keaalu: Why are you being so gullible and out of character? (Gullible OOC)
[personal profile] keaalu posting in [community profile] good_as_gold
NB: There is some very odd formatting going on here, and for no good reason I can determine. I might have to repost this later.

     After what felt like a very long night of staring at the ceiling, tussling with her emotions, Mirii spent much of the early morning in a distracted, fidgety haze, pacing back and forth across the dining area in the rear of the property. It spoke volumes about her state of mind that she did not even go out to greet the morning.

     Yannis was dismayingly unperturbed, perched on a stool in the kitchen, reading the news and enjoying his breakfast. She found it difficult to reconcile his uninterested behaviour with the caring partner that had treated her so kindly the previous evening.

     Maybe he simply does not want you to worry. If he is not worrying, you will not worry either, she told herself. He knows you are fretful, as Sei is coming here. The thought was not as comforting as she would have liked it to be.

     She still didn’t really know what she should be thinking. In spite of all the evidence, in spite of everything Yannis had told her… little doubts niggled at the back of her mind. It still didn’t quite all match up satisfyingly enough, in a way that left no loose ends untied, no ambiguities.

     Am I still trying to find a way to forgive him? Am I still looking for that little clue that tells me Yannis may have made an error?

     What if this was all a huge mistake? What if Yannis was the liar, what if he had genuinely hurt Iios, what if he was about to do the same to Sei – and what if the blame was on her hands, too? Guilt by association. Evil by association. Her pace quickened, ever so slightly.

     But why would he do such a thing, she demanded – of course, now her unhelpful conscience remained silent. Why would he be so nice to me, and so wicked to everyone else? It must be a mistake. An aberrant thought.

     Am I still trying to find proof he did love me?

     She knew her endless walking was beginning to annoy Yannis – he’d asked her if she “minded” (but minded what?) twice already, and the second time the genial tones were ever so slightly more clipped than the first – but couldn’t quite bring herself to stop. She found the simple repetitive movements strangely soothing; she could concentrate on each step, measuring force and distance and speed, filing it all away for future analysis, and it kept her mind busy, kept away at least some of the fretting.

     …am I trying to find a way to forgive myself for still loving him?

     Another circle, back and forth.

     He sent me away once. Sent me away so he would not hurt me, harm me by influencing my development. He made me forget him, but I still went back. That is proof, is it not? Proof he was a lie. Proof he was a puppet, working for military observers.

     Buried so deeply that she barely heard it, her conscience pointed out, gently; Or perhaps proof, Mirii, that he loved you? And if you do not stop this now, you will lose him forever.

     The door to the outside rattled, drawing her attention away from her grim thoughts. She turned her face automatically towards it, finally stopping her endless circuits of the dining room, toes flexing awkwardly against the carpet – she heard the strained little murmur of at last from the kitchen, but paid it little attention.

     The door swung inwards, and a familiar coal-skinned figure slipped through, ducking ever so slightly to avoid striking his brow on the lintel. Mirii moved automatically towards him, making several awkward steps before she could catch herself. “Sei?”

     Wearing a bland, silent half-smile on his face, Sei didn’t so much as glance in her direction, let alone react to his name. He probably couldn’t have made less of a reaction if she hadn’t even been there. He moved through the entrance hall and into the kitchen area, a large plastic box of groceries clasped in his arms.

     Mirii felt something flutter unpleasantly in her chest, and that little ember of hope – perhaps it is a mistake, perhaps Yannis is wrong, perhaps my Sei will yet come back and rescue me – guttered like a candle in a storm at seeing the same bland, silent smile she had grown used to seeing on Iios.

     Not sure why she hadn’t yet fled in tears at the sight of the former centre of her world reduced to a household automaton, Mirii pursued him into the kitchen, hopeful she could yet chase an answer out of him.

     “Your groceries, sir,” Sei explained, softly, setting the container down on the worktop.

     “I hope you do not plan to just leave them there.” Yannis didn’t even bother looking up from the news sheet. “Put them away.”

