Enemy of mine
Fuck you like the devil
Beautiful and evil
I'm a ghost, you're an angel
One and the same
Just remains of an age
30 Seconds to Mars
Her name was Zelda.
He didn’t remember meeting her. She had always been in his life, a constant since he’d been in diapers. She was one of the first ten Psions, one of five girls who’d had her genes twisted and manipulated before she’d even been born. The Terra Corp scientists had grown her in a tube to be the closest to perfection that a human could be, and then they’d fired electricity through her brains to see if they could make something that was better than human.
She was beautiful.
She was also flawed.
She had come out of the tube blind in one eye. At some point between her programming and her birth, a small anomaly had occurred, and her right eye had been pale and sightless. They promised to fix it when she got older, but their first priority was the Heinlein project. So they strapped her into the chair like all the others and danced arcs of lightning across her brain.
Out of all of them, she was the strongest telepath. She cracked minds open like eggs, spilling their yolks out into her thoughts where she could do what she wanted with them. She learned to block her thoughts before the rest of them, and Jesse could never get a good read on her. She was a mystery to him, because she shut everything out. He could hear the others easily, and he figured they could probably hear him half the time as well. There were almost no secrets when they were younger.
Zelda was the only one with secrets.
She knew he was in love with her before he did.
She called him on it when he was sixteen, in between training sessions. She stopped him in the hall with one soft hand on his shoulder and he smiled when he glanced back at her. He always smiled when he saw her. She made him forget the other people around him, made him forget where he was going and where he’d been. “Hey Jesse,” she said “are you going to kiss me or what?”
He stared dumbly at her for a long time.
Then he kissed her.
She made him clumsy and sloppy.
He was supposed to be paying attention to the man at the front of the room. He was pointing at a smart board, finger drawing blue lines and connecting circles of information to each other. The man wore a rumpled suit and his glasses kept sliding down his face. He kept pushing them back up with one hand while pointing at the board with the other.
“The theory behind it is that the quickest way between point A and point B is not a straight line, it’s absolute zero. If you create a fold in space, then you can pass straight from A to B.” He clasped his hand together and turned to face the class that was full of kids who were full of hormones and adrenaline and had already spent the last eighteen years of their life being taught all the information that could be crammed into their brains, right next to how to snap a man’s neck and how to destroy someone with only their minds.
Jesse wasn’t paying attention.
He was staring at Zelda, who was biting her lip and scribbling something on a piece of paper.
She smiled when she felt his eyes on her and then she held up a piece of paper. He frowned and squinted trying to read the word she’d written on it and shook his head when he didn’t understand it. “Holtzman?” he mouthed. She smiled again, still not looking at him. Her lazy gaze was focused on the man in the rumpled suit and Jesse loved the tiny dimple that formed on her face whenever she made that smile.
“Jesse! Maybe you can tell us the answer.”
He was startled at the voice, and looked up at the man in the front of the class. He had his arms crossed in annoyance and his foot was tapping on the ground as he waited for Jesse to speak. He shot a glance back at Zelda and she still wasn’t looking at him, but that same smirk was on her face and felt an answering one on his. “Holtzman,” he said. “It’s called the Holtzman effect.” He almost laughed at the look on her face when she crumpled up the piece of paper.
The man in the rumpled suit didn’t miss any of it. He just rolled his eyes.
She was a goddess when she fought.
She wasn’t the strongest telekinetic, but she knew what the opposition would do the moment they thought it and that made her quicker and smarter than them. There was something beautiful in the way she moved, dodging bullets with a fluid motion that reminded him of a dancer. Her golden hair flashed in the dim fluorescent lights, her eyes half lidded because she didn’t need to see with her eyes. She knew where they were, knew where to shoot and where to dodge and they never stood a chance.
There was no one else he would have had at his back. He didn’t have her style, but he hit the soldiers with brutal force, knocking them down so that Zelda could slice their throats open. While she relied on speed, he was all about muscle. There was a crack as his elbow slammed into a man’s face, knocking him to the ground and his gun went off once in the man’s face to make sure he stayed down.
When it was over, there was nothing left but a pile of bodies and his goddess.
His hand was bloody when he cupped her face. “I love you,” he whispered, and it was the first time he said it to her. His heart was thundering in his chest with adrenaline and something else and the gun fell from his hand with a clatter as his other hand slid around her waist. “I love you,” he said again, and then he was kissing her.
