The Grey Edge: Chapter Forty-Seven

Taylor flared his good wing once more, just before they hit the ground. They still hit the ground. The ground still hurt. He took a moment to breathe. One moment. One moment to worry about his own basic functions. He upped his count of broken ribs to four, then opened his eyes.
The soldiers would be coming. They had to-
Death was staring down at Magnolia.
He gave a wordless, defiant shout and the Lady disappeared, as quickly as a trick of the light.
He rolled over, his right wing nothing but pain, broken bones and bloody feathers.
She was dead.
Lay down and die. He could do that. It had been so easy to do in his nightmare. So simple to hold her, and let himself slip away. There was nothing else to do, it was unimaginable to continue without his-
He lifted a bloody hand and held it over her open mouth. Breath. Barely there at all, but breath all the same. So close to death, so close that Death herself was watching. Waiting. Waiting to take her. No. Never. No. Hurt. Hurt badly. In need of medical attention. In need of the Agency.
He looked around – without blue, without a system connection, there was no way to tell where they were, no way to call for help. Leave her. Get help. Come back. It was the logical plan. No. Die with her. Yes. If it came to that.
He looked around. They’d crashed into the loading bay at the back of the glass-and-steel tower that had crushed his wing. Rubbish, a skip bin, a parked truck.
A phone.
Just visible in the gloom, up on the loading dock was a slim phone hanging on the wall. Not much, not much at all usually, but enough to call for help, enough to get them…home.
He steadied himself, and fluttered his left wing, gaining a little purchase on the air. One large flap brought him a few feet closer to the phone.
Magpie landed in front of him.
‘I sent the soldier boys home,’ she said without care. ‘At least a couple of them will be enjoying those whores you so easily dismissed.’
He kept his eyes off the phone – no need to give her even more of an advantage.
‘I’d say that you’ve been a lot of trouble,’ she said, staring down at him, her black eyes glittering, reflecting the glimpses of fluorescent lights. ‘But, really,’ she continued, ‘it isn’t true, you made things easier. You made her cooperate, more than she ever would have on her own. Mordred is grateful for your services.’
He lunged at her, and she swatted him away like a pathetic bug.
He flapped his wing again, and this time, she threw him into the wall. He stayed down this time. Attempting the same thing more than twice was stupid.
Magpie moved toward Magnolia’s limp form and he held himself back from going at her again, screaming at her, raging at her to leave his lover alone. Plan. He needed a plan. Weapon. He needed a weapon.
Magpie ran a hand across Magnolia’s belly. ‘There was no child in here,’ she said, ‘but it wasn’t for a lack of trying, let me assure you. I guess I will have to begin this all again. Freedom, I think, was the mistake.’
He saw Death in the corner of his eye. He was running out of time. She was running out of time.
He sat up as best as he could, as quietly as he could, to not draw the warden’s attention back. He lifted both hands to his broken wing, and cleared his wing as much as he could. With a practiced ease, he snapped the bone, and pulled it free from his shoulder.
He fell forward onto his hands, his broken, bloody wing grasped in his right hand. Blood poured from his shoulder blade, down his arm, and dripped onto the ground. More blood loss. Not that it really mattered at this point. If he was going to die, it wasn’t going to be from blood loss, so painting a few more inches of the world red didn’t matter.
One deep breath. One prayer to deaf gods. One hope that Wrath was watching. He lunged himself forward, all his energy focused on speed. He needed to be fast, more than anything, he needed to be fast.
He slammed into Magpie, the sharpened, broken bone easily sliding into her back.
They hit the ground, the warden screaming, still moving, still breathing. He grabbed the bone and slammed all of his weight down on it, and felt it sink inches deeper into her, into a lung, into her chest cavity, fatal, it had to be fatal.
She was still squirming. He pushed himself up with his left hand, and punched the back of her neck, and with a grunt, broke her neck, twisting it nearly far enough to stare into her dead eyes.
