May felt the pavement rolling under her, the slight shiver rolling through her as she approached the plane caused by more than the chill of Redarctica’s fall. She’d never flown on a plane before or on anything with her actual body, and the idea both exhilarated and scared her. That might be applicable to most activities, given she’d grown used to hiding her real self away in a secure base. Probably doesn’t help how often my surrogates manage to die horrible deaths. Really hope that doesn’t happen to my real body while I’m exposed like this. May still couldn’t believe they were sending her on the mission in person and she wondered what ulterior motives Doctor Mirkov might have for doing so.
It made sense that she’d be able to pump out surrogates faster if need be, but that was more of a last resort. Patrick and Jared were supposed to be the main agents in this plan. There needed to be enough evidence linking the assassination with the Redarctic government to make it fairly obvious they were behind it, but if the trigger men were both members of the Consolidated States then there might not be enough proof that President Robins would be willing to go to war over it.
What scared her more was how happy part of her was. It’s wrong. I don’t want to kill anyone. I don’t. And I could get killed so easily like this. But I haven’t left the base in person in so long. And maybe, just maybe, if we succeed then I’ll be free. Free to do what though, May wasn’t sure.
She didn’t quite believe Mirkov’s promises. He said that if they survived the mission and Black Rain ended up recruiting them then they would have their chips removed. Even if Black Rain didn’t, he claimed he’d do it himself and they could do as they pleased. He was pretty sure though that the only place they’d ever be even slightly safe again was working for him anyways.
She knew Jared might go back. Mirkov had told him that he was pretty sure he knew how to cure his sister, but he’d need Jared to do it. She wondered if it was a lie Mirkov was telling just to capture and re-chip Jared. She didn’t think the doctor liked lying very much, but he might to regain one of his precious test subjects.
Here goes nothing. She rolled to the handicap lift and waited as the attendant helped her get onto the plane. She saw her reflection in the metal bar and was disturbed again to see the dead girl’s face staring back. I’m meeting them in person, but not as me. She felt like a ghost sometimes, living through her clones with muted senses, dying again and again and haunting the ones who killed her.
But never had she felt as much like a ghost as now, wearing the face of a girl who’d died because of her. What will they think?
She finally rolled into the cabin of the private jet that had been rented in Steven Foster’s name to take them to the Consolidate States. Back. Back to the C.S. I have to remember that. I’ve read enough about them. I can speak without an accent. No one will know I’ve never been there. No one at all.
She saw Jared as Steve and tried not to cringe. Someone else who died because of me. She knew it was illogical to think that way given how little choice she had in the matter, but she couldn’t always help it. All the psychology textbooks she’d read had done little to help resolve the irrational guilt.
“Hey,” she said. Her voice came out strong and clear and beautiful, not the least bit hidden by a speaker or softened by sharing between bodies. A note of surprise crossed Jared’s face and she was impressed by how effective Krieg’s holographic device worked. Got to give the little monster credit. If it can really fool metal detectors and scans too, then they’ll let us through customs in a heartbeat. She held the envelope with her documents in her lap, Katherine’s actual passport in her possession.
“Hey,” Patrick said, Jared just nodding. “So that’s real, huh?” He made a motion in her general direction that she assumed meant her wheel chair.
“How it happen?” She was pretty sure this was not considered polite behavior, but it was kind of nice he was taking any interest in her as a person.
“Horse riding -accident. I was going through the woods when a snake crossed my path. The horse reared out of control and bucked me off. I didn’t land well.”
“Oh. Better ‘an I pictured. Thought they might have just broke your back to keep the fo’ real you from runnin’. I mean you can make clones and switch which one feels pain, so maybe you could have made a clone and used it to get the chip out of your head. Pretty convenient for ‘em you can’t do much after that,” Patrick said casually. May was slightly dumbfounded. This was probably the most she’d heard Patrick say at one time and she’d never thought about his suggestion before.
“I guess so, though I don’t know how far I could run if I performed brain surgery on myself. Bet there’d be some recovery time there,” she replied slowly. Patrick only shrugged in response. But what if I could remove the chip? If she were able to do that while on the mission, she might actually be able to recover fast enough to get away.
But I’m not a nuero-surgeon. I know a lot about how the mind works, but not as much of its structure. Could I really perform surgery on myself? I’d have to transfer everything to my surrogate to perform the surgery. What happens if I damage my brain? I don’t want to accidentally kill myself.
She wondered though, what if she tried it on Jared first? He could heal, but could he heal his brain matter? If he could, she could use it to figure out exactly where they put the chip first and find a way of removing it cleanly. It might be hard to get him to volunteer to find out.
