“Not another step,” Anita said, as Rox crossed into the panic room; she didn’t move her sidearm’s sights from the general leaned against the wall in the opposite corner. “You’re already too close for comfort. But you have to understand, you can’t luck your way through this. This ends, here, and now, one way or the other.”
“I know,” Rox said. “I’m not here to overpower you. Because you’re right. This ends one of two ways- and that decision is completely down to you. I think we both understand you’ve got a decision to make- one that will change the nature of our relationship forever. And I can’t do more than urge you to make the right call.”
“I don’t like the sound of that,” Garrity said, “maybe because she’s already crippled m-ow, goddambid, I bid my dung.”
Rox glared in his direction. “That was me barely paying attention to you; don’t make me focus on you, general, or you might accidentally swallow your teeth.” She turned her gaze to Anita. “Wish I could say this is my first time dealing with a freak out- mine or a friend’s. But it might well be the most violent and elaborate freak out I’ve ever seen.”
“I was voted most likely to violently and elaborately freak out,” Anita said. “Of course, that was here, and in fairness, we were all in a catatonic state of constantly elaborately and violently freaking out; I’m pretty sure the only reason I one was I was the only one who could still write names while that freaked out.”
“Cute,” Rox said. “But I mean it. I’m here to talk- or really, to listen. We’ve been through a lot. And I don’t think you’d have done this if you thought you had another way out. So tell me. And maybe I can help you find a different way. Or maybe you’ll convince me.”
“I don’t even know where to start,” Anita said, staring wistfully at the floor. “I’m not sure how many people I’ve killed. I mean that literally. Even ignoring the fact that I sometimes can’t distinguish between a vivid vision of an alternate reality and my own recollection, even setting aside that they fucked with our heads and our brain chemistry- I’ve killed so many people I can’t keep track of it. And I don’t… maybe that’s because the number’s too big. That if I knew it, if I could quantify it, I couldn’t live with myself. Maybe it’s because there was a time in my life I just stopped giving a shit. That I started to believe that I wasn’t even the most evil thing in this program, so maybe the world really was a bad enough place to need things like us, doing the work we did. I don’t know. And not knowing… I think it makes things a lot worse.
“But I have tried,” she gasped back a sob. “I’ve wanted so desperately to be a good person. To be like you. And Ben. And everyone. But it’s been make-believe. Pretend. Because I know I’m not. I know the only reason my bodycount hasn’t been bigger with you is because I knew you wouldn’t stand for it- and somehow the only thing worse than being me would be being me and getting rejected by you.”
Rox exhaled slowly. “I’m going to let you in on a not-so-secret secret,” she started, choosing her words with care, “there are no bad people. And no good ones. Sure, with your Hitlers, and your Drumps, it feels like they had to come out of the factory wrong. But that’s really not it; in fact, it’s kind of the opposite. The reason someone like Drump gets away with being so awful, is people who like him say he’s a good person, and therefore whatever he does is de facto good. That’s why so many people who don’t think they’re hateful bigots can be so awful to people we care about.
“Really, it’s because so many of us get it exactly backwards. None of us have an intrinsic value. If you want to be a good person, you do good. And you have, Anita. I’ve watched you try to be a better person, to fight back your worst instincts, to wrestle with your inner demons. And none of us win that fight all the time.” She sighed. “I can be a dick, to the people who care most about me worst of all. But when it comes to the big stuff, in particular, I try. And most days that is what separates good people from bad. We honestly evaluate the world we live in, and try to put more good into it than bad. And in practice that can be hard; it’s easy to define ‘good’ by your religion, or your preferences and rubber stamp your actions. But being truthful, in a real, raw way… I’ve seen the person you’ve become. And right now I don’t think you’re angry at Garrity- not at your core. You’re scared. Scared of what he did to you- and how that continues to reverberate, and impact who you are. And just as importantly, you’re scared of what he might do again, including to the little boy we came here looking for.”
“Fuck,” Anita said. “Fuck me. I’d forgotten all about him.”
“No,” Rox said. “Trust me, you didn’t. I’m not saying it was at the top of your mind- because it hasn’t always been at the top of mine this last hour- but it was there, all the same. You care about what happens, to him, to a lot of the people. You’re scared that if you let Garrity live, if he hurts anybody else, it’ll be on you. And I get that; I’ve had that thought myself. So the absolute last thing I’m doing is calling you crazy. But here’s the place where the rubber really meets the road. I trust you. If, in your judgment, the combination of the things he’s done and the danger he poses is just too much for you to let him live- I will back you. I will do my best to explain it, to our friends, to the Canadians, to whoever I need to.
“But… it doesn’t have to be that way, either. If you’re done being afraid of him, and feeling responsible for him, this is your chance to stop. Look at him.” She paused, as they both did. He was an elderly man, gingerly cradling a bloodied stump, unable to meet their gaze. “Whatever he was, whatever power or influence he held- he doesn’t anymore. Not in this moment, certainly, and probably not at all, at least not from where I’m standing. I mean, you’ll note- none of the security staff have come for him.”
Anita’s arm tensed, and the blade in her hand shifted, ever so slightly, the tip slicing through Garrity’s flesh without penetrating beyond the skin. “I spent so much time terrified of you,” Anita said. “How fucking pathetic is that?”
“It’s not,” Rox said. “You were scared then because you needed to be, to survive him. And now, you’ve evolved. And you don’t need to be scared of him anymore.”
“Maybe you’re right. But I seriously would feel better putting one behind either ear.” “I’m sure you would. But I don’t think you need to. And I bet that feels almost as good.”