Curt’s head spun as he was pulled through the mirror, then hurt as he dropped onto a cold, hard floor.
He saw dirty shoes.
He braced his hands against the ground, and pushed himself up, trying to see her, trying to see-
She disappeared as a puff of smoke.
‘No!’
‘Curt.’ Ryan’s voice sounded strained. Tired. Confused. ‘Look around.’
He pushed himself up and go to his feet. Stefs were everywhere – appearing and disappearing at random. Little Stefs – crawling babies and little children holding toys, teenage Stefs looking tired, naked Stefs covered in electrodes.
‘What the?’ he asked.
Ryan grabbed the closet Stef – one who was at least a recruit, judging by her uniform. ‘Stef?’
‘Lolhi,’ the Stef said, ‘aren’t we late for the meeting?’
Ryan hugged her, but then she disappeared.
He turned away from the agent, and tried to ignore the wandering Stefs, to look at where they were.
The moon hung heavily in the sky, far too close to be the real moon. They were in a garden, surrounded by entrances to a hedge maze, the walls all ten feet high. Stone benches sat next to each entrance, and a nondescript, broken statue stood in the centre of the small area.
‘Sir.’
He turned to look at Ryan, who was still going from Stef to Stef, trying to get some sense.
‘Sir!’
Ryan looked to him, holding a toddler-sized Stef. ‘None of them are real.’
‘I think they’re all real, but they’re- They’re all just a bit. A memory. Something like that.’
‘We need to find her,’ Ryan said.
He touched a hand to the maze wall. ‘She’s going to be in the centre,’ he said, ‘where else would she be?’
The took the entrance second from the left. There were Stefs in the maze as well – sad ones, happy ones, ones curled up in small holes in the hedge.
They began to walk faster, and faster, then broke into a run.
He let Ryan lead, trusting in his ability to map the labyrinth so they wouldn’t have to back track too much.
Stefs in hospital gowns. Stefs that had been in fights. Stefs from Russia.
Some Stefs blocked passages, and gave vague directions.
He lost track of time.
Ryan came to a dead stop, and held up a hand.
He stopped, and listened.
He heard crying.
Ryan sprinted away, and he struggled to keep up.
The maze opened up, revealing a circular, paved area. Stef sat at the centre of the circle, head buried in her knees, sobbing.
‘Stef!’
‘Newbie!’
She looked up, screamed and held her hands up. ‘No, don’t come any closer!’
Her hands shook. Her silver hands shook.
A dozen new Stefs appeared – ones covered in dirt and hay, and ones covered in a lot less. He blushed as four naked Stefs walked past him, each brushing a hand across his chest, or his arm.
‘Newbie?’
‘I- I- I can’t stop it! It just keeps happening.’
They walked closer.
‘Please,’ she said, her voice shaking. ‘I don’t know if I’m going to hurt you.’
She was mirror. She was entirely made of mirror. Illusions of skin or hair slipped across the surface, but never stayed for more than a moment, before disappearing to reveal the silver beneath.
‘Oh, gods.’
Ryan knelt in front of her. ‘We- We thought you were-‘
‘I don’t know how this happened,’ she said hoarsely, lifting her hands to wipe away golden tears. ‘I knocked on the moon, and then my mirror decided I wasn’t a planet it wanted to live on anymore, and it went away, and then- Then I was here. And there were lots of mes. And whenever I think of something new, there’s more mes!’
A ballerina Stef spun its way across the pavers before running out into the maze.
‘Have you tried making a wish?’ Ryan asked gently.
‘What the hell would I even wish for?’ she asked.
He reached for her hand. ‘Newbie?’
‘Hey.’
‘Why are you crying?’
‘Because one little bit of mirror nearly got me and Ryan killed, imagine what this is going to do!’
He threaded his fingers through hers. ‘You’re probably one of the most powerful beings in the galaxy right now. I don’t think the Agency has any power over you unless you want it to.’
‘But- But I just want things to go back to normal. This isn’t normal. See? Death said the choice wasn’t going to be up to me. Now I’m just wishes for other people to use up.’
‘Or yourself,’ Ryan said gently. ‘Stef, you can have whatever you want. You can be whatever you want. You can do whatever you want.’
‘But I-‘ she started. She wiped tears away. ‘What do I wish for then?’
‘I want to be normal. I don’t want to be crazy. I don’t want to be-‘
‘Stop it,’ he said quickly. ‘Don’t wish yourself different. Be careful what you’re thinking about.’
She pressed a cold hand to his face. ‘But I could be normal for you.’ She looked to Ryan. ‘And I could be the kind of daughter you’re proud of.’
‘I don’t want normal, and he is proud of you!’
‘But- But I’m-‘
‘We don’t want you to change,’ he said firmly. He looked at Ryan for backup, and froze at what he saw on the Agent’s face. Hesitation. Confusion. ‘We don’t want you to change,’ he said louder, making sure Stef’s focus stayed on him.
‘The choice is yours, Stef,’ Ryan said quietly. ‘If it’s what would make you happy.’
‘I don’t even know how to be happy.’
‘Yeah you do,’ he said gently. He got to his knees, and dug into his pocket for her necklace. He pressed it into her hand. ‘It’s not as easy as it is for some people, and it’s not as good, and it doesn’t last as long, but you know how to be happy.’
She held up the necklace. ‘I thought this was lost, or is it a new one?’
‘No,’ he said, ‘they found it. It’s scratched up though, I can get you a new one if you want.’
‘No!’ she said, slipping it over her neck. ‘I want this…one.’ She played with the chain. ‘Well played, Padawan.’
