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Three times the two of us first met

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I.

"Is this her?"

The Vatican's interpreter repeated the question, and a moment later had the Mother Superior's reply: "Yes, Father Walken. This is the girl."

Heinkel looked with some disdain at the figure on the pallet. She wore a simple white shift, rumpled and dirty; her long black hair was tangled, her dark eyes vacant. "Tell her to get up. She's coming with me."

The interpreter addressed the girl in rapid Japanese, and she struggled weakly to her feet without a word in protest. Heinkel couldn't see her taking the initiative to attack a fly, much less another human being.

"Come on."

"Onegai," the girl began, speaking as she walked with them.

Heinkel's limited Japanese was not enough to catch the question that followed, but it wasn't hard to guess. "We're going to Italy. To the Vatican."

When the interpreter had related this, the girl's eyes widened; but then she repeated the question, and this time Heinkel picked out a familiar word. Onegai. (Something something) rosary (something something). "A rosary? We'll get her one."

On hearing this, the girl simply stopped walking.

The Mother Superior looked scandalized; Heinkel simply felt annoyed. "What does she want now?"

Something something rosary something something onegai.

"It seems," said the interpreter awkwardly, "that she wants her rosary."

Heinkel turned to the Mother Superior. "What does she mean by that?"

The old nun looked distinctly uncomfortable. "Her personal effects were confiscated, Father Walken," she explained through the interpreter. "For their safety and hers. There may have been a rosary among them."

"Well, what are you waiting for? Get it!" snapped Heinkel, in a voice so thunderous that the Mother Superior had started moving before the interpreter explained what it actually meant.

"Why are we doing this?" he asked Heinkel, speaking for himself for the first time since their arrival. "Father Maxwell will not be happy if we miss our plane."

"Father Maxwell can stuff it," replied Heinkel pleasantly. "This girl has no prospects, no friends, and no hope. On top of that, she's a sweet little overly-polite Japanese girl. I'm a big scary Western stranger, and I'm higher up than her in the Church. And yet, she's willing to stand up to me just to get her specific rosary back. You know what that means?"

"I'm not sure I do."

Heinkel grinned. "It means that even her goody-two-shoes alter has within her the spark of a fanatic. And that means it's well worth Father Maxwell's time to wait for her."

 

II.

"Is this her?"

"Don't talk about me like I can't hear you," spat Yumie. "I'm right here."

Heinkel tried not to look surprised. "You speak Italian."

Yumie's grin was wide and toothy. "I sure do."

"We never taught you."

"You taught the nice one," gloated Yumie. "I know everything she knows, though the idiot can't tell a thing about me."

"So you have a lot of knowledge," mused Heinkel. "And yet, you're not smart enough to hide from us the fact that you understand us."

Yumie jumped. "I — but — shut up! Why do you care?"

"You lash out. You attack. You're all anger: no moderation, no conscience, no self-control."

"She's the one with the conscience."

"You think that makes her weak."

"It does! Why do you think she needs me? Who would defend her if she didn't have me?"

"Who would control you if you didn't have her?" countered Heinkel.

"Nobody controls me!" shouted Yumie, tugging vainly at the manacles that held her to the wall. "Not you, and especially not her!"

"Oh, we do. And we will continue to do so until you realize that you need to control yourself. Samuel? The glasses."

The Iscariot psychologist, who had been watching the entire exchange with a crooked smile, stepped forward and unfolded a pair of spectacles. Yumie, still raving, tried to bite his hand. Grabbing her hair to hold her head in place, he slipped the glasses onto her face.

Like a deflated balloon, Yumie sagged — and then the frightened visage of Yumiko looked up at Heinkel, eyes wider than ever behind the lenses. "H-Heinkel? What's going on? Is she gone?"

"Not quite," replied Heinkel, cupping the side of Yumiko's face while Samuel unlocked the manacles. Best to keep the explanation simple; this wasn't the time to confuse her with talk about hypnotic conditioning. "She's asleep. And she'll stay asleep as long as you're wearing those glasses."

 

III.

"Is that her?"

"That's her," replied Heinkel softly.

Yumiko stared at the television, eyes wide. She remembered sitting carefully down in front of the camera, arranging her clothes, and slipping off her glasses; nothing afterwards. But the camera had kept running, and now here was the film, showing her own body continuing to move under someone else's power.

She barely noticed the protective arm that Heinkel put around her shoulders.

"Ano . . . konnichiwa, Yumiko-chan," said Yumie on the tape.

Yumiko let out a little squeak and froze.

"What? Fine, fine. Italian it is. Hi, Yumiko. I'm Yumie. Yumie Takagi.

"First off, let's get one thing straight. I'm not a demon. I'm human, just like you. Think of me as your sister. Your evil twin sister . . . okay, bad analogy.

"The point is, we have to share this body. There's no getting out of it. But I'm not going to get you into trouble any more, got it? The Iscariot Organization has a job for me. I'm going to be killing people. Heretics, so don't freak out. It's God's work. And when I'm not on the job, then you can do your little nun thing, pray and feed the hungry and so on. I won't get in your way.

"How was that?"

A muffled response from off-camera.

"No, nothing else . . . Um. Listen, I've got practice. We'll talk later, I guess. Bye."

Jumping to her feet, she left the frame.

The tape cut off a moment later. Only then did Yumiko realize she was shaking from head to foot, relieved and confused and shocked and terrified all at once.

Arm still wrapped around her, Heinkel pulled her closer and let her cry.