Author’s note: I have spent a good two hours trying to figure out how they find Kim. I can’t. I’ll keep working on it, but I’ve got thousands of words to go and I need to move on. So imagine, if you will, a montage. Kelly sitting quietly, writing notes on a piece of paper in a diner. Cylee looking over her shoulder. Kelly looks up sharply and Cylee leans back, inspects the wallpaper, orders another drink. The two of them pouring over the hand-drawn notes later in a hotel room, pulling out a big paper map of Canada and trying to line up points on the map and points in their notes. If you’re more comedically minded have one of them turn the map over and look crossly at the other, as if either of them would accidentally hold a map upside down. All the words would look dumb! At any rate, at the end of the montage, they drive along a dirt road. And that’s where we get back into the part of the story that I’m actually trying to tell. Okay, as you were.
“I think I see a house up ahead,” Kelly said, leaning forward, hands on the dashboard. Cylee was driving slow, taking her time up the small road, scanning not just for the next turn but for any signs of surveillance or traps. Thus far it seemed to just be a road.
There was indeed a house ahead. The trees gave way to a small cleared patch, surrounded by a hand-made fence and gate made of wood lashed with ropes. The boles holding up the arch over the gate were stripped pine trunks, the wood that made up the gate itself was raw, still covered in gray bark, but stripped of branches. Cylee got out and opened the gate, then drove through carefully. There was a long gravel driveway up to the house. She carefully closed the gate and stopped the car.
“Let’s make sure we’re in the right place before we pull right up to this person’s house,” Cylee said. “It might not be Kim.” Kelly nodded and they walked slowly up the gravel path. The space around the house was cleared of trees but mostly wild, not a neatly mown lawn. There was a vegetable garden along one side of the house and a corral and barn on the other side, suggesting that the owner was attempting self-sufficiency. A few sheep wandered free inside the enclosure, explaining the short-cropped wild ground cover. The sun was dropping toward the horizon and long rays were slanting through the pines, filtering through the dust in the air. The trees gave off a cool, resinous scent, bracing, slightly reminiscent of Cylee’s childhood, but familiar Down to the DNA in her blood. This was what home felt like.
Agent (Cylee): You’re both terribly allergic to pine pollen, you know.
Agent (Kelly): If it weren’t for us your eyes would be all red and you’d be sneezing your brains out.
Kelly: Wait you can stop our allergies? How?
Agent (Kelly): Basically we’re telling your immune system that it’s not under attack. We have to be quite firm on this point.
When they were about six meters from the house they both stopped. There was a feeling…something reminiscent of the sense they had around each other, but subtly different. Cylee listened quietly, trying to understand what she was sensing.
“Whoever you are, get back in your car and leave,” said a quiet voice behind her. She felt a gentle pressure against her back. Her jacket was armored so she couldn’t quite tell if it was a knife or a barrel of a gun, but either way it wasn’t friendly.
Cylee: How did we miss someone walking up behind us on gravel?
Kelly: I’m not a soldier. I guess I wasn’t paying attention.
Cylee: I was more talking to the Agent and their direct control of the vast array of Augments at their disposal.
Cylee breathed slowly and turned quickly Whoever had been behind her wasn’t now, but she saw the inside of the arch over the gate. There was a single symbol carved into the wood: ζ
“Zeta, can you hear me? It’s…Zero,” Cylee said, reasoning that if Kim was using her code name then perhaps she should use hers as well.
Directly behind her she heard, “Zero is dead. Watt killed her. I killed her, I killed her and she killed Sagittarius and he killed me…” Then he sense of a presence was gone.
Cylee: Can you see her, Kelly?
Kelly: only glimpses. She’s moving quick and I can’t see where she’s hiding.
Cylee nodded. And she sat down in the middle of the road.
Kelly: What are you doing??
Cylee: Drawing her out.
Kelly shrugged and sat, leaning on Cylee.
For a few moments all they heard was the birds and animals in the trees. Then the voice came again
“Why are there two Zeros? One is older and one is younger but both should have died long since, when we all died. Zero says we’re not dead but I saw us all die, many many times over… Many times…”
Agent (Cylee): Speakers. Not sure how she gave the impression of being physically behind you , but this is all speakers.
Cylee called out “Kim? Come talk. We’re not here to hurt you or take you back to Pacifica—“
“Pacifica killed Kim and Cylee and Wes and Shaun and let Zeta and Zero and Watt and Sagittarius take their places…but perhaps Kim can still be found…” The voice echoed slightly through the clearing.
They waited. Cylee resisted the urge to pull up a clock and count seconds, that just makes time seem longer. As the sun disappeared behind the trees the door of the house opened. Cylee and Kelly stood up, still holding entirely still.
