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The Morning and a Sibling
This is the third part of a trilogy of short stories. Make sure you've read 'The Morning and a Fugitive' and 'The Morning and a Victim' first.
April 29, 2110
I was almost surprised when I woke up- I was actually alone. Nobody was trying to kill me, nobody standing on my chest, I was still armed. The search didn’t seem to have extended this far yet.
It was about fiveish, still somewhat dark. The edge of the sky was light blue. I was behind a row of bushes that edged an oldish apartment complex, safely hidden. I glanced around- nobody nearby. I just had to wait for the camera set on the corner of the building to turn away before I got up. The area was deserted. Every sane person was still asleep.
Quickly, before the camera turned back, I ducked inside the building. Well, the hallways weren’t really inside- they opened to the outside at either end without any kind of door. I noticed that the apartment doors all had heavy and/or sophisticated locks.
I’d spent all day yesterday running, hiding, ducking out of sight, moving slowly across town. I knew that there was a huge search out for me (treason, slander of government, unlawful rebellion, theft, evasion of law enforcement- my rap sheet was getting longer by the day), and I was scared. But there was one last thing I had to do before I took off completely….
I climbed a flight of stairs, and on the second level if found it. Number 53. I’d hacked into the directory last night, and it was rented out to one (often absent) ‘Brittany Stephens’- a pseudonym I recognized.
The door was protected by a mechanical lock, first of all, which was fairly easy to pick. There was also a DNA reader, which was (on closer inspection) connected with a very complex security system.
I got a good look at it, and with some hesitation, stuck my finger into the small hole. It quickly sampled the DNA in a handful of skin cells, analyzed it, and unlocked the door with a soft click.
I breathed a sigh of relief. Fortunately, the system wasn’t quite perfect- while it would still block out pretty much every other person on the globe, it was just wrong enough to let me in. Thank goodness she and I were so similar. If it hadn’t recognized me, I knew, the reader would have zapped me with an electrical charge strong enough to immobilize me until the authorities arrived.
I pushed the door open and glanced around cautiously. There was nobody inside. Closing the door behind me, I stepped in and waited for my eyes to adjust to the darkness.
This first room looked fairly ordinary. To my right was a small kitchenette, counter, and dining table. A couch, a bookshelf, and a coffee table arranged around the window formed a small living room straight ahead. There was a hallway off to the left.
I slipped down it and into the first door I saw- my suspicions were confirmed. The apartment was a base, a safe house, somewhere she could rest or recover during or between missions. In front of me was a veritable treasure trove- weapons, cash (I grabbed some), passports of every nationality and name. Some of the aliases I didn’t recognize and quickly memorized, just in case. There was an e-reader that seemed to be devoted entirely to one large book on advanced first aid, and the necessary supplies in case of injury. I also saw a safe in the wall, but didn’t bother opening it. Most likely, it contained documents, research, information on targets, stuff like that. The room had everything a bounty hunter could conceivably need.
The other room was nothing but a bedroom with an adjoining bathroom. I turned around and stepped back into the hallway.
The living room wasn’t empty. I pressed myself back into the shadows of the hall, watching. There was a young woman coming in. Her eyes were green, like a cat’s- or a snake’s.
Andra closed the door behind her, glanced around, turned on the lights, and tossed a bag onto the couch. Immediately she crossed to a panel on the wall, next to the big bookshelves- the controls for the security system. “Access history,” she said clearly.
The voice was feminine and a little choppy. “Most recent apartment access,” it replied. “Authorized entrance at- five- thirteen- AM, April- 29th- 2110.”
Her shoulders tensed. I stepped out behind her, my gun raised, and flicked the safety off. “Hands up.”
She did so and turned around, looking completely at ease. “Hi. What’s up?”
I came a little closer. “Oh, I’m only on the run again, that’s all. You? Ever get that keycard sold?”
She smiled. “Yeah. A locksmith bought it, last night, and I think he intended to…experiment on the design. Pretty soon it’ll be easy to get a master key for any government door.”
“That’s nice,” I said conversationally.
“So why are you here?” she asked, equally casually.
I sighed and looked at her. “Just wanted to talk.”
She watched me coolly. “About what?”
“Well, I wanted to say thank you, first of all. For saving my life. I didn’t get to, yesterday. And I’m grateful.”
Andra didn’t show much emotion. “Okay. And?”
Not the ideal reaction, but the one I’d expected.
“I wanted to say goodbye, too. I’m…not expecting to see you again.” I was going to leave the country- and although the world is a big place, I didn’t dare tell her where I was headed.
“Andra? I’ve got to warn you. If I end up in custody again, and it’s because of you…I can explain exactly why I’m not dead and there’s a roaring black-market trade in forged keycards. You can see how it feels to be me for a change.”
She didn’t look fazed by the threat. “Tattletale.”
“You started it,” I quipped. Like we were eight and nine again. Oh, I wanted to rewind to ten, twelve years ago, when we were kids and I trusted her, when everything was perfect… but that was over. No going back.
She laughed softly and then there was a short silence. She glanced away from me, at the floor. When she looked up again, her face was a little softer. She took half a step closer to me. “Look…I…”
I’d been half expecting it, but it still startled me when she punched me in the gut.
The wind was knocked out of me and I gasped for air. She grabbed at my gun, I yanked it away and seized her wrist. She drove her other elbow into my neck (which was still extremely sore) and I used my hard-won breath to yelp. But then I shoved her hard in the chest and she fell back against the wall. I pinned her against it, immobilizing her.
We were both breathing hard. “This seems familiar for some reason,” remarked Andra after a minute. “Only reversed.”
I released her suddenly and stepped back, keeping the gun on her. “Don’t try that again.”
“You wouldn’t shoot me,” she said, coolly and, of course, correctly.
I didn’t answer. Instead, I pulled two plastic zip ties out of my pocket- something I’d found in the storage room. “Give me your hands.”
She did without complaint. I bound her hands and then, for good measure, attached them to the heavy bookshelves next to her. I stepped away.
There was a heavy silence. I didn’t want to leave her. I didn’t want to walk out of that apartment, knowing- in my saner moments, hoping- I’d never see her again. But there really wasn’t any choice.
“You know what, Andra?” I finally said quietly. “I still care about you.”
She just looked at me. “The feeling is not mutual. You know that.”
“Yeah,” I sighed. “I know.”
I turned to go, opening the apartment door. Her voice stopped me. “You know, I didn’t intend to get involved. In tracking you, I mean.”
I looked back at her, over my shoulder. “But you did anyway.”
She shrugged that familiar shrug.
No going back.
I had to get out of town, and soon- the manhunt was getting bigger by the minute. I sighed and nodded at her. “Goodbye.”
I wasn’t sure whether the reply was ominous or hopeful. “See you later,” my sister replied.