“Ooh. A lady public defender? Wanna watch us make out?” Emma asked as they entered the room.
“Be nice, Emma Rose,” S.M. said as she sat down at the table. Blake had ushered her into a small briefing room with a tinted viewing window, two doors, and Emma seated in the center.
She went against what S.M. could vaguely remember of her. Older and taller, she had the hollowed look of someone who had seen far too much in life. S.M. struggled to connect this adolescent to the child from seven years prior. Guardians didn’t know age. They only knew years. They knew the individual stages humans existed in but would never witness one’s transition from birth to death.
She shooed Blake away.
“Five minutes,” he said as he left the room.
When the door clicked shut, Emma reached across the table and plucked the sunglasses away. “Hello, S.M.”
“So you have been in the care of the good doctor,” she said.
“My parental guardian,” Emma made quotes with her fingers, “is whole-heartedly obsessed with you. When I first put on your face,” she pumped her fist three times then opened her hand.
“And who’s clever idea was that?”
Emma shrugged. “A little bit of mine. A little bit of his. I’ve spent the last seven years studying combat to achieve some bit of your stature. I bet I could hold my own with you in a fight.”
“I don’t doubt that,” S.M. entertained her.
“So, have you come to kill me?”
“No, but I have to bring you back with me.”
“To where you went that night? Beyond the blue?” S.M. was startled by the excitement in Emma’s voice. “I wanted to go with you. To disappear.”
S.M. leaned in, voice barely above a whisper. “You. Don’t.”
The smile slipped from Emma’s face and a clicking sound called S.M.’s attention to the second door – the one she assumed Emma had entered through. The one with no handle.
“You saw my mugshot in the newspaper? That’s why you’re here?”
S.M. sat back. “Yes.”
Emma leaned forward. “You realize this is a trap, right?”
S.M. knocked the chair over as the door behind her threw itself open, slamming the wall.
Emma hopped onto the table and stood over her and as S.M. looked up at her the other door opened and Blake shot her with what appeared to be an elaborate crossbow.
The metal arrow punched a hole into her chest, anchoring into the flesh and muscle under her collarbone. The other end was welded to steel rope which pulled taut and pulled her off her feet. She hit the floor as a high pitched whine deafened her ears and a current went through her. Her muscles contracted, threatening to tear away from bone. Jaw locked, she couldn’t scream, couldn’t resist the motion of curling into a fetal position on the floor.
“Asset contained. Emma, get away from it.”
Emma jumped off the table, and kicked the crossbow out of his hands. She kneed him in the face as he tried to reach for it.
Released from the current, S.M. yanked the cord, dragging the crossbow out of his reach as he deflected Emma’s assault. He pulled a gun. S.M. swung herself around on the floor and kicked his legs out from under him but his grip remained steadfast and the mark of the gun lined up with her head.
She rocked back, up on both feet, moving backwards. The crossbow caught the leg of the table and he fired, bullet embedding into her leg.
Emma charged him, wrestling him for the gun. S.M. pulled on the cord and it snapped free from the bow as Blake fired again, showering them with glass from the florescent lights. He rammed himself into Emma, sending her flailing backwards and fired multiple rounds. She screamed. The lights were flickering. He was turning but too slow as S.M. got behind him and looped the cord around his neck and pulled tight. He gagged, eyes bulging, as she pulled him into a back bend, blood welling up around the cord as it sank into his flesh. He went limp and she peeled the cord from his neck.
Emma was sitting up, blood pouring out of wounds in her chest. Regardless, she smiled with tears in her eyes. “I told you I could hold my own.”
S.M. whirled on the gatherer standing in the doorway. It’s head scanned the body at her feet, to her, before landing on Emma. S.M. reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out a tube of blue phosphorescent fluid, the only thing the gatherers had left on her, and it hissed at her.
She crossed its path as it swooped in for the girl and she threw herself onto Emma, smashing the tube on the floor.
