The alarm went off, slicing through her dreams. Blinking back the sleep in her eyes, Anna turned over and glanced at the clock, which was still blaring with its alarm. Six in the morning, it read. Still half-asleep, she turned off the alarm and sat up, rubbing her eyes and stretching.
Dr. Anna Steel sat up and pushed off the bed, her bare feet touching the slightly dusty hardwood floor of her house. Even though she was high in the ranks of Illinato, she still preferred a small, modest place like this compared to a mansion, like her boss, Raphael Morecci, had.
Anna grimaced, feeling anger build in her chest and course through her body. Raphael Morecci had changed considerably from when she first met him, fresh out of college. Once a kind, caring man, Raphael had turned cruel and sadistic, hurting anyone who got in his way in his quest for power. His latest punching bags were the three escaped subjects from St. Mary’s Home for the Orphaned and Troubled, an orphanage for troubled teens. But another thing that the teens had in common was that they were all a part of a scientific experiment by the name of the Genesis I Project. St. Mary’s inhabitants all had their DNA modified in vitro to give them specific gifts, like telepathy and enhanced strength, while also increasing their intelligence, endurance, and senses. Why, she barely remembered anymore. To simply see if they could, and ruin hundreds of family's lives forever. Some of the families didn't care that their kids were experiments, while others saw the writing on the wall and tried to sneak them away from Illinato's eyes. But most of them had died trying and scared the other parents into keeping their heads down and saying nothing.
But some of them Anna had known personally, and they forced her to sneak their children out of the experiment so they could live normal lives. Anna tried her best to do so but knew in the end that Illinato would find them. They always would.
Anna went into the bathroom, still thinking about the subjects as she ran a brush through her red hair. It had been cut into a neat bob a few months ago, but as time went on it had grown to reach her shoulders.
I’ll get a haircut when work lets up, she promised herself as she began to wash her face.
Selecting a light blue blouse from her closet, her thoughts drifted back to one of the subjects in particular. Taylor O’Connor. She had met her a few months ago in the middle of March and had shown her around the home before she escaped with two other subjects who she'd befriended. Taylor was a sweet girl, but she could see the years of pain in her eyes.
Anna froze, her fingers still on the button that she was in the middle of sealing closed.
And then she remembered.
Her sudden realization almost made her cry out. She was aware of time, slipping away from her, but she stood frozen, feeling long-suppressed memories fill her mind.
“Lily,” she whispered. “Oh, Lily.”
She remembered a young woman by the name of Lily Addams, and how she met her in college and became friends. How she went to the wedding of Lily and a man named Eric O'Connor. How she found out that Lily was pregnant and told her it would be a good idea to enter the baby in a new, totally harmless project she and Raphael were working on. How Lily agreed, and how she would be forced to do trials and tests with them while pregnant, how Raphael was changing the genetic makeup of the baby growing inside her. How she realized too late what he was doing to her and that when the baby was born that he was going to take her away. How she'd given birth and had her infant daughter taken away from her, how she'd screamed and cried at Anna to bring her back, how she'd named her Taylor and that she should have never listened. How they had used Anna's ID and position in Illinato to access the room where the babies were being held, and how she'd taken Taylor with Eric beside her and ran out to the parking lot, the baby at her bosom, and handed her to her terrified mother. How she told her where to go, a safe place to live, to keep their heads down and keep a low profile. How Lily, holding Taylor in her arms, looked her right in the eyes and said, "Anna, promise me. If they find us again, if we get killed and Taylor is all alone, promise me you’ll do anything you can to protect her. Do it as my best friend.’' And how she'd accepted the promise, crossed her heart and hoped to die, but ended up not keeping it. Because when Lily and Eric died in a car crash seven years later, Anna had already fallen under the web of lies Illinato was feeding her, and realized too late that Taylor was still alive and bouncing around foster homes. She tried to do something, but the lies came back, swallowing her up like a wave, and she forgot again. Taylor had been there the whole time, staring her in the face. How could she forget everything that'd happened? Was she in too deep with Illinato and the people who claimed to be her friends, while they lied and cheated and killed?
I have to protect her. She realized.
Anna came crashing back to reality and realized that she was running late to work. "Shit!'' she cried out, finishing buttoning her shirt and running downstairs to grab her purse. Before leaving, she stopped at a drawer, debating whether to open it.
Deciding to do so, she unlocked the drawer, taking out her gun, which she checked for rounds. Loaded, like she'd left it. Stuffing the weapon in her purse, she sprinted out the door.
When she reached her car and started the engine, she tried to figure out how she was going to protect Taylor. Last she checked she was still MIA and was God knows where. Illinato was still looking for her. As she put the car into drive, she realized what she had to do.
I have to play double agent.
The song that was on her radio morphed into an automated call, the one that gave her missions and assignments.