Pacifica

Book One of the Redeemable Trilogy

At seven that evening Cylee was getting dressed when a notification popped up in her HUD. It was a small map link and the words “Dinnertime?” The address wasn’t far and Cylee sent back “see you there” as she got dressed for the evening. She wore an all-black outfit, not for secrecy but because she was feeling like black was pretty much her color today. She chose black leggings, high leather boots, a form-fitting black top with a short (black) jacket. the outfit looked like evening wear but was also slightly armored and padded. Also the jacket hid a holster for her flechette thrower and a couple of clips full of specialized ammo. In theory she shouldn’t need any weapons of her own, but in practice she never went into any situation unarmed. She tied her hair back into a ponytail, then decided to braid it instead. Braids were better at staying out of the way. It wasn’t exactly in keeping with the rest of the outfit, but it would work. She was halfway out the door when she remembered to grab her Spine’s charging adapter. Again, this should only be a half hour job, but you never knew when you might have to lie low somewhere and having your Spine be on low power mode wasn’t fun. She stuffed the charger in a pocket and went to meet Mitzi.

The restaurant was called “the Panopticon” and somewhat surprisingly the owner seemed to actually understand what the word meant. The front door opened into a lobby which contained a bar and an elevator. The hostess took them into the elevator which went down into a surprisingly large, round basement. In the center of the room was a slightly raised chef’s station, and around the walls of the room were roughly sixty small booths, entirely enclosed on three sides, open only to the chef’s station in the center. The idea was that each booth was visible to the staff, but not to anyone else in the restaurant.

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The day after a big job was always weird. Last night was a small, intense world full of fear and danger and stress. This morning is bright with highs in the low forties. Cylee was up, showered, dressed, and done with breakfast by the time Mitzi rolled off the couch and stumbled into the bathroom, blond hair a weirdly weightless halo around her head.

Cylee went and found a small digital reader and pulled up some books. She could have done that in her HUD, of course, but sometimes you need to look like you’re reading and anyway, physical things are nice.

Mitzi finished her shower and walked out wrapped in huge towel. “Can I borrow some clothes?”

“I…sure, but we’re not really the same size.” Cylee said.

“That’s okay, I can make it work,” Mitzi said walking into Cylee’s bedroom. “Yes, you probably can,” thought Cylee and regretted the moment of white-hot resentment she felt toward her friend. If Cylee had tried to put together a reasonable outfit out of Mitzi’s closet she’d look like someone who was borrowing clothes. Their body types were far too different.

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Cylee was at home when she got a notification.

Julian: Hey here’s the address. Want me to come pick you up, or just meet at the restaurant?

Cylee: I’ll see you there!

She thought about changing, but, nah, she was wearing a green top and looked pretty good. It didn’t make sense to let Julian think he was important enough to warrant a dress. She did braid her hair, though, in two braids that started at her temples and joined at the back of her head. She caught a cab and watched Seattle flow by out the window. The address was in a rebuilt part of town, all oppressively hip eateries and civic-government-approved “Local businesses”.

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Dr. Tamara Patel: Are we still on for tonight? Cylee: Yep! Dr. Tamara Patel: Excellent. Any dietary restrictions I should know about? Cylee: No, not really. Dr. Tamara Patel: Okay, I’ll see you tonight then!

Cylee did laundry. Laundry was a great chore to do because in reality its a few minutes of work once an hour, but you can feel justified in wasting the rest of the hour. As a result she had her entire closet full to capacity and beyond when it was time to go to Dr. Patel’s house. Even though Mitzi wasn’t around she chose a green button-down shirt. See? She had not-black clothes.

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Miles away, as Cylee and Mitzi were releasing a few dozen mice into an alley, Wes was waking up.

For a few moments he lay there, eyes still closed, and mind clear. These moments were rare, but when they happened he treasured them. Any second now IT would realize he was awake and would take over. Wes wondered if he was really this person, the calm, grounded person, or that person, the one that everyone knew as “Wes” these days. He knew it didn’t really matter, either way, when he got out of bed, he’d be under “IT’s influence and he’d be that guy. In his mind, when his mind was clear like this, he was “Wes” and that person was “Watt”.

