Parasite Eve: The Other, Chapter Five

Parasite Eve: The Other
Chapter Five
Disclaimer: As I have aged, I have discovered that not only do I own nothing, but also, I have never owned anything. This is true for Square Enix’s intellectual property—that is to say, Parasite Eve and anything even remotely associated with it—and it is also, apparently, true for my writing time and my presence of mind. If I did own those things, I might have finished this story already. It has been a long time since I posted anything—so long, in fact, that it was Squaresoft, not Square Enix, when I last posted. But don’t let that discourage you! Please read and review—read the whole story again, if you like.
Enjoy!  ~Timewalkerauthor
Taylor’s Canyon at noon was like a long-lost set from a Clint Eastwood movie, Aya decided. The cloudless sky was a blue so sun-bleached that it appeared silver, unless one was foolish enough to look close by that burning orb, where the color flamed into bronze. It was at least ninety-five degrees. No pavement reflected the heat, though; this side street was actually made of dirt, dry and pitted, a relic from days past. A few tumbleweeds bounced along in a light breeze that did nothing to ease the heat. The buildings here had wooden porches, and Aya just rolled her eyes when she discovered at least three that had—another cliché—swinging doors.
The building she entered—the optimistically named Satisfaction Café—did not. More to the point, it did boast an air conditioner, which made it the lunch spot of choice for the non-working residents of Taylor’s Canyon. Aya found a table along the left wall, and ordered a cup of coffee and a sandwich. The waitress took the order with a smile, which told Aya that she hadn’t been in the bar crowd last night. That was a small relief, at any rate.
There were certainly enough guarded looks to go around. It was a small town, and Aya knew that the waitress was now in the minority, as to her lack of knowledge. Word traveled faster than light in places like Taylor’s Canyon. At first, Aya refused to meet their stares; then, when it got to be too much, she made eye contact with one particularly grim young man—an oilman, from his appearance, but with a heavy cast on his leg to show why he wasn’t working. He flinched as if she had struck him. A marvelous thing happened then: every prying eye in the room found something better to look at.
When the waitress returned, her demeanor had changed. Aya sighed; she had hoped to talk to the waitress before someone explained the situation to her. There was nothing to lose now, though; so, as the waitress tried to walk away, she stopped her. “Excuse me,” she said, “do you have a minute?”
Aya watched the emotions play across the woman’s face: fear, then doubt, then resignation. Through it all, the waitress glanced at the customers around her, as if seeking approval. At last she nodded. “What can I help you with?”
“Well, first, my name is Aya, Aya Brea.” She held out her hand; having no other option, the waitress shook it. “Listen, um—“ She looked to the waitress’s blouse as if for a nametag.
“Nancy,” the waitress said. “Nancy Blake.”
“Nancy,” Aya repeated. If she could keep the conversation going, Nancy might open up a bit. “I was wondering, Nancy, if maybe you could tell me about the town. I’m new here, you know…anyway, I’m not really sure of where I was yesterday, and I don’t want to get lost.” She smiled, putting as much charm into it as she could. “It’s the city in me, you know. You can probably tell just listening to me that I’m from the city—New York, actually. People like me, we get lost the minute the streets don’t run in blocks anymore.”
That was stretching the truth more than a little—her sense of direction was above average—but after last night, her image in town needed a little vulnerability. She needed some humanity to go with the superhuman. She still sounded false in her own ears, but there was nothing to do about it.
“Well…I don’t know how much there is to tell you. It’s not a very big place.” Nancy glanced over her shoulder, then turned back. “What do you want to know?”
Aya took a second to gauge the waitress’s expression. All of her prior emotions were still there, along with a look that said she felt caught in a conversation she would just as soon escape. But underneath the rest, Aya saw something else; it was fleeting, but she got the impression that if she just pushed a little harder, Nancy would spill everything she knew. Knowledge was a burden that begged to be shared—and Aya suspected that Nancy knew a lot.
She decided to be honest; lies weren’t her style anyway. “The truth is, Nancy, I’m trying to find out about Jack Carter. I’m not a reporter,” she added, seeing the panic rise in Nancy’s eyes. “I’m with the FBI, actually, but I’m doing this on my own time. Look, you must have heard some things about me already.”
