The Sequence of Kai
“Stop staring at me.”
Aaron pretends to avert his gaze from my naked body and mumbles something stupid that I can’t make out. I’m lying on my couch trying out a pair of noise-cancelling earbuds I just bought, that’s why I’m only wearing panties.
They’re really good quality, the earbuds that is, I can barely hear Aaron’s whining at all.
“Were you saying something?”
He says something back to me but again, I can’t hear him over my earbuds. I’m not even listening to music, just using the noise cancellation by itself. I’m loving the silence.
Aaron keeps speaking and gesturing at me like some kind of pathetic mime. Somewhere along the way he starts picking the broken glass and stray sheets of plastic off my floor and puts them in the bin. This won’t do.
“What the hell are you doing?”
He starts waving his arms around like a madman, pointing at all the various piles of things in my apartment. I still can’t hear exactly what he’s moaning about though, so I have to take out one of my earbuds. The left one this time.
“Say what you were saying again.”
“I said, you shouldn’t live like this, a cluttered living space clouds your mood. No wonder you’re always so…”
He trails off before he calls me moody. Smart enough to know what won’t get him a broken finger or two I suppose.
He glances over at me before pretending to look away again.
“Why aren’t you wearing any clothes?”
“Because I don’t want to, I thought I was going to be alone today. How the hell did you get in here anyway?”
His thumb twitches.
“You left your door unlocked.”
“No I didn’t.”
A silence adds a new layer of staleness to the air.
“What do you want from me anyway? You’re not the type to drop in just because you were nearby, you’re not the type to be nearby in the first place.”
“I wouldn’t swing 'round without someone else’s reason. Paul wants us to deal with a little something.”
That’s odd. I mustn’t have heard my phone when Paul called me but then why didn’t he send Trish?
“Why did he send you?”
“Trish refused, something about not wanting to get you involved.”
He picks a jacket of mine off the ground and throws it at me. I let it hit my body, hoping it’ll fall off but it catches on my shoulder. Now that I’m somewhat covered he feels he can face me. What’s the big difference between half a chest and a full one?
“Oh, just a tricky emotion reaper that’s shown up in London, the powers that be asked him to look into it.”
“And she thinks I can’t handle that?”
“Do you even know what an emotion reaper is?”
“I don’t need to.”
Aaron lets a rather dismissive puff of air escape his lips.
“Doesn’t matter, I’d rather you be involved than her as well.”
Realizing that I’m probably going to be made to go outside, I start putting on my clothes.
“So, it’s another one where we keep her out of the loop? I hate those ones.”
“What’s so bad about them?”
I feel my eyebrows and one corner of my mouth raise inadvertently. It’s amusing that he doesn’t know what I’m talking about straight away. When he sees my expression, it clicks for him.
“Oh, it’s me.”
“Yeah, it’s you.”
Aaron shakes the annoyance out of his expression with a quick click of the tongue.
“Doesn’t matter, it’s not one of those. She’s refusing to be involved at all.”
“6 of one, half a dozen of the other, sounds like I’m still being forced to work with you.”
“You’re not being forced, you can say no after all.”
“I can’t really though, in any case, I don’t want to.”
I grab Aaron by the shoulder and push him back out of my apartment.
“Walk ahead a bit, I’ll be 5 minutes behind.”
“I can just wait the 5 minutes.”
I slam the door shut in his face.
I followed Aaron across the city after I packed everything I need to. All that entailed was getting fully dressed, then filling my jacket pockets with a phone and charger. Usually, I just get dressed but since Trish is sitting this one out, the phone is necessary.
“Kai, so nice of you to join us.”
Paul gives me his usual head down greeting when I walk into his office.
“I would’ve been her faster if Trish had come to get me.”
I look for the flippant girl with a leg hanging off her armchair but I don’t find the usual sight today.
“Where is she anyway?”
Aaron points to the ceiling.
“She’s in her room, refusing to come out. She can probably hear us.”
He stresses that part for her as much as for me.
“Let her sulk if she’s going to. Old man, I hear you have a job for me?”
“Yes, I do… it-“
Whatever Paul was about to say is interrupted by a violent dry cough. It takes him a minute to wrestle his lungs under control. It’s only now I realize how coarse his voice is.
“Sorry about that… Aaron, do you think you could get me some water and painkillers…”
“Do you want me to-“
“Regular medicine will be fine, thank you.”
