She became absolutely silent again after he spoke, apparently mulling his words over in her mind. Finally her answer came in the form of a slow shake of her head.
While she was thinking it over he had already retrieved his cell phone and was dialing a number on it. As he did so he said, "Im sorry it has to be like this Jenn, I really am, but even if you had wanted to remember I couldnt allow it." He put the cell phone up to his ear. "While I trust you more then anyone else I know the possibility of you telling the wrong person and getting both of us killed is just too risky. I hope you know Im doing this because I care." Someone answered on the other end, and he said, "Yeah, I need to talk to the Starshine Girl."
Jenn looked up and blinked. Seeing her listening, Max moved a bit further away from her and talked more softly by the window of his office. "Yeah, tell her its Chance, and its urgent. Yes. Yes. No, I cant, it has to be soon. A memory wipe. Fine, just tell her its urgent. Yeah. Bye."
He pressed the disconnect button on the phone, then slid it in his pocket, cursing that womans busy schedule. She had plenty of free time 50 years ago; what did she do with her time these days? Shaking his head, he walked back over to Jenn and knelt by her once more. "Well youre going to have to wait a little bit. Please, dont try and be too torn up over it," he added dryly. "StarshineGirl is a busy person."
"Her name is StarshineGirl?"
For a woman about to have her memory erased she sounded damn calm. Hopefully because shes accepted whats going to happen, Max thought. "Well, no but thats what everyone calls her. Shes StarshineGirl as much as Im Max. She doesnt work in as public a setting, so she doesnt need people to think her "normal." She uses her powers much more freely."
He wasnt sure why he just told Jenn all that when a simple "yes" would have stopped the subject. But she was going to lose her memories soon enough, so it really didnt matter what he said.
Jenn cleared her throat. "Tell me about yourself, Max. I want to know the truth who you really are. I Ive worked with you for such a long time. I want to know anything. Do you have parents?"
He was already standing after her first sentence and making his way back to his desk. But at the mention of parents he froze. Flashes of his mothers face suddenly haunted him, filling his mind with memories he had long ago decided to bury. He spun around and opened his mouth with the intention of saying no. However, what came out was, "Do you really want to know? Or are you hoping to soften me up and escape?"
"My arms and legs are tied together, and Im in a room with a man who just summoned a giant troll from a glowing portal in the center of his office. Do you really think Im going anywhere?"
Max almost laughed at that, and would have if the question she asked hadnt been so sobering. He made his way back to her and quickly sat on the floor in front of her. "The story of my dad would take far too long. If you really want to know about my mom, though well, she was a wonderfully kind woman but she was a warrior to the core. A battle-hardened bitch, as she liked to refer to herself. I was taken from her at birth, but fate brought us back together again. For many, many years we were happy together. She raised me to be just like her. She tempered the darkness inside of me, teaching me control, discipline, and, most of all, how to live life. We were both in a dangerous profession, one she had taught me. We took down people and corporations for people who hired us. At any time we could have been killed, and one day our luck just ran out."
Max definitely hadnt expected to say all that, but something inside of him had burst, and now he had to talk to someone or just explode.
Jenn looked at him with real concern on her face. "What happened to her?"
Once more he looked her deep in the eyes and asked, "Do you really want to know?"
She nodded, and he sighed. "Then look into my eyes Jenn look deep into my eyes if you want to see what happened."
She didnt hesitate like he thought she would, but gazed into his eyes much more intently than before. Taking that as a sign she understood what would happen, he concentrated. His mind extended once more, but this time not in a link with Jenn, but only towards her, like a movie projection screen. She let out a slight shutter; then the two of them froze in place where they sat.
She now saw what he himself had kept hidden from himself for over 40 years.
Moving like lightning, Chance dived down on the floor and rolled several times before pushing up hard on his palms, propelling himself to his feet nearly three meters from the spot he was at just half a second ago. The woman behind the desk looked at him intensely then laughed hard and leaned back in her plush chair. Before she could say anything, though, he spoke up with a large grin.
"Yes, yes, it is duck. I thought you deserved something special for agreeing to do this with me." With a smirk, Chance crossed the distance between them, hopped up on a corner of the desk, and gestured to the silver platter containing roasted duck, steamed carrots and a chilled glass of white wine. He couldnt help but laugh at his own joke, knowing his mother hadnt expected him to do what hed done the moment after he lifted the lid off the tray for her.
"You damn well better believe I do," she said archly. "However, I wouldve gladly accepted diamonds or even rubies in place of this blatant attempt to butter me up." The tone of her voice was most definitely amused, and he took the jab in the spirit in which it was intendedlovingly.
Chance leaped off the desk, taking a moment to look his mother over as she talked. In his eyes she was the embodiment of beauty, grace, and strength. Others might have made other observations, such as, "I wonder how many cows you had to kill to get that much leather to wear." Those people might be right, but it would never change the way he saw her. She was 65" and over 300 lbs. of solid muscle. Long red hair, almost like burnished copper, hung past her shoulders, somehow making her green/gray eyes incredibly noticeable. They drew you in, making you want to look at them all day.