She never said the words back.
He didn’t care.
She lay naked on his bed next to him.
His fingers traced lines up and down her spine, lingering over the tiny scars. They all had them, tiny little markers where scientist had poked needles into them over and over again. She sighed contentedly at the feel of his hands on her skin. He rested his head on her shoulder, nuzzling her neck and she smiled at him, tilting her head to the side.
“What are you thinking?” he asked.
She smiled, eyes sliding open lazily to look at him. “Do you want to see?”
It was the first time she’d ever really opened up to him, but when he reached out with his mind to brush against hers, he didn’t feel the familiar wall she put up at all times. His mind touched hers with the same lazy ease that his fingers touched her skin, feeling her thoughts swim around and through him. She was warm and lazy and content and she was thinking about how happy he made her. He could see and feel the crush she’d had on them since she was a teenager, and he laughed softly when he realized how nervous she’d been that first kiss in the hall.
Then his mind came against something else, a sharp block in her mind, and he pulled back into himself. “You still don’t trust me all the way?” he asked quietly, but he was still smiling, taking the edge off the words. She had never stopped being a mystery to him, but he loved her both in spite and because of it. She had always been different, and always been special to him.
“I do,” she whispered. Her hand came out to brush his cheek.
“I just don’t trust myself.”
“This is how this is going to work,” he said.
He leaned back in his chair, nonchalantly lighting up a cigarette. The man across from him waited patiently, his hands held loosely in front of him on the table. He had a manila folder next to his left hand, a gun in his holster, and he was thinking about his boss’s eighteen year old daughter while he waited for Jesse to speak. He smiled to himself and then breathed in the smoke, leaning back towards the man in the suit.
“I’m not going to sign any contracts,” he said. The man’s lips tightened but he still didn’t speak. He was annoyed, because he had spent the last two days drawing up carefully constructed documents that would bind Jesse to them when this was all over. “As far as you are all concerned, I don’t exist.”
“But…” the man started to say, and Jesse cut him off with a wave of his hand.
“I’m not done yet. No contracts, no tracking chips, no nothing. You don’t know me, and I don’t know you. You’ve never heard my name and you’ve never seen my face.” He smiled, leaning on the table as his voice dropped to a whisper. “This is how it’s going to work. I get you security codes and patrol times. You give me one, single ship that’s fully stocked enough to get to Mars, and pretend you never see me leaving the atmosphere. I disappear.”
“What about the EPF?” he asked.
The man wasn’t thinking about the eighteen year old anymore. He was thinking about what his superiors would say if he let Jesse leave the building without signing his contracts. He was thinking about what they would say if he let the opportunity slip him by as well, and he was realizing in slow degrees that his job was completely fucked unless this worked.
“Don’t worry about them,” Jesse said, shooting him his trademark grin. “I’ve got it covered.”
The man in the suit sighed and leaned back and he could see the wheels in his head turning, almost literally. He finally asked what he’d wanted to since Jesse first opened his mouth. “How do we know we can trust you?”
Jesse smiled at him. “I have a lot more to lose here than you. Besides, I’m giving you the one thing you want more than anything.”
He flicked ash out into the small ceramic tray and the smile fell into something sad. “I’m giving you Terra Corp.”
“I made the deal,” he told her quietly.
She didn’t look up, cleaning her guns with a quiet efficiency that he had always admired. She was cool and controlled and graceful while he was a battering ram of emotions and thoughts and force. She tempered his steel with her quiet smiles and he felt the feeling in his gut intensify. He loved her. No matter what happened next, all of this was because he loved her. He would sign their papers and make their deals and he would sell out the people who had grown him and shaped him.
It was all for her. So that they could be free.
“When?” she asked. They couldn’t afford to be specific, because there were eyes and ears everywhere.
His fingers came out to catch her chin and he pulled her face up to look into his. Her eyes flicked across his face, studying the expression looking down at her, even the one dead one. His thumb ghosted over the lid and she sighed, letting them slide shut. “Soon,” he whispered, and then he leaned down to kiss her. She pulled him down roughly by his collar, returning the kiss with a feverish desperation.
“It’s all going to end,” she said against his lips. He growled against her, hand tangling in her hair.
“Yes. Then we’ll be free.”
“This is how this is going to work,” he said.
