Chapter 26

Myka stares at him intently, trying her best to appear intimidating. She is thinking to herself that she doesn't remember him in the slightest. No, not true. She had remembered his name. There had always been some sort of eerie familiarity about him. But specific details? No. She did not remember.

He seemed to know enough about her, about Sam. Had he been a former colleague? A friend of Sam's? She can't place him. But she doesn't want him to know it. She is supposed to remember him, clearly. After all, he remembers her.

Before either of them can speak, they hear the clumsy banging of approaching footsteps.

He doesn't look surprised or alarmed. He merely disappears before her very eyes, scurrying under the desk to hide out of sight. It takes Myka a minute to recognise that it's Claudia approaching. God help them both in the field if Artie insists on sending that girl out. She has a lot to learn.

"What's the hold up, you're taking forever!" Claudia complains as she bursts in the door.

"I told you to wait outside!" Myka responds.

"Waiting is boring."

"Keep your voice down, you're making enough noise to wake the dead." Myka scolds the girl.

"You're the one shouting at me." Claudia responds.

This is true, Myka concedes.

"Besides, there is no one here. So what's the hold up?" Claudia asks.

"No hold up." Myka answers absent mindedly. She turns her gaze from Claudia to the rock on the desk. She looks at it, long and hard. Trying to make sense of the things "Tom" had told her. She wants to pick it up in her bare hands. She is drawn to it somehow. She reaches her fingers out towards it, just to touch it, just for a minute. As if that would answer all her unresolved questions.

"What are you doing?" Claudia hisses, shoving Myka aside. Myka stumbles, her hands falling onto a folder perched precariously on the edge of the desk, sending the rock flying. Claudia skilfully lifts the lid on the bucket of purple goo and catches the rock inside. Myka has to admit it's a little impressive. There is a blinding flash of light, and they both duck instinctively.

"Gees Myka, what were you thinking? Who knows what that thing does?" Claudia wants to know.

Myka snatches the bucket from the younger girl, irritated. "I don't need you to tell me how to do my job."

"Apparently you do." Claudia retorts.

Irritated though she is, there is something refreshing about the way Claudia speaks her mind. At least she knows where she stands.

Upon reflection of her conversation with Tom, Myka changes the subject.

"You never seen this before?" She asks Claudia, motioning to the bucket. She realises she is getting a tiny bit swept up in paranoia. She suspects everyone, Claudia included. "Does it look familiar to you?"

"It's a rock." Claudia answers. "I've seen plenty of rocks before."

"In the Warehouse." Myka clarifies, irritated. "Have you ever seen this in the Warehouse?"

Claudia thinks for a moment, and Myka sees something in her eyes. Or perhaps its just the fact she is not rolling them as if Myka is crazy.

"Is this a trick question?" Claudia asks. She too feels like this is some sort of test. What a strange question to ask. She pieces it together with Artie spying on them, and doesn't know what to make of anything.

It's then, and only then, Myka remembers Tom is still right there in the room, hiding under the desk. Remembers that he told her to ask Claudia about that stupid rock, and realises that she had done as he asked, right in front of him too. She really was losing it.

"Forget it, nevermind." Myka mumbles as she grabs the bucket in one hand, and Claudia in the other, and pushes the girl out of the room.

Back at the Warehouse Claudia questions Artie in the privacy of his office.

"What's the go?" She demands

"I beg your pardon? Since when do I answer to you?" He replies.

"I find it very strange, and a little creepy, to find you spying on us." She admits.

"I was not spying." Comes the insistent reply.

"And then Myka asked me about the rock, if I'd seen it before, in the Warehouse." Claudia continues.

Artie sighs. How could Myka possibly have recognised that rock. How many millions of things were in that Warehouse? How many dozens of rocks? Why would she notice a fairly inconspicuous rock that doesn't do anything impressive? Then again, it was Myka, attention to detail. And Artie supposes he should have anticipated this.

To stop Claudia's incessant questioning he informs her "I was testing you." Hoping it will satisfy the girl.

"Testing me?" Claudia repeats.

"Yes testing you, you passed, Congratulations. You're the most amazing apprentice the Warehouse has ever seen. Don't make me say it again."

