Undisclosed location in the Northern UK
I’ve been wrong before. I’ve fingered the wrong perp, broken into the wrong place, wound up on the wrong side of the law. It’s rare, though not unheard of. I’ve never felt so completely wrong, and it scares me.
Looking back on my short life, all things considered, I’ve been through a lot. Had my own moderately successful job as a Private Investigator, had an office, and briefly had a secretary. Things were doing alright. I felt right, then. Had my place in the world, kept my head down and my collar up. Things made sense.
I’ve felt wrong before, too. Not to this same extent, but wrong all the same. I had a bad feeling about that job at the hospital, and once I stepped into that warren, I never stopped falling. At the same time, everything that happened since then felt right, like it made sense. I finally had family, found out where I came from. Kept my head down and my collar up, but that was mostly to save my own neck. I had a place in the world, a reason for moving and shaking. Things to look forward to. A sister, a girl back home, family that stuck together through it all. Sure, now my office has been burned to the ground, along with all my old paperbacks. My new office went up in an explosion when a plane hit it. Things have, admittedly, been better.
They’ve also been worse. When I look in the mirror, I should see the scars the past months should have heaped on me. Should see remnants of cracked ribs from taking a tire iron to the chest, the lacerations of being thrown out of a moving vehicle into the support wall of an overpass, the horrible disfiguration of setting off an anti-tank mine. I see none of that. I should, but I can’t. I can overlay my memories over the image, make what I see match the reality of what I have been through. But instead, when I look in the mirror, I look wrong.
The face that I woke up to every morning for years, that recovered from so many black eyes, nicks and cuts, is gone. Now the person looking back at me is a stranger. A composite image concocted by Pacoy and designed to be as nondescript as possible. I feel like he did a pretty good job, even made it feel a bit familiar. Anita didn’t complain too much, at least when I proved it was me. That’s a whole other story. Still, it was nice to be able to get back into her arms after being away for so long.
I took one last look at those unfamiliar eyes in the mirror before shutting the light off and returning to Anita, quietly waiting in the other room of this classless, rundown motel. A brief return to normalcy before facing an increasingly uncertain future. Maybe in the future it’ll all be better.
For now I just feel wrong… but I might still have time to make everything right.
The deck of the Shimmer
The deck of the Shimmer bucked and kicked underneath my feet as I struggled to steady my aim. A short distance over the edge of the railing, a set of small floating robots bobbed and weaved, as though taunting me. Serves me right for being vague when I asked Sam for help learning how to shoot – he just put together a few hoverbots together, threw some armor on them, and coded them to make fun of my efforts. Not exactly what I had in mind, but at least it’s been effective. It certainly taught me that I have been influenced a bit overmuch by Pitbull-cum-Devon – I have this odd desire to put rounds into anything that’s been annoying me, lately, particularly if it’s rooted in circuitry. Another burst chatters wide, and the bots throw out harassing phrases. As I dumped the clip of the personal defense weapon to swap in a new set of dummy rounds, a sigh escaped my lips as I looked around for help.
A number of people were on deck, taking advantage of the brief spat of sunshine we were having after suffering rains of biblical proportions. Devon and Annabelle are up here, having some sort of… contest. Field stripping their weapons, or something. Not much help right there, but at least they’re out of direct eyesight. Off on the other side of the deck, Anita and Seranya are sitting on some dropcloth they managed to fashion into some sort of lounging area. As I stepped over to them, making sure my weapon was secured, the training bots swooped in to settle on the rail.
Few things that I’ve seen since I became aware have made me truly happy for what I am, and what I can do. This moment, being able to play it back with perfect clarity, makes up for it all, all the pain, all the torment. To see my sister and my wife-to-be laughing in the sunshine, chatting back and forth with nothing but sea in all directions. Seranya, idly dangling her legs over the edge of the ship, a rhythmic beat coming from her heels tapping the side. Anita, legs curled underneath her with a datapad resting in the lap of her dress.
I settled in next to them, propping myself up against the railing, glaring at the silently mocking robots across the ship. “So, what new mischief have you two been getting up to?”
The response I received couldn’t have been more giggly or bouncy if it had been inside a flock of balloons filled with nitrous oxide. Anita flashed me a wicked grin from above her scarf, opening her mouth to answer, but being cut off by Seranya’s boundless enthusiasm. “We’re planning the weddings!” This sent me into a small fit of laughter, which I expect they took some offense to.
Anita shot me one of her low-ember glares, which quieted me. “Someone needs to make sure the stories we put together pass scrutiny, and details are important!” The thought of Devon in formalwear set me into paroxysms of giggling. “And don’t think you’re off the hook, either, mister! I’ve known how I wanted my wedding to go since I was little! This is going to be perfect!”
I threw on my best reassuring smile. “Don’t worry about it, ‘nita. If we don’t get it right the first time, I’ll make it up to you and we’ll have a proper wedding when we get back Earthside. Promise.” I ruffled my little sister’s hair and gave Anita a kiss before heading back across the deck, leaving the pair to plan the next Royal wedding. Just as I was reaching for a new clip to put into my training gun, I heard Anita’s augmented voice call across the deck, “And don’t think you’re off the hook for rehearsing for the wedding song either!”
I chuckled to myself and slammed the clip home, racking the bolt back and stepping up to the railing, sending the mock bots into a flurry of derisive comments as they swooped away to take up their positions. A grin took over my face. Maybe a modern rendition of Fly Me to the Moon wouldn’t be too out of place…