17 Days Ago
‘JONES!’
Jones spun his chair and saw Taylor, hellfire burning in his eyes storming across his office.
‘JONES!’
He’d expected this, he’d expected it a lot sooner, though thankfully it had come late enough so that nothing could be done to reverse it, to take back the lives he’d saved. ‘You don’t have to shout,’ he said, ‘I’m right here.’ He removed his glasses and laid them on the desk, his eye immediately adjusting as he looked over at Merlin, working intently on a colouring-in picture.
‘JONES!’ Taylor roared again.
He stood, and stared at the approaching agent. He wanted to gloat for exploiting Taylor’s hate of paperwork, lack of patience, and eagerness to destroy anything deemed a threat. Taylor came at him, both fists in the air…and was suddenly across the room again.
He blinked, and gave a curious look to the combat agent, whose own look of confusion told him that he hadn’t shifted himself.
‘Why did you-?!’
‘You should have looked at what you were signing,’ he said. ‘You had every opportunity.’
Taylor came at him again, and again, when he was in punching distance, was across the room and out of causing-harm’s distance.
‘You tricked me!’ Taylor yelled as he pulled a monitor from its support. ‘You manipulated me!’ he tossed the monitor, which turned into a burst of glitter, scattering harmlessly to the floor.
‘Yes, I used you,’ he admitted, ‘what else was I supposed to do?’
Another monitor was torn from its support. ‘Your duty,’ Taylor hissed. ‘For once in your damn life.’ He lifted the monitor to throw it, only to see that it had turned into a plush rabbit. He tore the rabbit in two and hurled away the parts. ‘Circumventing the rules should not be rewarded!’
He stared at the combat agent. ‘We bent the rules to bring you back.’
The rage seemed to drain away, becoming a sudden, terrifying calm. ‘And you shouldn’t have.’
‘Taylor, look-’
Taylor looked to Merlin for a moment, then approached slowly. ‘That was your fault.’
He furrowed his brow. ‘We wanted you back-’
‘Not that,’ Taylor said, ‘Whitman.’
He focused on the convenient dirty spot on his floor. ‘We had no possible way of-’
‘Save it, scholar. You know what happened. You’re doing it again.’
He kept his focus on the dirty spot. ‘It’s a different-’
Taylor’s hand shot out to grab him, but as they came within inches of his face, they simply stopped, unable to progress any further.
‘Stop this!’ Taylor screamed.
‘You signed off on it,’ he said as he replaced his glasses, ‘unless you want to explain to the Enforcers that you in fact failed in your-’ A gun appeared in Taylor’s hand, aimed directly at him. He simply stared down the barrel, unafraid of the shot – it was for show, it was an expression of anger, it couldn’t actually hurt him.
‘What happens,’ Taylor asked, ‘when this one goes wrong? That much mirror could-’
‘She didn’t deserve to die. Neither did you. It’s a-’
‘You’re going to fail as miserably this time a you did with me. I hope at least it’s only recruits that die this time.’
There was a click from the gun, and he steadied himself, never mind that there was no pain, being shot in the head was always a disturbing experience. The shot, however, never came, instead, the gun began to melt over the combat agent’s hand. He boggled at the liquefied gun as it began to solidify itself over the huge hand that was holding it, Taylor mirrored his expression, unable to comprehend what was going on.
‘Go back and read your paperwork,’ he said, ‘read the details, a few of them might interest you.’
He cracked the solid-again metal from his hand and flung it from his hand. ‘Such as?’
He toggled a few options, restricting the emotion on his face. ‘You get to do her limit testing, and if you can prove-’
‘I can get rid of it?’
‘The possibility exists, yes.’
Taylor took a step back, then shifted away without another word.
He took a deep breath, adjusted his lab coat, then stood and walked over to Merlin, who was drawing silver stars with a red crayon onto a purple-coloured superhero. ‘You really shouldn’t do that,’ he said as he ruffled the boy’s hair.
Merlin said nothing continued to draw on the silver stars onto the picture for a few moments, then tore it from the book and set it aside with the pile of other completed pictures. He flipped to a new page in the book and lifted a black crayon.
‘Merlin…’
‘He’s not allowed to hurt you,’ the boy said, his tiny, serious voice said. ‘He wanted to hurt you.’
He sat in a freshly-required chair beside the boy. ‘He wasn’t-’ He cut himself off as he saw something on the table move. He looked down and saw the lines on the page moving, sliding across the paper, destroying the original image for something new.
‘He was going to hurt you,’ Merlin said, occasionally helping one of the lines into place with his black crayon. What had been the image of a smiling firefighter slowly morphed into a rough rendition of the lab they were in, and something that very much looked like his corpse lying on the floor. With a scribble, the silhouetted image of Taylor appeared, a knife in his hand. Merlin spat on the page, and colour, detail and…reality slipped into the image. It was as clear as a photograph, as clear as-
‘You saw this in his mind, didn’t you?’
‘Magnolia stopped him, but only just.’ The boy turned to him, the goggles disappearing from his face. ‘No-one’s allowed to hurt my mumma.’
He swiveled the boy’s chair and lifted the boy over into his lap, holding him tightly. ‘Merlin, I love you for that, but you can’t catch his attention like that, you can’t make him notice you anymore than he already does.’
The boy shook his head. ‘It doesn’t matter.’
‘Yes it does,’ he insisted, ‘no-one but me can know what you really are, all right? They might take you away from here. You keep using your magic like that…’ He shook his head. ‘I can look after myself.’
The boy’s shoulders dropped, and slowly Merlin reached a hand up. The images flooded into his mind, taking away the sight of his lab, and of the boy. More images like the one in the colouring book flooded his mind, fresh, sharp, real images of how Taylor had imagined killing him. Swift, brutal, final, no chance for escape, no chance for help from anyone.
‘Stop,’ he whispered, and the influx of foreign information stopped.
Merlin slid back over to his own chair and closed the colouring book. ‘He can as mean as he wants, but he can’t hurt you, I won’t let him.’
Images of himself spitting up blood and gasping for air stayed in his mind, horrifically real images, gltich fuel. Images from what was certainly a reality in some dimensions. He tried to push them away as he forced a smile onto his face. ‘I think,’ he said, ‘this calls for ice-cream sundaes.’
Merlin gave him a sage nod and lifted a large, freshly required spoon. At least, he assumed it had been required. He hoped it had been required.
‘After that,’ he said as the table in front of them began to slowly morph into an ice-cream bar at his commands. ‘We’ve got a new project to work on, would you like to help me build an agent?’
‘Agent Squishy?’
‘Yes,’ he said after a moment, ‘Agent Squishy.’
‘Okies, I just hope there’s enough cookies.’