While his relationship with Emily had never been something truly amazing, he had cherished the time he spent with her. They formed a connection that he believed would have been strong enough to last. It was a road he had been down more than once. Good things never lasted in his life. A tall man, he had warm blue eyes and very black hair. He was partial to having the front part raised a bit. It was short, but well-kept. His parents always wanted him to have a very regal look. He just wanted to look nice to his standards. And thus far, he did.
Their relationship started with their parents putting them together. He remembered how awkward their first date was. Finally, he got a laugh out of it, saying that he couldn’t believe how invested their parents’ were in their personal lives. The ice broken, they decided to just be friends and put on a good show for them. It was a wonderful evening, after that. They abandoned the high-class restaurant that they were at and went to a cheap burger-joint in the poorer parts of the city. There were days when he envied the Numbers and how easy they had it. But then he remembered who had stolen her from him, and hated them with renewed vigor.
Months went by. They got closer and closer, with each evening out being more fun than the last. Then, they were getting back to the dorms. They were more than a little tipsy. They got to her door and stopped. Emily smiled at him, as he did to her. Then, it happened. They kissed. She had such soft lips. He wished it could have lasted forever, but it didn’t. It ended, and they parted. The next day, the met up at the top of their favorite tower at the Academy and talked. They got their feelings out in the open and agreed to be together.
After that, everything changed. He remembered the long hikes out into the mountains surrounding the city. The vacations to his family’s house in the Rockies for the winter, enjoying the falling snow and drinking eggnog and brandy beside the fireplace. There were the summers spent sitting on the hillside, just being together. He remembered all those moments. Then, after a year and a half, she broke up with him. No reason, no explanation, she just left. She just left him, standing there at the door, with a ring in his pocket. A ring that he wanted to help change everything. Maybe it was too soon, maybe he should have waited. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. Maybe…she never loved him at all. That thought, more than any other, haunted him at night.
Now he saw her, with this Number. He heard her call her “Quinn.” What an odd name. She had the same look she once had with him. The smile, the soft smile on those soft lips. The delicate feelings that used to belong to them, when they would walk together. She was always nervous when Quinn would hold her hand. More often than not, Quinn would put her arm around Emily’s waist, pulling her close. This girl definitely took charge. Maybe that was what their relationship lacked. He had always been a relatively passive man. Too many questions, not a single one with an answer.
This Quinn, nobody seemed to know anything about her. When she wasn’t with his ex-girlfriend, she looked completely bored by everything that happened around here. Like this was just something she had to deal with before going somewhere else. Somewhere far more exciting. Into Emily’s arms, maybe? He looked up the girl in the records. It was…boring. This girl’s history was so boring that it hurt. She was an orphan, adopted by a wealthy family here in Area 7. The family applied for Honorary citizenship a few years earlier, which they were given. The girl was given permission to attend the Academy, where she was earning top marks in all subjects. Was only involved in Club Council, but nothing outside of that. Who the hell is this broad? She was too smart to not be doing nothing with her life, so what was it?
Emily had told her that she had left the military. A lie. An obvious lie. She was very touchy about the subject, so she didn’t bring it up much. It was strange, when you know that someone you love is lying to you, does that make it worse? She had never considered this. She had never imagined being with an American, let alone a Special. And yet, the time she spent with her was the best time she ever had. It made her want to leave it all behind. Did she not give that feeling to her? Was her lover so attached to the military that she cared more about it than being with her? It was a question she was asking herself with growing frequency, since she was not around often. She would confront her with this lie soon enough. She had her own affairs to attend to.
Emily and her cohorts were stepping up their efforts to catch members of Winter’s Shadow. The Runners were their prime targets, but the Specials are not made for that kind of work. The Specials are a sledgehammer. They needed a needle for this. The Empire was trying to scare the people with their strength. It was working with some, but not as they had hoped. Turns out, when you use a weapon against a population, you breed a lot of anger within said population. Who knew?
With the growing hostility, and the lack of success, it was only a matter of time until they started trying to purge the criminal elements by destroying large areas of said population. As they had tried to do with the first attack that she was involved in. The Empire only knew how to attack something with a hammer. Huge chunks of the ghetto were on fire, others were filled with the electrocuted bodies of innocent people and large spaces the Runners used were filled with impact craters from weapons that the Special who could bend metal to his will created. The Specials were good for waging a straight-up war. This kind of war was not something that they were capable of. It was a war of shadows and light. They had light on their side, but the shadows made an excellent hunting ground for organization who had Shadow in the name.
She spent the nights that she wasn’t with Emily at the pool. The water always let her mind calm. She would do laps, exercising hard to keep her focus. It was a focus that was paying off. An idea came to her.
He watched her swim. His fists were clenched and his teeth gritted as he snarled at her. She couldn’t see him. She didn’t know he was there. Shadow had always been an excellent source for him to use. He waited, in the girl’s locker room. When she got there, he would be waiting. He would finally figure this out, once and for all.
Oracle entered, removing his shades. Artificial light hurt him, and it was very dark in here. A smile was on his face.
“You know I hate making house calls, Quinn.”
She pulled herself up to the edge of the pool, smiling back at him. “Well, you’re a dear for doing it for me, then.”
He sat down close to her, taking out his laptop. “So, you said you had an idea you wanted to run by me. What do you need?”
“I want to infiltrate the Specials. I need you to make me a profile.”