People were watching them now. Aya ignored them; Nancy didn’t seem to notice. The waitress was nearly trembling, staring at Aya as though she’d just prophesied the end of the world. “Is it true?” she said. “What they said about the bar last night?”
“Well, that depends on what they said.” Aya held Nancy’s gaze.
“They said that you stopped a fight by yourself.” Now her eyes shone, a little too brightly. “With your mind. Like ESP or something.”
“Then, yes, it’s true. Or something. But,” she paused, “you’ve seen this before.” Silence. “With Jack Carter.” Nancy stared at her. “Haven’t you?”
Abruptly, the spell broke. Nancy grabbed a napkin from the dispenser on the table, and scrawled something on it. “Here you go. I…I really shouldn’t be talking on the job, ma’am, I’m sorry. I’ll have your check up in a minute.” With that, she turned and swept away into the kitchen.
Aya made a show of finishing her sandwich before reading the note; she knew that every suspicious eye in the room was still on her. When she read it, however, she couldn’t suppress a smile. It said, in a script that would have been beautiful had the writer not been terrified, “Post Office—1:30—I’ll talk.”
Aya sat in the Cherokee with the engine running and the air conditioner on, thinking. It was twelve thirteen PM; her lunch at the Satisfaction had taken less then fifteen minutes. Suddenly tired of feeling conspicuous—it was a sensation she never got used to—she had stayed put only long enough to keep from looking furtive; then she paid her bill and hurried out. It left her nearly an hour and a half before she had to meet Nancy at the post office.
She checked her bearings to make sure that she could find that establishment; then, she pulled out her maps and started browsing. Her map of the Taylor’s Canyon area was too general to be of much use, but she went over it studiously for a few minutes, fixing the town’s general orientation and major streets in her mind. Not surprisingly, Whitestick Road did not qualify as a major street.
There was one useful piece if information, though: High Street. It was the “main drag,” as she had already heard a few locals say, meaning the major highway through town—or more appropriately, out of town, as many a teenager had discovered over the years. Aya remembered it not for any redeeming feature of its own, but rather, because it was the location of the brushfire that Jack Carter had supposedly stopped. She had seen the scorched hillside as she drove into town the previous night; now, it intrigued her for some reason. At any rate, it was better than sitting around waiting; so, she tossed the maps into the backseat and put the Jeep in gear.
While she drove, she dialed Kyle’s number. He picked up on the third ring. “Hey, Aya, how are you?”
She could hear the tired edge to his voice, and she had to smile. Life with a teenager could take its toll on anyone; life with two teenagers was a challenge for a saint. “Better
than you, I think. Did the kids keep you up last night?”
“You can tell? It must be bad. No, it’s mainly this licensing paperwork—remember, I told you I want to start practicing again? Anyway, it’s no big deal.”
“That’s good to hear. Eve ran me to death the first few days she was with me, and she wasn’t even close to normal.”
“Yeah, she’s, ah, energetic, let’s say. But she’s really not that bad—her or Ben, really. I’m finished with him, by the way; Daniel comes back this afternoon.” He paused. “How
about you? How’s the great mitochondria search coming?”
“Slowly. I found the guy, but he won’t talk to me. He won’t even see me. But I think it must be true, Kyle—all of it.”
“He won’t even see you, but you’re still sure? How do you know?” He sounded dubious; Aya knew that, as a PI, he had trained himself to be skeptical.
“It’s not so much him that makes me think so. It’s the town—the way they act. They’re defensive about him, for one. They’ll let me come around, but they all want to defend his privacy. If he really can do the things the article said he could, they’d want to keep him under wraps, because they benefit from him. I mean, he supposedly heals livestock, and
things like that.”
“Well, that would definitely be a plus out in Hicksville,” Kyle said. “But as evidence goes, it’s not much. Got anything else?”
“Yeah. Before I met the guy last night, I went to this bar to try to get directions. Some drunk tried to start something.” She paused. “ I don’t know if it was the heat, or the smoke, or what, but I couldn’t take it. So I stopped him.”
