As a boy of eight, Seth finds his life changed by a dark secret … something that he can’t possibly understand.

Years later, old faces, memories, and an envelope, draw Seth back into the web.


41. 41 - Marta

41  -  Marta



May 17, 2383



Seth picks up his drink, his throat, suddenly going dry.


Marta shakes her head. “After today’s events, we won’t be seeing him again. I can’t understand why, but he had no clone.” She watches as Seth finishes off his soda in a long, slow sip. “The deep medi-scan, revealed traces of prohibited drugs in his body, administered in high quantities. When did you first meet him?”


“I met him in a very dark place.” He flashes back …


the merc shines his light into a dark corner ... a hooded figure wearing a dirty robe, lays curled up beside a bench


Seth blinks, focusing on Marta. “Carry. Were they close, Lanner and Carry?”


Marta looks at him with surprise. “Carry? Carry Mattice? Now why would you ask that?”


“Because he told me he loved her and …”


“Wait, Seth.” Marta stands and walks to the cabinet. She opens it and removes a bottle of water and a soda. She sits back down, sitting the fresh soda on the table in front of him. “Okay, please, start from the beginning.”




Seth tells Marta about his encounter with the Blood Creed, and the day he was saved by the unknown wielder of a tazer. He tells her the little he can remember about their time together in the Creed’s tunnels, and about the drugs. He tells her of the sightings he had after his release, of the man in the light colored suit.


“Then, this morning in the Brooklyn Mall, he approached me, and asked me to come to Aquatica to discuss something important. I …”


There is a knock. Marta stands from her chair and opens the door. Linsey is standing outside, looking anxious.


“I’ll just be a moment, Seth.” Marta steps outside, shutting the door behind her.


Seth leans back in his chair, looking up into the ceiling’s blue light. He closes his eyes, listening to the soft music. Behind the music, he hears a voice; Lanner’s voice … Why are you so important?


Seth opens his eyes and takes a quick sip of soda, clearing the voice from his head. The door opens and Marta steps back in. Linsey peers into the room, over her shoulder.


“Seth, the LED arrived a short time ago to investigate the incident in the bar. They’ve interviewed the few people that were there at the time.”


Seth sighs and stands from his chair.


“Wait, Seth. Sit for a minute more.” Marta turns and smiles at Linsey before closing the door, leaving her outside.


Seth sits back down and Marta continues. “The bar that you were in isn’t very well known. It is owned, and frequented almost exclusively, by current and retired Guardians. What that means, Seth, is that the people the LED interviewed were able to give a good description of the man with the gun, but they had some trouble describing the man who came in with him and ran from the bar when the shooting started … namely, you.”


Seth blinks. “Oh.”


“Seth, Lanner was one of ours. A Guardian with great promise, and now …” she gives him a reassuring smile, “It looks like you can help us understand what happened. I want you to know that if you’d rather go to the LED now, I understand and you’re welcome to.”


He shakes his head. “No Marta. I’ve spent enough time with the LED since I was taken by the Creed. I’ll help you, if I can.”


Marta opens the door. “Linsey, please let Errin know that Mister Tarot will not be speaking with the LED.”


Linsey gives Seth a curious look as Marta shuts the door and returns to her chair.


“Now, Seth …”



Seth tells Marta about the meeting in the bar. He tells her of Lanner’s infatuation with Carry, the special projects he said they’d worked on together, and his accusation of betrayal.


“He held me responsible for Carry’s death. He believed that I’d sold her out. I had a note with me with her vid-phone number and the mercs got hold of it. I’m pretty sure I’d written the penthouse access code as well.” Seth shakes his head. “I can’t be sure Marta. All the pain, and the drugs … I don’t have any clear memories.”


Marta speaks softly. “I knew Carry well. I worked with her quite often and I’m completely surprised by the relationship Lanner told you about. Not to mention the special projects he referred to.”


“Do you know about something called the ‘Dolly Factor’, Marta?”


“Dolly Factor? No, I’ve never heard of it.”


Seth sighs, looking at the table.


“Seth, did Lanner say anything before he took his life? There was no note or vid-pad log.”


He shakes his head. “No, but I said something to him. I told him I was pure. Pure like Carry.”


“Pure? What does that mean?”


Seth stares into the white tabletop, not hearing Marta’s question. He remembers the pain in Lanner’s eyes. Not rage, or hate, but a deep, festering pain. Then, at the end, the look of relief and peace. Something becomes clear to him. He speaks his thought out loud …


“He wasn’t really trying to kill me.”

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