The door was closed and the plane began to move down the runway. She watched out the window as the ground dropped away and gripped her seat. It’s not like this with the surrogates. The sense of being small and afraid washed over her momentarily, but was quickly replaced by awe at how far they were going up. Even with surrogates, she couldn’t remember reaching this high. None of the helicopters had gone more than a few thousand feet.
A hand grasped hers, weight firm but gentle.
“It’ll be ok,” Jared said. He looked like himself now. He wasn’t supposed to. The pilot shouldn’t be leaving the cockpit, but if he did and saw someone had replaced Steve then they’d have a serious problem. Still, she preferred Jared’s familiar face. She reached down and deactivated her own hologram.
Patrick whistled. “Now I not sayin’ your clones aren’t fiiine, but you a lot prettier in person. Or you just wearing makeup?” He chuckled and May suspected he was making a joke. It was often difficult for her to tell with him.
“What would be the point of makeup?” she asked innocently, trying to play along. She was happy to hear he thought she was pretty though, and hoped that Jared might be in agreement. Unless he’s just saying that? She tried to ignore the pessimistic thought. I mean it wasn’t like Patrick liked her enough to try and spare her feelings anyways. Jared chuckled at her comment.
“But fo’ reals, you be practically shinin’,” he said. “I never seen one of your clones look so…vibrant.” She realized now what he meant.
“I wouldn’t be so vibrant if I had a clone around right now. I guess you can say I share my appearance too… I don’t know how it works exactly. I mean I don’t have to share most vital systems like breathing and heartbeats, but when I have a clone out everything becomes kind of dull. My senses and my hair and my eyes. I usually send most of my motor skills to the clone and it’s fine.
“The clone dies and I feel a little pain, then I get all my senses back in a minute or two. But if I send it all of my appearance then my real hair turns white and my eyes look like iron. It takes days to go back to normal if the clone is killed and I should be glad it goes back to normal at all. Growing new hair would take ages. If I send it only some of my appearance it doesn’t look as good, but I go back to normal in an hour or two.”
“Well your normal is pretty awesome,” Patrick said.
“Thanks,” she said, blushing.
“Now, now,” said a familiar voice. “You shouldn’t be so forward with another man’s wife.” May gave a start, looking up towards the source. Another dead girl, but the voice wasn’t. She recognized the girl as one of Jared’s classmates, black curls bouncing down over pale skin. Green eyes popping out of her head that May thought were pretty similar to her real ones.
“Jessica?,” Patrick hissed.
“No,” Jared said tersely. “It’s the shape shifter.”
“Oh, well that’s not so bad then.” Patrick seemed to relax a bit.
“Seriously? We’re stuck in a plane miles above the ground with a crazy cat woman, and it wouldn’t be as bad as your ex-girlfriend?” Jared asked.
“Dunno’ what powers exist man, what if my ex could come back and haunt me? Forever? For a moment I thought we had a vengeful ghost on board. That woulda’ been terrifying. At least maybe we could fucking kill the crazy cat lady!”
“Please, call me Tasha, unless we’re in front of people. In which case call me Jessica,” Tasha said nonchalantly. She’s not even slightly perturbed by the threat. May wondered if she’d missed a joke or if it meant Tasha was just that confident she would beat them this time.
“I think crazy cat lady fits better,” Jared threw out. “Why are you here?” May was suddenly very cognizant of how tightly his hand was gripping hers. He didn’t have time to put the hologram back up. Is his cover already blown then?
“And where the hell were you hiding?” Patrick asked. May looked towards where the emergency parachutes were being stored and wondered if a surprise surrogate attack would be enough to take Tasha out. Her fingers itched in desire for an energy projector.
“I’m guessing the bathroom on the second one,” May said pointing to the open door behind Tasha. She was a little disturbed that none of them had noticed it open.
“No way,” Patrick said with conviction. “I was in there like three minutes before the plane took off.”
“Did you notice the fly on the ceiling?” Tasha asked. May thought Patrick looked a bit sick, though it could be almost as hard for her to read his facial expressions as it was to tell if he was joking. She supposed that was only fair given her tendency to hide her real emotions by hiding behind the impassive face of a surrogate.
“Seriously? Not sure which is worse. The fact you can turn into a fly or that you be spying on me going to the john.”
“Going to? Let’s be honest, you were jerking off in the john,” she said with a laugh.
“I was not!” Patrick said adamantly. His fist began to burn and Jared grabbed his arm.
“Don’t be stupid, if you accidentally put a hole in this plane the only one sure to survive is the girl who can grow wings.”
Patrick’s fist cooled, returning to normal, wafts of steam coming off for a moment.
