Friday, November 13, 2015

Volume 3 - Chapter 3 - Kass

So, you know what stinks? When you spend 11 hours on a computer and still can't get your front io to work =/ So, that's the delay on this post. Computer issues!

But, the good news is, it's mostly finished?

Anyways, right to the start up, have a nice section! A FULL SECTION! I'll try to drop another one this weekend.

Oh, PS!!! There is a section missing from volume 3 - chapter 2, but AnonTBK is currently busy with  a project and will get to it later (or it'll be added to the book at finish)


Kass struggled to open her eyes, giving them a few good rubs as she came back into the real world. She had been having a crazy dream about angry butterflies attacking a group of revolting walnuts over who could sit closest to the fire. Wait, where am I? she started to think as bits and pieces of the night before started to flood into her mind. Her vision were still too blurry to see anything, and she hadn’t quite wiped away all the little eye buggers that generally accompanied mornings. However, she could definitely tell she wasn’t at home. Her bed didn’t have sheets this nice, pillows this soft or air conditioning that was always on.
    How long was I out? The next question hit her mind with an unusually strong sense of urgency. Dad is probably worried sick. She rubbed her eyes again. She was just now starting to get the blurry vision to go away, and she was able to make out more clearly what was around her, but her mind was still racing with more questions than hungover frat boy after a good kegger. Does Dad even know where I am? Did he watch last night’s interview and see me get kidnapped? Did they even show that part? Her head spun as she tried to puzzle out the full nature of her situation.
    Okay, let’s start with where I am. She forced all the other questions out of her head so she could handle them just one at a time. I’m in a bed now--a bed that has like a-million-thread-count sheets, and, last night, I was in a weird underground room having dinn-- The fog in Kass’s mind suddenly cleared as it dawned on her. Oh God, I fainted while having dinner with Darwin and Stephanie! That is so embarrassing. She facepalmed so hard it stung. She didn’t have to finish putting together any clues. It was all clear. She had passed out at the table in Charles’s underground lair and was probably carried and tossed into a spare bedroom since sleeping on a dinner plate isn’t always the most hospitable thing to let a guest do. Oh God, this is worse than passing out drunk. At least when you’re drunk, you have an excuse for falling face first into dream land.
    Ugh, I just need to make an entirely new set of friends and find a new guild and hope I don’t give them cause to laugh at me again. She struggled to think of a way to get past her moment of shame as she got up. Looking around, she knew without a doubt she was still at Charles’s place. He and that G.O.R.N. guy were the only people Kass had seen pull off that ‘creepy white room from an old sci-fi movie’ feel--white sheets, white bed, white night stand and no windows. Am I still underground, or does he just hate sunlight like some sort of vampire? Wait, if Darwin is a demon, could he actually be a vampire? Is that the real secret behind why all of these gaming companies are underground? That’s it . . . All the executives are vampires who accumulated their wealth over centuries and are now just making video games based on monsters that are real, like Darwin, that people don’t know about . . . she hypothesized as she tried to navigate the room. If it weren’t for the black floor and the shadows, given how uniformly white everything else in the room was, she might have tripped over the chair near the door on her way out. This guy’s taste really is horrible though. He needs to add a few colors, she thought assuredly as she finally opened the door to leave.
    “Good morning, ma’am. You’re expected in kitchen four,” one of the black suited men straight of a conspiracy movie said as soon as the door opened. He wasn’t looking at her. He didn’t even turn his head to see her. Rather, he was just waiting quietly in the hallway facing the wall opposite her.
    “Kitchen four? No chance you can show me where that is?” Kass did her best to adjust her clothes, suddenly self conscious of her appearance. She had been to enough parties to know that there was little she could do to redeem an outfit she had slept in, but given she hadn’t brought anything else with her to wear, this was the best she was going to be able to do.
    “Of course, ma’am. Right this way,” he said in a low monotone that was so steady and unchanging it could rival a tired school professor trying to give the same lecture after forty years, before turning and walking down the hall.
    “Umm, soo . . . my name is Kass. What’s yours?” Kass said after a few minutes, trying her best to make small talk as the bodyguard lead her down one hallway after another in the maze-like complex that Kass assumed to be Charles’s home. It didn’t feel like an office after all, especially since most of the rooms she was passing appeared to be empty. Or, if they weren’t empty, no one was inside making any noise. There was an occasional humming sound behind a few doors, but she couldn’t exactly make out why it sounded familiar.
    “I know,” the man responded, completely ignoring her request for his name.
    Kass frowned. “Don’t talk much, do you? Is your name classified, or is it just too embarrassing to mention?” she said, trying again to break the awkwardness of her bizarre circumstances, but her guide just kept silently leading her down the hallway. Jerk, she almost mumbled out loud, but instead just left the word to linger in her thoughts as she grumpily started inspect the uniform walls on each side of her. How far is it to just get to a kitchen? At this rate, I could have walked to the convience store, bought a six pack and been halfway back to the house if I were still at home. I bet this is why Charles is in good shape at his age. He has to spend forever walking just to get around his own house. That must be the secret to how rich people always look younger. They spend so much time trekking around their own enormous homes.
