A girl ran to STF headquarters. The brunette resumed her run to the information center after the automatic door split into two.
“I need to speak with Commander Bai,” she said in a rush
The information staff asked for further clarification.
“The name is Emme Xi,” she said
A visitor tag dangled around her neck as she walked to a room.
She expected Gavin to see her when she opened the door. It turned out to be Eli and bandage-covered body Ark sat on a sofa.
“Who granted her access?” Ark asked while delivering a death glare to her.
Emme asked Ark about Gavin’s whereabouts. Either Ark or Eli answered her question. They kept quiet. Then, Ark decided to answer, “It is classified information. Normal citizens, like you, are not allowed to access the information. The fact that you are here uninvited enough to roast my nerves.”
Ark stood up and walked to Eli’s telephone. She pressed a button and put the receiver near her ear, “Escort her out.”
A couple of STF staff emerged from outside Eli’s office as soon as Ark returned the receiver to its place. They escorted her out.
Once the door closed and the footsteps were not heard again, Eli finally opened his mouth, “How is your sight?” he asked. Ark, without leaving the document unsighted, responded, “A bit blurred, but I think I am still able to work with the help of glasses or contact lenses.”
Ark stretched her body and told Eli that she would take a power nap. She put down the document and with arms closed, she slept.
Eli saw the girl attentively. He retrieved a blanket and draped it over her.
‘Rest as much as you can, Ark. You deserve it.’ he thought
He returned to his desk to review, sign some documents.
A girl in hospital clothes barefooted and draped with a white jacket. She looked above her. Inside a liquid-filled tank, an unconscious shirtless man with an oxygen mask and pads with cables attached all over his body. Her hand extended and reached the outer rim of the tank. Then, everything became white.
She awoke suddenly with beads of sweat around her forehead. Her breathing was disruptive. Her heartbeat was unstable. She needed to make sure that Gavin was alright.
Eli called her a few times but Ark did not respond to the call and focused on Gavin. She walked out from Eli’s office to the place when Gavin was treated.
He cursed before he followed Ark.
Ark touched the outer rim of the tank with her hand. In her eyes, the image of Gavin floated and supported with medical devices was blurred. Eli, who saw the whole picture with clear eyes, unable to move his body closer to the girl.
‘Please, stop it, Ark. It was not your fault.’ he thought when he saw Ark’s forehead touched the outer rim of the tank.
“I am sorry… It’s my fault...” She dropped on her knees. The Head was hanging low. The strong body trembled as she sobs. Another response made Ark and Eli turned their heads. It was not theirs, it was someone else’s.
A girl from their previous meeting, Emme.
Her complexion went from surprised to rage. “I knew it! I knew it, you were hiding something from me,” she said with an angered tone. She closed her gap with Gavin and Ark. However, Eli intervened as soon as Emme took another step. “That’s enough, Emme. I think Ark made herself clear that you were not allowed to access the classified information.”
“Move away, Eli,” she asked him. Eli did not even budge. “Take another step, and I will hand you to the police and press association for violating the freedom of information and human rights.” she threatened him. “Then, STF would not stay silent. We will report you back for trespassing authorized-personnel only facilities and taking classified information. I think STF is merciful enough for you because of your good relationship with Commander Bai. If Commander Bai awake, he could lower and turn himself against us, just to make you safe.” Eli raised his tone, emphasizing that he was serious.
‘Emme, stop this. Can you even be more considerate to her? She just almost lost him.’ he thought
“Stop it, Eli. Just stop...” That sentence made Eli turn his head back to Ark.
“Emme, let me ask you something. Do you still love him?” she asked without leaving her blurred sight of Gavin.
The question made her think beyond the present.
“If you still love him, do not make him a reserve. Also, to actually think that you are a producer and journalist, I don’t know what will happen next if you reported this to the Police and Press Association. All I can assure you is it will be another war between the world and STF. ” She stood up and walked closer to Emme.
Ark did not bother about Emme's existence anymore.
It was a warm spring, but the reminiscences of winter were still inside STF.
The brunette went back to her office.
“Lead Negotiator…” Officer Lin called her as soon as she arrived. He did not dare to call her further. The documents in his hand left undelivered.
Ark emerged from her office with a purse and a key in her hand.
