by Michael Blakeney and Gem Lassiter
…Flashback continued from part one…
…Flashback continued from part one…
She began to trudge in the general direction of home, walking much more slowly than was usual for her. She shook her head and wondered why it seemed all of a sudden that the world had dimmed sharply down from vivid, full spectrum color to mournful, fading shades of gray.
All the faces of the people in the city blended together into an indefinite, meaningless crowd as their voices merged into one relentless, lifeless, monotonous and monotonic hum.
She hadn't gotten even to the end of the block when the incoming message signal on the small communications device she carried in her pocket began to sound.
She pulled it out, looked at the name on the transmission and sighed.
The text indicated the incoming message was from Ambassador Braylan.
Why the hell would he be trying to contact me now? She puzzled. By all accounts it made no sense.
She was hesitant to answer, thinking that Galloway may be the one sending the message just to see if she'd take the bait instead of going home as she was told.
She decided that she was going to ignore it. She turned the audio incoming message signal off and put it back into her pocket.
It was only after walking another five feet that she realized she'd also set it on ‘vibrate’ and the damn thing was still going off.
She cursed and took it from her pocket again, and as she was about to disconnect the call without answering, she had a feeling, suddenly, that Galloway or no Galloway, she had better respond.
She stepped around the side of the building before her into the alley and shielded the small screen of the device from the daylight so she could see it. She hit a button to accept the call, and she saw Admiral Braylan sitting at his desk.
"Can I help you Sir?" She asked, in no mood for games.
Braylan's lips parted, but he did not speak. Then, right before Gem's eyes, he slumped down over the top of the desk.
She gasped in horror and immediately took off running back toward the building where he was. If she hurried, maybe she could still do something to help him.
She made short work of getting back into the building, using every trick of the trade she knew in order to accomplish the feat. She raced into Braylan's private quarters and, phaser drawn, spun in a circle.
There seemed to be no one else in the room, but her intuition told her clearly and at high volume that she was still in a great deal of danger here. With no visible assailant in sight, she hurried over to Braylan. He remained just as he had been when she'd seen him on the screen, flung over the top of the desk like a broken and discarded doll.
"Ambassador!" Gem called to him, shaking him fiercely. Her first thought was that he was an old man, perhaps his heart had given out, or he'd had a stroke...
It was then that she looked down and saw his blood on her hands.
He'd been run through from the back by a long knife, and Gem recoiled as she realized that he had just been murdered right in front of her.
She let go of him and grabbed for her phaser again. Not much time had passed; the killer could still be in the building. Suddenly, a sinking thought occurred to her, and she hoped that she hadn't inadvertently ended up leading the killer right to Braylan.
What if Blakeney's purpose was to kill Braylan all along? What if he'd only used her to finish the job that he'd botched at the reception- and she had fallen for it and could be accused of the crime herself?
She wasn't supposed to be here.
She had to get out.
She turned and ran back to the emergency stairwell she'd used to get in.
After descending two flights, she became aware of the sound of footfalls rapidly gaining from behind her and realized she was not just being followed, she was being pursued.
Her feet fought to keep up with the voice in her head urging her to run faster; causing her to slip as she rounded a turn. Finding she'd lost her footing and that gravity would show no mercy, it seemed inevitable she'd fall.
Instead she felt grasping fingers grab at her hair before clamping down on the back of her shirt. She growled as her unknown attacker first yanked her back forcefully and then pushed her forward, slamming her face first into the unforgiving concrete wall.
She managed to turn her head to the side at the last possible second, escaping a broken nose with the motion but instead causing the force of the impact to be felt along her temple and cheek.
Her hearing instantly disappeared on that side, and as she felt blood, warm and wet running down her cheek.
She realized there was no way out of this.
Her attacker was so much larger and stronger than she was, and her phaser seemed to have disappeared.
She accepted her fate, closing her eyes and feeling certain that she was about to become the second victim of Braylan's murderer to die today when she became vaguely aware that someone was shouting her name.
Blakeney's voice echoed in her head and up through the expansive, open stairwell.
"Let her go!"
He tried to get a clear shot, but feared hitting Gem in the process.
He rushed her assailant and pushed the masked and darkly clothed being off balance momentarily. Gem, dizzy and disoriented from the blow she'd taken, struggled to figure out which way was up. She knew the voice that had called to her, but for an instant she couldn't place it.
Her heart began to pound as she realized that the man who had come to her rescue just now, and who was still struggling against the individual that had nearly killed her, was Michael Blakeney.
"Michael," Gem murmured, as she slumped against the wall, sliding down it to the floor.
Quickly the attacker had regained control of his balance and launched his assault back at Blakeney.
As adrenalin charged its way through his veins, Michael's face clenched down from its usual jovial manner to one of cool determination. The man who cared so little for rules or regulations, who'd scoff at his teachers if he thought he knew some better way, suddenly found every lesson and every second of his combat training surging back through his mind and it one fluid motion spread though his limbs.
Rapidly the enemy's hands flew toward Michael's neck. Blakeney blocked, knocking the masked man's arms to either side, which left both his own arms guarding his face.
