Geoff was still adjusting to human public transportation. He’d used it many times, but it still made him feel uncomfortable. All those warm human bodies pushed up against each other as the carriage rattled along the track, staring at the floor or out of the windows, a deadened glaze over their eyes. It was a distressing sight, but he had to fit in as much as he could. Although, the incredibly ridiculous monkey-suit his officer had told him to wear as part of his disguise seemed to make him a great deal more conspicuous. His officer had said that commuters and business men dressed in black suits with leather briefcases were the most common users of this metro, but the sharp glances from the other men and the looks of wonder from a few others told Geoff that he was perhaps slightly overdressed. The sleek black jacket fitted his body perfectly, showing off an athletic frame, and his crisp white shirt with a silk-woven black tie made him look like he should be walking down a red carpet, not heading into town for another day of grind at the office.
Great. Just what I need. All eyes on me.
He shifted uncomfortably in the heat of the carriage, pulling his collar away from his neck. He felt his skin ripple as he touched it, the natural form beneath pleading to burst free.
‘Keep a close eye on the girl agent; she should be getting off in a few more stops.’
Geoff flickered his eyes over to the young girl stood beside her mother. The man that Geoff knew to be her father had just hopped off at the change for the airport. He had looked decidedly smarter than the mother and child that stood just in his periphery. He could focus on them perfectly without looking directly at them. Their clothing seemed nothing particularly absurd to Geoff’s eyes, but he knew by the sniggering of two nearby teenagers and the snobbish glances of the couple sitting opposite him that to human eyes, they were considered inferior. He examined briefly the girl’s face. She was staring at her reflection in the window with a look of pure despair in her eyes. Geoff was caught by their contrasting colours; the blue was the exact shade of his own skin, the green like his mother’s. Striking to his perfect vision, which could see every pore on her skin and the tiny yellow speckles around her pupils. He looked away after a few seconds and turned to look out of the window to avoid suspicion. The girl hadn’t noticed. She seemed to punch her jaw lightly and then sighed.
‘Next stop Geoff.’
The unfamiliar voice tinkled in his ear. His usual operator was currently on leave; his best friend’s voice was the one he needed to hear right now; the playful insults of Tolstoff calmed him. But not today. The operator was a former colleague who had decided to take control of the mission to the point of controlling his every action. Nixa was a fierce pixie to behold, but his voice sounded cool and soft, supposedly to keep Geoff relaxed. It wasn’t working.
He felt the train slow and watched as people around him jostled to get out as though their lives depended on it; the light death that hung over their eyes seemed to dissipate as a jolt of life seemed to sear through them. Geoff waited calmly and let the other passengers off before him. The whole time he kept his eyes on the girl and her mother. They stepped off and headed up onto the street. He was about to step off the train when he felt a tap on his shoulder.
‘Excuse me Sir, have I seen you before? Are you from T.V?’
A tall blonde with almond eyes looked up at him with a quiver in her voice. Geoff inwardly guffawed as he thought of what she would think if he was in his real form.
‘Geoff, don’t lose her. Get off now.’
The urgency and edge of anger in Nixa’s voice was apparent.
‘I’m sorry madam, I think you may have the wrong man, I’m just a nobody.’
He smiled and she stared back but said nothing as he turned and danced his way through the crowd and up onto Madison Avenue. The throng of people made it hard to see the girl and her mother but his eyes seemed to fall naturally on them near a boutique not a hundred feet away. He heard the mother lean in to her daughter.
“We’re going to find you something really nice for that dance that’s coming up.”
There was a smile in her voice; even though the voice came through the babbling crowd Geoff could hear her perfectly. He turned in their direction and walked steadily towards them.
The surprise in her voice was evident, her trepidation, clear. She obviously didn’t want to get her hopes up. Geoff understood. He had often felt the same when he was a youngster. He watched as they entered the first very chic clothes shop and was in exactly the same position when they left a few minutes later. The girl’s face was heartbreaking. Without having to see it, he knew what had happened, he knew how humans were. He slowly stalked after them, stopping every now and again to examine a shirt or a pair of shoes in a nearby window whenever their gaze fell close to him.
‘So, what do we think? She doesn’t seem to be attempting anything; the forewarning had said that she would have tried by now...’
