Huge thank yous to reviewers and likers :D y'all are awesome. We're coming to the end few chapters, and I'm sad about it coming to an end (this isn't the final chapter yet!) but I guess it has to end some time.
Also credit goes to ohvafltn for the name of Marta's sister. I thought it was perfect :) dedicated to you, my friend 3
Please read and review. Confrontation and reunions of more than one kind to come in 28!
Aaron's not sure what to expect from a sister of Marta Shearing. She'd told him little bits and pieces, between the blood and gore, but in truth he only listened because he thought Marta would never see her own sister again. He's an empathy listener. Apparently they were close; he'd never had any siblings that he knew of so he figured that was normal for sisters who were close in age to be best friends too. He's not expecting much really; no woman he'd ever met had been as brilliant as Marta and he doesn't think he'd ever meet someone else like her again, either. It's only when he hears her breath behind his ear – a cold vaporous breath – that he knows that this girl is going to be trouble. The butt of another gun is pressed into the nape of his neck and a safety clicked off but Aaron doesn't stiffen. He knows this girl, Marta's little sister, after all. Then something hits him; some sweet, ripe smell like passion fruit. No. It's too familiar, it's muted but his senses can pick up smells like a bloodhound. Fuck. She washes her hair in the same stuff Marta used to, before the whole fake death and running for their lives thing. He hasn't smelled that smell for months. It makes him falter for the first time.
"Who are you?" her voice sounds out like a reprieve. Her voice isn't like Marta's; it's rougher and deeper but still inherently female.
He puts his hands up to his sides in surrender. Aaron's nervous to turn around and see what she looks like – it might be too much for him to take, "I'm just a guy."
She doesn't like that and digs the gun deeper, "Don't piss me off, man. I'm not one to fuck around with."
Aaron chuckles a little, "I'm a friend of your sister."
"My sister is dead; I suggest you get to the point before I put a bullet in your skull."
"She's not dead. My name's Aaron, Aaron Cross." He swallows, "How much do you know about what Marta did at her job? At Sterisyn Morlanta?"
She pulls the gun back from his neck, "Not a lot. She was the most intelligent person I knew… kind of naïve…" they both chuckle simultaneously, "But I knew she was a geneticist for a huge company but they made her sign a waiver. She would want to tell me all about it but I had to stop her from doing it because a big company, working in genetics? Of course the government's going to be involved somehow."
"You're smart." He smiles internally, "You probably have more common sense than Marta, too."
"We're getting off the course here," he notices that her hand doesn't waiver. "Who are you, Aaron Cross, and why are you telling me that my sister is alive when we buried her months ago?" he can hear the catch in her voice, too.
"I was a test subject for your sister's bosses. She tested her formulas on me and people like me. We were injected and given pills… they change our base DNA, made us stronger and smarter. Your sister invented the medications they gave us and kept refining them." He says quickly, wary of her still, "But the government agency running it shut us down. You see, we're assassins. We killed dangerous people and rescued captured POWs and American nationals worldwide but we did bad things too. They shut it down. They killed the high-ups at Sterisyn and murdered the five other agents your sister worked with. I escaped."
He can't hear anything for a second. Thinking over everything that's gone in his past, he's barely scratched the surface with her.
"And they killed her? To cover it up?" she doesn't sound unbelieving of him. He's not sure what to expect from her, after all. "Weirdly, only Marta could get herself into that situation and still be alive."
Aaron turns around slowly, eyes sunken with fear. He's hoping that she looks nothing like her sister. Marta's eyes in front of him would surely break him down into pieces he promised himself he wouldn't. He looks at her, the dim light cascading onto her features. He breathes.
"What?" she frowns, gun still trained on him.
He swallows, "You look so much like her. I haven't seen her in… a while. I…" She's beautiful too. Glossy dark hair pulled up away from her face, the same strong jawline as Marta, slim cheekbones he's kissed. "You look like her."
"Except for the eyes." She murmurs, "I got greens. Hers are-"
"The most beautiful deep brown and gold you ever saw." He finishes, nodding, "You're Meredith."
Those green eyes widen and he's convinced someone likes him, she's too much like Marta but those eyes are too different as well. He'd break, he knows. "She told you my real name? I always hated that." Meredith lowers her gun but doesn't take the safety off. "I don't tell anyone my real name. Everyone calls me Merry."
"I know a lot about you. Marta's told me everything." He smirks, "There's a scar on your arm where Marta pushed you into a pond when you were young. Your arm snagged on a piece of glass and Marta screamed because she was scared you were going to die. She went with you to the hospital and refused to leave you until your mother had to drag her away, kicking and screaming."
