Kiera Cameron gazed at the bottle of hard liquor she'd brought back to her hotel room. She wasn't emotive in the best of times. By no stretch of the imagination would she consider the times she found herself in now, good. It was grueling, keeping her true identity and origination a secret from strangers from an earlier time. To be among them, but be apart from them was insidious. Meaning them harm was foreign to her. She was a Protector, one who had to battle Liber8 alone in 2012.
The terrorist group's intent was manipulation so they would win the war not set to take place 65 years from now. The imposed challenge, that of stopping the cell in this primitive environment, surpassed insurmountable. Yet, here she was trying to do just that. Her only ally was an adolescent hacker, Alec Sadler, a genius in his own right. Still…the mysterious hacker had his limitations and he was a wellspring of questions she couldn't answer. There was no way he could materialize a cadre of Protectors to beef up her number of one.
Oh, how she wished that fateful day when the eruption had occurred had never happened. Looking back though was moot. The entire sequence of untimely events had happened, changing the future forever, if she failed to thwart the dystopian disruptors.
Stopping them was more than an objective. It was her mantra, incessant and boisterous. She had no choice but to obey its mandate. If stopping them eluded her, then her baby would suffer. Sam's world would be one of woe.
Kiera swallowed hard.
The burning question was how could she accomplish such a feat singlehandedly? She desperately wanted to believe that stopping them wasn't an impossibility. Somehow, a favorable resolution to this dilemma was feasible, albeit difficult to attain.
She studied herself in the mirror, off to the left of the bed. Intense eyes stared back at her, unwilling to concede that they lacked the luster they once had when she was with her family…her husband, Greg, and their impressionable young son, Sam. She missed them more than she could express. Talking at herself in the mirror pushed her a bit closer to the edge. Her skin prickled, keenly aware that there was no one to pour her heart out to. Keeping everything inside was taking its toll. It wasn't the same, telling her troubles to her own reflection.
She could not burden Alec with adult concerns.
She had never been much of a drinker, but she was learning that having a few shots had nothing to do with lacking moral character. The age from which she had come demanded nothing less than prescribed behavior as dictacted by those in power. Kiera left off soul searching and reached for one of the glasses that were rimmed around the ice bucket. With the bottle open, she poured, filling the glass halfway. She knocked some of the strong drink back. Its burning bite slid down her throat as her eyes watered.
A playful smile quirked her lips and she had to laugh. The sound was low and carried mockery. She tilted her head back and finished the contents of the glass. Wasting no time, she poured herself another. The intoxicant licked at her bones, thawing their marrow.
Kiera felt her joints loosen, along with her tongue. Her sigh coursed through her. "This will never be home. Not as long as I'm lost without the ones closest to my heart." Mental images of Greg and Sam had a furious spree overshadowing other, more immediate thoughts.
She went for the bottle again, refilling her glass. Uncomfortable feelings made relaxation just beyond her reach. After another drink, her mind quieted. Her eyes flicked to the door when there was knocking upon it. She didn't want to see anyone, yet she wasn't sold on being alone.
She knew next to no one in this place, save for…
The pounding against the door continued.
At its hard finished surface, she spoke through the barrier. "Who?" Her drinking glass turned in her hand.
Swiftly, the reply came, "It's Carlos. Open up."
Puzzled, she couldn't recall when she had given him the location where she was staying. "Uh…yeah. Sure."
Fonnegra, standing on the other side of the door waited expectantly. Ever since he had spotted her shifting through the rubble, caused by an explosion that was far from normal, she had put the 'i' and 'm' in inexplicably mysterious for him. She was the kind of smart that didn't get taught in any academy. The brilliance was in her blood.
"Can I come in?"
She was holding her ground and he saw in her eyes that she was thinking it over. Did she want to commit herself to spending time with him, more than she already had?
He was a fountainhead of questions of the personal kind when he was on a roll. Would there ever be an end to those of that nature?
Holding the door open wider to move aside, Kiera admitted him.
"Do you need me to answer more questions?" As if the battery he had already put her through earlier in the day hadn't satisfied him. Maybe the oblique answers she'd given him had merely whetted his appetite. She felt him at her back, following her into the unremarkable room she was making do with as a temporary place to lay her head.
Carlos held his tongue. The last thing he wanted to do was to interfere with this cryptic woman and the crypto manner in which she operated. The liquor he smelled on her made him raise an eyebrow. "I see you aren't the type who minds drinking alone."
"I'm not the type who drinks, period. But…" She shrugged as she went to offer some hospitality off the cuff. "Want some?"
"What have you got?"
Carlos noticed that the bottle was a third gone. "Yeah, sure. Why not." He nudged his own glass closer to where she was pouring and watched her fill it. "Thanks."
"Don't mention it. It's the least I can do." She thought about Greg, how that was his line. She controlled herself from falling down the pit of what if she never saw him or Sam again. "What brings you here, Detective Fonnegra?"
"Haven't you noticed them by now? My two feet with their legs attached."
His small joke fell flat. Kiera barely smiled.
"No, seriously," he bantered, "just thought I'd come by. See how you're settling in."
Sipping more of what she had poured for herself, she replied, "Not so much. I'm still getting my bearings. Learning as I go." If he only knew how feebly it was going. This was still Earth, the inhabitants, human, but the similarities abruptly ended there. She might as well have fallen from the sky, onto a strange new world. 2012 had minimal in common with 2077.
Nursing his drink, Carlos bided his time. He could sense her reluctance to let her guard down. It had been up since first they met. If anything, she reinforced it each time he tried getting her to open up. He decided he would ask. She would, most likely, turn him down, but it wouldn't hurt to ask.
"Have you eaten?"
Downing what had been her third drink, she thought his question over.
"It's not a trick question, you know."
She threw off vibes hinting at the war she waged with herself. She had purchased a bag of chips, a pretzel from a street vendor and an apple in a deli. They were still untouched. When she had returned to the room, she'd just sat for a spell, sorting through the complexities of the day.
"I know," Kiera defended.
"Dinner…have it with me?"
She rubbed the back of her neck with her hand; a tentative half smile lazed on her lips. There would be more questions, she took into account. Her muttering was subdued.
"C'mon, you've got to eat." He rocked back on his heels. "I could use the company. How 'bout you?"
She set her glass down, tucked her hair behind her ears. Nodding, she watched him finish off his drink. She studied him as she would a plan of action. When he took the glass away from his lips, his smile mowed down the drabness of the room.
"Good," Carlos said. "I know a nice place."
She knew several too, but it would be years before they would actually come into existence.