There was more, Kyle knew. “Stopped him…?”
“With my power. I put him to sleep.” She exhaled, as though the admission was a confession. “Right in front of everybody. But the strange thing is how they reacted.”
“What, did they panic? I wouldn’t call that strange.”
“No,” she said, “they didn’t panic. It was exactly the opposite—like they’d seen it all before.”
Kyle thought about it for a second before answering. “Well, Aya, the Manhattan Incident was on international TV, you know. Maybe they—“
“I know that,” she interrupted. “When somebody sees something live, they don’t react the way the do when they see it on TV. If I see an angry lion on TV, it doesn’t scare me the way it probably would if I saw it coming toward me. That’s how it was with these people—they weren’t scared or panicked or anything. If anything, a few of them were angry.”
“Alright, but how does that prove they’ve seen it before?”
Aya sighed in frustration. “Kyle, I know that you and I met under some pretty weird circumstances. Because of that, you took it in stride when you found out about my powers. But say you had just met me on the street for the first time, and you saw me set something on fire with my powers. No skepticism—you clearly knew it was me, and not some firebomb or something. How would you react?” She waited a moment.
Finally, he gave in. “Alright, I see your point. So they’ve seen it before. What’s your next step, then? Arrest him and interview him? Book him on charges of illegal supernatural
powers?”
She snorted. “The word we prefer is ‘paranormal.’ And no. It’s FBI, remember? Federal Bureau of Investigation. So, I’ll investigate some more.”
“You sure it’s not ‘Feds Berating Innocents’?”
That one had her laughing. “Just wait ‘til I get home, and you’ll find out.”
“Now, see, what you have in mind would require that I be innocent, and I’m not sure we can really say that.”
“True.” Through the windshield, she saw the blackened field up ahead on the right. “Listen, Kyle, I’m at my next stop now, so I need to go. But how’s Eve doing? Any more bad dreams?”
“I…ah—yeah, actually. She had another one last night. I didn’t want it to worry you. It was the same dream she had before, she knows that, but she doesn’t remember any more
this time.”
“Why should it worry me? Kids have recurring nightmares sometimes. It’s nothing unusual. Just keep an eye on her, would you? Tell her I miss her.”
“And I’m sure she misses you, too. Take care of yourself, Aya. You know I want to bethere.” He hesitated, then added, “I love you, Aya.”
She swallowed the goodbye she was about to say. “I miss you too, Kyle. I’ll call youlater.” She closed the phone, breaking the connection.
There was a complication she wasn’t ready for, Aya mused as she got out of the Jeep. Kyle had used those words before—not often, but enough. For reasons she couldn’t
describe, she couldn’t say them back. Their relationship had been short, but dramatic; she wasn’t certain why. Perhaps it was because her serious relationships to date were too few
—Kyle may not have been the first or the second, but in the timeline of her life, he was rubbing shoulders with the first and second. It was possible, too, that growing up without her mother had kept her from learning something basic about relationships, something that she was only learning now, as an adult. That was what she had suspected about herself throughout her time with the NYPD and the FBI.
The answer, she now thought, was simpler than any of those things: Kyle, unlike anyone else, accepted her without questions, fear, or expectations. Nothing about her fazed him, not even her powers. It had taken about five minutes after discovering her powers to begin to guard that part of her life—not so much because she cared what people knew,
but because, deep down inside, she cared what they thought. From that moment on, she would never be able to turn down unconditional love.
In truth, it was that easy acceptance, that need, that frightened her so much now. After so much time spent hiding parts of herself, it was both exhilarating and terrifying to find herself so caught up—which was exactly the reason why she wouldn’t, couldn’t let go enough to answer him when he said he loved her.
She hoped she would overcome it.
With an effort of will, she pushed those thoughts aside, and confronted the hillside before her. From the edge of the road, the land dipped into a gully—more of a ditch, really—then rose up in a long, low wave for about a hundred yards, before cresting in a broad table of packed dirt. The land was blackened from the far bank of the gully to an uneven line about fifteen yards from the top of the rise; the burn extended about four hundred yards along the road. Aya bent down to retie her boots; then she walked out toward the
middle of the field.
