Lifting up his hand, Sherdan stroked the hair off Anya’s face. She’d not been asleep long but he was relieved she was. He pondered over the day’s events as he gazed at her peaceful face.
She’d saved his life, using her ability. He couldn’t help but wonder if it did have something to do with God. It didn’t completely match up with Hitchin’s vision but everything she had said now appeared true. She had been told to stay and, in staying, she had saved him.
He didn’t know about the rest of her beliefs but he definitely believed in some kind of higher power. There was no way he could deny it any longer.
He fought to stay awake and enjoy the nice gentleness of being right beside the woman he loved. She filled his heart and made him feel alive in a way he had never felt before. Life was more complete with her by his side.
“Sir, are you awake?” a radio called from the floor. It still lay where Anya had dropped it earlier. She stirred as he got up off the bed and picked the interrupting item up.
“Yes, Nathan, what is wrong?” he replied as he tiptoed out of the room.
“Two more English commandos have been found.”
“Near the compound. I don’t think they had done anything.”
“Thank you Nathan. Get the guards to do another sweep.”
“They already have.”
“Do another,” Sherdan growled.
“And, Nathan, make sure nothing like this happens again.”
Sherdan went back to Anya and resumed his position right next to her, feeling wide awake again. She had protected him and now he would make sure he was there to protect her.
He wished he had gone to her the second he had suspected any kind of trouble and whisked her off to safety. It had been his unwillingness to move that had stopped him going to her as soon as the first sign of danger had appeared and it had put her in danger. He hadn’t been frightened for himself. Hitchin’s prophecy assured him of his own safety, but the thought of losing Anya now, when she had just given him such a reason to hope, terrified him.
He kissed her forehead and closed his eyes to sleep. Both of his arms were wrapped around her, keeping her close. Sleep passed over him, relieving his mind from all his thoughts and worries.
They stayed like that, entwined, the rest of the night, undisturbed and completely at peace. They didn’t notice when Sherdan’s alarm went off at its usual time across the hallway and neither woke when the radio called for Sherdan just after nine.
He opened his eyes naturally a little over an hour later. His attention fixed straight on Anya. She still slept right where she had been when he had drifted off. He smiled and kissed her on every part of her face, calling her name in between.
“We’ve overslept darling. I need to go to work,” he whispered. She kissed him full on his lips with more passion than he had expected.
“Thank you for not leaving me.”
“I couldn’t have left, even if you had wanted me to, but I have to now. You can come to the compound with me if you want?”
“No. I will stay here. You’ll be home for dinner?”
“I will try to be.” He rubbed noses with her before kissing her one last time and getting up.
He really didn’t want to go but he knew he had to. He would be able to come back to her at least and, the following day, she would be on his arm to introduce to all the citizens. The smile on his face grew as he thought of how he could present their future queen to them.
“What has made you grin so?” Anya asked.
“Just thinking of you… and having you as my wife.”
“Steady on. We have only just started kissing.”
“I know what you Christian women are like. Not much time between kissing and wedding,” he teased her and laughed.
“We’ll see.” He leant over the bed when she showed no signs of getting up while he remained.
“I love you. I want to give you everything in my power to make you happy.” She reached up to stroke the side of his face but she didn’t look happy to him.
“One day I shall be happy again. Until then, I shall take life one day at a time and I won’t give up hope, but thank you for trying.”
“I will do more than try; I shall succeed…” She smiled at him but her words had been like an arrow through his heart. The pain of the things he had done to her flickered in her eyes, despite the attempt at a smile, “I mean it. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
He kissed her again and left the room. She may have let him into her heart but there was further to go and there were many wounds along the way. Wounds he had inflicted. He hoped she would allow him the time to heal them.
Sherdan walked into the guard room to the instant silence of his two security guards.
“I’m going to walk to the compound this morning,” Sherdan said and walked out, too involved in his thoughts of Anya to want to know why they had reacted to him appearing.
