Here Lies Sarah Eaton: Part 2
Posted By: Arthur Wellesley<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 25 August 2006, 5:17 am
The clientele of the saloon barely registered the brief interruption. A few of the men who recognized Michael hastened to help him to his feet, seating him at an empty table near the front. He was too stunned to offer gratitude, and the men merely shrugged and returned to their previous occupations. Elisa also drifted over to the table, gazing ceaselessly at the young woman.
The newcomer herself did not seem particularly fazed by her effect on Michael, or at least did not choose to show it. She slid herself into the third seat across from Michael, who continued to stare at her with horrified eyes.
At length, Elisa was able to speak. "What is your name?" she asked tremulously.
The woman steadfastly ignored her, seeming only to have eyes for Michael. "I would not doubt your conviction at my death, were it not for your fright at my presence, for I seem to drift from place to place as if I were never there. Yet I am alive, and have shed blood to erase any doubt." Her eyes narrowed in confusion. "Though you mean what you say: you believe me to be dead."
"I was with you at the end, Sarah," Michael brought himself to say. "I never left your side through all your suffering."
"In that we reach an impasse, brother," she said. "I've not seen you for so long a time that I've had to question whether or not the memory was real."
Michael cringed at the word "brother". He leaned over the table to more closely look at her, as if trying to make sure she was really there. "When you were six, you were diagnosed with a degenerative mental disorder. For over ten years, you got progressively worse, until you passed a few months ago. I cared for you all that time. We cared for you," he added, gesturing meaningfully to Elisa.
For the first time, Sarah tore her gaze from Michael and showed some interest in Elisa. "I have no memory of you," she said slowly.
"My wife," Michael said shortly, quickly moving on. "Who are you? How did you come here?"
Sarah thought for a moment before answering. "What you have described bears much similarity to the products of flash cloning. I was covertly taken from Vesta many years ago and likely replaced with such a clone to avoid the questions that might arise with my disappearance."
This explanation once more struck Michael speechless. He cradled his forehead with his fingertips and slowly closed his eyes.
Elise seemed more composed, and she looked intently at her. "Who took you, Sarah?"
"Those who wished perfection of me," she whispered, her eyes becoming unfocused. "They took me—us—to make us the best that they would have. We were supposed to garner the secrets kept from the Council to prevent war and rebellion. They were to be the hammer; we were to be the blade."
"Who were they?" Elisa asked.
Sarah shook off her reverie and seemed startled by the interruption. Eventually she just shrugged. "There were others, trained strictly for combat. They did not talk about them much. Our training took up all our lives."
Elisa looked at her carefully as she said this, judging exactly what she meant by this. She then turned to Michael, who seemed to not have taken in anything his sister had just said. She squeezed his elbow lightly, causing him to snap suddenly to attention. "Perhaps we should leave," she suggested gently. "I don't think Lansing will appreciate either of us in his bar." Michael nodded without seeming to have heard.
The three of them rose from the table, though in the crowded saloon Sarah pushed her chair into the leg of one of the men who was walking back to his seat. The man cursed and stumbled, spilling some of his drink to the floor.
The man rounded angrily on Sarah, grabbing her roughly by the collar of her shirt and hauling her close to his face. "What the fuck was that, little girl?" he demanded venomously.
Instinctually, Michael leapt to his sister's defense, for the first time becoming animated. "Tom
" he began.
Sarah, however, also reacted quickly. With one hand, she twisted the man's hands off her shirt, and with the other she pushed him back into the crowd.
The man was furious, and reached for the gun in his holster. He held a hand to Michael, who seemed about to intervene. "Step away, Mike," he ordered, then turned immediately back to Sarah. "You just struck an officer of the law," he told her. His hand closed over the grip of the pistol and his eyes blazed dangerously. The crowd had scampered out of the way to give the two a wide berth, including Michael and Elisa. The officer took a step closer to Sarah, who gave no ground. "Do it again," he said threateningly.
At this, her eyes stopped looking at the man, stopped looking at anything. A coldness swept over her, adrenaline coursed through her veins, her heart began beating so fast she thought her ears must be close to bursting. Much time had passed since this feeling had swept over her last
"Do it again."
The snow was painfully cold on her foot, but she ignored it; the excitement, the energy pressed her on. She could hear every sound he made, judge the distance between them by the increasing volume of his footsteps across the frozen ground. He was in a rush, breaking branches and brushing shrubbery out of his way. Possibly he was terrified, running scared from a faceless threat. More likely he was elated by what he saw as an easy escape from a doomed life.
Burke told these men a short path to freedom laid through these woods, that they would only need to successfully avoid a single tracker to receive a full pardon for their crimes. This one had been careful at first, progressing slowly and warily covering evidence of his passing. Of course she had known where he had been at all times, yet the thrill of the hunt, of following someone so closely while they are so sure they are alone, was all consuming. In a life of structure, discipline, and pain, the freedom and adventure out here in the woods was like a drug.
She was closing on him now, moving silently between the trees. He would be so close to his freedom now, tasting it, elating in it. The thought that she would take it away lent fire to her frozen limbs.
At last, she snapped a branch, causing the man to stop so suddenly he almost doubled over. He turned around quickly, but the foliage was thick and the sun was setting, and he did not see her. He looked around again to his side, as she threw a rock into a nearby tree. The man stepped forward tentatively to inspect the noise.
She was on him in a second, twisting the man's arm above his head and sliding her knife neatly between his ribs. He gasped in pain and surprise, unable to scream, and fell to the snow covered forest floor. A shaking hand moved towards the wound, but could not seem to find the source of his pain.
