My own moans echo in my ears before I even open my eyes. A dull thumping at the back of my skull reminds me that I got bashed in the head before I passed out.
Down at Niko’s Pizzeria my boss calls me “our tough chick.” Most woman don’t deliver pizzas in the slums of Chi-town. It ain’t worth the risk if you got kids or even a halfway decent man waiting at home.
But it never bothered me. In fact, until about a minute ago, I thought I was born without the fear gene. Turns out I have it and it kicks in just about the time I realize my wrists have been handcuffed behind my back while I’m strapped into a chair in the middle of an abandoned house.
I spit out a curse word. From the next room I hear wood scraping wood ( a chair being pushed back, maybe) and then feet shuffling closer, lazily, like this guy is in no real rush to torture, maim, rape or whatever else he has in mind, me. I get the slacker serial killer. Figures.
There are many times I do things without knowing why, especially in the last year and a half. It’s a part of my brain that just snaps on and knows how to roundhouse kick a mugger in the head, load a semi-automatic weapon, scale a ten foot high brick wall, and slip out of handcuffs. I have my right wrist nearly disjointed and slipped out of the cuff when she steps into the doorway.
My lungs clutch up. I’m breathing so shallow it sounds like puff, puff, puff. It’s the only noise in the room, except her smile. That smile is talking to me. Its my own smile, on my own face, and matches my own eyes that stare back at me.
I’m looking at me.
“Slip out of them and I’ll put double cuffs on you next time.”
He must have drugged me. A man answered the door to get the pizza. He looked about ninety years old and when he said he forgot where he put his cash, I bought it. I remember trying to break the hold he had on my neck. I flipped him over onto his back. I should have been able to get away but my world went black. Somehow he injected me with a drug. What else could explain this hallucination that leaned casually on the wall, arms crossed over her chest- my chest- while wearing a pissed off glint in her eyes- my blue eyes. “What....is this about?”
“We have a job to do.”
She stalked closer to me, then behind me, smelling like jasmine- a scent that flashed images in my mind of two identical blonde haired girls learning tae kwon do. Into my ear she whispered “Enjoy your vacation?”
Blink. Blink. Blink. Shake my head. Try to clear my foggy mind- wipe out those two girls, who are training, always training.Life is war. Never forget that, girls.
Where did that thought come from?
I need to see the man again. See his eyes and judge what he wants out of me. But all I see is myself. She grabs my shoulders. “I’m severely disappointed in you, Cheyenne. We were made not to break.”
“I’m not Cheyenne. I’m Rebecca, sir.”
“Sir?” In a second she is crouched in front of me, grabbing my face and digging her nails into my skin. “Snap out of it! I have plenty of ways to jog your memory but you won’t like any of them. Look at me. LOOK AT ME! Do you SEE me?”
Whispering I choke out “Yeah.”
She snaps back “What do you see?”
Sighing she gets on her feet, her hand runs into my hair, and forces my eyes to look into hers. “You playing me, sister?”
I’m not seeing her. I can’t be. I’m an only child. I’m Rebecca. You’re name is Rebecca Lynn Adams. You remember right, honey?
“ANSWER ME. Are you playing me? You think you can fool me? You can’t. We are identical. There is not a thought you ever came up with I didn’t think five seconds before. You don’t think I wanted to fake my death? Make a run for it. You know we can’t run. They knew where you were every second from the crash to your recovery to this brand spanking new life you got for yourself. I thought at first you hired that team to play Becky’s mama and Pops, but you didn’t, did you? The Unit sent them in....because....” she let go of me and took a step back “ you actually did lose your memory. You let yourself forget.”
The way she said it is what convinced me I was not looking at any figment of my imagination. Disgusts rolls over her face. In her view, I’m weak for getting amnesia.Good soldiers choose death over dishonor, girls.
“I’m Rebecca Lynn Adams. I grew up in South Bend. I was valedictorian of my graduating class before attending Purdue to study education...”
“Shut up!” She pulls a gun out from the back of her pants.
Glock 17Pro. Vertically titling barrel.Front rail mounted lights with lasers.
