Miya poured herself a glass of whisky from a bottle in the cabinet. She’d never had whisky before, but it tasted just as great as she expected. Like victory.
She surveyed her own little domain, a mansion just outside the city. It had taken some time to make it her own and toss out all of Sanchez’ old things, but she had all the time in the world. He wasn’t around to tell her no, or much of anything else since she’d killed him. The pictures and old memorabilia had been the first to go, followed by his and Jess’ old clothes to be replaced by Miya’s own.
Their interior decorating was a little restrained for Miya’s taste. The two had plenty of money, it was their stashes and credit cards Miya was using. What’s the point of all that money if you’re not going to show it off? She’d never been able to afford the dress she wore ever before, though she’d wanted it ever since spotting it in a Phoenix mall last year.
Her leisurely stroll took her to the old den. She’d tossed most of the rugged homemade wooden furniture within, though the incredibly comfortable armchair stayed. With her glass of whisky half finished, she leaned back in the chair. She turned on the tv for indistinct background noise and swirled her glass, plotting her next move.
Overlord is still out there. Killing him is going to be even better than killing Sanchez. Fuck him fro trying to fuck with me. I’ll need to figure out where he’s hiding. Maybe Sanchez had some clue. I’ll go through some of his old stuff. Later, though. I’ve got time. May as well enjoy it. But it would be so good to strangle the life out of him. Or maybe I could just stab him. Just a little one, then another. Whatever, I just want to see the look on his face.
Or maybe I should find Don first. Yeah, maybe him instead. If Overlord is going after mages, he was the only other person who knew I could use magic. He might know something about where Overlord is, too. Greasy bastard, selling me out like that. After all I paid him, too.
She continued to sip on her whisky, the TV murmuring out indistinct noise over blurry shapes she didn’t bother to focus on. Vengeance was the only entertainment she needed, for hours and hours until the count of time slipped from her mind. Maybe I should grab something to eat. He probably had some really nice steak or something in the freezer. That would be fucking tasty. She set down the half full glass of whisky and headed towards the rest of the mansion.
Her breath caught in her throat as she turned the corner. A stranger stood in the kitchen. Her kitchen. His head hung low like a wounded animal, shoulders tense. One hand clenched into a fist tapped against his thigh in a nervous tick.
“Who the fuck are you and what are you doing here?” demanded Miya. He spun around at the sound of her voice. Miya flinched at the vaguely familiar face, dark eyes boring into her. Where have I seen you before? Shouldn’t you have some stupid grin on your face?
“Miya!” he began in a rush, his voice strained and raw. “You’re not going to believe this, but there’s some freaky alien holding us captive. We’ve got wires attached to our head and everything. You gotta snap out of it!”
She took a step back to keep her distance from the lunatic. What the fuck? No, that can’t be right. That’s insane. And I escaped Overlord. I killed my way through those doctors and bots and got out. No more wires.
The stranger opened his mouth to continue-
Miya poured herself a glass of whisky from a bottle in the cabinet. She’d never had whisky before, but it tasted just as great as she expected.
“Ahh, fuck,” came a ragged but familiar voice from the kitchen. What the fuck?
She hurried to the source of the voice, to find a familiar man in jeans and a hoodie leaning his head and arm against the wall, his hands clenched into fists. He murmured something under his breath and tapped his head against the doorframe. “I’m a dumbass. Can’t believe I fell for that shit.” He slammed his fist into the wall, leaving a slight trail of blood on the otherwise pristine cream colored paint.
Miya froze at the sight. Where do I know him from? She cleared her throat, catching his attention. His eyes snapped open.
“I see you got a great fuckin’ gig goin’ on here, but none of this is real,” he barked.
“Who the fuck are you?” Miya demanded with voice raised.
“Quit fuckin’ lyin’ to yourself. You ain’t over five feet tall, you still got a shaved head, you still got scars on your damn arms from Overlord. Fuckin’ wake up.”
She glanced down at her completely normal and unscarred arms as she folded them across her chest, standing up as straight as she could. “Well fuck you too. Get out.”
