Rachel, Five Months Before Impact Day
I cackled as I shut off the connection to the computer Liz was using. I had considered not letting them know I was watching them, but it had already been a month, and they weren’t making any progress. I was starting to get anxious.
It hadn’t been a fun month. Not being able to talk to Charlie, not knowing if she was okay…
Obviously, I knew she was physically fine. Whatever damage they did to her would just be reversed. She was inviolable, after all. But I couldn’t imagine the emotional toll their torture was taking on her. She was resilient, for sure, but who knew what they could do to her over a whole month.
I was starting to feel a little resentment towards Liz and Aidan. Without them, Wendy would never offer her help to me. But they were dragging their feet, trying to do things the hard way. And Charlie had already spent a month in enemy hands because of it.
I knew I needed to spur them on, but they weren’t making it easy. Liz was easier to manipulate, because she was less intelligent, and less independent. But Aidan already knew that, and any attempt to manipulate her would be competing with him. He was the one calling the shots, after all.
How was I supposed to get to him, though? He was so careful, so calculating. The exact opposite of what I needed him to be. I needed him desperate, reckless, making mistakes. I needed Wendy to be his only hope.
“Why are they so annoying?” I asked my empty room.
Talking to myself wasn’t going to get anything done. Instead, I packed up my laptop, and headed back to Charlie’s place. I knew Aidan wouldn’t be returning, and Mark was swept up in a fruitless quest to find his adoptive daughter.
I almost felt bad for him. He was sharp, perceptive, and kind. He knew what Charlie was up to, at least in part, of that I was certain. Now he knew she was missing, and exactly the kind of trouble she might find herself in. It must be keeping him up at night.
I doubted he knew exactly what she was, but he probably knew that there was something different about her. Charlie suspected that was why he adopted her in the first place. I agreed.
In any case, he either wouldn’t be home, or wouldn’t be paying attention. I’d snuck into Charlie’s room a few times before, just to be closer to her, and he hadn’t noticed once.
It wasn’t a long trip. I snuck in the same way she used to sneak out, and settled down on her couch, legs folded beneath me. Pulling out my laptop, I tried running a program I’d been tweaking for a while.
“Here goes nothing,” I said. “Sadie? If you’re here, try talking.”
For a few moments, nothing happened. Then, a waveform on my screen expanded and contracted, and the sound of static burst forth from my speakers.
“Holy shit,” I muttered. “Progress.”
Pulling up the software’s CLI, I started tinkering with the settings. There was an awful lot to try and figure out all at once.
“Keep talking, Sadie. Sing or something. I’ll get this working, I promise.”
The static continued, and the waveform quivered and stretched. I kept tinker, and eventually, I heard a very faint, static-filled voice.
“…wherever you are…”
My heart pounded in my chest. Had I really finally done it?
“Sadie, is that you? It’s you, right?” I asked, not even sure where to look.
“You can hear me?” she replied, her voice shaking. As she talked, I kept changing the settings slightly, trying to get a clearer sound.
“Oh man, this is brilliant, even for me,” I said. “You bet I can hear you.”
“Science!” I said, then cringed. It was a little too loud.
“Where’s Charlie?” she asked. God, she sounds so frightened, so timid.
“She didn’t tell you?” I asked.
“Tell me what?”
I sighed. What are you doing, Charlie?
“It doesn’t matter. She was captured. By Vengeance.”
“Captured? Who are Vengeance?”
“A gang,” I explained. “Probably the biggest, scariest gang.”
Silence for a few seconds.
“I told her,” she said. “You know what she said to me? A little pain never hurt anyone.”
“Of course she did.”
“Why are you laughing? This is serious!” she said, her voice a strained whisper.
“Because that’s who she is,” I said. “It’s why I love her.”
“You’re the reason she’s in this mess,” Sadie said. “If you didn’t keep encouraging her…”
“You know there’s no force in this world that could stop Charlie from doing anything. She was always going to do whatever she wanted,” I said. “Besides, I liked her ambition. What’s wrong with wanting to change the world?”
“She left me alone!“
The smile dropped from my face.
“She’s all you’ve got, huh?” I asked.
“Fuck you,” she replied.
“No wonder you don’t like me. You literally can’t talk to anyone else, and here I am, taking her away from you.”
“You don’t understand me,” she said.
“Maybe not. But now I have the chance to try. Hell, if you wanted, now anyone could have the chance to try.”
More silence for a while.
“Why what” I asked.
“Why did you do this?” she asked.
“Because I wanted to be able to talk to you,” I said.
“Do I need a reason?”
“I’m nobody,” Sadie said. “I’m not even real. I’m just a ghost.”
Inspiration struck me like lightning.
“Oh, Sadie,” I said. “You’re so much more than that.”
It was hard to keep all of the information pouring into my head. Every new piece sparked new understanding, but the more pieces I collected, the more I realised I didn’t know.
“No, Sadie. Listen. You’re not just a ghost. You’re a conduit.”
“I don’t know what that means,” she said.
“Souls can’t exist outside of bodies. If a body can’t host a soul, you die. You physically shouldn’t exist.”
“It’s not just that,” I said. “You’re syphoning Charlie’s energy. That’s why she can interact with you. And it’s why you’re getting stronger.”
“How did you know about that?” she asked. “Not even Charlie knows about that.”
“Logical leap,” I said, shrugging. “Sadie, you and I both know that Charlie is something more than human. And slowly, you’re absorbing some of that power.”
Information kept surging, and my head started to ache. I closed my eyes, pressing my fists into my temples.
“Are you okay?” Sadie asked.
“Learning hurts,” I said. “It’ll pass.”
“You’re not normal either, are you?”
“Nope,” I said. “And I think I have Charlie to thank for that, too. Anyway, a mind is a terrible thing to waste, or whatever. Now that I can hear you, let’s find out what else I can do with you. Oh, and Sadie?”
“It’s such a pleasure to meet you.”