His operator was conferring with someone else, or was talking to himself. But there was something about the situation that Geoff didn’t like.
‘No. I want to watch her all the way. If there was a prediction, it was for a reason.’ Geoff grumbled into his invisible earpiece.
He knew that was only part of the reason. He could see with his own eyes this girl was suffering. He watched from a nearby stall as they trundled out of the umpteenth shop, the perseverance still shining in the mother’s face.
“We’ll just have to go elsewhere.” He heard her say, as she turned spritely down the street.
‘Sure Mom.’ Was the inaudible reply.
He watched as they walked down the street, the girl bumping haphazardly into another, only to pick up the bags dropped and fumbling an apology without even raising her eyes.
Geoff knew it was going to happen.
‘Wait. We need you to hold on a second Geoff, there’s been a call for emergency back-up from Cali. I’ve conferred and I think it’s safe to leave the girl. We’ll fly in Gez to keep an eye on her from above. I need you in London in two hours.’
Geoff froze. He had his orders. But he knew he couldn’t leave. His eyes desperately scanned the crowd. He’d lost sight of the girl and her mother and started to feel perspiration slide down his back.
‘Er, Captain, permission to stay and pursue the target, I feel-‘
‘No agent. This girl is not a threat to herself at this time. We will run over the prediction and reassess this evening.’ His voice was stern, but Geoff couldn’t obey.
‘We’ve spent weeks on this case Sir, I will not leave now.’
He heard the cracking silence in his ear and he knew he’d gone too far. But it was too late now, he wasn’t leaving the girl. He swept his eyes down the pulsing street and caught a glimpse of her at a bus stop, stood at the curb. He focussed in on them.
‘Leigh, honey, I wish you wouldn’t do that.’
The words rang in his ears. It was now. She was going to jump out.
Geoff leapt up and pushed through the seemingly hundreds of people walking at him. He ignored the curses and shouts, his eyes completely on the girl. She was at least a hundred metres away. He watched her eye the traffic, swaying back and forth. He would never make it in time.
Flint forgive me.
He pulled his tie and loosened the buttons on his shirt; his wings would be easier to spread that way.
‘Don’t even think about it agent! You will not expose yourself. You open your wings you are finished and so are we!’
Blood throbbed in his mouth and throat as he wrestled with what was right and what he had been told. He continued to run through the crowd, some now parting for him.
‘Get out of the way!’ He screamed, his voice ringing high and shocking those who heard it. He was fifty...forty...
He pushed back his shirt as he ran.
‘Agent! You dare and I will kill you myself!’
Sweat bubbled on his skin as he saw a bus roll around the corner. Everything slowed and he felt the air thicken as the mother swirled around and screamed out.
He watched in perfect definition as she stepped out so coolly, the welcoming arms of death a relief to her broken soul.
He cried out; an ethereal sound that cut through the hearts of all that heard it. The bus slowed, but too late. Her shattered body was ploughed beneath the vehicle, already in the breast of engrossing death. He fell to his knees as those around him ran to the scene. It was all white noise. He had failed. He had followed orders at the cost of a life. The raw pain stung as the sound of the sirens screeched; an echo of a sound. He turned to see a young girl stood, her hand to her mouth, eyes wide. It was the girl who Leigh had bumped into and knocked her bag out of her hands. The bag lay on the floor now, its contents spread across the pavement.
‘Geoff? Agent? Are...are you there? You need to get out of there, now-
Geoff touched a button on his watch and cut off his operator. He felt nauseous as he walked over to the body, her mother screaming, a mania in her eyes. As he went to turn away he felt a tap on his shoulder. He swung around to see the face of the girl, tear strewn and confused.
‘Excuse me, do I know you?’ She managed to say as her voice cracked. She gazed past him to the scene in front of her.
‘I saw you running and, well, I knew, when I saw her be-before...’ She trailed off, then looked up into his eyes, searing straight through him.
‘You’re not-not normal...are you?’ She said very seriously, no fear in her voice.
Geoff turned to see the paramedics pulling the body onto a stretcher. All was lost now. He didn’t care if he was revealed.
‘No.’ He said.
The blood-stained sheet covered the broken outline of Leigh on the stretcher, and her mother, shrieking in pain, held her hand as they wheeled her away.