55 – Hair’s Breadth

November 20th

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-

I can’t do anything, full fucking stop! It’s Taylor! What the hell is he-

Calm. Down.

I’m too scared. Jesusfuck, he’s gonna-

Kill you. Calm down, or he’s going to succeed.

Stef flung herself at the pile of tablets, looking for one that he hadn’t stamped on, one that hopefully had Vox installed, and one that could get her help.

If she ran, he’d catch her, there was no chance that he wouldn’t.

She was crying, but couldn’t stop herself.

This wasn’t like the Solstice hunting people through Dorian’s mansion – Taylor already knew where she was, and wouldn’t be chasing shadows for long.

Her HUD sat useless, all of the communications channels greyed-out, as stupid little experiments didn’t need to bother the real agents – and everything about tank was designed with the theory that she was the dangerous one, not that she needed to be protected.

Tablet after tablet after tablet was broken – one screen lit up, but displayed nothing but backlight.

There was no OHSHIT button anywhere in the tank, and both Ryan and Jones had reasonably assumed that she’d be able to use any of the many tablets they’d provided to be able to call for help.


She looked for her bag, but stopped, as she saw it crushed under one corner of the upturned bed. Useless. And he’d need another-

Worry about yourself!

There were heavy footsteps as Taylor started to return.

I’m going to fucking die. He’s going to fucking kill me.

Calm down. Spyder. Calm down. Calm down!

Stef pressed the heels of her hands to her throat, her fingers wrapping up the sides of her neck as she tried to breathe.

She closed her eyes for a brief moment, her breathing the only sound in the world, then wrapped her arms back around herself as his footsteps approached the tank.

All is lost.

Memory sparked.

Or…not quite.

She looked up at Taylor, then ducked her head. ‘This is lost property,’ she whispered, and nearly cheered as she felt the shift process.

The warehouse-like room that was Lost and Found appeared, and she started to run as soon as she fully reintegrated, huffing and puffing for breath as Applebaum’s office came into view.

She had seconds, if that, before Taylor figured out where she’d gone. She crashed through the door of the office, slamming her shoulder on the wood.

‘Ryan!’ she screamed at Applebaum. ‘Get me Ryan!’

The ancient agent gave her a look like she’d interrupted something important. ‘I didn’t know you were allowed out of-’

‘Taylor is trying to kill me!’ she screeched. ‘For fucking real! Get Ryan! Get me Ryan, get-’

A hand grabbed wrapped around her neck and pulled her back, out of the office, and threw her against one of the shelving units.

She slid to the floor, and looked up at him. He lifted a gun – not a standard gun, something far more like an old-timey revolver – and levelled it in her face.

Oh, please, god, no.

She slammed her hands on her chest and thrust her head to the side. ‘This is lost property.’

His finger twitched on the trigger.

She felt the bullet as the shift processed. There was a sick feeling as it passed through her face, and for a brief moment, there was-

She reintegrated, blood sheeting down her cheek and onto her shirt. She reached a hand up, yanking her hand away as she felt a deep groove along the side of her face. The top of her ear was missing, and from the pain, it was easy to guess that the groove continued along the side of her head.

Ryan. Please. Ryan. Please.

All of the lights in the Lost and Found went on, illuminating the endless rows of dusty shelves.

Oh god, save me, please.

Her pulse hammered in her throat, and her head swam.

Please, dad, please.

A shift processed, and for the tiniest moment, she felt better. She expected Ryan’s office, or safe arms, or-

Taylor’s hand closed around her throat from behind, holding her head still. He pressed the gun into the back of her head – there was no way he could miss this time, even if she tried the shifting trick again. ‘This is my duty.’


A massive weight slammed into them, and she fell, Taylor’s hand still around her throat, now holding so tightly that he’d cut off her oxygen, trying to kill her, even if he couldn’t pull the trigger.

His fingers tightened, trying to rip into her skin.

A moment later, she could breathe.

