Part 11 – All Wrong
November 2nd, 2011
1 : Dave
T minus 47 minutes
The metal table in front of him was cold, and the cuff on his right wrist was more than a little tight. He didn't really mind the discomfort. He had other things on his mind.
The blindfold had been taken away when his asthma attack had been triggered forty-two minutes and three seconds ago, removed by some nondescript agent who had given him the inhaler he now had in his left hand. Dave hadn't looked at him, had not even acknowledged him. McKay had not been in the room at that point, and after he had regained his breath, Dave had been left alone. Probably not unwatched, but that was hardly his biggest concern.
He should have told Max.
The irony was that he had been about to. Too bad it had taken him two years to decide to do so, but still… Had he not been careless, and had he eluded his pursuers this morning… he would have talked to Max by this time. Now he had no idea where they were. Where anyone was. And it was too late for regrets.
The door silently opened, and although he had not met those steely eyes in more than thirty five years, there was no mistaking them. In front of him, McKay studied him with the implacable stare of one who is used to breaking spirits. I bet it won't be as easy now that I'm forty-six than it was when I was six.
The inhaler that was in his hand wanted to differ.
He wanted to toss it. He wanted so much to be able to control his brain, to make it stop triggering the asthma reaction. He wanted to think that now that the initial shock had passed and he had already had his asthma attack, it wouldn't happen again, but he couldn't be sure. Goddamn it, he couldn't be sure!
"You were brilliant," McKay finally said, still measuring Dave's physical responses.
I am brilliant, General. IQ points are hard to downsize despite what others want to believe, Dave silently thought. He hated being here, hated the man who had haunted his dreams for forty years, but he would never give him the satisfaction to rise to his bait.
"You got careless. Asking the wrong questions of the wrong people."
Dave refrained from answering that. No matter how infuriating it was, McKay was right. The man in front of him was pushing seventy and Dave could still picture him in the prime of his life, looming over his six-year-old self, telling him he had to break the codes so the bad people would die.
"You can be silent all you want, David," McKay said, the way he emphasized his name making him grip the inhaler, "it never worked when you were a kid."
Dave smiled at that. McKay was right, he was no longer a kid, and he had learned a trick or two since then. His grip eased on the inhaler.
"What do you want McKay? Run into some code that is wreaking havoc on your systems?"
McKay didn't look amused. Maybe he was now suspecting that so many systems crashing on his watch had not been coincidence. It wasn't Dave's fault the man didn't hire the best to stop hackers from entering and playing with the data. Dave had never done it himself, but he had… encouraged others to do so.
"Where's Max Evans?" McKay asked a second later. Dave's breath caught in his throat, along with his heart, all amusement gone.
"Somewhere you'll never catch him," Dave promised as he swallowed his fear. How could McKay know about Max? Dave had lost track of McKay on and off over the years, and he hadn't checked on the good colonel for the past two, but this?
"I think it's strange, for all your talk about human life, David, you would go and protect a killer. Do you want a list of all the people he and his race have killed? Want to be responsible for all the blood that will be spilled if we let them invade?"
Not the Unit, Dave thought with dread, Tell me you're not in the Unit.
"Think whatever you want," was his automatic response.
It didn't matter. If McKay wanted Max, Dave would make sure that didn't happen. It was all coming to an end anyway. He just had to keep McKay in this room for the next couple of days, and all Dave had prepared for the past eight years would unfold, one way or another.
2 : Isabel
T minus 43 minutes
Isabel was stalling.
Standing in front of a Nine West apparel, she was looking-but-not-really-looking at a red pair of boots. They would be the perfect match to the red coat she was wearing, she fleetingly thought, knowing the boots she was already wearing were also a perfect match. And a gift from Jesse.
He always knew what to get her. And she always knew how to make it fit. So what if the boots were a size too small? A little wave of her hand was all that was needed. She never told him those things… didn't want to ruin the gift by bringing up his mistake and her alien powers.
She sighed. It wasn't his fault she didn't want to bring it up. It wasn't his fault he had married a woman who had clearly lived before. An old soul, indeed.
So now she was stalling walking into her husband's waiting arms and warm smile to tell him the truth. She didn't want to, obviously, but a tiny part of her was hopeful. She wanted to show off as much as Max did with Liz. She wanted to get as explosive as Michael did when he wanted to vent his frustration at something. She wanted to openly laugh at the alien jokes, instead of feeling mortified when she was with him.
She wanted Jesse to know.
The realization hit her so hard, the window trembled. She raised her hand to steady the window, and her self-control. It was true, she did want Jesse to know; to delight in what she could do; to sooth her fears. To start over. To explain to him that her memories about being a princess on a distant planet were nothing more than echoes of a life that was no longer hers. That had never been hers. She just knew Vilandra very, very well. That was all.
She closed her eyes, the red boots oblivious to her dilemma. Max always made it sound so easy, so logical. She hoped he had as much trouble figuring it out as she did.
I can do this, she coached herself. I'll show Jesse, and he'll understand. He had to. He had already understood once. He would understand now.
With not so steady legs, she finally walked towards her destination without further delays.
3 : Maria
T minus 37 minutes
She wanted to run through the doors into the lobby. She also wanted to run in the opposite direction to see if Michael was coming. But most of all, she wanted to feel safe.
