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Total Recall of the Heart

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Melina Quaid was sure of three things.

The first being that she was married, early thirties, and her wife was a piece of work.

The second: her job brought absolutely no satisfaction, but it paid the bills and it wasn’t like Lori liked her job much either.

And finally? Life in the Colony might not be the greatest, and going through the Fall every day could be tiresome and frankly quite boring, but it was still better than being one of those spoiled aristocrats living up in UFB.

One thing Melina Quaid was less sure about?

That any of those three things were actually the truth.

But saying that out loud was crazy, and therefore Melina never had. She merely continued to wake up next to her wife—who had become more conscientious about not hogging all of the covers after their last bickering session—and made the daily trek to the Fall station with thousands of others in order to plummet through the earth’s core and rocket up to work. And when she arrived home, she made dinner, or Lori made dinner, and they watched TV or argued or had sex—or all three—and then Melina fell asleep, dreamed, and did the whole thing all over again.

The dreams were the problem.

They felt too real. The sense of urgency and fear as she escaped down industrial, nondescript hallways with a man she didn’t know. The spike of pain as a bullet shot through their clasped hands—trauma, surely, over the healed scar in the center of her palm, actually obtained in a freak accident at work. The anguished look on the man’s handsome face as he escaped into the tunnel and she was dragged backwards in restraints by UFB guards.

It was all too real. 

And it made her life seem less real.

Melina hated both facts.

“Dreams again?” Lori asked when Melina thrashed awake for the fourth day in a row. 

Melina sat up and swallowed despite the fact that her mouth felt drier than the No Zone. For a minute, she couldn’t actually look at her wife. The feelings grew too confusing whenever she did that, so she squeezed her eyes closed and willed away the remnants of terror and urgency. It remained a part of her—one she could feel clinging to the recesses of her mind—but she forced it away, choosing to be Melina Quaid again. Whoever she was in dreams, that was somebody else.

“It’s nothing,” she said when she could speak in a neutral tone.

Lori sat up. “I wish you’d tell me what’s going on.”

“Nothing’s going on.”

“People who have screaming nightmares don’t usually have ‘nothing going on.’” Lori hugged her from behind, pressing her cheek to Melina’s shoulder blade. Her hair tickled the back of Melina’s neck. “You know you can trust me, right?”

“Mm-hmm,” Melina said.

“The whole ‘in sickness and in health’ bit includes mental health,” Lori went on.

“They’re just dreams. Frankly, they’re a little embarrassing, especially because I’ve got nothing to worry about. I like my life. If anything, I just wish they’d stop.” Melina spotted the clock and sighed. Trust her nightmares to wake her up two minutes before her alarm. She squeezed Lori’s wrists before disentangling herself. “I need to get ready for work.”

“Suit yourself.” Lori didn’t quite flounce, but she did turn over very quickly. “I’m going back to sleep.”

“Lori…”

“If you don’t want to share, it’s fine.” Lori kept her pointedly directed at Melina. “I’m only your wife and most trusted companion.”

Melina sighed. “Whatever.”

She went through the motions of getting for work, tiptoeing about the apartment even though she knew Lori was still awake. Her job running IT at the plant meant she had to be on the first Fall. Lori’s paramedic duties ran a couple hours later. It used to be they were on the same commute—flirting about accidentally swapping coffees during the zero gravity portion was how they met—but the cost of living in the Colony had been rising so much that Melina had volunteered for extra hours. At moments like this, when her wife was annoyed at her, she missed the shared commute.

So she stopped by the bedside on the way out the door and bent to kiss Lori’s cheek. “Have a good day.”

At least Lori’s silence wasn’t frosty anymore, though all she said was “Mm” as she burrowed back into the covers.

Her “You, too” followed Melina out the door.

On the Fall, Melina chose to brood into her coffee to avoid talking to her overly friendly coworker. Why Harry ever thought he could turn her into a morning person was beyond her. She’d rather be alone with her thoughts, most of which focused on the little non-fight with Lori.

