“Jesus H. Christ, Patricia.” I said, after I’d finally steadied my stance and my heart was starting to slow it’s frantic pace.
“Nice to see you, too, Waymire. I was wondering what you were up to, since you didn’t inform anyone where you were going. Or register this new…” she looked around the room, opened her palms and gestured towards the plain , empty space. “...place of residence.” The side of her mouth curled up slightly as she took it in again. “Which, by the way, I thought that we paid you enough to at least-”
“Hey!” I said, hands turning into balls at my sides.”You don’t get to come into my house, without me present to let you in, I might add, and start criticising the way I live!”
Patricia lifted an eyebrow, crossed her arms, and shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “Actually, Kalahan, as your Supervising Officer I-”
“My supervising officer? That’s the line you’re going with? I mean fuck, Trish, I get that you’re ‘concerned about my welfare’,” I made air quotes around the words, the exact phrase that I’d heard so many times from her, read so many times over in the uncomfortable formal emails she had sent me.
Always so condescending, always so insincere.
"But this?" I pointed my arm , rigid and tense, back at the wide open door. " This- this is just way out of line. I mean, you might be my SO, but that doesn't fuckin' give you the right to-"
"Waymire!" She slammed a fist down on my desk, an action I'd seen many times before in her office, except her desk was mahogany and my was some type of cheap timber, and for a second I envisioned the wood splintering down and out under the force of her palm. I froze in my rant for a second, and she took her chance.
"Waymire, I have someone very special with me."
I raised an eyebrow and turned , my body following the pointed line of her vision to a figure on my couch. It took me half a second for the disappointment to set it. I know it sounds strange, or pathetic, maybe, but on some level I was hoping to see her there. Anneka. I can't help it, ya' know? I don't choose what my brain thinks, what paths it takes, it just does. Even though every-time it reaches it's destination, I feel it again. That sharp emptiness, that appears somewhere under my lungs and grows and grows until I feel I have to let out the pressure, have to take deep sobbing breaths so my ribs don't crack from the inside.
But no, it wasn’t her. Not even close. There was a man sitting there. When I looked at him he started to stand, stretching out and stepping into what poor lighting there was available. He was tall. And big. Not obscenely so, but enough for my feet to shift a few inches back of their own accord. Enough for him to look very uncomfortable and out of place in the expensive looking two piece suit he wore.
As he got closer, I noticed the details. Blurry, through the subtle haze of medium level intoxication, but there. White lines running along the seams of his jacket, rows of colour along the top of his left pocket, navy fabric for the torso and black for the arms. Not a uniform I recognized, but it was in Alliance colours.
“Waymire, this is Alan Vincent. “ She stepped up to my side and placed a hand on my back, just below my shoulder level. “Mr Vincent, this is Kalahan Waymire, the woman I told you about.”
He said nothing, and I focused on puzzling over the hard lines of his face, trying to figure out why he seemed so familiar when his name was new to me. Patricia cleared her throat, and I realized he had put his hand out. I took it, meekly, and shook it with little commitment while I studied him, and he did the same to me.
This continued for a while. Him looking stern, mouth a straight line and eyes directed down at me in focus; and me, I’m sure, looking very drunk and more than slightly confused, dark circles under my eyes and pupils darting around to any minute muscle movement on his skin.
“Mr Vincent,” Patricia broke in, drawing both out attention as we disconnected our hands and turned to face her, “is the supervisor of a sub task force of A.I.R”
“Which one?” I asked. I knew all of the task forces. Had worked with most of them myself at some point, actually, and I don’t think I’d even run across this strange man who I had only moments ago discovered in my house. Still, he was familiar, and I had never been excellent with names.
“Not one you’ve ever heard of.” He said, the first words he’d spoken to me. His voice, I thought, was even more eerily out of reach in my memory than his face was. I knew I had heard it, but could not remember how, or where, or what it had said.
What he’d said just now, though, that had piqued my interest. I cocked an eyebrow and turned to Patricia, waiting for an answer. Of course, I knew that the Alliance kept some secrets from it’s own people. That was just common sense. It was good for everybody. You couldn’t just tell any new recruit all the state’s secrets. Information had to be earned, in the Alliance as in everywhere, and you had to prove you could keep a secret before anyone gave you one.
But I wasn’t some new recruit. Six years I’d been with the Alliance. In the grand scheme of things, not that long ; Patricia had been onboard for roughly thirty years, and even that asshole Asher had two years on me. But I has joined up right after I turned eighteen, and had done training placement and work experience since I was fourteen. No-one doubted my commitment to the Alliance, and that had counted for a lot. I thought I had known most of the secrets.
Apparently there are still surprises to be had.
“We believe that you might have a , special interest, in our objective.” He said, and again I felt the strange unsettling feeling of a memory just out of reach.
“Oh? And what objective might that be?” I asked. Patricia and Alan shared a strange look with each other, and I couldn’t tell what it meant.
“Well,” Patricia said,” this particular task force utilises people with special skills to gather and process intelligence, so that we as a group might better be able to navigate the complex social and political environment.”
She shot another glance at Alan, who nodded curtly, and they both turned back to me.
“Ooooh, spying.” I said, feigning shock and crossing my arm.
“Some people might call it such, yes.” Patricia said, looking once more to Mr Vincent. He gave no reaction.
“And who exactly, may I ask, will we be spying on? The Russians? The English? The Australians? I always had a bad feeling about those bastards down under.”
“Nothing quite so ordinary.” said Mr Vincent.
“And nothing that I think we can discuss much further here.” Patricia added, tapping her wrist watch. “ We’re supposed to be out in the next few minutes, anyway, we should get moving.”
“Why not here?” I said. “ You think the room is bugged? No-one even knows I’m here. You wouldn’t if Asher hadn’t-” I stopped myself. Of course, she already knew what had happened with Asher. And it was probably wise of me to not bring it up.
“ Yet another thing we should talk about later and somewhere else, Waymire. Don’t think I’ve forgotten about Asher’s report.”
She and Mr Vincent were halfway out the building when I started to move after them. “Wait!” I said. “Before you cut my shore leave short and drag me off somewhere, you need to tell me something. I’m not going to follow you blindly without anything in return.”
Alan looked at Patricia, a silent question. She shrugged.
“We can’t tell you much, Ms Waymire, but it’s about Abraham’s Brotherhood.”
For a moment, I thought my heart stopped.
I started crying, not for the first time that night.
I don't remember anything about the journey that followed.