Anna and I sit quietly on the deck. It’s dark already and the stars are fully visible, even more so than on land. It’s exciting being this far away from the only place that I was familiar with, I’ve never been overseas... I don’t think so anyway... But exciting as it may be, the peace and calm that I’m feeling by being under the stars and smelling the sea air is nothing short of mesmerizing. We’re both holding warm coffee cups that I brought out and are just sitting in silence and enjoying the atmosphere.
I... I wish you were with me Captain... I sure as hell could use your confidence and strength right about now. I’m tracking SkyJumper, and I’m sure you probably know all about her, but recently I learned that she’s one of the top agents that the ON sends out when they want to hunt down or silence anyone... and I mean anyone! I don’t know if a team of just us three is the best way to go when it comes to tracking and stalking her, I’m not liking our chances if I’m being honest.
As I take a sip out of my cup, with the corner of my right eye I see Anna looking at me, at first I don’t pay it too much attention but after a while I look again and there she is, looking straight at me.
I turn my head slowly and look towards my right where she is sitting and with a small grin I say, “What? Admiring my beautiful side?”
She changes her gaze from my face to the ground and mumbles some words that I can’t make out, with a straight face and a slight bit of concern she takes a deep breath and says, “How did you get that?”
She looks me in the eyes and I can see the faint moonlight overhead shining down and illuminating her eyes, revealing a deep look of sadness and worry. “What? All of this?” I gesture to my face.
She nods affirmatively. I don’t like talking about it, it’s like reliving a nightmare that was real.
“I don’t remember much...” I look forward towards the sea. “Honestly almost everything is just a blur from that night. But there was something that I do remember clearly, and that’s blood... so much blood, everywhere. Was it mine or was it someone else’s? I really don’t remember... In fact I don’t remember much of anything, everything before this year is as good as a mystery to me.”
“Oh...” She says quietly and faces forward with her gaze focused on the floor.
“Why the sudden curiosity?” I ask and look back at her.
“No real reason... i just wanted to see things from your perspective.” She answers, almost mumbling to herself.
From my perspective?
“What, you want to tell me there’s another side to the story?” I say in a slightly sarcastic tone. Maybe she knows something... I should play dumb for a bit and see where that takes me. Maybe I could get some answers.
She takes a quick breath and opens her mouth ever so slightly but quickly closes it, exhaling through the nose. I’m not that good at reading people, but it’s clearly visible that there’s something here, she knows something, I need to find out what.
“So? It’s not that hard to see that you have a thing or two to say to me.” I continue. “I really have no memory regarding a lot of things, so if you know something then-”
“I don’t.” She cuts in. “I don’t know anything, sorry...”
I stop speaking, and look away. She knows something, she wouldn’t have been assigned to me if she didn’t. I need to pick my timing better next time, think of a new way of approach.
With the last bit of my warm coffee now in my system, I stand up and walk inside the boat, leaving Anna alone on the deck. I make my way to the room I was given, nothing fancy, honestly it looks almost identical to the rooms in our land vehicles, it’s becoming pretty boring looking at it. I lock my door and make my way to a small table, sitting down and putting my elbows on it and run my hands across my face, rubbing my eyes as they have become dry from the sea wind hitting me in the face practically the whole day. It feels kinda lonely out here, no Captain, no Marko or Ray, wonder how Marko’s doing, I didn’t get to say bye or where I was going after all. Having a deluded psycho on my team is definitively not reassuring in any way. Anna is fine, hell I even like her company, but there seems to be some barrier that she doesn’t want to cross when she talks to me.
I take out my diary and start thinking of what to write for today, I usually have no issues remembering past events and that makes it easy to write an entry every day, I’ve been doing it ever since I started to work for the ON, they gave this diary to me and said to keep tabs on my own health and thoughts every couple or so days, and now it’s a thing that I just can’t live without. It helps keep my mind in check, all my thoughts and ideas are written in the diary, I flip through some previous entries, seeing the day that I met Marko for the first time, and when I was put into Captain’s team, and various sketches of maps of places that I went on for missions. At first I wrote short entries just detailing my health and naming the events of that day, but then I started writing my own thoughts and ideas, so much so that a single entry takes a good number of pages. Would it be an issue if a higher up found it and read it? Absolutely, the amount of doubt and negative feelings I wrote towards the ON is enough to get me silenced, but I always keep it on me and as far as I saw, nobody else uses a diary so they probably think that I don’t have one as well... probably...
