There was a knock at the door.
Curt turned to look – no one came to bother him in his room – especially not on his day off. He didn’t have to go to Magnolia’s masochistic early-morning training; no missions, nothing to do, except drop in on Stef and argue for two hours about Star Trek.
Even with all of those established facts; there was someone knocking on his door.
There was a hand on her face.
Magnolia felt herself waking, ready to attack whoever had managed to catch her off-guard and-
The hand was familiar. Fingers she would have known, even with total amnesia. Knuckles that had bruised her countless times, dragging her further and further towards fighting fit and able to uphold the tenants of her duty.
Memory came flooding back.
Memories that couldn’t possibly be real.
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.
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.
Stef shivered as she was shifted out of the tank, soaked skin and the relative cool of the air-conditioned building were not a good mix. That, or it could have been fear.
Yeah, Spyder, it’s probably the fear.
Magnolia watched as the girl was unceremoniously thrown into the tank, her small body splashing water out of the tank, and over the nearly naked Agent Grigori. The blond agent stood there, completely comfortable in what amounted to a very short pair of swimming trunks and a small towel over his broad shoulders. He leaned against the tank and watched the experiment sink, her clothes soaked and pulling her to the bottom.
The shark, for its part, didn’t attack, simply circled the tank, waiting for the order to strike. Taylor circled the tank, and pulled the control pad from its holder – what amounted to a remote control for the sim, turned his back to the tank, and stabbed one thick finger at the controls.
‘You want,’ Jones repeated, ‘a shark?’