A light turned on inside the house and there was movement at the door. A voice called out, “Cylee? Is that you? Oh, it is!” and Kim came running out.
She was dressed in blue jeans and an oddly old-fashioned blouse, both seemingly hand-made. She ran up to Cylee and hugged her close, laughing and crying and burying her face against Cylee’s collarbone. Cylee wrapped her arms around her friend, secretly waiting for the knife to make another appearance.
“Come in, both of you, come in!” Kim said and they headed into the house.
“Home made” was the order of the day in Kim’s furnishings. Everything was made of wood and cloth, with very little glass or metal. There were solar panels on the roof heating panels in the walls, and electric lighting, but that seemed to be the end of the modern conveniences. The main area of the house was a combination kitchen, dining room, and living room. On the north wall was the sink and oven, in the middle of the room stood a large, wooden table with three chairs, and on the south wall was a sofa, also built of raw wood and furnished with huge soft cushions. There were a few rag-tied rugs under or in front of various pieces of furniture, but that was about it.
“How did you find me?” Kim asked, and Cylee responded. Once I figure out how Cylee found Kim I’ll fill this part in.
“That’s amazing!” Kim said, because I promise it will be amazing. Either that or I’ll take this part out.
“But…why are you here?” Kim asked. Cylee looked at Kelly and Kim followed her eyes. “No…they…they didn’t.”
Cylee nodded. “Pacifica hasn’t given up, apparently. They’re making new clones. Apparently they never really stopped, they just moved their operations. There was a doctor who was there when we were in training, who was part of the cloning program, and she freed this lovely girl from them a few years ago.”
Cylee felt the odd, echoing sensation in the back of her mind which meant the Agent was hijacking her subconscious.
Cylee: You know I need that, right?
Agent (Cylee): You’re not really using it right now, and we need some processing power.
Cylee: Then use my Spine.
Agent (Cylee): We are. You’ll probably need to recharge soon. This is important, we promise.
Kim was inspecting Kelly’s face. Kelly smiled. “I’ve heard a lot about you, Kim. From both Cylee here and from Aunty Tamara.”
“The doctor I mentioned. Tamara Patel.” Cylee said.
“And where is she?” Kim asked.
“Wes killed her. I think…I think he’s still working for Pacifica,” Cylee said.
Kim’s face fell. “I’m so sorry, Kelly.”
“It wasn’t your fault,” Kelly said, her eyes welling up.
Agent (Cylee): Wow. Cylee, there’s something you need to know about Kim…
Cylee: What’s that?
“No, it was Watt. Watt killed the doctor as the doctor sent Watt to kill and to die,” Kim said, her eye still downcast. Her voice was falling back into the cadences and tone they had heard broadcast earlier.
“Watt killed Zeta and Zeta killed Zero but it was fine because behind each Watt is another Watt and behind each Zero is a Zeta,” She said standing up and walking around the room.
Agent (Cylee): This. The…agent in her isn’t quite right… it’s not like us, and…it isn’t in balance.
Cylee and Kelly looked at each other.
“And each Zeta kills Zero and Zero kills Sagittarius and he kills and kills.” Kim was walking faster, and when she walked in front of Cylee she threw something at her face, then her voice was gone.
Agent (Cylee): Flour? How was that so good at blocking the Third Eye sensors?
Speakers throughout the house activated.
“But it’s okay because we each die and that’s the only way any of us are safe from PACIFICA” Kim roared through he speakers.
Kelly: Not Kim, Zeta. They’re different, I think.
Cylee: Get to safety, Kelly. The car should be safe.
Kelly: I don’t think she’ll actually kill us. I think she’s afraid. Or rather, Zeta is afraid.
Cylee: They’re the same person!
Kelly: No, I don’t think so. I think…what you and I call “Agent” she calls Zeta. Only I don’t think it works as well for her.
A knife flew through the room and hit the wall between them blade first. It stuck for a moment before clattering to the ground.
Cylee: Open windows…she’s outside, and we’re in a shooting gallery.
A quick scan of the room showed windows on all four walls, so wherever they took shelter they were exposed on three sides. Cylee looked up and saw a trap door in the ceiling with dangling pull rope.
Cylee: Kelly, look, there’s a loft.
Kelly: Yeah, but getting up in there…that’s total exposure.
“Kim? Kim! Can we talk some more?” Cylee yelled out.
Agent (Cylee): we are working on something and we think we can help but we need time. We think we can help Kim and Zeta
A rock hit Cylee’s shoulder, coming from the window on her right. It had sailed directly over Kelly’s head, so that was something. At least Zeta was only trying to kill her.