However, most people seeing her for the first time couldnt get over her imposing stature. They knew trouble when they saw it. But her friends just accepted as second nature the trouble that came with knowing her.
"Yeah, well ." Chance said, picking up the conversation without losing a beat, "when this is over you can buy as much expensive jewelry as your heart desires. Until then, just enjoy lunch and Ill brief you on our objective."
She laughed as he took a seat across from her. Then, as if a light switch had been turned off, both their faces grew serious. Chance took nibbles of duck and carrots every so often as he talked.
"As you know, were going to be infiltrating Kethra Corp." He pressed the button on a small black box resting at his side. Suddenly the holographic projectors in the room kicked in and projected a 3-D model of the corporation. It looked unremarkable, reallya normal office building with large letters spelling out "Kethra Corp" on the top of one wall. "This is the best image I could generate from such sketchy information. It has fifty floors and guards enough for a Corp three times its size. Theres an advanced security system encompassing every damn room that puts Shintos system to shame. There are multiple checkpoints requiring retinal and blood scans."
The more Chance went on, the grimmer his mother looked and in truth he felt worried as well. Not for fear of dying. He was an incredibly accomplished Decker, using his knowledge of computers to hack his way though Corp computers and the Trix. On a Run his life was cannon fodder at least to the people who hired him. No, what he was worried about was his mother. She had given this stuff up many years ago, but once a fighter, always a fighter. Despite being over 190 years old, she had the appearance of a 30-year-old and the reflexes of a trained killing machine. The truth was, Chance needed some muscle for this job, and he couldnt think of anyone else hed rather with him. He was an incredibly accomplished Decker, using his knowledge of computers to hack his way though Corp computers and the Trixbut he still needed someone watching his back.
"Now, as for the scans, I of course will take care of them beforehand. I have the retinal scans and blood work of an employee of the Corp whos out sick for a while." It was a nice way of saying he had had the person killed. His mother knew what he meant and merely nodded. "Ill alter your eyes to pass the scan, and Ill simply follow you in."
She raised an eyebrow and seemed ready to ask him how he was going to pull that off, but was stopped by a ripple of light around his body. Within seconds he went from about twenty years old in appearance to around six. Both of them grinned over the brief shared memory of the first time they had pulled off something like this.
As he continued, his voice reflected his new age, making him quite comical to listen to. "Once inside Im going to just blend into the background well, into the daycare center, more accurately."
His mother definitely looked like she was going to crack up now; her voice dripped with repressed laughter. "Yeah I can see it now, Kethra Corp taken down by toddler with a sharpened graham cracker, news byte at 11."
Chance laughed hard and shifted back to his original age. "Well, thats the point; theyre never going to see it coming." His face hardened. "This is going to be do or die. The only reason we need to bother entering so peacefully is because the daycare center is close to this air duct."
He pressed the button on his side once again, and the picture of the Corp shifted to the 23rd floor near the middle of the building. It continued to zoom in until the spot he was talking about flashed between solid and transparent looking. "From there itll be a fun crawl though a couple hundred feet of small enclosed space until we get here." For the third time the image shifted, displaying the rough layout of a small laboratory with computer equipment nearly filling it. "Once inside, were going to have to take out the guards and any workers inside. Then youll set explosives while I infect the computers inside with a virus, one thatll hopefully be transmitted throughout the Corps network before we blow the room to dust."
Grinning slightly, he pressed the button once more, and the image vanished. He turned to give his mother a serious look. "From there I can teleport the two of us out of the room. By then it wont matter if any Kethra security mages sense that great a use of power, because well be gone. Then we can come back here and have more duck."
She chuckled grimly. "Im going to be honest with you, Chance, I dont like the lack of real intelligence we have on this job. While its perfectly planned out, Im not sure if we arent just hanging Shoot me signs on our backs."
In a quiet voice he said, "Yeah, I had much the same thought, but the Angel is willing to pay quite handsomely for this, three million credits each. Now, while we certainly dont need the money, I still want to do this. Im convinced this is on the level. You know how hard it is to get good info on a place as secure as this. I wouldnt bring you in on this if I thought Id be throwing your life away."
She nodded, a smile tugging at her lips again. "Yeah I know. OK, then, lets do it. I trust you have everything set up?"
Chance hopped up from his chair and stretched. "Yes. We leave first thing tomorrow morning, if that works for you. Were only going to have to walk a few blocks to get to the Corp. I can get us pretty close to it without anyone noticing us. Then itll just be a cake walk."
Chances mother got up and hugged him tightly. Though it had been a long time since anyone had thought of Chance as a child, he never had stopped wanting affection from his mother. While most children tried to distance themselves from such things out of embarrassment, he had never gotten over the thrill of having someone who truly loved and cared for him. From birth to ten years old he hadnt even been treated as a real person, so now he just soaked in whatever he could get.
