The Secret of my Life
It was rather a mean trick of me to play on Marta: springing on her the fact that Nikki was my sister. Her face was pretty priceless though.
"I'm sorry, you're his sister?" she asked, blinking as her mind hurried to catch up. She turned to me. "You have a sister?"
"It's a long story." I sighed, looking down at Nikki.
And it was.
Nikki was, quite literally, the secret of my life. No one, and I mean no one, knew of our relationship outside of Nikki and myself. Heck, I didn't even know till about two years ago. Well, that's not entirely true: I knew I had a sister somewhere in the world, but I didn't know it was Nikki.
It all started back in the reign of Kenneth Kitsom.
I don't remember much about my life before Outcome, only bits and pieces, like looking at your reflection through the shards of a shattered mirror. One shard I have never lost, however, is the drunken secret my father confessed to me over a wet pillow. A story of an affair with a rich politician's daughter, of a child that was conceived before my father up and left. The woman's name, he had told me, was Sophie Parsons. The child's, Nicolette, or Nikki for short.
After the baby was born, my father never saw her or the woman again, and never learned what had become of either of them, while I grew up none the wiser. That is, until two years ago when I suffered from serious qualms about exactly what I was doing.
I had just bombed a building containing 9 terrorists and 4 hostages, all women and children, with no survivors, a successful mission by all accounts except mine.
No one knew those people were in there, Byer had told me, lecturing me on what he called "emotional noise". We are the sin eaters of this world.
I had born it, stony faced on the outside while I was dying on the inside, until I was dismissed. Evidently, Byer had been a little worried, as the next day I found the closest "in-the-loop" psychiatrist knocking on my door—which just so happened to be a woman named Nicolette Parsons who's typical job was to asses the emotional security of Treadstone agents.
It took me about 8 seconds to conclude that I had found my long-lost sister.
What happened next was history, but its safe to say that we lost no time in getting to know each other. You see, we were both tired of being alone in this world, and we both were starting to feel afraid of what Outcome and Treadstone had become.
I didn't know what Byer would do if he found out that Nikki was my sister, and I wasn't ready to lose the sister that I had just gained. So we kept it a secret. We would communicate in code through nondescript websites, where we would arrange meetings. My last snafu, when I dropped off the grid for ten days to be with her, landed me in Alaska for some sort of disciplinary training exercise.
And we all know what happened in Alaska.
Nikki moved forward to shake Marta's hand, who offered it as if on autopilot. "It's a pleasure to meet you Marta." she said, smiling. "I have to say I'm a little curious to hear your story. It's not everyday that Aaron has an accomplice, mush less a woman......" she arched an eyebrow at me.
Marta smiled at Nikki, once more in control of her mental faculties.
"Well, that makes two of us." And she too turned to look at me.
"Hey, look," I said, on the spot. "I would love to explain everything, to both of you, but right now we need to move."
The sun was now nearly below the horizon and the last thing I wanted was to be caught out in the dark. At night, vision is impaired, crowds thin, and the streets become more dangerous. Plus, I didn't like being out in the open like this; within full view of a scout or a snipers rifle......
I turned to Nikki. "Do you have an apartment or a room somewhere that we can go to?"
She nodded. "Yeah, I have a room about a mile from here."
I took Marta's hand and motioned. "Lead the way."
Nikki's eyes flashed down to our intertwined hands, and then to my face as if trying to read something there, but she said nothing and began to lead the way to her room. At my guidance, we stuck to the shadows or tagged along among groups of people who laughed and chatted on their way to their homes. Soon we reached an old, run-down apartment complex, and after climbing the echo-y stairs to the third floor, Nikki plied a key to a rusted lock and then pushed the door open with her shoulder.
The room inside was small and comely, filled only with the essentials, but there were two cots in the back room, and a couch in the main room that connected with the small kitchen. By this couch, leaned a small black suitcase as if left there in a hurry, for everything else was untouched.
"Its not much," Nikki explained, "but it should do for the three of us. I could take the couch, Aaron, if you would like......."
I didn't like how she said this, coupled with the questioning look she gave me. It was as if she were testing the waters, hinting at the fact that I might want to share the back room with Marta.......
