I'm not going to say I'll try to write faster because I'm pretty sure that's what I said about the last two chapters I posted. Anyway, here it is, the submission I promised. Wrote the ending on a train (I love the train system here). Also, hooray for federal holidays and four day weekends. Finally got to do some touristy stuff! Those architectural history classes are finally paying off.
I hope you enjoy the new addition, and as always, I love to hear what you think so feel free to comment.
I was far too stunned to speak, but apparently I didn't have to as Jaimie advanced on Hogan. She stopped a pace short of being in his face and without breaking pace slapped him, hard. Hogan recoiled backwards. I even cringed a little inside knowing from the sound how much Jaime's attack must have hurt. The silent guard who had accompanied us thankfully wasn't showing any signs of retaliation. To the contrary, he appeared to be grinning.
"What in the underworld was that for!?" Hogan shouted, a paw held protectively over the side of his face.
"Because you're an asshole," Jaimie replied coolly before returning to my side.
Somehow, I couldn't find any reason to disagree with her. He surely knew what we had been through and there was no reason to add to our fear. After an unconformable moment, Hogan appeared to recover and made his way to the desk, talking as he walked.
"Alright, I admit the theatrics were a bit much, but they were only for protection. I didn't really believe you were a threat, but all the reports we intercepted indicated you were hostile."
"Indicated that I'm hostile? They're the ones who are stalking and threatening me and Jaimie. I never attacked one of their agents except in self-defense."
"I'm not arguing with you Kirian. Like I said, I didn't believe them."
We talked bit about my journey here, but Hogan's words were always too calm and patronizing. He kept alluding to my intentions, and subtly questioning my mental state. The more we talked, the angrier I got. It seemed as if he was trying to prove that I was the rouge, unstable, ex-soldier the JIA was reporting me to be. Finally my patience with him wore out.
"Now," Hogan began what was surely a new series of pointless questions.
I snapped and interrupted whatever he was going to say next. "I came here because I don't know where else to go. To the best of my knowledge I'm still a soldier of the Jardine Republic, under oath to defend the country and government, and with a commission from the Prime Minister. That's the same government that's harassing me. On top of that, I'm the leader of a squad which is facing unknown peril and their safety is my responsibility. I can't contact my commanding officer because I believe he's the one responsible for our plight. I can't go to the academy where I'm supposed to be dead. I can't get advice from my parents because they also think I'm dead and to tell them otherwise would be a treasonable offence. I can't go see my controller, Doctor Hall, because as far as I could tell, her memory may have been wiped as clear as mine had been, nor do I know how involved she was with the program's termination." I knew there was no reason to be angry at Hogan, but the way he had acted was so out of character and tactless. Plus, now that I was started, the words continued to flow almost uncontrollably. "I'm in danger, my friends are in danger, and I've spent the last couple of weeks being chased across the country trying to find out what by Theo is going on. So, you tell me that you wouldn't be a little hostile in the same situation, but I'm not. All I want at this point is to find and help the rest of my squad because there is now doubt in my mind that they are facing the same trouble as me."
I finished talking, panting a little. During my rant, I had walked over to the desk and was standing across from Hogan, leaning over the polished wooden surface. Realizing this, I straitened myself and collapsed into one of the chairs near me, my irritable mood starting to give me a headache. The sound of the door opening and closing followed by the steady clack of high heels filled the room, but I didn't bother turning around to see who had entered. That was, until I heard the newcomer speak.
"It's good to hear you haven't changed from all this," said a crisp female voice from behind me, "Always worrying more about your team than yourself."
I spun around to confirm what my ears were telling me. Walking towards the desk smirking was a short female mink. She wore a white blouse and a simple knee length tan skirt which complemented her dark brown fur. The woman's mahogany hair, shot with streaks of silver, was pulled back in a tight bun, and bright brown eyes glinted behind a pair of designer reading glasses. It was none other than Doctor Hall. I couldn't believe my eyes, and apparently neither could Jaimie as she let out a loud gasp of surprise.
"Nice to see you again Xavier, but I believe I instructed you rest after the operation. It would seem you're ignoring the doctor's orders. Not that you've ever listened to my medical advice in the past."
"Begging your pardon doctor, but I believe I know my own limits." Her presence had a much needed calming effect on me and I was once again able to control my words.
Doctor Hall took of her glasses and rubbed her eyes. "Of course you do 'Kirian.' A fact I often forgot when working with the squad."
The fact that she knew my real name and was speeking about the squad took me by surprise. Clearly a lot had happened since our departcher from Fairchild.
"How did you get here?" I asked, my astonishment finally voicing its self.
"That is a rather long story."
"We have plenty of time by my watch."
I was willing to sit here for days if meant finding out the truth. That's what I had come for in the first place and I was still somewhat blindsided by the doctor's presence. Yes, I had planned on speaking with her, but not until after things had settled down a bit. Everything was happening much too fast. But, the least I could do now was sit quietly and listen to what everyone had to say.