"So I passed your test? Does this mean I can go out in the field more often?" Claudia asks eagerly.

"Yes yes, now be quiet leave me alone, and not a word about this to anyone."

It's quiet at dinner. No one speaks much. Just Claudia basking in the glory of her successful case.

"See, you can retire now old man." She says to Pete.

Artie is smiling as he watches. It's odd.

Myka sits quietly saying nothing. She never says a word about Claudia disobeying her orders. And Claudia never says a word about the way Myka had reached for that rock without purple gloves on. It's a mutually beneficial silence.

After dinner, not too soon after as to draw suspicion to herself, but soon enough, Myka excuses herself, claiming to be tired. She heads towards the Warehouse when she thinks no one is watching her, determined to get to the bottom of this business with the rock.

She walks around aimlessly at first. There is something primal about walking the floor, as if she is being pulled towards something. As she walks onwards, she glances at the aisle numbers, Tom's reference echoing in her mind Aisle 365, Section G, top shelf.

She doesn't want to admit it, but she feels understood by Tom. As if she doesn't have to explain herself. Her loneliness, grief, guilt. As if he knows her. Intimately.

Pete cares about her, of that she has no doubt what so ever. But he doesn't understand her. She doesn't want him to, really. Pete had always thought the best of her, right from day one he trusted her implicitly. She wanted to tell him he was wrong, so many times. That he made a bad judgement call. But it felt so nice, being trusted. Being valued. Being his partner.

She hadn't heard him creeping up behind her, in itself this was strange as footsteps echoed loudly in the warehouse, and he was limping along with his walking stick clicking on the floor beside him.

She jumps a little in fright as he asks "Hey, what are you doing?"

"Nothing." She answers, unconvinced and unconvincingly.

It's then her eyes cast upon the shelf containing that rock.

"Something on your mind, Myka?" He asks. He is full of sweetness, as he has always been. And she wants to confide in him.

"This." She motions to the rock.

"Isn't that the rock you and Claudia bought back from New York?"

"It's been here before." Myka says softly. "Look."

This time she picks it up in her bare hands, after all it's been neutralised by the solution. She sees the ring of thick dust around the place where the rock had been sitting. Years and years of dust. There is nothing more technical to it than that. This rock has been here for a long long time.

She looks to Pete, he doesn't look puzzled, not in the slightest. He barely looks interested in the rock.

"Does it matter?" Pete asks.

"You know something. You're keeping something from me. You're lying to me, Pete." She accuses him.

Pete says nothing, he reaches forward to take her hand, but she flinches away from him. And turns and walks away.

It stabs through him more than anything she could have said in that moment, the look of disdain in her eyes.

"Wait, Myka. It wasn't my idea. I didn't even know about it until..."

She stops, turning to face him. He has caught her attention. "Tell me. Everything."

"It's not important." He insists.

"Fine." She answers, and turns from him again.

"It was Artie. He set it up. The mission in New York."

"Why?" Myka is genuinely confused. "Was it some kind of test?"

"I don't know. I don't think so." Pete answers.

"You lied to me. You knew this was all a set up. You knew how desperately I didn't want to go. And all those things you said to me, about how you had faith in me, I suppose that was all lies." She accuses him.

"No Myka!" He insists. "Everything I said was true. I wasn't part of this."

"You lied to me!" Rage is boiling inside her. And it's more than Pete, more than Artie, more than being lied to about a stupid rock. It's a lifetime of being controlled, of being kept in the dark, of things not making sense to her. She has a crazy impulse to throw the rock at him. But she restrains herself. She grips that thing tightly in her hands and breathes in, just staring at him. Trying not to cry.

She has had enough of this, of all of this.

She doesn't want to be here any more.

She doesn't want to be a part of this.

But she has no words to explain it to him.

Nothing he would understand.

He deserves so much better.

"Goodbye Pete." She manages to whisper as she pushes past him.

She isn't running, but she is walking fast enough that he hasn't a hope of catching her with his injured leg.

She isn't even aware that the rock is still gripped tightly in her hand, as if she is holding on for dear life.