Lex stood in the park’s center, beneath a clearing in the trees that made her visible to any possible angle a sniper could have in the buildings above. It was a show of strength and lack of fear; even Calista wouldn’t be so stupid as to take a shot before Rachel was secure. Beside Lex, stood the captive with her hands still bound, looking none the worse for wear. She rubbernecked the building-tops with a furtive glances and fidgeting nerves. She’d never seen anyone murdered, didn’t care to start now. All the same, Lex stilled her with a word.
“Stop,” she instructed sternly. “You will be fine.”
Rachel was adamant, almost begging at light-speed, “Look, I know who you are. I knew when I saw you. If you let Calista move her men into position, they’ll kill you! You don’t need to seek revenge. You’re smart, talented. Don’t die over some petty grudge.”
Lex’s eyes met Rachel’s. With a shuffle of fabric and metal, Lex drew a sword from her back, brought down. Rachel swallowed hard. The blade met the binds on Rachel’s wrists, cut them free. She nearly fainted as the sword fell to its downward-point, joined soon after by the other.
“I told you; if I’d wanted you dead, you’d have died in your bathroom,” Lex said as she faced the forward area.
Rachel rubbed her wrists, “Alexis, don’t do this.”
Lex’s eyes narrowed, grip on her blades steady, “Don’t call me that.”
“Please,” Rachel argued. “I see it in you. I know you want revenge for your parents, but it wasn’t Calista that did this. It wasn’t any of the people you’ve killed or plan to.”
Lex’s tongue was acidic, her eyes forward, “Quiet. They’re coming.”
Protest perched on the edge of Rachel’s lips but her eyes followed Lex’s. Calista appeared in gleaming heels and jet black, silken skirt and blouse. She followed the downward slope to the central garden with a saunter that owned the place, was above it. Undoubtedly her sniper’s were already in position, but she made no inclinations toward them. Instead, she stepped, one foot before the other over the soft clicks of heels on earth, stopped just out of reach of Lex’s blades.
Smart, but not smart enough. Lex smelled her fear, a terror that said perhaps the snipers weren’t enough. If only she knew.
Calista’s face finally emerged from the shadows thrown cross-wise from old, dirty flood-lights and Tokyo’s general aura. The lines and bags of her eyes had doubled, expertly hidden by more make-up than any woman should own. Somewhere beneath all the cover-up and faux-toned blush was a good-looking woman, albeit aged. The beauty was as lost as any claims she had to mercy.
Calista recognized Lex with a serpent’s smile– wicked and cold, “Alexis Thorne, murderer. I knew they should have never let you out.”
Lex was quiet. Rachel begged, “Calista, don’t. We don’t need more blood. Leave.”
“Shut up, Rachel,” her sister barked, eyes locked on Lex’s. “The whole world’s seen what you did to Li and Kay. They had to clean Li’s intestines off the side-walk with a shovel.”
A corner of Lex’s mouth tensed smugly, “It’s a good look for him, if you ask me.”
“No one did,” Calista countered. “In fact, no one knows it was you. Not officially. So whatever message you meant to send is lost.”
Lex’s head gave only the smallest tilt, barely visible, “The people don’t need a message, they need a wake-up call.”
“And you believe killing me will do that?” Calista condescended.
“Among other things.”
“Rachel,” Calista said, eyes never leaving Lex’s. “Go. There is a car waiting outside the park.”
Rachel refused to move. Lex finally cast her a look, affirmed with a nod. Rachel began to inch forward. She was just past Calista when a single shot rang out through the park. In a blink, Lex was in the air, blades spinning with her. Calista breathed; the shot was off. Something had happened to the sniper team. She should have known, prepared. In a flash, she had a pistol out. Lex landed her front-flip just as the gun leveled on her. The blades went up, in. The woman’s body hunched forward, half-suspended. The gun fell from a limp grip.
Lex snarled an inch from Calista’s face, “You should have stayed hidden.”
A sound of bone crunching gave way to a gasp. The blades spun a quarter-circle, wrenched through organs and ribs, slipped out with a river of blood. Calista fell to her knees, crimson flowed from her mouth, down her chin. She slumped sideways, dead.
Rachel was frozen, had turned in time to see the gun slip from Calista’s waist-band and everything after. She hurried toward a Japanese maple, fell to all fours and vomited. Lex stooped down for a clean swath of Calista’s clothing, wiped the blood from her blades. She rose, sheathed the swords, then made for Rachel near the tree.
The newly singular twin fell sideways, her back against the tree. She wiped her mouth, couldn’t bear to let her eyes grace her sister’s corpse ahead. It was too much. She’d been a twin her whole life, and now, she was nothing. She and Calista were even closer than sisters could be. Every important moment of their lives had been shared. Now she was dead. Rachel was alone.
Lex knelt beside Rachel with a metal flask from her coat, “Here.” She unscrewed the top, “It’ll help. Trust me.”
Rachel couldn’t think. She took the flask with an autonomous movement, downed the pungent liquor inside. It was something old, vintage, nothing like the synth-ahol they made now. More than likely Lex had raided an old distillery, or even someone’s basement. All the same, it warmed Rachel, settled her nerves enough to think. It was good; Lex needed Rachel to think, but rationally, not emotionally.
Her voice was calm, softer than normal, “Listen to me Rachel; you’re in shock, but it’s important you listen.” Rachel nodded autonomously. “Good. You only saw this because Calista ordered her people to kill me with you still around. She had no intention of honoring the deal, trading herself for you. She was ready to risk your life for her own. I’ve no doubt if it truly came to it, she’d have chosen herself over you. Somewhere inside, you know that. Accept it. Now is the only time you can. You’re going to be angry soon, at me, but at her too. You’re going to wonder why she did this. The truth is, it was because she was selfish. Nothing more.”
“Sh-she… was my sister,” Rachel breathed.
Lex leaned in carefully, “And that meant much more to you than to her, Rachel. Accept it.” Lex rose, straightened, “You have a choice now, one no-one can make for you, but that you must make soon. You can come with me, help me fight the Collective, or you can return home. If you do leave, you have to accept that any protection Calista’s kinship afforded you is gone. More than likely, the surviving members of the Collective will have you arrested and interrogated. If you know anything about their methods, you’ll know it’s torture. I can offer amnesty. They’ll offer treachery. The choice is yours.”
Lex turned away, began the walk back across the garden for the shack they’d occupied. As much as she’d been wrong to kidnap her, Lex’s predictions had been accurate. Combined with the obvious logic in her assertions about the rest of the Collective, Rachel saw little recourse but to follow Lex. Otherwise, she’d be subjected to more, unimaginable horrors than anyone had in decades. Whether or not Calista had done so out of malice, or sheer ignorance, Lex was right; she’d risked her sister’s life for selfish, self-preservation. It wasn’t a stretch to believe she’d have sacrificed Rachel entirely if it came to it.
As difficult as it was to admit, her sister had been ready to kill her to live. The only real choice left now was whether to put her anger where it belonged; on those that had turned her sister into a sociopath. The Collective might as well have put the blade in her themselves. They’d rotted away Calista’s mercy, innocence, and more importantly, her compassion. Were it not for their influence, the world might be better off. Perhaps Lex was right about that too.
Rachel took another swig from the flask, winced at the fire it set in her mouth. She rose on weak limbs, stumbled back toward the shack. She only kept herself from falling in to it by firm grip on the door. She slammed it behind her, swayed with a sickness in her limbs and gut.
Lex watched her feet plant, back straighten, “Alright. I’m in.”