Rachel looked down at her watch for the umpteenth time. In the small, windowless room it was hard to keep track of time, but even without checking she knew that Sara was late for their meeting. It wasn’t unusual for Sara to be late, the woman had a horrible sense of time and urgency, but the habitual nature of her rudeness did not make it any less annoying for Rachel. She began to tap her fingers against the polished wood of the table, the steady clicking of her nails echoing in the silent room.
The door slid open and Sara poked her head in. Her hair was pushed up into a messy bun and her lab coat hung haphazardly off her shoulders. Rachel couldn’t decide if she had just woken up, or simply hadn’t bothered to sleep. With Sara it could easily be either.
“Oh good, you’re here already,” Sara said as she stepped into the room and closed the door behind her. “I was worried you would be late.”
“Perish the thought,” Rachel said dryly as Sara sat down across from her “The usual?”
“Yes, thank you,” Sara said as she slumped down in her seat, a drastic contrast to Rachel’s rigid posture.
Rachel pressed a button on the table and a few moments later there was a single knock at the door before a waiter stepped inside. Rachel relayed the usual order, a black coffee for her and an earl grey tea for Sara. The waiter nodded and quickly exited. Neither woman spoke until he returned, placing a steaming cup in front of either of them before once again departing. As the door clicked shut Rachel pulled out a small circular device from her breast pocket and placed it on the table. Pressing her finger against the top it activated, sending out a high pitched piercing signal that would interfere with anyone attempting to monitor the conversation.
“Interesting we need that,” Sara said as she sat up just enough to reach out and grab the bowl of sugar cubes. She popped one into her mouth and worked it back and forth with her tongue. “How do you think the people would react if they learned their hero, their Angel, was just a child?”
It was a question that Sara had brought up many times before and Rachel had never been able to give an answer. Today was no different and she could do no more than take a small sip of her coffee. It was still too hot and burned the tip of her tongue. She put the cup down with a soft clink, her mouth twisting into a frown.
“Well, how is he?” Sara said when Rachel made no effort to continue the conversation.
Rachel thought back to the dull look in Gabriel’s eyes as he stared up at his Kniv. The hesitation in his usually confident stride as he left the hanger. His question that she had failed to answer. “Not well.”
“No, I wouldn’t expect he would be. Despite how Gabriel may seem, he is not a machine and he cannot be treated as such.”
“Do you?” Sara picked up three sugar cubes and sloppily dropped them into her tea. The liquid splashed up and onto the table. Sara paid it no mind. “Yet you agreed to Sani’s plan.”
“I had no choice.”
“I believe traditionally this is the moment where I tell you that everyone has a choice,” Sara tilted her head and a few strands of her dark hair fell against her face. “Then you would say that I didn’t make much of a fuss against the plan either. That’s because you’re right and we both know it. We gave up our right to a choice a long time ago, for the good of Nova, of course!”
“Then what should we have done?” Rachel said. She wanted to be angry at Sara’s mocking tone, but couldn’t seem to find the energy. She took another sip of her coffee.
“Who knows? Perhaps we never should have let it come this far in the first place.”
“That doesn’t do us much good now.”
“No, I suppose it does not. Though, it really is amazing though, when you think about it,” Sara said lightly as she stirred the sugar into her tea. “Don’t you think?”
It was Rachel’s turn to tilt her head. “I’m not sure I follow you, Sara.”
Sara smiled as she stirred the spoon around and around, watching the sugar cube dissolve and fade away. She took a moment to test the tea before shaking her head and dropping in another sugar cube. “No matter how Lucile and Sani may feel, Gabriel’s ascension is the fruition of your efforts, though I will admit my genius was a key part of the process. I gave life to the beast, so to speak. But you… You’ve done something amazing. You created the perfect killing machine. Gabriel doesn’t ask questions, nor does he defy orders. He simply does what he is asked, no matter what that may entail, and he does it exceedingly well. It would be inspirational were it not so painfully tragic.”
Rachel swallowed hard. “You said he isn’t a machine.”
“You’re right” Sara’s smile grew but it lacked any sense of humor. “He’s not a machine, and that’s why he’s broken now. Once you strip away all his training, all his talents and skills, he’s just a boy. A boy we molded into a tool of war. It’s funny to think that all it cost him was his childhood, his future, and his humanity.”
“That’s not true,” Rachel said softly.
“Hmmm?” Sara sipped at her tea.
“You’re wrong,” Rachel’s shook her head. “There is nothing Gabriel cares about more than his friends. Sani is right in that regard. Gabriel would die for them without hesitation. We wouldn’t even have to ask. He’s more human than we could ever hope to be.”
“Is he?” Sara looked up at Rachel. She was no longer smiling. “Then I suppose we are the ones who are broken after all.”
Rachel said nothing.