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The Grey Edge: Chapter Twenty-Three


[Taylor.]
He looked up from his weapons cabinet, and all of the extremely useful, sharp tools inside. [What?]
In his HUD, Parker rubbed his forehead. [It didn’t work. We opened her up, transplanted the first of the lungs, no problem, but as soon as it was all hooked up, it shrank down to match the removed one.]
He kept his expression neutral. [So try something else.]
[If it did this, it’s on her blood, and her mother is the only one who can “fix her”.]
No. Not the only one.
There was-
[Her condition?] he asked.
Parker shrugged. [More or less where she was before we tried this. You need a Plan B.]
He gave a nod and broke off communication. Plan B. The phrasing was simple, but accurate. It was certainly as logical as his plan. His gaze went back to the weapons cache, and after a moment, he pocketed a few items, closed the section of the wall, closed his jacket, then shifted.
[ACCESS DENIED]
He was shunted to the location nearest his destination – outside the office of the “agent”. He tried shifting in again.
[ACCESS DENIED]
He tried his universal password, the one that should have been able to override anything at her security level.
[ACCESS DENIED]
He cleared his HUD, and grimaced as the door was pulled open.
Mimosa stepped out, quickly shutting the door behind her. She was, for once, in her uniform, and managed to look clean – again, an uncommon occurrence.
‘You wanted something?’
He took a step toward her, and she shifted a few feet down the hall, her gaze met his, and stayed on him – instead of looking away after a few seconds as was normal. He took another step forward, and she held up a hand.
‘You’ve got four fae weapons on you, an unusual number, even for you. If you do want to talk to me, I’d ask that you remove them.’ She brushed at her vest. ‘Or would there be nothing to “talk” about if you weren’t armed?’
Tear her heart out. Right there. Right then. Not let her say another word. Just…put an end to the useless experiment. If he was quick enough, she wouldn’t even have the time to-
‘Agent Taylor?’
It was a logical plan. The heart was an Agency resource. He was going to use it for Agency reasons. Spend the contraband on someone far more worthwhile. Someone actually worth something.
‘What would you wish for?’
He snapped himself from thoughts of snapping her neck, of drawing a blade across pale flesh, of watching the life drain from her, knowing that it wasn’t going to come back again.
‘What?’ he demanded.
‘Magnolia is in the infirmary. You didn’t even bother to knock on the door. You’re carrying weapons that can kill an agent.’
‘Careful what you’re saying, recruit.’
She kept her gaze level. She wasn’t quaking. She wasn’t hiding behind something. She wasn’t…afraid. She wasn’t afraid of him. There was something wrong with her.
Stupid experiment.
‘Agent,’ she corrected. ‘Agent, and it’s an extrapolation.’
He thrust out an arm, but she caught his wrist, stopping it from collapsing in her over-sized head. She wrapped both of her tiny hands around his wrist, and held it still.
Something she shouldn’t have been able to do.
‘So I’m right?’
‘I’ll-’
She shifted again, this time, to lean against her door. ‘What would you wish for, just tell me that.’
‘It’s none of your damn business.’
‘It’s my heart. It’s magic you didn’t want here. You were happy to watch executions performed for the crime of using it, and you come to use it yourself? You damn hypocrite.’
He punched her, but she disappeared, and his fist went through the door – though thanks to the security restrictions, there was nothing but a blank void for the pieces of wood to fall into.
‘It belongs to the Agency.’
‘There’s a seventy-five page document you have to request, with authorisation, to begin the process of using it for something other than its current usage. The current usage being, me, my life.’
‘The current wastage.’
‘The first question on that document, asked in many different ways, is the use. What do you want to use it for. So, if you are intent on this, do me the courtesy of answering the question: What would you wish for?’
‘I owe you no courtesy.’
He shifted forward, grabbed her by the neck, and slammed her against the wall.
‘And the side effects?’ she asked, prying a finger free.
‘You’re-’
‘Mirror magic,’ she said, shifting out of his grip, ‘is far from an exact science, so to speak. It doesn’t ask for details, and gives you what you want, but that lack of precision leaves it open for side effects that you cannot imagine.’