As I’m starting to get an idea of what I’m going to write, a sudden rattling of the door’s handle bar sends a jolt down my spine, and I immediately turn my head around and slowly stand up, keeping my left hand on the handle of my knife. Then I hear another rattling sound just like the first time, but now I see that the door is trying to be pushed in, someone wants to come inside. I draw my knife and slowly approach the door and say, “Who is it?”
“It’s me, Anna. Mind opening up?”
I don’t know why I’m so on edge, maybe she was assigned to me to get me to slip up and start voicing my doubts about the ON. Maybe she’s here to knock me out, take me back to one of the labs, or maybe she’s just here to kill me... no, it can’t be, impossible... I didn’t slip up anywhere I’m sure of it, then why is she here?
“Are you going to open up already?” She says with a slightly irritated tone.
I walk up, knife still in hand, and open the door slowly, at the same time getting ready to put a knife into anything that is hostile. As I open the door there stands Anna, completely drenched and holding her own arms to try and warm up, when she sees that I opened the door she takes a little sigh of relief and the shivering of her jaw and her whole body is quite visible. She starts to approach me but stops immediately as she sees the knife in my hands and a stoic expression on my face, her gaze now focused on the knife she cautiously takes a step back and slowly starts moving her arms to her side so that she can defend herself.
Realizing that she has no intent on silencing me or taking me in, I lower my knife and take a few steps back, the knife itself is still in my hand but my expression has softened and my posture is not threatening.
Anna, who is obviously not sure if she should call for help, takes a look at me from top to bottom and after a little bit of contemplation she approaches me still not fully taking her guard down. I quickly scan her for any weapons, and considering she’s completely drenched it doesn’t take me long to see that she doesn’t have anything on her, apart from her empty coffee cup.
“Did you accidentally fall into the sea?” I ask jokingly, hoping to soften up the mood.
“Ha ha, very funny...” She responds, giving an ever so slight smile on an otherwise languid face.
“So... what brings you here so wet and obviously in a not so great mood?” I ask as I check into the hallway if anyone is there, and after seeing no one I close the door and lock it as usual. “If memory serves me right, last time we had a similar situation, it was you who made me wait like fifteen minutes while I was still wet, while you went and changed, what’s up?”
She doesn’t say anything and goes back to holding her arms tightly. She steps into the middle of the room looking around, there’s not much noise apart from the quiet waves outside, so the chattering of her teeth and the shakiness of her breath is very audible. I walk over to my wardrobe and take one of my blankets and wrap it around her, she jumps around immediately and raises her shoulders in surprise since she wasn’t looking at me as I was coming to her, but after seeing what I’m trying to do she doesn’t resist and lets me wrap the blanket around her.
“You want some tea? They go perfectly with this kind of weather. I was going to get myself some so it’s no problem for me to grab you a cup.” I say as I take a step back and motion towards my little water boiling machine.
Instead of speaking or looking towards me, she looks at the bookshelf covering the entirety of one of the walls in my room. Coming right up to the bookshelf, Anna puts her right hand on one of the shelves and starts walking alongside it, dragging her hand as she does. After carefully observing each book she comes up to she suddenly starts walking slower and her gaze focuses on a thick leather book, as she’s about to pass it she swoops he right arm outwards, taking down all of the books from that shelf including the leather one she was looking at and falls down to the floor with a couple of books hitting her on the way down.
“Whoa, hey, you alright?!” I dash towards her as she seems to have tripped. As I get to her I kneel down and put my hands on her back to see if she is alright.
She looks up at me, and puts her pointing finger to her mouth, signalling me to be quiet and then gestures to me to stay low as she cautiously creeps her way up the bookshelf, and slightly peeks over it before standing up straight and gives me a thumbs up.
Giving her a puzzled look I slowly stand up not saying a word. Anna turns to me and thinks for a quick second, then without saying a word she points at me with both of her hands and mimes something like a motion of writing something, I glance at her and raise my eyebrows not really understanding what she’s trying to say, and she gives me a questioning look as she raises both her shoulders and her eyebrow.
It doesn’t take me long to figure out that instead of speaking she would rather write, so I take a look around my room trying to find anything I can give her to write on, but thinking for a little bit I come to the conclusion that the only thing I can give her is my diary. Taking a deep breath, reluctantly I bring out my diary and look at it for a second before opening it to the first blank page and handing it to Anna along with a pen.
