Chapter 6-Truth and Consequences
"Hey, Blayne!" Rizzo yelled, half-jogging down the hallway to catch up to her. "Can we talk? Do you have a minute?"
"Sure, Jack." She smiled, concerned. "What's up? Hey! Sorry to interrupt. Do you know if Dmitri is still in this time? I'd like him to help you on this."
"I'm not sure." Rizzo looked around. "Look, there's something we really need to talk about."
"Sure. What's up?" She looked up expectantly.
"Um, it's about Johansen."
Blayne raised an eyebrow. "What about him, Rizzo?"
"Um… He… he was on Administrative Supervision when the attack occurred."
"Why didn't you tell me? Why'd you send him along on that last assignment if his actions were suspect?" she demanded of him.
"Um, you'd requested him. You had access to his file, it never occurred to me that you might not have known until afterwards."
"So why keep it from me then? Huh? What were you thinking?"
"You had a lot of other crap on your mind. We all did. If I'd known then about the heroin--"
"Heroin?" she shouted. "God damn it, Rizzo! You had no right not to tell me that he was--"
"If I'd thought he was a risk, I would have--" Rizzo interjected.
"Don't you even try to justify this to me!" Blayne shouted, shoving him. Caught unprepared, he fell to the floor. "You son of a bitch!"
Rizzo picked himself up with a sigh. This had to be unthinkably hard on her. "I know. It's hard. He was your friend. I know what you're going through…"
"You have no idea what I'm going through!" she shrieked, swinging at him.
Startled, Rizzo took a step backwards. "Blayne, take a deep breath, count to ten, and-- Jesus!" he jumped backwards as her gun appeared in her hand. "Blayne! Put that damned thing away before someone sees you!" He laughed uneasily and took a cautious step forward. "Come on, baby…"
"It's been you all along, hasn't it?" she demanded, leveling her gun at his chest. "I trusted you, and this is how you repay me?"
"You're not thinking clearly, Blayne. You need to put the gun down and just think about what you're doing…"
"Shut up!" She pulled the hammer back on her pistol and tipped it slightly to the left, squinting her right eye and aiming, as she had been taught, at center mass.
"Christ…" Rizzo muttered, realizing that he had left his revolver on the Aurora. He took a slow step backwards, arm held out and slightly up. "Blayne, you want to think very carefully about the next move you make."
"Is that a threat?" she sneered, shoving the barrel of her gun into his chest.
Rizzo stared down at it and smiled nervously. "Just… one question before you, ah… pop me."
"Shoot…" She smiled malevolently.
"When were you going to tell me?"
"Tell you what?" She gave her head a little shake, confused by the question.
"When were you going to tell me that you'd gotten into the bad drugs? How long have you known?"
Rizzo lunged forward, catching her elbow and her wrist in his hands and slamming his knee into her forearm, causing her to drop the gun with a cry. He spun her around and pulled her against him, squeezing his elbow against her neck and shouting for help.
"I'll kill you! You son of a bitch!"
"Don't make me knock you out, Blayne." he hissed in her ear. "You know I can do it."
She clawed at his forearm, struggling in his grip and shouting loudly. She went suddenly limp.
"Jesus!" Rizzo gasped, afraid he had applied too much pressure to her throat.
He loosened his grip slightly, and got an elbow in his ribs for his concern. Gasping and cursing, he wrapped his leg around Blayne's legs and swept her feet out from under her, knocking them both to the floor. He landed on top of her, knocking the air from her lungs. She struggled and squirmed beneath him, thought she did not seem to be trying as hard to get up. He realized in horror that he had dropped her on her gun a split-second before she placed the muzzle to his temple.
"So this is how it ends?" He slid off of her slowly. "It's been nice, Blayne. I don't suppose I could have a little kiss before you kill me?"
