The Grey Edge: Chapter Twenty

Come to me, Magnolia.
Feathers tore out of her back, and sprouted along her arms.
I’m asking nicely, Magnolia.
‘Go to hell!’
She felt her feet twitching, stretching, turning into talons and tearing their way out of her shoes.
One way or the other-

‘I’m not coming!’ she screamed again, feeling her legs begin to morph to match her feet.
Would you rather die?
So be it.
Red magic sparked from her fingertips.
‘Oh gods…’
Explode. She was going to explode and die, just like Ben Thomas. She was going to- She could hear Taylor saying something, talking to her, but she couldn’t make it out. Run. She had to run. Run, or he was going to die. Just like the death they’d avoided not even twelve hours ago. Such a long day. Such a good day. The best day. The last day.
There was another spark, and she focused on the street outside the Agency. Her vision tunneled, she saw blood, then Taylor, his office, and the bed disappeared.
She hit the cold street with a hard thud, and felt something break. Safe. She had to keep him safe. There was another spark of energy, and she saw cracks run along her skin, and felt the magic in her give way, boil over, and…explode.
The street cracked, a car across from the Agency’s front door caught on fire, its windows shattering, and all of the small pieces of trash in the gutters disappeared in small showers of sparks.
She let her head hit the ground, and struggled to breathe. She was still alive. Still alive.
Her mother circled in the night sky above her. I’m asking you again.
‘No!’ she screamed, tasting blood.
There was a hiss, a trail of smoke, and an explosion.
I’m sick of playing games, Magnolia.
The street began to turn slick, its surface turning to a sucking pool of black, pulling her under. Limbs failed to move, and the pain in her head told her that attempting another fade would be a very painful way to die.
Someone grabbed her head, jerked it forward, and jammed a needle into her neck. Everything hurt as whatever it was rushed around her bloodstream. Her skin burnt, her muscles hurt and the pain in her head increased, but the street began to lose hold on her. A second shot was administered, and the street relented, giving her back to the world.
She lay on her back on the cold street – the major threat gone, it was much easier to realise how hard it was to breathe, how everything was-
A slap hit her across the face, and she tried to focus. One of the Parkers was on top of her. ‘When I say breathe, breathe.’ His lips moved as he counted to three. ‘Breathe!’
She sucked in a breath, and felt the relief of oxygen. There was something wrong with her lungs though, something that-
Another breath.
‘Ready?’ the Parker’s duplicate said from somewhere behind her.
‘Breathe, Mags.’ the Parker on top of her said, then looked up. ‘Careful. One more breath, then do it. Breathe.’
The street disappeared, replaced with the bright, sterile lights of the infirmary.
A bed materialised beneath them, and she closed her eyes, trying to catalogue all of the damage. She couldn’t feel her mother trying to hurt her more, she couldn’t-
‘What’s wr-’
‘I didn’t say speak,’ Parker said. ‘I know this is hard for you, but just lie there and take instruction. Breathe.’
She felt a needle slide into her neck, and another one into her arm.
‘Your lungs are…way too small right now,’ Parker said. ‘No way of getting enough oxygen to your body. Breathe. We can keep you stable, for now, but – breathe – it’s only temporary, we’re going to have to find a more permanent solution, and hopefully before someone notices. Breathe.’
‘I said don’t speak,’ he said, his voice getting a cold edge to it. ‘Your lungs are like a bird’s, you put too much strain on them, and they might just explode, and we can’t bring you back if you’re dead. Breathe. If you were going to ask what they might notice, well, how about us extraordinarily overstepping our bounds to keep you alive right now? Breathe.’
‘What my wonderful partner is trying to say,’ the other Parker said as he slid some equipment into place beside the bed, ‘is STFU and we all win. But, if we had one of your lungs on ice, we could do a transplant. See? This is why I like organ donations.’
The freestanding Parker kissed his partner on the cheek. ‘You need to breathe too, come on, take a breath for me.’
The Parker on top of her gave a weak smile. ‘Breathing is a bad habit.’
‘Should I make you pant instead?’
‘Breathe, Mags. And, I’m fine, set up the-’
‘Already on it,’ Parker said as he moved away.
‘What’s her condition?’
Taylor’s voice. He was there. He wasn’t dead, and he was checking on her.
‘Not sure you want to know.’
She heard him growl.
‘Why?’ he asked.
‘Because you’re the kind of guy to take a horse out to the back paddock and shoot them, that’s why, now get the fuck out of my infirmary.’
‘What’s her condition?’
‘Don’t tempt me-’
The Parker on top of her tapped her cheek, turning her attention back to him. ‘Breathe.’
‘Parker,’ Taylor said, ‘I just want to know how she is.’
‘Oh fucking fine,’ Parker said. ‘But you aren’t going to like it.’
‘You can see most of what’s wrong with her, he’s doing most of her breathing for her, getting the oxygen where it needs to go, but we need a better solution ASAP otherwise we’re all screwed.’
‘What did you do to her, in the street?’
‘…that’s the part you aren’t going to like,’ Parker said.
‘Tell me,’ he said, his voice still calm.
‘We pumped her full of blue.’
She turned her head to look at the standing Parker, and her commander.
Parker raised a hand. ‘Let me explain before you do or say anything stupid.’
‘It’s inhibiting Magpie,’ Taylor said.
‘Yeah,’ Parker said.
‘It’s not sustainable.’
‘Of course not, not unless you’re going to petition Jonesy into lining her up to be an experiment, Agent Mags, she would have to give up her loli look. Not gonna happen. It’s unsustainable, especially because it’s not refreshing itself. There’s enough to keep mummy dearest off her for as long as the blue lasts, we’ll keep it topped up after that.’
‘How long?’
‘Nine hours.’
Taylor made a disappointed noise. ‘You used Mimosa’s blue.’
Parker nodded. ‘It’s already formatted to work with human biology a bit, so it’s less rough on her system than any other we could use. It doesn’t mean anything, so don’t read anything more into it than there is.’
Taylor was quiet for a moment. ‘Fix her.’
‘No, really? I was going to sit down and work on a decade’s worth of crossword puzzles, of course we’re going to do our fucking job. As to what we can actually do for her…I don’t know. We’re already…bending the rules. Giving the rules a green stick fracture. Breaking the rules. But only a little. Funnily enough, you seem ok with that.’
‘Say what you mean, Parker.’
‘Her being in my infirmary is her implicit consent that she wants to live, and that we should do everything in our power to try. Are you going to be a pain in my ass if we do?’
‘Fix her.’
‘Even if we break the rules to do it?’
‘Fix her.’
‘I only promise minor miracles,’ Parker said. ‘But some of this damage, I don’t know what I can do. We’ll try, is what I’m saying.’