‘You-’
‘It’s her mother? Correct?’
‘You don’t even-’
‘If you wish for her to be free of her magpie blood, and aren’t mindful, you could end up with a dried husk instead of living recruit. Or, she could become human, weak, and useless to you.’
‘You’re the useless one, Mimosa.’
She stared at him. ‘And your opinion means so much to me.’
‘Shut up.’
‘This wish,’ she said, ‘to bring someone back to life, is elegant in its simplicity. It’s simple. Even then, there were so many chances for failure, and its success took a month. The later side effects are worse, and show no sign of disappearing. You deserve no detail, but suffice to say, nightmares on a near daily basis, worse than glitches, with no tech division solution.’
‘I don’t care.’
‘Using mirror could give you a worse outcome than trusting to the Parker’s care. Taking that route also avoids your execution.’
‘Don’t threaten me.’
‘Don’t try to shift into my office and murder me. Again.’ She stared at him. ‘Consider the implications of any wish you would make, then try again, without weapons, imagine this office is a Court, come humble.’
He punched at her again, but again, she shifted out of his reach. He growled, and shifted away.
***
The office door opened, and the agent turned. A sleepy hacker in rumpled clothes peeked a head of messy hair out, stared, then padded down the hall to stare.
‘I had this dream once,’ Stef said. ‘But we were naked. And on a boat.’ She paused for a moment. ‘And then there were dinosaurs.’
It was amusing that even sharing the same physical form, she was shorter. Bent in slightly on herself, hiding, protecting herself. Protecting herself because there wasn’t always someone there to do it.
And sometimes there was.
‘You need to go back to sleep.’
She stared, and slowly reached up a hand to poke at the uniform. ‘…that is you, right, Ryan?’
He nodded, and dropped the glamour, gaining over a foot in height, and seeing the world from a proper perspective again, not one where everything seemed so much larger, and more terrifying. He turned her slowly by the shoulders and guided her back towards her office.
‘I dun wanna go back to sleep,’ she said with a yawn as they stepped back into her office.
‘Do I really have to give you a bedtime? My last experience was doing that with a child of seven, so you might be disappointed at the lack of evening activities you’ll be able to take in if I can’t scale it up properly. Jones will have to reschedule all that time-wasting you do.’
She sat down on the wide couch. ‘I slept. I’m awake. And it’s like…’ she waved a hand, ‘three, that’s a good time to wake up. I can…be up with the crows and all that. Cows. Some type of creature associated with good behaviour.’
‘You only went to sleep an hour ago,’ he said as he sat beside her and pulled the blanket up over her knees. ‘A couple more hours at least, you haven’t even gotten an agent’s amount of sleep, let alone a hacker’s.’
‘HACKER NEEDS ONLY COFFEE I AM-’ she yawned. ‘Damn stupid secret mind powers.’ She pouted, and let herself fall back onto the pillow. Her face pinched as she rolled to her side and pulled the blanket up to her chin. ‘Please, I don’t want to. I didn’t…I didn’t have a nightmare. If I stay awake, that’s two days in a row.’
‘You’ll be useless tomorrow,’ he said, ‘and you’ll feel horrible.’
‘And if it’s the one I don’t wake up from?’
‘I’m here, Stef, I won’t let anything bad happen.’
‘You can’t protect me from things in my head.’
He stroked her hair. ‘Sleep.’ He moved up the couch, and laid beside her, so that she could lean against his side. ‘Just a couple more hours, if that’s what you want.’
‘Just enough to let whatever cachey stuff needs doing. Sorry.’
‘Stop apologising,’ he said as he pulled the blanket up on her a little more. ‘Part of what we do is protect, one child or one city, the principle is pretty much the same.’
‘But I’m supposed to-’
‘You’re supposed to sleep,’ he said. ‘Now sleep, or I’ll take away your ability to-’
‘I’m sleeping!’ she said quickly, making a few snoring sounds. ‘I’m sleeping.’
She closed her eyes, and without another argument, began to settle down, and was asleep soon enough. He flicked her vitals into the lower-right hand corner of his HUD, and opened up some paperwork.
Forty minutes later, the nightmares came, and so did her screams.