     “Of course, sir.” Sei moved away from the box to investigate the cupboards, to assess where everything belonged.

     Mirii followed him around the kitchen, forlornly – he simply navigated around her, as though she were a mobile obstacle. “Sei, please. Do you remember me?” She waved a hand in front of his face, trying to attract the distant stare away from the cupboards.

     Obediently, he directed his pale blue gaze down at her. “Yes, madam. You are Mirii.”

     She stared intently into his face, straining to catch some subtle glimpse of the cob she used to know, searching for the tiniest clue that maybe, maybe it was all just a trick… but the bland smile never wavered. After another second or two with no further overt interaction from her, he returned to his work.

     Mirii claimed the free hand resting on the cupboard door. “What has happened to you?” she asked, faintly, clasping the hand in both of her own as thought she could force the spirit back into him by force of will alone, but she might as well have been holding a glove for all the good it did.

     “The remote controls on my behaviour have been removed,” he explained, using his free hand to deftly put the stock away. “There is no need for concern. I can not cause you any harm.”

     She watched him work, quietly. “I know. That was not strictly what I meant.”

     “Could you clarify the question, madam?”

     Mirii thought about it for a few moments, trying to work out exactly what she did mean, but couldn’t come up with anything. Not anything that would have made sense to anyone except herself. You used to be so cheerful. You used to be so gentle, and thoughtful, and animated. Not so… so flat. So bland, and dull. You used to be so alive. It hardly seems possible that this is all just due to some mysterious ‘external control’ being removed. “No. It was-… rhetorical.”

     “I understand,” he acknowledged; her response seemed to reassure him that the conversation was over, because he didn’t challenge the obvious lie. The old Sei would never have let such a falsehood slip from her lips without at least letting her know he knew she was making untruths, if he didn’t probe to find out what was upsetting her, to make her feel the need to do so.

     The groceries were stowed in their appropriate cupboards altogether too quickly, even with one hand out of action. Sei carefully broke the reusable plastic crate back down, folding and flattening it, and tucked it under his arm. “Will there be anything else, sir?”

     Yannis flicked a glance to the empty crate. “No. You can return to your normal work.”

     Sei bowed his head in acknowledgement, and turned to Mirii. “I need to depart, madam.”

     Mirii refused to meet his gaze, studying the way their fingers interlinked, unwilling to relinquish her grasp just yet. It felt almost as though releasing his hand now was cutting the last lifeline – he would slip away, and be gone forever. The illogic was obvious even to her; Sei was already gone, it would make no difference at all if he stepped outside the apartment or not.

     “Madam?” Sei caught and held her gaze for several seconds. “I must return to my duties now,” he prompted, gently. “You must let go.”

     You must let go. The words sounded strangely prophetic. You must let go of me. Let go of every feeling you have ever had, because I can no longer reciprocate them.

     Disappointed – and not entirely sure why, this was exactly what Yannis had told her to expect, after all – Mirii let her hand fall away, backing down. “…of course.” She stood aside to let him past, and watched as he walked to the door and slipped away without so much as a backward glance. She felt strangely… deflated… by the whole experience. The hair-thin hopes she had been clinging to dwindled further, a strand of spider-silk that would snap if she blew on it.

     Yannis finally let his attention away from the newspaper. He threaded an arm around her waist, and tugged her a hair closer. “I am sorry, dear. That looked like it was harder for you than I anticipated it would be.”

     Mirii didn’t look at him; she just studied the kitchen carpet, noting all the tiny brightly coloured threads that went together to make up the tough greyish surface. Her head felt strangely heavy, today. Perhaps her neck had been weakened after a night where she did not perform her usual mental housekeeping. Or perhaps it was just all this emotional exertion, had left her low on energy. Or perhaps, staring blankly at the floor and counting how many blue fibres she could see was all she felt she could handle right now.

     “I think I may go and rest for a little while,” she explained, softly. “I do not feel very stable.”

