Hansel's Lover - Chapter EighteenThey promised they would face their problems together, but what would the Captain of Recon Division do when he is assigned a mission that requires more than he is willing to give?
Daniel paced back and forth behind the metal door that separated him from the men who attacked Anna this morning. He desperately wanted to be in the interrogation room, but General Romero decided it would be best he doesn't show himself to them, especially after the number he put on their faces.
"Patience," said Gil. "They're doing their best inside."
"I know," replied Daniel. "But I can't help it. These men have done nothing but harass the Elixons." He curled his hand. "They almost had her, twice."
"And twice, you were there." Gil leaned his shoulders backward, and he rested his head on the wall. "How is she?"
"By her father's side," he replied. "I had to hold her down to get her fixed up before she ran to where he is."
"I can't believe Ilyan of all people would be involved."
Ilyan, the handsome young man who cooked for the National Guards.
Ilyan Greyhm .
Anna overheard her attackers talking about a man named Greyhm who had given them information about her.
"When you called us to find him, he was nowhere to be found," said Gil. "That snake."
Daniel held his head in frustration. "He was the insider all along. I can't believe I didn't realize it sooner. I trusted these walls too much."
"But we can't guard it either," replied Gil. "We're busy enough guarding the entire kingdom. The situation's changed and we leave today instead of tomorrow night. You will join us, won't you?"
He ruffled Gil's hair. "As your Captain, I need to be there to make sure you don't cause trouble."
Gil shook his hand off. "Tell that to yourself, Captain. But I still can't believe it, you know. That the Ezterdelle's Recon team would get a hold of Captain Elixon."
"Didn't you know?" Said Daniel. "Those guys are the best in the kingdom. Their success rate is close to a hundred."
A few seconds later, they found Wells enter the hallway, and he stopped in front of them.
"The preparations have been completed, Captain. The guys are waiting for us outside."
"You better have said your goodbyes to your girlfriends today. We'll be there a little over a week. Ezterdelle knows we owe them one, so they're pushing us to do a good job on this."
"Piece of cake," commented Gil as he plopped his helmet.
Wells shrugged his shoulders. "I'm sure you have things to finish when we get back," he said as he turned he glanced over to the metal door. "That includes finishing some people too."
Anna watched as Emily poured a vial of green liquid to a clear solvent. Then, she watched as Emily grabbed another vial, this time with yellow liquid, and poured it into the solution. Emily started to shake the flask, but nothing happened.
"This one's not working either," sighed Emily. "I don't know how many that is now."
"17th", replied Anna. "Thank you for trying."
She stood up from Emily's table, and she walked into the room where her father slept.
It was so strange, how normal he looked. There was nothing wrong with her father's vitals, his oxygen level appeared normal, and Anna could even see his chest rise and fall in a consistent pattern, yet he would not wake up. Captain Elixon's body is laid on top of a mattress, and with no IV lines hooked up to him. He simply looked like he went inside the room for a nap.
Anna wondered how long he had been in this condition, but she can't help but feel happy that he was finally in Siho.
"Wake up father," whispered Anna as she held his warm hand. "I miss you so much. I have so many stories to tell, and I know you'd be eager to hear them all."
Emily rolled herself beside Anna. "I'll be sure to tell you that Anna didn't come home for six months. Or that she cut her hair so short."
Anna rolled Emily's chair back. "I was on vacation."
"I call bullshit," replied Emily from a distance, and then she began to work again.
"Father," whispered Anna as she rested her head in the side of his bed. "I met Vincent Milkov, the man in mother's journal." She closed her eyes. "My biological father."
She squeezed his hand.
"When he looked at me, his eyes tell me that he knows what I am capable of. We only spoke a few times. The first was when Daniel and I came to Andestris. The second was when I asked him to help me hide. In both cases, he helped me without question. I never confronted him, because he must have had his reasons for leaving."
Anna found her mother's journal when she was fifteen. There, she understood that although her mother met James Elixon at eighteen, for a while her heart belonged to her childhood friend, Vincent.
James was adamant in pursuing the girl who has her heart set in someone else, yet one day, Vincent left Siho, without question, and it broke her Emilia's heart. James stopped pursuing her as a lover, and instead became a friend whose shoulder she cried on.
What they didn't know was that she was pregnant with Vincent' child.
"I never told him who I was, but somehow, I think he knows who I am. But it's all right," she smiled. "Because my real father will always be you. Even without mother, you raised a daughter that wasn't yours and treated her like your real child. I'm sorry I haven't told you that I knew about it all along."
She got up from her seat and pressed her lips on his cheek. Intending to walk away, she turned her body around, but soon she found her body swaying, and watched as Emily jumped from her seat and started running towards her.