Maybe there was something wrong with her. Maybe she needed therapy.

But by all accounts her life was fine. So why did she feel like something was missing? And why, deep inside her, did she feel like maybe she was better off without that missing piece?

Every screen in the UFB Main station blazed with a BREAKING NEWS chyron when Melina disembarked. Nobody truly stopped, but steps slowed as the crowd took in the unfolding horror. Another bombing by the resistance on behalf of the mysterious shadow leader Matthias.

Another day of deaths, all brought on Colony extremists. Melina pushed down a sick feeling as the news blared on, talking about the mysterious captain in Matthias’ guerilla army, a man named Carl Hauser. A man so elusive that they’d only obtained one blurry, long-distance clip of him. Which they played every time a new bombing happened.

A few seconds later, Melina’s hand buzzed with a text from Lori. Going in to work early, love you.

The whole thing made her queasy, though she had no idea if that was due to the lives taken, or that Lori would have to deal with the fallout.

It stayed on her mind through her shift and overtime, partially because it was all that her coworkers could talk about. They all commuted from the Colony; if there were any Resistance sympathizers, they knew better than to say so anywhere in Britain. Cohaagen’s people had ears everywhere. But none of them could resist the lure of gossip.

What worried her more was catching three supervisors, none of whom took the Fall, talking about those dirty Colonists when they thought she couldn’t hear them.

She searched her memory on the Fall home, wondering why this bombing had felt different to her. She didn’t remember paying much attention to Colonial politics and Cohaagen. But the queasy feeling didn’t fade, and reading explainers on her tablet left a smear on the back of her mind. Like there was a memory or a fact right out of her reach, though she had no reason to remember or know it.

Melina dropped by their favorite dim sum stall to pick up dinner for Lori, pushing her way through the jostling crowds at the market. As she was reaching for a cantaloupe she spotted him:

The man from her dreams.

It was a fleeting glimpse at best, but after weeks of dreams she’d recognize that dark hair and those eyes anywhere. He stood across the aisle, checking out a vendor selling dried bug parts. She blinked, craning her neck to get away. But a group of greasers passed between them, and he was gone.

Like he’d never been there in the first place.

She glanced around, but all she saw was the marketplace, thick with people and mingled scents of food and exhaust. She’d gone from dreams to waking sightings of this man.

Maybe it was time to talk to Lori about all of this. Melina set the cantaloupe down and stepped out of the stall, carting her sack of dim sum out of the market. They’d simply skip dessert tonight, she figured. Or she’d crack open some wine. She turned off of the main breezeway and began the climb to the little flat she shared with Lori.

When she turned the corner, something grabbed her—and yanked her off of the sidewalk. Melina found herself face to face with the man from her dreams again.

She gaped at him, briefly too stunned to talk.

“Your name?” he demanded, gripping her arms so tightly above the elbows that it hurt. “What did they tell you your name is?”

Melina was too shocked to be anything but truthful. “My name is Melina. Who the hell are you? Let go of me.”

The man released her. “Melina.”

“Who the hell are you?” Melina said again.

But the man, astonishingly, began to pace. He rubbed his mouth, like he was going to be sick—and from the sheen of sweat on his skin, he might actually be. He looked…feral wasn’t quite the word for it, but there was a sense of mania behind his eyes. And yet, Melina weirdly wasn’t afraid of him. In fact, it felt like she knew him.

Which was far more insane than anything happening to her at the moment.

“They didn’t even bother to change your name?” the man said. “Son of a bitch.”

“What are you talking about? Who are you?” A smarter person might have run away then. Melina’s finger did creep toward the panic button on her palm, just under her pinky, but she didn’t flee. Every nerve in her body was standing at attention.

“You don’t recognize me?”

“No,” Melina lied. “Should I?”

The man stared at her. “They really did a number on you.”

“Who did?”