"I'll take the couch," I said quickly.
It was all about vantage points, I told myself. If someone came in the room during the night, I could be hidden behind the door by the time they entered for a surprise attack. Also, from what I could see, if my head was angled a certain way while lying on the couch I could command a good view of the street below that led to the entrance of the apartment complex.
Nikki nodded at my request, and then moved into the kitchen to prepare a pot of tea, snatching up a few bags from the complimentary basket on the table, while Marta sat on the couch and removed her shoes, rubbing her sore feet. I took a stand by the window, crossing my arms and leaning up against the wall.
"So," Marta began from the couch, "does Byer know about you two?" And she motioned to Nikki and I.
"Nobody knows," I answered. "Except you." And then I explained how Nikki and I had first discovered that we were related, our decision to keep it a secret, and how we pulled it off.
"luckycat467," Marta whispered.
"And brownrecluse5," I responded, nodding.
When I got to the part about Alaska, I continued the narrative, this time speaking to Nikki and explaining the events that followed: how I faked my own death, how I saved Marta, and how we went on the run together, traveling to Manila where she viralled me off. I left nothing out, and it was well into the night by the time I had told everything leading up to our meeting on the pier.
"So you're going to take on Byer." Nikki chuckled into her steaming cup of tea. "That's why you are here? To collect evidence to shut him down?" She said it more like a statement.
I looked towards Marta who was also sipping on her tea. "We cant keep running." I said softly, turning to meet Nikki's gaze. She understood my message: Marta wasn't meant for this. She cant live her whole life constantly looking over her shoulder. Nikki nodded almost imperceptibly.
"Besides," I continued, "There are others out there. Other Outcome agents, and who knows how many other programs. Treadstone was just the tip of the iceberg."
At the word Treadstone, Marta's head snapped up. "You were his source!" She cried, looking at Nikki. "You told Aaron all that about Bourne! He said you were a psychiatrist for Treadstone, you were Bourne's weren't you?"
Nikki blushed. "I was more than just his psychiatrist. I kind of went on the run with him for a while. Helped him walk out of Blackbrier." She paused. "He saved my life."
"And that's why we need you," I interjected. "No one knows Bourne like you do. We need your help to find him."
An expectant silence filled the room as Nikki stared into her tea. "It's been nearly five days since he left me at the station in Marrakech." she said quietly. "And last I heard he had jumped off a five story building into a river, possibly after being shot. He could be injured in a hospital somewhere, but I doubt it with all of the media coverage he's been getting, and besides, its just not him to seek help like that. I don't know, I just........." she drifted off, frowning into her cup.
I knew that tone. There was something else she was not telling us.
"You just what?" I pressed.
She took a sip of her tea, took a breath, and then looked me in the eye. "Two days ago, shortly after you had contacted me while I was still in Morocco, I got this weird feeling. Call me crazy, but I felt like someone was watching me. That Jason was watching me. I didn't see him, there were no messages left, nothing. I just sensed him, you know?"
I frowned deep in thought. I understood the feeling, when you are in this business your senses get heightened, enhanced or not. How many times had that unexplainable feeling of being watched saved my life? There are no signs, no warnings, just the twist in your own gut and the strange feeling of the hair on the back of your neck rising. They say there are five senses, but really, there are six.
"Do you think," I began carefully, "that the next time you feel that way, you could send him a message?"
Nikki set her cup down and leaned back in her chair, folding her arms. "I think I could do that, yes. But I'm not done." And both Marta and I looked at her expectantly.
"I want in. In on this." she said motioning to Marta and I. "I want to help you take down Byer."
I looked at her for a long moment, and then glanced at Marta, who was waiting for my answer. I raised an eyebrow at her, as if to say "your choice".
Marta turned to Nikki. "Okay."
Nikki smiled. Turning to me. "Do you know where they are keeping the body of that agent from the other program?"
"Well there's only one mortuary that has jurisdiction over the area where he died, so yeah."
"Alright," she continued, nodding. "Do you have a plan?"
I smiled. "Oh, I have a plan."