An Enemy In Our Midst
It’s gonna be okay. I’m gonna make it okay.
Tina chastised herself sternly as she made her way to the dock, her surplus bag bursting at the seams with equipment, slung over her lean shoulders. She hunched under the weight of it, yet she wouldn’t dare lighten her load lest she leave something she truly needed; something vital to her mission. With the hood on her cloak in place, she had to tip her head back to see the Lieutenant near the edge of the dock. Troy met her with a concerned expression.
“Commander, we’re ready to push off ma’am.” Troy informed her; the manner in which he stressed the word “we” struck her as odd.
“What’s wrong, Lieutenant?”
Troy frowned and grabbed her elbow, steering her away from the men lest they overhear.
“The council wants to speak to you. About Mari.” He hissed under his breath.
“They’ll just have to wait. We’ve wasted enough time already.” She spun on her heel to board the vessel but he pulled her back roughly!
“No, Tina. They want to speak to you, NOW.”
Tina glared at him, completely offended by the rough handling and the fact that he had challenged her in front of their subordinates. He seemed to realize what he had done and he quickly dropped his hand.
“Look, I’m sorry but if you go with us...They might make a decision while you’re gone that you definitely won’t like.”
“What are you saying, Troy?” Panic flashed through Tina at the prospect of someone else making decisions about her sister’s well being.
“I just think you’d better stay. Talk to them... protect Mari. I swear I’ll find that doctor for you. I won’t fail you, or her.”
He was right; Tina knew that. Mari’s return was a political nightmare. No doubt there would be demands for justice, retribution... and punishment. If Mari made it through the night, what kind of life would she be facing? Shoulders slumped in defeat, she passed Troy her bag.
“You have to find that doctor.” She pleaded with him.
“I will. I told you, I won’t fail.” He squeezed her arm reassuringly before releasing her. To his surprise, Tina leaned in and pecked him lightly on the cheek.
“Thank you.” She whispered before turning, squaring her shoulders and heading back up the dock to confront the council.
“Commander, so good of ye ta join us.” A reed-thin man with a deep Caribbean accent, chocolate skin, and a tuft of receding white hair addressed her with thinly veiled contempt.
“I was headed out on a sensitive mission when you summoned me.” A fact easily attested to as Tina currently wore her signature-hooded cloak, sword at her side. “I do hope this is important, Lord Blackman.”
The old man was not truly a “lord”, not in the traditional sense. Every member of the council had been a leader in their own right, most from tiny townships that Snow and his men had overrun. Even though Tina was the main person seeing to the day-to-day business of the rebellion, her father had formed the council to continue operating if the figurehead should fall. Usually, they sat back and allowed Tina to make the tough calls and she had quickly learned, when they did get involved, no good would come of it.
“Oh it is. It’s of the utmost importance to you, Commander.” The old man crooned in response. “For this matter concerns your sister, Marisol.”
Tina stiffened at the confirmation that the council knew Mari was back and were clearly unhappy about it.
“What about Marisol?” She asked evenly.
“Is it true she is alive?”
“Is it true she is currently on dis base?”
“And is it also true, Commander, dat de very person ye are tryna protect is also our greatest enemy?!”
The old man raised his voice in accusation and pointed a withered finger at Tina. There were shocked and disapproving murmurs throughout the room but Tina refused to be distracted, held the old man’s gaze fiercely.
“Marisol isn’t Saint. Not anymore.” Tina tried desperately to keep her voice even.
“And we’re supposed ta take your word for it?”
“What is this meeting really about?” Tina countered.
“It’s about justice.” Tina flinched at the emphasis the old man put on the word. “Your sister has committed unspeakable crimes, many against de people of dis base.”
“She was under Snow’s control. You can’t hold her responsible for that!”
“Den who do we hold responsible?”
“Marisol helped lead this rebellion! She sacrificed herself for me and for all of you! She never wanted to fight. I convinced her it was the right thing to do. And I have been leading this rebellion ever since I lost her.”
“Are ye saying we have ta follow you without question? Dat your decisions are ta go unchallenged?”
“When I make supply runs, do you question me? When I fight, maim and kill in the name of this rebellion, do you question me?”
Dis is not the same-“
“Oh, but it is! I give EVERYTHING to this cause. But you will not take this from me. You will not take her from me.”
Tina slammed her hands on the table and stood, glaring at each member of the council daring them to challenge her again.
“Marisol will not be standing trial in your court or any other. She is under my protection and anyone who wants to challenge me on that is welcome to do so. I’ll be waiting...sword in hand.”
“You would threaten your own people?!”
“You are not my people! Not anymore...” Tina slammed her hands on the table again before adding. “Maybe it’s time this base found a new leader...”
It was an empty threat. She knew none of the the council members truly wanted to lead. They pretended to have the people’s interests at heart but none of them were willing to get their hands dirty. If they thought she was considering stepping down, maybe it would be the leverage she needed to protect her sister.
“Commander, dere’s no need ta be rash!”
Tina smiled inwardly. There it was. Concession. She lifted her eyes to meet the old man’s.
“No one outside this room is to know Marisol is back. If I even hear a whisper about my sister, anywhere on this base, I will not hesitate to leave it and you without a commander. And then you can figure out who wants to play ‘Black Betty’ next.”