     “Of course.” Yannis walked with her towards the front door. “Take all the time you need.” He remained on the hall runner, watching her walk towards the stairs. “I was planning on visiting the market later, to perhaps find you some supplies for your embroidery. Do you wish to come with me? It may cheer you up.”

     Mirii set her foot on the lowest step on the spiral staircase, and pondered the thought for only a few seconds. Perhaps it would help her mood? It felt somewhat dismissive, though – to pretend nothing had happened and indulge her own (quite selfish) desires. “Forgive me. No, thank you. I will stay here.”

     “I will bring you something back,” he promised, with a smile. “I think I know the colours you prefer.”

     Mirii settled on the top step of the staircase and watched his silhouette pass the frosted downstairs windows, and felt moisture on her lower eyelids. She swiped them dry with a fingertip, and just… sat, studying the glistening liquid, for several silent seconds.

     “I thought I knew what to expect, and that I would be able to cope with it,” she said, out loud, to the empty room. “Evidently, I was incorrect.”

     But the room failed to provide an answer to the unspoken question in her words.

     Maybe she was the one that was broken, really. Sei was operating exactly as he had been designed to do. And Yannis had revealed all the trickery, and still she wanted to cling to the lies, as though somehow she could force them to turn back into the truth she had been so content with until only a few days ago.

     Maybe you are just ungrateful, Mirii. This kind man has given you his home and his love, and asked for nothing in return.

     Again so quietly she barely heard it, her conscience piped up:

     …yet.

* * * * *

     Dearest Dustcloud,

     Here is your latest update from the lair of the monster!

     First, I can reassure you that family are safe, albeit stressed. Sei has been to see Mirii – we think so our captor can convince her that he’s just some sort of automaton, so she’ll be more likely to fall into Yannis’ arms. The man hasn’t yet succeeded in moulding her into anything other than a scared, vulnerable young widow, but we fear he will ultimately succeed, the longer we are stuck here.

     Privately, I worry that Sei will prove the weak link in all this. He tells me he doesn’t know how long he will be able to keep up such an unpleasant charade, especially after seeing how upset Mirii was. I have reassured him as best I can, but I’m sure he at least partially senses I don’t completely trust him not to go and blow our cover. Of course I will keep you informed, particularly if anything starts ‘going south’, as it were – we hope we will have a satisfactory resolution before my darling brother completely louses things up, and we’re trying to think up an excuse we can use should Yannis ever stop gloating long enough to figure things out.

     Now follows the more important information; I hope Velia may be able to use it. (You are passing it all on, I trust?)

     Yannis goes down to the Lanali city most days. We are still not sure why, but we presume it is to meet someone, perhaps the individual from whom he is obtaining the virus. Sei reports that Yannis can often miraculously obtain the precise items he or the virologist needs, and the specialised nature of the supplies implies a contact with a medical lab, at a minimum.

     Some days Yannis takes Mirii into town with him – ostensibly to keep her happy, but I doubt that is true. We are not yet clear on the real reasoning, but I would not be surprised if it is to show off his latest conquest. How better to look powerful than to have kiravai on his arm? Even if they do not know she is siinu, it flatters his ego to have people watching him. It is important you know this because I am sure Mirii will recognise Velia, if they happen to bump into each other – and if Yannis knows you have followed him all the way to the correct city, he will no doubt take his base elsewhere. If you do choose to try and hunt him down in Lanali, please take extreme care not to be seen. I am sure he knows you are in orbit, but he seems content enough in his ability to evade you right now. If he works out you’re in the city itself, his nerve will probably fail him.

     After some soul-searching, I have included co-ordinates to the base of operations at which we are currently ‘employed’, but I am concerned that this is not the only place he operates out of. Please, resist the urge to swoop to our rescue just yet! We are not in any overt danger so long as we can maintain our charade a little longer, and we might yet be able to work out who his accomplices are.

     Lastly, I should point out that Yannis’ co-conspirators – at least, those sharing our base with us – appear to be having their own doubts about his activities. We’re not sure how much of it is genuine, and how much is an attempt to trick Sei and I into dropping the act – but I must admit to being reasonably convinced at least some are genuine. I suppose involvement in potential genocide sways the allegiances of even the most hardened criminals?

