The silence was deafening. The agreed hour was nearly up, and Maura had spent most of that time immersed in silence. Jane had been silent as Maura prepared for the exchange, her eyes giving away little of what she was feeling. Korsak, Nina and Susie had been silent as they hopefully did their parts. Maura had no way of knowing whether they were successful, she could only trust and hope. Her opponents had been predictably silent, leaving her to fret over their plans and intentions. She remained silent herself, not wanting to let Jane know how nervous she was.
Now as they approached the lane leading to the loading dock of the morgue, silence pervaded her consciousness anew. The usually bustling area was eerie in its emptiness. The absence of police, criminals, victims and other people suspiciously unsettling. The building that usually felt like her second home now felt like hostile terrain, owned by the enemy, made into something intimidating and dangerous.
But Maura had become accustomed to silence. It wasn’t as frightening as it once was. She elicited silence from her colleagues after her breakdowns, and she had appreciated the peace. She had maintained silence in her home, waiting for Jane to come back and fill it with welcome noise again. And Jane herself was now silent, conveying everything she needed to with a glance or a touch. No, the silence wasn’t a threat, it was a force of nature, one she had learned to harness.
Maura had one arm wrapped around Jane’s waist, helping to keep her upright through her visible tremors. Jane had her arm slung over Maura’s shoulder, her hand tangled in the sleeve of Maura’s shirt. Her appearance didn’t reflect any impairment to her health outside of the tremors, but her body language spoke volumes about how much she was relying on Maura to keep her moving. Their fingers were twined together, the familiar grip providing much needed comfort.
Maura reflected for a moment on how tactile she had become with Jane since her return. While Jane had little choice but to convey her feelings through movement and touch, Maura still had the option of speaking, but somehow she had started conversing with Jane in their own silent language more and more. She had realised that while her precious words could convey detail and information adequately, they fell far short of explaining her feelings when they ran as deeply as her bond with Jane. Despite their outward appearance of silence, the two were engaged in a deep conversation, with their alert eyes transmitting their tension, the rigidity of their backs telegraphing their fear, and the grip of their hands conveying their support and reassurance.
As they reached the entrance to the lane, Maura could feel Jane stiffen in her arms. She instantly reacted, pulling Jane closer as she scanned their surroundings for danger. She found it quickly when two agents stepped out in front of them, both with their hands resting on their unclipped guns. Maura gasped and instinctively stepped back, turning Jane with her, but stopped when she saw another agent behind them, closing rapidly.
A sinister voice sounded from behind them, and Maura closed her eyes in defeat. “Welcome, doctor. It’s such a lovely day, I thought we could talk outside instead. The morgue is too morbid, don’t you think?”
Maura turned them around to face Lucas, who was standing in front of the two agents, a smug smirk on his face. She didn’t reply, the defiant glare conveying all her feelings far more succinctly than words ever could. Lucas didn’t wait for an answer, instead motioning for the agents to grab the two women and manhandle them towards an alley a block from the station.
The two goons next to Lucas roughly grabbed Jane, holding her up by her arms and dragging her away from Maura. Maura gasped as she saw Jane’s knees give way, with the agents simply hauling her along, allowing her feet to drag on the ground.
Maura started to lunge forward when the agent who had been behind Maura grabbed her arm and jabbed his gun into her side, hard enough to bruise. “Doctor Isles, please don’t struggle. There is a silencer on this gun. If you attempt to make a scene, you will be killed. Do you understand?”
She shot a filthy glance his way as she reluctantly allowed herself to be moved after Jane.
As they entered the alley, Maura saw that a van was waiting for them, along with four other agents and two SUVs. The cars were all pointing towards the far end of the alley, the narrow space requiring them to be spread along the length of the street. Her breathing sped up as she saw a crumpled figure tied up in the back of the van.
Lucas stepped in front of her, blocking her view. “Yeah, he’s there. He’s alive.”
Maura was trying to control her reactions, but still flinched as Lucas stepped closer, his repulsive breath washing over her face. “And we’ll keep Frankie alive for a while too, he’ll either make a good subject or a good bargaining chip.”
Lucas’ voice turned cold. “But you, doctor? I think I’m done with you.”
Maura heard his gun slide out of its holster, but before he could lift his arm and point the gun another agent stepped in and grabbed his arm. Maura recognised this man, he was a detective in Vice, but she didn’t know his name.
The agent was looking at Lucas angrily. “What are you doing? We are supposed to bring them all in for interrogation and reprogramming. None of them are to be killed. That means we have three more people to find, and you don’t shoot the ones we have.”
