“Well this should be interesting,” Paltron drawled. “Abducted twice in one day, that must be a record for me.”
“I’ll keep this short,” the military type woman said as she stepped sharply up to Paltron’s desk.
Jean felt her gut clench, determined to keep up a smooth exterior. If what Ros had just told her was true, this woman was professionally trained not to crack.
“You must be Monica…” Jean started. “We have much to discuss –
“Call me Davis.”
“Sure, Davis…” Jean agreed. The more masculine the better. Women really weren’t her forte. Maybe this girl was even a dyke. Closeted of course. Wouldn’t be surprising for a girl from Pureside.
Davis interrupted her reverie. “You have fifteen seconds to tell me why you wanted me out before I –
“I have a proposition for you,” Paltron countered. “It’s actually very simple.” She paused to see if Davis was still bristling. Yep – definite military type. “We both despise Baldsmith. Or, I just assume you do, because nobody could love that fat little man except for his fat little wife and his fat little kids.” No smile.
Paltron went on. “Look, I knew that if you were anything like my Man, I wouldn’t be able to get you to pay attention to me unless I scared you. So I threatened to expose you. No hard feelings of course, just business. And, as I’m sure you’ve gathered, you haven’t been exposed. I just needed a way to get you out of wherever you were until I had the chance to talk to you woman to woman.”
Davis stood in front of her, arms crossed, unmoving.
“But here you are,” Paltron continued, “one step ahead. I gather you’re used to that.”
Now Paltron decided to stand. She edged around the side of the desk and leaned one arm down so she was angled casually. If Davis really was a dyke, Jean had skills for that. “I’ll tell you what. If you really do want your life back, the truth is that you’ll just have to go along with what I say. So I won’t beat around the bush...” She let that last word hang in the air for dramatic effect. “I want you to doctor your reporting on the factory collapse. I want you to send Baldsmith false information about the incident. Regardless of what you may actually see, I want you to report what I send you. After the collapse blows over, you can go back to business as usual.”
She paused for Davis’s response. Davis stood stoically in place, no hint of a reaction on her face.
Finally, after several agonizing moments, Davis spoke. “You didn’t know I was in the EIU. Until a few minutes ago.”
Paltron felt the skin on her face tighten. Friendship was not in their future.
“I think you thought this would be a lot less complicated,” Davis went on, “– that you could just blackmail me into reporting on something that I didn’t know about. But you didn’t count on me being in the middle of it all. You know what I think? I think you’re scared of what I do know. What I’ve already seen. I can see it on your face. I think there’s no way you let me go back to the EIU. I think that as soon as I walk out of here, your plan is to have me ‘disposed’ of too, make me 'disappear' like this Judy J. Even if I did exactly what you said.”
Paltron could do nothing but simmer. If she wasn’t so pissed, she might be impressed. “Let me –
“Your fifteen seconds are up,” Davis interrupted. Paltron reached for her neural stunner right as Davis slammed her head down onto the desk and sent her hurtling into darkness.
As the sun set, Aniah traced his way through the leaves and trees. His small build made it easy to crawl between the roots in search of a hideout where others couldn’t find him.
Without his seer stick, though, it was difficult to move around in the present. Seers spent decades learning to siphon their focus from the future back to the now, and the seer stick was instrumental in keeping the two realms separate. At just six years of age, Aniah was too young to control the swings. Oftentimes the two realms would blend together so the sensations of the future would bombard whatever scene was in front of him. Foreign screams, quiet singing, blurs of movement, quaking underfoot. The experience could be so jarring that untrained seers would often buckle to the ground. Guardians like Kaemi were there to keep seers safe during their visions until they learned to harness their powers.
In the Digger encampment, Kaemi had been the only one with any experience in the seeing or protective arts. In fact, the day Aniah wandered across their threshold, Kaemi knew what he was before even he did. The two had shared an instant bond. But now they were separated, and Aniah felt a cold void where Kaemi’s warmth used to hold him.
Dusk settled into darkness. With a few nuts and berries coddled in his palm, Aniah returned to his hideout, where five zneers stood waiting for him.