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Chapter 52 – This Is Some Real Conspiracy Theory Shit

Liz, One Day Before Impact Day

Six months, and we weren’t any closer. Six months of one plan after another failing. Everything we tried seemed to almost be sabotaged. Either that or we had the worst luck in the world.

“What do we do?” Aidan asked, pressing his forehead into his desk. “What else is left?”

“I could try to get in,” I said. “If anyone could…”

“It’s a slim chance, and if you get caught, you die.”

“And if I don’t, we’re out of options,” I retorted. “So fine, I might die. I probably will. But at this point, it’s all we have left.”

“No, it’s not,” he insisted. “If you die, Charlie loses the best chance she has of ever getting out.”

“So what do we do, then?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

“Do you think Rachel’s making any progress?” I asked.

“I think we’d know,” he replied. “Whatever else she’s up to, she does care about Charlie. She’d do anything to save her.”

We were pretty sure we’ve managed to lock her out of all our systems, but with Rachel, it was impossible to be sure. We always made sure never to be too careless with what we discussed, just in case she was listening.

“What would Charlie do in this situation?”

“Exactly what you just suggested,” Aidan said with a sigh. “Rush in and cause a mess.”

“I don’t think so,” I said. “She acts reckless, but I don’t think that’s who she really is. She’s… clever.”

“Not clever enough to keep her from getting caught,” Aidan muttered.

“I said clever, not infallible. But it does make me wonder.”

“What, you think she got caught on purpose?”

“I didn’t say that,” I insisted. “But I don’t want to completely ignore the possibility.”

“Why would she possibly want something like that?” he asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe she thought she could take them out from the inside. Maybe she’s gathering intel. Maybe she wanted the drama. Who knows with her?”

“Okay, let’s assume she did,” he said. “It would stand to reason that Rachel would be in on it, right?”

So much for being careful.

“Most likely.”

“So what does Rachel want? What is she pushing us towards?”

“She’s pretty keen on getting Wendy’s help,” I said. “But she’s also been minding her own business for months now. Mostly.”

“She interfered with that assassination,” Aidan pointed out. “Who knows what else she’s pulling the strings on.”

“But why?” I asked.

“Because there’s only one thing she wants,” Aidan said. “She wants us to go to Wendy.”

“But Wendy already refused to help.”

“Because she doesn’t trust Rachel or Charlie,” Aidan said. “But she doesn’t have a reason to doubt us. And if we’re kept in the dark, she won’t see through any deception or ulterior motive.”

“This is some real conspiracy theory shit,” I said.

“That’s what we’re reduced to,” he muttered. “It’s all we have left.”

“But it doesn’t help,” I told him. “It doesn’t get us any closer to saving Charlie.”

“I guess I’m starting to wonder if we should be saving her.”

“What?”

“I don’t like being a pawn,” he said darkly.

“You don’t know that you are,” I retorted. “And besides, even if we are pawns, even if Charlie is pulling all these bullshit strings that you think she’s pulling… Does it really matter? Would you really abandon her because of that?”

He looked at me, defiance shining in his eyes. Then he deflated.

“No,” he said. “Of course not. I’d do anything to save her.”

“I won’t say I’ve never questioned it,” I admitted. “Some days, I wonder why I even…”

“Love her?”

“Yeah.” I sighed. “I mean, it never really felt like a choice. She’s just this… You just have to, you know?”

“I know,” he said. “I can’t tell you how long I’ve felt…”

He trailed off, and I knew why.

“You can say it,” I told him. “We’re so far beyond judgement right now.”

“She’s supposed to be like a sister to me,” he said. “But I…”

“It’s not healthy, is it?”

“No,” he said, without needing to think about it. “But it’s too late to do anything about it now.”

“Maybe this is just what love feels like,” I said.

“I don’t know,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like that with… uh…”

He shook his head, and turned away from me.

What?

“Aidan?”

“Forget it,” he said. “We have more important things to talk about.”

“Aidan, if you’ve got something to say…”

“It’s stupid,” he mumbled.

“Aidan.”

“Come on, don’t act like you don’t know,” he said.

“I really don’t,” I promised.

“Then let’s just forget about it.”

“After all that build up?” I asked. “Not a chance.”

“Uuugghh.”

“Aidan, we’ve spent six months with nobody else in our lives, desperately trying to find our best friend. Do you really think there’s anything you can’t say to me?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Why?”

“You don’t even like me,” he said.

“What?”

“You never did,” he told me. “Charlie was the only thing that kept us around each other. Even now that she’s gone, she’s the only thing we have in common.”

“Do you really believe that?” I asked.

“Am I wrong?”

“…Maybe it was like that one,” I admitted. “But you have to know it’s different now.”

“I don’t know that.”

“Aidan, you’re the only person in my life that knows I killed someone. Three someones, now. What could you possible have to hide that’s worth than that?”

“I love you,” he said abruptly.

“Wh-what?”

“I know, I know, I’m pathetic,” he said. “Just another sad white boy who falls in love with every girl who’s nice to him.”

“Charlie was never nice to you,” I said, and he laughed.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t want to make this… You know. You don’t even swing that way.”

“According to who?” I asked.

“Well, Charlie is…”

“You’ve never heard of a bisexual?”

“Wait, are you—”

“I never really thought about it,” I confessed.

“Right.”

“You’re special to me,” I told him. “Of course I love you.”

“What a delightfully weird triangle that forms.”

“I’m gonna be honest, I never really thought of you as the, uh…”

“Yes?”

“The loving type,” I said.

“Wow.”

“Not like that! Just like, in that way. Charlie being the obvious exception.”

“Oh,” he said. “Yeah, no, I know what you mean.”

“You do?”

“It’s all very confusing, alright? It feels different to me. It’s supposed to be normal, but I never really wanted anything to do with it.”

“What’s ‘it’ in this context?” I asked.

“Any of it,” he said. “Dating. Sex. For a while, I thought I was gay, because I wasn’t interested in any girls. But I wasn’t really interested in boys either. Or anyone else.”

“So, you’re like…”

“Asexual,” he said. “According to the internet, anyway. “And maybe aromantic? I don’t really know. Like I said, it’s weird. And I guess I’ve fallen in love twice, so…” Just then, his phone rang. “Now? Really?” He answered, and his eyes widened. “Alright. We’ll be there.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“That was Wendy,” he told me. “She wants to talk to us. Tomorrow.”

“You’re kidding.”

“She sounded upset,” he said. “Something must have happened.”

“Should we go?”

“I think we have to,” he said. “This could be the chance we’ve been waiting for.”

“Or the beginning of a trap,” I said.

“It’s a risk I’m willing to take.”

I sighed. “Me too.”

 

Next Week: Impossible Is Her Bread And Butter

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