He opened his eyes and felt IT slam into his consciousness like a red hot tide. Fury, at once flaming hot and also tightly focused, flooded his mind. All quiet woolgathering was over. This is who he was, a being of purpose, cunning, and unstoppable energy. He dismissed the idle, weak thoughts he’d had while waking up.

A notice popped up in his HUD. “Cassandra calling…”

He answered, vocally. “Yes, General Vance?”

“We’ve located Zero. It’s definitely her. So far she seems compliant but we may need you to assist of things start to go otherwise. Start brushing up on her combat techniques. See if you can figure out ways to constrain her without injury. Not your style, I know, but it might be necessary this time.”

“Very well. Anything else?”

“Not at the moment. Stay where we can find you. Vance out.”

Wes got out of bed, ran a hand through his curly brown hair and began his stretches for the morning. Zero was back, huh. A new note of jealousy worked itself into the heavy metal rock opera that was the permanent accompaniment of Wes’ thoughts. Zero had always been their leader, back in the PEF days. But then, back then, they’d just been soldiers. Now Wes had IT, and Zero didn’t. Also it seemed like one of the scientists had told him that IT was a super-version of something they had injected into Zero.

Also, she had that knife. He’d remember that, and be sure to tie her wrists with something she couldn’t cut.

This was going to be fun.

Far away, outside, Cylee leaned against a building. This wasn’t happening. This couldn’t happen. She couldn’t handle it, so she ran away.

In her head she replayed the end of the conversation.

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Running on autopilot, Cylee found she had walked home. She headed upstairs, undressed, got into a comfortable pair of shorts and a loose t-shirt, and nestled down into her nest-bed.

She didn’t need this. She wasn’t a sister. She wasn’t a mother. She hadn’t asked for this, she’d done nothing to make this happen. She punched her pillow, well, pile of blankets, and shifted. The buzzing in the back of her mind was still going, and she was surprised to feel the warmth of her Spine against the nape of her neck. The battery was down to 30%, a level it shouldn’t have hit for another day or two. Apparently the Agent was using her brain as well as her Spine. She dug the new charger out of her pocket, settled the charging collar on her neck and nestled down again.

Cylee: Are you ready to tell me what you’re doing? Agent: Not yet. Get some sleep.

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Cylee was feeling lonely and vulnerable when she got dressed, which might explain her return to the one true staple of fashion in North America: blue jeans and a t-shirt. She also had a slightly armored and also somewhat fashionable short jacket with a few useful things in the pockets…just in case.

Kelly: We’re here! Cylee: Okay. Be right down.

Tamara’s car was old, the huge solar grid still visible on the roof and hood, made before city-wide solar was mandatory and therefore more reliable than trying to park your car somewhere sunny. As Cylee came out of her building Kelly hopped out of the passenger seat and into the back with mock bad grace. “Don’t know why I have to sit in the back just because you’re older. And taller, I guess.”

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The next forty-eight hours were a nightmare. Quite literally. Cylee found herself swimming in and out of consciousness, her head foggy and her body screamingly painful. She would awake to see Kim, or Mitzi, or Tamara, but they all had the same expression when she looked at them. They had all, always, been crying.

In her dreams she saw Wes. Sometimes he was shooting at her. Sometimes he was shooting at a child. Sometimes he was killing Shaun or Kim, or the Child Army. Occasionally Wes was shooting himself; there were two of him. One the honorable and uptight Wes she remembered, the other the child-killing monster. Awake or asleep her head ached, her torso ached, and her throat was parched and dry.

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“Julian, get our nearest medic.” Cassandra said as she entered Julian’s office.

“Doctor Patel?”

“No, Patel is out of range, not sure why. Whoever else we have on retainer, or hire someone we can trust to be discrete. Have them here as soon as possible, any expense. Do we have anyone who can prep the medical room?”

“Yeah, Isaac and I are both trained in basic prep.”

“Get Isaac on it, get a medic here, and then help Isaac.”

“Yes, my Lady,” Julian said. He knew better than to ask extraneous questions when she sounded like this. He had at least an hour’s worth of work ahead of him, if he didn’t have further work in an hour’s time he’d ask her then.

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