She blinked, obviously surprised by the request. Her face hardened into a scowl as she prepared to fire. Rizzo slammed the crown of his head into her forehead. She cursed as blood streamed into her eyes, blinding her. Rizzo cursed. He had been trying to knock her out. Not one to waste an advantage, he wrestled the gun out of her hand and threw it across the hall. It skittered to a stop at Passepartout's feet as he and Jules turned a corner. He stared down at it, momentarily confused, then saw Rizzo and Blayne struggling. He picked up the gun and crossed the hallway swiftly. As Jules looked on in amazement, he slammed it into the base of Blayne's skull, sending her slumping to the floor.
Rizzo sat on the floor panting. "Damn, that shit's worse the PCP." He looked up at Passepartout. "How'd you know which one of us was--"
"Doctor Ramsey is saying mood swings and insomnia. Blayne is having both, and you is snoring so loud last night that was hard for Jean to sleep." Passepartout gently rolled Blayne onto her back and looked up at Rizzo. "You is bleeding."
"I think it's all hers."
He shook his head firmly. "You is bad liar. And you is not being able to see yourself. Is bad or not so bad?"
"I think I'll survive." Rizzo said softly. He looked down at Blayne. "But she may not."
"What?" Jules demanded.
"All the other affected Agents have killed themselves immediately after attacking their partners." Rizzo sighed and felt Blayne's throat for a pulse. "We should restrain her, I think. Monsieur Passepartout, can you carry her?"
He nodded and gently picked her up. "Master Jules, you is helping Agent Rizzo to be walking."
Jules slid an arm under Rizzo's shoulder. "Thanks, man…" he muttered, leaning against Jules. "Um, the infirmary is down the stairs."
"Rebecca!" Phileas gasped, trying to unwrap her fingers from his throat. "You are going to hurt yourself!"
"No, I'm going to hurt you!" Rebecca hissed, digging her fingernails into his throat hard enough to draw blood.
Struggling to defend himself without hurting his already injured cousin, Phileas found himself wondering whether she would suffocate him or slash his jugular first. Where was she finding this strength? There was no way that she should be this strong, and even less way that she should have been able to keep up this level of exertion for so long.
He managed to hook his index and middle fingers under her hands, buying himself some more air. "Listen to me, Rebecca!" he gasped. "You are not well. You are going to hurt yourself. Fight this, Rebecca! Fight!"
Rebecca snarled and sunk her teeth into his wrist.
"Ah! Fight Rebecca!" He closed his eyes and backhanded her. "Damn it all, Rebecca, I need you! I need you to fight. I need you to be the strong one."
"I'll kill you!" Rebecca hissed, tightening her grip.
"Forgive me." Phileas sighed and smashed his head into hers. Rebecca went limp. "My Lord…" he sighed, sliding away and touching his throat. "'We need to talk, Phileas. Come closer, Phileas'" He sighed and checked her pulse. "You, my dear, are going to be fine…" he assured his unconscious cousin, rising. "Now, I wonder where one finds a physician around here…"
"You is sure bonds is not being to tight?" Passepartout repeated as Rizzo injected Blayne with a sedative.
"For the fifth time, yes!" Rizzo sighed. "Um, I need you in the lab." He looked at Jules. "Will you stay with her?"
"What do I do if she wakes up?"
"Talk to her. Tell her it's going to be okay." Rizzo smiled reassuringly, but his eyes were sad.
Jules nodded weakly and placed a chair next to the bed where Blayne was bound. "I'll take good care of her."
"I know you will. I wouldn't leave you with her if I doubted it. Take care, man."
Jules nodded and waved weakly as they left.
"Master Jules is being good in lab, too, Agent Rizzo." Passepartout pointed out.
"Not as good as you. And he's… not fully informed."
"I is seeing." Passepartout nodded knowingly. "Is being… special lab?"
"The best." Rizzo nodded. "If there's a cure to be had for this, we'll find it down here."
Jules looked up as two people carried a stretcher into the infirmary. One of them was a young woman. The other was Phileas. Rebecca was unconscious on the stretcher and was crudely restrained with a pair of leather belts.
"Not her, too…" both men sighed.