“I am going to get glasses. Put all unfinished documents on my desk,” she instructed Officer Lin. After taking a few steps, her hip hit the blunt edge of the table in front of her. Everyone in her office was surprised and went to see her. She groaned in pain, “I am okay. Just get back to work.” she continued walking out from her office. Another hit made her subordinates more worried about her condition. She was on her knees and grumbled about her clumsiness.
Even her two Senior Negotiators asked about her.
“Ma’am, why don’t you take a break for a while?” Zhang asked her, seeing his boss in a stable condition. Hearing this from her own staff, Ark lifted her head, “I am just back from my holiday and you send me back?” she expressed her disbelief. Ming squatted, “I just wonder, Ma’am, are your eyes okay?”
Ark was not okay, in fact, her sight became blurred after the incident.
She wanted to tell the truth, but she was afraid it would create unnecessary concern over her.
‘It seems I have reached my limit. Just hold on until Gavin is ready to work.’ she thought
“I am okay. My eyes just a bit blurred due to the continuous work on screen,” she said
It was not Viridian Ark if she was not telling a white lie.
“Ma’am, I would like to ask you to stop lying to us, even if that’s a white lie.”
Ark turned her head to its source, Zhang. She asked him for further elaboration. One by one, Zhang dismantled the fact.
“The last incident, it was you, right? The one who confronted it?” Zhang asked calmly
Ark lowered her head, not answering the question.
Zhang continued the fact that her blurred sight was the result of the overstretched Evol use. He sighed before he asked more questions, “Ma’am, where is Commander Bai?”
She did not answer his question. Judging from her responses, Zhang concluded that she knew what happened or even that she was part of it.
“It is not your business, Zhang. It is a matter of the trio.” Ark stood up and walked out of her office.
Officer Lin offered himself to drive her but Ark kindly rejected his request, which made him no choice. He grabbed the key from her and stood before her. “Ma’am, please consider Senior Negotiator Zhang’s words.”
Behind him, someone, who was slightly taller, grabbed Ark’s keys from him. “I will drive her,” Eli said. Ark scoffed, “I can drive myself you know.” Eli’s blue eyes turned into a serious one, “Then, how do you explain yourself about hitting the blunt edge of the table twice in a row?”
Ark’s greenery eyes diverted to somewhere else.
Eli walked away from her and soon she was after him.
The man stopped after he passed the glass door that separated the cold building entrance and hot basement. He turned to the girl beside him, “where is your car?” he asked. The girl pointed to her 11.
A white sedan car parked just right in between pillars.
They walked closer to the car and Eli pressed the unlocked button. A typical car response made them no stop until they reached the door. Eli reached the drivers’ door handle while Ark did the same thing on the passenger side. He inserted the key and ignited the machine. Tires screeching sound made when the car was directed to the nearest exit.
On their way to the shop, Eli’s head leaned to his right palm while his left hand controlled the steering.
“Why did you do that?”
A question broke the silence of the trip.
“The smoke and mirror have failed. We need to tell them the truth. About you, about Gavin, about us.” His eyes never left the upcoming road.
The green eyes were on the road. Her sighed breath agreed with her counterpart.
“Under one condition: I will not tell them about the relation between NW and Gavin,” she said. Eli only mentioned one word, ‘deal’
Ark and Eli walked on the pedestrian without their coat of arms. Only the signature white STF jacket covered their weapon. “Don’t do anything stupid.” she reminded him and walked past him.
A few moments later, they walked out from a glasses store with Ark wearing rectangular with blunt edges glasses and black outer rim.
A couple of well-built men appeared before them. “Ms. Viridian Ark?” one of them asked her. Ark only nodded and asked about their intention. The man beside the previous showed a piece of paper. It was a warrant from a court under the request of the Prosecution Office. Her eyes went wide, “A warrant? Under what accusation?” The man took off his sunglasses, “The involvement of double agent twice and human experiment. Right now, our team is conducting a search and seizure operation in your office.”
Ark rolled her eyes and extended her arms. A pair of handcuffs surrounded her wrists. She walked closer to him, “Is it Minister Bai’s request?” Ark said in a low voice. He only nodded. She scoffed, “send an F-word to him. I won’t die in the hands of him or any of his subordinates, including you.”
“Eli, go back to the HQ as fast as you could. Tell Officer Lin, I have a gift for him.”
The request from Ark made Eli could not imagine beyond.
It was only her first week after recovering.
Yet, she went into trouble again.