‘Can’t we teleport?’
‘Sorry. Can’t we shift?’
‘No,’ Curt said as he opened the passenger door. ‘Recruits can’t shift.’
Are you deliberately trying to piss me off?
Stef chewed on her pancake, watching the new guy and his flawless infiltration of the code monkeys. He was slick, nowhere near Dorian’s level, but smooth all the same. Each name he was given, he seemed to immediately commit to memory – a worrying trait in and of itself.
She pushed the lump of pancake to the roof of her mouth. The syrup made it stick there for a moment, the strange sensation distracting her from the paranoid urge to run from the room. He was personable enough, easily mistaken for just another affable blond boy, but her imaginary Spyder-sense was making her tend towards panic.
The smell of coffee permeated Stef’s dreams and dragged her into the waking world. On autopilot, she lifted a hand and groped for the coffee. Her higher brain, slower to wake than the part that recognised the smell of coffee, wondered why the coffee was coming to her, instead of the other way around.
It was free though, so there was no need to question it.
Stef stared at the code in front of her and made some notes on the already-full piece of paper to her right. The algorithm cycled in her mind, failed, spontaneously blew up, then laughed at her. Dutifully, she crossed out her last few notes, then searched for a new piece of paper.
Finding none, she stood and walked past the other code monkeys and over to the printer, pulled out the tray, and extracted a few pieces of A4 paper.
The last algorithm had promise if–
A scream flushed all ideas from her mind.
The world around Stef had ceased to exist. The only things still tangible in the smoky limbo were her screen and her keyboard. The latter was less real, existing only as an abstract, a tool through which algorithms and codes took shape.
From somewhere in the smoke, a beep reminded her to breathe. Stef took a breath but didn’t dare to blink, lest the fragile connection she had to her task be lost. Losing concentration would mean losing the battle with consciousness, and she’d only been awake for twenty-three hours.
‘I’m awake,’ she said, unconvinced. ‘I am awake.’
‘If you care to recall,’ Stef said. ‘I came here to get away from-’
‘There’s no one else that could help you. You don’t know any fae, and three-quarters of them aren’t to be trusted in any case, who else do you have?’
‘I came here so I could think. I’ve only been al-’
‘I’m not trying to cause you more grief, Spyder, I’m just trying to prevent my own. Whether by your will or not, you’re dangerous.’ Continue reading “48 – Grains”
Retreating to the secret stair, Stef lifted the old book and read it through again – to clear her mind of every other thought, and at the same time trying to stave off the urge to go back to sleep – she’d been alive again for less than two days, and had slept through most of it. There was no reason to be as tired as she was.
She lifted the book to her face, breathing in the worn pages and the memories of those that had read it before, taking the same adventure that she so often took. It was a safe adventure, a secret fantasy, and one where the status quo was always restored. Always. No matter how many times she read it, the ending was always the same – unsurprising, but at the same time, always surprising. It was a book, and like the theory of the cat in the box, one could never be sure what would happen on the next page until you read it. Continue reading “47 – Wardrobes”
Stef knew the voice without turning around. ‘Didn’t know you had dibs on it. Jon said I could have it, he said he didn’t expect you.’
‘I’m rarely expected, Spyder. I heard the news from his doctor, not from him, so he probably doesn’t know I’m here.’
She tapped her fingers on the disk. ‘So he really meant it when he said-’ Continue reading “46 – Pact”
Stef lifted her head from the book, pulling her mind away Narnia when a bell was rung. She recognised it – it was the breakfast bell, but it hadn’t meant much when she’d been at the mansion the first time, as breakfast had been brought to them, rather than having to be searched out.
She left the book on the steps, having every intention of returning to it later – even on the brink of battle, Narnia felt so much safer than the real world did. Continue reading “45 – Never Grow Old”
Stef stared at the clock. Night. Night was for sleeping.
Especially considering apparently she was going to be woken up only seven hours after midnight. Being awoken at such an hour – and being expected to function as well – gave the entire Agency a new spin. A sinister one.
Punching the pillow until she imagined it crying for mercy, she threw her legs over the side of the bed and stood. She paced for a while to no avail – her mind was going over a hundred different things, and her fingers had the urge to type. Continue reading “19 – Evening Stroll”