“If I had to guess, Cohaagen.”

The idea that she would ever or had ever met the leader of pretty much all that remained of the planet was so absurd that Melina nearly tilted her head to make sure any of the rain hadn’t gotten in her ears. But no, he appeared completely serious. “I think you’ve got me confused for somebody else.”

“You recognize me.”

“Sir, leave me alone. What are you—” Melina broke off abruptly, dropping her bags in terror when it finally registered. She immediately held both hands up. “I don’t have much, just take what you need and go.”

“I don’t want to rob you.” The stranger shook his head in frustration, but he didn’t lower the gun he’d pulled out. “I need you to come with me.”

“Come with you where?”

“To Rekall.”


Rekall could really wreck a marriage.

For example, that morning Melina had thought she was a 9-to-5 plant worker with an EMT wife and a mundane existence. Then Rekall had happened.

And now Melina’s wife had become a super spy intel officer with a new accent. A nice accent, admittedly.

Less nice was the fact that she was pretty hell-bent on killing Melina.

Case in point: Melina ducked as her wife fired off another spate of plasma bolts down the lift shaft. Her head rang, but it’d been ringing ever since a stranger forced her into the Rekall chair at gunpoint, so that was nothing new. That same stranger sprinted ahead of her now, obviously timing their run so they wouldn’t get flattened by the lift carts shooting among the tunnels between the UFB living quarters.

Lori was trying to kill him, too, and as far as Melina knew he hadn’t been married to her, so maybe it wasn’t personal.

More bullets echoed down the shaft. Melina could hear Lori charging ahead of a squad of Synthetics, her footsteps slightly off against to their even cadence.

“Just give up, Hauser,” Lori called, not even sounding out of breath. “Before you get us all killed!”

Hauser—Carl—muttered something Melina couldn’t make out. He skidded to a stop as a lift cart shot up a tunnel right in front of them, nearly shaving off their eyebrows with it.

Behind them, the footsteps grew closer.

Carl glanced at her, woefully serious. He held out a hand. “Trust me?”

Melina stared at it. “What the fuck? No, I don’t trust you.”

“Too bad.” Carl grabbed her wrist, yanked, and then they were free-falling down a vertical lift shaft. Melina hurtled, eyes watering and her stomach in her throat. All she could see was the top of a lift cart, so far down that surely they were about to die, surely this was it—

Carl hooked some kind of tool around a beam and their plummet abruptly jerked into a parabola, nearly yanking Melina’s arm right out of the socket. She cried out as they swung into a lift shaft with enough force that it sent her rolling. But before she could gather her breath, Carl hauled her to her feet. “Can’t stop, not safe.”

“Why are you doing this?” Melina wanted to ask him, but unfortunately she knew the answer to that. Besides, she needed all of her breath for running, which was what she did now. She glanced back to see a Synthetic landing and depositing Lori on her feet.

For an infinitesimal eternity, a hundred feet apart down the corridor, their eyes met. I don’t want this, Melina wanted to tell her, and she thought she recognized an echo of sympathy on Lori’s face.

But Lori scowled. “Coward!” she shouted, firing off another round.

Melina turned and ran.

To think, six hours ago, they’d been happily married. Well, mostly happily married. None of it had been real.

The problem was?

Melina had suspected that was the case long before Carl had found her in the market and upended her life.

The mismatched seams in her memory hadn’t been obvious, but they’d been just apparent enough for her to poke at them in the quiet moments while Lori slept next to her, breathing even. Small questions throughout the days had begun to amass until they were too loud to ignore. She had all the pastiches of being Melina Quaid: early thirties, married two years, a fairly good hand with the pencil, an even better hand with a margarita and her Aunt Nita’s curry.

And none of that computed to a constant need to check over her shoulder. Or the little frisson of distrust and excitement upon seeing Lori walk into their shared flat in the evenings, the one that whispered predator in anticipation. The near-eidetic memory and understanding of the Colony’s layout, one that constantly felt incomplete in a way Melina lacked the context to define.