Lucas’ lip turned up into a sneer. “Really? Do you think anyone’s going to miss her? The crazy doctor that threw away her life looking for her dead friend? Come on, let me shoot her, she’s too much trouble.”
The other agent grabbed Lucas’ gun. “Look, you’re in hot water with the directors as it is. We almost got exposed because of you. Pull your head in, or you’ll be the one getting reprogrammed.”
Lucas was obviously furious, but he nodded stiffly, allowing the agent to walk away with his weapon. He shot a caustic look Maura’s way before grabbing her roughly and propelling her towards the vehicle. He made sure to grab the shoulder that was still healing from his bullet wound, his fingers digging into the tender area painfully.
Maura, however, was working hard to suppress a satisfied smile as she was roughly manoeuvred towards the van, despite the pain Lucas was causing her. They had not only been observing Lucas and Jane while they were planning his abduction, but the other agents as well. It had been obvious that Lucas was universally despised, with the other agents barely tolerating his presence. In fact, they had suspected the only reason Lucas was still operating as an agent was due to his control over Jane. They had counted on the other agents controlling Lucas’ bloodthirsty nature in the interests of keeping their own activities a secret. She knew that she had to ensure she silenced her own reactions, including the non-verbal ones, to avoid setting him off, despite the buffer of the other agents.
Jane had already been restrained, with cuffs around her wrists and ankles. She looked ready to pass out, her body sagging in the grip of the agents. The agents dragged her into the van and dropped her in the middle of the floor callously, her shoulder and leg hitting the ground heavily. As Maura was pushed against the back of the open van, she saw Frankie was awake and alert, a gag tightly secured across his face. He had a defeated look at the sight of Jane and Maura captured, and when Jane was dropped next to him he wriggled over to her. He seemed to be staring at her face, trying to understand how this scarred, shivering and defeated person was his sister.
Another agent that Maura didn’t know tapped Lucas on the arm. After a few muttered words, Lucas stomped away to talk to another agent, shooting another angry look at Maura as he left. She returned it with equal fervour before turning her attention to the agent in front of her.
He was a remarkably average looking man, reminiscent of a stereotypical accountant. He studied Maura for several long moments, before speaking in a civil tone. “Doctor Isles, I want to extend our apologies for the treatment you’ve received from Agent Lucas. Our organisation aims to achieve our mission through efficiency and surgical operations, not through fear and intimidation of citizens. Clearly these goals have not been met in your case.”
Maura had been determined to stay detached, but the agent’s words were so unexpected that her mouth fell open in shock. “You’re apologising?”
The agent remained emotionless as he continued. “Yes, I am. This all should have been handled much more cleanly, and with less emotional pain for all involved.”
Maura could feel her control slipping. “How can you avoid emotional pain when your organisation is built around rewriting people using mind control and torture?”
He still didn’t appear affected by her imminent rage. “It is true, our methods are harsh, but we aim to use the few to steer the course of the many. By harming and using certain individuals, like your friend, it is possible to direct the course of the entire nation. If we can choose the right governors, senators, even presidents, we can ensure the interests of the people are seen to in the most efficient way possible. We can ensure that factions who disrupt the smooth running of the country are cut off before they can become a threat. We aim to get the right people in the right positions so we can make the system better and get a more positive result for the majority.”
Maura frowned at his implication. “So, who decides what is in the best interest of the people? The directors of your organisation?”
The agent nodded. “Of course. They are people who have a vision for the world. They understand the inherent problems within our society and can see the most efficient methods for solving them quickly. They are people who aren’t afraid to go above the generally accepted limits of law and morality in order to achieve greatness.”
Maura crossed her arms, realising there was nothing to be gained by engaging but unable to help herself. “Your apology isn’t accepted. You abducted my friend and tortured her to within an inch of her sanity, you put everyone who loves her through hell for four years, and then you started a vendetta against me and my friends when we tried to help her. Not to mention the hundreds of other lives you have interfered with and destroyed for your own selfish reasons. I tend to doubt that the majority you’re so worried about helping would think your methods are worth the price. I also doubt that the majority would agree on your definition of a positive result. No matter what you say to try to justify your actions, you are all monsters.”
The agent continued to stare at her, the words seemingly washing over him with no effect. Maura could see that he bought the company line completely, and he would never believe anything different. He was practically a fanatic, but he hid his fervour under polite words and justifications, while his allegiance was to an organisation whose goal was to manipulate the very foundations of the way the world ran. She felt saddened to realise that she was speaking to a man who hadn’t needed torture and drugging to become brainwashed by the ideas embodied by the sinister organisation.
