To Be Lost
That night, after our initial conversation, Marta and I stood side by side on the boat deck for a long time afterwards, leaning our weight against the railing and looking up at the stars. We talked little, only breaking the silence to point out constellations that we had found, or thought resembled something.
It was the most normal thing I had done in three years.
After what seemed like, and probably was, hours, Marta and I both, in silent agreement, turned away from the railing and went back inside our cabin. There was some debate over who should sleep in the bed. Marta argued that I should take it as I was injured while she slept on the floor, but there was no way in my mind that that was ever going to happen. Just the thought of her sleeping on the hard wood floor while I was in a soft bed, made my teeth clench.
The debate went on for some minutes, but she finally shut up when I promptly threw the pillow in her face and laid down on the floor beside the bed, using my jacket as a pillow and closing my eyes.
The silence in the cabin was heavy in that moment, as she stood motionless, clutching to her chest the pillow I had tossed to her, or, more accurately, at her. But then she sighed, and I heard the bed creak as she climbed into it. While I was enjoying a small triumphant smirk in the silence that followed, I was surprised by a blanket dropping over the side of the bed and landing on top of me.
"Goodnight, Aaron," came Marta's soft whisper.
Smiling to myself, I accepted her peace offering and draped it over me, letting its warmth seep into my body. If I was honest with myself, the floor sucked and my leg hurt like hell, but this was miles better than the alternative.
"Goodnight, Marta," I whispered back.
Sleep well, I thought.
I woke up in the morning on the hard wood floor, to the creaking of the bed. My eyes snapped awake, to see Marta's head peeking out from over the edge of the bed. Her eyes widened, and she blushed as she realized that I had caught her in the act of watching me sleep.
I smiled and tilted my head towards her. "Hey," I laughed.
Her blush crimsoned.
"Hi," she rejoined with a shy smile and a nervous chuckle, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "I'm— I'm sorry. I just— I just woke up, and um, I wondered if you were still asleep."
"Well, I'm not now!" I laughed again.
Note to Self: A flustered Marta was drop-dead adorable.
"Yeaaah," she laughed, raising her eyebrows, unconsciously freeing the strand of hair again and winding it around her finger. "How's the leg?" she asked quickly, looking at me with soft hazel eyes.
"It's good," I answered, nodding and sitting up, making Marta roll back onto her heels. "Yeah, its good. It still tingles but the burn's gone, if you know what I mean." I left out the part where it throbbed from my midnight tour.
She nodded, and her eyes mechanically dropped down to my thigh, now covered up with the cargo pants I had put on during the night.
"Can I— can I see it?"
"Yeah! Yeah, sure." I got up from the floor and took a seat on the bed next to her, rolling up my pant leg till the stitches could be seen.
She scooted forward and bent over me, immediately transforming into the doctor. I watched her face with amusement as she gently probed the area on my thigh, speaking to herself under her breath, and muttering medical terms that I didn't understand.
"Your cellular repair is amazing!" she said, sitting back on her heels again and looking up at me her eyes shining. "Its been just twenty-two hours since you were wounded, and already your macrophages cells have replaced your Polymorphonuclear neutrophils and is transferring into the proliferative phase."
I could only blink.
"Is that a good thing?" I asked.
She laughed—a deep, melodious sound—throwing back her head and closing her eyes. It was highly contagious, and I couldn't help but smile as I watched her.
"Yes," she said, still chuckling with a wide grin on her face. "Yes, it's a very good thing. As far a healing goes, you're at least three days ahead of schedule."
I small knock sounded on the door and I tensed. Signaling Marta to be quiet, I hurriedly stood, slipped my gun—that had been on the floor beside me where I had slept—into the back of my waistband, and walked to the door.
I opened it just enough for my face to show, and looked down upon the small form of Lauro's son.
"Aking ama Sinabi sa akin na sabihin mo na ang almusal ay handa na kung nais mong sumali sa amin." the boy spouted off in a quick succession of Filipino. They hadn't really covered the language in depth during training, but I had picked up what little they did cover pretty quickly, and call it fate or little blue pills, but I had never really forgotten it.
I turned my head to see Marta still seated cross-legged on the bed, looking at me with a confused, yet expectant look. She, on the other hand, did not understand the language.
"They're inviting us to eat breakfast with them." I explained.
She brightened. "Can we? I'm starving!"
I frowned, thinking it over. I was hungry too, it being a full day since I had eaten last, and breakfast sounded heavenly right now. I did need to speak with Lauro and his brother to settle a few things like destination and a suitable fee, however, the last thing I wanted was to be stuck in a conversation I couldn't control—having to lie when asked personal questions that always followed sharing a meal with a stranger. My eyes met Marta's, hers slightly hopeful. I knew for a fact that she would submit to whatever I decided without complaint.
I turned back to the expectant boy.