Hand grabbed her, and she screamed, using all of the new oxygen to scream and flail. He was going to shoot her- he was going to shoot her, and-


Ryan’s voice.

She forced her eyes to open as wide as they could – everything was faintly red, but she saw his suit, and clung to him, doing her best to ignore the devastating pain across the side of her head.

He kissed her forehead. ‘You’re safe. I promise you’re safe. You need to- I’m sending you to Jones. Take a breath.’

She took a breath, and the world fuzzed – when she appeared again, she was in a tank of blue.

Blue was breathable. Agents didn’t really need oxygen, not most of the time, anyway. She slowly let out the breath, and fought the panic as she allowed herself to take a breath in.

There was a knocking at the side of the tank, and she turned to see Jones. She sank a little, then kicked off the bottom to rise to the top of the tank.

Jones looked down at her. ‘You just hang in there for five minutes, okay? It’ll calm you down, and stop the pain.’

She nodded, then let herself sink back down, and let the blue hide the tears.

54 - Expected Danger
56 - The Meaning of Truth

  8 comments for “55 – Hair’s Breadth

  1. Ancalador
    March 9, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    Well now. Taylor seems to be losing it in a major way. Fortunate that it kept him from killing Stef. I wonder what happens to agents that lose their marbles? Can they be replaced? Also unless chapter 53 was simply not posted these last two chapters are miss-numbered..

  2. Stormy
    March 9, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    Oh, he is totally losing it.

    He can be fixed, they have the technology.

    53 has been found (I forgot to categorise it >_<).

  3. March 9, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    Very intense, The ‘glitch’ is new… I like it

  4. Stormy
    March 9, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    Well, this time around, I figured that since it was established that agents need sleep, there should be consequences if they act like asshole insomniacs…

  5. d3rrial
    March 10, 2015 at 12:32 am

    Love the story so far!
    On another note: you’re being laid off from work? That really sucks…

    I’m not so good in the hugs department and I have no chocolate-chip, only web-cookies to offer, but you have my sincere well-wishes!
    Hope you’ll soon find a new dayjob, hopefully one that doesn’t make you redundant.


    • Stormy
      March 10, 2015 at 7:49 am


      Glad you’re enjoying it so far.

      *noms on webcookies*
      *gets mugged by Stef*
      *whimpers after cookies*

      I’ve got until the end of May, so they’re not throwing me out on the street immediately…but it’s still kinda worrying. -_-

  6. Sylph
    May 13, 2015 at 5:56 am

    Going to be the dissenting voice (as well as the very late arrival) and state that this just… isn’t really enjoyable. Hasn’t been for half this book; it’s not clever, it’s not fun to read, it’s just non-stop brutality with a bunch of characters complaining about it and the others enjoying themselves and/or going nuts.

    Whatever happened to the sort of humor that birthed “require:cookie”? (the command, not this series itself)

    • Stormy
      May 19, 2015 at 9:38 pm


      I’ll actually be the first in line to agree that Mirrorshdes is kind of…miserable. There’s a twisted kind of logic to it that I had to cede to (and I tried to keep as much of the violence off-screen as I could – focussing more on the reactions of characters, than the flat-out brutality that Stef’s being put through).

      Logically: an agency would have to trust “something” like Stef. They have to do similar testing with all augments (though they only do proper limit testing when there’s an extenuating circumstance – mirror is one of those circumstances).

      If it were any other agent than Taylor, it wouldn’t be torture. It would be kind of “Good morning, Agent Mimosa, today we’re going to try testing your reactions to extreme pressures and crush damage, then break for lunch”.

      But because Taylor can’t feel feelings like a regular person (or anything approaching a regular person), the only language – so to speak – he knows is violence. Apply enough violence, and the problem goes away.

      It doesn’t really help that he’s basically being made to suffer through a PTSD hellscape – Stef isn’t Stef to him, she’s Whitman, and for better or worse (worse), he’s going to have a reaction to that.

      :/ The next book is less awful. The one after that is less awful again. The one after that might actually be kind of fun.

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