Black Heart – Chapter VII Part V
by Steppen Sawicki
Bryan looked back to the doors of the break room. “They don’t know yet.”
Connors followed his gaze. “No, not yet. But the information will leak out. Too many of us were there to hear it.”
“And the other gates. The people at those will need to know too.” Bryan took a deep breath and leaned against the wall. “How do we not start a panic?”
Connors thought about this. “No one outside an agency will care.”
“It’s true. The media never did believe any new development in the demons unless the death count was high enough. Now there are monster Possesseds that will eat everyone when the gates let everything through? They’ll think we’re pressing for funding.” He paused to run a hand over his bald head. “And if it does start a panic, what does it matter in the long run?”
They were silent for a moment. When Bryan spoke, his voice was quiet. “What can I even do? I can’t possess.”
“Hussein was supposed to be heading a conference call this evening with DC, LA, and Vancouver. I think you should be on that.”
“What?” Bryan was actually shocked. “I can’t do that.”
“Bull. It’s the sort of job you should have taken long ago.”
“I meant what can I do at the gate, not sitting at some desk.”
“What are you going to do at the gate? Watch? At a desk is where you can help us.”
“What’s a Possessed gonna do at a desk?”
“It’s where Hussein was.”
Bryan looked at him. Connors was a bundle of nervous energy, fidgeting with his hands, sweat standing out on his forehead. More nervous than usual. All of the agents were going to be more nervous than usual, more irritable, more hopeless.
“Yeah, but…” Bryan paused. “How many people will be on the call?”
“Maybe five or ten in DC, and another five in LA and Vancouver each. I don’t know the specifics; it was Hussein’s work. But they need to hear what’s happening, even if Hussein’s gone”
Bryan paled at the number, but Connors misunderstood and turned pale himself and rubbed his hands together. “You don’t think they can do anything? I mean I’m sure other Earths before ours tried all this same stuff, and no matter how many cities… I mean if you think it’ll cause only a panic maybe we shouldn’t…”
Bryan straightened. He was causing a panic all by himself. He couldn’t break down now. “Don’t blubber. I’ll inform them and see if they have any initial ideas. They might think of something we haven’t, or find something we haven’t.”
Connors nodded quickly, like a bird.
“But if I blow up at them, it’s your fault.”
“They’ll probably blow up before you even start talking. A lot of people on the call will be Possessed.”
Bryan grinned. “Well, way to make the discussion impossible.”
He was going through Hussein’s emails when Harper walked in. He had kept the door open for whenever she finally woke up.
“You’re a pretty sound sleeper,” he said to her.
“You’re not,” she said, looking him over. “You haven’t slept in days.”
He leaned back in the chair and told her the matter of his sleep and lack of REM.
“I had assumed you were just avoiding sleep,” she said.
“Oh I have chasing it with gusto, it’s just always a mile ahead of me.”
She nodded her head at the computer. “What are you doing?”
“Trying to make some sense of the five hundred different tasks Hussein was overseeing. The man should have had a secretary. Two secretaries.”
“You shouldn’t take them on if you’re not able.”
“You mean if I’m grieving him.”
“Yes. Someone else could – ”
“I’m not grieving him.”
She blinked at him. “What?”
“I don’t feel jack-shit about him. The man practically raised me and I don’t care that he died right in front of my eyes. It’s like he was a stranger, but I care more about strangers than I do about this. I care more about the fact that I don’t care.” He clicked open another email, but it was only about another new recruit. “That’s how fucked up I am.”
“That can be a normal part of the process”
“But I’m not normal. There is no normal part of my process.” The next email was from media control on keeping the news stations away from the synagogue. Hussein had requested their police liaison to see if the cops were available, otherwise could Ruggeri spare some Spotters to play the part in cordoning off the area. Bryan would have to respond to that one – they didn’t need cameras around tonight watching them open a gate to toss in some mystery tubes and boxes.
“What can I do?” Harper asked.
He looked up at her and seemed to see her for the first time since she walked in. He had been able to change into spare clothes Hussein had brought from his apartment when the Eternal was running rampant. Harper was still dressed in tatters. Her arm was haphazardly bandaged and large spots of blood bloomed on the gauze. Seeing that, Bryan felt that hunger again, worse than ever. He could smell the blood. He had to look away.
“Your arm,” he said. “It’s going to get infected.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Was that hopelessness in her voice? Or just her usual poker-face?
But she was right. It didn’t matter if her arm was falling off. It wouldn’t matter in eleven days.
“I can’t look at it,” he said. “It makes me… Just get it fixed up.”
From the corner of his eye he saw her look at her arm and realize what he meant. “Ah,” she gasped. “Of course. I should have… I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault.” How could he expect her to think of his tainted reactions? “Just…could you be back at four?”
“Four? That should be doable. Why?”
“I, um… I have to be on a conference call.”
“Am I needed for it?”
He fought an urge to shout at her and instead waved his hands as he said “Look, just be here, okay?”
“Okay,” she said, and without another question turned and walked out.