Stef felt the blue in the tank around her draining away, but she kept her eyes closed, trying to ignore it – just as she had often ignored her alarm when it had been time to wake up for school.
Ryan’s voice. Still not a reason to wake up.
‘Hmm,’ she managed, wanting to stay in the gentle, easy fugue state that he blue had allowed her.
‘It’s just before dawn,’ her dad-apparent said, ‘but I promise it’s worth it.’
Magnolia whirled around, the walls of her bedroom seeming to swim, to become nothing but an indiscernible pink swirl. Nothing made sense. Everything made sense.
Taylor had tried to kill Mimosa.
Taylor had tried to execute a mistake, and now Ryan-
She stopped spinning, slammed her hands against the wall, and crashed onto her bed, unable to breathe. She required a tablet, and hit the button that lay in the centre of her default layout, and watched Taylor’s vital signs. He was alive. He was hurting, panicked, enraged, but he was alive.
He’d- He’d tried to kill Mimosa himself. He’d tried to-
He’d done it without her. She was his tool to be used, and he hadn’t even bothered to ask.
Somehow slowly, and all at once, her mind stopped swimming, and she sat up, calmer than she’d been in weeks; her mind sparkling with more clarity than in months.
She loved him; and he’d done the next closest thing to asking Ryan to recycle him.
She loved him; and he was never going to feel the same way.
Stef was still in the tank of blue that wasn’t usually a fixture of Jones’ office. He watched her for a moment, glad that she was safe, happy, that she’d have a life.
Ryan lifted his head, and saw Jones watching him from his desk. He walked to his tech agent, and placed a hand on his shoulder. ‘Jones, I need to ask another favour of you.’
‘Anything, sir,’ Jones said.
Ryan sighed. There was nothing he could do to avoid his fate now. Nothing he could argue. The Agency had given him enough second chances, and so many chances to prove he was the model agent.
And Taylor opening Carol’s oubliette inside an Agency had signed his death warrant.
‘I need you to look after her.’ He tried to smile. ‘You’re already a parent, you know what a child needs. I’d appreciate it. I think she needs someone. And I can’t-’
‘Sir,’ Jones said, breaking into his resigned speech. ‘Why are you talking like you’re going somewhere?’
Mimosa was shaking, but he held her by the throat, keeping her big head as still as he could.
Taylor took in a breath. The shot had to be steady. ‘This is my duty.’
Stef stared, tears running down her face as Taylor tied a bandage around his arm. Confusion bit into the fear, hanging on like a mosquito, calming her enough to wonder about the act – she couldn’t see any blood, and she hadn’t been able to hurt him.
The act was keeping his attention away from her, though, so she kept as quiet as she could.
After a few seconds, he turned and ran from the cell.
This is not good. This is not good. This is not good.
Calm down, you won’t be able to do anything if-
Taylor kept his eyes on the punching bag.
Whitman was pacing around his gym, only visible when he wasn’t looking.
Mimosa was sitting on the bleachers, rolling her head from side to side, seemingly content to let Whitman be the active one.
He closed his eyes, and continued to count his punches, the blows doing nothing to calm him down.
Magnolia opened her eyes, immediately on guard as bright lights flashed in front of her face.
A tablet lay where her pillow had been, flashing “Panic Mode” in large, unfriendly letters.
Taylor stared at his HUD clock.
Magnolia felt the air whupf out of her lungs as she hit the floor for the third time, a foot on her stomach, and a fist inches from her face.
‘You’re slow today,’ Taylor chided, opening his fist, grabbing the front of her dress and hauling her to her feet.
‘Sorry sir,’ she said, requiring her hair back into a ponytail, and out of her face.
When the red digital letters on her bedside clock informed her that it was four AM, she rose, closed her workbook, and slipped into the bathroom. She stripped off her clothes and stepped into the shower, the water warm immediately.
She pulled her hair from the loose bun she’d tied, and the warm water soak her, drowning out all thoughts of revenge, of duty, and of love. The warm water was something to focus on, a shower would have to replace the little sleep she usually got – that, and perhaps some strong coffee.