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I've heard it said that every story must have a beginning. That moment in your life that changed everything; where a simple start became something more. My beginning started the moment I, Katherine, stepped foot into the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (N.B.C.I.) after leaving the life I dreadfully hated. There I met a new friend, a partner, an ally, who stood by me no matter what, and she had my back as much as I had hers.
Natasha and I had been roommates since day one. Practically inseparable since the moment we met. Two trainees, who had no place in society, were recruited to make a difference somewhere and somehow in the world, however, neither of us thought that was true. Our shared interests, such as musicals and multiple book series, kept us up late at night singing and quoting our favorite books. We woke up one morning to a P.A. announcement blasting from the speaker on the ceiling telling us training was cancelled for the day. Natasha was already up and out of bed and halfway undressed from her pajamas. As for myself, I just rolled over and covered my head with the comforter and groaned. If we’re cancelled today, then I can catch up on my lack of sleep. I thought. Natasha bolted out of our dorm room and into the hallway, leaving the door ajar. The noise of the other agents chattering kept me from sleeping any longer. Dragging myself from my warm bed, I pulled on a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt, although it wasn’t much different from what I previously had on.
The other trainee agents whooped and hollered about missing a day of training. One suggested pulling out the old video game console, and booting up an all time favorite: Call of Duty. Natasha burst into the dorm room and dragged me out into the arcade room where everyone else was. She knew I wasn’t a morning person, especially when I hadn’t had coffee. As they were booting up the game, I snuck off into the kitchen to brew the morning goodness. I returned, mug in hand, to see Natasha playing right alongside the boys and actually winning. Natasha, laughing at how fake the game was, cursing whenever she missed a shot. At the end of the round, she looked over at me, standing forlorn staring into my now empty mug. With a smile, she patted the seat beside her, motioning for me to join in. The boys jeered as I took a controller, hesitant with the new game. Beginning was hard; Natasha shot me over and over again, each time laughing at the look of concentration on my face. Gradually, I loosened up, joining in the laughing more and more after my clumsy mistakes. At the end of the round, we agreed we were done, quietly leaving to get lunch together.
From the inside, Natasha and I seemed like sisters. Finishing each other’s sentences, knowing one another’s thoughts without saying a word, and having conversations by only using facial expressions. But from the outside, it was easy to tell us apart. Natasha’s short, blonde hair was cropped close to her head in a pixie cut, while mine, however, was a long, dark brown that waved slightly at the end. I favored a pencil skirt and nice blouses during formal occasions, while Natasha stuck with her beat up leather jacket and camo pants to stay comfy.
For three years, Natasha and I trained together, fought together, and encouraged each other. Each day our partnership grew stronger and stronger right along side our friendship. We were sad for the other’s sadness, and we were rejoicing for the other’s happiness. Everything was going great until that one day everything went wrong…
One day, in early October, we had received intel that a suspected arsonist, Tobias Marley, had plans to burn down an old warehouse as a terrorist attack warning. I didn't know why he would have chosen that specific building; there was nothing special about it. It had no historic value that people desperately wanted to save. But, arson was a crime, so it had to be taken care of. The plan was simple; enter through the main doors, and slowly sweep the first floor, then move to the upper levels. If the target was in the building, we would try to talk him into surrendering. If that didn’t work and he threatened to burn the place down, then we had orders to shoot him. This was not our first arson case, but we hoped it would be just as easy as our last few. The wimps who just broke down at the sight of our big guns now faced life in prison.
We geared up, bullet-proof vest, badge, holster, pistol, rifle, extra ammo, gloves, taser, cuffs... I packed a couple small throwing knives in my left cargo pants pocket. Because you never know how useful throwing knives can be in a situation when you run out of ammo. If my hands are steady enough, sometimes my aim is pretty good with knife throwing.
Additional agents surrounded the two-floored warehouse. Natasha and I waited until every corner of the building was covered with agents, then we made our way inside. The old wooden door squeaked when we opened it; some flakes of the chipping green paint fell off as it closed behind up with a small clap. Dust stirred under our feet as we shuffled across the smooth concrete floor.
Hundreds of stacked crates filled the open area as Natasha and I checked every corner before moving on. As we headed toward the back of the building where a flight of stairs ascending to the next level awaited for us, I suddenly stopped. Natasha, who was right behind me, looked at me curiously. I turned around and pointed to my nose then to the crate next to me, which seemed a darker color than the one below it. She leaned over and touched the crate with her gloved hands, then sniffed her glove, and then I knew she smelled the same thing I had; Gas!
The place was covered with it. It was ready to blow at any moment, but where was Tobias? Natasha and I split up to cover more ground faster. I hadn’t noticed the smell when we first walked into the building, but at that time I couldn't get it out of my nose. I began to feel nauseated and lightheaded, but I kept my focus on what was in front of me. I rounded corner by corner; still no sign of Marley. The place creaked and cracked from being so old and unused for years. Paint chipped walls, broken windows, shattered glass. Old rusty tools were lying around.
“Main floor is clear,” Natasha said through our comms. “Heading to upper level.”
“Copy,” I replied. I had finished the last few rows of crates in the section closest to the rear exit. I could hear Natasha’s footsteps making their way up the old wooden stairs. The light-headedness started to become overwhelming, but I shook it off. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, a scream pierced the silence of the warehouse. That scream could have only come from one person. “Natasha?!”