The day was crisp and fresh, and hinted at the possibility of more snow. He hardly noticed, distracted by the image of Anya’s haunted face and the deep sorrow in his heart.
He longed to undo what he had done and the possibility that he might not be able to stabbed at his insides again. It baffled him that she could even say she loved him, but he felt grateful for at least that small flicker of hope.
As he walked, he resolved on finding her the best psychologist in the world to help her through everything. She would be happy again if he could manage it and he would use every resource that he could draw on.
Sherdan marched into the compound thinking of the best way to get Anya well again and noticed nothing else until he almost bumped into Graham in Sherdan’s own easy room. His commander had never come into the room uninvited before.
“Sir, there’s bad news,” Graham fidgeted and looked away.
“Yes, sir. It’s those commandos last night. You weren’t the only target.”
“Who? Are they all right?” Sherdan replied much faster than normal.
“Hitchin’s dead, sir.” Sherdan sank into his chair.
“Yes, sir. I’m sorry, sir.”
“Leave me,” he replied, barely above a whisper. Hitchin was the only person he had called friend. How had the British army even known to go after him?
For just a few minutes Sherdan had let his guard down and it had cost him Hitchin and almost Anya. He would need her at his side now, even more than he had thought before.
Tears fell from Sherdan’s eyes as he sat and thought of his friend and co-worker. They had made so many memories and plans for the future together. Some of these memories popped into his head now.
He thought of the first day they had met when they were both eleven and at a new school. They had all the same classes and continued to study together all the way through to PHD level many years later.
Sherdan only allowed himself half an hour to stay in this emotional state. He had work to do and the four commandos needed questioning. He soon strode into the command room with the same facial expression he had worn on many occasions.
If they had not known Hitchin was dead, they would not have figured out Sherdan had just lost his best friend from both his demeanour and how he went about his work.
“Where are last night’s infiltrators being held?” he demanded to know.
“They’re here in the compound. All four of them,” Graham replied as the rest of the room looked busy.
“Good. Have them interrogated. Find out who sent them and what information they know.”
The commander nodded and passed on the orders to the relevant people.
“Does anyone outside of this room know of Hitchin’s death?”
“Yes, the woman who found him and your two day guards.”
“Fine. Make sure no one else finds out. Have the guards who know keep it secret and let me meet with the woman. I already have an idea of who she will be.
“As you wish, sir,” Graham replied, “What should we tell the people? They’ll wonder where he is.”
“Tell them he is ill if they ask, for now at least.” The commander nodded as Sherdan left the room again. He sat in his private quarters, thinking over what to say to this woman. He wanted the British government to think they had failed in their tasks.
He put his head in his hands as his thoughts turned to what almost happened. The country he had created was so delicate still. He would need to protect it from the shock waves of Hitchin’s murder and was relieved that Anya had been there for him. His personal angel.
His thoughts settled on the warmth of her again. He could hardly help it after the events of the last twenty four hours. Her affections, and the good memories of their time together, was a salve to the ache deep within him.
A knock on the door made him jump and look back up.
“Come in,” he called as soon as he had composed both his face and manner again. A tall brunette walked into the room. There were a few trace marks of mascara and puffiness around her eyes but fresh make up had been applied on top. She had her hands hidden in the pockets of a white lab-coat which covered her standard clothes.
Sherdan had to stop the corners of his lips twitching up as he looked at her. She was every bit what he had expected, knowing Hitchin.
“Miss Miller, please sit down.” Sherdan motioned to the seat opposite himself. “I would appreciate talking to you about my friend. I know that it’s not easy for you to talk about this but I need to know.”
She nodded in response as he reached for a nearby tissue box and put it much closer to her.
“Where did you find Hitchin?”
“Near one of the labs… He had been working late because of some extra tests he said he needed to do.” She looked away trying to stop the moisture dampening the edges of her eyes. She still didn’t reach for a tissue. “They shot him Dr Harper. They came for you, but shot him.”