Aaron looks a little concerned, but he doesn’t protest Paul’s refusal of his offer. Paul’s briefing continues as Aaron leaves the room.
He sees the look I’m giving him.
“Don’t worry about that, nothing to worry about.”
“Alright, what’s this job you have then?”
“Ah, yes. An emotion reaper has popped up in London. Usually, something this inconsequential would be below our pay grade but it seems this particular reaper is proving difficult to deal with.”
The pot of ink that’s always half full receives another dip of the quill. He’s not going to explain further.
“Paul, what’s an emotion reaper?”
“I forget how little you know sometimes, why don’t you let someone smart kill you for once?”
“Shut up and tell me what this thing is.”
“I can’t do both at the same time can I?”
Without looking up he senses my expression and decides it’s in his best interests to pretend he didn’t say that.
“An emotion reaper… it’s a bit like a virus that attacks the soul sequence. It looks like a person, but they’re not people, not anymore. They pop up from time to time in densely populated areas, feeding on intense emotions to survive.”
“These things difficult to kill?”
“Not usually, and you don’t exactly kill them. They’re not alive, it’s nothing but a hijacked soul sequence covered in flesh. Typically, it’s just a case of destroying the invaded body.”
Aaron re-enters the room with a glass of water and some painkillers, placing both on Paul’s desk.
“So why can’t that stupid task force deal with it?”
“Apparently, they can’t even get close to this one. They send in an operative and they never return.”
Aaron answers my question, despite the fact I clearly asked Paul. That means the old man is officially clocking out of the conversation. Shame, his voice is less annoying.
“So where do they get off asking us to do it?”
“We have me and you. We could handle in a day what would take them a month.”
“I could, sure. Don’t know about you.”
Both Paul and Aaron let out defeated sighs simultaneously. I step between Aaron and the desk to try and cut him from the conversation
“Anyway, give me the details so I can go mop this up.”
“I gave them to Aaron.”
“Then give them to me.”
I reach the door before Paul even realizes I’ve even moved, a consequence of living your life face down.
“Where are you going, Kai?”
“I’m going to go say hi to Trish, then I’m heading home. If you decide you want me to do the job, you can tell me the details before I leave.”
When I slam the door shut, I feel a sense of relief. I haven’t had to be around Aaron for that long in a while, it made it painfully obvious that we wouldn’t be able to do this mission together, or any other one for that matter.
He does a good job of hiding his contempt for me but it’s there, bubbling underneath the surface. Trish is the type of person that forgets things said late at night, I’m not.
I can’t go with Aaron but I don’t really want to pass up something to do, so I’m going to try and convince Trish to come with me.
Before I’ve even fully opened the door to her room, she’s refused.
“No to what?”
“I’m not going with you to London. You shouldn’t go either.”
Now that I’m standing in her room, I can see Trish huddled up on her bed hugging a pillow. She’s been crying, she’s trying to hide her eyes from me.
“What’s so bad about this thing that I shouldn’t be the one to deal with it?”
The only thing that breaks the silence is the sound of Trish burrowing her face deeper into her cushion.
“Fine, I’ll go with Aaron then. Enjoy crying by yourself.”
I turn and place my hand on the door handle. I have no intention of going with Aaron of course but she’s the jealous type.
I turn the handle ever so slightly and the sound makes her crack.
“I can’t describe it… those things are horrible. They prey on you your fears, your desires. Everything you love and hate. You don’t realize they’ve entered your mind until they start manipulating your thoughts. It’ll hurt you, Kai. Even someone like you, an emotion reaper can hurt.”
“We’ll see about that.”
I hadn’t intended to close her door on the way out, I was planning to leave it open to let her follow me down. Convincing Trish is an elaborate game sometimes, you have to leave her opportunities to do things.
It’s insulting, that she thinks something like this could hurt me. Even if it could, it’s insulting to think I deserve to avoid it, I don’t. I’m here to do the dirty work, I can handle a bit of pain.
That’s why I closed the door tight. She’s wasting energy worrying about someone like me and I’ll prove it to her.
I let myself back into Paul’s office. Paul and Aaron look up at me expectantly.
“Fine, I’ll go.”
(Author's note: This story is being inserted in between stories 2 and 3 after the fact. It was a story I originally wanted to write for this novel but couldn't think of enough solid ideas for it before I finished the others.
The stories are designed somewhat to be read in any order, so if you happen to be reading this before its completion, you can go to 'She Only Does Important Things' which is the first chapter of the next story. I hope you enjoy this one!)