     If we manage to get anything more useful from any of them, I will let you know.

     My love always. Missing you. K

* * * * *

     The bustling Lanali city was pleasantly multicultural. Although most locals were hah’zeept’i, a high percentage of residents were made up of representatives of all the major Coalition member species and a good handful of exotics, so Ardea’s crew blended in easily. If Yannis was on high alert and watching his tail? A scruffy nondescript pair like the two currently following him should hardly arouse a flicker of suspicion – provided they pitched things just right, and didn’t get too close.

     A busy automobile repair garage was conveniently close to where Yannis had been seen leaving his vehicle, and it didn’t take too much discussion with the owners for Ardea’s crew to get permission to use it as a temporary base for the morning.

     Wearing an artfully-filthy white shirt and greasy blue coveralls with their arms tied about her waist, Ardea’s chief of security looked so comfortable in her disguise that a person would have been forgiven for thinking she’d been a vehicle mechanic in a former life. Velia settled on the steps outside the site’s office doorway, pretending to indulge in a smoke and chat to friends on her personal communicator, when in reality she sat watching the reflection on the device’s screen as the disguised second officer made his way along the row of vehicles.

     The captain’s latest report had enabled them to remotely monitor Yannis’ ground floor exit through the old mine, and identify his private vehicle. As discreetly as they could manage, Ardea’s crew tracked him all the way to the centre of the Lanali city, and watched as he parked up and… ambled casually away. It was impossible to tell if he even knew his pursuers were already in orbit – his behaviour suggested he was blissfully unaware, but knowing Yannis, it could equally be a big finger up at them, an I’m-not-scared-of-YOU, a demonstration to show how little he cared for the security staff coming close to his heels.

     Keeping her fingers very firmly crossed, Velia worked on the principle that so long as her team kept their distance, and let Yannis think he was safe and undiscovered, he would eventually let something slip. It worked in their favour, flattering his ego, if he thought they were just a crew of incompetents, running around in a headless panic and completely unable to counter his scheming genius. All they had to do was make sure he didn’t work out how close they’d got…

     To his credit, Pau was doing a good, thorough job. Dressed in clothing similar to the natives, but intentionally scruffy, hoping to carry off the illusion of a street stray, he made his slow, steady way through the parking area, investigating every single vehicle moored up along the same wall as Yannis’ sporty little red one. Most observers would have assumed he was genuinely looking for anything that had been discarded or dropped or otherwise unattended that he could adopt and sell, rather than looking for a suitable crevice in which to hide a tiny locator beacon.

     …But he was being so slow, he was making his senior officer twitchy! Yannis could be back, into his vehicle, and away, long before Pau got to it, and the eumin was sneaky enough it might take days to get an opportunity like this again. Not all Velia’s agitated fidgeting was an act.

     At last, the vul got to the last vehicle in the line. After a perfunctory look over it, he slipped away into the alleyway, trotting down to the garage where the zaar sat impatiently tapping her feet.

     Velia snapped her communicator closed, and stuffed it into a pocket. “Is the tag attached?”

     Pau nodded, glancing back over his shoulder to the line of stationary vehicles. “I managed to find a crevice to tuck it into at ground level, near the gravity emitters.” He waved his tail, uneasily, ears switching uneasily. “I just hope it doesn’t get knocked off. The rest of the vehicle was enclosed in a security field, I didn’t want to go poking around and set any alarms off.”

     “Well, we’ll just have to pray for a little good luck.” Velia nodded her thanks to the garage owner, before heading out into the alley with Pau. “At least if he heads off somewhere outside that derelict old clifftop foundry, we’ll be able to follow him, and figure out where he’s based.”

     “No offence, ma’am, but if we already know where he’s operating out of, why don’t we just go there and arrest him?”

