He watched as she combed out her blood red-dyed hair slowly and purposefully while staring at herself in a vanity mirror lined with lit and broken bulbs. The rest of the room was dark, only illuminated by the light that came from whatever bulb that wasn’t yet broken. She sat in the light, enabling him to see her clearly through his zoom lens in his tech-augmented helmet. Her face was hard, angry almost, but the way she moved seemed more sad than anything. He frowned as the man she called “Sugar” came into view.

Database scanning identified this “Sugarguy as Malone Diaz, a gangster from the Ramiz faction, one of the many from the Lower Corner, but he seemed not to be related to any of their current activities.

Diaz held up a clean axe for her to see and she seemed to smile at him. He bent toward her and they kissed lightly and happily, as if nothing had happened. As if they didn’t just bash out someone’s brains a few hours ago. As if there wasn’t a dead body wrapped in plastic sheets stuffed in a barrel downstairs. Like they were just another normal loving couple.

Connor felt sick in his gut. She was alive. Anya was alive. But he didn’t know this Anya. This violent, vengeful, horrifying Anya. This Anya who was nothing but bloody rage. This Anya who didn’t flinch, reveled even in murdering someone in cold blood. This Anya whom even the most fearsome criminals in both Lower and High Corners are calling the “Red Queen” not only for her unusually striking red hair, but also after her trademark of hacking people’s head in with that axe of hers.

He watched as Diaz kissed the back of her head, then crawl into a bed at the other far end of the room. Anya propped her axe against the vanity table and stood up. Arms crossed over her chest, she gazed wistfully out the window onto the street far below. For a moment she seemed to focus on something in his direction, and he stiffened, seeing those piercing violet eyes as clearly as he was staring right into them without his helmet. Like he used to do three long years ago. Tears stung the corner of his eyes.

He was beyond relieved to see her alive, standing right there in the window in the opposite building from the roof he perched on, hidden in the shadows out of her sight. But he was also extremely confused at who he was looking at. The girl with the electrifying amethyst eyes was no doubt the same girl he thought he lost in the bomb blast fire that also claimed Ivan’s life, but she was nothing like the ash brown-haired sad girl he used to dance on rooftops with.

No, anything that showed him that that girl even existed was gone, burned away in the fire, buried with his heart.

She finally looked away, and turned her back to the glass. Connor gasped as she pulled her hair over her shoulder, and exposed her bare back. Large, ugly scars ran from shoulder to hip, healed but discoloured; like someone had smashed a bottle of red wine on peach-white canvas.  He wanted so much to reach out to her, to touch her. To make up for whatever they lost, each day, each hour of all three years.

But he couldn’t. She wouldn’t. They weren’t the same people anymore. She was now a Jaxon, taking after her murdered uncle, taking back the legacy that was stolen from her; and killing all those who did her wrong. And he, well he took after Ivan, hiding in the shadows and protecting the ones who couldn’t protect themselves.

She suddenly looked up, Diaz was probably calling her to bed. Anya cast one more glance out the window before moving away. The lights of the mirror went out, and without switching to night vision, Connor lost sight of her.

He stood up, automatically reaching for his grappling gun, but a beeping on the left side of his helmet stopped him. A mini map popped into his vision; a crime happening five roads away. He exhaled. Whatever Anya was going to do wasn’t happening now, and he had to respond to the alert. He fired his grappler, but away from her and swung off over the ledge, distancing them further and further.

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