Soooooooooooooo, chapter 3, I’m sorry, but it is four words from four thousand words, which is one thousand more than I had planned. But, I couldn’t end the chapter any earlier, ’cause of my obsession with cliffhangers. And so, I wrote it to have 3996 words, which I am just repeating myself now, so I will shut up and let you just read it. Enjoy. 🙂
A week later, after Rose had arranged all her affairs, she found herself standing in front of the intimidating ninety story building that housed the heart of Dalus Corp. The past seven days had been a blur of interviews, discussions, and faces. It all seemed unreal. Bradley had briefed her as to his expectations, and she felt nervous. Taking a deep breath, Rose forced herself to stop looking up and walked toward the entryway.
The receptionist looked up and smiled as she entered. “Welcome to Dalus Corp, miss, how may I help you?”
“I am here because I was offered a job,” Rose informed the lady.
The receptionist did a good job of hiding her surprise as she checked the databanks. “Your name please?”
“May I see some identification? Thank you, this will do just nicely. Ah, yes, here you are. Go straight ahead, take a left down the hall and you’ll come to an elevator lobby. Take it to the forty-eighth floor. An executive will be waiting there who will direct you to where you will be working.”
Rose returned her card to her pocket and followed the receptionist’s instructions. As she waited for the elevator to arrive, she took a good look around her. Everything was bright and unsullied. Stainless steel elevator doors so reflective they acted like mirrors guarded the elevator car, and the buttons were so clean it felt like a sin to press them. The floor was spotless, and the air smelled slightly like air-freshener.
Heels clicked on the smooth tiles, and Rose turned to see who it was. A tall blonde rounded the corner. She came to a halt beside Rose and they both stood waiting for the elevator to arrive. It dinged a few seconds later, and the doors slid open. Rose stepped in but her companion remained in the lobby.
“Aren’t you going to come in?” Rose asked, stepping aside.
“Oh no, I think I will wait for the next one.” The lady smiled. “Don’t worry, you go right on ahead.”
Rose shrugged and hit the button for the forty-eight floor. As the doors closed, Rose saw the blonde twist a lock of hair around her finger nervously, then the elevator started up. Rose tapped a foot impatiently as she watched the numbers count up.
It was more apprehension than impatience really. How well would she do on her new job? Although Bradley had sent her there not to work but to investigate, a strong sense told her to do a good job nevertheless. As the numbers on the digital display approached forty-eight, she did less foot-tapping and more worrying. Has she made the right choice? Would it have been better if she just left all the detective work to her father?
The elevator came to a stop and the doors slid open. Well, that choice was behind her. She’d have to face the consequences now.
Samuel watched silently as Rose stepped into the lobby and looked around for her guide. The executive Samuel had specially picked out walked towards her and introduced himself. He turned and headed towards the records room. Samuel smiled. Put someone where they most want to be, and they let down their guard, or else they become incredibly suspicious. Samuel didn’t care if Rose became either. He had his own plans.
The CEO put the display down as sharp, clicking footsteps echoed down the long hallway outside his room. Few people had the security key required to take the elevator to the eighty-seventh floor. If one of them was up here, it probably meant that they had something important to say.
He turned and gave a small smile as the familiar figure of his Director of Operations stood at the doors waiting to be let in. Slowly, Samuel rolled towards the entryway. The instant he came within range of its sensor, the doors unlocked and slid apart, allowing the tall blonde outside to come inside.
Samuel smiled at her as she walked past him. She gave him a distracted smile back, then sat on the only chair in the room. Samuel maneuvered himself till he was opposite her. He adeptly began setting up an exquisite glass chessboard. She just sat in the chair playing with her fingers nervously. A few seconds of silence passed, then Samuel extended two closed fists to her.
“Left or right?”
“Left,” she murmured.
He opened his left hand. Inside it lay a white pawn. He set both pieces down on the chessboard, turned it so the black pieces were on his side, then nodded. She started by moving her king’s pawn. He countered by developing his queen-side knight. A few more moves later, Samuel decided it was time enough to broach his thought.
“What are you doing here today? Our next game wasn’t until the twelfth.”
She ignored his question. “Who is that new person?”
“None of your concern,” Samuel told her, developing his bishop. “Personal affairs. I’ll manage her division from the top personally.”
“She’s getting a division?”
Samuel captured her knight. “Do you have a problem with that?”
“Why did you come here today, Ellie?”
Ellie did not answer immediately. Instead, she pushed forward in the game, capturing and organizing until she had squeezed Samuel’s pieces against the back edge of the board.
“I need all the information for Project Xenocode.”
Samuel moved his queen from its beginning position. “You do do you?”
“Yes,” she said, checking him.