"Sabihin sa iyong ama "salamat sa iyo". Darating kami." I answered. The boy brightened, and casting a curious glance into what little of the room could be seen between my legs, darted away. I watched him round the corner and disappear before closing the door.
"We're going." was all I said, and Marta smiled and started up off the bed.
We both got ready: Marta combing back her hair with her fingers and pulling it back into a ponytail, and myself putting on my stained shirt and covering it with my less visibly dirty jacket. I kept my gun in the back of my waistband, now hidden by my shirt and jacket, and felt reassured by its familiar cold metal weight.
"Ready?" I asked, after we had both laced on our shoes. She nodded, and I held the door for her as we exited the cabin. "Leave the talking to me." I said over my shoulder, as I took the lead to the mess hall.
Lauro was just laying down the last steaming plate of food when we arrived, and we were hospitably greeted by him and his brother, and ushered into seats drawn back for us by his son. As soon as we were all comfortable, the meal began, and myself and Marta's beyond hungry stomachs were quickly gratified with the delicious breakfast prepared for us. At first the mood was a little awkward, even suspicious on Lauro's brother's part, but as Lauro dutifully kept the conversation going and I encouraged him with witty banter, the mood quickly grew more friendly and lighthearted.
One of my strengths, highlighted in training and perfected to an art in the field, was that I could talk myself in an out of just about any and every situation. Make eye contact and hold it. Flash a smile. Be sincere and confidant. Maybe make more of a statement by getting into their space a little, just enough to make them think twice about you: like leaning casually up against their desk, for example. Not to brag or anything, but I could have you cleaning out my showers before you even knew what was happening. I had memorized all the elicitation tactics like one memorizes the Drivers Manual, and they were just as much second nature to me as stopping at a red light. I could play the smooth talking people-person all right, even though in reality I'm about as introverted as you can get.
That's who I was this morning, surprising even Marta by my sharp wit, effortless banter, and lively conversation. She was staring at me now, a faint smile about her lips, her eyes shining with amazement and amusement at the joke I just cracked, erupting the entire table into a burst of laughter. I could feel her eyes on me, daring me to look at her, but I ignored it.
I needed Lauro and his family to like me, to like us—to gain their trust. I needed to play on their emotions to ensure Marta and I's safety.
The conversation itself was pretty casual. Lauro, for some strange reason, avoided asking for any explanation on why he found us like he did: writhing on the pavement after a motorcycle crash, riddled with gunshot wounds, and a mangled body lying just feet away from us. He stuck to the ordinary guest-over-for-dinner topics, and talked lively of mundane things. Any of the few questions that were asked about our history, I was easily able to parry them to his satisfaction without actually revealing too much about ourselves.
The language barrier wasn't really a problem—for me at least. Lauro was able to speak conversationally in very broken English, and any phrases he did stumble over I knew in Tagalog. His brother knew no English and spoke solely in Tagalog to me. Poor Marta could only follow the conversation when we spoke in English, and then try to fill in the missing pieces when we did not. To Lauro's credit, he would occasionally translate his brothers words into English for what I knew to be Marta's sake, though he would say them to no one in particular.
On the whole, the meal passed comfortably, and at its finality I felt that my personal mission to gain Lauro and his brother's trust had been achieved.
While Marta helped wash the dishes and clean up, I stepped out to talk with Lauro and we discussed the logistics of our passage on the boat. We agreed that Marta and I would stay with them till they reached their final destination in Zamboanga, a full two days sail away. After assuring Lauro that we would be no trouble (a promise that I could only hope to live up to) and that as soon as we docked in Zamboanga we would be gone, I pressed a wad of cash into his hand. At first he tried to refuse it, but after I insisted, he accepted it with a grateful handshake. He was an honest man, and I prayed that Marta and I's presence on his boat would bring him no trouble.
We parted on the best of terms, and very soon the ship was on its way. Marta and I met coming down the stairway.
"Is everything settled?" She asked, as she descended down the metal spiral staircase two steps in front of me.
"Yeah," I answered, "We'll stay with them for two more days and then get off at Zamboanga."
"Two days?" she said stopping in the middle of the staircase and turning around to face me, delighted at the fact of staying in one place for so long.
"Two days." I confirmed with a smile and looking down at her, then added: "So enjoy it."
She gave a short, happy laugh and then turned to descend the stairs again. But the metal stair had been made slick by a pool of sea water that had gathered on it, and when Marta stepped on it her foot slipped and she stumbled. I caught her about the waist with my left arm before she could fall, steadying myself with my right on the railing. I felt something tear in my shoulder and had to bite my lip against the searing pain that I suddenly felt in that area.
"You okay?" I asked, trying to ignore the fact that my shoulder suddenly felt very hot.
She blinked, her brain still trying to compute what happened. "Yeah," she gasped, and blushed as she became aware of my arm about her waist and how close we were to each other.