Nothing in those facts matched the background for Melina Quaid, raised by a single dad in the Colony until she was old enough to get factory work herself. She’d been happy in her life with Lori, even though she knew nothing had made sense until a man she’d only seen in patchy dreams had outright snatched her out of the market and into an alley before she could stop him.

“You know,” Melina said as she chased Carl down the lift shaft, “I’m not sure I’ll forgive you for this.”

“Can we talk about this later? Little busy right now.” Carl spun and fired three times. Something behind them in the corridor erupted in sparks, but Lori didn’t cry out in pain.

Melina wasn’t sure how to feel about that.

“When are we not busy?” Melina asked. She made the leap right after Carl across an access port. “Since you’ve come into my life—or back into my life, apparently—we’ve been incredibly busy fighting for our lives.”

“I may have misjudged the missus.” Carl stopped running, turned, and began to fire at something through the access port they’d just vaulted. Melina flinched and ducked back to avoid the Synthetics’ hail of bullets. Lori, it seemed, mostly focused on Carl, who dodged with the ease of the previous agent he claimed to be.

Before Melina could ask what he was doing, a support beam right over Lori’s head came loose. She somersaulted out of the way just in time.

The Synthetics weren’t so lucky. Rubble tumbled down and drove them to the floor in a useless pile of sparking detritus.

The same rubble piled up, separating Lori from Melina and Carl.

Lori’s face twisted with rage. But to Melina’s shock, she didn’t raise her firearm again. “You are the most frustrating person I know!” she said instead.

Melina bristled at the familiar argument. It wasn’t real, but it also was something Lori was known to exclaim—usually minutes before one of them tumbled the other onto the bed, laughing, all relationships misdemeanors forgiven. Hearing it now made Melina flinch.

Especially when Lori scooped up a rock and flung it inexpertly their direction. “Whoever your real spouse is, they must have the patience of a saint,” Lori said.

How dare she.

“The only one I remember being married to is you,” Melina shouted back, ducking another poorly aimed piece of rubble. “Trust me, sainthood doesn’t apply!”

Carl grabbed Melina by the elbow. “Run now. Marriage counseling later.”

Melina and Lori gave him exactly the same stink eye.

The last thing Melina saw as Carl hurried her around the corner was her wife glaring after them through a break in the rubble.


Unfortunately, things couldn’t keep going Melina’s way. Not that they had been doing that in the first place. But even her bad luck was bound to run out or become worse luck. Carl’s rough reentry into her life, his demanding she come with him, everything falling apart? That had been fine. But being on the run from Cohaagen, from Lori, from the entirety of the UFB because Carl had been accused of a bombing? It was getting to be a bit much.

And so Melina wasn’t entirely surprised when the UFB soldiers tracked them down on the magnetized over-highways. She could have lived without Carl disengaging the magnetization. Or crashing the car. Or the crash bashing her head on the dashboard.

She would especially have been fine if she’d been able to get away like Carl had. But even that wasn’t possible.

By the time they marched her into a hotel room, the head wound seemed to have stopped bleeding, but Melina felt woozy. The guard shoving her toward the room’s single chair didn’t help.

Melina missed the chair, tripped, and braced herself against the desk. She gritted her teeth as the room reoriented itself sideways for a brief instant, then resettled back into place.

Today was hell.

“Stay there,” the guard said, gesturing at the chair with his gun.

Melina fought off a spate of nausea and collapsed into the chair. “Can I get a new towel for my head, at least?” The one she held was alarmingly soaked.

The guard glared as he retrieved a towel from the bathroom.

Melina grimaced as she put it against the wound. For a second, a thought from her old life slipped through reality: her EMT of a wife would have so many things to say about the injury care.