She looked at the man curiously, studying his contorted features and the dying light in his eyes. She had seen men die before, but never by her hand. The sight stirred unusual feelings in her.
Her earpiece, after twelve hours of silence, finally crackled to life. "Very good, Sarah," a man's voice told her soothingly. "You have done well, all that could be expected of you. Now you must finish what you came here to do."
Nodding, she knelt next to the man, trying unsuccessfully to avert her eyes from his. Then, very quickly, she thrust her knife into the man's chest. What air was left to him escaped the man's lungs silently as he curled uselessly into the fetal position.
"Again, Sarah," the man said gently. She yanked the knife from the man and stabbed him once more, this time eliciting little more than a whimper.
"Do it again," the voice commanded. And she did. She stabbed him again and again, more times than she could remember. She screamed pure ecstasy, the man's death making her feel more alive than she had ever felt. Blood was everywhere, coating the snow, the trees—herself. Everything became red, and the man became nothing. She stabbed and tore at him until he became unrecognizable, inhuman.
"Do it again."
"Jesus Christ, Sarah, stop!" Michael pleaded, wrenching desperately on her arm.
Sarah stopped, her whole body shaking with pure energy. The officer lay beneath her, his face and chest a mass of blood. He was still and silent now, though his mouth was still open as if not done screaming. She dropped the knife that had appeared in her hand and crawled away from the corpse in horror.
Very gradually she became aware of the pandemonium which surrounded her. People were shouting indiscernibly, some running purposefully towards the back, most fleeing in a panic from the saloon. A few seemed intent capturing her, put a pair of arms lifted her from the floor and half carried her back into the night air.
They had brought her back to her hotel room, Michael laying her not without some care on the bed. This done, he backed quickly away, as if she might be given to attack him next. Elisa remained hovering near the door, a trembling hand over her mouth.
"I've never seen a man killed in such a horrible manner," she said falteringly, "nor anyone move with such speed."
"What in God's name was that?" Michael cried. "What demon have I taken under my wing in my sister's guise? Who are you? And for that matter what are you?"
Sarah lifted herself slowly so that she was upright, but did not rise from the bed. "I am what I claim to be, brother," she said softly. "Those that took me trained me in certain ways—changed me."
"Which is to say you are a danger to all around you?"
She shook her head slowly. "Certain events or phrases evoke memories of my training. When confronted I—lost control."
The conversation was abruptly ended by a quiet ringing. Michael pulled a small phone from his pocket and looked at the screen. His dark face soon turned white. "It's Lansing," he said in a hollow voice. "He wants to see me."
"He means to kill Sarah?" Elisa asked.
"I think it unlikely he would stop there," Michael returned.
Sarah looked at the two of them, following the brief exchange. "If this man aims to see us dead, I would have the threat removed."
Michael laughed mirthlessly. He looked at her furiously. "If any of what you say is true, why did you come here? I can offer you no help and you have brought me nothing but trouble and further burden!"
"I came to you because yours is the only memory I have not of pain or sadness," she said simply.
Michael averted his eyes and turned to look out the window into the darkness. He lowered his head and closed his eyes as he spoke. "We will decide what to do in the morning. It is late now, and we should get what sleep we can. Elisa and I will rent a rent a room to give you your privacy."
As he and Elisa made their leave, Sarah studied him intently, though Michael deliberately refused to return the gaze.
The lobby of the gloomy hotel was small and crowded and offered only one chair for its guests. Sarah sat in the uncomfortable chair expectantly, awaiting what she knew would come. At last, she heard Michael approaching the door of his room, carefully turning the doorknob, and creeping slowly down the stairs that refused to allow a silent passage.
When he passed her, she decided it was the time to reveal herself. "I was interested to see whether you would bring her or not," she said quietly, startling Michael into a small jump. "For while I knew you intended to leave me to die I was unsure if your wife merited your efforts."
When Michael had regained his breath, he answered in a low fury, "I left a note for her to leave the city. She will not be in any immediate threat from Lansing's anger, for she is not the source of it."
Sarah nodded, sensing the truth in what he said. After some time, she merely shrugged. "I don't know why, but somehow I expected more."
Michael dropped the suitcase he was holding and ran a hand through his hair. He took a step closer to her. "When you were diagnosed, I was nine years old. I was devastated. I had friends, I did well in school; all of that ended when it happened. I spent all my time with you, taking care of you. And when mom was killed by the rebels three years later, I was all you had. I protected you through the occupation, cradled you as you screamed senselessly through the bombardments. When they evacuated us and dumped us here, I fought tooth and nail for you, Sarah. I got a job doing things that made me hate myself and everything else so that you could eat and get your medicine. I gave everything I had to care for you, to make you comfortable.
"And all the while, as I hovered over your twisted frame, I would pray that it would end. I remember wishing you would die as I spoon-fed you, and I remember the relief that came when you did." Tears began streaming openly down his bearded face. "And now to see you again, healthy and alive—it is as a knife to the heart, and I can not bear the pain."
Sarah cupped his face in her hands and lifted his head so that his eyes met hers. "And when your prayers were answered, and you saw me dead, was it the boon you thought it would be?"
Michael shook his head vehemently. "I was racked by such guilt I wished I would be taken with you."
"And if you leave now, what feeling might follow you wherever you might go?"
At this, he shed more tears, and slowly, tenderly, he embraced her, as if making sure she would not melt away. He rested his head on her shoulder. "Why were you taken from me?"
"All that matters is that I'm back now," she answered gently.
Michael broke the embraced and gathered his suitcase. "You will not tell her about this?" he asked.
Sarah shook her head. "I will not."
With his thanks, brother and sister made their way back upstairs.