She takes it and walks over to the small table and takes a seat, but not before taking a quick glance at the now empty bookshelf. She begins writing something as I walk up behind her and take a look in the same direction as she just did, and to my absolute shock I find a small shiny black box with a very tinted red blinking light and a small round lens pointed towards the wall of the bookcase. A god damn camera was hidden in my room, god fucking damn it!
While I’m processing what I just saw and thinking of all the possible events that can come from this, I feel a slight tap on my hip and as I look down I see Anna holding up my diary with some words written on the fresh page. But before I can bend down and read what she wrote she pauses and tilts her head, pulling the diary closer to her she places the pen on the table and with her free hand grabs the edge of the page and starts turning it back to one of my previous entries.
My mind tells me to stop her right now, to grab my diary from her hands before she reads about my doubts and distrust towards the ON. If I don’t stop her here it could be the end of me, the very first thing that would happen when we reach shore would be my immediate capture and then off I go to some place that nobody would ever be able to find me. Even if I do something now that would still spark doubt in her eyes, she would know that something is up... if I kill her it wouldn’t make much difference either, I would still need to deal with that zealous freak and then the crew of the boat, and I don’t even know how to steer a boat.
With countless ideas and possible ways out my hand instinctively slides down my left thigh towards the knife that I sheathed just a little while ago. The time right now has slowed to a crawl, I’m on the verge of killing her and potentially getting out of this with my head on my shoulders, or letting it play out and hope I live to see dry land once more. Before my mind can come to a sound answer, with the tip of my fingers I feel the cold pummel of my blade, and in that instant my body freezes... I haven’t decided on what I’m going to do, so why am I not moving? What is wrong with me, do I not care if I live or die? No that’s nonsense, I haven’t gotten this far just to die, or maybe my body made the decision for me, I don’t deserve to live... I’m a freak of nature, something that shouldn’t exist alongside humans... Do I believe that? What did Captain say again? We are all humans, right? How the hell can he say that with a straight face, while looking at the very thing that defies the whole natural order? What did you figure out that I still haven’t? I’m not human, there’s no way...right?
A sudden sway of the boat throws me off balance for a second and brings me back to reality. I instinctively look down at the floor to regain my footing, and as I do my eyes lock onto the side of my left thigh, where my left hand is firmly grasping the handle of my blade with such strength that my fingers are slowly going numb. Out of fear and worry I quickly look up to see Anna still in the same position, still reading my diary, a shine flashes over her face from the now swinging ceiling lamp, revealing a streak of some recent fluid and I look up with my eyes to see the origin of the streak, I see Anna’s brown eyes glistening under the lamp light, her eyes full of tears with new streaks coming down her face one after another.
She turns to me, looking me straight into my eyes, and with mesmerizing eyes sparkling with tears she smiles the most beautiful and the most welcoming smile that I have ever seen. I stand there, with my knees slightly bent for stability and with the eyes of a man ready to kill at a moment’s notice. Looking into my eyes she notices something is wrong, of course... how couldn’t she... and she averts her gaze from my eyes and looks down at my hands, more specifically my left hand which still has a death grip on my blade. Clenching her jaw she looks up at me, now with a stern expression and eyes sharper than any knife, she needs to know on whose side am I on, but I can’t say, even if I was able to talk I don’t know if I could answer her a question like that, not now. My whole body is in confusion, my mind wants to let go of the blade but my hand doesn’t let go, my legs want to crumble to the floor and onto their knees but my mind doesn’t allow them, my mouth is open but my throat doesn’t let a single breath out, I don’t want to kill her, hell I don’t think I could even if I wanted to, but I’m scared, scared to find out what lies ahead, scared to be thrown into a pit somewhere and be forgotten to time or be locked up and experimented on from the inside out like some animal. No, not like this... I don’t want to die...
And then... I feel a drop of water on my left hand. I look down just in time to see another drop of water land on the carpet below me, and then another, and another... I muster up the remainder of my energy and move my right arm up to my face, and as I wipe off my cheeks I look at my hand and see a smear of water, tears... am I crying?
Still focused on my right hand, I notice in my peripheral vision that Anna shakes her head affirmatively, and quickly wipes her tears picking up the pen and continuing to write in my diary.
What am I doing? I need to do something, otherwise who knows what could happen. Do I trust her enough to let go of my blade? I don’t know, I want to trust her but how can I? If I choose not to trust her it would be the easiest thing to kill her right here and then slowly work my way through the entire crew and then flee... but who am I kidding, my whole body freezes at the thought of running a cold blade through the back of her neck, I simply can’t do it. I helped kill so many Users and I didn’t feel a thing towards them, is it different when you’re not the one pulling the trigger, or is it something else, something about her that’s keeping my hand at bay?
