Normal Disclaimers apply. I have no ownership of the film The Bourne Legacy, or the Bourne franchise.
Under the canopy of a small cafe, tucked away in the city center of Surabaya, Indonesia, Marta sat guarded from the rain, sipping an iced coffee to stave off the warm, humid air around her. The muggy weather made her clothes stick against her skin, curled her hair into a knotted mess, but even so, the simple fact that she was sitting out in the open without being in a state of panic made all of those things inconsequential.
The trip from Davao to the southern end of Indonesia had taken several days, but Aaron and Marta had managed to make friends with an English speaking Indonesian family, about to head on their return trip home after making a shipment to a business in Davao. The entire family, a mostly grown group of five, took interest in their travels after being told their cover story, envious of the prospect of spending an entire year jumping from one place to the next without any restrictions.
Aaron hadn't been completely comfortable with the set up. Having a language in common certainly made the connection easier, but it also would make them more memorable, more likely to be spoken of to similar English speaking strangers, and most of all, the family would have more information to share if the wrong people heard wind of those stories.
So, they kept their story simple. Marta left most of the lying to Aaron, he had a way of giving just enough information that it felt like he had honestly answered the question, without revealing too much about themselves, or creating so many lies that they would end up contradicting themselves later.
In a whisper, Marta had thanked him for it later, as they rested in a set of old sleeping bags, closed off in one of the small rooms below deck. She was relieved that he was there for her to rely on. Alone, she was certain she would have only made the strangers around her grow suspicious. He had simply replied, "You're better at it than you think. You look honest. Even when you don't try, people naturally want to trust you." As he re-adjusted his pillow to better encompass the back of his head, he turned his eyes to look at her seriously, "They're more likely to trust me because you're here. But… it's probably safer for me to do most of the talking, for now. People like you, but they're also quick to remember you. It's a double-edged sword."
It was a difficult way to live, interacting with strangers, hoping that they would barely notice you. Just listening to the family swap stories, bursting into laughter as a group, was enough to make her homesick. She had always felt close to her own family, even as she and her siblings had grown older, spreading out to start their own lives. When her personal life was falling apart, she had always known her relationship with her family would still stay the same. Now, that was something she could no longer count on. The painful truth was that the loss of her family was just another consequence of her job, of the careless choices she had made.
The sun was just starting to peak out of the clouds in Surabaya's mid-morning sky. The rain was beginning to subside, but it did nothing to break the humidity radiating in the air. As Marta took another sip of her drink, the metal chair beside her screeched across the pavement as it was pulled away from the table. Carelessly, Aaron dropped a computer tablet down on the table in front of him, before he sank down into the chair.
"You should grab something to drink, it'll fight off the heat," Marta looked over at him as she tipped up her own drink, only to pause as she saw him. There was a look of agitation across his face, an expression she was starting to grow increasingly familiar with. "What's wrong?" she asked, even though she already knew she would get a dismissive answer.
Something had been bothering Aaron ever since they had left Davao, and no matter how she tried, she couldn't get him to open up about it. At first, she had thought it was nerves, or maybe a sense of their looming danger. He had quickly told her that nothing was wrong, and that he was confident in their safety as long as they kept their heads low. He had even found them a small rented apartment to stay in, with a small stove and refrigerator. He claimed that they could easily stay for a few weeks without raising too many flags. Compared to how they had been living for the past few weeks, it almost felt domestic.
Marta wasn't fooled. She was slowly learning to tell the signs, although, without Aaron's cooperation, she could barely tell what they meant. A dark expression would often pass through his eyes at completely random moments. It wasn't until several days of studying him that she noticed that those moods always existed in tandem with a spasm of the corrugator supercilii muscle just at the end of his right side eyebrow. That could mean anything from a headache, to stress, to the beginning signs of a stroke. Maybe she had simply found his personal lying tell.
She held back from talking to him about what she had noticed. It was still difficult to leave behind her way of thinking, to stop being a doctor. She wondered if maybe her mind was running itself crazy trying to read things into Aaron. He was the only case she had left to study.