“I’m not asking.” Miya took a deep breath, preparing herself, Magic had been sluggish and unresponsive since… Wait, when was it weird? I’m fine. Nothing is wrong.
The man spread his stance apart a few inches. “Look, I ain’t spendin’ the rest of my life droolin’ on a damn table. Gotta get us outta here one way or another.”
Before the last word even left his mouth, the man tensed as if ready to strike, even from ten feet away. Without any warning, he suddenly stood right in front of her, hand already swinging to strike an open palm on her ear. Caught off guard, she struck out blindly at him, finding only empty air as he teleported out of her reach.
“Come on, snap out of it now,” he mocked her through the ringing in her ear. He teleported in again, with a strike aimed at her gut. This time she rushed forward, not bothering to throw a punch of her own. All she needed was skin contact, which she got has he brought his other hand up to stop her.
He screamed as the bones in his finger shattered. Miya allowed herself a smile. Her ear didn’t even hurt that bad, once the shock wore off. His good hand struck out lightning quick, catching her in the throat. All concentration on her magic vanished as she struggled to breath. He wrapped an arm around her waist and lifted her, throwing her to the ground
“Fuckin’ wake up!” he shouted. “If we don’t we’re all fucked!”
She struggled to breath through her bruised windpipe. No, I’m so close. I’ve got to kill Don and Overlord and…
Miya poured herself a glass of whisky from a bottle in the cabinet. She’d never had whisky before, but it tasted just as great as she expected. Sanchez’ mansion, now her fortress, served as her home for the moment as she plotted her vengeance. The next sip seemed to lose some of its appeal, and she set down the half empty glass next to the bottle.
“That was real fuckin’ stupid of me. My bad,” called out a vaguely familiar voice from the kitchen. What the fuck?
She stormed off, ready to behead the intruder. A nagging thought at the back of her head stopped her. That voice was familiar. Don’t know where from though. She poked her head around the corner to the kitchen, spotting a familiar man in jeans and a dark grey hoodie leaning his hip against the granite countertop. He held no weapons she could see.
“Hey,” he said with a wave.
Miya abandoned hiding behind the wall to face him fully. “Who are you and what are you doing in here?” she demanded.
His jaw clenched for a brief moment, but it relaxed as he asked, “Do you not remember one minute ago?”
“Yeah. I was drinking.”
“Nope,” she replied with a shake of her head.
A brief look of bafflement crossed his face. “I’m Ben.”
Recognition flooded Miya’s mind. “Oh, shit! That’s right. What are you doing here?” That’s where I know this guy from. The group that… fought Sanchez? Whatever, they’re helpful.
“Checkin’ in, I guess. Nice gig you got goin’ here.”
“Why thank you. It’s secure enough for what I need.”
“I see that,” he said, eyeing the iron bars over the windows, sticking out like sore thumbs from the rest of the house. She followed his sight, frowning. Were those always there? No, I put them there. “So, dressin’ up in a nice house lately? Anythin’ else?”
“What’s wrong with that?” she asked, folding her arms across her chest.
A broad smile split his face. “Of course. My bad. How you been fillin’ the time? What’s goin’ on here?”
“I’ve been tossing all of Sanchez’ old things. Planning on how to get back at Overlord. Want to help?”
“Yeah, fuck yeah.” I knew there was a reason I liked you. “But Sanchez?”
“Yeah, I killed him, remember? This is his house.”
He nodded along, smile fading as he considered her. “Killed Sanchez, huh? How?”
“What do you mean?” That’s a dumb question. Who cares?
“How did you kill him? Bullets, knives, asthma?”
“Asthma?” she asked with a laugh.
“Magic!” he said with a wave of his hands.
“No. No I…” she trailed off, searching her memory. I didn’t just shoot him, that would have been too easy for him. But he was shot. I guess I did shoot him. “I shot him. How don’t you remember this?”
“You just fuckin’ forgot me,” he replied, smile returning.
