10 minutes ago
Stef opened her eyes and found herself staring up at a light. A small, round light stared down at her.
She didn’t bother blinking, instead letting it burn her retinas for a moment as she remembered how to breathe. It hurt to fill her lungs, as though she wasn’t used to it. She flexed her numb fingers, then after a few minutes, sat up to see where she was. The familiar cool of the standard-issue uniform shirt brushed against her skin, the long jacket flapped as she pushed herself off the slab-bed she was on.
The room was empty – that much was clear as she looked around. It wasn’t the basement room with the crystal chamber, and it wasn’t Jones’ usual lab, though all of the equipment and blinking machinery assured her that she was on the tech division’s floor.
[Report to Agent Ryan’s office,] came a voice from nowhere, ringing in her head, though not in her ears.
‘Sure,’ she said uncertainly. ‘Be right there.’
She fought the urge to take off the long jacket and instead stuck her hands into the deep pockets, vainly hoping that it had come stocked with cookies.
Suit…not dead…no honour-slash-execution guard…REQUIRE: COOKIE! A chocolate-chip cookie appeared in her hand and she wolfed it down, barely remembering to chew. ‘I’m taking that,’ she said to the world in general as she wiped the crumbs from her mouth, ‘as a good sign.’
She walked from the lab, down the hall, past the suspiciously empty games room and to the elevator, which arrived exactly eight seconds later. Punching the floor for Ryan’s office, she slumped against the wall and prayed that the cable wasn’t going to snap and send her plummeting to her death.
The doors slid open and she walked out onto the field floor, past the silent dorm rooms, empty mess hall and abandoned gym. The door to Ryan’s office was open just a crack, afternoon sunlight spilling out onto the hallway floor, mixing with the sterile fluorescent lighting.
Dread filled her as she reached for the door. Terror of the unknown piled onto the dread.
I’d kind of prefer that six-armed hippo beast…
And I’d prefer not to be stuck with you, open the damn door.
She knocked on it – anything to delay actually having to go in for a few more seconds.
‘Come,’ came Ryan’s voice.
Anything, I’ll give anything not to open this door. I’m not ready, I don’t want to know…what if they-?
Shut up and open the damn door.
A million questions circled her mind, but all fell away as he rose. The trepidation on his face melted into a smile. He extended a hand and she crossed the room to grab it, glad to hold onto anything but the insides of her pockets.
‘Welcome, Agent Mimosa.’
Wait, what?
‘Huh?’ she asked, the spinning slightly.
Strong hands guided her to the couch as the room continued to spin. He handed her a glass of water as she stared at the roof, begging the spin to stop.
‘What’s the last thing you remember?’
She thought hard for a moment, her mind still dull and deadened. ‘The roof,’ she said, trying to sort the distorted images. ‘Emma. Those…scary narc guys. Big slab of crystal and-’ she broke off. ‘Oh yeah, that happened.’
‘You were recycled-’ he started.
‘No, not that,’ she whispered, ‘after that.’
This seemed to surprise him. ‘What do you mean after?’
‘After,’ she said quietly, ‘I mean. I think it happened. I can’t-’ She sipped at the water. ‘I went to Dajulveed. Or its ghost, or whatever, I mean, can planets have ghosts?’
‘Anything is possible, I suppose,’ he said.
‘It was beautiful, and confusing, and…I dunno,’ she gave him a little smile. ‘Magic.’
‘What happened?’
‘I saw Chaos.’ Memories of the being more mountain than man stirred, his impossible form imposing and towering within the mirrored wall. How small she had been in comparison. ‘I mean, Death said it was her father, so I’m guessing it was her father, unless Death has two daddies.’ She looked across at him, surprised by the dumbfounded look on his face. ‘I don’t think he even knew I was there, but he knew the mirror was. He made it…calm down, I think, then…then I took a walk with Death, which I kind of thought was-’
‘Well you’re not,’ he said, sitting up and straightening his tie. ‘You’re here.’
She brought her feet up onto the couch, crossed her legs and sat facing him. ‘Yeah, which begs the question, how? I mean, I kind of feel hungover and I’m still trying to remember everything, but unless I’m severely fscking mistaken, then…everything was kind of going to shit last thing I remember.’
‘It all turned out ok.’
‘But-’
‘Everything is fine,’ he said again. ‘Trust me.’
She pressed a hand against her chest, feeling the distinct lack of beat. ‘So they were ok with this?’
‘But-’
‘I’ll explain everything,’ he said as he stood and offered a hand down to her. ‘Come on, let’s take a drive.’