The countdown timer stayed on seven-seconds-to-live for a moment, then disappeared.
The rip in her chest sealed, and she felt her lungs inflate, and clear themselves of liquid…of blood.
The frostbite disappeared, replaced by warm, pale pink skin. Her broken digits flexed, and straightened themselves with little fuss.
She felt herself blinking, and the odd, ghostly feeling of a new eye appearing in her empty socket. Her vision flicked through several light spectrums, then settled, and gave her the pleasure of depth perception again.
The various cuts, scrapes and bruises sealed, shrank, and disappeared under newly-grown skin.
After another minute, she felt her body stop fixing itself, and the feeling of being complete again swept over her.
More red flags than at a party at the height of communism flashed at her. Subsystems that had been destroyed, parts of her body that weren’t being recognised – those that she had just fixed with magic, various subroutines that weren’t working, along with the list of functions that were already offline thanks to being in a blackout zone.
One in particular, however, stuck out: Targeting Offline.
‘Oh…fucking hell,’ she said, slamming a fist on the floor.
So, basically, I’m back to being a useless newbie.
…something like that.
So, time to portal everyone out? WTS Portal to Agency, 2 cookies.
No, shut up, not listening.
Fucking shut up, I’m not listening to you.
You need some clothes.
She wrapped her hand around the knife and cut into her chest again, clearing a space to get two fingers in to reach her heart.
‘Warm clothes, please.’
Her tattered clothes disappeared, replaced by long socks, warm underwear, an undershirt, a long-sleeved shirt, and what appeared to be Ryan’s jacket. She crawled back and rested against the wall, cuddling into the jacket, and enjoying the first hints of warmth in what felt like forever.
I know, I know.
You ready to listen now?
…please, I just want to go home.
You know you can’t do that. There aren’t even supposed to be Solstice in Russia, you can’t leave without information.
So what am I supposed to do?
Kick butt, save the day, all that stuff you’re really not qualified to do.
Yeah, with the lack of qualification, I’m supposed to do that how exactly?
Well, you should reach into your chest and genie yourself a couple of guns and some ammo. That way, if they do come to check on your corpse, you can at least stop them.
One for me, one for the Boy Wonder?
She touched her heart again. ‘I need a couple of guns, please, and some spare ammo.’
Two guns appeared on the floor in front of her, a spare clip for each lying beside each. She pocketed the second gun, and the clips.
I am so not ready for this.
You don’t have a choice.
I can just get everyone out of here, and they can send the cavalry later. Or…hey, I can just wish for Taylor to come here, he’s crazy enough to take on Solstice in a blackout zone! Or, like, how about an entire fscking army?
You don’t think I considered that? Give me some credit, Spyder. You call in the cavalry, how do you think the Solstice will respond?
Shoot the Boy Wonder?
And the second thing?
Still want to bring down the holy hell of angels?
I’m not sure they’re better off with me as Plan A.
At least you’ve…got the element of surprise. You don’t have a choice. Just keep listening to me, and by the end of the day, you’ll be safe in bed and nomming on cookies.
I’ll try if you try.
She tapped on her chest, then touched her heart again. ‘Tell me what to do.’
Something hard appeared in her hand, and she pulled it away from her chest.
A mirror, ornate – well, more old-fashioned than ornate, and as innocent-looking as something she could have found on her grandmother’s dresser.
The reflection in the mirror, however, wasn’t her own, it wasn’t a reflection at all, it was the view of an office, Ryan’s office. He sat at his desk, sans his jacket, a glass of alcohol gripped with both hands.
‘Huh,’ she said, ‘voyeur-cam.’
He spun on his chair, his expression one of pure shock.
‘You- You can hear me?’
‘And see you,’ he said as he stepped closer. ‘Gods, Stef, are you ok?’
‘Please don’t ask me that question right now.’
The worry on his face doubled. ‘Stef.’
She closed her eyes and swallowed. ‘Mirror is better than a Band-Aid. I had a few cuts and scrapes, they’re gone now.’
‘You’re still in a blackout zone, you’re all still in a blackout zone.’
‘There are Solstice here.’
‘I know, I know, I know, ok, I’ve already figured out exactly how bad that is. And yes, I’m going to send an impolite letter to Grigori’s intel department, but after I get home, ok?’
‘And the others?’
‘I haven’t seen Grigori since we got captured, they put us in separate rooms.’
‘Agent Dmitri is here somewhere too. Don’t know his condition.’
‘And…’ He stared at her for a moment. ‘Curt?’
‘Just got done saving my life, so unless I really misunderstand how bad guys work, he’s still on our team.’
He was quiet for a moment. ‘What are you waiting for? Get everyone home.’
‘Because running away is exactly what you’d do?’
He stared at her.
‘Like I thought,’ she said.
‘Stef…’ He looked away for a moment, his face going to its default narcy state. ‘Agent Mimosa, I’m ordering you to evacuate everyone now, we’ll deal with everything else later.’
‘I’m ordering you!’
‘And you really have no idea how much I’d like to just listen. But…I can’t. We run, and by the time you can try and get any intel, they might have bugged out, and they’ll disappear until whenever. We take them out now, I mean, that’s got to be better, right?’
There was a strange look on his face.
‘Great,’ she muttered.
‘Well, that’s your “I’m going to yell at you now” face, isn’t it?’
‘No, it’s my “I’m extremely proud of you” face.’ He reached toward the mirror, and she was only moderately surprised when his hand easily passed through, and touched her face. ‘Promise me you’ll be careful.’
‘Above all, your priority is to get yourself out safely.’ He pulled his hand out of the mirror, and back through to his side of the world. ‘Gods, it’s cold there.’
‘That’s why I borrowed your jacket.’
He smiled and required himself into another. ‘Keep it.’
‘Wish me luck.’
‘You have it.’
‘Bye,’ she whispered, and the mirror…blinked, showing her a reflection of herself, rather than into a window across the world.
She stood, took the safety off her gun, and walked from the room.