We began talking, each of us telling our stories of the past month. I had guessed a lot about Hogan's involvement, but there were still many details he filled me in on. I was much more interested to hear was Dr. Hall had to say. One of the major points in my plan for reuniting was getting her to help us, but it had obviously been done for me and I wanted to know how.
It turned out that, shortly after Jaimie and I skipped town, Dr. Hall received a few unexpected visits. The first was from my friends at the Jardine Intelligence Agency. Apparently they weren't happy with someone else tampering with my brain. Luckily my guess was right and at least a portion of the doctor's memory had been modified and therefore, she could be charged with little more than being a concerned caretaker.
My actions had also piqued the interest of Dr. Easterling and Hogan, who had managed to locate me some time earlier and were keeping an eye out for trouble. Once they figured out what had happened, they were very interested in finding the doctor who had operated on me. What they hadn't been expecting was to find Dr. Hall in Raven Fire. From what I could infer, Hogan seemed to believe that she was there by design, and not that of the individual who had terminated the team.
It took more than a little convincing, but eventually the pair had coerced her into coming down south and working for them, hoping that I, or one to the other members of the special assignments team, would end up tracing their past back here. In the meantime, Dr. Hall had clearly found a way to recover her own memories. Now I was here and it was time to start thinking about the future.
After talking for almost two hours, I could hardly say they had withheld information from me. That being said, there were two questions which my persistent questioning was matched only by their innumerable evasive and vague answers. First, how exactly had Dr. Hall gotten her memory back? Clearly she had had the operation performed on her, but by whom? That's not something you simply walk into the local hospital and have done, at least not in a month's time. By the subtle hints she gave when edging around my inquiries, it almost sounded like she had operated on herself, which was impossible.
More importantly however was why Hogan or Dr. Easterling wanted to find me and my squad mates. Hall I could understand, but it seemed like and awfully big risk for a group that had simply been consultants on the project with little direct interaction. It was clear Hogan knew something, but what, and why wasn't he telling me.
"Look Kirian," Hogan responded after another series of question on my part, "I understand your curiosity, and probably feel suspicious about us not answering your questions. I can tell you don't entirely trust us either but you have to believe me that, for the time being, there is information you're better off not knowing right now."
Jaimie spoke up for the first time since we had begun talking. "Don't you think Xavier, sorry, Kirian deserves the truth after all this?"
"Yes, and we have told him nothing but the truth, just not all of it." He turned to again address me, "But there is danger in you knowing everything right now. If you meant what you said about wanting to find and try to recover the rest of your squad, you are going to have to go back out where knowledge is a hazard."
"Ignorance is a hazard too," I replied.
"Yes, but right now, if you were caught there is very little that you know that will endanger you. Even what you have done, or think you have done is very minor convictions. All you would get is a few months in jail... at most."
I was about to protest, but Hogan held up a hand to keep me from interrupting.
"In either event you would still be protected by that very same ignorance which you claim to be dangerous. For now, you know what you need. If like you said, your goal right now is only to protect and try to reunite the team, you know all the information you need. Eventually, when the time is right, we will tell you everything we know. For now for your safety, and for Jaimie's," he paused clearly to observe that his underhanded manipulation of my values had worked, "we need to maintain your plausible deniability."
The room fell silent and I sat back in my chair, rubbing my eyes with a paw, accepting that what he said was true. Clearly he and Dr. Easterling had found some delicate information which involved us in some way. This only served to increase my worries because now I didn't know if finding the rest of the squad would be helping them, or putting them in more danger.
In his whole lecture there was one thing he said which was certainly true. I didn't trust him, or Dr. Hall for that matter. They had all the leverage and I had none, a position I didn't appreciate being in. Not only that, I still didn't know exactly how much they had been involved in the dissolution of my team or in the manner that sentence was carried out.
Unfortunately I needed their help, and they knew it. As much as I didn't like it, there was little choice but to agree with them for the time being, at least until I came up with a better plan, or more information.
After the silence seemed like it would last forever, I slowly stood up, stretched, and yawned expansively. "Alright, I'll believe you for now, but before we start making any plans, Jaimie and I need a break. We've been running too long."
"Fair enough. I'll set you up with a couple bunks and give you as much time as you need. Let me know when you think you're ready. Now, if you don't mind, I must excuse myself."
With that, Hogan rose from his chair and left the room. Dr. Hall was about to follow him before she checked the motion and walked over to me. It looked like she wanted to say something but just stood there looking up at me. Clearly unable to find the right words, she lightly grasped my shoulder and left the room in silence.
My reunion with these two had not been at all how I had planned. Then again, recently nothing had. I was clearly in over my head but hopefully I had found some help to get me back on top of things.
The rabbit walked over to where Jaimie and I were standing side by side. "Come with me, I'll show you to your quarters."
We followed him in silence and at last, the office was empty. The doors slowly closed themselves behind us without the slightest hum of servos. The sound of them snapping together punctuated my feelings of simultaneous relief and unease.