He moved his pawn. A simple move, but devastating, as it revealed two discovered attacks, both indirectly menacing her king, reinforced another piece, and threatened her queen. She picked up her king to move it out of danger.
“Has MI6 been asking for more than you can supply?” Samuel said.
The glass piece in her hand slipped through her fingers and fell to the floor, shattering into thousands of tiny shards. Her hands began to shake, and she bit her lip nervously. Withdrawing from the chess board, she began playing with her fingers again.
“I told them– I told them you knew– I told them– It’s not my fault!”
“Yes,” Samuel said, pushing himself away from the table. It would have been checkmate in three moves anyway. “Making a person think they’re in control is the easiest way to control them. I have known for the longest time Ellie. What I would suggest is that you take this money here, and go into hiding. Disappear for a year. Have someone kill you, start a new life. MI6 will think you have been collaborating with me. They will not let you stay alive for what you know.”
Ellie stared dubiously at the money Samuel had pushed towards her. “Why are you helping me?”
“You play well,” Samuel said, returning his wallet to his pocket. “And trust me, it makes my job a lot easier if you are out of the picture.”
Wordlessly she took the money and stood up.
“You have your gun I assume?” Samuel asked as she turned to leave.
“I’ve always had it with me.” She smiled faintly. “They told me you were dangerous. I see now it is a very different dangerous than what I thought it would be. How did you know?”
“That you carry a gun? You may be a good agent, but you get nervous. Every time you get nervous, your right hand slips down to your hip but finds it empty. You’re looking for your source of security, your gun. Then you remember that it’s not there, but somewhere else on your person, and relax. But not really of course, you keep your hands readily available. Playing with your fingers in front of you is merely an act to keep your hands near your weapon.”
“You knew I was debating on shooting you then?”
Samuel turned and looked out the window at the skyscraper across the road. “I know a lot of things.”
What he didn’t know, was that upon exiting the building, Ellie was seized by masked men and carried away to a deserted tropical island where she would be disposed of. He had been too late, not that it would have mattered much to him. He needed her out of the picture, it didn’t matter much to him in what way she left it.
Rose looked up from sorting the files before her. It was a simple enough task. Organize the files according to the classifications that had been specified. When she saw a file that she thought interesting though, as per Bradley’s instructions, she slipped one of the specially designed trackers into it. Ironic, she thought. That the biggest computer research and development company should still use hardcopy files.
For some reason, Rose had a feeling that she was being watched. She glanced around. There was no one on this floor. The helpful executive who had assigned her this task had long since left to complete another job. She shrugged, then remembered security cameras. Once again Rose looked around uneasily.
She saw no visible signs of security cameras or microphones, but that did not mean they were not present. Suddenly she felt guilty, and rushed through the next few files so that she could stack as many things on top of the bugged files as she could. Paranoia seized her, and she wondered if somehow Samuel had figured out how to simulate invisibility.
Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous. Not even the Unseen have discovered a way to simulate actual invisibility. There are always flaws with the technology. With this reassuring thought, Rose continued working through stack after stack of files.
He was so quiet that she did not hear him, and when his clearly enunciated words emanated from behind her, they sounded as if shouted through a megaphone. She started and spun around.
Samuel sat in his wheelchair, a few feet behind Rose, fingers steepled, staring at her intently from behind his tinted glasses.
“E– excuse me?” Rose asked.
“I asked if the work is alright for you.”
“Oh, yes, yes,” Rose hastened to agree.
A terrible liar, Samuel mused. No doubt Fox senior asked his precious child to try and infiltrate our system.
“Well then, I’ll leave you to it. All the best. I hope your career will be pleasurable and full of quick advancement. We can’t have you sorting files forever can we?”
She smiled plastically. “No, of course not.”
The week flew by for Rose. She had progressed slowly from sorting hardcover files to including digital files in her repertoire. A small part of her wondered why they did not use some sort of algorithm for the digital files, but she made no mention of it. Every time Rose looked up from her work, she seemed to feel his stare boring into her back, and when she turned around, he would always be there, staring at her around steepled fingers.
It got to the point where she started wondering if he had anything better to do than stalk his employees as they completed the jobs they had been assigned. Doubts flew around in her head every time she planted the devices Bradley had given to her. Did he know? If so, why didn’t he do anything? At the end of the week; however, when none of the devices transmitted, Rose knew that they had been removed.
She felt frustration well up inside of her, but had nowhere to vent. Instead, she focused on sorting the files with breakneck efficiency. A distorted reflection on the glass door revealed that Samuel was watching her again. She sighed and dropped the file in her hand onto the table. It was time she faced her employer about this.
Samuel watched impassively as Rose stalked out of the room towards him. He could almost see the frustration flowing out her pores. He smiled inwardly. The time had come. Finally he would get some answers.
