Arc 2: Ἠλύσιον πεδίον

Chapter 8: Taylor Hebert, Wolf 1061.


Countless shape descended from the sky burning down everything in their path.

I woke up screaming.


It was surreal.

Here I was on a front row seat to admire the incessant ballet of spaceships coming and going from the station, eating my second breakfast in space, croissants, of all things, with a cup of steaming black tea, in my personal apartment whose lamest pieces of furniture was more expensive than Dad's whole house.

Nonetheless, the food didn't quite manage to bring me out of the turmoil inside my head, the breathtaking spectacles just beyond the window couldn't breach the wall foreign memories had raised in front of my eyes, and the peaceful atmosphere of my apartment wasn't able to cut off the haphazard flow of information that could be randomly brought up by pretty much anything and anyone. Chief amongst them was Jana, with each meeting, call, and even thought and unsuspecting object enough to trigger a memory, sometimes like a first-person movie, overtimes just a few sentences in the winds, and sometimes just an emotion, the lingering feeling of a hand on my shoulder.

She was The Illusive Man second in command, mine now I guessed, she was also a secretary, offered second opinions, directly oversaw multiples scientific projects among other duties... But she was also someone Jack would have been sharing a laugh over stories of departed friends, around a bottle of wine at an evening dinner after a long day of work, before returning right into the thick of things. They were friends, and not a whimsy friendship won over a drink and forgotten a day later, no. A bond born of twenty years of a long relationship as colleagues, in sharing some of the deepest and darkest secrets in the Galaxy, in working tirelessly for the betterment of Mankind.

I was utterly disgusted by what I understood of the fragmented glimpse of Jack's own actions, towards someone he had considered a friend.

In short?

He had been her Emma, and thus, so was I.

To find myself in the reversed position of being the bonafide uber bitch that betrayed her best friend? It was a revulsing thought, one that left a gaping hole in my chest.

And yet, she hadn't treated me with anything but care and gentleness each time she had come over to check up on me. It worsened the ravine between the foreign guilt I felt over actions I hadn't committed but of which I inherited the consequences and the almost desperate need for human contact she gave freely to a starved girl.

A long drawn out sigh escaped my lips as I finally put down the croissant I had been nibbling for the past half-hour absentmindedly.

"She is going to berate me again isn't she?" I said softly to myself, a small hesitant smile on my lips as I looked down at the barely touched breakfast.

With a flick of my wrist, I activated my omnitool, and after some hazardous moments lost in the menus, I barely had any contact with cell phones since mom died and I jumped straight for the high tier space phone, sue me, I finally managed to ping my guards.

"Such small a thing" I whispered idly, eyes lingering on the soft orange glow of the holographic display over my forearm and the thin bracelet that projected it. They were something out of a thinker dreams; cheap to produce, with little maintenance needed and highly versatile in application. The thing even had a microfabricator if what I gathered was correct!

While imagining Armsmaster slashing a surprised Kayser in the face with an omniblade was one thing, I could also perfectly picture firefighters scan injured peoples before administering first aid or my father working at his desk with it. A sudden burst of memories of dad grumbling against our home computer more than once because of one thing or another slipped at the forefront of my mind and let a genuine laugh flew from my lips.

"Hum okay, mayyybe not dad then."

The pounding stride of boots on the floor coming from the corridor killed my mirth instantly, as one of the very first things I had learned about this place was that I could only talk as Taylor with Jana, I couldn't risk being seen as anything else but The Illusive Man by everyone else. Drawing from what I gleaned of how Jack acted as The Illusive Man from his memories I redressed my back, steeled my face and crossed my legs in a posture I hoped relaxed "TIM approved" as I deactivated the omnitool in another flick of my wrist. Not a second later two women silently walked into the room, both armored and helmetless.

The first one was petite and muscled, with short blond hair flanking a heart-shaped face that could pass as "cute as a button" if not for the deadly serious expression she arbored every time I saw her. The other was tall, slender and carried herself with grace, her long black hair held together in a ponytail on top of a round face whose eyes always seemed to take wonder in everything.

"Fort, Queen." I acknowledged them as I crossed my hands on my lap before turning my attention to the space beyond the window feigning interest into the coming and going of the ships.

Queen took the trail on the table and made her way toward the small kitchen in the corner of the room without a sound, quite a feat considering her size and bulk.

"Do you require anything else, Ma'am?" She asked matter-of-factly.

Turning my head slightly in her direction and looking at her in the eye to show her my undivided attention, I raised my arm and pointed at the bathroom in a movement I wanted aloof and firm, the petite woman passed behind my wheelchair and quietly pushed me towards it without further prompting.

Not being able to move freely is a chore I hoped to never had understood but with my legs having been mauled by whatever monsters when I ran away during the nightma...

No. the word slipped away, hard and uncompromising, I could feel my nails digging into the palm of my hands. My wheelchair suddenly stopped halfway towards the bathroom as Fort stilled abruptly and I felt more than I saw a confused Queen turning to look at me.

"Ma'am?" Shit! I said that out loud didn't I? Quick brain think of something!
From the back of my mind, short strings of memories emerged, making me blink in surprise. Could I actively summon memories? What? No wait, it was probably a fluke... let's see... How do I ping my guards with my omnitool? A single memory emerged this time, showing Jack calling up one of his phantom in a few deft movements. OH. MY. GOD. HOW DID I MISS THIS?

Before I could suffer from an internal meltdown, a hand hesitantly shook me out of my reverie.

"Ma'am, are you alright?" Fort's asked, her omnitool at the ready, while a concerned Queen slowly let out my shoulder out of her grasp.

"Uh? What? Yeah, just... thinking..." Well go on Taylor, break character would you, I'm sure you're going to appreciate being spaced. I looked at them, they looked at me. They looked at each other than at Fort omnitool. I cleared my throat, they looked back at me. "I am fine, thank you for your concern, carry on." Queen's worry melted from her face as she smiled broadly and left while Fort resumed helping me getting to the bathroom.

As soon as I heard the door close behind her, my body slumped into the wheelchair, and a long drawn out sigh escaped my lips while I let my head fell into my hands dejectedly.

"And everything was going so well... Fuuuuuuck." I moaned.