Death was staring down at Magnolia again.
‘No,’ he said.
The Lady turned her skeletal face to look at him. ‘No?’ she echoed.
Death hung her head and…changed. Someone stepped into the space she was occupying. There was a slight crackle of electricity as the new figure turned to look at him.
A pale, blonde woman in a white suit.
‘The warden’s heart’s blood, feed it to her. It will keep her breathing long enough to get her back to the Parkers.’
‘Save her,’ he said weakly.
‘I can’t interfere. Whether or not she lives is not up to me, it’s not even up to you, Agent Taylor.’
He rolled Magpie over, punched her chest, and began to peel away the ribs.
‘I didn’t see this,’ he said as he dug into the warden’s chest.
She crouched in front of him, and popped open a silver pocket watch. Infinite golden spirals curled, appeared, shrivelled, multiplied, grew dark and died. ‘I only gave a small selection to my lover to share with you.’
He pressed his fingers into Magpie’s heart and tore a section free. He turned back to Magnolia, held it over her open mouth and squeezed the rent organ until no more of Magpie’s blood dripped from his hand.
After the longest moment of his life, she took a small, painful breath.
He looked toward the phone, but Life held a mobile out to him.
‘This isn’t interfering, agent,’ she said with a smile, ‘it’s just a phone call.’
He dialled triple-zero and heard it connect. ‘What service?’
‘Fire, police or ambulance?’
‘Sir, you-’
He dredged his tired mind. ‘Tab-A.’
‘Press tab-A.’
He heard the woman grumble, then a click as the call was transferred.
‘Taylor. 710-8762. Brisbane. Now.’
He held his breath. Their answer now would tell him if they had been labelled traitors. If they were going to be left to die…or rescued and executed. The phone clicked again.
Broken ribs pressed into his lungs as he breathed a sigh of relief. ‘Two to shift.’
‘Agent Taylor?’
He recognised the voice. Raz. Nervous. Redhead. Paranoid, even for a tech. ‘Two to shift.’
He heard the headset being dropped. ‘Jonesy! Jonesy! Joooooooooonesy!’
Bright light and familiar air rushed over him as the Agency blurred into view.
He heard a long string of profanity, broken into two voices as the Parkers immediately went to aid Magnolia.
Jones appeared and looked down at him. He pushed himself up, and gave a half-flap of his remaining wing, launching himself at the scholar. He grabbed the tech’s labcoat, the lift from his wing barely keeping him in the air. ‘Get me Mimosa.’
‘You need-’
He brought his face level with Jones’. ‘I need the fucking mirror, now GET. ME. MIMOSA!’
Jones looked away for a moment, then behind as the once-useless experiment appeared. He screamed and lunged at her. She shrieked and stumbled backward, leaving him to fall to the floor. He shot an arm out and grabbed her by the ankle. She toppled backward, but wriggled out of the shoe, and out of his grip, then hopped to her feet, then backed away a couple of metres for good measure.
‘Give me your heart!’
She flinched, but didn’t respond.
‘Give me your heart!’
‘It already belongs to someone else, and you sure as hell aren’t him.’
He pushed himself up onto his hands and prepared himself to go at her again. ‘I’m going to rip open your chest and-’
‘In front of everyone?’ she asked, her voice lower than usual, steadier than usual, ‘yeah, like that’s going to happen.’
‘She’s going to die!’ he screamed.
She gave a shrug. ‘I don’t even like her,’ she said in the same cool, steady tone. ‘Or you. This isn’t happening.’
He dared a look back at the Parkers. They…they weren’t doing anything. The taller of the doctors looked down at him, and answered his unasked question. ‘I’m not sure what you want me to say,’ Parker said, ‘we can’t do anything. She’s got more blood inside her…than inside her, if you know what I mean, complete organ failure in all systems…and, mate, there’s no brain activity. She’s breathing, but I don’t even know how. Mimsy pulls a miracle out of her non-existent arse, or I’m calling it, there’s no point in life support.’