     Velia ducked into a convenient shop doorway to shed the greasy disguise. “Captain doesn’t think it’s the only place he’s based, that’s why.” She re-emerged with her uniform tunic back over her head, one arm tangled in the under-arm sash. “And if we jump on him now, we might never find it. Not to mention, who knows how many bolt-holes that old factory has? Just because we’re watching the main exit doesn’t mean there aren’t any others. He could nip off down a tunnel only he knows about, and be long-gone before we realise it.”

     “So…” Pau scratched his head and frowned. “Could we not track him down in the market, and arrest him there…? Nabbing him as quickly as possible would be best, wouldn’t it? I mean, we could still lose him, this way.”

     “If the captain’s right, Yannis is just one part in a bigger network, and we don’t want to alert the other players to our presence if we can help it,” Velia demurred, quietly, as they made their way back along the bustling street towards their own transport in the civic spaceport. “If we try and arrest him, we risk the others hearing about it, and we’ll end up losing half our targets. Not to mention, whatever nefarious business he has planned might still go ahead unchecked.”

     Pau grimaced. “A bigger network doing what, though?”

     “That, I think, is the point. No-one really knows, apart from him. Perhaps not even all his team at the old factory really know. We need to work out what he’s doing, and with who, so we can catch them all – and stop it!”

* * * * *

     “Um.” In the middle of the abandoned factory’s tiny infirmary, Dren stood and paddled his feet on the spot, uneasily. “I, er. This is the doctor’s office, correct?” He scratched behind his ears, struggling to clarify what was confusing him. The room left him feeling ever so slightly threatened, and he couldn’t quite pin down why. “Sorry, what did you want me down here for, again?”

     “If I have to tell you once more…” Yannis bit off the end of the sentence, swallowing the expletives, and beckoned, a single irritable flick of a finger. “Come here, and I will show you.”

     Dren approached, warily, unsure what the man was going to do, but finally found the courage to peer through the window. He watched Sei working silently in the small isolation cubicle, taking measurements – evidently, he was the only individual who could reasonably be expected to tend the sick eumin in the bed, without getting sick himself.

     “Does-…” Dren cast an uneasy glance sidelong at his employer. “Does he have the virus? That man in the bed.”

     Yannis nodded, just the once.

     “So, uh-… why is he here, and not in the hospital?”

     “He was in the hospital, until I had him discharged into my care. I do not trust those so-called doctors to treat him properly. They would rather line their own pockets than purchase the medications he needs.” Yannis folded his arms across his chest, as though challenging Dren to call him out on the exaggeration. “I would rather he be treated here, by my own trusted medical staff, so I can be sure he gets the best chance possible.”

     “But-… no-one here is a trained doctor. I-I mean, not a medical doctor. I’m a virologist, Hueil is a psychiatrist or something, and Sei is a cybernetic engineer. None of us know how to, to… look after an acutely sick person…! Not to mention, what if one of us catches it?”

     “Psh. Our good doctor Sei is a very quick study, and naturally immune.” Yannis stared him out, with that half-smug expression that just invited argument. “You are telling me you would prefer I return my cousin to the, ah, heh, medical professionals that have thus far spectacularly failed to protect him from the virus he is now infected with?”

     Knowing he would be more likely to get a punch in the nose for trying to point out just how obvious Yannis’ lie was, Dren backed down, turning his attention back on the occupants of the room. “Um. So. Um, why is he handcuffed?”

     Yannis put up his hands in a mocking parody of despair. “You have spent long enough working on the virus; surely you know the symptoms of the disease you’re trying to cure.”

     Dren licked his lips, and flicked an ear, unwilling to admit that well, perhaps he didn’t know quite as much as Yannis assumed him to. For all his expertise, this virus was a complete unknown, and he didn’t actually know much about the symptoms – heck, aside from the fact he knew it caused haemorrhage? He didn’t know anything about it. And while Yannis refused to give him any more pertinent information – most notably, the hospital the eumin was supposedly getting his samples sent from – he couldn’t exactly find anything more out.