Instead of responding to her furious statement, the agent continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “We need to know where your companions are, so we can ensure the integrity of the organisation’s security. Will you tell us where they are, or must we resort to more unseemly techniques of persuasion?”
Maura glared, her temper reluctantly receding as she managed to calm herself down. “Do what you want, I’ll never tell you where they are.”
He simply nodded and pulled some handcuffs off his belt. “No matter. There is no proof of the organisation’s existence that they could possibly have obtained. Their capture can be delayed until after you three are taken to our new facility.”
Maura frowned. “You have a new facility? You’re rebuilding and starting again?”
The agent nodded again as he cuffed Maura’s hands in front of her. “After Subject 314 escaped and released all the other subjects, an agent was dispatched to destroy the Boston facility and erase all evidence. The facility was becoming outdated in any case, so it is fortunate that we have another alternative available.”
Maura’s mind spun even as she tried to keep her face passive. She had always wondered why the facility had been so easy to infiltrate, with the information freely accessible. If the organisation had believed the facility to be destroyed, that explained how they’d gotten in without being detected.
Maura glanced over at Lucas when a further realisation struck. It had to have been Lucas that failed to destroy the facility, since he’d shown up there and pursued them alone, without backup except for Jane. If it was his original mistake that had allowed them access, he also wouldn’t have informed the other agents that she, Nina, Frankie and Susie had been found there.
That meant that the organisation didn’t know that all their files had been compromised. Suddenly the organisation’s nonchalance about pursuing Maura and her colleagues made a lot more sense. She instantly understood the advantage this knowledge gave her, and knew that her silence was the most potent weapon she could want in this situation.
Trying to cover her shock, Maura grasped the first question that crossed her mind. “Why are you telling me all this?”
The agent smiled politely. “Because it doesn’t matter. You can’t escape, and within three hours you won’t remember anything of the last two months. You’ll simply wake up two weeks from now in a hospital somewhere, with no idea that you saw Subject 314, and no memory of the organisation. You’ll return to your life as if nothing happened.”
Maura gave the agent a blistering stare, then silently climbed into the van and sat next to Jane. She instinctively reached for Jane’s hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze and receiving one in return. She then looked at Frankie, meeting his questioning and pleading gaze with one of quiet confidence.
The agents seemed to be discussing their plans and were clustered around the vehicles. The agent who had spoken to Maura closed and locked the doors of the van, leaving the three of them alone in darkness. Maura shifted nearer to Frankie, carefully feeling for his face and removing the gag.
He coughed lightly for a moment before starting to whisper frantically. “Maura! What the hell is going on?”
She patted his shoulder encouragingly before settling against the wall next to him. “Well, you, Jane and I are handcuffed in a van, surrounded by the people who captured Jane in the first place.”
Maura could practically hear his eye roll. “Yeah, I got that part. What’s wrong with Jane?”
Jane started shifting around on the floor as Maura answered, her handcuffs clinking on the metal loudly in the enclosed space. “I was trying to disable the programming that was overriding her free will. Unfortunately Lucas managed to get the upper hand and wiped out all her programming, so the nannites that were keeping her alive stopped working.”
Frankie sounded confused. “So, if she’s sick, why would you bring her here? I could have found a way to escape! Or if not, I don’t want you and Jane to end up dead or robots because of me!”
Maura patted his shoulder again. “Frankie, relax. It’s all part of the plan.”
She could hear the incredulity in his voice. “What plan?”
Maura listened for a moment, her senses confirming that the agents had spread out and moved away from the van. “This plan. Don’t Speak.”
Suddenly the doors were thrown open. Maura and Frankie looked up to see a determined looking Jane launch out of the van, pulling her handcuffs apart as she leapt with her immense strength. Several surprised shouts sounded outside the van, followed by the sound of Jane’s fist finding vulnerable flesh.
Frankie’s head whipped towards Maura in shock. “Maura?”
She simply smiled, showing Frankie the concealed handcuff key she’d retrieved from her belt and already used to free herself.
As she worked on Frankie’s cuffs, she explained. “In order to help Jane, we needed a sample of her DNA from before she was taken. Susie came up with the idea of getting it from BPD, since they have to keep samples of all our DNA for comparison.”
Frankie’s cuffs fell to the floor, and they shuffled to the door to watch what was going on. Maura kept talking as she watched Jane grab an agent by the collar and toss him over the hood of an SUV. “While I was on the phone with Lucas negotiating a location for trading you for her, I realised I had also kept a sample of Jane’s DNA at home, in a file, in case I ever needed to do a DNA comparison to identify her body.”