She stood there for a while, with the wind ruffling her hair. She noticed, after a moment, that there was no sound other than the wind; no animals stirred, no voices carried over
from the town. Even the ever-present noise of the oil wells could not be heard this far away. The sun, just past its apex, beat down on her head with an almost tangible force.
The temperature had to be over a hundred degrees, she decided. It was almost as if the flames here were still burning…as if she could feel them crackling around her…
…She opened her eyes, and saw sheets of fire blazing around her. The heat was intense, although it didn’t burn her—could never burn her. Fire had no power over her. Instead, it bowed around her as she started walking toward the road. The high grass around her was going up like stubble, hardly even smoking in its haste to burn away. In minutes the ground for yards around would be as barren as a desert.
She could hear the roar of the flames as the wind, stronger now, whipped them into a frenzy,racing toward the town. Sirens carried toward her as the Taylor’s Canyon Volunteer Fire Department raced to the scene—but she knew they would be too late. Over it all, there was an angry hiss, the sound of water being sprayed by one early fire truck.
She reached a certain, unremarkable point, and felt her mitochondria surge up in warning, so she stopped. A moment later, a shockwave of wind struck her from ahead, with enough force to stagger her. The fire in front of her parted into a tunnel leading to the road, and Jack Carter came walking through it. He clearly couldn’t see her; at that point
she realized that she was seeing a vision, not truly living the events.
It was a shock when he walked right up to her, and
into her, vanishing as he did so. As soon as he had done so, her perceptions twisted, and she found herself a passenger in his presence, looking out on the scene as he must see it. She felt her hands lift out to the sides, felt power gather in them—power as she had never used it, never even realized it
could be used. Then, she released it into the fire.
Another shockwave burst from her—from Jack’s—hands. It flared out in an expanding shell of argent light, sweeping across the whole field. The flames died down when struck,
but still they burned; they would return in seconds, Aya saw. She felt Jack’s face grimace in concentration, and then another shockwave exploded from him, driving the flames
lower. The townsfolk would be able to see him now, from their places along the roadside. They would see what he was doing, and know. Another shockwave reduced the flames to
glowing embers.
A final blast leached the last heat from the ground, leaving cold ash behind. There would be no more flare-ups. Jack sagged, and Aya found herself falling with him. Townsfolk
started running toward him, fear and awe and concern all mixed on their faces. Two burly oilmen reached him first and reached to help him up—
–And Aya found herself back in her own body, standing in the middle of the empty field, with the sun still shining overhead. She had moved, she saw, to the spot where she had merged with Jack Carter; otherwise, nothing had changed. Still, she felt uneasy; something she had felt in Jack just as his two helpers reached out to him—
Greed. That was what she had felt.
Suddenly feeling vulnerable, she gathered herself, took her bearings, and hurried back to the Jeep. She felt her temperature rising as she walked, not from the mitochondria, but from simple adrenaline. Halfway to the vehicle, apprehension gave way to blind panic, and she ran.
Only when she was inside, with cool air washing over her, did her panic subside. She sat for a few minutes, taking deep breaths, not thinking at all. As the fear abated, rationality
slowly returned, and it occurred to her that never in her life—never in the worst of her battles with the NMC’s she hunted—had she felt anything like this overwhelming terror.
For the first time, she wondered just what she had gotten into in coming to Taylor’s Canyon.
There was no more time for it now, at any rate. In her reverie, nearly an hour had passed, and her meeting with Nancy was approaching. She put the jeep in gear and drove.
To pass the time, and to look a little more casual, Aya bought some stamps and envelopes, and scratched out a quick postcard to Eve. Finally she ran out of things to do, and retreated to the Jeep. She moved to a corner of the building where the clerk couldn’t see her through the window, and waited, none too patiently.
Nancy Blake pulled up at nearly a quarter to two, driving—what else?—a pickup, so covered in dust that Aya couldn’t make out the exact model. Come to think of it, her own Jeep was beginning to take on that aspect, as well. The woman still looked a little green as she got out, fumbling with her keys; but she saw Aya, and made momentary eye
contact before going into the post office.
