we aren’t our creators, and we aren’t the Ladies. We can’t know everything. We don’t know what will-’
Emma stared at the broken mirror. ‘What would have happened. You’re working your way through the stories, aren’t you? Your first was Pygmalion, this one’s Frankenstein.’
‘Don’t bring Carol into this.’
She stared at him for a moment. ‘Fine then, I’ll make the choice for you.’ She lifted her gun and fired.
The heart shattered, spraying small shards everywhere. She reached forward. lifted one of the larger ones and sliced him across the face. The gun disappeared from her hand and she dropped the shard on the beside table. ‘There. Problem solved. See how easy that was?’
He lifted a hand to his bleeding cheek and felt the deep cut.
She pointed to the shard. ‘No mirror. No crime. I’ll give you an hour. I’m trusting you to make the right choice. Let her go, and you’ll still have your Agency to look after.’
‘What’s that mean?’
‘Grow a pair, and show me that you can do this and I’ll piss off. I can always pick up the pieces once you monumentally bollocks this city this up.’
‘So you’ll be back in an hour?’
‘No, I’m sick of running after you. You come to me in an hour, and destroy that shard in front of me.’
He made a noncommittal noise, and wiped the blood from his cheek with the back of his hand.
‘Mirrors are wishes,’ she reminded him. ‘And the world would destroy itself in a day if everyone got their wishes.’
‘I’ll see you in hour,’ he said.
‘Fifty-nine minutes,’ she said before shifting away.
He pressed a handkerchief against the cut in his cheek and turned to look at the body. ‘That-’
The corpse spasmed.
The corpse spasmed again.
‘Arcane mother of Chaos…’
Stef opened her mouth and began to scream.