APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 7 August, 2001


Another New Beginning

Buji Kern

[NOTE: This story concludes Buji's piece from Volume 3, Number 4, Apparently I've Done this Before. -Ed.]

Arran woke up with sunlight on his face, the rays shining through a set of partially closed blinds. For a brief moment he couldn't remember what he had done the night before, just that he had a splitting headache, which probably indicated heavy drinking.

Then it came back to him, the list of events he had experienced in the past 8 hours sounding like the worst tri-d flick he had ever seen. The guns, the mysterious woman, his past life as an assassin, the trained killers that blew up the bar-the bar! They blew up the bar! Mamoud, would anyone ever believe him? He wondered exactly when he decided that he believed this whole story himself.

Probably when the shooting started. And it was strange how he knew how to shoot a pistol in combat, when he couldn't remember ever shooting a gun before. He was sure he remembered Joon, too. Somehow.

After trying to make more sense of the past night, he realized he wasn't sure where he was. The last thing he remembered was Joon taking him to an apartment, but he didn't recognize the room he was in. It was surgically clean and almost completely bare. The only décor was a cheap lamp and a selection of general-interest magazines.

Must be the guest room, Arran thought. He found his clothes neatly folded next to the bed, which was actually a Mandanese-style futon. He dressed and cautiously exited the room. It opened up into a large apartment, with a panoramic view of downtown Port Oasis. The rent had to be extravagantly high. The apartment was tastefully decorated in a Mandanese style, with low tables and pads for sitting on the floor. It also looked like no one lived there.

"Nice, don't you think?" Joon was standing behind him, having noiselessly entered the room some time before. "I can't stand Republican art, so I buy all my things when I'm in the Dominion."

Arran turned to face her. She was wearing faded fatigue pants and a short leather jacket, and her hair was drawn up in a bun.

"You know, I'm sure I must have known you before. When I was an agent," Arran said. Joon smiled sadly and brushed a stray strand of hair away from her face.

"Well, I should hope you remember me a little bit. We talked about marriage once. Your name was Sasha then, by the way. I'll keep calling you Arran for now, for simplicity. Anyway, we decided against it, because our careers meant we were rarely together. Then, we started talking about 'retirement'-on our terms, without brainwashing. Escaping. We were going to escape at the same time, but we were assigned to different sectors at the same time, so we couldn't flee together. We were going to meet at my parents' home in Ngorongoro.

Unfortunately, you didn't make it, and the SRID retired you. At least they didn't kill you-they must not have known of your plans. I waited at my parents for a week, before I realized that you weren't coming and furthermore, the SRID had begun to track me. I disappeared before my family was endangered. I assumed that you were dead. I mourned for you.

Then, a few months ago, I happened to pass through Port Oasis. I saw you working in that bar. I made sure that you didn't see me... I'm not sure why. I didn't believe that it was you. I arranged for a few of my contacts here to find out what they could about you. Eventually I realized that it was you, and you had probably been deprogrammed by the SRID. I was overjoyed that you were alive, and began to plan a way to free you from SRID 'retirement.'"

"So that's why you put yourself at risk for me," Arran said. She nodded.

"Do you believe me?" She asked.

"I... I don't know what to say," Arran said quietly. She looked at him intensely, but kindly. Somehow he felt that had known her for years, which, if she was telling the truth, he had. He had an overwhelming feeling that he could trust her. He decided to follow his intuition.

"Yeah, I believe you. So what do we do now?"

Joon looked relieved.

"Well, I could probably hide you in this city. I'm a higher-priority target, so I have to keep going. You can stay here or come with me. If you come with me, it will be nothing like your current life. I never stay in the same place long, and everything I do is so careful it seems beyond paranoid. Not to mention that I can't do anything without being armed to the teeth. It's your choice."

Arran hardly had to think about it. His current life was empty, a series of sleepless nights haunted by psychotic dreams. He had never forged any close ties to anyone in Port Oasis, hardly owned anything-he was almost eager to leave.

"Let's go," he said.

She grinned, and kissed him. She had a distinct, sweet smell and taste that was both new and familiar, and incredibly exciting.

"The first thing we need to do is get out of this city. I'm pretty sure they don't know about this apartment, so we can leave safely. Some friends of mine are taking a hopper to Mekong City this afternoon-it's an ambulance, so we can get on it without going through the normal channels. From Mekong we should probably head to the Badlands for a while. Then we can lay low while your memory comes back-the flashbacks will be pretty traumatizing for a while, but then you'll be fine. I'm so glad I have you back."

Back to APAGear II Archives

APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 7 August, 2001