     Instead, Dren kept quiet, lips compressed into a frustrated line, knowing full well that his employer wore his usual self-congratulatory smirk at successfully belittling his resident scientist.

     “Of course his movement is restricted. If you cannot cure him, Biohazard, he will become confused, and begin to wander.” Yannis explained, with a patient sigh and a little flourish. See how gracious I am, explaining to you poor dunces? “I cannot risk him wandering out into our place of business and infecting all my staff. Why else do you think we have him in the isolation suite?”

     Dren compressed his lips to a thin, irritable line, and remained silent.

     Behind the glass, Sei moved about like a shadow, using his own sensors to carefully make observations about Brennan’s deteriorating health – blood pressure, respiration rate, temperature.

     The eumin watched him, out of tired, bloodshot eyes. “He got to you after all, then?” he croaked, softly.

     “I am sorry. I am not clear on your meaning,” Sei replied, blandly. He pressed his fingertips gently to Brennan’s wrist, and checked the man’s pulse. “Who was permitted access?”

     Brennan sighed and let his head flop back against the pillow, tolerating the gentle manhandling. “I suppose it should have been obvious that Yannis’ meddling would remove the bulk of that incredible intellect, doctor.”

     “My scientific knowledge has not been affected by mister Yannis’ reprogramming, sir. He has simply excised the autonomous parts.”

     “The evaluation stands. The Sei I once knew would not have misunderstood such a simple colloquialism.” Brennan grunted, and struggled to get his cuffed hand high enough to massage his aching temples. “So what should I expect from the next few days?”

     “You have been infected with a virus, which at present has no known cure.” Sei touched his fingers first to the eumin’s brow, then behind his ear, checking his temperature. “We will look after you and ensure that you are given the appropriate supportive therapy, and will vaccinate you as soon as one has been developed.”

     “A virus?” Brennan licked his lips, uneasily. “What sort of virus? What will happen to me?”

     “I am unfamiliar with the presentation of the disease, and cannot comment on what symptoms you may develop,” Sei replied, blandly, entering the figures on a pad. “You will be monitored, and treated symptomatically. Hopefully your body will ultimately be able to fight off the infection itself, and we will be able to obtain immunoglobulins on which to base a vaccine.”

     “…‘Hopefully’?” Brennan echoed. This was all feeling less and less good the more he heard.

     “I am unfamiliar with the presentation of the disease,” Sei repeated. “And I have no statistics regarding adult mortality. We do have the facilities to provide adequate supportive care for most viral illnesses, however.”

     Brennan groaned, softly. “By which you mean, Yannis will refuse treatment, because he would prefer to watch me slowly succumb to this, go mad and die?”

     “I am sorry, I do not understand. You are here so that you may be cared for. You will not be abandoned to die.”

     “…is that what he told you? Because I regret to be the bearer of bad news, but ‘mister Yannis’ is a born liar.” Brennan sighed, and closed his eyes against the hostile artificial lighting. “A fact you used to know only too well. Personal experience obviously counts for naught when your brain has been removed…”

     Outside the isolation cubicle, Dren watched the symptoms slowly scroll up on the screen as Sei noted them down on his electronic notepad. “You know, I don’t think these are symptoms of infection,” he said. “Granted, I’m not personally familiar with the acute presentation, but these don’t look like anything I would expect for the early phase of an infection.”

     “I concur. He is not yet showing signs of infection.”

     Dren turned his head to watch as Sei stepped out through the chemical lock, disinfectant vapours following him out and curling across the floor around his dark toes.

     “His heart rate, respiration rate and temperature are all within normal parameters. His blood pressure is low, but not out of normal range.” The dark cob tilted his head, as though deep in thought. “If forced to hypothesise, I would put the symptoms down to a ‘hangover’ from the sedative overdose he was recently administered.”

     Yannis fired a little glare at Hueil, but the ondras ignored him. “So what should we expect from the ‘acute presentation’, doctors?” the eumin chased.

