What She Was Told

Part 1

Vasquez stared at the orb. It was held in place by a cradle of metal, boxed in by thick, hard glass. The spacious room was swarming with scientists in gray-white lab coats, observing various holographic readouts and talking to each other. The excitement over the acquisition was obvious. Speculation about purpose, material makeup and even potential applications was rampant. So far few facts had emerged. This thing was important. That's what she was told. Very important. She knew it was true. So she had brought it here like she was told. Here it could be studied, contained. This was for the best. That's what she was told.

But she'd recovered it at the cost of her team. Sent them on a mission with a false objective. Many had died. She had shot Jason herself. It replayed in her head every time she closed her eyes. The look in his eyes. Not rage. Not fear. Confusion. Then the shot. The blood. The rain hammering down. She'd left him there. She hadn't been able to bring herself to pull the trigger on his head, but she might as well have. She'd left him to bleed out, surrounded by monsters... the monsters that had haunted both of them for far too long. He'd been her only comfort after the Evening Star. She'd be dead if it wasn't for him. She knew that. They'd been there for each other plenty of times. But she knew the scales were far from even. Starting with Elysium her life had been but incident after incident, horror after horror. Sometimes her own fault, and sometimes beyond her control. The universe didn't know when to stop sometimes. But Jason was always there for her, despite her destructiveness both to him and herself. It wasn't fair. It never had been. But he loved to play the hero. And she loved him. But now she'd hurt him again. One last time. Betrayed him. Betrayed her team. Because it was necessary. That's what she was told.

Getting lost in thought made her feel uncomfortable near the artifact. She was of little use here anyway. Vasquez left the room, heading out into a crisp, clean white hallway. She passed by scientists hurrying to one lab or another, engineers so deep in their datapads she had to sidestep to not collide with them, and armored security mechs patrolling the corridors. She continued on towards her quarters. She had her own. She didn't look forward to sleep, however needed it was. She'd done what she had to. For the good of humanity. She knew that. That's what she was told. But in the nights, when she laid staring out into the dark she felt something in the back of her mind. A part of her that wanted to cry out. In rage. In pain. Over what she had done. What she had been made to do. A part that didn't believe what she was told.

But when morning came it was gone.

Part 2

Vasquez sat in the observation lounge, looking out into space through the big, hardened glass window that covered most of the wall. She was sitting on one of several padded benches that were placed throughout the room along with leafy green plants. She was alone for now. Not much leisure time for those working at the Barn. Everyone had a job to do. An important job. There were a great many dangerous things in the galaxy. And worse horrors awaiting beyond. That is what she was told. Cerberus was preparing to face those dangers. They were doing whatever it took to prepare. To ensure survival. To save people from fates like what she had seen too many times. From being turned mad. Turned into monsters. Cerberus would prevent it. That is what she was told.

But something wasn't right. She knew that. She hadn't meant to see it. She had walked by the room many times. Many screens. Many handlers. But nothing she had cared about. Not her job. But then she had seen something different. She brought her omni-tool up again, playing the footage one more time. Jason. Arm missing. But alive. Talking to someone. To... Leah, as far as she could tell. Cerberus really was everywhere. But that wasn't what she was focused on. Jason was alive. He'd survived. And he wasn't the only one. But... they were dead. They had died on the planet. That's what she was told.

Only it wasn't true. Jason was alive. And he was being watched. She found herself wondering what else she hadn't been told. And if what she was told had been untrue. But it was hard to follow such a train of thought for very long. Hard to focus. She'd gotten used to having a hard time focusing, a hard time keeping track of her own thoughts. Her own... self. It had been like that for a long time after the temple. Jason had been all that kept her sane. He'd been there when she couldn't make sense of anything. Not of herself or what was around her. But they had gotten through that. She had gotten better. Until now. Because that's what it had to be, right? Her damaged mind, coming back to haunt her? Yes. That was why she couldn't think straight. It only made sense. After all, that was what she was told.