“I am sorry to add to your upset Miss Miller, but unfortunately we have reason to suspect they were looking for Hitchin as well as me. That is one of the reasons I am talking to you now.”
“They came for both of you?”
“Yes, they did. When I realised the enormity of what Hitchin and I were planning, I did everything I could to help Hitchin distance himself from me and the public eye, but right at the beginning there were several people who knew both Hitchin and I worked together.”
She finally reached for a tissue as the tears that had threatened to appear flowed over and tracked down her cheeks. Sherdan paused, less out of concern for her and more because of the lump in his own throat.
“Did the soldiers see you Miss Miller?” she shook her head, “Good, we would hate for them to know there were any other scientists working with Hitchin. You were important to him. He was only telling me that yesterday.”
“Yes, he stood in this room and spoke about you. You had put quite the spring in his step.”
Sherdan smiled as her eyes brightened a little. He had lied, but it would do her no harm to think Hitchin cared for her more than he did.
“It is very important how we proceed from here, however. Our country is very fragile and this could both knock the confidence of our fellow citizens, as well as give the British government cause to increase their efforts against us. We don’t want either of those things to happen.”
She nodded and pursed her lips together. Sherdan hesitated before going on. He hoped Hitchin would forgive him for what he was doing.
“Could you keep it amongst us, how Hitchin died, at least for a month or so until our country is more stable?”
Her eyes went wide. She opened her mouth to respond but no words came out, leaving her with a fixed frown.
“I know it is a lot to ask. I wish to mourn him as well. He was my best friend, but we have to put this country first. It wouldn’t honour him to let his death tear down everything he worked to build.”
“What do you suggest instead?”
“I think, for the next few days, we should tell people that he is sick. It will give us time to plan the rest,” She nodded and he had to stop himself sighing aloud with relief, “If you do need to talk about what really happened, just let my security guard, Julie, know. She will then inform me, or you could even talk to her if you would prefer.”
“Thank you, Dr Harper.”
“Please, call me Sherdan. Now, is there anything you would like to add while you have me here?”
“No thank you… Sherdan. I’ll get back to my work. Someone needs to continue Hitchin’s research and I think I am the most qualified to do so, other than yourself of course.” She got up and shook hands with him, before leaving him alone with his thoughts again.
Sherdan sat back and breathed out. The conversation with Miss Miller had only added to the weight of his emotions. She had taken things well but he wished it had been different.
The rest of the day was a blur for him as he rushed through all his tasks. He hardly looked forward to the ball the following evening any more. Although, knowing Anya would be at his side brought him some comfort.
As a way of getting back at the British government, he phoned them again that afternoon. He was given another excuse for not getting to speak with anyone of any importance, but he didn’t care. The main point was letting them know that he was still alive.
Sherdan also did a short radio interview to ensure the rest of the world had him fresh in their memories as well. Work helped him to forget the latest tragedy.
Not long before he was due to return to Anya, he received a return phone call from the Prime Minister.
“Dr Harper, I believe you called to speak to me?” the minister said.
“Yes, I wanted to let you know I was still alive.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realise that was something I would be particularly interested in knowing.”
“Really? Those four men you sent to try and kill me would say otherwise.”
“I don’t know what…”
“Cut the crap,” Sherdan interjected, “You sent them to try and kill me. They have failed and I am more than happy to inform the public. The bodies of the four soldiers would be excellent proof.”
“What do you want?”
“A ceasefire and an official statement from you saying we are entering negotiations.”
“It doesn’t mean we will reach an agreement,” the Prime Minister pointed out.
“”No, but I would like the opportunity,” Sherdan did the best he could to sound sincere.
“If there is no announcement at some point before, I will let the six o’clock news know about last night’s attempt on my life.”
“Understood.” The phone clicked in Sherdan’s ear. He smiled, very pleased with how the conversation had gone. With the UK capitulating, and the resulting ceasefire, the country had achieved its first goal. They were finally established as a country.