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I mean what’s a young single special agent to do? And maybe it’s because I was so small at the time or cuz’ I had a bazillion eyes, but I have to say I was pretty impressed by what I saw. If you’re ready to go again maybe you’d be interested in joining the mile high club with someone besides yourself,” Tasha said in a sultry manner. What is wrong with her? May was rapidly losing certainty about whether she was more disturbed that Tasha was onboard, had seen Jared’s real face, or the topic of the conversation. If this is all an act to distract us from the real issues then I have to give her some serious credit.
“Firstly, not really interested in banging the bitch that tried to kill me while she’s wearing my dead super bitch ex-girlfriend’s face. Secondly, Patrick Williams does not jack off. Patrick Williams gets laid like a real man.” May wondered what his ex did that made him use worse language for her than for the murdering monster before them.
“Dude, I hope that’s not true,” Jared said sardonically. “We’ve been trapped for months here. I mean, I’ve never gone all the way with a girl and even I know it’s really not psychologically healthy to go without physical release pretty often. If you haven’t been wanking it, then you got to be close to snapping.”
“Yes,” May agreed, blushing at the thought Jared didn’t have any more experience than she did. “Sexual release in the absence of intercourse still provides stress relieving chemicals and can help prevent later…ummm, equipment problems. Can we get back to the mass murdering psychopath issue?”
“Ok, I’ll admit there’s been a bit of a dry spell, but wait, wait, you a virgin?” Patrick’s eyes widened in surprise as he realized what Jared told him, ignoring May’s request. Then he grinned widely. “Well you married now bro. And it’s pretty obvious you like each other. I mean I get you don’t want to admit it on account she shot you and killed your crush and all, but that not her fault. Let it go and screw your wife, for the love of god.” May’s cheeks burned at the idea, more than she’d thought was possible.
“Really, mass murderer on the plane. More important subject?” she asked calmly.
“I’m always a more important subject, but would it help if I wore my own face?” Tasha asked, bringing attention back to herself.
“Well I sure as hell don’t want to see Jessica’s,” Patrick said, moving towards her.
“Careful,” Jared said as Patrick groped towards where he thought the holographic device would be.
“That’s just my breast dear, not that I mind much,” Tasha said seductively. She shifted into her normal form, skin darkening and body shortening. Her clothes stretched a bit as her curves filled out and May suddenly wondered how she’d gotten those on the plane. Surely she couldn’t have carried them as a fly. Unless she keeps her strength in smaller forms? That thought’s almost more terrifying than her dragon form. May imagined a fly quickly punching people out who were unable to cope with its quick acrobatics.
Patrick took a few steps backwards, withdrawing the offending hand. He looked at her current form and May thought he might be a bit aroused, despite his protests.
“My bad. Guess I should have seen that coming with the shape-shifting and all. And yeah, that’s a lot better. Maybe even could forgive the trying to kill us thing if you weren’t still a murderer. How many people did you kill?”
“That night? I’d guess thirty or so. I wouldn’t have had to mow down so many police if your friend hadn’t cut open my leg so badly. You wouldn’t think you’d need the hind leg when turning into a bird or something, but for some reason they usually get switched up and then I can’t fly.”
“Don’t you put that on me,” Jared said darkly. “You didn’t even try. You weren’t trying to get away; you were trying to kill us. And what was the point of that? Unless this is a personal visit, it’s pretty obvious you’re here to make sure we get the job done. You may even do it yourself and just use us as the fall guys. So what does our inherent skill level matter?”
“You caught me,” Tasha said, raising her hands. “I just got a little carried away. I mean, it was so much fun! Also, you were destroying the art.”
“You wrecked half the museum…” May mentioned. Tasha winced.
“Yeah, that was unfortunate. Oh well, water under the bridge. Let’s have bygones be bygones. We have a general to kill.”
May saw something dangerous flash in Jared’s eyes for a second and then it was gone. He smiled.
“Yes. Let’s. I’ll make you a deal, we’ll whole-heartedly help kill your general and, in exchange, you free us from Grey Snow.”
“Sounds like a reasonable offer, Steve. You know, it’s funny. I could have sworn you looked different last time we fought. I even seem to remember your teammates calling you Steve. Now I know Mirkov removed the pain chip, but I wonder what else he did to my brain while he was in there. So what I’m curious about is, why would he do that? A bit of a mystery. Don’t ruin it for me, I like mysteries. Your secret is safe with me.”
She put her finger to her lips and smiled. And she called us unprofessional. Unless she’s planning to kill us after the mission no matter what. Maybe she doesn’t care who Jared really is because she doesn’t intend for him to survive no matter what we do. May really, really didn’t like this.
“But why don’t we all switch back to who we’re supposed to be since I’ll have to kill the pilot if he walks in and sees us like this.” Her features shifted back into Jessica’s and Patrick sneered. Jared gave May’s hand another squeeze.