As I’m thinking I don’t move my left hand that’s still grasping the handle of my knife, or my right which is suspended in front of my face with now dried tears on it. During a period of a couple of minutes Anna is still at work writing in my diary, and I am in the process of regaining control of my own body and calming my mind. After I’m able to move I slowly shuffle towards a different chair that’s opposite of Anna, and I sit down and cross my arms putting them on the table and proceed to bury my face in them.
Sitting there with my eyes closed I can clearly hear the sound of rain hitting the window, and the waves striking the side of the boat causing it to sway each time. I also hear the sound of a pen being dragged across paper, and feel Anna’s glances towards me.
As I’m doing my best to calm down and think rationally, the sound of Anna writing dies down. After a moment I feel someone gently shaking my arm, and as I look up I see Anna looking towards me with one hand on my arm and the other pushing the diary and a pen towards me. I transition from my current posture into a more comfortable one for reading. She lets go of my arm and leans back in her chair, crossing her arms and taking a big exhale of relief, and closes her eyes with her head pointed downwards. I take the diary and with a deep breath I start to read it.
The page starts with a simple yet familiar question, “What did you think of the target?” That’s the same question that Captain asked Ray and me, what does it mean? Is it some sort of code or something? But before thinking too much into it I acknowledge that it’s been crossed out and a couple of lines later the real bulk of the text starts.
It says, “I know you’re confused and that you’re scared, but please hear me out, I only want to help. As you know I haven’t been working for the ON my whole life, I only started about a year or two ago, unlike you I wasn’t forced to join, I joined willingly somewhat. I joined in order to save my sister, my younger sister... She was ill and there seemed to be no way to help her. I tried every combination of chemicals and herbs and all different sorts of shit but nothing worked, it was hopeless. That’s when I was scouted out by the ON who told me that they could lend me their resources and manpower to help me develop a working cure. I was skeptical at first but eventually caved in due to having no other options, and so after a week or two I managed to come up with something that I was positive could help my sister... but I was too late.
After completion the cure was sent out, it was infuriating when they told me that I couldn’t go and deliver it myself, so they took it and left... afterwards I started working for them to ‘repay for the help they lend me’ and weeks went by without a word as to my sisters health. Three or four months went by before I got the news that she was dead before they even got to her... but I don’t believe them. I was a hundred percent sure that the cure I made was going to be a success, and by my estimations she had about a month more to live, and the time it would have took to get the cure to her would be only a couple of days, so in theory she should have gotten the cure at least a week or two before the deadline. And even with complications on the road to her there’s no fucking way it would have prolonged the trip by more then two weeks!
And so with nowhere left to go I decided to stay, it was the only thing I could do... Until about a month ago, when an agent who I think was some sort of captain, came to me to get treated after a pretty rough mission, I treated him for the next week or two and during that time we ended up talking about various things, like our history and the kind of work we do, then around the end of his treatment he told me about his last mission and how he got so injure. He was hunting some Users and they got the drop on him and his team and so on, and at the end he asked me ‘What do I think of the target’? I told him that it was a tragic chain of events, that it definitely could have been resolved in some other way, and then he asked me if there was something for me outside the ON, at which I said that there isn’t now that my sister is dead, and he thought about it for a moment and told me that he would look into it and that he would get back to me in a couple or so days. I was obviously confused but hey, I might as well see where this goes I thought, and to my surprise he came back about three days later... and he told me that my sister is actually alive.
Said that they gave her the cure and it helped her, but they told her that I died while trying to take it back to her, so that’s why it wasn’t me who delivered it to her but some agents. It turns out that the ON planned on killing me if the cure didn’t work, but when it did they kept me alive so that they could use me in the research of other chemicals and what not, practically lying to me to keep me locked up by my own will... I couldn’t believe him, I completely broke down on the spot but he reassured me and told me that there is a chance that I could see my sister again and to leave the ON on top of that, he offered me a spot on a mission alongside two other agents, to go overseas and onto the mainland where, if I’m smart enough I could make my escape. He also told me that one of the two additional agents could also be looking to escape, and if I were to identify them all I had to ask them is ‘What did you think of the target?’ And now I guess I found out that you are the other person he was talking about... so let me ask you this then, do you want to leave as well?”