Just to make sure, Sherdan stayed in the compound until the news came in that the British were backing down. Shortly before five, Graham pulled a feed from the twenty-four hour news channel up onto the screens at the end of the room.
A podium had been placed outside in Downing Street and many reporters were waiting for the announcement everyone expected. Thankfully, they didn’t have to wait long before the front door of number ten opened and the PM came out. He put a sheet of paper on the podium and looked out at the crows before him.
“I am pleased to announce that, after a recent contact from Dr Harper, a ceasefire has been agreed upon. Negotiations with Utopia and its representatives will begin shortly. I plan to do everything I can to ensure, not only the safe return of our soldiers, but also the return of the homes and land stolen in that countries attempts at freedom. Thank you for all your patience in this matter.”
Sherdan laughed as the Minister went back into his house. He had made it sound as if Sherdan had come running to him but it didn’t matter. He would look like the foolish one soon enough. Sherdan would let him save face where he could.
In response, he did a country wide announcement, informing the Utopians that all the attacks were now over. He smiled as he thought of how happy the party would be. They had achieved their goal.
He could hardly wait to get back to Anya and tell her all the good news, although he thought she was likely to have watched the news channel. Unfortunately, there were still several loose ends he had to tie up before he could leave.
Graham gave him a report from the interrogation team as Sherdan was about to exit the command room again. So far they had found out very little.
The soldiers had been ordered to avoid getting caught at all costs and were all definitely sent by the British government.
“Step up to the next level,” he ordered and left the room. He was about to go through the mirror and get back to his girl when he heard a familiar tap on the door. Miss Miller came in without waiting. She had a bundle of papers as well as the leather bound journal he had seen Hitchin fetch to show him his visions of Anya.
“Dr Harper, I mean Sherdan. I found these. They both seem to be Hitchin’s diary. I’m not sure why he kept two but there is a lot in them about you, our country and a woman called Anya,” she said. Her gaze dropped down as she mentioned the last part. He smiled at the misunderstood rivalry.
“I have no idea why Hitchin would keep two separate diaries either but Anya is… Well, I am hoping she will be my wife shortly. She isn’t a Utopian citizen yet. Hitchin was the only person I had told of her.” Miss Miller sighed and smiled.
“That would explain a few things. I didn’t read that much. As soon as I realised it was his diary I stopped. Here.” She handed him everything she had brought with her.
They shook hands again and she hurried off. He felt tempted to sit and read the documents before going home, but tucked them under his arm and opened his mirror entrance instead. The emotions of the day had worn him down and he wanted to be back in the company of his sweetheart.
He went through the underground tunnel as fast as he could manage. The recent events would be easier to process with a glass of brandy and a pretty face to look at.
Sherdan walked into his study expecting to see Anya, but she wasn’t there. Antonio meowed at him indignantly from the sofa as he checked in the sitting room.
“Anya!” he yelled as he started running up the stairs. He heard no reply. Panic rose in him as he continued the ascent to the top floor. He hardly knocked on her door as he walked into her room, calling for her again. She wasn’t there.
He checked every room of the house before seeing Anne.
“I’ve not seen her since lunch,” Anne told him. She helped him check every room again.
As he walked into his own room for a second time he noticed the envelope on his pillow. He snatched it up.
His name was written on the outside in Anya’s handwriting. He didn’t need to read the letter to know what it meant and neither did Anne, who left the room, taking the cat and shutting the door behind her.
He sat down on the edge of the bed, unable to do anything but stare at the paper in his hands. Eventually his fingers managed to pull the flap of the envelope open and retrieve the letter from inside. His breath caught as he saw the back of the piece of paper and the last few words she had written on it.
Within moments he was sobbing so hard he couldn’t even see, let alone read. He put the paper down. He’d not cried like this since he had been a small child, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stop the tears flowing. He had lost everything.
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