I quickened my pace toward the sound of the shrill noise. I rounded a corner of plastic covered boxes and my eyes met the horrible sight. I looked straight into Natasha’s blue eyes that were widened with fear and shock. Blood trickled down the side of her face from a wound on her right temple. The bloody figure of Tobias stood behind her with a blade pressed against her throat. His green eyes met mine. The nausea began to overpower me and I began to black out. I sank to my knees dropping my rifle on the wooden floor beside me and then fell on my side. As I had lost consciousness I saw Tobias throw Natasha to her knees and hold a pistol to her head. Then darkness took over my body, but not before the sound of a gunshot rang in my ears and I thought I saw Natasha’s limp body fall to the floor.
I woke up to the smell of smoke and burning. I was on a stretcher outside the warehouse that Natasha and I were just in. I sat up gasping as if I woke from a bad dream, which is what it felt like. The medical team rushed over trying to calm me down, but all I could get from my mouth was, “Natasha.” It was just a whisper, for my mouth was so dry and I was having trouble breathing from the inhaled smoke, although it very well could have been stress. They laid me back down on the stretcher before I once again passed out. I woke up again in our small medical hospital at N.B.C.I. head quarters, where Marcus O’Donnell, the Director, sat beside my bed with his head in his hand. When he realized I was awake, he stood up with a look of sympathy in his eyes.
I gave him an anxious look, and by the expression on his face, it seemed he knew what question I wanted to ask. But, I didn’t wait for him to say anything, “He shot her. I saw her die.”
“Katherine,” he sighed. The disbelief and confusion in his eyes made me panic. “There was no body found in the building. We swept that place top to bottom after the flames were out. There was nobody inside or out.”
“But I heard him pull the trigger, I saw her hit the floor!” I exclaimed. Marcus held up his hand to calm me down, because I had begun yelling.
“Was this before or after you were knocked out?” he asked softly.
I paused as I stared at the ceiling. My mind raced as I tried to recall what happened. “I think…” I curled my fists in the bed sheet as I tried so hard to remember. His question made me question myself whether what I remembered actually happened. “I… I don’t remember,” I growled softly in frustration. “I think it was before. Maybe, ugh. I don’t remember.” I sat back up in my bed and closed my eyes.
Marcus placed his head back in his hands. His eyes closed for a brief second as he let out a sigh. "The doctor told me that what made you pass out so quickly was the gas that was used inside the warehouse. It was mixed with another kind of chemical to do what it did to you if exposed to it too long. Don't ask me to say the name because it's too big for me to pronounce." He laughed at himself as he held up his hands. He has that kind of laugh that when you hear it you automatically know it's him. He then listed off the side effects that may have occurred, which as it turned out, most of them did. I wanted to ask why Tobias wasn’t affected by it, but I knew he probably didn’t have the answer. So I shook it off for now.
I laid in my not-so-comfy hospital bed wide awake that night thinking of all the things Natasha and I did together in the three years of our inseparable friendship. I thought about the day she introduced me to Call of Duty, or the nights we went out for pizza. Her contagious smile that brought me out of my comfort zone, and my calmness that helped sooth her hidden rage. All those memories seemed like they happened yesterday. The knot in my stomach tightened, and the sickening thought of Natasha's death consumed me.
I was finally released from the hospital a few days later with instruction to take daily medication for the dizziness. I hated taking pills.... Just the thought of it made my stomach turn. I got word once I returned to work the following day, that Tobias had been found and arrested. Anxiously, I watched from behind the glass as interrogators questioned him on the whereabouts of Natasha Daniels. It had been hours and nothing he said was useful. I finally marched my red heels into the room. I looked into Tobias's pale green eyes and imagined the bloody grin he showed me back at the warehouse. His lips curled into a smirk when I entered. My hatred toward him grew until I could bare it no longer.
"I see you're recovering well," Tobias taunted.
"Don't play games with me, Tobias," I sneered as I smacked my hand on the table. “What happened to Natasha? I saw you shoot her! I saw it all. You messed with my best friend and you messed with me and I'm not going to forget that!"
He took his gaze away from me to the table, and let out a deep sigh. I crossed my arms as I shifted my weight from one foot to the other. The grey room was silent for a few seconds before Tobias’ sinister snickering filled the room. The he stopped with a sigh and looked right into my eyes. He leaned forward in his chair, and his wrists dug into the handcuffs that were restraining him. I leaned on the table once more.
“Natasha is gone," he sneered, "and you are never going to see that smile of hers ever again!”
That was what I was afraid to hear, and had refused to believe until the words came out of his mouth. In that moment was when I realized every story must also have an end. Where, at last, the story quieted down until it was no more than a whisper, or an ending thought. But of course, there was always a crucial character that every story must have; a villain. It can be a person, sometimes a place, but it is often the very thing that lies inside us and bound us together as people. My villain was wrapped so tight inside me that when I pulled away, my heart was ripped with it. This was where the rest of my life started, here was my beginning.
I took my gaze off of Tobias, who began his snickering again. I couldn’t stop myself before it happened. My fist curled into a ball and I punched Tobias in the face; he groaned in pain and laughing as though he enjoyed it. He looked back at me, his nose now bleeding. Another agent stepped into the room to take Tobias back to his holding cell, and I exited.
Natasha was gone… Once Tobias was gone from my sight, I fell to my knees and broke down. Tears streamed down my made up face as I ran my fingers through my straightened brown hair and pulled on it until it hurt. My heart was broken, and crushed into a thousand pieces. I had lost a partner, an ally, a friend, and there was nothing I could do to bring her back.