Foxtrot (Part III of III)
Shadow detected. Commence crossload.
The Shadow dressed in similar garb, black on black with the hood of her cloak framing her mask. For the briefest of seconds, I thought it identical to my own. No, not identical. Black and mirrored, it reflects mine. The grotesque features further distorting in the curve of her mask.
Another chemical release fires through my synapses. A momentary pause and…
I’m back. No, that’s not entirely true. What was me is shoved collectively to one small corner of what once was my mind. I can see something interacting between the two Masks, like vapors of heat flowing from the Shadow to me and back again.
A chorus of voices sounded in my mind. Integration error. Integration error. Integration error.
No shit, I thought back. A small pang of disappointment fills me. I wanted oblivion. To no longer feel. Instead I’m a passenger in my own body.
Proceed with crossload. Reintegration to follow.
Fine. I might as well enjoy the show.
I couldn’t move my head, but in my peripheral vision I could make out Drones and aliens going on their way. They pay little attention to what is happening. What is happening? I try to find the markings of any Pures. Sure, many of them keep their markings covered, but plenty of fanatics display their circle and cross or circle and arrow on the backs of their hands or sides of their neck.
Not one. Just Drones. Wait. Drones?
At once the word is familiar and alien. Is that how they think of us?
My body, acting without my consent, lowers the bag to the ground. From it the Mask extracts the case. It looks again at the Shadow.
I try to turn my head. Just an inch so I can see. No luck. I can only guess from the air of authority in his timbre, that it was the military guard addressing us.
“Step away from the case!”
The damn Mask still wouldn’t let me turn my head. A beam of light more intense than a flash light reflects off the Shadow’s Mask. In that moment I could see the girl’s face underneath. Her features are delicate and unwrinkled. A curl of blond hair stuck to one cheek. Not unlike my Serena.
No. It isn’t her. I put her in the ground. Covered her in dirt and tears. This is someone else’s daughter. Some one else’s love and life. Did they know where she was? Did she know where she was?
The entire time the guard is yelling. I don’t bother to listen. I couldn’t move myself to respond if I wanted to.
A burst of bullet fire knocked the Shadow from her iron bench.
No! My cry fell on six deaf ears, but I had stepped one foot toward her.
Another burst of fire sends me sprawling out of reach of the case. I could feel the bullets hit and bounce off my chest plate. No pain. I probably should feel it. Breathing was harder, but no pain.
The Shadow’s Mask pops up a few feet behind the bench. The same shimmering vapor comes from her Mask, but this time directed at the case.
Mission complete. Return home for reintegration. It’s almost a collective sigh.
The case pulses a red light. It intensifies as a cacophony of screams tries to escape. The Shadow’s Mask is cracked. A small trickle of blood running down her cheek. Some one else’s Serena is going to die.
“No,” I yell with my own voice this time.
I scramble forward on my knees. Every movement a slogging disconnect.
Return home. Return home. Integration error. Reintegration commencing.
Muzzle flash blurs my vision. My feet no longer respond. I continue on my knees until they too stop working. The paralysis reaches my shoulders. My fingers touch the case, but can’t pull myself on it. I do my best to shove it underneath me. I think I did it. I think because I can’t feel anything anymore.
My consciousness starts to disassemble once again. Before it’s completely gone, I see myself borne into the air.
I have no idea how long I laid there before the light came back. It dances in the swirling dust motes as a large mass of concrete is lifted from me.
“Here!” cried a voice. “Over here!”
A pair of hands excavate me from my tomb, and quickly it goes dark again. When light comes once more, I find myself indoors with the sounds of central cooling humming from above. A young man lifts me up to look me in the eyes. His eyes are hard and determined. He breathes deep and turns me around. I see myself in a mirror across the room. My face is fixed in a demonic snarl as the young man places me over his own. It doesn’t matter what he calls himself. That would be gone soon. His struggles die and integration complete. This time fully complete.
Foxtrot is live.