Shades of Gray: Part 09.
November 30th, 2026
The sky was darkly overcast and the ground was iron. The wind was an omnipresent predator, attacking everything with its icy claws. Hannah Starke sat motionless in the rusting hulk of a disused subway car, watching her breath escape into the frigid November air. She was appropriately dressed for the occasion at hand, but even the military thermal clothing did not seem to protect her from the bitter cold. She had finally tracked Eddie Gray to this abandoned train yard after days of scouring the city for him. He traveled in a circuitous route, in an attempt to confuse a would-be tail. He would have succeeded if it had been somebody other than Hannah Starke.
She could be coldly relentless.
She had been at this yard, in this particular wretched subway car, for what seemed like an eternity. She had the benefit of scanning the multitude of information provided by her covert bugging of Gray's conapt. This was the place where everything was going to change for not only Eddie Gray, but for her.
She was situated in the most isolated part of the derelict train yard, and commanded a clear view of where the events would soon transpire. She was going to radically alter her way of life by doing one simple action:
Pulling a trigger.
She had one round in the chamber of the high-tech sniper rifle. That round was for Gray. She then would insert a magazine with different ammunition. That was for the "others". She closed her eyes, and began to tremble. A wave of emotions swept over her. It was difficult to control them. She had to control them to get this job done. She would deal with the emotional fallout afterward.
She was looking forward to it.
She had successfully, in the last few days, managed to destroy the shrouded relics of her past, along with the information she had obtained on Gray.
To Hannah Starke, the future, her future, wasn't so clouded anymore.
She heard noises and quickly gathered up her weapon and peered through the rifle's powerful scope. She could see Gray coming into view clutching a black bag in his left hand and his right tucked inside of his coat. He wasn't taking any chances, she thought. She didn't know who these so-called rogue agents were or what their agenda was, but it certainly wasn't completely altruistic. Perhaps Gray's judgment was clouded by his desire to be reunited with his daughter. She didn't have time to speculate any further. She caught the movement of another man coming toward Gray. He was a large man with a brutally short buzz cut. The two exchanged words. It seemed to get a little heated, and then the bearish man spoke into some type of radio mike that was attached to his jacket lapel. The two men remained still for a few minutes. She scanned the area with her rifle and caught the door of an equally wretched subway car open. She saw a man clad in black and a small girl in a brown coat that was too big for her. She had dark, short hair, much like her own. She stood eerily still. That was Claire, thought Starke. She had to act now. She held her breath and trained the rifle on Gray. Her hands trembled slightly and it wasn't from the cold. Starke let out her breath and then held it again. She steadied her aim and whispered aloud:
"I'm sorry, Eddie."
It was the first time in her life that she felt sorry for anybody.
It was also the first time that she shed a tear as she pulled the trigger.
Eddie Gray smiled and his heart leapt for joy. It had been such a long time that he had seen Claire, as she was, not as an image encased in glass. She looked healthy. That was a good sign. A good sign, he though to himself. Finally, a good sign! The first thing he was going to do when they were out of this Godforsaken place was to buy her a coat that fit her, something girl-
He felt sudden, sharp pain in his right temple. He could feel his body starting to numb. His vision was blurring, getting black around the edges. He saw the look of terror on the big man's face and then he saw small plumes of red mist explode from his kneecaps. The big man fell to the ground writhing in pain. He couldn't really hear him at all; there was a sudden vacuum between his ears. He struggled to fix his gaze on his daughter, as he started to fall to his knees. He could see her still standing oh-so-still. He saw the other black clad man twisting on the ground. He managed to cast one last look upon his daughter as his knees struck the cold, debris-laden ground. She actually looked kind of cute in that big coat. He thought he also saw her smiling at him, just like in that one photograph he had so dearly loved. Like a studious Angel, he thought to himself as he fell hard onto the ground, his sightless eyes staring at the bits of broken glass and metal that dotted the subway train yard. Single tears streamed down his cheeks and then were swallowed up by the dry, hungry ground.
It began to rain and Hannah Starke turned on the windshield wipers of the spinner. She was finally airborne.
And Claire as well.
The girl didn't say much to Starke. She was quiet, but her dark eyes were always searching.
God, Hannah thought to herself, she looks like she could be my twin sister!
Claire spoke, her voice was soft, but its inflection was almost adult like.
"You shot those men, but you did not kill them, but you killed the man I knew as Edward, my once adopted father. Why?"
Starke remained mute for a moment, then replied. "I didn't kill those men because I had enough of killing. That is what I did, kill people for a living. If you could call it living. As for Eddie Gray, if I didn't do it, some other cold-blooded bastard would have, and it would have been painful to Edward. I felt that I had to do it. I'm sorry it had to be."
Starke wiped away another tear. She gritted her teeth and shook her head saying:
"I'm having a tough time dealing with these emotions I've been experiencing lately. I shouldn't be crying, but I am. You're going to have to bear with me, I'm charting new territory here."
"I'm going with you? You're not taking me to another facility?"
"Yes, you can come with me. It's what I had in mind. Do you want to go somewhere else?" Starke said biting her lip in anticipation of Claire's response.
The girl was silent for a moment. Her eyes began to slightly water."Are you OK?" Starke asked.
Claire nodded slowly and said, "Yes, but I feel a little sad. I don't know why, I never really felt this way before."
"Is it about Edward?"
'Yes He was my father, I suppose. Even though I wasn't his "real" daughter. I did like him, he treated me very nicely."
Hannah looked over at Claire and said "You were are his daughter and don't ever forget that."
Claire looked down into her lap, biting her lip; she looked at Hannah and said, "I can go with you?"
"Sure. That was the plan." Starke said, a new emotion flooding through her entire body.
"Where do you want to go?"
Claire studied Hannah for a short time.
"Some place warm?" she said softly.
"Tropical?" Starke said
"Yes. Please. Some place ..tropical." Claire said, smiling fully at Starke.
Hannah Starke piloted the spinner southward, smiling at Claire as fully and as widely as humanly possible. She didn't know what lay ahead or how much time they had together.
But then again, who does?