Dad waited impatiently in the kitchen for my return from Mason's on Monday. Dark circles hung under his tired eyes, and stress creased his forehead. "You're not lookin' too hot," I teased as I set my things down and flopped onto the couch.
"Look who's talking," he weakly replied. "Is Mason joining us today?"
I shook my head.
The memories muffled my scream. Nathan held out a familiar picture. I pushed it away. "Absolutely not."
"You forget who makes the orders here."
"I'm not going back there!"
"You failed," he barked.
"Aren't we all." He took the picture back. "Get dressed."
Nathan let me run away earlier that time, though not soon enough to avoid the gash in my arm. He covered it like the rest and let me sleep.
Wednesday night, he held out the same stupid picture.
"Just tell whoever wants her dead no! This is gonna kill me, Nathan."
"I want her dead," he growled. "Now get dressed."
"Who is she?" I asked as my legs carried me away.
"Kill her and I'll tell you."
"Tell me and I'll kill her."
"That's not how this works."
"Worth a shot," I muttered as I undressed. My patched uniform waited for me. I fought exhaustion to pull it on. Nathan waited for me when I emerged. I ignored him and started for the car outside.
We drove up to the same building, the familiar window held ajar. "She's expecting me," I muttered as I stepped onto the sidewalk.
"Nothing's changed," said Nathan.
"Why is that only concerning to me?"
"Don't talk," he snapped. "Just do your job."
I jumped to the fire escape and pulled myself through the open window for the third time. "He's stubborn, isn't he?" her familiar voice chirped from the darkness. I waited for usual figures to attack, though off-putting stillness ensued. She chuckled as I searched, heart pounding. "No need. It's just you and me this time." She stepped into the city light leaking though the window. Her pale skin glowed white. "I just want to talk." The gap between us closed to mere feet.
I couldn't open my mouth to respond, so I reached for a gun instead. She disarmed me in the same moment I retrieved a knife and drove it towards her shoulder. She pulled it from me and backed me into the wall to hold it against my neck. "Here I was trying to be civil…"
I kicked her away but she threw the knife into my hood to pin me against the wall. When I pulled it out her foot collided with my jaw, knocking me to the floor. I kicked at her feet but she avoided them and pinned my arms down with her knees in the same motion. Shock stilled me, and I refrained from throwing her off me to stare into her snakelike green eyes.
Her wide lips stretched into a smile. "It's not so easy to kill me, Sage."
My heart stopped.
She knew my name.
Why did she know my name?
"Prove her wrong," Nathan growled in my ear, and I pinched her torso between my knees to toss her off me. We both stood, and the second I realized what her distracted fingers were doing was a second too late. Her thumb pressed into a small remote, and a needle pierced my back in the same instant.
Haziness came seconds after I pulled it out. Nathan cursed loudly in my ear. "Fight it."
I forced my eyes open to lock her in my view. The knife I readied to throw slipped from my hand as my shoulder led me into the wall. She held me there.
"There's a needle in her left hand," Nathan quickly spout. Before he even said, "Use it," I managed to pull the second sedative away from her.
"Now," he snapped, and my limp arm worked against me to stab it into her shoulder. She ripped it away, but my thumb had already drained it without my consent.
Her hold on me loosened and she teetered to the ground.
"Now kill her," Nathan snapped as members of her army joined the party.
I limply grabbed another knife but hands yanked it from me before I could plunge it into her gut. The floor hit my cheek and I rolled to see shaded figures hovering over me. Their arms pulled me up and I couldn't fight, pulled down by the exhausting weight of my own limbs.
One of my three captors left to drag her away, and I watched her inch from my blurring sight. My limp hand secured around a small explosive at my waste and I readied to throw it at her. "Don't," Nathan snapped, but not before the bomb could slip from my fingers and land feet away.
The explosion threw me and my captors into the wall behind us, and the massive bang remained lodged in my ears to ring louder than the agonized screams of the man and woman behind me. Fire crawled into my sight as it slid up the walls.
"Get out," Nathan sighed through the ringing.
My hands fell out to catch me, and one collided with the man's scorched leg. He cried out, and I looked to the woman to see similar hideous burns eating at her limbs. A glance at my own reassured what I already knew: my suit protected most of me. Blisters still wrapped around my wrists and hands, though my numbness kept pain from settling in.
The growing fire slowly consumed the floor as I crawled towards the open window. I heard a small crowd gather outside, and even my subdued thoughts feared Nathan's fury. He hated attention more than failing.
"Sage," Nathan barked.
My hands stopped pulling me forward, and I fell onto my stomach. Smoke filled my senses before my lungs, and I gave into the comfort of the hard ground below me. "I'm sorry."
Hard hands gripped my shoulders and I looked up to see the driver's hard face scowling down at me. He pulled me into his arms and started for the open window. The small crowd cheered for him and he glowered back. I gave into the comfort of his embrace as he started down the fire escape.
The lulling hum of sirens pulled me towards sleep.
I woke up in a dark, moving car. My eyes adjusted to identify blood stains on the ceiling, and adrenaline threw me upright to find a stranger driving. Panic settled in along with the needle he plunged into my arm, and pain shot out of it into my veins.
I threw my hood back and held my head to keep the painful memories from distorting my thoughts. "Who is she?" I demanded, pent up with confusion and rage.
"Me first," Nathan growled through my thoughts. "What happened?"
"She fought well and shot a tranquilizer into my back," I sighed before, "Why does she know my name?"
"You and your driver were caught on video," he complained back, "weaponry and all."
"I was trying to kill her."
"You threw a bomb at yourself."
"I was sedated."
"You weren't thinking."
"Correct. I was too busy fighting for consciousness. Why did she know my name?"
"That's not important."
"That's your opinion," I snapped.
"Mine is the only one that should concern you."
"And why's that?"
"Because you don't get one! That's how this works!"
Sharp consciousness couldn't clear the haziness of my memories, and the frustrating confusion overwhelmed me. Tears rolled down my cheeks. "I hate you."
He didn't respond, and I wished his voice would come back so I could yell at him more. I wished my thoughts could be independent of his while I tired to think through my confusion.
I wished I didn't have to forget to be independent again.
I wished I knew. When I was normal. At least then I could try to sort through it all.
The warehouse crept into sight. "Make this fast," he muttered.
Faster hurt more, but he wouldn't care. To him, faster was safe. Faster meant covering up his dark life so he could go back to playing pretend with our fake normalcy. Faster meant erasing.
I was so sick of erasing.
The warehouse neared, and I hated the sight of it more than ever.
I didn't want to pretend.
I didn't want to forget what I couldn't understand in the first place.
My wrist tapped the gun on my hip, and I swallowed the grin that threatened to distort my tear-stained face.
In a moment of determination, I thought for myself.
I pulled the gun free and aimed it at my leg.
I drowned him out with the deafening sound of the shot.
A/N: Just wanted to take time to thank those of you who made it this far into the story! :) Please review! I'll be back soon with more!