Back to Square One
an illustrated narrative
Ganymede entered the building with a casual air, not the slightest bit concerned that he seemed heavily out of place in being there. He strode leisurely to the front desk, dangling the briefcase in his hand from three fingers. "Can I help you?" asked the receptionist, eyeing him with a look of confusion on her face.
"Director Dirk Ganymede," he announced, placing his briefcase on the floor carelessly. "I'm just making a random check on the facility, to ensure the patients are being cared for according to standards."
The receptionist glanced over her calendar. "I wasn't told you'd be coming," she said, clearly unconvinced.
"Random checks," he explained gruffly. "Are you new here? Let me speak with Dr. Fischer."
"I'm sorry," she snapped, anything but. "Dr. Fischer's temporarily on leave. Dr. O'Reilly is on duty today."
"Thank you," he said, deftly drawing a gun on her. Before she could even flinch, Ganymede had shot her cleanly through the forehead.
Glancing about to see if anyone had heard despite the silencer, he flipped the safety on and repocketed the gun. Nevertheless, his heart skipped a beat as his plan of action bore its way heavily into his conscious.
As he walked around the front desk, he rifled through the receptionist’s pockets, sifting out a set of keys, with which he one-way locked the front door before tossing them aside. Returning to the desk, he loaded the directory on the terminal, skimming all of the staff on file and checking to see who had clocked in for the day.
Taking out a notepad from his pocket, he scribbled "Fischer" and the doctor's current address, plus "O’Hara" and the doctor's current address. With that, he tucked the notepad back into his pocket, double-checking how many rounds were left in his gun, then proceeding to locate everyone in the facility and executing them, one at a time.
The job complete, he opened the briefcase and removed a remote, arming the bomb inside the briefcase. He placed this bomb near the central support beam of the building before hightailing it outside, finally detonating the bomb from the safety of his car two streets away. "No hard feelings," he said. "Boss's orders."
"Darian, wake up!"
When he opened his eyes, he flinched--Alex was staring him in the face, clearly distressed. "What time is it?" he asked groggily, rubbing his eye with one hand and rolling over on his side, ever reluctant to get up from his comfortable space.
"There's been an explosion downtown!" she shrieked. "It's all over the news! Does this have to do with your gang?"
"Guh... I don't know," he mumbled, "I haven't been in contact with them in--"
An eerie feeling washed over Darian. Usually they were more persistent in locating him when they needed him, which was at least every other day, but yesterday went by without so much as a peep. Were they really fooled into thinking he was someone else, or were they merely getting careless? He had figured they would at least be tailing Alex, since they had failed to kill her...
"Wait," he suddenly realized, turning to face her again. "It's the middle of the week. Didn't you go to school?"
"They sent everyone home," she explained. "Everyone's worried that more bombs might go off, so they're doing searches of any buildings that might be suspect."
"Where did the bomb go off?"
Alex frowned. "It's weird... it's just a small health clinic, which is why no one's sure why it went off."
"They don't think it's a gas explosion or something?"
"There aren't any gas lines going through that part of town!"
"Don't you think we should check it out, to see if it may be connected?"
Darian stared at her. "What makes you think there may be a connection?"
"Don't you feel anything? Something drawing you there?"
He thought about it. Certainly he was curious, but--
--and then he felt it, the resonance that had grown louder in Alex's presence spiked, and with it a sharp memory of a young woman in pain that immediately dissipated.
"Mo--" Darian choked.
He blinked his eyes, uncertain of what he'd just experienced. "I'm sorry," he said after a moment of silence. "Still trying to wake up."
"Well, get up and get dressed," she prodded. "By the time we get down there, all the press will be gone, at least."
"Hey, wait... that's right. You want to check this place out so soon after it was bombed? What if they don't let us near it?"
"Well, we'll have to go there to see, won't we?"
Their eyes met as several tense moments of silence passed. "Er..."
"What?" Alex pressed.
Darian's ears folded back questioningly. "You were planning to watch me get dressed?"
Flushing in embarrassment, she skittered out of the room. After a brief pause, she peeked a head back inside. "...what's 13421?"
His ears perked forward anxiously, a bead of sweat forming on his temple. "Where did you find that?"
"I saw it on your back when you turned over, just below the base of your neck. Is it a gang tattoo? It looks pretty old."
Darian was quiet for some time. "That's... unusual."
"Do you know what it means?"
"Of course... I don't really feel comfortable talking about it, though."
Alex lowered her eyes. "Oh... well, I'll wait for you to get ready, then."
He hesitated even after she vanished from sight, but not out of modesty, even though it was the first time in his life that he had dared to try sleeping without full covering for his arms and legs--which he normally did out of denial of the existence of his scars. It felt good, he had to admit, wondering casually if it would have helped his prior bouts of insomnia.