Phileas nodded weakly and helped transfer Rebecca onto the bed next to Blayne's. He undid the belt around her arms as the young woman unstrapped her legs. They gently secured Rebecca using the bed's built-in restraints.
"Your throat is bleeding." Jules noted quietly. "Rebecca?"
Phileas sighed and nodded, cover one of her hands with his. "I think when she looked at me… I think she saw Count Gregory."
"Oh, God." Jules struggled to keep the tears from flowing.
"I notice that you, however, seem remarkably unscathed." Phileas noted dryly.
"She attacked Agent Rizzo. He's… more hurt than I think he wants to admit."
Phileas sighed and nodded. "I was wrong about him." he muttered.
"Nothing. Was Passepartout hurt?"
Jules shook his head. "Is Rebecca hurt?"
"I'm not sure. I tried to be as gentle as I could, but…"
Jules sighed. He had seen it in Rizzo's eyes, too. Attacked by someone you care about and knowing that you'll probably have to choose between her life and your own. The choice was a hard one, and there was a question as to whether, having chosen your own life, you could continue to live with yourself once you had saved it.
"Agent Rizzo, you is being chemical wizard." Passepartout noted as Rizzo pulled a beaker out of the centrifuge.
"Jack. You saved my life, I think you can call me by my Christian name now."
"But Agent Blayne is saving your life many times and is still calling you Rizzo."
"Um, that's different. We're… complicated."
"She is being complicated one." Passepartout suggested gently.
He sighed and nodded. "Um, give me another blood-sample."
Passepartout handed him a test-tube. "What is this machine be doing?" he asked, touching the gas chromatograph.
"Don't mess with that." Rizzo suggested. "And don't try to take it apart. They're a bitch to put back together."
"You is sounding like is knowing from experience."
Rizzo shrugged and prepared a slide. He stared at it through the microscope. "Hey…" He frowned and looked again. "Look at that and tell me what you see." He prepared a sample of the blood for the chromatograph.
"Is looking normal. This is new."
Rizzo nodded. "Doctor Ramsey!"
"Yes, Agent Rizzo?" He hurried over.
"Check this out." He placed the sample into the chromatograph.
Ramsey stared into the microscope and then examined the chromatograph readout. "Negative."
"Great. Start synthesizing it, man." Rizzo smacked his arm and grabbed Passepartout, pulling him towards the door. "Let's get up to the infirmary…"
"Are you sure?" Phileas asked, eyeing the needle in Rizzo's hand uncertainly.
"Relatively sure." Rizzo said. "We won't be positive until we test it on a human subject."
Phileas sighed. "We wait to inject Rebecca until we know how it affects Blayne." he announced finally.
Rizzo stared at him for a moment before nodding. "That's probably wise. Rebecca is too weak to take chances with. Blayne's stronger. She's a survivor."
Phileas sighed and sat down, squeezing Rebecca's hand when Rizzo injected Blayne. Rebecca's hand wriggled out of his grasp.
"Rebecca?" Phileas gasped, bending over her.
"Phileas!" she sobbed. "It hurts! Please let me die…"
"Never!" Phileas snapped, shaking his head. He caressed her forehead. "You are going to be just fine…" he assured her. "They've found a cure."
She shook her head, still sobbing. "I'm never going to get better…"
In her bed, Blayne's body jerked upward, straining against her straps.
"She's fighting it?" Jules gasped.
"She's convulsing." Rizzo corrected him, struggling to hold Blayne down. "I don't think this shit's agreeing with her. Doctor!"
"Oh my Lord…" Phileas sighed and covered his face with his hands. Rebecca continued crying. "We can't do this to her, Agent Rizzo."
Rizzo stepped aside to let the doctors work on Blayne. "I know." He nodded weakly and found a chair. After a few minutes, the doctors left. Blayne lay still. Rizzo buried his face in his hands, and Passepartout started for the door. Jules put his hand on his shoulder and followed.
"Oh… my… gods…" Blayne groaned weakly.
Everyone looked up. Rizzo jumped to his feet. "Bren?"