"I'm fine." Aaron answered, the same way he always did. "There's something you should see." He pushed the tablet in front of her, and pressed the side button to turn on the screen. A New York newspaper article was displayed across the screen. TREADSTONE SENATE HEARING INCONCLUSIVE. PAMELA LANDY UNDER QUESTION.
"What is this?" Marta asked, as she glanced down through the article. Her eyes halted at a sentence in the middle, as she caught the name Jason Bourne. Immediately, she started focusing with closer detail.
"That senate hearing I told you about, the one featuring information about a secret CIA program? They had entire documents revealed about the missions, the operatives. A lot of it's been sealed again. Bourne's been declared dead. Looks like our old bosses get their way again..."
"I thought we weren't going to look into this anymore..." She said it weakly, just as much a reminder to herself, as she found herself feeling intrigued by the information in front of her.
Aaron gave a shake of his head as his shoulders shrugged unhelpfully, "It would have been good just to see them unravel. If just some truth shook through. Looks like we won't get to see it." He sighed and leaned against the back of the chair.
Marta reached over to the tablet and turned off the screen. Swiveling her chair towards Aaron, she reached for his hand and cupped it inside her own. "We survived. We escaped their grasp, so that's one win against them."
Aaron turned his eyes to meet hers, but instead of saying anything, he simply stared at her for a long moment. "What?" she said eventually with a self-conscious laugh, breaking the silence.
In response, he smiled, and then reached over to pat his free hand on top of hers, "Nothing. C'mon. If we want to get to the market before it closes, we have to go now." He wrapped his fingers around hers tightly, pulled her up, and led her back towards the main street.
Half an hour later, the two of them walked down the pathway back to their apartment with two baskets filled with an assortment of local produce. Marta had never dedicated a lot of time to cooking, but she was good at following instructions. With very little else to focus on, she was enjoying dedicating her time to things she had taken for granted before. Similarly, Aaron told her, he'd never had the desire or time to focus on it before, but he liked the sense of accomplishment he got from cooking. They'd been slowly trying to learn the best ways to savor the local foods. It allowed them to keep from showing up to the same business more than once, and learning to cook it themselves required considerable less of their secret stash of money.
As they moved to the side of the road to avoid an incoming bicycle, Marta wondered out loud, "What exactly is our plan? Forty thousand dollars is a lot of money, but it isn't going to sustain us forever if we keep traveling like this."
Aaron chuckled, "You mean, do we get jobs? I'll pick up some odd jobs if we need it. Who knows, we might run into some people in dire need of your stitching skills."
Marta knew what he was insinuating, "Aaron, I am not qualified to take injured patients!"
"There are a lot of people who aren't going to care, if you do it cheap enough. And don't ask questions." He looked at Marta's anxious expression and laughed again, "I'm just kidding, we really don't need that kind of attention."
Marta shook her head, "Then what will we do?"
"We don't have to plan it now. If we find an opportunity, we take it. Maybe there's a cheap business out there we can run. Something under the table..." Aaron's sentence trailed off as he looked on ahead.
Unusual for this area of the city, which was often packed with bicycles but rarely anything larger, there was a large gathering of cars moving along the street. Two of them had somehow cornered themselves in the middle of the road, and were trying to reverse to the opposite side of the street to create room to move around each other. Unfortunately, the steady stream of bicyclists was making it difficult. One driver was fighting the traffic by ramming his fist against the steering wheel horn continuously.
Marta turned from the sight, back to Aaron. The dark expression had returned to his face. Aaron, who typically used large crowds and commotions to keep himself concealed, had been actively avoiding them since they had arrived at Surabaya. The few times they had found themselves in the middle of one, Aaron was heavily distracted, taking longer to make decisions, and had fumbled against her while avoiding the crowd. She hadn't missed that the pulsing around his eye often correlated with these moments, and that loud noises were almost always the start of them.
Head pressure, sensitivity to noises, possible headaches, balance inconsistency. Marta collected symptoms in her mind. It was both Aaron's silence, and the symptoms' relationship to his cognitive health that scared her. She just wanted to know that she was wrong, that she was over-reacting, that these symptoms had no direct connection to his exposure to the virus.