“What do you think you are doing watching me everyday?” Rose demanded.
Samuel laced his fingers together and pushed the palms outwards, cracking his knuckles.
“You are a new employee, I have to make sure that you are doing your job correctly.”
Rose crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. “Surely that does not involve constant supervision by the CEO of the company? Don’t you have better things to do?”
Some little corner of Rose demanded attention, telling her that this was no way to treat a superior, but she ignored it. This constant superintendence had to end, and it had to end soon.
“I am the CEO, so I can do what I feel needs to be done. Really, I should be the one asking the questions here. Why have you been trying to bug our system? Are you trying to watch me?”
“How dare you?” Rose was indignant. All the more so because he spoke the truth. “You don’t know that I have done anything of the sort. How can you bring such accusations against me?”
Samuel’s face darkened. Her flat-out denial annoyed him all the more because she made it blatantly obvious that she had indeed done it. He was not surprised, it was what he had expected, which is why he had made sure no files of importance were handed down to her, and that everything she came into contact with was routinely swept for surveillance and tracking devices.
Rose decided that her best option would be to distract him by returning to her original point. “Why have you been watching me all this time?”
“At least you don’t give up easily,” Samuel muttered to himself. Then he said loudly, “Follow me.”
“The last time I did that, I was pulled out of school into a working environment where I have been under constant scrutiny. Hardly a good thing if you ask me.”
Samuel ignored her and turned, rolling his wheelchair slowly towards the lobby.
Rose held an internal debate with herself. A large part of her wanted to follow him and figure out what exactly he was doing by stalking her movements within his company, but another part deemed it wiser to continue with her father’s original plan of trying to subvert the system that was Dalus Corp. Her curiosity won out, as it always had, and she hurried to catch up with Samuel.
She arrived just in time to join him inside the elevator. He hit the button for the garage level, then sat quietly, waiting for their transport to descend. Rose stood, and for the first time in her seven days since meeting him, really took the time to observe Samuel.
His hair was combed into a casual side part, and he wore a chalk gray pinstriped suit. A silver rolex embellished his wrist, and on his feet he wore black derby shoes which had never touched dirt. His face seemed set in stone, and as direct contact with his eyes was blocked by the round tinted glasses that concealed them, it made it extremely difficult to tell his emotions. His hands gripped the handles on his wheelchair lightly, and he sat straight, but his body was relaxed.
“Why can’t you walk?” Rose finally asked bluntly.
Samuel’s mouth twitched, but he made no reply.
Rose was abashed for a moment, but after another ten floors, put forth another question.
“Do you always wear those glasses? They aren’t prescription glasses right?”
Samuel grew slightly exasperated at her questions. “Do you always interrogate people like this?”
This silenced Rose, and the remainder of their trip was carried out in silence.
When they arrived at the ground floor, Samuel led the way to his expensive car. In the past, when Samuel first made the car, he had designed it specially so that built in heat-sensors would detect if more than one person was approaching it. In this manner, if one of the people was him and there was another, the car would automatically suspect he was being held hostage, and not go into its automatic sequence of preparing itself.
Not only that, but he had also built in a system to the car so that if it detected the chip approaching, but there was no heat source around it, the car would assume he was dead. In this case, it would proceed as normal, but upon reaching a main road, take control of itself, drive to a remote location, and detonate, as a final act of spite from its deceased master.
Rose, of course, did not know any of this. All she saw was a wheelchair-ridden individual leading her to a perfectly normal, albeit expensive, car. Don’t do it, don’t do it, she told herself silently, repeating the mantra over and over in her head. He did it; Samuel went around to the left side of the car.
“Um, who’s driving?” Rose asked.
Samuel turned incredulously. For a moment he just sat and stared at her, then finally he found words to voice his indignation.
“Are– are you doubting my driving abilities?”
Before Rose could reply he cut her off, sputtering. “I am as much a driver as you are, even with my disability, and I am positive that I can drive better than you.”
He grabbed the handle of the door and flung it open. There was a resounding bang that echoed through the parking garage. Slowly Samuel looked down from Rose to the door. It had slammed into a supporting pillar and sustained a large dent in its slick surface. Both of them were silent as the boarding ramp extended.
Samuel did not look up at Rose, but he could tell she was trying desperately not to break out into laughter at his mistake. The ramp touched the floor, and Samuel wheeled himself into the car, calling after Rose to follow. She got in on the side opposite his, and then, starting his car, Samuel drove off.
They pulled to a stop outside Dalus Mansion. Rose was absolutely puzzled. What in the world could he be doing, taking her to his home? Nevertheless, she followed Samuel as he vacated the car. Without a word, Samuel approached the front door. He waited quietly for her to also mount the staircase, then unlocked the front door and pushed it open.