“Yeah, yeah, sucks to suck,” she grumbled. She took a seat at one of three bar stools along the counter across from the sink.
“Was Sanchez the one that did all that science shit to you?”
“What? No. That was Overlord. But I escaped, it’s fine. Everything is fine,” she replied, waving him off.
“Everythin’,” he repeated, eyeing her arms for some reason. “So you escaped Overlord. Wanna kill him, fair enough. Why kill Sanchez? Only reason you ever met him was cuz Overlord sold you off to him.”
“What? No. I…” No, that’s not right. Don sold me out, he has to die. Overlord fucked with me, he has to die. Sanchez fucked with me, he died. “Shut up.”
“Ever get the feelin’ somethin’ else is fuckin’ with us?”
“In general or right now?”
“I don’t lie. If you escaped Overlord, why you gun for Sanchez? Can’t even remember how.”
Miya bit her lip. Fuck. I can’t remember. Something is fucking with my head. Don sold me out. Overlord experimented on me and passed me off to Sanchez. And Sanchez is dead, and I didn’t fucking do it. I’m just squatting in his house.
Ben chuckled. Miya stared at him as if he’d lost his mind. What could possibly be funny right now? “This is stupid. This is so goddamn stupid.”
“Ben?” she asked cautiously, at the edge of her seat.
“You figure it out yet? Look pretty pissed.”
She closed her eyes and looked down at the table for a moment. “I think I was out back, behind the lair. I was trying to get this one carving to work, when I saw some shadow guy out of the corner of my eye. I jumped up, then I was here until you popped in. What about you?”
A hiss of air forced its way through Miya’s parched throat. With some effort, she cracked her eyes open and immediately regretted it. She found herself in a horribly familiar room, her body paralyzed just as before. Even breathing took effort. No, not again. She felt sweat gather under the wires running on her head. Get it off, get it off. Her body refused to respond, even as she tried to get up, to scream, to fight.
A creature, only human at first glance, stood over Chris to her side. It wore a length of metal clasped firmly over its too long forearm. Light shone out from it, reflecting off of the dozen black eyes fixed on Chris. It shifted, holding its arm over his chest for a couple seconds, before withdrawing and skittering out of her sight.
After a minute, Miya finally managed to fold her head down, catching sight of her tormentor once more. I’m going to kill that thing. It hunched over a screen embedded in the wall, with a soft light blinking in the lower left corner. The colors seemed to swirl together, and Miya felt as if there were others she couldn’t quite see. The creature tapped the screen, dismissing the blinking light, and darkness overtook Miya once more.
Suddenly, Miya found herself seated at a familiar table. She got up from her chair as the scream of rage building in her throat morphed into a confused grunt. Before she could get her bearings, someone said, “Oh, hi Miya!” Bare feet slapped on the concrete in a run.
She turned to the source right as something hit her at chest height. That something proceeded to crush her torso, and Miya’s throat let out a squeak as air was forced from her lungs. The pressure on her chest eased off, the stars in her eyes faded, and the unknown person took a step back. Miya got a good look at her assailant, a small, teenage girl only an inch or two taller, with messy brown hair, a t-shirt and cargo pants both a couple sizes too big, and a wide smile. Who is this? And come to think of it, where am I?
She blinked, finally getting a good look at the room she found herself in. It was the shop. Same folding plastic table near the center with the various chairs they’d scrounged up. Amanda’s desks nearby against the wall, covered in all sorts of fancy techie gadgets. The pseudo-bedroom area, with the dividing curtains Ben and Chris had put up almost a month ago.
It wasn’t quite the same as she remembered, however. The lighting actually worked and the floor had a remarkable lack of old oil and grease stains. Everything is less crappy. The table is even clean. Then Miya looked over the other girl’s shoulders, where she couldn’t see. There she saw what she remembered, the creaky old walls, the bullet holes, and the piles of dirt in the corner that returned within days of them sweeping.
“Where have you been?” asked the girl. “Is everyone else coming back soon?”
