There's a knock on the front door. I race down a flight of stairs, yank it open and find myself face to face with a killer. It's Krycek -- Alex Krycek. They sent the best. I suppose I should be flattered.
A minute of uncomfortable silence passes. Krycek seems to be waiting for me to do or say something, but frankly I have no idea what.
"I'm here to see the room," he finally says.
"Sorry," I reply automatically. My voice cracks, and I clear my throat. Krycek smiles benignly. His slightly bored expression betrays nothing at all. Of course I wouldn't expect it too.
"I forgot you called," I say to cover for my confusion. I can't let him know I recognize him. "Come in. The room's upstairs." I point the way. I don't want to turn my back on him, but he politely refuses.
At the top of the stairs I blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, "I have to get an application," and dash into my room. There's no phone, and no way out, so I go directly to my night table and take out the lock box. My hands are trembling so badly that I drop the tiny key and then can't find it on the flowery bedspread for what seems like ages. Finally the box is open and I draw out the contents. I'm afraid I've forgotten how to load it, but the clip slides in smoothly. I tuck the gun into the back of my jeans and conceal it under my sweatshirt.
"Where's the application?" asks Krycek when I come back.
"What?" Oh. There are no applications. "I couldn't find one."
"Oh well," he shrugs.
"Yeah...oh well." I shrug too, and the gun pokes into the small of my back.
I unlock the vacant room and wave him inside. This time he goes first. I pull out the gun.
Krycek looks over the room. It's not much -- just a bed and a desk with a rickety chair. There's a shared bathroom down the hall. It doesn't take long for him to see everything there is to see, but my arms are already aching. Finally he notices me, still standing in the small entryway, with the gun aimed at his chest.
He looks surprised and instantly alert.
"What's this?" he asks.
"I know why you're here," I say. It's just a whisper. I'm the one holding the gun, why don't I feel more in control?
"I'm just here to see the room," Krycek gently assures me. His voice is calm and steady as if he's talking to a crazy person.
"I know who you are," I say. I've seen his file. I wasn't supposed to, but I had computer access, and I used to be a very curious young woman.
As soon as I say this, Krycek transforms himself. Gone is the smiling, harmless man who's looking for a place to stay. Here is the cold, dangerous killer. Even his voice changes.
"The safety's on," he murmurs. And it's persuasive...seductive.
As soon as my attention is diverted, Krycek is moving, reaching for something inside his jacket. There's a flash and an explosion. I land on my ass, out in the hallway. The room is filled with the hazy smoke of a gunshot.
It takes some time, but finally I realize that I haven't been wounded.
I get up and cautiously walk back into the room. Krycek is on his back on the floor. I can only see his feet; the bed hides the rest of his body. I move closer and realize ... there's blood everywhere. Soaking his shirt. Pooling on the linoleum floor. A tiny fountain of blood pulses in his chest with each heartbeat. The pulses get farther and farther apart, then finally stop.
I look up and see that a few tenants have gathered in the hallway and are peering in through the open door.
"He had a gun," I say as I bend down. I gingerly search Krycek's body, find his gun in a shoulder holster and pull it out.
"Stupid bitch," Krycek whispers, his eyes flying open. "I was only here to see the room." He makes a little coughing sound. Blood fills his mouth, and his expression becomes panicked. After a few desperate minutes (or was it only seconds?) of trying to breathe, the body is still once again.
I hold out the gun like an offering. My trembling hands are covered with Krycek's blood. A droplet slowly slides from my fingers. I watch its liquid freefall, transfixed.
Oh my god.
What have I done?
The blood splatters on Krycek's dirty leather boot and glistens unnaturally.
My chest burns. No, that's not right. That doesn't even begin to describe the sensation. It's everywhere, all at once. Internal and external. A million microscopic surgeons repairing damage, cell-by-cell, that shouldn't be repairable.
When I came to after having my arm cut off, my very first thought -- after I stopped screaming -- was how am I going to get it back. I know about a lot of experiments, a lot of alien tech. There had to be something that would work for me. So when I found out about the nanobots, I thought, this is it. Of course there was some risk involved. If anyone found out, I could be controlled like that poor bastard Skinner. But take it from someone who knows, nothing could be as bad as being taken over by that oil, and even that was not as bad as the daily fear of living as a one-armed assassin. So I helped myself to a syringe-ful of the tiny medical miracles. A few months went by, and nothing happened. No growth. No sensation. Nothing. Well fuck me. Take a chance like that and it didn't even work.
Then the Tunisians were tipped that something was up. A couple of months in the bridal suite of their deluxe desert accommodations were all I got for my troubles. Fortunately it didn't occur to anyone that I had infected myself, otherwise my stay would have been even more unpleasant.
I wrote the nanobots off. I figured all they were capable of was destruction, not repair. Until today -- the day I died. I've been in enough morgues to know one when I smell it. So unless this is some kind of weird fucked up version of hell, I was definitely dead. But not anymore. That doesn't mean it's stopped hurting.
I'd scream, but I can't seem to suck in enough air. They must not be done with my lungs yet.
Florescent light hits my face and I roll, instinctively seeking cover. I land in a naked heap on the floor of the morgue. When I look up, one white-coated lab assistant has passed out and the other one is turning an unnatural shade of green.
"Where are my clothes?" I demand. I want to get dressed and get out of here before she either starts puking or pulls herself together enough to call somebody.
She points to an evidence bag on the table. My clothes are wrecked. Everything is soaked with blood. And it all comes back. The gun. The pain. The fear of knowing I was about to die. And then more pain. The pain of being reborn. I can handle pain. But fear...never again.
I pull on some surgical scrubs and grab my arm. Looks like I'm still gonna need it. I can only speculate, but I'm guessing the nanobots must think this is the natural state of my body.
"If a hot red-head from the FBI comes by to ask questions about the body that got up and walked away..." I say to the nauseous lab assistant, "...tell her Krycek says hi."
She nods, then loses the battle for her lunch, and I take that as my cue to leave.
Maybe this is hell. Maybe I've damned myself. I can't imagine anything worse than living on this planet after colonization and not being able to put myself out of my misery with a quick bullet to the brain.
No... if this is hell, then I'm the devil.
And those aliens better stay the fuck out of my way.