The experiment that Samuel was undertaking rested on a few facts. First, the girl had to be there. He had little doubt about that though. For weeks now she had been there every time he got home; she would be there. No, his main concern was that his hypothesis was wrong, that Rose really had been seeing things, and that he suffered from another case entirely. It was the existence of this possibility that worried Samuel.
However, he needn’t have worried. Rose took one look into the mansion and her mouth fell open. How– how? It is impossible. There is no way coincidence like this can happen, she thought, using denial as a shield from reality. It was impossible though, wasn’t it? She had thought their problem was on a global scale, having it localized made it feel much more– prominent.
The girl extended a hand to Rose, flickering the whole time. She’s suffering, Rose realized. Instant anger flared up inside of her and replaced any other rational thought. The whirled on her heel and faced Samuel. He was not expecting this kind of reaction.
“What do you think you are doing?” she demanded.
“What?” Samuel asked, a puzzled frown creasing his brow.
Rose was infuriated. “How can you bind one of them? A phasing one at that?”
“Who is them?”
“Seriously?” Rose asked, her mouth agape. “You can’t fool me. How are you doing it? Electricity? Magnetism? Heat?”
Samuel turned cold. “I do not understand what you are talking about.”
“Are you daft? The Unseen of course!”
Rose suddenly felt a sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach. He doesn’t actually know. He doesn’t know. Oh, what have I done? “Nothing, it’s nothing. Sorry, just a little lapse. I have these mental fits sometimes. Visited a shrink for it.”
Samuel’s mind was working so volubly that it showed on his face. Rose’s comment fell on deaf ears. He remained completely impassive.
“Jessie,” Samuel called.
The butler came from around the house. “Yes, sir?”
“Drive the young lady to her house.”
Rose cut off Jessie’s reply. “You can’t just send me home after showing me something like this.”
Samuel glared at Rose, a spark in his eye, and quietly repeated his order to Jessie. Something about his whole facial expression, his tone, his body language, quieted Rose, and she followed the butler meekly as he led her to the car. When she turned to look back, Samuel was gone.
Inside the house, Samuel opened his personal computer and fired it up, linking it wirelessly to the powerful mainframe in Dalus Corp. This was exactly the kind of big break he was looking for. Suddenly little coincidences throughout multiple texts seemed less like coincidences and more like a cohesive body of information all pointing to one solution. He sat back in his wheelchair and cracked his knuckles.
Rose was extremely nervous. She found herself biting her fingernails, something she hadn’t done in years. What had she done? She had been so convinced that Samuel had deliberately bound one of the Unseen that all logical thought had abandoned her. Now that she thought back about it though, it made no sense. If he had known he was illegally binding one of them, why would he have brought her to his home?
Jessie said something.
“What? I’m sorry, I missed what you said.”
“I was just saying, Miss, that you shouldn’t get involved with Mr. Dalus. It’s not good for you.”
The butler was silent for a moment, then he spoke, “No one stands in Samuel’s way for long.”
“What do you mean by that?” Rose asked, curiosity perked.
Jessie clammed up. The drive was continued in silence for a few minutes, then Rose tried a different tack.
“Why are you telling me this?”
“You’re a nice girl,” Jessie’s voice wafted back to her. “I don’t want anything happening to you.”
The butler dropped Rose of at her house. She waited for his car to disappear out of sight, then turned and headed for the backyard. The front door swung open and Bradley stepped out. He called after her.
“Where are you going? Why don’t you come in and say hi to me?”
“Oh, uh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you were home.”
“How is the job?”
Rose’s mind had completely lost track of the fact that she now had a job, and she looked at her father blankly.
Bradley grew worried. “Rose? Are you okay? What’s happened?”
“No, it’s fine.”
Bradley did not believe it to be “fine”, but he put it aside. “Why were you going to the backyard?”
“Oh, I left something in the backyard, I was just going back there to fetch it,” Rose lied.
Bradley nodded. “Sometimes I think you’ve forgotten I work for the CIA,” he murmured as he reentered the house
Rose ran into a shed in their backyard. Its floor was dirt, with a series of thick, exposed power cables. It was where the power surge at their house had occurred and the power company had dug the cables up to repair them. She stood there, waiting impatiently. Seconds passed, and she unconsciously began tapping her foot.
A huge man and slim woman suddenly flickered above the power cables, then phased into existence. They stepped forward silently and nodded in unison. Rose nodded back.
“What is it?” Ethena asked.
Rose twisted a lock of hair distractedly. “Do you know of an Unseen with phasing problems in this area?”
They shook their heads, then Hercules wrinkled his brow. “Are you referring to a woman?”
Hercules’ eyes grew wide. He breathed one word, “Chrysalis.”