Liz, Six Months Before Impact Day
“What happened to your leg?” she asked, the moment she saw me.
“Accident,” I said.
“Right. You, uh okay?”
We looked at each other, awkwardly. I’d never seen her so frazzled, and for just a moment, I felt a pang of pity.
“Charlie’s missing,” she said.
“So you were watching her tracker.”
“I set up an alert if it stopped transmitting,” she said defensively. “Ages ago.”
“You were checking too?”
“She’s been gone for hours,” I said. “We were worried.”
“I take it you’re looking for her?” she asked.
“Aidan is. I’m…”
“Useless?” she offered.
“If it helps, I know where Charlie is,” she said.
She sighed, looked around, and lowered her voice.
“I don’t want to talk about it here,” she said.
“Then why didn’t you just come up?” I asked. “Do you have some problem with Aidan?”
“He’s dangerous,” she said.
“He’s really not.”
“Fine, whatever,” she said. “I still don’t want to be around him.”
“There’s an apartment on the third floor that isn’t occupied.”
“How do you know that?”
“I’m good at figuring things out,” she said vaguely.
“And how do you expect to get in?”
“You think a locked door is gonna stop either of us?” she asked.
Without waiting for an answer, she got up and started walking to the elevator. I hobbled after her, still frustrated by my lack of mobility. She held the door for me.
“You know you need a keycard to get to—” I began, but she waved something in front of the scanner and hit the button for the third floor. The elevator started moving. “Right.”
“Basic magnetics,” she said.
When we got to the third floor, she led me to apartment twelve. I watched as she effortlessly picked the lock, impressed by her brazenness if nothing else. Within seconds, we were in.
“You’re a natural born criminal,” I told her.
“Poverty will do that to you,” she said with a shrug. “Blame capitalism.”
The apartment was largely empty, so she set up a laptop on the kitchen counter. I stood, trying to ignore the pain in my leg, as she loaded up what she wanted to show me.
“As soon as she disappeared, I tried hacking into city infrastructure,” she told me. “Unfortunately, Melbourne doesn’t have the level of omnipresent traffic cameras I was hoping for, so my original plan of just following the car via video didn’t work.”
“I tried writing a predictive algorithm based on the type of vehicle they’d have needed, the time of day, and possible locations to take her, but I didn’t have enough data.”
“Can you just skip to the point?” I asked.
“Charlie likes it when I explain my process,” she muttered. “Fine. Using a combination of technical genius and general investigative brilliance, I narrowed down the location, then sent out a drone to confirm it.”
“Of course you have a drone.”
“They’re not exactly hard to build,” she said. “Anyway, the good news stops there.”
“Because we’re never gonna get in,” she said. “Vengeance have set up their base of operations in a decommissioned military bunker. It’s underground, heavily fortified and guarded by ex-military gangsters who are armed to the teeth.”
“Charlie would love that,” I said idly.
“She’d probably love it a lot more if she weren’t a prisoner,” Rachel snapped.
“So here’s where I need your help,” she said. “There’s no way I can get Charlie out of there alone.”
“You think I can help?” I asked. “I mean, I’ll obviously do what I can, but even if I wasn’t injured, I’m not exactly…”
“I need you to think about this like an assignment,” she said. “A job. I can provide schematics, external footage, predictions based on likely defensive patterns. I can probably build tech to get through most major obstacles. It might take us a little time, but… Well, that’s the one thing Charlie has.”
“You know I’ve never actually assassinated anyone, right?”
“I know you’re trained and you have the desire to save Charlie. I was hoping that would be enough.”
“We should get Aidan’s help,” I said. “He can probably get us more information about what’s inside, and resources—”
“You realise he’s just as bad, don’t you?” she asked. “He’s using Charlie, using all of us.”
“He’s building his own gang.”
“It’s an information network,” I insisted. “It’s what we need.”
“I can’t tell if you’re naïve or just have a warped perspective,” she said. “But fine. For Charlie, I will work with your boyfriend.”
“He’s not my boyfriend,” I snapped. “I’m not even…”
“Straight? Whatever, I don’t care.”
“Do you hate me because you’re insecure?” I asked.
“I trust Charlie,” she said.
“That’s not a ‘no’,” I pointed out.
“I’m not that petty,” she insisted. “Do you really want to have this conversation?”
“I want to save Charlie,” I said. “Neither of us like each other, but we do need each other.”
“Fine.” She sighed. “You’re more attractive than me, you’ve known her longer, you have such a close friendship, she doesn’t have to lie about you. Her friends and family clearly adore you. Am I jealous? Sure. But I don’t hate you for that.”
“Just say it,” I said.
“You’re rich, spoiled, and you act like you’re better than me,” she said. “You live in a mansion and go to a fancy school because your parents are literal murderers, and you have the gall to look down on me. You act possessive of Charlie but won’t support her. You don’t even really understand her, but you think you have some right to her affection, and some entitlement to her trust. You think you can dictate her actions based on your own moral code, your own values, but most of all, when you met me you acted like a possessive girlfriend instead of welcoming me.”
“Is that it?”
“You make me uncomfortable,” she said. “I don’t feel safe around you.”
“Great. Do I get a turn now?”
“Knock yourself out,” she mumbled.
“You’re reckless, you enable Charlie’s incredibly destructive behaviour, you encourage and abet criminal activity, and yes, I know how hypocritical that sounds. You place your relationship with her above my friendship with her, and expect priority in all things. You act so smug because she confides in you, and instead of trying to help her, you act like you’re the only one on her side. You manipulate her into trusting you, and pushing us away. You hold me responsible for the crimes of my family, but won’t apply the same vindictiveness to yourself, and worst? I think you might actually be a sociopath. You’re definitely a narcissist.”
“Well,” she said.
“Feel better now?”
“Surprisingly, yes,” she said.
“Actually, me too.”
“Great. Let’s go talk to your boyfriend,” she said.
Next Week: We Could Make A Difference Together