the pures

by rachel yong

Paltron started awake. Fucking hell. She was back in Davis's apartment, tied to the same chair, facing the same windowless concrete walls. The bitch's dog sat staring at her. She knew she should've had Ros kill it when she had the chance. She heard an urgent, muffled sound from behind her. Speak of the devil, that was probably Ros himself.

Well, that was good news, Paltron thought to herself. If Ros was still alive, then Davis hadn't gone completely off her rocker. She could still be reasoned with. Plus, the fact that Paltron remembered who Ros was meant that she must not have been burned. All good things.

Paltron wriggled her wrists. They were tied. The bad news, then, was that there was no one left to save her. Maybe John?

The door to the room swung open. Davis stood in the archway.

"I'll keep this fairly short," she stated, striding into the room. She held nothing in her hands. She walked calmly up to Paltron and turned her by the chair to face the man sitting behind her. His head was covered by a gray cloth bag. Oh christ, Paltron thought. It hurt her to see Ros like that.

"Confess to your role in the factory collapse and tell me who you report to."

Paltron's lips, missing their bright red tint, still peeled into a vicious smile. "Didn't I tell you, before you knocked me into oblivion, that you chose the wrong man for blackmail? I mean I love you dearly Ros, but you know as well as I do that I'd kill you myself if I had to. If it was a matter of you or me." She looked back at Davis, "You see, Monica, unlike some people, I don't leave loose ends. No Grace Killingsleys for me. It helps to have no heart. You'll learn soon enough when I get out of here and you regret the day you let me live." Paltron uttered these last words carefully – a small test of Davis's true intentions.

"I thought you'd say that," Davis replied. "Which is why I'm playing you this."

A static-y sound and then Paltron's own voice from an ambient speaker in the room: "Let’s blow it. If we blow it, we get the break first. And that asshole will learn to play on his side of the line."

Paltron sat blankly for a few moments. She thought that backup had been destroyed by the Trojan. She scoffed. "It doesn't prove anything. And you know it. If it did, you wouldn't be here trying to harangue a confession out of me."

Davis circled in front of Paltron and squatted in front of her. For a moment it was like staring at their own likeness – it was eerie how similar they looked.

"I thought you'd say that too," Davis replied calmly.

"Oh, it's a game," Paltron oozed. "Let me guess. Now you're going to threaten to burn me."

"No." Davis said. "Because if we burned you, we'd lose all your memories, including the ones that indict you. And we'd lose the names of the people you're working for."

"I work for no one. I had hoped for that at least to have become abundantly clear."

"We all have dependencies," Davis said, standing up.

"Not me," Paltron answered proudly.

"Exactly," Davis said, smiling. "Not. You. I spent hours poring over your cognitive backup, trying to figure out what was wrong. Because you're right, it was completely clean. Besides what I just played for you, there were no anomalies. No loves, no hurts, nothing but your office, day after day."

"That's what I do," Paltron replied. "I work. Like I said, it helps to have no heart."

"No," Davis said, "it helps to have this." With one hand she pulled the bag off Ros's head and turned him roughly in his chair to face Paltron.

Shit. It wasn't Ros.

"It's Mr. Margory, right? Your street burner? The one you pay amply to keep your backups pristine."

The drowsed man swayed slightly in his seat as his eyes hugged closed. Davis stepped in front of him, facing Paltron.

"He's still in faze for sixteen minutes. When he wakes up, I'm going to tell him to confess, and I'll demand that he provide the original contracts specifying what you've asked him to extract."

"I don't know who that is," Paltron spat. "And even if I did, you think I don't pay my men well enough to account for these types of situations?"

"There are some things money can't buy," Davis replied, turning back towards him. "Like a heart. When Mr. Margory comes out of faze, I'll inform him that Ms. Jean Paltron has given him up to save her own skin – which of course he'll have no trouble believing – and that if he doesn't cooperate, his wife and daughter will mysteriously disappear."

"He knows I wouldn't."

"Does he?" Davis sidled up to Paltron and leaned very close to her face. "Funny thing is… it doesn't actually matter. Because there's one thing you forgot. Besides the heart. And it's the mind. Because even street burners get cog backups. And let's just say Mr. Margory's will certainly prove less pristine."

"You'll never find them."

"I already have one decrypting now."

"How does it feel, Monica?" Paltron retaliated, without missing a beat. "Risking criminality to protect the ones you love."

"Just remember, Jean. Nobody needs to get hurt." Davis turned to leave.

"What did you do to Ros?"

Davis kept walking. "He's dead." Paltron offered no reaction. Davis turned. "You're being recorded. You have fourteen minutes to confess."


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