But that was an illusion just like the rest of it, so Melina remained quiet. Whatever happened now, she could see no happy outcome to any of it. The memories in her head weren’t her own, she’d been a fugitive and now prisoner of a government who routinely executed people like her. If somehow she managed to escape this hotel room, go on the run, track down Carl or any Resistance members—an unlikely prospect, as those memories were no longer accessible to her, if they were still even there—then what? She’d simply be on the run for the rest of her life. Which would probably be a depressingly short one.

A smart knock sounded on the hotel room door followed by murmured words and then the cadence of the Synthetics. Melina couldn’t make out the words, but she knew the timbre of Lori’s voice well enough that she merely closed her eyes.

And opened them again when Lori snapped, “How long has she been bleeding? Why has a medic not been called?”

“Ma’am, I—”

“I see I have to do everything around here.” Lori’s eyes flashed with challenge. She held herself differently, Melina realized hazily. More soldier-like, shoulders back. “Fetch a medkit. Now.”

Her tone had both guards hastily scurrying from the room to obey. The door hadn’t even closed behind them before Lori turned her attention to Melina. “How bad is it?”

“What do you care?” Melina asked.

“I don’t, actually.” Lori breathed through her nose like she did whenever she was trying to rein in her temper. “But we’re not animals. You should have received medical treatment before this.”

“This concern is rich coming from a woman who’s spent the better part of twenty-four hours trying to kill me.”

“I was trying to kill Hauser, not you.”

“And the bullets aimed at me were, what?”

“You’ll note that I missed.” Lori crossed over to the desk and turned on the lamp, and the sudden light made Melina flinch. “Let me get a look at it.”

Melina twisted away. “Go to hell.”

“Very mature,” Lori said.

Sticking her tongue out would only be the cherry on top of the maturity ice cream sundae, so Melina begrudgingly pulled the towel away from her forehead. Lori had stepped close, close enough that she could—what? Put her in a headlock? Punch her? Rekall hadn’t given her any of the spy abilities Carl had claimed it would. If anything, it had only served to make her paranoid, it had screwed up her life, and it had ended what had felt like a pretty great thing, even if it wasn’t real.

It wasn’t her wife leaning over to check her wounds, but a deep cover intel agent who’d been pretending to be married to her to dangle her as bait in front of the Resistance.

“I don’t think it will need sealing,” Lori said. “But it does need to be cleaned and bandaged.”

“So you do have medical training,” Melina said. “Apparently something was real about you. Who knew?”

Lines around Lori’s mouth tightened, but she didn’t speak. The guards returned at a run with the medkit, dropped it off, and scampered away, likely hoping to avoid a dressing down from their team lead.

“You scare all men that much?” Melina asked after the door closed behind them.

“Just the smart ones. Hold still.” Lori paused. “I mean that, by the way. Strike me, and I will cuff you to the bed.”

“Kinky.”

“You were never into that sort of thing, according to the psych profile I was given.” Lori opened the medkit and began removing tools. She studied the hotel room and sniffed. “Not the normal accommodations we use for prisoners, but we’re attempting to be somewhat off the grid. I apologize if the room is not up to your standards.”

“Go to hell,” Melina said again, but this time it came out as more of a sigh. She leaned her head against the back of the desk chair, too woozy to come up with something more biting.

“Mm.” Lori nodded to the Synthetics, both of whom trained their weapons on Melina. Her manner remained businesslike as she cleaned and bandaged up the wound, standing close enough that Melina could smell both her lotion and her shampoo. It felt discordant; this stranger wore Lori’s face and her scent and yet…

“There. It won’t be pretty for a while, but you’re no longer in danger of bleeding to death.” Lori stepped away and disappeared into the suite’s tiny bathroom to wash her hands. She returned with a glass of water and a tablet, both of which she set in front of Melina.

“I don’t want either of those.”

“It’s an iron supplement. You need it: you’ve lost a lot of blood.”

“And I should believe you, why? Every single thing you’ve ever said to me has been a lie.”

