Ordinarily, a helicopter ride is a wonderful experience. Ordinarily, the headphones block out some of the noise and the view is incredible.

Abby had no headphones. She covered her ears with her hands but the noise level was still intense. The only view she had was of three grim faces staring her down over three glinting gun barrels. She was also sitting in a tight space, leaning against Xander, whom she was not happy with at the moment. The trip felt much longer than the hour it was in reality.

Before they touched down the men covered their heads with black hoods. Maybe to prevent them from seeing anything sensitive, maybe to rush them straight to their executions. When they touched ground there was a commotion and they were bundled out of the helicopter only to be handcuffed by more men, the helicopter blades still whirring. Abby was jerked away by one guard, at least two others walking by her side. They entered a building, then a small room. They stopped. A door slid shut. The floor shifted and her stomach flopped. It was an elevator.

The elevator stopped and the doors opened. Wherever they were now, it was silent. It felt empty and expansive, their footsteps echoing across the floor. Abby was shuffled into a room and pushed into a wooden chair. Her captors left and closed the door.

There is no way to know how long she waited in the dark. She thought she had been forgotten. Dark is a word indivisible by three. The hood was scratchy around the ears and it smelled like it had been left in a drawer for fifty years. Would she be left in this room for fifty years?

The door slammed open and Abby jumped. Someone stumbled into the room, crashing into something and falling to the floor. The door shut and the person immediately scrambled towards her from the floor. Her hood was pulled off and there was a gentle hand on the side of her head. Abby blinked rapidly, eyes acclimating to the light.

Xander was kneeling next to her. He had a bruise on his cheekbone and a cut just above his eye. A rivulet of blood was dripping down the side of his pale face. No handcuffs on him. There was a black metal collar snapped around his neck.

“They didn’t hurt you?” he asked, “You’re okay?”

Abby nodded.

The door slowly opened, creaking in the silence. Footsteps approached, slow and deliberate, echoing in the large room outside the door. A man appeared, framed in the doorway, a man with strange, piercing brown eyes and a thin angular face. His hair was slicked down, parted to the side. He stared at Xander, hands crossed behind his back.

Xander stared back, his white face going even whiter. There was a silent moment before Xander recovered his composure. “So you accomplished your goal after all,” he spat at him.

A bitter smile curled the edges of the man’s mouth. “We still have things in common, I see,” he spoke with a heavy accent, maybe German. “This life does not appeal to either one of us.”

“You did this to yourself. Live with it.”

The man laughed loudly, then stepped closer, eyeing Abby for the first time but still speaking to Xander. “I do not have to ‘live with it’ for any longer. I will reverse it, but I must find the right subject.”

Xander was shaking with anger. “You are killing the best minds in the country to correct a mistake, a mistake I warned you of. If you’re suffering because of it, you deserve it.”

The man stared Xander in the eye. “I’m not the only one suffering,” his voice was subdued. He contemplated Xander’s face. “No, you wish to die as much as I do.” Xander’s eyes faltered and he stared at his hands, streaks of blood from touching his head. The man observed his hesitancy. “Are you not willing to make some sacrifices to end this? This endless empty existence. Everything good requires sacrifice.”

Xander glanced up at Abby, his eyes dark. Eyes that had seen too much. “I can make any sacrifice needed of me. I can’t sacrifice other people. It isn’t my decision to make.”

The man smiled, cruel and cold. “I see that you do not understand quite yet. You made that decision for these people a long time ago. Alexander, your brain is the one I needed. You knew this, and yet you ran. I could have reversed it. No one else would have had to die.”

“You know why I ran.”

“I know that these people are dead because of your weakness.”

“Do it, then,” Xander stood. “Reverse it now. Let Abigail go and any others you haven’t murdered yet, and you can use me.”

“Oh, I will be using you, but no one is leaving just yet. What would I use as leverage if your sweetheart goes home safe? Pardon,” he addressed the guards outside the door, “Take the little girl to a holding cell in Deep Nine.”

A burly man in an ill-fitting suit entered, and the black hood was shoved back over her head. He jerked her to her feet and dragged her to the door.

“Everything will be okay, I’ll find you,” Xander said just before she was pulled away.

The End

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