“Places. Who are you?” responded Miya. You seem familiar for some reason.
“What?” Her smile faltered a bit. “You don’t recognize me? Oh!” Her smile returned.
Hold on. Her eyes have silver irises. Soft voice, messy brown hair, the face is the same, it’s just not a mile above me. “Olivia?” asked Miya.
She looked up and waved a hand over where Olivia stood, right about where her elbow normally was, finding nothing but air.
“Yeah! Hi!” said Olivia with a small wave.
“So,” began Miya.
“Oh my gosh. This is great. I’ve been reading and waiting for you guys to come back,” said Olivia, rapid fire. “This is so cool. I can balance on my toes.” Someone’s more enthusiastic than I’ve ever heard before.
She stood up on her toes, arms held out to either side. “Or back on my heels.” She rocked back to her heels for a moment, then stood normally. “I sat in Amanda’s chair with the backrest and everything and I don’t really get the appeal but it was great. And look!” She stuck out her tongue.
“Uh,” said Miya, struggling to form the question. What the fuck?
“It’s not forked anymore!”
“You have, or had a forked tongue?” asked Miya.
“Yes. Or, no, not anymore. Whatever.” Olivia bounced up and down on her toes.
“You know this isn’t real, right?”
She stopped moving as her smile vanished. “Wh… what?”
“This isn’t real. One,” Miya pointed to her, “How? Two, notice there’s no doors in here?”
“But, but,” she protested, eyebrows furrowed. Wait, no, Ben tried this on me. “Then that means-”
Suddenly, Miya found herself seated at a familiar table. She gripped the surface as the sense of vertigo overtook her for a split second. “That was weird,” she grumbled to herself as she started to get up to look for Olivia. It’s so abrupt when it’s not your mindfuck.
She heard bare feet slapping on the concrete. Oh no. Olivia slammed into her with a bear hug again. Ow, ow, ow. After she released her, Miya massaged her ribs and said, “Hi there.” You have no idea how strong normal people are, do you?
And of course she remembers nothing. Let’s get this over with. “You look different.” How old is she? She can’t be older than sixteen.
“Everything looks and sounds all fuzzy. I don’t know how you guys stand it but it’s great!”
“I tried eating some carrots earlier and it was so much easier!”
“I can actually feel stuff with my fingertips and hands now. I never noticed that before, but I can now and it’s so cool!”
Suddenly, Miya found herself seated at a familiar table. She sighed and bit back a curse. What are we on? Try ten? Twelve? She actually burst into tears a couple times. How long have we been laying here in real time? Days? Minutes? She got up from her chair, she’d learned from experience the incoming hug would put her leg, hip, and spine at an awkward and painful angle if she took it sitting.
One painful bear hug and far less painful greeting later, Miya said, “Hey, Olivia.” Memory? Let’s try that. If she breaks down again I’ll just reset. Maybe. Hopefully.
“Yeah?” said Olivia as she hopped up on the tabletop and swung her legs beneath her. Don’t let her kick you, whatever you do.
“What happened?” began Miya. “How did this happen?”
“What?” asked Olivia.
“What is the last thing you remember?” asked Miya.
Olivia looked down, concentrating. “Well, I flew back, then… I got back. Then, this,” she said, spreading her hands for her to see.
“What was wrong with you before?”
Olivia laughed, though her beaming smile faded a touch. “Really? I wasn’t human.”
“So? What’s so great about being human?” Miya paused the moment the question left her mouth. The only people Olivia had ever met were the cops, who probably thought life was all peachy, and the brothers, who would never bother to ask such a question.
Olivia stopped swinging her legs. “Because everything was weird and wrong and I couldn’t fit in anywhere. Like, cars and stuff, but with other people too,” she
“But you don’t remember,” Miya insisted.
“I do,” Olivia protested.
“Do you? Do you really? If this is what you looked like before, what you remember what you looked like, what was your name? Do you remember that?”
Olivia opened her mouth, though no sound came out. Worry spread across her face, and Miya readied herself for another reset.