"No way," Anna thought to herself as she collapsed. "It can't be happening again."
But it did, and just like the other times, her consciousness dissipated.
Anna's eyes opened to a sight she was grossly familiar with.
"Don't look so annoyed," said Emily who was sitting on a chair beside her. "I had to stop Dr. Carson from carrying you to the central hospital and he settled with putting you here in the private room of the clinic."
Anna took off the IV lines that were stuck to her arms. Then she looked out the window to see the sun shining brightly in the sky. The last time she was awake, it was nearing nighttime. "How long was I out this time?"
Emily pursed her lips. "Three days. You relapsed after almost two years without worrying about this... illness."
Anna hid her face under the white blanket. "Three days. It's gotten worse."
"I still can't understand it, Anna. I don't know what triggers it. Do you have a clue?"
"No," she answered.
Anna was disappointed with herself. She hadn't fainted in a long time, not since the first time Daniel went to her house.
"I'm getting very worried about you," said Emily. "I still haven't encountered an illness where the patient would suddenly faint and not wake up for long periods of time. The longest you haven't woken up before was for 37 hours." Emily flipped open a binder with Anna's name on the cover. "What were you thinking about before this happened?"
"I was thinking about the past," she said to her. "I was telling my father about someone I met when I was in Andestris. A man he once knew."
"Do you remember what you were thinking about the last time you fainted?"
"I..." Anna thought carefully. "I was thinking about the time Sahl and I were young, and we got lost in a forest. We saw a snake swallow a chicken in whole. Then it tried to aim for me."
It was the first memory that she can no longer forget for the rest of her life, as after that, her father revealed to her that she had such an unforgiving ability.
Lines started to form in Emily's forehead, and before long her lips began to move.
"Perhaps it has something to do with you looking back to the past?"
"Anna, you have impeccable memory. I know that. But our brain, you see, can only handle so much. It's like a roll of film. It's fine if you continue looking forward, but if you have to look back, so much effort needs to be put for that roll of film to start from the beginning. Perhaps, with the things you've experienced in the past year and a half, your brain is beginning to reach its limit. By thinking of memories from your past, your brain resets by shutting down completely, causing you to lose consciousness."
Anna looked down. "But what if... what if my memory is just SO good, that I can't help but remember them even if I don't want to?"
"Then we're going to need a permanent bed for you here at Dr. Carson's clinic," said Emily. "Just be happy he's letting you leave now. I have your discharge papers."
Emily stood up and patted her in the shoulder. "Don't worry. No matter how good your memory is, you're only human. It's impossible for a human to clearly remember every single thing she sees and not have the capacity to forget. Her brain would explode eventually. There is only so much room in our brain to remember everything. And it would get worse, deadly even, if most of those memories have emotional consequences. To remember, in detail, how one gets shot, or gets killed in front of you, and have that memory repeated over and over again... I might as well dig that person's grave."
"By the way, does Captain Han know?"
Anna shook her head. "Not yet. But Emily, it's strange that I haven't fainted once, since Daniel and I left Siho. I've certainly remembered some things when I was younger." Anna bit her tongue. She might as well just tell Emily everything at this point.
"A psychological reaction. You must have started caring for him deeply enough that you no longer see him as a threat, the way you look at every new face who comes in town."
"You think so?"
"Mhmm," answered Emily, who no longer paid attention. "Speaking of Captain Han - I just saw their truck pass by."
Anna quickly got up, and she gave Emily a great big hug. "I'll see you later!"
Letting go, she darted through the stairs, leading her to the main floor and into the entrance. As she stepped out, she was quickly greeted by a pair of arms that came from the side of the door.
"Where were you running to?" said Daniel as his arms wrapped around her.
"To meet the handsome Captain of the Recon team," she answered. "Have you seen him?"
"That's funny, he did mention he'll go meet his lover right as we entered the border. He didn't mention which."
She pressed her elbow to his side, making him groan.
"I deserve that," said Daniel in defeat. "You look better. Are you finished with work?"
Anna didn't say anything for a while, as she tried to think about how to answer him. But she has already decided to be truthful to him. To no longer have secrets between them.
So she lifted her chin up, and looked him right in the eyes.
"I got discharged today, Daniel. I've been asleep for three days and have only just woken up."
"Did you find out anything about Ilyan Greyhm while you were there?" asked General Romero to the newly arrived soldiers after finishing a highly-classified reconnaissance assignment. The Recon team had just arrived in the territory and needed to report right away.
"A few," answered Daniel, who hurried inside the room and into the front. "I apologize for being late, General."
"I'll let today pass," he answered. "How did your mission go?"
"We recovered three prisoners, all women at the site. Two had Ezterdelle citizenship, the other was from Valkondh. We have taken them back to their families. The mission is over."