Aya waited. Minutes later, Nancy came out with a stack of mail in her hand; she veered toward Aya as soon as she was out of sight of the door. Aya motioned her around to the
passenger seat and inside.
Nancy heaved an overly dramatic sigh of relief when the door closed. “You know, I’m not from around here, either. Minnesota, believe it or not. I can’t stand this heat.” She
brushed her hair back from her eyes, and turned the dash vent up toward her face. “There’s no such thing as fall or winter here. Come winter, it gets down in the seventies
and sixties. Practically Arctic.”
Aya nodded her agreement. “It’s cold in New York in the winter, too. Hot in the summer, though. Tell me,” she said, “was that why you were willing to talk to me when nobody
else will?”
Nancy thought about the question. “Well, I guess you can say that I don’t feel too much kinship with this town. It’s too rough for me. My husband came here to work site mapping for new wells, you know, and I came with him. One year later, here we are, and I’m ready to get out of Dodge. So I suppose that’s part of it.”
“But only part.”
Nancy looked at her then, for the first time since getting in. “You really are FBI, I guess. You people don’t miss a trick. Anyway, yes, that’s only part of it. The other part of it is
that I care about Jack Carter. He’s become a friend to me and my husband, so I guess you lucked out in meeting me. And, you know, everybody in town cares about him in one way or another. He does a lot of good for this town, so they ought to care about him. But they think that to care about him, they need to keep his secret. I suppose that’s what he wants, too, but I don’t think that’s what’s best.”
Aya frowned. “And why is that? Why do you think he doesn’t know what’s best?”
“Two reasons. First, because I’ve watched him. I see that he doesn’t really know why he can do what he does. He has some kind of power, but he’s afraid to use it, because he doesn’t understand it. Oh, he uses it anyway, but I think it scares him. Nobody deserves that.”
“Two,” Nancy continued, “it’s because I know who you are.”
That caught Aya off guard. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, I remember you. I didn’t always live in the armpit of Texas, remember. I remember seeing you on TV. You’re that cop from New York who was there when that…that thing destroyed the Statue of Liberty. The…what did they call it? The Manhattan Blockade Incident.”
“You have a good memory.”
“Thanks. Anyway, you tried to play it down, but I know you have some kind of power too. After last night, the whole town knows.” She grinned. “I don’t believe in superheroes. Superman’s just a comic book, right? There can’t be many ways in the world for a person to get the kind of power that Jack Carter has, and that you have too. I think you two get it from the same source. So maybe, just maybe, you can help Jack understand himself—if he’ll let you.”
“Doesn’t seem to be much chance of that.”
“I guess not. But a man like Jack, it’s all in how you approach the problem. Maybe if you can get on his side about something, he’ll open up.”
“That’s good advice, I think,” Aya said. “I’ll figure something out.”
“Yeah, well, while you’re figuring, here’s a freebie, but don’t tell him you heard it from me: The thing that Jack Carter cares about more than anything else in the world is his
little girl.”
“Melanie,” Aya said, remembering the old couple from her first night in town.
“That’s her. Anyway, if you didn’t know, she’s crippled. Four years ago, Jack was driving home at night, and a drunk hit him head-on at about seventy miles an hour. Jack’s poor wife Lydia was killed instantly, and Melanie shattered both legs. She lost all sensation in them, and she’s never been able to walk since. Jack walked away without a scratch, even though the truck caught fire and burned right through the cab.” Nancy shook her head regretfully. “I don’t think he can forgive himself now, for coming out fine when everybody else lost so much. But now, I think it was his powers that saved him, even back then before he knew he had them.”
Aya thought that might be the case, as well, and said so. “Fire can’t hurt me if I don’t let it,” she explained, thinking about the vision she had just had, and the flames bowing
down. “And sometimes I can heal myself.”