"Aaron..." Her worry bled into her voice.
Aaron didn't look at her, and instead focused on the activity in the distance, past the automobiles. "Those flags hanging up downtown… There's got to be a festival going on..."
Their apartment was in a building packed against a dozen others on a long street just east of downtown, along the Mas River. The area was always busy, but Aaron could usually find a way to navigate by using some of the less popular streets. Their current view of the path to the apartment was blocked by a large business office. Aaron cut across the street to get a closer look at the two blocks to their east. From behind him, Marta could see that the city streets were especially packed.
"Aaron. Can we talk?"
Aaron was so distracted by his surveillance, turning his head constantly to observe their possible routes, that Marta was surprised when he actually responded, "Just a sec. Let's just find a good way back to the apartment first." He reached for her hand again, holding it with a firm grip, but didn't look back at her as he turned a corner past a newspaper stand.
As they walked through the small street behind the backend of a few multi-story businesses, Aaron stopped several times to block Marta from the oncoming traffic of people on foot and bikes. He remained as focused and vigilant as always, but Marta could tell that he was putting extra effort in. His shoulders were tight, and his grip on her hand would inconsistently weaken, and then grip so hard that her hand felt crushed. Whatever was going on with him had quite suddenly started to affect him in a worse way than it had at all previously. Forcing him to talk about it in the middle of the city streets wouldn't help either of them. She decided instead to follow Aaron's plan. They would make their way back to the apartment, and she would make him tell her everything that was happening to him. She knew where the closest pharmacy was, with a little more information, there had to be something she could do.
The street up ahead of them was considerably less congested. Marta knew after turning onto the street it wouldn't be far to the long concrete stairwell she and Aaron often used to get to the apartment building. Marta almost gave a sigh of relief as she saw the apartment out of the corner of her eye, walking past the threshold of the building blocking their view to the right.
It was a mistake. Marta had never been down this road when this section of the city was so active. The back side of several different buildings conjoined at the street end, closing in the sound from the nearby traffic and echoing it into the small street they were standing in now. Even without any irregular problems of her own, the sound of engines bouncing off the concrete made her ears hum painfully. The effect it had on Aaron was immediate. He ungracefully dropped the basket of produce he had been carrying, and instead steadied his head with his hand, gripping into the side of his forehead to fight the pain.
Marta stepped straight into his side to help support him with her shoulders. "You should have told me it was this bad!" Marta yelled in frustration. Her voice simply echoed across the walls, along with the several dozen other voices in the area. Aaron glanced at her through the space between his fingers, his eyes almost guilty.
Marta sacrificed her own basket, intently dropping it on the ground, leaving their produce spilled across the ground in a mess. The hassle wouldn't be worth it. Instead, she dedicated all of her attention to Aaron. She forced his arm over her shoulders, and propelling her feet towards the street. Aaron did his best to walk on his own, but his balance was off again, several times he simply managed to step across her foot instead. She did her best to ignore the pain. The manic energy of the street along with her own panic for Aaron's health made it difficult to concentrate on any one thing. She forced herself to only focus on returning home, maneuvering through the crowd with her eyes set on the street connecting to the apartment in the distance.
By the time they finally made it down the long set of stairs, Marta's arms were exhausted, and her legs were throbbing painfully from constantly knocking in to Aaron's. Luckily, the area in front of the apartment building was much calmer that the busy center streets. She was finally able to pull Aaron's shoulder away from her. It wasn't until then that she noticed how pale he looked. While they had been moving, he had been leaning against the side of her head. Now that her view was no longer blocked, she could see Aaron clearly, and most pointedly, the trail of blood along his outer ear.
"We need to get you lying down." She said as she dug the keys to their apartment out of her pant pocket. With one arm around Aaron's waist, she led him into the building and up the cramped, dirt covered stairwell up to their room on the 5th floor. Her heart was still hammering in her chest, as she tried not to think ahead. Could something have gone so wrong that Aaron was beyond her immediate help? What would happen if they were forced to call for an ambulance? How quickly would they be found by Outcome? Would they have the chance to run away again? Would they be killed on the spot?