Closing his eyes and relishing the comfort, he remembered the vision that he had seen shortly before she had roused him, of Alex entering the room and pausing, almost afraid to wake him... not necessarily out of fear, but possibly because she didn't want to disturb his peaceful slumber.
Was it a dream? If not, what was he seeing?
Sitting upright, he ran his fingers over the large, patchy scars on his left forearm. They no longer pained him, presumably from being given a year's worth of healing in such a short time, and even the cuts on the underside looked much less severe. It was like one of his wildest fantasies come to life, being a world away from the unfathomable torment he had endured his entire life.
If it was a dream, he hoped it would never end, as his nightmare had never seemed it would.
The downtown area was packed with onlookers, even as evening approached, all of them clamouring to get a better view of the damage. It was all the two of them could do to even get within two streets of the bomb site, and to do that, they had to go climbing rooftops again. "So much for that idea," Darian muttered, though Alex remained undeterred.
He glanced in her direction, suddenly confused by the radiant expression on her face. "Do you hear it?" she asked, in a daze. "Resonance?"
Resonance? Darian perked his ears, and suddenly he could feel resonance, in much more vivid clarity than he ever had. Granted, it was wisps here and there, as though the source of it was traveling, but he could make it out much more clearly now. What was it?
"Yes," he said, to her evident delight. "I see what you're talking about... resonance."
"Like music? Pure and flowing?"
That threw him for a loop. "No, it's more like... fragments of noise, here and there, like a jumble of every sound ever made resonating through the area in an impromptu, chaotic melody. "
Alex's face fell. "You hear something... different?"
"I definitely feel something, and it's much more clear here than anywhere else."
"The same for me... but why is it different?"
He shrugged. "Looks like we have another mystery to solve..."
They stared at the scene from their private overlook, taking seats on the building's edge. It was strange how far they had come in the past six days, from being total strangers to finding out as much about themselves as they had, even if superpowers didn't play a role in things... well, no, they did, but more as a catalyst.
"I wonder why it was bombed," Darian mused. "Was there something important there that someone wanted destroyed?"
"I bet if you restored it all, we could find out."
His ears twitched. "I could, couldn't I?" he realized. "Thing is, what would I be looking for, so I wouldn't just be wasting my ability?"
"Maybe the resonance has something to do with it... like, it would lead you to whatever it was you needed to find here."
That was definitely an idea. However, they couldn't do anything for a while, at least, until the crowd died down.
"Want to try again tomorrow?" he asked.
"How about tonight?"
"You want to sneak back here tonight?"
"Why not? It's less likely anyone will be around."
"If you insist... but what are we going to do in the meantime?"
Alex grew quiet, lost in thought, then broke out laughing.
"I bet you've never had a friendly conversation in your life, have you?"
Darian raised an eyebrow at her. "What do you mean?"
"I dunno... asking questions and answering them, or just talking about stupid things. It doesn't matter."
"Like... when you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?"
He rubbed his chin. "I didn't really think much about that when I was little. They had us on a pretty strict regimen and basically taught us to be obedient. We didn't even have toys."
"Oh," Alex said, sad, but immediately cheering up. "Well, I know what I'm getting you for your birthday, then!"
He smirked, rolling his eyes. "What about you?"
"Ah..." She blushed slightly. "It’s kind of silly, when I think about it. More than anything, I wanted to be a pilot, to fly one of those little fighter planes--not because I wanted to fight, necessarily, but because they're cool, and it would be able to take me away from all the war, all of the bad things going on in my homeland..."
"What's the war about?"
Alex frowned. "I'm not exactly sure, but my father was murdered over it... something he was working on at the time."
"What did he do?"
"He was an engineer. I understand he designed one or two of the planes for our air force, but I don't see how that made him specifically a threat."
"He didn't make bombs or anything, did he?"
She curled into a ball, rocking back and forth. "See, I don't know... obviously he had special security clearance, which meant he couldn't talk about it with anyone--even us--but he always told us that he wasn't building anything to hurt anyone. In fact, he told us that he'd hoped his designs would help everyone in the world some day."
"You're right, that doesn't sound like a bomb-builder to me."
They grew silent again.
"Your turn," Alex prompted. "Do you have any questions for me?"
"I asked you one."
"No," she teased, "you asked me to follow up my own question. That's different."
Darian rolled his eyes. "Actually, the only question that comes to mind is..."
"Why are you wearing that?"
Alex flushed at the unexpected question, glancing down at her dress. "You don't like it?"
He shrugged. "It just seems a bit strange to wear that to go building-climbing."
