Skip to content

Epilogue

Brought to you by Ben Wray

“Okay, what about exceptions?”

“I need your exceptiona-” but then Kay’s rudely interrupted.

“Notimetoexplain!” Mario grabs her and spacetime rearranges itself in a flash of light. They’re just in time for the closing words.

“Omnia mutantur, nihil interit,” solmenly quotes Toe. “Death is but a door, time is but a window…”

“Is he quoting Ghostbusters 2 or 8-bit theater?” asks Jake, but Dylan kicks him, hard, and he shuts up.

Everybody’s there. Zach, Rob, Asuka’s doctor, Zaganza, Shelly, your favorite character not already mentioned… everybody.

Then Millicent’s paw thrusts triumphantly out of the ground suck it Brendan I win forever.

Zach

“Littleford’s dead, isn’t he?” says Zach. “Guess I have to find a new job.”

“Not necessarily.” She rubs her buzz cut. “I, um, inherited the business from him.”

“Oh,” says Zach, parsing that. “Oh! So, is Phalanger your mom’s last name, or–”

“It’s not anybody’s name, Zach.”

“I knew that,” he says.

“The guys at the agency, they may… object to me taking over. I could use a lieutenant. Somebody tough. Somebody like the man who killed Hidebound.”

A pause; the plane’s engines are singing.

“I just did the website,” says Zach.

“Not anymore,” she says, and kisses his unscarred cheek.

Zach

Zach is only just off morphine when they deport him.

In a fugue and handcuffs, he nods in response to dour questions in Hungarian. He spends sixteen hours in a cell, touching the bandages lightly. He thinks about Sara.

On the plane, the Vulpine Phalanger sits down next to him.

“Oh,” he says.

“Hey,” she says. He’s never seen her in civilian clothes; she seems younger. “I know a little about scars. Want me to take a look?”

He shrugs.

She peels back the gauze, and she is kind. She purses her lips.

“Those,” she says, “are going to look badass.”

Zach

Everything is hot and slippery. Zach’s eyes sting. This is a stupid thing to notice.

Unsilenced gunshots have done what their screaming couldn’t, and summoned the cavalry. The doctors and techs and security guy look scared, but they’re working fast. It’s okay, Zach wants to tell them. The bad man’s gone.

Sarah’s trying to control the situation even as they haul her off to surgery; that’s what Sarah does. The little girl is crying. They’ve injected his face and it’s all rubbery, but as they wheel him out Zach touches her shoulder.

“Zach,” he mumbles.

“Mirna,” she manages.

Fade to white.

Zach

Instead, Hidebound steps forward and picks up Zach by the throat. Sara scrambles to her feet. Hidebound shoots her in the knee. She goes down again, screaming between her teeth, but no one in the hospital wants to hear. Shouldn’t the nurses handle that?

Hidebound grinds Zach’s face into shattered fruit bowl on the floor. It’s glass. Zach’s screaming too, until Hidebound finally pulls him upright with the silencer to his cheek.

Vode, molim,” mumbles Zach through bloody lips.

“What?” says Hidebound.

The little girl sweeps aside the curtain, snarling Croatian curses, and pulls Zach’s stolen gun from between her pillows.

Zach

“Everything that’s happened was my fault,” says Sara.

“No,” says Zach, “it’s mine,” and feels a dizzying tilt to the world with that admission. He leans over to steady himself on the bedfoot, which is why Hidebound’s bullet burns his ear in passing on its way to spiderweb the window. The zweep of his silencer is somehow inappropriate.

Zach, for once, doesn’t scream.

Sara spins with the nearest available weapon, a fruit bowl, which shatters on Hidebound’s head. He shakes off blood and throws her at Zach, who sort of catches her. They fall.

Hidebound resists mightily the urge to monologue.

Zach

Zach pulls the curtain back between their beds and turns around and Sara’s there in a hoodie, tired and smiling, her face not so different from the photo he first saw in the dossier.

The beeping pulse monitor on his finger takes a long pause, then restarts in triple time.

Sara glances over at it in startlement; Zach yanks it off. “Uh, hi,” he says. He’s suddenly very aware of his brief white gown. Did he last see her a day ago? Did they only meet the day before?

“Hi,” says Sara, whose eyes, she knows, must be full of guilt.

Zach

“This thing seems busted, huh?” says Zach, clicking the call button. “Man, Europe.”

The girl finishes her water and hands him the glass. “Ti si nježan idiot,” she says agreeably.

“You’re welcome,” says Zach, unsure about that last word. She puts one hand on her pillow, one beneath it, like a child in a picture book.

Sara steps into the hall from the stairs, pocketing lockpicks. Visiting hours are definitely over, but there’s no one here to catch her. Odd.

Yards away, Hidebound finishes strangling the second of the on-call nurses. Room 503 has been buzzing. He decides to attend.

Zach

It takes Zach hours to realize he has a roommate.

Vode?” croaks the little voice behind the curtain. He can hear a clicking call button, but nothing’s happening. “Vode, molim.

Zach gets up and shuffles over, feet curling on cold tile. “Hi?” he says. “You need something?”

A grumpy little girl looks up, big eyes dark and hollow, a wide bandage across her torso. “Vode,” she mutters, and gestures to a carafe.

“Oh!” He pours her a glass of water; she drinks with both hands. Then she smiles.

“Listen,” says Zach. “I hope it’s clear I shot you completely on accident.”

Zach

Night, and the demonstrations in Budapest have peaked and begun to decline. The summit leaders will be gone by morning, in private jets and motorcades; the kids in black are straggling home.

Sara’s agents have tracked down Zach. She leaves István to his grief and comforts. Nasser is on a jet of his own, but he’s left Hidebound with a new sense of purpose. The bleeding has stopped and he’s got a fresh clean high.

Sara and Hidebound set out in the dusk, hooded and alone, in converging directions.

They are going to the hospital.

They are going to say goodbye.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.