"All right," his mother said as she pulled away, "tomorrow it is. Ill see you back at the house?"
He shook his head. "Not tonight. I have to get things prepared. Final arrangements and all. Im going to sleep here when Im done. Just meet me here at 5:00 tomorrow morning."
She frowned but nodded and walked to the door that led out into the main room of the tavern they were in, The Lair. They co-owned it. "All right, but you damn well better rest. You know you have to be sharp and alert tomorrow."
"Bah, all six-year-olds look kinda dopey and sleepy in the morning," he said with a grin.
A ghost of a smile passed over her lips, and she slipped outside and closed the door behind her.
Chance ate the last piece of duck, then set to work on the computer at his moms desk, typing away for a long while after.
A ringing sounded though the office, breaking the fine concentration it took to maintain the memory link between Max and Jennifer. Simultaneously they blinked their eyes and looked at his front pocket. Max shook his head and fished out the cell phone, flicked it open and put it to his ear. "Hello," he said, more a statement then a question.
"Well you certainly know how to talk to a gal that you want a favor from," a soft female voice said.
"Yes, well, Id think after all the things Ive done for you, a favor once in a while would be only a small token of your affection," Max said dryly. While appreciative that his phone call had been returned, the interruption between himself and Jenn annoyed him. At this moment he could almost pretend he was back in time, that he still lived that life that he still had his mom.
Looking at Jenn, he saw her shaking her head, no doubt trying to get over the aftereffects of the link. Musical laughter echoed in his ear, "Fine, well, I see youre in no mood for small talk, so why dont you tell me exactly what you need?"
Damn, he loved hernot in a romantic way, but Amy, known to most everyone else as Starshine Girl, had to be one of the most understanding people he knew. She knew when to cut the pleasantries.
Max said, "Well, Solace had a little incident with his sister, and well, things didnt go terribly well."
"Oh no " Amy said worriedly. "Theyre OK now, arent they?"
"Mmm, well, for the time being, yes. Someone was trying to control her or perhaps just drive her mad and watch the kill count rise. The problem is being worked on. Unfortunately they ended up in my office in the Mundane with fireballs shooting off her."
Max could just barely make out softly laughter as Amy held the phone away from her face before responding "So what do you need my help for?"
"Well, unfortunately, my personal secretary walked in while things happened."
"Oh well, I assume you have her knocked out for now?"
He shook his head as he glanced at Jennifer, seeing her now listening intently. Turning away from her, he lowered his voice. "No, not exactly but she is contained. What I need is a good memory wipe. I could do it myself if forced, but I couldnt do it as selectively or rebuild them like you. She might end up losing a whole week and I dont know how Id explain that away."
"Well, Im taking care of some business here, but I should be able to come along fairly soon," Amy said. "You sure the situation is contained? She isnt a danger?"
"Yes, Im sure. No worries there, I assure you. Just get here when you can. Ill be here."
That wonderful musical laughter filled his ear again, though only a soft chuckle this time "OK. See you then."
The line went dead, and Max closed the phone and slipped it back into his pocket. Slowly he turned back to Jenn and saw she was fully recovered from the shock of the mental projection. He once more sat in front of her.
She spoke softly to him. "That was wow. Ive never experienced anything like that before. How did you no never mind, Im not going to remember anyway. Just show me what happened next."
Max was surprised; he didnt understand why she wasnt frightened. Then he smiled slightly, once more admiring this courage in a normal human. But his face turned much more serious as he realized the first half of the memory was nothing compared to what came next. "Jenn, I dont think thats a good idea. You like the shared memory so much because what Ive shown you so far has been all pleasant but it wasnt all like that. It just wasnt." He sounded sad, almost weary, as if energy was draining from him just by talking to her.
She, however, persisted. "Max, in a little while none of this is going to matter anyway but this is the only time Im ever going to be able to experience something like this. Whats the worst that could happen? I could freak out and have to live with what you experienced for however long it takes for your friend to come. Besides I want to know what happened with you and your mom."
Max had to admit it was a convincing argument. He nodded, then spoke softly. "Well to make a long story short we met up in the morning at the same tavern. I had gotten enough rest and was ready to go when she came. The specifics of how we got in are inconsequential. All that matters is everything was going as planed. We got inside without incident and were inside the air duct and well ."
He paused, then looked deeply into her eyes again. Picking up on his nonverbal cue, Jenn looked intently into the depths of his blue/gray eyes and once more the office was gone to them both, replaced by another time, another life.
Russell Reznick has recently been officially inducted into the world of adulthood, having just turned 20 at the beginning of January. He also hates being referred to in the third person. Heh.
My love of reading started with Stephen King
books. I later moved on to Dean
I have just recently finished classes to become a computer repair technician and am now taking web design classes. I like pop, rock, alternative, and various other kinds of music. "I enjoy mountain climbing, Parasailing and water skiing" is something you will never hear me say because it's not at all true. My muse is named Jenn.