"As expected, you all did well. And what about the other thing?"
Daniel turned around and took the folder from Lieutenant Well's hand.
"Greyhm's real name is Marcus Elthiore, a decorated underground agent from Black Cross. Ezterdelle was right on the money."
"How preposterous," General Romero slammed the table. "An underground agent working in our kitchen for three whole months and nobody noticed."
"Black Cross?" Whispered Gil to Wells. "So those bastards actually have a name?"
Wells stepped on his foot.
"Our worst enemy," answered Daniel, who overheard their conversation. "The Black Cross Society sabotages any efforts made by the National Guards. They don't belong in a single territory. Just like us, their members consist of people coming from all regions of our kingdom. You've seen their works many times."
"It's true," added General Romero. "They've eliminated four of our aerial warfare pilots last year, when they've figured out that the pilots have more than one mission at hand. John Lee, Richard Menos, Sterling Wenster. Sahl Mcyintyre."
Daniel flinched at this.
"They're also responsible for assassinating Alan Mishkov, a Union Republic detective. We assume they did it so they could steal his identity and enter our borders."
"He was here?" Exclaimed Gil, and the soldiers behind him started to whisper to each other.
Daniel curled his hand into a ball. He saw the imposter, the exact moment he was with Ilyan. He hadn't recognized who the man was pretending to be, and simply assumed it was someone which Anna knew. Anna, who that day, he wholeheartedly ignored.
Then came the time they infiltrated the Elixon household. And then the incident a few days ago, in Andestris.
This girl I know, she's amazing! Once she looks at something, even for the briefest moment, she could never forget it! I showed her a page from one of father's book for exactly five seconds, and she recited it to me, word by word. That's why Daniel, I'm afraid for her.
Why is that, Alexandra?"
Because you see, Daniel, if bad people find out that she can memorize things so easily like that, they can use her as a weapon."
Daniel snapped back from reality. "Yes, sir."
"You seem distracted today. I called you twice."
"General, if I may," said Daniel carefully, "if we have a weapon of sort, one which easily memorizes things, maybe even people's faces, would Black Cross create such a weapon for themselves, or will they try and steal it from us?"
General Romero sighed. "Isn't that simple, Captain? If such a miraculous technology exists, one which could recognize the face of a spy or an intruder, they'll waste no time stealing it from us. After all, such a weapon can stand in the frontline and pinpoint which doesn't belong."
General Romero looked at him strangely. "Why, do you know of such a weapon?"
Daniel shook his head. "I was simply wondering."
"All right then," the General nodded. "You can all go now."
Daniel turned around to leave with his team, when the General held him gently by the shoulder.
"Captain," said the General, "I know you were close with Mcintyre, but he knew what he was doing. He probably didn't tell you this, but their mission was similar to what you've mentioned. They were ready, in case sacrifices need to be made."
Stunned, Daniel lifted his head up. "Sir, what are you talking about?"
General Romero looked at him sternly. "Do you know about Mission E?"
"Mission E is a level ten recon mission, aimed to recover undisclosed technological advancements made by the bigshots before the Morgan virus wiped up a whole lot of us," explained the General.
"We wouldn't have given it that much importance, but we realized that these are not just simple technologies. They are weapons, weapons that might be powerful enough to wipe out the remaining survivors of this kingdom. We suspected that other territories have these high-tech gadgets hiding in their backyard, just waiting to be used. Sehler led the pilots, while Captain Elixon led the former Recon team. Very few people know about this, including the past three Prime Ministers, who put this mission together."
Daniel was taken aback. He had no idea such a mission existed. The National Guards' Recon Division specializes in highly-classified reconnaissance operations but he has yet to work on a level ten assignment.
"We believe that someone had hired Black Cross to protect these weapons from us. Since Captain Elixon disappeared and Sehler was killed, we lost track."
The General walked towards Daniel, and he put his hand on Daniel shoulder.
"Han, as the Captain of the National Guard's Reconnaissance Division, I want you to lead your team and finish Mission E."
The General nodded. "We obtained five of them already, but the problem lies with the sixth, the very last weapon. This one, we have been searching for 23 years. Even then, we wondered if it was real. Those men that attacked Anna Elixon, as you have suspected, belonged to the Black Cross. And they told us what we have been suspecting all along - that it's real. And that they too, are searching for it. I suspect they attacked Anna in case she knew about this from her father."
"What makes this one so difficult to find?"
The old man sighed before sitting down in his chair. As if he could not believe what he was about to say next, he turned his head dejectedly to Daniel. Then he spoke.
"Because the weapon was implanted to a baby. A BABY!" He slammed his fists down. "23 years ago, they dreamed about building a human military weapon."
