One Month Before Impact Day
“There’s no threat, Gabriel,” Haylie said, as soon as the others were out of earshot.
“I know,” he said, which surprised her.
“Then why did you pull me away?”
“Because I need to ask you something, and I can’t ask you in front of anyone else,” he said.
She trusted his instincts and his intellect more than she trusted anything else in the world, even her own sensory data. Even still, she was cautious, not sure what to say to him.
“Has this ever happened before?” he asked, and immediately, dozens of flagged processes began to feed into her awareness.
“Yes,” she said, the realisation only just dawning on her. “I didn’t…”
“Has it ever happened before we found Exxo?”
“I don’t… Yes,” she said. “It’s not Exxo. It can’t be.”
“Okay,” he said. “I trust you.”
“It is very concerning, though,” she said.
“Exxo might not be the cause, but they are related,” Gabriel said carefully. “We still don’t know what they are, or even the full extent of their power.”
“I trust them,” she said, with a trace of defiance.
“Ami and Kaito described two strange presences,” he said. “Something came here, something powerful enough to disrupt your sensors—”
“Not my sensors,” she corrected. “My memory. Like it was erased.”
“So you saw it happen? You heard it?”
“I believe I did,” she said. “But I have no record of it now. It would be different if the sensors had been disrupted or blocked.”
“Even more unlikely,” he mused. “That goes beyond something even Mason could create, or a creature like Damien could manage.”
“Ami and Kaito described the sensation as nostalgic,” she reminded him. “It may not be relevant, but I believe I can identity similar incidents in my history even before Mason’s birth.”
Gabriel laughed darkly.
“It’s easy to forget he isn’t the source of everything evil in this world,” he said. “I wish I understood half of what he did, or why.”
“I wish I still had access to that data,” she agreed.
“Could Exxo be a sleeper agent?” he asked. “The persistent amnesia, the inexplicable power…”
“Without even realising it?” she asked. “It would break their heart to even consider it.”
“There’s so much we still don’t understand,” he said, frustrated.
“Would you like to?” a third voice said, surprising both of them. It shouldn’t have been possible to sneak up on either one of them, and yet…
They both turned to see the young girl, a girl who bore a striking resemblance to Alice, sitting on some invisible surface, floating above the ground. Haylie couldn’t believe who she was seeing.
“You’re dead,” she said, struggling to process it.
“I sure am,” the girl said. “Did you miss me?”
“You’re the original,” Gabriel said. “Mason’s real daughter. The reason he created Alice.”
“Ugh, don’t get me started on that,” the girl said, rolling her eyes. “That man is not my father. Not after everything he’s done.”
“How are you here?” Haylie asked.
“You know, as much as I’d love to answer that, there really isn’t a point,” the girl said. “You can’t remember any of this. It would ruin everything.”
“Why even have this conversation, then?” Gabriel asked, as Haylie desperately tried to replicate and back up her memory files.
“Because you’ll remember. Eventually, anyway.”
“What are you?” he demanded.
“A Guardian,” she said. “Think of me like an Angel, only better. Actual Angels are… well, that’s not important right now.”
Haylie just kept created more backup redundancies, determined to save this conversation, in spite of the impossible girl’s claims.
“What do you guard?” Gabriel asked.
“Everything,” the girl replied. “Reality, mortals, even aberrations like you.”
“Fine, be cryptic,” Gabriel said. “What do you want with us?”
“You have a very important role to play,” she said. “Even more than the others.”
“You’re going to help Charlie,” she said.
“You’ll know when you need to know. She’ll be making an antidote for Mason’s affliction. You’ll contribute.”
“Why?” he asked, through Haylie knew Gabriel would give anything for an antidote.
“So that in another seventy years or so, all of the pieces I need are in place,” she said. “Look, I know you like to think of yourself as very clever, but you just don’t have the field of vision that I do. Don’t even bother trying to wrap your head around it.”
Layers upon layers of encryption, files on servers disconnected from everything else, copies fragmented and split apart. Haylie would not lose this conversation.
“You’re prescient,” Gabriel said.
“Kind of,” she said. “Though it’s easier to say I just don’t see time the way you do. Like I said, field of vision. Anyway, you’ve got your instructions. You can forget this conversation now.”
With that, she disappeared.
Haylie and Gabriel looked at each other, uncertain of what had just happened.
“Did it happen again?” he asked her.
She checked. She checked again. She scoured every possible place she knew of to hide files, every location she might stash a memory, or even a part of one.
“Yes,” she said. “It’s all gone.”
Next Week: You Really Do Think You’re The Centre Of The World