His finger rested casually on the trigger of his gun. The man it was pointed at tried to turn his head and look behind him, but the barrel pressing into his cheek deterred him. Jesse could see the bead of sweat trickling down the back of his neck, and he could hear the rapid thoughts that blew through the man’s head. He was thinking he was going to die now. He was thinking that he could try and shoot whoever was behind him, but he would probably have his brains splattered all over the wall before he even turned around.
“You are going to put your gun on the floor,” he said. “Then you are going to open this door. When you are done doing that, you are going to put your hands over your head, and I am going to knock you out. It’s going to hurt, but you’ll be alive. If at any point you try to turn around, I’m going to have to shoot you. That sound fair?”
The man nodded slowly. He licked his dry lips. “Yes,” he whispered.
Jesse nodded. “Good. Go to it.”
The man put his gun slowly on the floor, kicking it to his right. He didn’t see the blonde woman bend and pick it up, but Jesse did. He smirked to himself but didn’t turn around. The kid thought for a second about trying to make a break for it and then he thought about the girl waiting for him at home. No job was worth losing her, the kid was thinking, and then his fingers were punching the code into the door. It opened with a hiss and air filled with smog and smoke flowed into the hallway.
“Thanks kid,” he said, and then the butt of his gun struck him on the back of the head. He went down in a heap, blood already trickling from the wound. It didn’t matter. He would live to see another day, and Jesse had a transport waiting for him. He turned to the woman behind him, holding out his hand. “We’re free,” he told her, smiling brightly.
She returned it, stepping over the kid’s crumpled form.
“No,” she told him, and his eyes widened as the gun went off. He felt something pierce his lung and he was falling backwards into the hallway, leaving a red trail behind him as he slumped to the ground. His eyes were wide and disbelieving as he looked up at her, lips mouthing her name but unable to make them leave his lips. His hands fell slackly to the side, the gun a dead weight in his hand.
She shook her head, crouching in front of him, fingers coming out to brush his face. “We’re not,” she told him. “We’ll never be free.”
He still didn’t believe her. “Why?” he asked. “Why do this?”
She sighed, picking the gun out of his hand and tossing it down the hallway. He stared after it and then looked back at her face. He could already feel the blood pumping into his lungs and he coughed, feeling it trickled down his lips. She didn’t look away, her fingers still on his face. She smiled and it was a sad thing. “Do you want to see?” she asked him quietly, and then he felt her mind against his, all the walls gone, nothing but truth between them now and it made his stomach roil with what he saw.
Behind all the feelings he thought she’d had for him, and he couldn’t tell anymore if they were real or had ever been real, sat something dark and rotten in the back of her mind and he yanked his thoughts away from her with a harsh gasp. “Superman,” he whispered. He spat blood onto the ground. “You set me up to get into Project Superman?”
She smiled sadly at him. “Why be human, when I can be a goddess?”
He shook his head again and he fought against the tears that pricked his eyes as his whole world cracked and shattered around him. All the sacrifices, all the betrayals, all the deals he had cut and all the lives he was destroying even as he lay bleeding in the hallway with freedom just inches away came crashing around him with a horrifying strength. “You were always a goddess to me,” he told her.
She knew what he was going to do before he did it, because she had always been a stronger telepath than any of them, but she wasn’t used to fighting Psions and the gun was ripped from her fingers before she could pull the trigger one final time. Her fist lashed out and caught him across the mouth and he felt his jaw crack under the strength of the hit. Then he was throwing her across the hall with one massive push of power and she gasped as she struck the wall.
She knew what he was going to do before he did it.
She tried to stop him, tried to push at him with her mind, but as strong a telepath as she was, she had always been the weakest telekinetic. She watched him slap her mind away from him like he was swatting down a fly. He scooped her gun off the floor and he heard her scramble as she tried to get up. A wave of power struck her again and she slammed back against the wall.
“Don’t do this,” she whispered.
He felt her force herself into his mind then, and all his memories of her were flashing before him in quick and brutal succession. Their first kiss in that hallway, her stripping for him in their bedroom, her dancing for him and making love to him and sweating and feverish as his fingers dug into her skin. Every little moment that he had cherished for the last twenty-three years of his life flowed over him and drowned him in their poignancy. He still loved her, even now, with her traitor’s eyes looking up at him and blood trickling from his lips.
He put a hand over the wound in his chest, and he felt like he was trying to stop the bleeding of his heart.
“I love you,” he said, and then he pulled the trigger.
She never said it back.