Meredith sniffles and smiles, visibly crumbling under the weight of her grief. "Marty thought it'd be funny, pushing me into that damn pond with the ducks because I ate her Halloween candy." She blinks and leans back against a bare brick wall, "She slept in my bed for three weeks after that."
"She didn't want you to have nightmares."
"Marta's alive?" Meredith looks up at Aaron, eyes glistening with water, "Where is she? I need to see her."
"You can't." he swallows at the darkness that seems to glide over her. "At least, not now. She's been captured by the people who tried to kill us but I know she's alive." Aaron takes two wide steps forward and grabs her arms, "She led me to you. You can help me somehow, Marta doesn't do anything without reason."
"Just because I believe she's alive doesn't mean I trust you." She looks at him, a look he can't read, "Why should I?"
"Because you're like her. The only chance you've got to get your sister back is to trust me. I'm not taking no for an answer."
Lightning speeds, his left hand grabs her gun deftly, spinning it back to her temple.
Meredith leans to her side a little, a curious smile on her face, "Yeah. I can see why she'd like you, Aaron… she always attracted bad boys."
"I don't know how you want my help." She says, sitting inside of a quiet diner, the 24 hour joint near dead at 3.23am as it was. "I'm just a librarian; I didn't even get her things after she died. They said Marta left it to charities." She rubs her temple, her hand cupped around a cup of dead coffee.
He looks down, fingers pressing into the countertop, "I just need to know anything she told you about work. Why would she lead me to you, Meredith?" he mutters in his deep tones of honey, eyes piercing hers intensely.
Meredith shakes her head, "I don't know, okay. I haven't seen her in a year now, I don't know anything."
"You must've talked on the phone, though. What was the last thing she told you about work?"
Her eyes scan the counter, as if looking for an answer she doesn't like to think about. "I… it was something about viruses… no wait…"
"Yeah, viralling." She looks at him, "She said she'd given this viral to Number Five." His ears pick up at that. "She said his chemistry didn't accept it the same as the others; that it was developing better and quicker than she'd dreamt of. She petitioned them to bring him in for study, to find out why but they said no. That was all she could tell me. Or at least all I remember."
Aaron leans back, finally taking a breath; he understands everything except one thing. Marta never told him he took the viral differently to the others. She never said a damn word to him about it. He doesn't know why or whether he was even angry, but somehow he knew he could work it to his advantage. Marta does these things for good reason and he's taught her well enough to think like an Agent. "Meredith, I need you to do something for me."
"What?" she asks, frowning Marta's frown. "Whatever it is, I can't-"
"Yes you can. I need you to call the police and tell them a man called Aaron Cross is stalking you and he's demanding answers, armed and dangerous."
She leans back, her eyes flickering to his hands instinctively. "Why?"
"You're going to turn me in. The people who have Marta need me alive when I tell them that they can have me instead." He pulls out the flash drive from his top pocket where he always keeps it safe. Everything he needs to incriminate them is on there. All Aaron has to do is get Marta's sister to put him in the inner sanctum, the beating bloodied heart of Byer's operation. Talking to this woman, this spit of her sister, Aaron knows know why Marta led him to her sister; Meredith's the only one Marta trusts to not kill him on sight. "I'm sorry, Meredith." He sighs and puts the flash drive into her palm, curling her fingers over it gently. "You need to let them discover this on you. It's encrypted. They won't be able to access the information without me and your sister." He swallows and leans in close to her, muttering, "Now I need you to hit me as hard as you can, Meredith. It's got to look good."
Prison cells don't look good at 6am, he's concluding very quickly. Darkness is breaking into dawn with light streaming through barred windows, casting dark shadows across his chest. Meredith, it turns out, has a mean right hook and wasn't afraid of putting every bit of grief and anger into her swing. Aaron knew that if he'd been a normal person, she'd have broken his eye socket. Luckily for her, he was superhuman. Or should that be lucky for him?
The cell door creaks open and a cop, his hair greying at the temples, motions for Aaron to stand, "I don't know what kind of contacts you got, pal, but they got to be high ups. Your bail's been posted."
Aaron sits up from his cot bed, "About time. What's the name?" he gets up, stretching.
The cop looks down at the charge sheet, "Eric Byer. He's waiting for you outside, kid. I'd kiss his toes in worship if I were you."
"Oh I'll do something." Aaron mutters, following the copper to find Byer and get this over and done with, once and for all.