Realizing this myself, I quickly steadied her and then drew back.
Her eyes, that had been locked on my face since I had caught her, now were drawn away as something caught her attention.
"Your shoulder!" She cried, her eyes darkening with worry. I glanced down at the culprit, and noticed a blossoming scarlet stain.
"Ah crap," I muttered. "I must have torn the stitches."
She pursed her lips and frowned at the rapidly budding red posy on my shoulder, before taking my hand and stolidly leading me away.
"What are you doing?" I asked, following her obediently.
"I'm going to patch you up again." she said firmly. She led me back to our cabin and pushed me inside, closing the door.
"Take it off," she said, motioning to my shirt as she passed by to dig through the backpack on the bed.
Grabbing the hem, I lifted it up over my head in one fluid movement, tossing the shirt on the bed beside Marta and waiting. She glanced at it as it fell, before turning to me with a small flask of iodine in one hand and a roll of bandages in the other. I admit that I was watching her closely for a reaction, and I caught the quick pass-over her eyes did of me standing before her shirtless, before they focused on my shoulder.
"Sit," she ordered, tilting her head towards the bed.
I obeyed, taking a seat on the edge of the bed, smirking at her commanding tone and air.
She came to stand in front of me, dabbing iodine on one of the bandages. Placing one hand on my neck, she used the other to gently clean the now open wound on my shoulder. It was such a familiar position, I don't know why my skin tingled where she touched it.
Leaning my head against the hand that supported it, I gave her more room to work. "Just like old times, eh doc?" I murmured softly, glancing up at her. She said nothing, keeping her eyes on her work, as she tossed the iodine and bloodstained bandage and prepared a long one to wrap around my body crossways.
I wondered why she was acting so frigid all of a sudden. As for me, I was feeling a little mischievous.
"Except this time," I continued, whispering into her ear as she bent forward to wrap the bandage around me, her arms threading under my arm and by my neck. "This time, there are no cameras."
For an instant she froze, her fingers faltering, but then in the next she continued as if nothing happened; the change was so slight I wouldn't have noticed if I wasn't looking for it.
"You still make an attractive appearance though."
I had gone too far.
She reared back, her eyes glaring. "Are you done?" she challenged hotly.
I don't know where this teasing mood came from, but I was amused at the effect it had upon her.
"No." I smirked, coolly staring into her flaming eyes.
"Well isn't that a shame," she shot back, tying off the bandage with a wrench that made me wince. "Because I am." And with that she roughly threw the bandages back into the backpack and walked out, slamming the door.
I let out the laugh that I had been holding and fell back on the bed.
What the hell was I thinking?
After apologizing multiple times and promising that it wouldn't happen again, Marta finally forgave me, and two hours later I had succeeded in melting the ice between us and we were chatting like nothing had happened.
"I like them," Marta said with a small smile, as we watched Lauro's small son and brother work the nets below while Lauro steered the boat. We were once again side-by-side, leaning against the railing in a déjà vu moment.
I nodded. "You couldn't have picked a better place."
She bent her head and I guessed what she was thinking. "Don't you dare correct me," I warned quickly, as she opened her mouth to speak. She shut it again and smiled, blushing.
"Well," she said, after a moment of contented silence as we stared out at the ocean and the lush shoreline we were sticking to. "I'm going to go explore the boat, since you already seem to have it memorized." This last part was said with a mischievous lip accompanied by a shoulder bump. I laughed, and returned the gesture.
"I'd stay away from the Head if I were you. I don't think it quite comes up to your sterile laboratory requirements."
She snorted. "What is that? Third door to the left?"
"Sixth to the right." I corrected with a smirk.
She rolled her eyes and turned away from the railing, and I turned my head to watch her back as she walked away.
Left to my own thoughts, I began to think about what our next move should be once we got off at Zamboanga. We would keep moving, that was for sure. But to where? To what end? I needed to look at our options. I needed a map.
Turning away from the railing, I hailed the small boy and waited while he climbed up.
"Mayroon ka bang isang mapa maaari kong gamitin?" I asked him.
He nodded and then ran off to fetch the map I had requested.
While I waited, I made my way down to a table set up under an old sailcloth awning where I could easily spread out the map. As I was taking a seat, the boy reappeared carrying a rolled up map, a compass, and any other nautical tools I might need to plot a point on the map. Thanking him, I took the map and unrolled it, using the tools to pin the corners to the table. My eyes found Zamboanga and then wandered from there, seeking out possibilities.
A shadow fell over me, and looking up I saw Marta smiling down on me.
"Hey," she said, taking a seat beside me.
"Hey," I answered, returning her smile before turning back to the map.
She glanced at it. "Are we lost?" she asked, her eyes on my face.
"No. I'm just looking at our options."