Daniel wanted to throw up. He could taste the bile coming up from his stomach, but he did his best not to move.
"When James Elixon was still a lieutenant, his team recovered records from a scientist's journal, regarding an ongoing experiment to create a solution that would enhance a human's mental ability by 90%. None of them believed it at first, but as they turned those pages, they started to believe that those lunatics in white lab coats might have actually succeeded. The records show it will be a gradual process. This child, who would now be a full-grown adult, would have first exhibited one extraordinary ability for a prolonged period of time. They named it, "total recall" - the ability to remember in the highest precision, everything the child would set its eyes on.
They suspect that overtime, the child's body would consider the chemicals as part of its natural process. Once it stops rejecting the chemicals completely, the child will exhibit more of these abilities in a very short period of time. Not only will the child's mental ability be heightened in an extraordinary rate, the child will also start to exhibit abnormal physical abilities. That is when it gets messy."
He watched as the General looked blankly on the white walls.
"The Union Republic had caught whiff of this, and Ezterdelle had always been suspicious. Andestris and Siho have been talking of such a possibility for years, and Sonddor, well, I'm sure they know too. The territories are getting anxious, and so should we. They all want this child to be their own weapon. We, on the other hand, will need to do things differently."
Daniel felt numb.
Perhaps, it had to do with the fact that there exists a human being, capable enough of engaging seven military-armed territories to battle once found. Or perhaps it had to with Anna exhibiting the very same symptoms.
"Captain, I'm sure by now you must be wondering - How do they know the child will gain those abilities, when it had yet to open its eyes?"
Hesitantly, Daniel nodded.
"Because," said the General, "according to their records, those monsters experimented on the child's mother first".
He stood up and handed to Daniel a black folder with a miserable expression.
"To become a National Guard requires sacrifice, even if that meant sacrificing what we, individually, stand for. For the fragile peace we are trying desperately hard to protect, we must forget sympathy. That's why, once found, you must dispose of the human weapon at once."
Anna was gathering firewood from outside her house when she noticed the Captain a few meters away. She did not realize that he would be paying her a visit now, because he wasn't supposed to come for another two hours for dinner.
Yet, he didn't seem ready to eat at all. He was still wearing his combat uniform, and his hand carried his helmet.
"Captain," she yelled out. "Why so early? Did you miss me already?"
Anna wanted to make fun of his early attendance, but that thought disappeared when he stopped walking. Instead, he stood where he was, frozen like a tree.
Looking at her.
What's going on with him? She thought. Did he finally go crazy?
Anna dropped the firewood she gathered and walked the remaining few steps that separated them.
"I'm still preparing dinner," she said to him. "But why do you look like you're about to cry?"
"Anna," said Daniel. "Anna Elixon."
She watched as he started to chuckle. But what should sound like amused laughter instead sounded like a cry of help. He turned his head away and used the helmet to cover his eyes.
"What's wrong?" She asked.
Daniel straightened his back, and he turned his attention back to her with a somber expression.
"I am thinking of leaving the army."
Anna almost jumped. "What are you talking about?"
She thought he was simply joking, but something about his eyes today tell her that such was not the case.
Those darkened eyes cannot be lying.
"Today, I have been given an order. An order I cannot simply obey."
"Will it hurt you?"
Daniel looked at her for a moment. "It will kill me."
"Then quit the army".
As she said that, she notice him flinch. For some reason, this made her feel better, and she began to laugh.
Now there's the Daniel I know.
Anna grabbed the helmet from his hand, and pointing to it, she smiled.
"This," she said, "is part of you. Unlike the other soldiers I met who would mindlessly toss their helmets to the ground, you always held it up. On your first day here in Siho, as I accompanied you to the camp, you told me you didn't regret leaving Andestris to be a National Guard," she smiled. "To protect those that needed you, you left the place that could have very well treated you like a king. I must have fallen for you then."
Anna extended her hand, and she pressed her palm to the side of his cheek. "You are this nation's soldier, Captain."
After she finished speaking, she gave him his helmet back. Then, she pointed to the unchopped pile of wood in front of her house. "But before that, I'm going to make you work for your dinner," she smiled.
Intending to go inside the house to start cooking, Anna took a few steps away when she heard something drop to the ground. It was Daniel's helmet, and she watched it roll down, passing her sandals and stopping just at the steps of her front door. When she bent down to grab it, he began to speak.
"Anna, how did your mother die?"
Anna was caught off guard. She quickly stood up and turned to him.
"I don't know exactly. She died when I was still a baby. Daniel, what's going on?"
"I want to be wrong," he said sadly. "I want to be completely wrong."
Anna ran to him, and she pressed both her palms to his face to calm him down.
"You can tell me anything. Please."
So he did.
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