Lori shrugged and sat down on the edge of the bed, idly crossing one leg over the other. “Pass out from anemia, then. It makes no difference to me. I’ll simply make one of the Synthetics carry you when we get clearance to leave this shithole.”

Melina sighed and took the pill. She’d rather leave under her own power, and the nausea was getting old fast. The water was lukewarm, and she didn’t know if that was a coincidence or if Lori had remembered her preferences.

“It wasn’t ever personal,” Lori said.

“You pretended to be married to me because the government filled my head with fake memories. The hell it wasn’t personal.”

“You were an assignment.”

Melina tilted her head and gave her ex-wife a humorless smile, more of a baring of teeth than anything else. “You get off on sleeping with unsuspecting ‘assignments,’ then? Brilliant. Nice to know I was married to a sociopath. This day just gets better and better.”

“This is tiresome.” Lori stood and snapped a magnetized cuff around Melina’s wrist, securing her to the desk. She checked her sidearm before turning to address the two Synthetics. “Prisoner is secured. Wait in the hall.”

Eerily obedient, they stomped away in perfect sync. Leaving Melina alone with her wife—ex-wife.

“I’d prefer to keep this interrogation off the record,” Lori said.

“Once upon a time, I’d have had Miranda rights. What a wonderful time that must have been.”

Lori’s lips twisted with displeasure. “It’s easy enough to see what would draw you to the Resistance and their misguided beliefs. What do you remember of your life before capture?”

“Before my brainwashing, you mean.” Melina sagged back and closed her eyes. “Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“Nada. Zilch. Zip. Bharmham. Nichts.”

“Your language faculties seem to be functioning well after the head injury.” Lori kept her voice mild as she tapped an entry into the datapad in her hand. “You visited the Rekall facility. They didn’t restore any memories?”

“Was that what it was supposed to do?” Melina glanced toward the little peace sign stamp in the crook of her elbow. “All I got for my trouble was confusion and a homicidal spouse. Zero stars. On both the facilities and the spouse.”

She thought she caught a dissatisfied twitch to the corner of Lori’s lip. Good. She’d hate to be the only one pissed off.

“Why did you go to the Rekall facility at all? Was something inadequate in your life?”

“Hauser had a gun on me. He kept insisting I was someone else.” Melina couldn’t stop the laugh, even though there wasn’t much mirth in the noise. “I thought he was nuts. You know, my life wasn’t the greatest. I suspected something was off. But I liked what I had.”

“That’s a lie,” Lori said, her head snapping up. “You didn’t suspect anything.”

Melina scoffed at her. “Please, you’re good but not that good.”

“You couldn’t have suspected anything. The programming—”

“Somebody certainly has a high opinion of herself,” Melina said. “You really think you know what’s in my head? You got me a vacuum cleaner for our anniversary!”

“That didn’t happen, that was a false memory they put in your head and—you know what? I meant what I said. You are the most frustrating person I have ever met. I never gave you a single reason to distrust me, ever.” Lori’s calm had apparently snapped, for she leaned into Melina’s space, absolutely radiating fury.

“What are you talking about? You’ve been lying to me since we met!”

“But you didn’t have any way to know that, and you still wouldn’t tell me a damned thing.”

“I told you things all the time.”

“Bullshit! You had nightmares for months and ‘oh, no, it’s fine,’ and ‘it’s nothing.’” Lori dropped into her Colony accent in what Melina felt was a fairly insulting imitation of her. “I should have suspected you were as high up in the Resistance as you were from that alone.”

“Whatever.” She’d kept the nightmares to herself because they embarrassed her, not out of some desire to squirrel things away from her wife for intel purposes. Dreaming of a handsome stranger obviously entangled with messy feelings while in the same bed as your wife wasn’t the most comfortable experience.

Having actually met Hauser with those feelings turning to anger and outrage didn’t make it any easier to bear, but Melina didn’t say that. Whatever relationship had been there—if there’d been one at all—was completely gone.

