Spacer Lifelines 29
  | Asymmetry | Role-Playing | Villains & Vigilantes | The Revolution | Story So Far | Lifelines |





    "What's wrong?"
    "I need you guys to come out here."
    "This is what I think it is?"
    "We'll be right there. Don't move." I set down the phone. "They've got Reilly. This would be a really good time to have a plan before we go in, guys."
    We had one in a few minutes, though I remained dubious. Dawn created a plastic replica of Phoenix, one I could move along in a reasonably realistic fashion. He would go ahead of us and sneak in, then wait until we knocked on the door to make his move.
    It worked, much to my continued astonishment. It's a big house in a nice neighborhood, quiet at that hour of the day. Phoenix went in through a back window and got Reilly to the basement, out of harm's way. There he encountered a tuxedoed superhero who claimed to be on our side—Zachriel, one of the omnipresent, eternally enigmatic Host. He was helpful in the fight which followed. They only had one man there, although he turned out to be an android. Between the four of us it didn't take long to put the thing down, winning our temporary ally's compliments.
    Zachriel says he got into this because the android had been built to look like a Host agent, that the Crime League is trying to confuse the issue. Like we're not confused enough as it is? While the android makes Renaissance look even more like a target, he says we also need to look at a company called Taurus. And I'm supposed to check out that address programmed into my mind, because they're not going to stop coming after me. Thrilling news? You bet. I was already reeling from the recent series of shocks I'd been dealt, and when I'm scared it tends to come out as anger; I refused to allow myself to be impressed by the fact that an actual member of the actual Host had deigned to lend us a hand. He doesn't look like an angel. Then again, Zachriel's supposed to be a shapeshifter, so who would know?
    "You guys enjoy being cryptic, don't you?" was my only response when he had finished dispensing advice.
    "It's a perk," he admitted with a grin, and was gone.
    "I told you to be careful," I was lecturing Reilly, when footsteps crunched outside and his wife walked in. I think we all felt vaguely guilty for some reason; it must have been the look on her face.
    "Well. And to think, the first thing I wanted to know was who was in my parking spot. Tom? What happened here?"
    I cleared my throat. "I'm afraid this is more or less my fault, ma'am."
    She could teach Fimbulwinter the meaning of a cold stare. "I might have suspected as much."
    He was motioning toward the door with his eyes; we made our excuses and departed with graceless haste. Later that evening, I got a phone call.
    "This is Beth Reilly. We have to talk."
    She met me at the Trident café, a striking woman who knows how to dress and has a very effective presence. I suspect she's a very good lawyer. She sat down, ordered an espresso and told me calmly, "I want you to stay away from my husband."
    I would have understood her anger at the fact that he had been put in danger—hell, I was more than a little upset with myself about that, and still am. But that's not it, or not entirely it. She thinks he's gotten obsessed with me, and she wants me to remove myself from the picture. Apparently it's consistent with his personality; after a while she told me about how they had met. Her family had been murdered; he spent three years tracking down the killers. Now it's my case taking up his time; even when he's home, she says, he's not really there, because he's working on my stuff. That made me feel pretty strange on a number of levels.
    "I wanted to be the only damsel in distress he would ever rescue. I'm not going to lose him to you," she said quietly. "Especially when you're not even trying."
    But since I'm not trying, I wanted to say, what do you want me to do about it? I can't stop doing something I never started. "Look, what do you want me to do? Fly away? Go to Aruba?"
    "I could pay for you to go to Aruba." She smiled a little, a cool expression but not entirely without humor.
    "I can't leave. It's my job. I'll talk to him. I'll see what I can do." She continued that stare. "It's all I can promise you." I meant that much. Whatever problems the two of them might be having aren't really my business, but I don't want him in the line of fire any more than she does.
    "I have a case in an hour," she said eventually, and left. I finished my cappuccino and have spent much of the past hour staring at the empty seat. The worst of it is that she's partly right; I knew he'd been putting in a lot of time lately, and I've taken pretty shameless advantage of his dedication. In her situation, would I feel any differently?
    I don't know. She didn't accuse me of seducing him; apparently, only my problems are alluring. I have to admit, that almost makes me feel worse. It's hard retaining any sense of my own humanity under these circumstances. My creators no doubt look upon me as a thing, a tool they have built to accomplish a task, and once that task is done—probably as a thing to be disposed of. Looking at how little of myself I can actually lay claim to owning, it's hard not to agree with that view. Would it be easier to be a robot? I'm fully organic, yet entirely artificial at the same time. Right now I simply feel lost, and very alone.

| Top | Previous Page Next Page


© 1999 Rebecca J. Stevenson