He smirked. ‘It wasn’t intentional. But- But you’re more important than some piece of silver I required. If you change yourself. If you wish upon a you and rewrite your brain, you won’t be you. You won’t be the you we came here to save. You won’t be the you we love. We’ll have to get used to the new you.’
‘Like Taylor,’ Ryan said. The hesitation was gone from his face. ‘Please- Please don’t,’ he said quietly. ‘You’re not perfect, but you’re perfect to us.’
‘But I can’t go back to work looking like this.’
‘Do you want to go back to the Agency?’ Ryan asked quietly.
‘Duh,’ she said, rolling her silver eyes.
‘Then it’s just one wish.’ Ryan stood, and offered his hands down to her.
She stood, and he followed.
‘You do it,’ she said, looking to Ryan. ‘You did ok the first time.’
He grabbed Ryan’s hand as it reached for Stef and shook his head. ‘Newbie, you’ve got to do this for yourself.’
‘But I can’t,’ she said, more tears leaking down her silver face. ‘What if I mess it up?’
‘It’s your life, newbie,’ he said. ‘You can do this. We trust you.’
She looked into his eyes for a moment, anger flickering into her expression. ‘I’ll fuck it up.’
‘It’s your life,’ he said again, ‘we don’t have the right to do this. You can ask us, because we love you, but- But you can do this. We believe in you.’
She pressed her hands to her chest. ‘I’m scared.’
‘Have you ever made one wish for yourself?’
She finally looked away. ‘No.’
‘Then it’s time you did.’
She looked to Ryan, and he saw the Agent nod out of the corner of his eye.
‘Daddy?’
‘Yes?’
‘Can- Can we have a minute?’
Ryan turned and walked away.
‘I could be perfect for you,’ she said, trying to smooth back her silver hair.
‘We’re not going to have this conversation,’ he said as he laid a hand on her face. ‘You already know I love you. You already know I accept you. You already know I’ll take the good and the bad and be there for you no matter what.’
‘But I could make it so it’s not so much work.’
He stared at the ground. ‘Newbie, if you were perfect, you wouldn’t love me. I know that’s so selfish to say, but- But really, you wouldn’t be with me unless there was something seriously abnormal about your brain. A normal girl wouldn’t be with a traitor, a normal girl wouldn’t cuddle with a guy who cut out her eye!’
She pressed a hand to his mouth. ‘You’re not supposed to talk about that anymore. I forgave you.’
He choked back tears. ‘Please don’t change. I lost you once tonight, I don’t want to lose you again. I don’t want you to be the cute version of Taylor.’
Even with mirror for skin, he knew she was blushing.
‘You think I’m cute?’
He kissed her cold cheek. ‘You know I do.’
She gave a little smile. ‘It’s still nifty to hear.’
‘I’ve got one favour to ask before you do this,’ he said. ‘Well, two.’
‘Anything, of course.’
‘I want two pieces of hair,’ he said. ‘One to wish us out of here, one for a present.’
‘Was that one favour or two cause it’s two pieces?’ she asked, yanking out a couple of hairs and handing them over.
‘Two hairs, one favour. The other is about the wish.’
She smirked. ‘You want me to get bigger boobs, don’t you?’
‘If you want to be an agent. A full, proper agent.’
‘I do.’
‘Then I want you to add in the condition that you can’t die from withdrawal. That way, if you ever decide to fall-‘
‘Do you think we will?’
‘This gives you the option,’ he said. ‘Please?’
She smiled. ‘I was already planning on it.’
‘Ready?’ he asked.
She closed her eyes, touched her hands to her chest, and mumbled for a moment.
‘Give me your hands,’ she said, her voice strange and echoing.
He reached for her hands.
‘Pull.’
He hesitated for a moment, then pulled at her hands, and pulled her free of the mirror like it was a cocoon.
She shook for a moment, then turned to look at the mirror. She pressed a hand to the mirror’s cheek, and it melted into a puddle.
‘What are you doing?’ he asked, holding her steady.
‘Agents can’t use mirror,’ she said, ‘it only causes problems.’ The mirror reformed into a child-sized pirate ship. ‘But the Lost will be able to make use of it.’ Wind filled the sails of the little mirror ship, and it sailed away towards the moon. ‘The Captain will know what to do with it.’
She took a couple more stumbling steps, then righted herself. ‘Are- Are you-‘ he started.
‘She’s an agent,’ Ryan said, sounding as full of pride as it was possible to be. ‘I can see it in my HUD.’
He looked at her. ‘You sure you ok?’
‘I’m so fucking tired,’ she said, ‘but- But yeah. I am.’
He handed her one of the small pieces of hair. ‘Wish us home, newbie.’
She took the hair, and the world split into a rainbow at the edges.
The conference room appeared. Ryan moved forward, and kissed her on the head. ‘I’ll go get everyone.’
Stef looked up at him. ‘You said something about a present.’
‘Close your eyes.’
He wrapped the hair around his finger, and made a wish. The stethoscope appeared in his hands, and he gently fitted it into her ears, placed the end in her hand, and guided her hand to her heart.
She kept her eyes closed, but wonderment spread across her face as she listened to her heartbeat. She opened her eyes, let the end go, and grabbed for him, and held him tightly.
‘How did you know?’
‘How could I not?’ he asked, wiping away her tears with his thumbs.
She backed up half a step, and grinned up at him. ‘Thank you,’ she said, and she jumped into his arms.
‘You’re-‘
She kissed him as he spun her.
‘-welcome, Agent Mimosa.’