Ryan bent down and picked up another piece of mirror, then wished it away. Another wish gone. Someone else’s second chance gone.
The shards had gone everywhere.
It wasn’t the first time a mirror had been destroyed like this – in some ways it was a benefit: the magnitude of all the wishes would be lessened, fewer large world-changing desires could be made manifest.
It also meant a lot more people had a chance at getting a wish, so it was a lot more chances at someone making a move against the Agency.
It had been a stupid mistake, and it was his fault.
He would have reprimanded any Agent fool enough to take such a new recruit into the Field. He had disciplined Taylor for less. It was the type of action that came around on mailing lists to inform agents of their brethren’s mistakes. It was the kind of rash action he despised.
She’d smiled, and he’d been sure he could protect her.
He was an arrogant idiot.
An ibis landed beside him, and he knew it was a drone – from a confident tech, no less. The more experienced a tech got, the more they felt comfortable altering the bird’s default appearance, usually to darken a few feathers on the breast to make it seem as though the bird was wearing a tie.
He gave the bird a serious look. ‘Don’t you have somewhere to be?’
The bird shook its head, walked in a circle, then flew off.
[Jones, can you give me an overview?]
Jones’ face appeared in his HUD. [No one has seen any Solstice for at least half an hour. There’s some fae still hanging around, but they’re after mirror, they aren’t coming after us. Most of your team has cleared out. Taylor’s out for injury. Mags went, then came back in – she’s supervising a combined team going after shards.] The tech gave him a small smile. [It’s all pretty much over sir, and you’re still injured, I think it’s time to call it a night.]
Ryan cut the chat, took one more breath of night air, then shifted to the tech department.
Jones motioned with his head, and Ryan followed the agent through to a smaller lab – most repair work took place in Jones’ office, but on nights were there was a serious operation taking place, his workspace was usually covered in plans and materials, so the smaller room was used.
The tank of blue was already waiting, and he looked at it as though it were liquid salvation. It was a full-size tank – an eight-foot square that stood six feet right, filled with blue just a little thicker than water: exactly the same as how an agent was born.
His various injuries weren’t enough to really warrant the tank, but it represented a chance at the one thing he had been sure would be unachievable: sleep.
Jones had been speaking, and he hadn’t even realised.
‘Sorry Jones, what?’
‘I was saying sorry, sir. About Stef. Raz rushed the blood work, not that it was really necessary, the blue matched. But…I’m sure I’m telling you something you already know.’
‘There was…so much blood,’ he mumbled, unable to shake the memory of how it had felt. Blood on his hands, figuratively and sickeningly literally.
‘Did you see what happened, sir?’
The question was unexpected, but welcome. Jones was good at his job – his tech and medical departments were the only ones that ran close to optimal performance – so it followed that there should have been drones watching Ryan. The Director in the field was an asset to keep an eye on.
It was something he hadn’t even considered when making the wish. If Jones had done his job properly, then there would have been high-resolution footage of him going against his Duty.
Jones had stumbled in his Duty, and the result had been a positive – possibly the only good thing to have come out of the night.
‘It was right when the mirror was destroyed. I was…overwhelmed, incapacitated. I heard a shot, when I got up to the roof, she was gone.’
It was a lot more truthful than he had been prepared to be. It was the truth, so much as he could ever tell it. As much as the Agency would ever know.
If she woke up – when she woke up – there would be decision then. Sanctuary with one of the Courts. A life somewhere in Faerie. Anything to keep her from being visible to the Agency. The Agency destroyed what didn’t belong, and a recruit given life by mirror fit that description perfectly.
Jones indicated for him to sit on a bench, and the tech went about the business of cutting flesh, checking integrity, and otherwise healing him up.
If the Agency didn’t destroy her, they’d experiment. They’d cut and investigate and ponder, they’d take readings and see what her limits were.
And when they were done, there’d be nothing left.
There’d been other recruits come into contact with mirrors – and most of those stories ended far too soon, and far too sadly.
Jones touched his shoulder. ‘You can go into the tank if you want, sir.’
He gave a vague nod, dismissed his clothes, and shifted into the blue.
Ryan opened his mouth and took in a deep breath of the liquid blue – there was the strange feeling of drowning, whilst being content. The dissonance went away a brief moment later, his lungs automatically adjusting to taking in blue, and only contentment remained.
Every agent began life like this – naked and surrounded by which they were made of. It was the only moment in their generation and birth that mimicked anything of the human lifecycle. It was different, even then.
There were the few, precious moments before any real understanding kicked in for a newborn agent when there was just consciousness and peace. True nirvana, where there was nothing but blue.
The explanation was easy and banal – when an Agent was first generated, their start-up sequence of how they were first brought online meant certain elements were operational before others. The spark of life, so to speak, preceded the remainder of the OS loading.
It was the same reason that Duty was always an Agent’s first real thought. It was branded in from birth, but even that couldn’t detract from the moments of peace.
It was nothing but a quirk of their software, but it was still a sacred experience to many.
There was nothing in life that could truly replicate it, but fully submerging oneself in a tank of blue was a fine attempt.
His heart still ached from seeing Carol.
She had only been a twist of a key away for two decades, and that had still been too far.
Caging her had been one of the cruellest things he had ever done.
He took a deep breath, taking blue as deep inside himself as he could, trying to force his body to disintegrate and become indistinguishable from the blue in the tank.
He could have killed her. By every bit of duty, he should have killed her.
She’d gone mad, slaughtered most of his Agency, and escaped the lockdown. She’d gone to the Gardens, to the place where she had convinced him to make love outdoors, and danced whilst dripping agent and recruit blood.
Tears came, but were swallowed by the blue.
He had been her Director, he had more than a handful of ways to kill her on sight.
He had been hers, and where there was life, there was hope.
He’d kissed her, called forth an oubliette, and locked her away.
The Agency believed her dead, that was the only way it could be. Jones had spent thousands of hours poring over her code, looking for the flaw, looking for the source of her madness, and had found nothing.
No conventional magic could help, and there’d been no chance to get a mirror until-
His eyes opened, and he chastised himself for allowing even the hint of the thought.
There was no way he could keep Stef in the oubliette. It would make things too hard. There had to be alternate arrangements to make. Somewhere she was close enough to check on her without raising suspicion, but far enough or safe enough to keep the Agency unaware.
And for the night, there was nothing he could do.
Ryan closed his eyes, and waited for peace.
[table id=15 /]