Alex woke from her sleep with a start, jolting from the blessed sleep and into the blinding pain of reality. God, did that hurt. She could tell it was night, there was one light in the tent, but it was sliding.
She rolled away from it with a moan. A hand touched her arm, not pulling her back to the light, but just letting her know it was there.
“Alex,” it was Maya. “Alex, you need to take a drink of water.”
“Please,” Alex shook her head, her eyes shut tight against the pain that knocked on her frontal lobe. “Don’t make me do anything.”
“It won’t be much,” Maya’s voice was low and soft, coaxing her like a scared animal. “Just take a sip. It’s even a soppy water bottle. Don’t open your eyes. Just take a sip.”
Alex took a sip, the cool water feeling amazing against her throat, but made her treacherous guts twist when it hit them. She retched, trying to keep it down. She couldn’t. Maya handed her a bucket. Bile burned her throat as her empty stomach heaved and she lay on her stomach.
She whimpered as she lay back down on the cot.
“We left David, didn’t we?”
She whimpered again, putting her hands over her face. It didn’t work, her hands were too hot, the cot was too hot, the tent was too hot, the air was too hot.
She pulled at her shirt, which was drenched with sweat. So were her pants, at least, she hoped it was sweat.
“Here,” Maya was proffering a clean shirt. White and cold and clean and dry.
Leo dispensed with propriety and stripped, wiping herself down with the baby wipes Maya handed her. They must have had aloe, because they cooled her skin, at least for a little bit.
Clean gym shorts, a white tank, and a fresh ponytail and deodorant. She started to feel better. She tried the water again, taking it slow, and she kept it down.
“Where are we? And where is everyone else?”
“As far as we can tell,” Maya folded the clothes she had dig through and put them back into the bag. “We are in Nice, France, with the Resistance. The others are getting dinner in the mess hall.”
“France is controlled by the U.N.” Leo felt her heart speed up. “It's one of the most heavily patrolled countries in the world. How in the hell are we safe here?”
“I don't know!” Maya threw her hands up in the air. “They are completely exposed here! There is no reason for the UN to not wipe them off the map!”
“So we are fugitive exposed on a beach in the most heavily patrolled nation in the world, guarded by idiots.”
Maya flipped open her tablet with its keyboard, punching the buttons on the screen and calling up a video streaming service.
“At least their WiFi is semi secure. At least, according to Leo.”
The video streaming loaded quickly, and popped straight into a story. It was something inane, a video that had gone viral three weeks ago that the broadcaster had only just picked up on.
Alex drank more water, finally finishing the small bottle. Maya handed her another and a packet of graham crackers. Alex munched and half listened to the tv, lost in her own thoughts.
David wasn't here. She'd tried to get him out and Piwitti had taken him from her, again. And it made her blood run icy hot and her stomach twist and her hands shake…
She was staring down a scope, watching a motorcade raise dust in a red desert. Her hands were completely steady. There was no radio in her ear, no authority over her, just a mission outline and a gun. It was only her out here. She'd sat on this hill for three days, not eating or sleeping. And her hands were steady.
She adjusted the zoom on the scope, flicking into a tighter shot. She could see right through the polarized windows, the head of the man whom she needed to end. She took a deep breath in, let it halfway out, and squeezed the trigger.
She resurfaced from the memory. It wasn't like coming up from a deep dive into a pool. It was more like waking up after someone finished trying to choke you out with a garrote.
She caught a name on the stream, Maya was staring right at her, her eyes wide. Alex shook her head and tried to pay attention, making a note to write down that last memory.
“… Miss Albers was the personal assistant to the Director of the C.S.D.; Linda Piwitti. Piwitti is in New York for a presentation and was on a plane at the time of death. If anyone has any information, the I.J.S. is asking for any information that could lead to this investigation.”
“Her assistant is dead?” Alex’s heart dropped into her gut. “Wasn't she the one we saw at the headquarters? The one Sam flirted with to get you the files?”
“Yeah.” Mays's voice was raspy and distant. Her eyes were dead as she stared at the screen. “I thought she was cute.”
Alex stood shakily and sat on Maya's cot, wrapping the girl in her arms. She hoped she didn’t smell too bad, not that Maya would mind in the moment.
“Piwitti killed her, didn't she?”
“Yeah. Or had her killed.”
“What in the world would make her do that?”
“Amity knew too much, probably.”
“That fucking sucks.”
The tent flap opened behind them and Maya broke the hug. Ray and Sam were coming in, bringing trays of food, Leo right behind them with plastic cups filled with soda.
“Dinner!” Same said cheerily. “If you can stomach it, it will probably just block you up later!”
“Sam is far too excited to feel like he’s back in the military.” Leo shook her head, handing the clear soda to Alex, the vibrant green one to Maya. She spotted her sister, then and crouched.
“We just saw on the news that Piwitti’s assistant has been found dead.” Maya shook her head. “Her brake line got cut and she drove right off the side of a cliff into the water.”
“What,” Sam gaped at the girls. “The actual fuck?”
“I know!” Maya shouted back. “You freaking flirted with her! And now she's dead.”
“No!” Alex blinked. Sam had that look on his face.
“You two are becoming a THING, aren't you?”
“No!” Alex felt her chest decompress as Maya shouted the words in unison and her heart sink. Why? Why did her heart sink. She wasn't a lesbian… was she? Oh shit, she might be.
“You are!” Sam pointed back and forth between the two girls. “I can tell!”
“No you can't! And no it's not!” Maya was obviously getting frustrated.
“Oh my god,” Alex stood, her hand pressed to her heart. “Are you a psychic, Sam? Can you read my mind? Am I turning into a, gasp, lesbian?” She actually said the word “gasp”, and threw her hand to her head as she said “lesbian”.
“You can sit there and deflect all you want,” Sam flopped onto his cot, opening a package of red licorice. “I see what's happening here.”
“You're an idiot, Sam.” Maya shook her head.
“But an observant idiot.”