Tina strode confidently to the door before she paused and glanced over her shoulder. “If you need me, I’ll be in the infirmary.”
Seven hours left.
Tina had lifted her arm for the hundredth time, to glance at her wrist. She should have gone too; they needed her on this mission. But Troy had been adamant that she stay, support her mother and comfort Mari if she awoke.
Not to mention her not-so-pleasant meeting with the council.
Part of her knew it was right to stay. The other half was climbing the walls in anticipation of doing something, anything useful. It was the middle of the night. Gomez had retired to a cot in her office, her mother was curled up in the hospital bed next to Mari’s while Tina sat slumped in a stiff-backed chair waiting and wishing. She pushed herself up, lurching to her sister’s bedside.
“Hey.” She whispered to the prone form, a shell of her sister with barely any life left. She rested a hand on Mari’s forehead and the other gripped her sister’s fiercely. “You need to hang on a little longer. That doctor will be here any minute and he is gonna help you just like he did before. I did NOT bring you here to die… so… so stop looking like you’re giving up.”
She stared at her sister with tears blurring her vision but there was no response. The only sound in the room was the synthetic rhythm of the ventilator as it made sure Mari’s chest continued to rise and fall. Tina leaned in closer, forehead pressed against her sisters.
“Do you remember when we were nine? I got the chicken pox and Mami said that you had to stay out of our room so you wouldn’t get sick too. And everyday you would sit right outside the room and talk with me and color, watch movies, whatever I wanted to do. And every night after Mami went to bed you would sneak in and cuddle with me.”
Tina laughed a little at the memory, recalling that at the time her mother couldn’t figure out how Mari had gotten sick as well when the two girls had been separated. She sat back a little so she could stare at her sister’s sleeping form, brushing wayward curls away from her face.
“When you got sick, it didn’t matter to me that I felt better because you were suffering. So I did everything you had done for me and you got better twice as fast! Do you remember what the doctor said? He said ‘twins always think of their sibling first because one is not whole without the other’. He was right. I’m not whole without you so please, please stay with me this time. Okay?”
“Bettina?” a sleepy sound came from her left. Tina wiped her face roughly before turning towards the sound.
“Mami, I’m sorry. Did I wake you?” Gaia sat up and threw the blanket back approaching her daughter.
“S’okay baby. I’ll keep watch, you rest now.” She wrapped Tina in a warm, motherly embrace.
“I can’t sleep …” she mumbled against her mother’s chest. Before Gaia could insist there was a clatter from the offices just outside the room. Tina stiffened before pushing her mother behind her. “Stay with her Mami.” She whispered through clenched teeth as she drew her sidearm.
Her mother knew better than to argue, so she moved quickly and quietly to Mari’s side determined to protect her. Tina pushed the door open barely a crack, worming through the small opening. The infirmary was dark and quiet; the only sounds the occasional beep from medical equipment monitoring the patients. To her right sat the doctor’s office, the light still off indicating she hadn’t awoken from the sound. A disturbance to her left had her ducking just in time to avoid a tightly clenched fist!
“We don’t want to hurt you.” A gravelly voice informed her as she blocked another blow and came face to face with a masked assailant. “We only want her.”
“Who are you?!” She demanded, weapon leveled at the masked man.
We? Citizens? Tina felt her heart clench at the plurality of the words. There was more than one of them she realized as she whirled in time to fire on a figure clad in black trying to sneak into Mari’s room! She could hear her mother yelp from inside the room as the shot connected, the sick sound of lead punching through flesh. The man fell to the floor and Tina turned slightly to see the pool spreading steadily beneath him.
“Dammit!” The first man bellowed. “You couldn’t just let us have her!” He charged Tina with an animalistic force that toppled her over a nearby desk as he raced out the door.
“What the hell?!” Gomez was standing in her doorway, face white at the scene before her.
“Watch him!” Tina yelled as she barreled out the door after the first man.
She reached the hallway and froze unsure of which way to go before she heard frantic footsteps in the hall just ahead. Tina raced around the corner to intercept them when her world went blindingly white!
Something had struck her from behind with enough force to make her sick to her stomach. She stumbled a few more feet, sidearm dropping along the way, before she collapsed to the cold floor.
There was nothing she could do as a pair of strong hands grabbed her wrists and begun dragging her away.
Gomez stumbled out the examination room in a panic, having just finished patching up the man Tina had subdued. Her blood ran cold at the scream that echoed throughout her med-bay. She shoved the door to Mari’s room open and froze. The twins mother stood by the empty bed, mouth agape, eyes wide with horror.
Mari was gone, leaving behind several bloody spots and a discarded breathing tube. Had she removed it herself? What the hell had Snow’s mad scientists done to her that could allow someone to do something so gruesome?
“Where is she? She couldn’t just walk away, could she?”
Gaia was distraught and with good reason. Her comatose daughter had risen from her deathbed, removed her breathing tube and disappeared.
“Tina! We need to find Tina.”
Gomez froze. Tina. Oh, no. No, she couldn’t have. The doctor spun to face Gaia.
“I think I know where she went...”
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