"I feel… like shit!" Blayne groaned. "The inside of my mouth tastes like a sewer. My head hurts. My back hurts. My bloody hair hurts!" She fell silent, panting from exertion.
"I guess she's feeling better." Phileas noted.
Rizzo stared down at her. "How are you feeling?"
She stared up at him. "Did I not say that out loud?"
He grinned. "Are you feeling suicidal at all?"
"Why in the name of the gods…" Her eyes grew wide as she saw his swollen and bruised face and the stitches on his forehead. "Did I do that to you?"
He nodded slowly. "But you're feeling better, right?"
She nodded experimentally. "Actually, I feel like I'm dying. But I think I can live with that…" She tried to raise her arms. "Can you unstrap me now?"
"I think we'd better wait just a little while."
"Not funny, Riz!" she snapped. "Come on!"
Rizzo smiled apologetically and shrugged. "No."
"Jack!" she demanded. "Come on."
"Hey, you didn't even threaten me." He smiled and unstrapped her arms. "You must be feeling like crap."
She sat up slowly. Rizzo and Passepartout reached out to hold her up. "I'm dizzy."
"Yeah." Rizzo nodded. "I'm afraid one of us gave you a concussion."
She looked from Passepartout to Rizzo. "Which one?"
"Not entirely sure." Rizzo shrugged.
"They both hit you pretty hard." Jules contributed helpfully.
"Really?" She sighed and lay back. "We'll discuss this later, gentlemen."
"Try to rest. Our asses will be there later." Rizzo assured her. "You can kick them then."
Rebecca groaned. "Phileas?"
"Could I have a drink?" she whispered.
He held a straw to her mouth. "Here. Slowly."
"Did they catch him?"
"Who?" Phileas asked, worried that she might still be delusional.
"The driver of that carriage." She smiled weakly at him. "What happened? I thought I was fighting the Count. Was that you?"
"Oh, Lord. It was you. I'm so sorry, Phileas."
"No one is blaming you, Rebecca. You weren't in control. It wasn't you."
She sighed. "I'm still sorry."
"So am I." He enfolded her hand in his. "Get some rest."
Rizzo knocked on Rebecca's bedroom door on their first day back aboard the Aurora. "Fogg?"
Phileas looked up. "Come in."
"I didn't wake her?"
"I was already awake."
He nodded. "Have you seen Blayne?"
He shook his head. "But then, I haven't been out of this room more than once."
He nodded. "Thanks. I'll leave you, then."
"Agent Rizzo." Rebecca called.
He paused. "Yes?"
"Did they ever find all of the contaminated drugs?"
He nodded slowly. "They scoured all of our warehouses and have managed to recall everything that was in transit. The people we supply have been warned and are being supplied with fresh, and clean, supplies."
"That's good." Rebecca said. "Any word on who did it?"
He sighed. "Not yet…"
Rizzo sighed again. "I've got to go find Blayne."
"Of course." Rebecca nodded. 'Thank you."
"Bye…" they both said as he left.
Rebecca sighed. "There goes a young man with a great deal of weight on his shoulders."
"He's too young for the job." Phileas observed. "Not much older than Verne, really. That's how people die."
Rebecca took his hand, smiling comfortingly. "Phileas…"
"I know." He sighed. "They are probably never going to catch the person who did this."
"I know." She echoed his sigh. "But they'll be more careful in the future, which is something."
"It's not much."
"I know…" Rebecca sighed again and squeezed his hand more tightly.
"Jean, where is Blayne? I've looked everywhere. Twice." Rizzo sighed in exasperation.
"Bren is… hiding from you."
"I beg your pardon?" Rizzo scowled.
"Bren is feeling shame. Is not yet wanting to face it, I think."
Rizzo sighed. "I need to talk to her, to tell her it's okay. Jean. Please…"
"Is on top of balloon."
"I beg your- out there?" He pointed towards the sky, amazed.
Passepartout nodded. "But you is not hearing of it from Jean if she is asking."