“If I’m so high up in the Resistance, why not just mine my memories for all you needed to know?” she asked. “Why don’t you have everything you need?”

Lori calmly picked up her datapad. “The Resistance has countermeasures. Accessing those memories apparently would have set off a self-destruct of some kind. You were much more use as bait.”

Melina tugged ineffectually at the cuff holding her to the desk, more out of a perverse desire to mess with Lori than any belief she’d actually get free. “At least I got a hot wife out of the ordeal, I guess. Temporarily.”

Lori silently rose to her feet and walked to the other side of the hotel room. Outwardly, she seemed completely calm, but Melina had lived with her for years—for months. She knew that line of tension across Lori’s shoulders intimately. It sped up her own pulse a little, but she chose to blame that on obvious trauma from the head wound and the day from hell. She kept her eyes on Lori’s back as Lori twitched the curtains back to peer out.

“You know,” Lori said crisply, “I find I quite hate you.”

“Yes, you’ve made that abundantly clear.”

Lori strode across the room in three steps, grabbing up a handful of Melina’s coat. Melina didn’t have time to react before she was jerked forward so that her face was mere centimeters from Lori’s.

“No, you don’t understand,” Lori said. “I hate you.”

For one powerful, humming moment Melina didn’t dare move. She could feel Lori’s hand shaking, but she didn’t dare look away. Her heart had stopped beating, she realized faintly.

“It just wasn’t possible for you to be an easy assignment, was it?” Lori said, tightening her grip. “No, that would’ve been too simple, wouldn’t it? That would have been—”

Melina surged forward, wrapping her free hand around Lori’s, and yanked Lori the remaining inch to her. Lori kissed her back just as fiercely, seemingly pouring just as much frustration and fury into the kiss. Everything felt too heady and real in a way that Melina knew was a lie, but she didn’t care. She grabbed at Lori’s waist, grunting as Lori shoved her back against the desk, pinning her trapped arm at an awkward angle.

“I really,” Lori said, ripping her face away from Melina’s, “do hate you.”

“Liar,” Melina said.

Lori tugged her head back by her ponytail. “Please do shut up.”

Melina was all too happy to oblige. The last twelve hours made little sense and logically she knew this moment right now, with Lori kissing her as though this was the last day of both of their lives, made no sense either.

But it felt right.

A loud explosion made them jerk apart. Lori swore and scrambled for her side-arm, but it was too late: pandemonium broke free across the hotel room as the windows exploded outward. Lori threw her body in front of Melina; glass rained down on both of them. Flinching, Melina met Lori’s eyes, and they shared one brief moment of something. Understanding? Melina didn’t know.

“Get away from her!” Carl’s voice cut through the din. Warily, Melina turned her head to see that he’d barreled in through the broken windows, joined by a group of oddly familiar men and women in dark clothing. All of them had weapons trained on Lori.

The sole UFB agent in the room, after she’d sent the others away.

“Uncuff her,” Carl said to Lori. To Melina he said, “It’s time to go.”

“I…” She couldn’t stay, Melina realized. There was no future with Lori. No past, either, no matter what her memories or that very potent moment just now stood for.

And Lori, gun trained on Carl, was watching Melina. Like she understood exactly the same thing.

“Uncuff her now!”

Lori holstered her gun slowly, one hand up and extended toward the group of Resistance fighters. She locked eyes with Melina as she carefully undid the cuff.

“It wasn’t real, huh,” was all Melina could think to say.

“No.” Lori stepped back, hands up. “It wasn’t real.”

Melina felt like crying. She swallowed it back. “Liar,” she said.

Lori didn’t correct her, not even when Carl took Melina by the arm and led her toward the window.

Not real, my ass, Melina thought, and followed Carl and the others out. She didn’t know how, but someday, she determined, she’d find Lori again and sort out all of these confusing thoughts in her head.

She just had to figure out how to survive first.