Nancy’s eyebrows went up at that. “Yeah? Wish I could do that. No, maybe I don’t. Anyway, two more things, and I’m done. First, Jack will never have to work again in his life, because, lucky for him, the drunk lived. Thank heaven for insurance laws, right? Melanie is set for life, too. Second, Jack feels even guiltier, because the one thing he can’t do, even with all his power, is heal Melanie. He has no idea why.”
That gave Aya pause. “It doesn’t make any sense. If he can heal other organisms—which is something I can’t do—it shouldn’t matter that it’s his daughter.”
“Hey, you’re the expert.” Nancy handed a slip of paper to Aya, then reached for the door handle. “There’s my cell phone number. Call me if you need any more help, but just
remember that people are cautious around here. I won’t be able to just talk most of the time—I’ll have to get back to you.” With a last breath of cool air, she slipped out the
door, and was gone.
Eve ran over the scrub grass, her tennis shoes pounding. Overhead, angry clouds swirled, violet on black and gray. Lightning flashed behind the clouds, sometimes piercing
through to stab at the earth. Hot wind slapped at her face, trying to hold her back, to slow her down enough for the creature to catch up. It came on, the monstrous half-man,
snarling as it run. Its club foot didn’t slow it down; it ran with the ferocity of an animal, some feral wolf gone mad in its haste to kill her.
Eve could feel the power building in her, power she had almost forgotten. It pulsed behind her eyes, in her ears. It drove her onward, faster, faster. Sometimes, if she strained
her ears, she could almost hear the mitochondria whispering—
Those were the times when the monster gained ground on her, so she pushed them away and ran. A quick glance back told her that the other man, the normal one, was chasing the
monster even as it was chasing her. She knew that the man would never catch it in time; it was too close. If there was to be an end, it was up to her.
She heard it before she saw it: The groaning of the oil rigs. Suddenly she was there, and she ran under the tall derrick. In the dim light from the sky, she saw two figures stretched
out on the ground, staring sightlessly into the sky. One was a girl about Eve’s age, with long, black hair wild around her head. The other, she saw with rising horror, was Aya.
The monster was almost on her. The power in her body reached a howling crescendo, just as the clouds burst above her, bombarding the dry ground with hot rain. Suddenly, as she had never done before, she heard the mitochondria scream, NOW—
–She spun toward the monster, slashing forward with both hands, and lightning erupted from her palms. The blast caught the monster and hurled it backward, yammering,
straight into the chest of the man. Both collapsed to the ground, and in the last sparking light of her lightning, Eve saw that the man and the monster had the same face.
The world spun around her, and she knew she was going to awaken. Just before the light poured into the darkened world, she heard a single sentence:“This is the man Aya
seeks.”
“So you’re sure this was a vision, and not just some dream?” Kyle said. “How can you be sure?”
Eve growled with impatience. “Kyle, I might look normal, but I’m not your everyday kid. You know that. Can’t you just trust me?”
“I wish I could, Eve, you know that. But I can’t see flying to Texas just based on a dream. If you can prove this to me, we’ll go.”
Eve lifted her right hand to eye level, and snapped her fingers. A steady flame popped into existence at the end of her index finger. “How’s this? A week ago, I didn’t have any
powers at all. Now, they’re back. They’re all back. Is that enough sign for you?”
Kyle’s jaw worked for a minute, but nothing came out. Finally, he reached for his cell phone. “Go get on the Internet, and get me the number for Delta.”
Three hours later, and two carry-on bags heavier, Kyle and Eve flew out of New York.
Author’s note: This chapter has been a long time, a VERY long time, in coming, and if I had any loyal readers, they are probably long gone. Still, for anyone who remembers it,
and for anyone who may be discovering it for the first time, please enjoy this story. Hope to put up more soon. Keep in mind, please, that chapters have been written over the
course of several years, on several computers, in several locations, so I have not always had the benefit of having my prior text available to refer to. Any discrepancies in content,
therefore, should be forgiven, and will hopefully be corrected soon. As always, your comments, questions, and reviews are welcome, especially if you discover a problem with the plot. Parasite Eve is a great story, and I only hope to add to it. Thanks again!  ~Timewalkerauthor.
Previous                    Back to Parasite Eve: The Other