Cutscene: Artemis And Apollo
Anise Thompson kept her schedual tightly regimented. It was the only way to balance life as an 'ordinary' girl and a highly paid international assassin. The only way to truely have free time was, paradoxically, to schedual it. The weekends were, of course, more free by design, but her weekday schedual was often so tight that a flea could not fart in it an make an appreciable bubble. An early rise, then morning pilates before a quick shower and a robust breakfast. Off to school to feign normality so as to keep better track of the KDA's principle leaders. Afterwards, it was more dedicated information gathering on individuals. Three days a week, she hopped on a train to Lunarvale to be debriefed, give reports, file paperwork, and personal firearms practice. Homework was done on the train. Some days were ever worse then that, crammed with unforseen complications such as alterations to realities fabric or the sad need to heal from injuries attained 'on the job'. She loved it, though. Field work was her calling, even if the breakneck pace was imperceptibly grinding away at her.
But Anise Thompson always, every single day, took fifteen minutes before bed to sit in a comfortable chair and read her letters from home.
In the beginning, there were letters every day. Anise had personally insisted on them instead of texts or phonecalls. A letter was something tangible, that could be held on to, read, re-read, and cherished for years. When the homesickness set in, a letter was a comfort by the candlelight, but a text message was a jarble of slang and abbreviations to keep the phone bill down. Practical, but devoid of thought and true meaning.
But the letters slackened off, as time and distance brought about a steadied routine. Relatives were the first to slacken their writing. Then the more distant friends, before even the inexorable press of life caused the close ones to write only irregularly. Of them all, only Gracie Frederickson still wrote each and every week. Sweet, needy Grace. Her dearest friend.
Anise slipped her letter opener under the folded envelop and ripped it open with the same delicate care with which she wielded her skinning knife in a fight to the death. Her iPod completed its playlist and kicked up 'The Fires of Calais', to which she sung along quietly, by reflex more then by concious thought as she unfolded Grace's most recent missive.
The mirrors had surrounded Anise, as they had everyone pulled into this bizzare sub-section of a bizzare sub-dimension. The portal to the DVA System and Maki was so close, but blocked by those horrible mirrors which showed a person reflections of what others saw them as. With her own condemning face, hidden behind the masks and costumes of superheros, looked on disapprovingly, she battled one of them made manifest to slow her down. Herself, looking as she did when she was twelve, and standing in her path. And dressed, for some reason, like Sailor Moon. Anise had blamed the subconcious psychic influence of the locals tainting the reflection.
'--and if this heat doesn't die down soon, mother's rose bushes are simply going to die! Though when I see them wilting like that, it reminds me of the time that you and I and those two... well, you know what happened! I miss you, Neecie. I've been spending more time with Maggie lately, and I can tell that she misses you, too."
'I've killed you once before, little girl.' Anise had sneered at her doppleganger. This was the best that the mirrors could produce after all the trickery and deception? She almost spat in disapproval, but checked herself as that would be debase. 'And this time, you don't have 'Apollo' to cling desperately to, 'Artemis'.' It was brief. Out of everyone in the world, the person best aware of the strengths and weaknesses was Anise herself. The younger clone had its left foot impaled to the floor with an arrow within thirty seconds, robbing its mobility away.
'--I do wish you would reconsider spending another semester in Japan. I've asked around and it is highly irregular. Think about what you're missing back home, Neecie. You know you've got a good shot at prom queen, and you won't even graduate with us. Is a second year of study abroad for your college applications really worth missing all of that?'
'You're not me!' The Sailor Anise declared as the real one advanced on her to finish what she begun. Always quick, never cruel. Just like father taught. 'Just who are you, anyway?'
'I am not you.' Anise agreed with the reflection of her past self. 'You,' she declared, the words coming easily. 'Are a mask. I am what was beneath it.'
'--We all miss you. The school year wasn't the same without you. We all knew it. It was just that much more common, or ordinary, or dull. I don't know what to call it, but without you school wasn't the same. But I miss you the most of all. Please reconsider, for me? I know its selfish of me, but you've always been like a sister to me.'
'Was I really worth throwing away?' The reflection asked, eyes wide and fearful. 'Isn't it sad? An impossible dream is better then no dream at all!'
But Anise agreed with the pathetic thing as her bare hands vised at the twelve year old's head. She said something to it that she later forgot, but at the time she remembered her trip to India. How her father told her that during the East India Company's pacification of the land, the Sultan's men had Jettis that could kill by driving an iron nail into a man's skull with the palms of their hands, or twist their necks so far as the victim would be able to see his own back before he died.
Anise slowly applied the pressure, keeping her dissection of masks, justice and injustice, et al, going just to by time. How had the Jetti's done it? This was only a twelve year old but the muscle resistance was phenominal. But Anise could hear a scrap. A dull, slow scrap and she knew it to be the precursor to something snapping. Bone.
'What happened to us?' The reflection cried, with tears streaming down its cheeks moments before the sickeningly satisfying snap that ended its false exsistance. Anise dropped the dead husk to the ground like a sack of barley oats.
'I grew up.' Anise replied with neither pity nor mercy.
'--I think you're hiding something and it eats at me. My best friend, my sister, might need me and she's so far away that I can't even tell. You've done so much for me over the years, but I'm helpless to do anything for you now. I don't know what it is, but I don't care. However horrible it is, Anise, however bad, I'll always be there to support you. And maybe I'm just imagining things and maybe I just miss you so badly I'm making up reasons to do ti, but I've convinced mum and dad to pay for the plane tickets. I'll be flying out to join you for the rest of the summer on Friday. Whatever it is, we'll get through it like we always do, right? You and me.'
"Love, Gracie." Anise mouthed silently as she lowered the letter to dab at the faint moisture in the corner of her eye. Poor, simple, stupid, wonderful Gracie. "Well." Anise breathed out, folding the letter over to store it neatly in the manila folder she kept all of Grace's letters in. "I'd better set out the spare bed."
"Apollo is coming."