Her eyes never left my face. "Oh. I was kinda hoping we were lost."
I looked up at this and met gorgeous hazel eyes. She was smiling. Watching me. Hoping.
Lost with Marta, the idea was a pleasant one. I allowed myself to imagine it, exploring the possibilities. After all, we did have two days.
Before I could change my mind, I rolled up the map and turned to Marta with a smile. For a moment she could only beam at me, then:
"What's your favorite color?"
For that whole day we were Lost.
We passed the lazy hours lounging in the sun, helping Lauro with the nets, and talking. I had never talked so much in my whole life—nor enjoyed the conversation as much as I did. I learned more about Marta in that one day, than anyone else would probably learn in a month. When night came, a little too soon for both of us, we stayed up late and stared up at the stars like the night before. I had never felt so content in my life, so happy.
But when I woke up in the morning on the hard wood floor, I knew that those blissful moments were over, and it was time to step back into reality.
"Marta," I began hesitantly, as we were sitting together under the awning once more eating breakfast. Lauro and his brother were busy with the nets on the other side of the boat and it was just her and I. She looked up at me, guessing by my tone what was coming. "As much as I enjoyed yesterday—it cant last. We dock at Zamboanga tomorrow morning, and we need a plan."
She nodded and looked down at her food, playing with it with her fork. "I knew it wouldn't last," she whispered. "It was just nice to pretend like it would, you know?"
I too looked down at my plate. I suddenly felt like a horrible person.
She set down her fork in a business-like way and looked up at me. "So what is our plan?" she asked.
I shook my head. "I don't know. Yet. I just—" I frowned and looked across at her. "I don't want to keep running. And its not just about us anymore. I'll bet anything that there are others, just like you and me, who are just trying to stay alive."
She looked at me sharply, her eyes searching my face. "Are you thinking of—" She broke off before she finished; she didn't have to, we both knew what she meant. Our eyes met and I let her see my answer in mine. She gave a short, incredulous laugh, running a hand through her hair. "So we take Rick Byer by the teeth, huh? How?"
"How else?" I answered evenly. "Through the media."
"But you said yourself that it wouldn't work!"
My mind flashed back to that first day we went on the run.
But ask yourself this: could you ever go fast enough, and loud enough, that they would be too afraid to finish what they started? I had said that, in a temper I'm not proud of, but it was true.
"By yourself you stood no chance, but together......"
"So what? We just walk to a newsroom and tell them our story?" she asked incredulous, not daring to believe it was that simple.
"No. That would be too easy for Byer to shut down. It's their word against ours: an imbecile Private First Class and his traumatized doctor." I said bitterly. "Sure, it would cause some flare up, but this cant just be some scandal on the back of People magazine. No, if we really want to shut them down, there has to be no doubt in the public's mind that what we're saying is true. What we really need is evidence."
"Evidence......" she repeated, parroting my words as she thought. "Well you yourself are a living testimony of what they've done. I could get a blood sample."
"That's good, but it's not enough." I frowned, deep in thought. "What about the man in Manila? The one you—the one who tried to kill us?" I corrected swiftly as Marta winced. "Could you get a blood sample from him?"
She thought about it. "Well, he was definitely enhanced, that much is for certain, but I don't remember ever seeing him at the lab."
I looked up sharply at her. This was news to me. "He's not apart of Outcome?"
She frowned, the thought had never occurred to her. "It's highly unlikely; I was responsible for the check-ups of all the Outcome agents."
I stood up quickly and began to pace. "So there is another program." I muttered darkly. Of course there was.
I was stupid to think that they would stop at Outcome. Of course they would improve their creation. That meant that there was a whole program of others out there who were stronger than me, smarter than me, and who were all taxed with the mission to silence me and Marta. The last one almost killed me. How long could I keep it up? How long could I protect her?
Stopping in my pacing, I ran a hand through my hair. "We need that blood sample. And Chems too—do you think he'd have Chems?"
She nodded. "I think so. Like you said, they would want to keep him on a leash. But Aaron, how are we going to get all this? We left that man dead on the pavement in Manila two days ago!"
I placed both my hands on the table and let my head hang as I thought. Suddenly I had it and whipped my head up. "Byer wont touch the body, not with all the publicity—too many people saw what happened, and he's already on the spot. That means the body is probably lying in a morgue somewhere, with all the personal effects. Once we land in Zamboanga, we trace back to Manila using a different route, and find it. We get in, grab the Chems and a blood sample, and get out."
Our eyes met. She looked tired, but her mouth was set in a determined line. "I'll follow you where ever you go."
The statement was simply said, but it made my heart stop, and my hand compulsively reached out for hers, giving it a squeeze before I continued my pacing.
Something else was nagging at my mind. A duty. A secret. A name.
"There's something else," I said softly, making Marta look up at me. "If we're really going to do this, we need Jason Bourne."