He turned back to the experiment. The risk. The danger. The worthless coward in an agent’s suit. The schizophrenic little goddess who held his fate in trembling hands.
‘You’re wearing my name out.’
Mimosa looked away from him. ‘Out. Everyone. Out.’
‘Stef…’ Jones started.
The Parkers shifted away, taking Magnolia with them, and Jones left the room. The doors to the infirmary slid closed, and all of the clear windows turned opaque. Privacy for whatever hell she was going to-
She kicked him. Hard. She watched him for a reaction, then kicked him again. Small feet slammed into him again and again, into broken ribs, into bruises on top of bruises, into bleeding wounds.
‘How dare you?!’ she screamed after a moment, breathing heavily. She backed away, out of range of retaliation. ‘How fucking dare you?’ she asked again, a slight waver in her voice. ‘You wanted Ryan dead for using the mirror, you tried to kill me, just for existing!’ She hopped up onto the closest hospital bed and swung her legs back and forth. ‘You don’t get to ask this of me.’
‘She’s going to die.’
‘According to the doctor, she’s pretty much there.’
She smiled down at him. A cold smile. ‘Sorry, do you think you’re going to growl and that I’m going to give in? You see you right now? This is how everyone feels around you all the time, this is how you treat people, and this is how weak-’
‘You are?’ he spat.
‘Again, good job getting me on side. I always thought I’d take a baseball bat to you, if I ever got you like this, I figured if they’re strong enough to beat up fridges, they’d be ok for you, you’re pretty much built like a fridge. Now that you’re like this though…I’m kind just digging watching you squirm in your own blood.’
‘What do you want?’ he screamed.
Another shrug of tiny shoulders. ‘What if it’s enough to make sure you don’t get what you want?’
She shook her head. ‘You don’t say that word. You don’t mean it. You’re throwing it at me because you hope it’ll change the mood of the conversation. Fail. Try again.’
‘I’ll give you whatever you want.’
‘You couldn’t give me what I want.’
‘I love her.’
‘And that means exactly nothing to me. I don’t care about you. I don’t care about her. Love is loss. It’s the big kick in the balls you get for caring about people. The boy I loved went to Neverland and left me behind, and you think you deserve better than me?’
‘I’m not going to let her die,’ he said, unsure if he was talking to her, himself, or to reality at large.
‘Forgive Ryan.’
He focused on her again. ‘What?’
‘If somewhere under that T-800 chaises you actually have a heart capable of…capable of love, and you’re begging me to break your precious rules, then guess what, arsehole, you don’t have the agenty-ruley-duty moral high ground over Ryan any more. Asking this of me, getting her back is no different than what Ryan did for Carol. That’s what I want. I want you to forgive him.’
She buried her face in her hands and shook her head. ‘Seriously?’ she asked as she looked at him through spread fingers. ‘You can’t give me that one little concession? You, you’re fucking unbelievable. I hope you enjoy necromancy. Necrophilia. One of them.’
‘I forgive him.’
‘Was that so hard?’
‘I…already forgave him.’
She stared at him for a long moment. ‘Then I’ll name my price later.’ A scalpel appeared in her hand, and she swung her legs back up onto the bed and crossed them. She flipped her tie over her shoulder and worked the buttons on her shirt.
‘I fscking suck as a magical girl,’ she said, and he knew she wasn’t talking to him.
Blood ran down her fingers as she made an incision in her chest. Tips of two fingers disappeared into her chest, and a piece of mirror appeared in her palm. ‘It’s enough to…to fix her. She’s still going to need every little bit of the twin’s attention, but it’ll fix what they can’t.’ She tossed it down to him, and the small, wafer thin piece of mirror skidded toward his hand.
He held it aloft and made his wish.
There was an immediate flurry of movement in the next room – the sound of the Parkers with a patient to save.
Tears of sheer relief streamed down his face.‘Thank you,’ he whispered, but she was gone.