Immediately, he was skeptical. “That wouldn’t work! For one thing, the girl you’re with right now is in the Specials. Last I checked, she wouldn’t be fooled in any way if you suddenly could do what you do. If anything, she would become suspicious in the extreme. Second, everyone knows your file. While it is all bogus, the fact that it is bogus would be made apparent to everyone in the military, which means that they would be snooping around. Third, they would be watching you! The Specials have more security than anyone in their military. Shadow agents who watch every single thing they do. So there is no way that you could work with us and infiltrate them. Lastly, how would you even get your foot in the door?”
Her smile got darker. “You’re going to make a profile for me. You will make the information that I need.”
He seemed confused. “I don’t get it. What about the other problems? I mean, what are you going to look like?”
She stood up, walking over. “I’m going to use your likeness. You don’t exist anywhere in the system. Your look would work with them, because you wouldn’t be the first person to be pale as a corpse working with them. Nobody knows who you are, where you come from or anything else. You, quite literally, don’t exist.”
This got him even more confused. “And how are you going to use my likeness?”
She put her hand on his arm. “By letting you in on a little secret.” She closed her eyes. He felt something odd. He was getting tired. Really tired. It felt like his energy was draining, into his arm. Into her! He had never been healthy, so he fell backward, passing out.
He wasn’t out long. Oracle awoke to see her. Or rather, see himself, but he knew that it was her. She was admiring himself in the reflection off his computer screen.
“Impressive!” she said with his voice. “I did a few alterations to the genetics so that I would be healthier. Nothing personal, but I am supposed to be in the Specials. Now, take this face.” She turned around. She looked just like him, but different. The eyes, they were red! They almost seemed to be glowing! And the hair was a bit of a different color. Plus, he looked healthier.
“And input it into the computer. Use our link into PRISM and upload us as a new Special. We can fabricate the background later. Just get me into the system as one of their people, fighting in a different Area. Make it believable. Say Area 4. The talent I have would come in handy there, now that I think about it.” She sat down beside the pool. Not only had her look changed, but her clothes too. She was wearing an outfit almost identical to his own. He looked down, seeing that he was fully-clothed.
“What the fuck?! How did you…? What did you do?”
She rolled his eyes. “I would have thought that that would be obvious to you. I took a sample of your DNA, using your life-force to guide the change. In effect, I became you, perfectly and completely. You’re not the first person I did it to. How are you feeling?”
He stood up, leaning against the bleachers at the pool.
“I’ve been better. So you’re one of them? You’re actually one of the Specials?”
She gave him a cold look. “You know what I am, Peter. You know. Don’t ask questions to which you already know the answer.”
He sat down against the wall, breathing hard. Then, he saw her changing. Not just her body, but her outfit too. In seconds, she was back to looking like herself, in the same swimming outfit she had just had on.
“So, can you set up a profile for me by tomorrow?”
He nodded, swallowing hard. “Yeah, I can do that. No problem.”
She got up, walking over. She kissed him on the top of his head. “Good man. Thank you, for keeping this quiet.” She started to walk away.
“Wait! Knowing who you are, what you are, I have to ask you – whose side are you on?”
She turned to face him. There was a long pause. A smile came to her face. “I want to destroy the Empire. That is the side I am on. Do you need to know more?”
He looked down, shaking his head. “No ma’am. I guess not.”
She kept heading toward the locker room. Well, this is a good day.
She walked into the locker room, stripping off the swimsuit. She stepped into the shower, letting it soak her skin. All the sins of the day just washing away. This must be how religious people feel. Right as she was getting out, wrapping a towel around herself, she was grabbed. A strong hand picked her up by the neck, slamming her into the locker. She was turned around and was face-to-face with Emily’s ex-boyfriend, David.
“Does it feel good, bitch?! Does she feel good?! Does it feel good to fuck her?! Does she make your entire world better?!” His rage was building and building. “What the fuck do you have that I don’t?!” His hands closed on her throat, squeezing with all their might.
She didn’t let even a small amount of fear get into her. With the same bored expression she always wore, she looked right into his eyes.
“Does this feel good? Overpowering a defenseless girl in the locker room? Do you feel like a big man, doing this? Is this what Emily fell in love with?”
His anger suddenly got less as he let her go. The weight of what he had just done hit him, like a freight train. He stumbled backwards, falling to the ground. The man started to sob, putting his face in his hands.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’m so sorry.” He kept repeating that, not willing to face her. Wrapping the towel back around herself, took a few deep breaths.
“You aren’t the only person who has gotten manipulated by her, you know.”
That got his attention.
“She’s lying to me, too. She told me things that I know are false. I don’t know why she is lying to me. Maybe there are some things that rise above love. That is why you lost her. And if I am not careful, it’s why I am going to lose her too.”
He looked up at her, meeting her eyes. He could see the sadness in her too. A moment passed between them, where they both understood each other. She grabbed her bag, heading to the other room. As she got to the door, she looked back at him.
“I’m sorry you weren’t the one. I mean that.” She closed the door behind her. He sat there, tears running down his face.
What have I done?
She got back to her room, having shifted to heal the damage to her neck. She opened the door and saw the sweetest thing. It was Emily, dressed in a red negligee, sitting on her bed. She smiled at her.
“I wish all my returns to this room were this nice.” She walked over, pushing her onto her back. Holding her arms above her head, she kissed her girlfriend passionately. She did love her, but the future was not looking good.
Until next time, a quote,
“The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.” -Charlotte Bronte