"I didn't figure we'd be climbing anything!"
"I kind of like your other outfits more, they seem to suit you better... you know, what you wore when we first met."
She paused, thinking it over. "I just... I felt like everyone was staring at me in my native attire. I thought wearing something more local would help me fit in."
"I guess, some. It's a lot more of what you think of yourself than what others think of you, though."
"Is that why you liked to dress all snooty?"
Darian stared at his knees, seemingly absorbed in his memories. "I was in denial... I hated myself, and I didn't dare let anyone else know who I really was."
Alex pouted sympathetically. "It's not your fault... you were bullied into being that person."
The tense silence suggested he clearly thought otherwise.
"What about kids?" she asked, to change the subject. "Do you think you'd ever want to have kids?"
"Guh," he blurted, cringing. "That's what couples talk about." As he said that, Darian noticed Alex blushing more deeply, but he couldn't quite figure out what to make of it, if his suspicions had any weight.
"It is kind of a stupid question, isn't it..." she muttered.
He laughed to take the pressure off. "I dunno, I'd just never thought about it, since I never figured I'd get married or anything. I mean, right now I don't even know if I'll be able to get a job, much less settle down with someone."
"That's true... but... what if?"
Darian stared down at the bomb site. "I don't know if I could. I see things like that happen, and I feel awful thinking that people want to bring life into such a world... but I also have to realize that the bad things aren't what parents intend to have happen--it's just what happens. I don't want to believe my mother wished this life upon me, so I have to believe the same for others.
"Still, I don't know if I could be a father. For one thing, I wouldn't be able to control my kids, because their uncle Kotaro would absolutely ruin them."
Alex laughed heartily, much to Darian's delight.
A black car approached 404 Goa Way, pulling off one house early and idling at the side of the road. Ganymede sat inside, casually observing the scene set to bulletins regarding the morning's bombing at a low volume.
"On leave," he mused, looking for signs of life, particularly in a few key locations. "No car, curtains drawn, newspaper still in the box. That must mean he's out of town, as opposed to simply taking time off at home."
"You'll just have to find him another time," said a familiar, shrill voice. "For now, focus on the others."
"Affirmative. What of the fugue?"
"That time will come soon enough, when we'll settle the score also."
"Up, up!" whispered Alex.
Oh, right, Darian thought, struggling to wake up. They had both gone to bed early, but he had had a strangely difficult time falling asleep, despite his newfound enthusiasm for cozying up in bed. His mind had kept racing to the point where he had just dozed off when Alex roused him, much to his irritation.
"The buses have stopped for the night," she said, leading him to the garage. "Can you ride a bike?"
As Alex took one, Darian approached the other--by the height, he assumed it was Sunni's. "I've never ridden before," he commented dully.
"Well, it's easy!" she chimed, grinning. "You just--"
Without another word, Darian hopped into the seat, kicking off gracefully. "Are you coming?" he shouted behind him.
Alex frowned at him, saddling hers and pedalling to catch up. "I thought you said you'd never ridden before!" she yelled at him angrily.
"I haven't!" he called back to her. "Somehow... I know how."
He was coasting along faster than she could pedal. It irritated her, but they made good time nonetheless. They arrived to find no guards and only a minimally-erected chain link fence surrounding the perimeter--that was simple enough to bypass, however. They parked their bikes some distance away, then scaled the fence without incident.
"Now what?" he asked. "Just sift through the debris until something turns up?"
Alex frowned. "You're the one with the restorative power. I was under the impression that you'd be able to find what you needed somehow."
"Oh, it's all me, is it?" he smirked. "Well, I hope you didn't drag me out of bed for n--"
The same flash snapped into his mind--a young woman in pain--and he immediately grew quiet, pensive. He shone his flashlight around, as though expecting something to hit him.
"Did you find something?" she asked, but he didn't answer her.
Darian scanned the area, taking in the layout of the building. Here was the front door--a flash of someone locking the door early to keep people from coming in. Here was the receptionist's desk--a flash of a nondescript woman being quite surprised to be shot in the head. It frightened him to have the visions he was seeing... where were they coming from?
Here were the records shelves, alphabetized by patient's last name. He scanned the area for fragments of one file in particular, not entirely certain why.
"What did you find?" Alex asked, apparently growing worried despite her initial intentions.
Perhaps he would have to dig... with a renewed vigor, he hefted a chunk of wall out of the way, then shuffled frantically underneath it for--yes! He found it, a single shred of paper. Desperate for answers, Darian watched in amazement as the entire folder reformed around the tiny scrap. He flipped it open to find the patient's childbirth records and read with greedy eyes.
"I found her," he whispered, staring at Alex in amazement. "This is where I was born."