One moment they were lying on concrete. The next on worn wood. The ceiling had shifted before Emma’s eyes. Bare walls morphing to ones with built-in bookshelves stuffed with books. S.M. rolled off of her and she sat up, the pain momentarily diluted by her surprise. “Whoa. We, like, totally just apparated.” She looked at S.M. “Harry Potter?”
“Never heard of it,” S.M. stood and lifted Emma under her arms and sat her down in a chair, squeezing in next to her.
“Where are we?”
“In one of the libraries.”
“No. With respect to where we were?” she was gasping for breath.
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know? Aren’t you, like, a hundred or something?”
S.M. laughed. “I’m only eight years old.”
The pain was once again momentarily forgotten. “Eight? You’re a child?”
“Well, 7 years and 11 months. A.D.’s the one who keeps track, for some reason.”
“Is A.D. your boyfriend?”
“No, she’s not.”
“Your. . .girlfriend?” Emma teased as flecks of blood lined her lower lip.
“Emma,” S.M. forced her to look her in the eye. “I need you to tell me what Dr. Gold wants from me. From us.”
The girl shook under her. “He wants what it wants. To break the shell.” Tears spilled out of her eyes but she started to laugh. “He took me to the monster. It’s down there. In the deep, in the dark. It wants you. It wants you!” she was screaming, words twisting until they were garbled and S.M. backed away from her. “It wants the thing inside you. It wants you to kill the Overlord. It wants you to break the shell and come home.”
She experienced the flicker of an old memory. A golden orb engulfed inside an amorphous shadow rising above her. She tripped under the weight of it and backed up against someone’s legs. Something sharp stabbed into her neck. She tilted her head back languidly and as her vision blurred she could make out the green spirals in Overlord Eight’s goggles and the blue light as a gatherer sipped on her life forces, plunging her into a cold, unconsciousness.
She awoke with a start, flat on her back and paralyzed from the neck down. She could feel the needle in her neck when she swallowed, the drip just enough to keep her body under but her mind awake.
Overlord Eight stood next to her, arms crossed. “Welcome back, I suppose.”
“Your enthusiasm is overwhelming,” her voice cracked and she winced.
“Who is Dr. Gold?”
“He’s a man. I met him once that I’m aware of.”
“That you’re aware of?”
“That I can remember,” she exaggerated her enunciation. She was able to lift her head enough to see that the arrow had been extracted; the wound bandaged.
“You’re not going to let me live that down, are you?” He pulled up a chair and sat down.
“Should I? My memories are all I own and you threw tar on them.”
He didn’t respond immediately but the spirals disappeared. When they reappeared he said, “That look on her face. Her despair. I’ve seen it once before. You have too.”
“I don’t recall.”
He smiled. “I know, so let’s continue with what you do remember.”
~Two weeks later~
“Part two? Did you see part one?”
A.D. and S.M. sat under the bus shelter, out of the rain, and across the street from a run down movie theater. S.M. had been summoned by her charge to hunt down and kill his corporate rival. A rival who had summoned her friend, A.D.
“He’s an idiot,” she had told her when S.M. had broken into the rival’s condo. “You can have him but he’s in Barbados for the week. I can’t tell if he summoned me to protect him or feed his cat.”
They decided to head downtown to kill the time they had been given.
“No. Nor the six movies that preceded it.”
“Six! Well, okay, if you want to see it, we’ll go see it.”
They dipped out into the rain, dodging cars, as they crossed the street. As she took in the marquee lights, many burned out, her mind drifted to the fragment of a memory. The gold orb. The shadow surrounding her.
If she hadn’t spared Emma that night, she would have save her from far worse. From Dr. Gold. From the monster.
“S.M.? You better get in here before the attendant wakes up. Let’s go.” A.D. was holding the door open for her.
They crept into the lobby and into the theater for the next showing.
Into the dark. Into the deep.
A/N: At last! It’s finished! I’ve learned from this little exercise that I should probably write the entire story first so the parts can be posted in a timely manner. The first part was posted back in April during the A-to-Z Challenge.
Thank you to those of you who stuck this one out. I appreciate it. 🙂