"Of course not." Rizzo nodded. "Thanks." He turned to leave.
Passepartout sighed. "She is being very sad right now. You make her better, Jack."
"I'll do my best, Passepartout." Rizzo promised, starting up the stairs.
Once he was on the deck, he realized that his greatest challenge was going to be getting on top of the balloon. Blayne would have been able to manage the ascent with ease, but she had spent years rock-climbing and doing yoga. Rizzo preferred to keep at least one foot on the ground. He stared over the edge, swallowing hard. Sighing, he grabbed onto the rigging and slowly started up.
"I know you're up here…" he panted as he reached the top. "I've looked everywhere else, so you must be up here."
She sighed. She was lying on her stomach watching the sunset. "I'm not ready to talk to you yet."
"Tough. I am ready to talk to you. Now." He sat down in front of her, obscuring her view. "Was it the drugs that made you kill the guard?"
"No… Yes. Possibly. I don't remember. It was like a bad dream. Maybe it was me. I don't know." She fell silent.
Rizzo sighed. "Blayne, don't shut me out."
"How can you still want to speak to me?" she demanded incredulously, pushing herself into a sitting position.
"Quite easily." Rizzo brushed a stray lock of hair from her face. "I've only got one best friend, you know, and I'm not about to let her spend the rest of her life moping."
"Then you aren't mad with me?" She shook her head, not quite crediting it.
"Oh, I'm furious with you. Just not for attacking me or killing that man. Those things I can understand. What I can't wrap my patchouli-soaked brain around is how you could lie to me about where you were getting your drugs from. Until you provide me with a more rational answer, I'm going to have to assume that that was the drugs, too."
She stared at him. "You mean it?"
"Of course I mean it. It has to be one of the dumbest things you've ever done, Bren. It's not like you."
She bowed her head. "It wasn't the drugs. At least… I don't think it was."
He touched her cheek. "Tell me."
"I was afraid that if I told you that I was drinking a batch of patent medicine from the infirmary that you would put me on leave."
"And you'd have been right."
She nodded. "I didn't feel that you could afford to lose me right then. I felt fine…"
"Or thought you did. Sure." He nodded.
"I gambled and lost in a profession and at stakes where even a small miscalculation can be fatal."
"Actually, you made the right call."
"How do you figure?" she snorted.
"We could not have afforded to lose you. You were right about that. I would have pulled you, no question, and it would have been wrong of me. You did some good, Blayne, before you completely tripped out, no doubt about it."
She sighed. "You know what I hate about you?"
"How I can be so freaking reasonable at times?"
She nodded, tears spilling down her cheeks. She leaned forward and hugged him. "We lost this one, Jack. Let's win the next one."
"I like that plan…" he whispered, holding her close.
"Master Jules?" Passepartout peered into his workshop and saw Jules leaning over a test-tube. "What is you doing?"
"Oh, hi Passepartout." Jules gave him a strained smile. "Doctor Ramsey gave me a sample of the drug to work with. I'm trying to come up with a litmus test or something similar so that nothing like this can happen again."
"Is good idea. You be needing help?"
Jules gave a relieved smile. "Yes, actually. I could use some help."
The two men worked together in relative silence for some kind, only speaking to convey instructions about their experimentation. Finally, Jules heaved a sigh.
"Something is wrong, Master Jules?"
He nodded weakly. "This whole thing feels… wrong." Jules sighed. "Like we should have done something differently. Like we should have…"
"Won?" Passepartout asked gently.
Jules nodded firmly. "Yes. Won."
Passepartout sighed and stared at the young man. Time for one of those hard lessons in life that you never wanted the young to learn, but that they eventually had to. "Miss Brenna is saying… 'Sometime the dragons be winning,' Master Jules. This time the dragon is winning."
Jules sighed. "It doesn't seem right."
"Is not. But is life." Passepartout sighed and looked down at the sample of drugs in his hand. It had just turned red under a drop of liquid from the beaker that Jules held in his hand. "Next time, the White Knights is winning."