Continued from Chapter 49, here.
Major Karla Starling might not have heard of my name, but it soon became apparent that someone, higher up on the military food chain, knew of me. As soon as Starling spoke my name into the receiver of the phone, I saw her posture shift. Her back straightened and her head rose, and she risked a quick, appraising glance back over her shoulder at me before turning away to speak.
Five minutes later, she lowered the receiver back to the desk in front of her and turned to face me. Her eyes ran over me, but she didn’t speak for a few seconds.
“Well?” I asked. Continue reading
“I’m sorry,” I said, for what had to be the tenth time since the interview started. “What am I here to do, again? Exactly?”
The manager of the IKEA, a pugnacious and pot-bellied little man settling unpleasantly into middle age, turned his head to glare back at me. “Get rid of the pests!” he repeated, clarifying absolutely nothing. The fluorescent lights glinted off his bald egg of a head, piercing through the meager hairs that attempted to cover the expanse of sweaty scalp. “You have pest experience, yes?” Continue reading
Continued from Chapter 48, here.
“Now, Captain Richards,” Starling called over her shoulder as she led me out of the interrogation room and up towards the main deck, “let me tell you about what we’ve been facing, while you’ve been vacationing in this ‘Dark America’ you’re describing.”
I had to fight to hold my tongue at that ‘vacation’ crack, but I kept my mouth shut. Major Starling hadn’t known the rest of my team, and although she likely realized what I’d lost, she perhaps thought that humor would help me move past it. She was wrong, but I wasn’t going to waste time fighting her. Not when she might prove to be my only ally.
We reached the main deck, and Starling turned to head towards the ship’s castle. The bridge, I guessed, was our destination. “I hate to burst your bubble, but your disappearance didn’t raise headlines,” she said. “I’ve heard of Nathaniel Hobbson, but I haven’t heard of you – or your team – before now.” Continue reading
“Oof!” I didn’t hesitate to swing back with an elbow as another reporter attempted to jostle into my space. Did he think that, because I was a woman, and barely over a hundred and ten pounds when soaking wet, that I wouldn’t use every inch of my five feet to keep my spot?
My elbow landed into a gut made soft by too many meals of fast food eaten in a car while on a stakeout or chasing a story, and the man staggered back. He lowered his camera just long enough to shoot me a dirty look before turning his attention back forward. His camera flashed, threatening to blind me if I let my eyes stray sideways.
I turned my attention back forward. Thanks to a combination of showing up early, knowing how to palm a twenty, and managing to catch the eye of Henry, the bailiff, I’d managed to land a prime spot near the front row of the court room’s observation bench. If I didn’t screw up, this might pay off – big time. Continue reading
Continued from Chapter 47, here.
Eventually, after much back-and-forth, we managed to work out some sort of agreement on the truth of my identity.
The woman who greeted me on board the offshore destroyer, Major Kara Starling, seemed razor sharp. From the moment that she greeted me, tired eyes still possessing the strength to bore straight through my defenses and into my head, I knew that she’d instantly skewer me on any lie that I tried.
So I told the truth.
In hindsight, that might have been the bigger mistake. Continue reading
I groaned at the man standing on my doorstep. “Come on, it’s not even eight in the morning,” I sighed, reaching up to rub at my sleep-addled eyes. “Can’t you give me a couple hours to drink my coffee, at least?”
He, of course, didn’t bother with any small talk. I guess the niceties fade after a few eons in Hell. How long is an eon, anyway? “You need to take it back. The deal is off.”
Instead of answering, I brushed past him, heading to my beat-up little car, parked down at the far end of the lot. I vaguely considered aiming a half-hearted kick at the Hummer parked crooked across two spots, but decided against it. The thumping echoing through the thin walls of my apartment last night told me that Kelsey, downstairs, had found a new boyfriend. His choice of vehicle told me that this one wasn’t likely to be any more permanent than the others that cycled through. Continue reading
Author’s note: I’ve just started an internship at a tech company, so these updates may be a bit slower for the next few posts.
Continued from Chapter 46, here.
The next morning, I headed off, once again into the unknown – alone.
Sara had to stay behind, back on that hill overlooking the town. Several times, I considered taking a blade to that horrible cord that bound her to the monstrosity, the Unity, that reared up over the horizon behind her. I knew, however, that doing so would likely hurt her more than it would help, and could even kill her.
It broke my heart. Sara looked, acted, felt exactly the same as before. But it wasn’t quite her, just like how the vision of my wife, inside that dream, hadn’t exactly been my wife. It had spoken like Alexis, looked like Alexis, moved like Alexis – but in the end, it turned out to just be a projection, a wax figurine.
And when I forced myself to cast aside the veil of emotion, I had to acknowledge that Sara wasn’t quite her normal self. Not any longer. Continue reading
Continued from Chapter 45, here.
After five minutes of sitting under the shelter that rose up from the ground on command from Sara, watching the sun set, I finally decided to break the silence and speak again.
“Sara, is there any way for us to re-open a door to that middle place, the in-between?”
She looked back at me, her face curled up in a frown. “I don’t know. I don’t think so, or I can’t. Other people went there, but it was just sort of…” She paused for a second. “They say that it was like reaching your arm into a bag that you can’t see inside. You just sort of fumble about for whatever you want.” Continue reading
Continued from the previous chapter, here.
I looked at Sara, first at the raised fingers of her hand, and then back at the huge organic constructs breaking through the ground, miles in the distance. “And that’s you?” I asked weakly.
She smiled, gave me a little wave by wiggling her fingertips. Moving simultaneously, with no lag time at all, the huge shapes stabbing up at the sky in the distance bent down, then rose back up. A minute later, the wind from this movement nearly bowled me over.
Sara was… Hell, I didn’t even have the words to describe it. Desperately, I wished that I had anyone else here, any other team member to help me try to understand. Continue reading
Continued from Chapter 43, here.
I was once again back in darkness – but this didn’t feel like the mindless, empty void of earlier.
I felt pressure of a sort – and when I pushed at it, I could get the thinnest sliver of brilliant light, piercing into my skull.
Wait a minute – I had a skull! I pushed again, felt those brilliant slivers enter, not quite so blindingly bright. I reached out to lift one hand up to block some of the glare, only realizing as I did so that this also meant that I had hands, which presumably were connected to the rest of my body!
I finally managed to open my eyelids, sat up and looked around. I lay… Continue reading