Ch. 10.3 – Sara

Strapped to a cross between a dolly and a stretcher, paralyzed from the neck down by something pinching the back of her neck, Sara could only glance at her surroundings as the gray-suited Mandate agents wheeled her into the elevator. I really hope this wasn’t stupid after all, she thought, her inability to shiver a thin silver lining to a very dark cloud.

At least the gilding’s pretty. She had just enough time to note two expensive-looking paintings and a swirly vase before the elevator doors closed. “So your boss even decorates his dungeons? Boy needs a hobby,” she quipped to the agents.

One of them smiled thinly back at her, his eyes shrouded behind sunglasses straight from central casting. “Thanks for volunteering, freak.,” he retorted.

“Me? Nah, I’m boring. I can’t even seduce a boy scout,” Sara chuckled. The suits had no response to that, and before she could probe further, the elevator opened again. In spite of herself, the Weaver whistled.

So this is the penthouse on the corner of obscenely rich and utterly heartless, she mused. At least the view is nice. Leather couches worth more than everything she owned were arranged around a faux-fireplace. Above the mantle hung a screen that looked stolen from mission control. To one side sat a wine rack with bottles that Sara imagined her ‘host’ valuing more than most peoples’ lives.

In the heart of it all sat Travis West, looking unfairly handsome in a razor-sharp suit that matched his jet black hair. Add ice-blue eyes, what she could see of his body tanned and fit, and the cold confidence that radiated from him…I might have actually been hypnotized by him when I was younger.

West looked up, smiled in an almost friendly manner, and stood. He waved a dismissal so casual Sara thought even Mandate goons might bristle, but they were gone in seconds. He strode up to her, wine glass in hand. “You look like a woman who’d appreciate a dry white. Especially now.” He held up the glass as if to offer her a sip.

“Dry up, white guy,” she shot back. “You have no idea what you’ve just done.”

Travis chuckled, drained the glass, then tossed it aside. It tumbled through the air for a second, then righted itself and floated gently to an end table beside the largest of the couches. “I’m sorry, Weaver, do you think this is the part where we banter?” He patted Sara on the head. She deliberately kept her expression neutral. “Do you imagine me losing control and letting something slip because your wit is just that cutting? Or perhaps you’ll slowly melt before my charms, then ‘admiringly’ ask how my plans can be so perfect?” He walked toward the room’s only internal door. “You’re not the heroic spy preparing to turn the tables. You’re not even the damsel in distress, a Weaver’s knight charging to your rescue.”

The door opened from the other side, and a woman in a red dress walked in. The newcomer was so sensual Sara’s mouth went dry. The dress clung to West’s companion like a second skin, and she did the same with Travis. He turned to face Sara again, and his smile was beyond confidence, not even needing contempt. “You’re an app, Weaver. A utility to be added to my system. I have the perfect companion, and the only way you’ll ever join us is if you’re a very efficient utility.”

The woman licked her lips. “She is a very pretty app, though.” Travis glanced evenly at her. “Master,” she added languidly. West smiled again.

“Hey, if I’m going to be part of the system, I need to know about it, right?” she asked. What the heck. It’s worth a shot. “Besides, if I’m yours forever, what are you worried about?”

Travis slid out of the woman’s embrace and strode to Sara. “I take every precaution,” he explained. Then he put his palm on her forehead, and Sara felt as though someone tried to drive a spike through her brain. Her skull – and the shield she’d Woven beforehand – held, but her entire body shuddered, right through whatever block was keeping her paralyzed. “And you’ve gone to considerable trouble to prevent me from controlling your powers. I know you’re hiding something from me.”

“A Vision Prime was after me,” she half-moaned. Everything was blurry. The other woman was beside her, surprisingly soft fingers probing Sara’s temple. “What would you do?”

“Hire snipers,” he replied flatly. “Ekaida?”

Even through the dizziness, Sara’s eyes bulged. “Who?!”

The woman – Ekaida – smiled, revealing shark’s teeth. They became movie-star perfect an instant later. “Ooo, she’s heard of me. May I play with her, Travis? I’ll have that shield down in a day.”

“No,” Travis ordered, voice still cold and empty. “Put her downstairs with the other one and turn on the scour lights our friends provided. She’ll be defenseless in an hour.” He smiled again, but this time it was more shark-like than Ekaida’s. “Then, Weaver-app, we’ll try this conversation one more time.” He turned and waved with the same Platonic ideal of dismissal he had before. Ekaida steered her dolly back to the elevator.

“Your friends’ ‘scour lights’? Really?” Sara asked when the elevator doors closed. “What’s a Daimani – the Daimani – doing working with a creep like Travis West, let alone the Quadrum?”

“So curious.” Ekaida stroked Sara’s cheek. It felt gentle, seemed almost kind. “Try to relax, pretty. In about seventy minutes, you won’t have any more worries, and nothing left to hide.” There was a shockingly ordinary ding as the elevator opened to a drab gray basement, and Ekaida wheeled her into an empty black room. “Welcome home, Weaver.” She looked ready to add something, but the Daimani stiffened, then walked out and closed the door without another word. A moment later, four bars of light burned to life around her, a crawling sensation similar to the Weaving-static from the Quadrum tunnels creeping across her skin. Helpless and alone, Sara could only watch as her shield slowly unraveled.

I really, really hope this wasn’t stupid after all…

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Written by Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan was born in the Bronx, New York, giving him the right to root for the Yankees while making less than six figures. After a long, largely pleasant interregnum in suburban Connecticut, he moved to the Inland Empire, California to be with his wonderful wife and muse, a stepson, and a crazed feline. An occasionally too-avid player of and writer for tabletop roleplaying games, his other passion is metaphysics, which informs most of his fiction.

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