She crouches delicately next to me, removing the deathly mask, her golden hair cascading over her shoulder. There's a confidence in her features that I must have missed before – either that or she was covering it very well. Taking up my gun, she tosses it across to the edge of the roof.
“I'm really sorry,” she says in a patronising manner. “I truly am.”
“You... you've had this planned the whole time?”
“Well, most of it,” she admits, removing her glove and stroking my sweat-soaked cheek with the back of her bandaged hand. “There were some alterations I had to make, what with you being so persistent, but that just made it all the more fun.”
“You did that to yourself?” I rasp, gesturing to her injury.
“It had to be real,” she says, determination hardening her features. “Otherwise you wouldn't have trusted me.”
“You stole the device – the time-machine?” I ask, my chest heaving painfully.
“I wouldn't say 'stole',” she chuckles. “The doctor stumbled upon the discovery – he didn't have the capability to make use of it. I merely 'took command' of the project and made some useful modifications.” She shows you her other hand, revealing a small piece of tech strapped to her wrist. “No need for all that bulky targeting equipment when you've got this.”
“How – ” I begin, but the woman cuts me off, placing a finger lightly on my lips.
“No more questions – you don't have the strength. Just relax. It'll all be over soon.”
She stands, walking away towards the door. Even now, on the verge of death, I can't help but watch the way those hips gyrate as she walks. I bet she used them to full effect on the doctor. She opens the door, turning to face me.
“I couldn't have done it without you,” she purrs, revelling in the mockery as she disappears through the doorway.
I lie back on the roof, blood leaking from my chest. Black mist crowds in from the eaves, my vision submerging in darkness. Time to die...
- x -
The light in the interrogation room is giving me a headache. I've already drained one plastic cup of stale water – don't think they'll give me another one. Got much better treatment in the hospital.
“I don't think you're telling us everything,” says one of the detectives with a frustrated tone.
“I've told you everything I know,” I say. It's a lie; I've told them everything they're likely to believe. If I start talking about time-machines and that sort of junk, they'll just get angry.
“I'm fed up with this,” says the other cop. I vaguely remember him finding me the rooftop – seems like a lifetime ago. “Let's let the CygNet guy have a chat with him.”
The CygNet guy?
The detectives leave the interrogation room, locking you inside. I lean back in the chair, taking a deep breath, then wincing as I'm painfully reminded of my recent injury. Gonna be hard to get out of this one.
The air flickers in front of me...
Looking down on the metal desk, I see an item on the smooth surface. It's got a note attached to it, reading, “when you've finished using it, place it back on the table.”
- x -
Doctor Morris smiles at me, confident and relaxed. He looked a little more flustered when I had him pinned up against the office wall.
“So... do we have a deal?”
I look back at him blankly.
“Will you help us recover the data and equipment?” Morris asks.
“Maybe,” I say. “Can I show you something first?”
Morris looks confused. He chuckles nervously. “Um... OK?”
I place the tiny voice recorder on the desk, clicking 'rewind' and then 'play'. The conversation repeats itself with crystal clear clarity.
“So you believe it was a time-travel device?” says my voice.
“Yes,” replies Morris' voice.
“Is that the opinion of CygNet Research too?”
“And you believe that I'm just a pawn in all of this?”
“We accept that you aren't to blame – you acted in self-defence on all occasions. We want to find this 'assistant' of Obadiah's.”
I press the 'stop' button. Morris glowers at me, his face reddening. He lurches forward, swiping for the voice recorder. His fingers close around thin air as the object vanishes. The scientist roars with anger, jumping to his feet and striding round the desk towards me, throwing a vicious fist into my face.
“Tell me where that recording is or I swear...”
He punches me again, my nose cracking under his rage, blood running down my face. Blinking through the pain, I smile triumphantly.
“I don't know where it is, but I do know one thing; it will probably be quite easy to find if I die or stay locked up, because it'll be all over the news. 'Top scientist believes in time-travel' – good headline, huh?”
Another punch punishes my obnoxiousness, this time directed at my stomach. Thank goodness it wasn't a little higher.
“Everything OK in here?” One of the detectives stands in the doorway, staring stonily at Morris.
“Yes... I was... just leaving,” says Morris, the anger and bile spilling out of his words. He knows he's been beaten.
“Let me show you out,” says the detective, an order rather than an offer.
I roll my head back, trying to staunch the flow of blood from my nose. I guess she really was thankful for my help.
- x -
They release me before the end of the day. I walk out onto the street, wondering whether the blonde is watching me at this very moment, but also feeling invigorated Time to live. Time to value every second. But first, I need a drink...