     Dren glanced over his databoard. “Well, if this information is correct, he should develop a sort of… I’d call it ‘non-specific viral illness’, first of all. General malaise, sore throat, stuffy head and a cough, fever with chills, maybe aching joints and muscles.” He started to tick each symptom off on a finger, until he ran out of fingers, and instead just waved his hand aimlessly in midair for emphasis. “When he gets the sniffles, you can probably assume the virus is starting to overpower his immune system. That’s the point you’d want to start the more intensive supportive therapy. You’re probably going to have to treat symptomatically, though, until I’ve developed a vaccine.”

     “Well, doctor.” Yannis bared his teeth in an unfriendly smile. “You had best get back to work.”

* * * * *

     Ugh.

     Laying at a subtle angle among the sparse pillows on the lumpy bed, Brennan concentrated on trying to relax the tense muscles of his face. His head throbbed. Was this the virus? Or was he just… overthinking. Straining his eyes against the hostile lighting, blood pressure rising with the stress. Back and shoulders aching already from laying in one position so long-

     The airlock door hissed softly and depressurised, attracting his tortured attention. Brennan watched the door open, admitting Yannis, dressed in an incongruously professional-looking lab-coat. He felt his fingers tense automatically against the sheets. “What do you want? Come to gloat?”

     “Why Brennan, you wound me with your accusations.” Yannis pressed a hand to his chest, melodramatically. “No, since my, ah, ‘doctors’…” He paused to chuckle to himself. “…have assessed you to be non-infective, right now, I feel it is safe to come and talk with you. I am sure you would like to know more about your little gift, after all.”

     “…gift?”

     “My virus, of course. Custom made for killing the likes of you. I needed someone to test it on, and who should walk right up to my doorstep but a willing volunteer?”

     “You infected me on purpose?!” It felt like a big hole opened up under Brennan’s stomach, and he went into freefall through it. His mouth felt uncomfortably dry. “Why-… why in the world would-”

      “You think I need a good reason, when I am every bit as petty and vengeful as you remember me?” Yannis leaned down closer to his prisoner’s face. “You helped yourself to my sister.” He dropped his voice to a murmur. “So I have every right to take the appropriate revenge in payment for the infraction.”

     “I-… what?! I helped rescue her from your enforced prostitution!” Brennan snapped, leaning up towards Yannis’ face. “Your own sister, and you made her do that! You do not own her-… what possible entitlement do you think you have?!”

     “That loose little prostitute was worthless until I took her under my roof.” Yannis curled his lip in a chilly sneer. “A scarred, psychiatric, dirty little fishwife, drug-addled and chasing the coat-tails of every male that so much as glanced in her direction.” He spread his hands, palms out triumphantly. “Nobody wanted her and her used goods until I stepped in and saved her life. I was the one to give her purpose and value. Without me, she’d have been joining the fish in the feeding pools – a recycled meal for everyone else.”

     “And you still consider what you did to her as acceptable?! To force her into a life of debauchery and depravity, to, to… force her to spread her legs as though she owed it to you? As though that was an acceptable exchange?”

     Yannis lowered his voice to a hissing whisper, like poison gas leaking from a broken pipe. “So you are as stupid as you are naïve, Brennan. Sweet, traumatised little Tora? She wanted it. I just provided it. Up there in your cosy little apartment on the hill, playing the self-important councillor, you had no idea how the everyday folk of the Bubble had it – over-worked and bored out of our minds-”

     “I took my turn in the fishing pools!” Brennan tensed against his restraints, fists clenched. “I worked every bit as hard as all those other poor souls, enduring the pain as the water stripped the heat from my body, risking my own life to feed others in the Bubble. You were the one to consistently duck your responsibility, if I recall things correctly. Too busy trying to run a crime syndicate from your bedroom!”

     Yannis’ lip twitched, but he somehow managed to keep the sneer plastered in place, only barely keeping it from warping into a glare. “Stupid, naïve and deluded. We will see how you manage to keep up that air of superiority when the virus takes hold.”

--------------------

Chapter: 5688 words.   |    78140 out of 100,000

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Good as Gold

February 2013

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