Rebecca the ex-school teacher turned pizza delivery girl shouldn’t know such a detailed knowledge of guns. She shouldn’t know half the stuff swimming around in my head. But eighteen months of being her is hard to let go. Rebecca is easy. She lives alone, works nights and sleeps days. She minds her own damn business and keeps her head low. Cheyenne-as this double of mine called me-well I don’t know who the hell she is and I don’t want to.
The gun is shoved toward me. “This was yours. A favorite. This is who you are. Born Cheyenne Leyton. Agent number 22-498-3365. Inducted June 2001 at sixteen. We didn’t go to any high school. You know that. Somewhere in that messed up memory of yours you know who you are.....and you are gonna remember tonight.”Do it again, Cheyenne. I want a perfect score from both you girls. Imperfection leads to weakness and weakness leads to death.
Crouching in front of me, for the first time her voice becomes gentle. “Don’t you get it? They are letting you live this fantasy life only because it keeps me in line. They can make me do....anything....by dangling you in front of me. They have Johnny now. He went rogue. He’s in interrogation. He’ll be dead within 22 hours.”
Did you want to join The Unit, Johnny?
Did I join? I don’t remember agreeing to this when I started training at 8. I didn’t join anything. I was born an agent, just like you.
My eyes sting with unshed tears. For what? For who? Him? Her? Me? Who am I? What am I?
“I don’t know how I can help you. Let me out of these handcuffs and....I’ll do what you want.”
Our eyes connect. Cold, calculating blue stares me down. “You would be better off dead then Rebecca Lynn. I’d be doing you a favor. You’ll remember or...” She looks down at the gun in her hand. “I’ll do the kind thing for you. Cheyenne would thank me.”You are a gift to this country, my girls. Twin elite genetically perfect machines. When you are born to save the world it is not a question of if you will do it, it is only a question of how many times you will do it.
She walks out of the room, leaving me to try and wrench my wrist free of the handcuff again. It pops out just as she comes back in with a black bag. Its big enough to carry a body and bulging with something that is packed tightly inside. She tosses in on the floor. “In here is everything The Unit uses to induce truth telling and memory retrieval. We go until you start getting the answers right or until there is no more chance you ever will. You ready?”
Without a word I spring from my seat and pounce on her. Every move I use, she counters. Blood flies from her mouth. Two of my fingers break when she bends them back. With each move I execute a memory shoots through my mind, till Rebecca burns away and only Cheyenne remains.
She’s got her arm around my throat when she says “This is why I need you to help me break him out. You’re still damn good.”
Though her choke hold makes it hard for me to breath I manage to get out “You need me cause only your twin would follow you into a near certain death, Celine.”
She tosses me to the ground. I look up at her. Pain shoots through every part of my body but I block it out.Soldiers don’t feel pain
Celine smiles. “About damn time.”
“You could have came for me sooner.”
“Figured you were working your own play. Leaving me to do the job for both of us.”
“That is something you would do, not me.” I shake my broken hand but don’t grimace.
“You gonna sit there and bitch about why I did both our jobs for a year and a half,” she asks me “or help me get Johnny out?”
Getting on my feet, with the gun in my hand, I tell her “Unless its happened since my car accident, no one has ever broken out of lockdown in The Unit.”
“Until tomorrow when Johnny does.”
It’s a suicide mission. My mind calculates the odds, running numbers faster than a computer, and comes up with no scenario where we could take on The Unit and walk out breathing.
Still I know I’m going to be one step behind Celine in whatever she attempts in order to gain Johnny’s freedom. I also know that none of it will probably work. We were born to be fighters, conceived in a lab in a quest to grow a generation of perfect agents, ready to lay down their lives for the interests of the United States of America.
The only thing our parents, all scientists and doctors and cops, didn’t count on was that some of us wouldn’t want to die in the name of truth, justice, and freedom for all.
Dying in a futile attempt to save the only man you’ve ever been in love with....well that is an entirely different story.
Rebecca Lynn, the tough chick, had a nice easy life. Cheyenne, the genetic marvel, will have a brutal, ugly death.
I tell my twin. “Lets get started working on a game plan. Sunrise is only six hours away.”