Before Michael had a chance to correct the situation the assailant's hands moved at incredible speed towards Michael's own sidearm.
The attacker reached his target and gripped it tight but with his left arm Michael latched onto his opponent's hand, throwing it away from him with enough force to make it release the phaser and send it flying into the distance. At the same time he brought his right arm around above hoping to lock the enemy's neck in his grip.
Yet his attacker anticipated what he was doing. He dropped his head, avoiding the lock, and making use of the fact that both Michael's hands were busy and unable to block, he drove his fist at full force into Michael's stomach.
Michael almost staggered backwards from the blow and the assailant took advantage of his momentary lapse. In that instant as Michael fought to regain physical stability, his opponent seemed to weigh a decision.
Through the mask Michael could make out an expression comparable only to confusion, before the man chose to turn and run.
"No, you don't." Michael said with the slightest of wheezes as he regained solid footing and began his pursuit.
The stairs loudly creaked as the assailant's heavy footfalls propelled him up towards the roof. He was fast but Michael was faster, and the masked man was almost in the reach of his grasp.
Michael expected him to turn left, to continue up the stairs, but instead he turned right on a course straight towards the edge.
He didn't stop, just jumped straight off. Then in one quick motion, landed himself down on the level of stairs below.
Michael doubled back, running down the stairs after him but he arrived just in time to find a locked door slammed in his face and his opponent on the other side.
"Son of a..."
Quickly he tried to override the controls using the panel beside it, knowing all the time the killer was getting away.
Eventually, but not soon enough for his liking, he got the sequence right and burst through the door.
He saw a dozen possible exits from this room but not one indicator of which the killer had taken.
Finally, Blakeney realized that it was over, at least for now.
Ambassador Braylan's murderer was gone.
He returned to Gem to find her drifting in and out of consciousness, still on the floor and up against the wall.
He looked her over carefully to be sure that she wouldn't realize just what he was doing, and decided that she was too out of it to notice or to remember even if she did open her eyes.
Certain it was safe to do so, he pulled a small device from his pocket and pressed it up against her cheek.
It hummed softly, and she moaned slightly as he slid it up and over her temple, repairing the worst of her injuries.
She would now be left with what he would convince her was merely a bump on the head and a sore cheek; when in fact a few minutes more and if he hadn't done what he'd just done, she may never have opened her eyes again.
If he'd arrived a moment later during the attack, she would already have been dead.
That prospect bothered him greatly. Much more than he would have ever believed possible just twenty-four hours ago.
He found himself reaching out to touch her face where the bruise had been when she suddenly opened her eyes. He fumbled momentarily to get the device in his hand back into his pocket as she tried to speak.
"Careful now." He urged gently as she struggled to sit up straight. "You've had quite a day so far."
"He’s dead. I know. I found him before I found you."
As what had transpired began to come back to her, Gem fought to speak clearly. She suddenly remembered that, as grateful as she was that he'd just saved her life, she was also furious with him.
"Where did you go?" She groaned, forced to lower the tone of her voice as her own words hurt her head.
Noting that she was still in pain Blakeney pulled a hypospray from his pocket and pressed it to her neck. After a moment, the pain began to subside and she sighed gratefully.
Finally, she was able to open her eyes fully and focus upon his face, which she was surprised to see was wearing a look of genuine concern.
"Better?" he asked, the hint of a smile curling the edge of his mouth.
"Mmm. Thank you."
After another moment of silence and just when Blakeney started to relax a little, she reached up and grabbed him by the collar of his shirt.
She yanked as hard as she could, pulling his face closer, to within mere inches of hers.
"Hello." He laughed softly, at first thinking she wanted to show her gratitude. Soon though he discovered that she had no such plans in mind.
"You vanished!" Gem fumed. "You left me to take the fall with Galloway. He told me that you don't exist. That there IS no Agent Blakeney! Who the hell-"
"Of course Galloway told you that." Michael said, the easy, charming smile returning to his lips as he waved dismissively. He gently extricated himself from her vice-like grip and prepared to try to get her to her feet.
"What do you mean, of course he told you that?"
"He couldn't admit that I'm still on the case, not in front of Braylan." Michael explained. "Braylan wanted us all to be suspended after the first attempt was made on his life. Idiot. If he'd just left us where we were, he'd still be alive now. Well, I guess no one ever said that politicians were particularly brilliant-"
"But," Gem was still uncertain she should accept this simple, and simply convenient answer from him. She was torn between wanting to believe he was who he said he was and the voice in her head that told her that he was not what he seemed. "I thought we were going to work as a team. Do this together."
"We are doing it together." Michael replied, gently pushing her up the steps, standing behind her with his hands on her shoulders to be sure that if she got dizzy again she would not fall. "Come along, Gemini. We've still got a hell of a lot of work to do today."
Lt. Commander Michael Blakeney
//// Gemini Lassiter
Director, The Alchemy Project
Lt. Commander Michael Blakeney
//// Gemini Lassiter
Director, The Alchemy Project