While Kyle finished paying the taxi driver, Maria contemplated their options. Dave going missing was leaving them in a weird kind of limbo. If Dave disappeared forever, they would be left up in the air. Ray had told them once that protocols were in place for any circumstance, but he hadn't elaborated.
Now they were gathering here by Ray's orders, and they didn't really know why. It was a happy coincidence they were all in the same city, but had they been scattered to the four winds, would they still have been ordered to the same place?
"I think he just wants to know where we are, and this was convenient," Kyle said, startling her. He had heard her thoughts, and because it wasn't an everyday occurrence, it felt weird. It was one thing to know he could do it, and another to see him doing it. "Sorry, can't help it with all that's going on…"
"Don't mention it," she said, grabbing Kyle by the arm and dragging him inside as fast as she could. He didn't complain. They went directly to the counter, and had to get in line. An elderly couple was with one receptionist, and a very angry man was with the other. Maria felt her pulse rising.
"What are we supposed to do? Just wait?" she whispered to Kyle. For his part, Kyle looked worse than she felt.
"Max, Michael, Isabel, and Jesse are already checked in, right? We just wait for them…" he whispered back
"Do you realize what it means if Dave is gone?"
"We're free," Kyle said grimly, no cheerfulness to speak of. She didn't feel cheerful either. "It means we'll have to fend for ourselves without even knowing where we stand," he muttered as he covertly checked everyone sitting in the lobby. "He may be a bit scary, but at least when Dave is there, you know someone's flying the plane," Kyle finished. It was so strange to see Kyle worried that her anxiousness exponentially skyrocketed.
It meant their bank accounts wouldn't be safe. It meant that if Dave's empire collapsed, there was no continent that didn't have ties to him, making it hard to pick a place to disappear. Over the last year, the seven of them had made emergency plans, but not one of those scenarios involved Dave dropping off the face of the earth…
"I'm so sick of this," Maria said, glimpsing sideways to see who was watching her. No one was. "I want out of that man's shadow, now!"
"I just want to contact Sybelle… Do you think she's on Ray's priority list?" Kyle hopefully asked. Neither of them knew. Kyle winced as if something had stabbed at his head, and not for the first time Maria was grateful she didn't have any powers to complain about.
The elderly couple finally checked in, and it was their turn to move to the counter. By their side, the angry man in a suit tried to tell them something not nice about the service, but one look at Maria's no-nonsense face, and he shut up. The clerk looked gratefully at her.
Eight minutes and half dozen signatures later, they were heading for their rooms. Everyone had checked in, but no one had answered their room phones. Defeated and redefining the word angst, they went to their floor. Phones were there. She had to contact Ray. Kyle had to contact Sybelle. Hopefully someone was going to have answers soon.
4 : Michael
T minus 23 minutes
Michael hardly paid the taxi before sprinting into the hotel. After leaving Christy's apartment, he had considered where he should go, for about two minutes. Maria was supposed to still be in England, but if she was here and she wanted to locate him, she would go to their hotel. It was the only concrete place in the city where they had agreed to be.
He rushed into the lobby, and expertly surveyed the area as he walked to the counter. Maria had been here, he could feel it in his bones. He asked for her at the desk, and the guy actually smiled. Michael didn't have time to wonder why this guy thought it was okay to grin like that at the mention of his wife, so he narrowed his eyes enough to convey he was not amused. The clerk didn't get it.
"She has just checked in," he happily said, and typed in something. Michael felt relief flooding him. She was here, and she was safe. A minute later, the clerk called her room. "She's not answering. Would you like me to try again in a few minutes?"
"Yes," Michael responded curtly, and reclined on the counter. He didn't like it, but there were a million things Maria could be doing that prevented her from getting to the phone. He couldn't go after her without a room number, either. He could only hope she would feel his presence as strongly as he was feeling hers and come down. He didn't know what else to do.
He kept rotating his gold band on his left hand. It was the only physical object that could both ground him to reality and calm his nerves. When he had begun to lose his sense of self at times when Rath's memories were becoming more and more vivid, it was that ring that had reminded him what was important. Now it was a poor substitute for Maria's presence.
His mind kept trying to find a way to get to her sooner. Liz was in the city, so Max wouldn't take long in coming back as well. Damn phones that didn't work! He asked if the guy could call Liz's room. He did, and got the same answer: she wasn't picking up either. Why was everyone disappearing on him now?
"Michael!" He turned around to find Isabel coming to him. "What are you doing here so early?"
"Maria's in town," he said, taking their conversation away from the front desk. "She was really scared. I thought you were meeting with Jesse."
Isabel's smile faded. "I am. I got… distracted, so I'm late. I'm guessing Jesse is in our room. Where's Maria? Why is she scared?"
"She's here, somewhere. She's not picking up her room phone. I'm trying to pinpoint her, but you know how it is for us. And—What the hell is Jake doing here?" Michael asked, all his senses going on alert. Isabel turned in time to see the older man walking through the doors, looking nothing like his cheerful self. Even Michael knew Jake was not easy to scare, not enough to put that look on his face.
Jake saw them a moment later, a mix of relief and regret on his face. They met in the middle.
"Ray wants all of us here," Jake said before Michael could ask. "There's… a situation with Dave."
T minus 19 minutes