Jane spun quickly, anticipating the frontal charge of two agents, both armed with hunting knives. She simply allowed the agents to stab her through the hands, enabling her to rip the weapons out of their hands and clobber them over the head with the handles.
Maura instinctively gasped at the sight, but restrained herself from jumping out of the van to help Jane, remembering that she still couldn’t feel pain and her hands would heal in seconds. The sight of Jane’s hands being impaled brought up painful memories, but it seemed that Jane wasn’t bothered, remaining calm as she scanned the alley for her next targets.
Maura continued talking to distract herself from the stress of watching Jane fight alone. “I also realised that there was a good chance that Lucas would know what we needed to help Jane, and that he would assume we were trying to get the sample in Evidence if I asked for the meeting to be at BPD. He obviously did take the bait, because my house was clear of agents. While I got Jane here, Susie retrieved the sample and met up with us a few blocks away. We managed to restore Jane’s healing nannites to full functionality, while still maintaining her scarred appearance so the agents wouldn’t realise. She’s been pretending to be dying so we could get captured, make sure you were okay, then escape. Oh, get down!”
Three agents had realised they weren’t likely to subdue Jane in close combat and pulled their guns. As Maura and Frankie ducked back behind the door, all three agents opened fire on Jane, who simply crouched and spread her feet to enhance her balance, using the time to extract the knives from her hands and toss them aside. She patiently waited for them to exhaust their clips, the sudden silence in the alley potent after the cacophony of bullets. Maura cautiously stuck her head back around the door in time to see Jane quickly striding across to the agents, quickly dispatching them with three quick knock-out punches while they fumbled to reload.
Jane looked around the alley, finding two more agents in the second SUV attempting to turn it around and run. Maura continued her explanation as she watched Jane jump in front of the car and plant her feet against the gutter, grabbing the front grill firmly as the agents inside panicked and started spinning the wheels fruitlessly. “The plan was to try to get you alone, or at least away from any immediate threat. Then I would say the code words, ‘Don’t Speak’, which would cue Korsak. He and Nina were supposed to be getting as much support from people we know to be clean at BPD and then coming in to back us up.”
Maura and Frankie watched with a combination of amusement and wonder as Jane managed to tip the SUV over on its side, the wheels still spinning in mid-air. The agents were still panicking, and more shots sounded as they tried to shoot Jane through the windscreen. Jane again shrugged off the bullets and waited patiently.
Frankie shook his head in amazement. “So, Janie has super-healing nannites that let her get shot like thirty times? And she’s strong enough to snap handcuffs and lift cars? And now that you got rid of her programming, she’s back to being herself again?”
Maura’s face fell slightly. “Well, not exactly. She has her free will back, but she was tortured and subjected to some of the most advanced mind control techniques in the world. She managed to get around some of their attempts to change her, but she will still have a long way to go once this is all over. I don’t honestly know if she’ll ever be the same again.”
Frankie looked saddened as well, but smiled reassuringly. “At least she’s better off than she was. She’s got you now, and me, and ma, and everyone else to help her. I know she’s strong enough to beat this.”
Maura couldn’t help smiling back. “I agree.”
They looked back at Jane in time to see her drop the last agent to the ground unconscious. At the same moment, a team of BPD officers rounded the end of the alley and started moving in to secure the scene, weapons drawn. They seemed to be aware of the situation, since they weren’t aiming at Jane.
Maura sighed in relief when she spotted Korsak and Nina amongst the second wave of officers. “There they are. And the officers aren’t talking, good. We decided that was the simplest way for Jane to tell the agents apart from our people, since she most likely wouldn’t remember anyone and we weren’t sure what either side would be wearing. Besides us, Korsak and Nina, Jane will assume anyone with a weapon who is speaking is an agent and disable them. Hence, ‘Don’t Speak’ being the code word for the sting. It seemed like the easiest way, since we were fairly sure that the agents would start yelling as soon as they realised Jane was about to return their hospitality with interest.”
Frankie nodded his understanding, turning his attention to Jane, who had stepped away from the downed agents and was looking around the alley again, a frown making its way onto her face. She started moving towards the van, the unrest in her stance becoming more pronounced.
Maura glanced around the alley, quickly realising the source of Jane’s concern. “Wait, where’s Lucas?”
Her answer came abruptly in the form of a large hand reaching around the van door and grasping her throat. She barely had time to gasp before she was violently yanked out of the vehicle and held in an iron grip, immediately feeling the chilling sensation of a gun being pressed to her temple.
The alley went silent once more in breathless anticipation as Maura realised the plan had once again gone awry.