“Kelly, I think you’ll be fine. Get under the table, I’ll run outside and you get up into the loft. And hopefully the Agent has something soon.”
Kelly nodded and dove under the table.
“Kim is distraught and has asked Zeta to take over. Zeta used to be surrounded by support and now all she has is Cylee and Zero and Zero and Kelly.”
“I still really need to talk to Kim. Cylee needs to talk to Kim.”
“You mean Zero. Zero is in control,”
“No, Zeta.” Cylee ran out the door and ducked just as another rock came from a round the corner. She scrabbled back to her feet and ran toward that corner, aware that she was playing cat and mouse with someone who had always been better at moving than Cylee had ever been at intercepting. She rounded the corner and was unsurprised to not find Kim there.
“Kim! Please!” Cylee yelled out.
Kim came around the corner, and smiled. “Isn’t it lovely here? I love walking in the cool night air.”
Kelly: I’m in the loft.
“Kim, who is Zeta?”
Kim smiled. “I am, of course. It’s just a nickname.”
Cylee was in over her head. She hated this. Kim had always been a sweet, kind person. Kim had somehow kept herself together long after the rest were deep in despair.
Agent (Kelly): We have it. We need Kim unconscious and preferably on a bed.
Cylee: That’s a tall order, I think?
Agent (Cylee): We can help her. We see what’s wrong, but we need time to help “Zeta” see what they are doing wrong.
Kelly: There’s a bed up here.
“Kim, if it’s not too much to ask, could we stay here tonight?” Cylee said. Kim smiled.
“Yes, of course!” Kim said. Then her face darkened.
“You will stay forever,” Zeta said.
Kim turned to run away again but Cylee was ready this time. She pulled her flechette gun and loaded knockout needles.
Cylee: I need a very specific dose and even then these aren’t fast. Any tracking help would be appreciated.
She turned another corner. This was terrible. She could see the white of Kim’s blouse in the darkening, and fired. The pistol reported fifteen hits, back and legs.
Agent (Cylee): That’s probably enough.
“And Zero again kills Zeta, as she always has. Zero is the angel of dead and leads the dead and creates the dead for Zero kills us all until we can no longer be reborn and only Zero can be reborn,” shrieked Kim, her legs giving out. She fell face first into the moss and Cylee walked over.
“Zero has killed me with rocks and bullets and fire and fire and fire and poison and now she kills me again with poison,” The voice was less “Zeta” and more “Kim” now.
“Kim, I’ve never killed you.I would never…I couldn’t.”
“And yet I can’t move and I feel the dark creeping up on me, as it has, time and again, I’ve felt the dark when any Zeta falls.” Kim was getting drowsy, but still restive.
“And yet so many times I’ve felt Zero save Kim..” She said, quietly, and slept.
Agent (Cylee): The “Zeta” strain must have been more integrated across people… Cylee, please get her upstairs.
Kelly lowered the ladder to the big table and helped Cylee lift Kim up into the loft and onto the bed. The bed was huge, almost as wide as the loft, and covered in handmade quilts.
“How can she keep this place running if she’s turning into 'Zeta' all the time?” Cylee asked aloud as they pulled the blankets up over Kim.
“I think us being here is triggering more 'Zeta' moments than usual.” Kelly said quietly.
Cylee: Okay, now what?
“I already know,” Kelly said, and went down the ladder.
Cylee: Why does she already know but I don’t?
Agent (Kelly): Because you were busy so we didn’t distract you.
Kelly returned with their first aid kit. As per usual, Cylee’s first aid kit was more of a mini surgery.
Agent (Cylee): We need you to draw 60 ccs of blood from the artery that runs along the inside of your right elbow. Then we need you to inject it into one of Kim’s veins.
Cylee: A blood transfusion? What if we’re different types?
Agent (Cylee): You’re both AB negative.
Kelly was gently removing the flechette needles from Kim and cleaning the wounds. “Pacifica records. But also these things. Sensors in there, I guess?”
Cylee hated needles, but she could do things she hated. She let her Augmented vision highlight the spot and drew the blood. It felt like it took an hour to get a full 60 ccs.
Kelly had already cleaned the insertion point on Kim’s arm. Irrelevantly Cylee thought about how much Kelly has been through, and how adult she had to be, even at 4/14 years old. Cylee gently pressed the needle into Kim’s vein and slowly injected the blood.
Cylee: Now what?
Agent (Cylee): Now we need to do some very fast talking. We suggest you all get some sleep. Tomorrow might be interesting. Also we need the brain power.
Cylee: That’s all I am to you, aren’t I? Just a brain to use when you need it.
Agent (Cylee): No, you’re also transportation. Now go to sleep so we can help Zeta.