Marta gritted her teeth, and forced her mind to instead focus on what was immediately important. She shut the door to the apartment behind her, and both turned the lock underneath the doorknob and slid the bolt at the top of the door. Behind her, Aaron sank down into the couch, exhausted.
When she approached him, he put up one arm to block her. "Look, I'm sorry, Marta. I didn't think it would get that bad, but I'm fine now. It always fades after a few minutes. When it's quiet. It's nothing I can't handle. I just have to fight it a little longer." Aaron said, his breath still weak, and his brow furrowed tightly.
"How do you know that?" Marta's voice rose in frustration, "You have no idea what is happening to you right now. Instead, you've just let it get worse, while I watch, with barely a clue at what is going on! Why would you refused to tell me about this? Did you think I couldn't help you?"
With force, she pushed past Aaron's raised arm, and reached to put both her hands on the side of his face. Taking the moment while she had it, she put pressure on his eyelids so that his eyes were forced completely open, and checked his eye movements. With one hand she turned on the light next to the couch, and watched his eyes react. The dilation of his retina's seemed normal, there wasn't anything in the blood vessels of his eyes that seemed to indicate dangerous brain damage. She moved her inspection to the muscles in his head.
"They're just headaches, Marta. I've dealt with pain before. If I give it time, it'll go away." Even though he was still arguing her, he had given up on fighting her inspection. He sat patiently as she looked over him, checking his face, ears, and the reaction in the muscles in his hands.
Eventually, Marta pulled back. Now that they were away from the stimulus, there didn't seem to be any permanent exterior damage. To really get at what was causing the problems she would need to read his blood work, run tests to see what the cognitive enhancement was doing to his brain. Her shoulders slumped. While they were on the run, she didn't have access to any of the things Aaron needed.
Disheartened, she responded to Aaron's dismissive reaction, "You can't count on that Aaron. Right now, we have no idea what the possible long term effects of the virus could be, or even how other instances may have gone wrong. You know as well as I do the questions I have about my work. And for you to- For you to try to cover this up…! I may not be much of a doctor right now, but I am at least your partner! I may not have a lab any more, I may not have a job, but the least I can do is help you!"
"I know-"Aaron interrupted her, "I know. I'm sorry, Marta." He put both of his hands on the sides of her arms. "But we still aren't safe enough for that. We can't go on a wild goose chase because what may or may not be wrong with me. We just need to see how this pans out, and lay low."
"No, Aaron! If something is wrong, then we find a way to take care of it. Your health is just as much a part of our safety as staying hidden." Aggressively, she pushed her hands against his shoulders, "Don't underestimate this problem! Just because you can't see the immediate effects, it doesn't mean there aren't any. Isn't this why we traveled to this part of the globe, anyway? I'm not going to sit by and watch while this happens."
She shook her head as Aaron tried to interrupt her, "You were the one! You just made it our goal just to escape, to live, and I believed in that! But for you to just ignore this, when all these warnings staring us in the face… then you aren't really fighting for it at all! Don't put me through that. If this is something we have to fight for, then we should do it!"
Her rant left her feeling weak, breathlessly, she finished the true meaning behind her words, "We are partners...I don't want to lose you to this."
This time Aaron didn't try to interrupt her with words. With a quick movement that momentarily left Marta disoriented, Aaron pulled her against him. Roughly, he kissed her, his arms wrapped around her back in a tight embrace. At first, she wasn't sure how to respond, she was so distracted by the touch of his lips that it clouded the feeling of pain in her arm trapped awkwardly in between their bodies, the pounding in her chest, and more importantly, the frustration still overwhelming in her heart. Her fear, the bitterness and hurt were still there, but in the moment she put it away and returned the kiss. Nothing had been solved yet, and her fears of the future still overwhelmed her, but for the moment she was comforted by the fact that Aaron was finally reaching out to her.
AN: Thank you so much for the kind reviews I've gotten, as well as new followers on this story! I hope I can keep a decent pace for you all!
We're approaching the beginning of the actual plot! I hope you enjoy!