Lily ran for the theater. The world was almost pitch black, but in the distance she could see the glow of the bluelight phone outside Stevenson, and she sprinted towards it heedless of anything else. As Lily ran, a grin spread across her face.
She hauled open the heavy front door of the theater, dashed inside, and burst through the doors into the auditorium. On stage, the entire set had been dismantled except for the door itself and the devils on either side with their trumpets. A bright white light spilled through the doorway.
The other Lily was waving a nail gun around, keeping at bay a gang of carpenters brandishing saws, crowbars and sledgehammers.
“It’s about bloody time! Get down here!” her other self shouted. Lily ran down the aisle and around the orchestra pit, pulled herself onto the stage. A blast of nails cleared a path for her, and she joined her other self.
“Thanks for everything,” Lily said.
“Hell, this isn’t goodbye,” the other Lily said. “I’m going with you. I’m part of you, remember?” She dropped the nail gun and took Lily’s hand. With a smile that was as familiar to Lily as her own reflection, she said, “Ready?”
They jumped into the light.
* * *
Timothy Harte was not at peace.
Maybe his judgment had been compromised now that the end was in sight. He had spent decades keeping his public activities innocuous, so that he could keep his real work moving forward without interference. He spent year after year publishing pedestrian articles in redundant fields of study (which won him entirely undeserved acclaim -- just because he had realized certain truths before anyone else didn’t mean that the rest of his colleagues wouldn’t have figured it out on their own, eventually). He had moved from state to state.
Taking the position at Harkness had been a risk, but a necessary one, if he was to overcome the final obstacles. Even after joining the University faculty, he had waited for more than a decade before starting the groundwork that would culminate in the Visulex trials, all the while continuing his research in Great Barrington.
When he had decided to bypass standard procedures and accelerate Stage Two of the project, the risks had seemed acceptable. He was so close to finishing the work, and redeeming his original failure. Now, the situation was worse.
A loud whine from one of the sensors startled Harte out of his reverie. He spun in his chair to see Lily Breckenridge’s body beginning to glow brightly.
Not again, he thought, diving for the hypodermic on a nearby tray that would bring Lily out of the trance.
He knew he wouldn’t be fast enough. With a soundless flash, she faded from view. Harte was left standing with a needle in his hand, by the empty examination chair, in the dark.
* * *
The figure in the red cloak stared at the two men walking through the winding paths of the market. The younger one was unfamiliar, but the older one...
It was him. After all these years, it was him. The target had revealed himself.
The man did not smile; he rarely smiled. But as long-dormant orders rose up in his mind, he felt something that others might recognize as satisfaction. He would finally complete his mission.
The man in the red cloak extended his hand, and a wickedly serpentine knife materialized in his grip.
* * *
[Go to Chapter 11.1]