“So, what do we do now? Is there a plan?”
“More of a hopeful strategy. We thought if we did a psychic intervention, calmed him enough, we might get him to see reason. But we haven’t got enough strength among us to get past his walls. We thought, you’ve known him longer, deeper, have been through so much with him.”
It hit me, what she is asking, demanding really.
“I can’t. Look at me. There’s not much left.”
“That’s why we have to restore you first.”
I busy myself re-lighting the fire while she goes on. There’s a facility with appropriate resources for de-toxing, rebuilding, perhaps renewing, a fallen agent. It’s in the mountains, secluded, far from here. She would arrange the transport.
“I see that you have secured this place from both conventional and psychic surveillance. We’ll be safer with you here. I’ll be back for you soon.” I feel her warm embrace as she departs.
Then, another, colder, one. Nerice had followed us back here last night and kept her presence hidden while Calinda was updating me.
“I can help you,” she implores.
She still wants in.
“I can protect you while you heal. Then, there will be two of us to bolster each other in battle.”
“No, I have to deal with Reag, myself.”
“What about the real enemy, the mercs, the ones you’ve been hiding from? What if Calinda doesn’t return?”
It’s getting dark. I’m running low on firewood. I heat up some stew and choke it down. Best to be well fed before a battle. Who knows when I’ll have the chance to eat again.
I want to be out, walking off this nervous energy. I try going through old martial arts exercises, but I am clumsy, out of practice, musculo-neural pathways degraded by drugs. Calinda has been gone far too long. The fire has died. I am dark and cold, scared, undecided as to what to do.
Nerice was right. The mercs are the real enemy. With my memory back, I am more vulnerable to being found by their empath agents. I can’t stay shielded in the hole forever. Maybe I should go to Reag — better to be killed by a friend than the enemy.
“I can help you.” Nerice’s predictable insistence.
Why am I so afraid to let her in? Maybe she can help.
I close my eyes and see the raw, raging sickness of Reag’s mind. Maybe I can help him. If we could join together again, against the mercs …
Nerice is dead. No one will be looking for her. Maybe she can help, if my will is strong enough to stay in control once we are joined.
She sees me wavering.
“I do have enough assorted pills to sleep through a very short future,” I warn her.
I am so cold. I set my body twirling, turning all that fear into warmth.