    After what felt like ten minutes and a few flights of stairs, they finally stopped in front of a large pine double door that came up on their left. “We’re here,” the man said, finally breaking his silence. He opened the door and then stood to the side of it as he had before.
She walked in to find a rather quaint-looking kitchen. For all the sleek modern design that had gone into other rooms, this kitchen was so ordinary that it might as well have been in any one of the numerous houses that stretched up and down her neighborhood. It had two simple round tables surrounded by chairs, one large enough to fit seven or eight people, the other able to fit four if their plates weren’t too big. The kitchen had cheap looking granite countertops, wood veneer cabinets and a fridge with the tell-tale water dispenser built into it that gave away the appliance’s age. In fact, as her eyes darted to and fro about the room, skipping over Charles, who was sitting in an uncomfortable-looking wooden chair pulled up to the large round table with his back facing her, she began to notice that nothing seemed to be new or modern. There wasn’t a single piece of connected technology like a smart stove or coffee maker. It was all old fashioned.
“I thought my dad was the only one who still used the manual turn-on, drip coffee machine,” Kass expressed her surprise at the whole set up.
“Some people say that old dogs can’t be taught new tricks,” Charles said after sipping his drink for a minute, “but I suppose I’ll get around to upgrading the coffee maker when I get around to drinking the poison.”
“You don’t drink it, but you have a maker?” she asked as she walked over to it, kind of finding it odd that there was a fresh batch of coffee in it, and yet he didn’t even drink the stuff.
“Eve insisted on buying one. I never got around to getting rid of it. The guests seem to keep using it. Feel free to pour yourself a cup.” He gestured to the fresh brew after folding up the newspaper he had been reading and setting it down near him. “I hope you’re okay with omelettes. I told the cook to whip up an extra one when I was notified you had woken up.”
“Yes, sir, that sounds delicious,” Kass found herself speaking with the same overly-polite tone she had before, the one that made her feel like one of a thousand unpaid interns meeting the CEO of a company for the first time. Then again, if her dad had his way, that might very well be the case when she talked to Charles in the future.
“When you finish pouring yourself that coffee, can you get a chocolate chip cookie out of the fridge for me? Perhaps fetch me a glass of milk too?” Charles asked, sipping his tea.
Before Kass could even think of making a smart aleck answer she had already finished pouring her drink and fetching him the chocolate chip cookie and milk and had sat down. Something about the way he spoke moved people to action in a way that she probably would never be able to emulate, as if years of giving orders to the obstinate or stubborn had imbued him with an expectation that others would simply do as he said and granted him the commanding aura to ensure it.
“There now, how are you this morning? I trust you slept well?” he sipped his drink again.
“I did, thank you. I’m very sorry about last night,” she apologized, still embarrassed about fainting, but then it clicked. Wait, he had kidnapped me from a paying gig! “I mean, how come you were so forceful bringing me here?” she blurted out after the charm of the area faded and she started to remember the ire she had held for being forced here.
“I think we’ve already gone over all the important details, don’t you?” He flashed a smile that sent a chill down her spine.
She didn’t know if he was saying to her ‘I believe I have adequately explained myself and you should thoroughly understand the reasoning’ or a more threatening ‘you need to understand your place and stop asking questions,’ but, either way, she didn’t feel like pressing it further. Quickly switching the subject, she jumped to the next logical question. “So why am I still here? You could have had one of your drivers send me home last night after I . . . um . . err . . well, fainted.” It was so embarrassing that just mentioning it again made her cringe a little.
“I could have. You’re right. So what do you suspect might be the reasoning behind me not sending you home right away?” he asked, his odd smile continuing to cause a tingle in the nerves up and down her back in the most unpleasant way.
“You have something you need me to do,” she frowned. This is not turning out to be a pleasant morning, she grumbled to herself as she drank her coffee, not wanting to say something off-mark again.
“That’s right again. You’re quite the intuitive young woman.” Charles’s smile opened up a bit to reveal a hint of his teeth. “Which probably means you are on edge, aren’t you?” he guessed correctly, drawing out a slow nod from Kass. “You are probably wondering, ‘what could he want from me when he could just as easily hire someone to do anything he needs,’ aren’t you?” Kass nodded again. “So, not being able to figure out what I can’t just pay for, you’re getting more and more nervous and hoping I will just come right out and cut to the chase, aren’t you?”
Kass just sighed and nodded even more, taking another large gulp of coffee. It was hot and burned her throat a little going down, but, before she had even noticed, she had already managed to drink almost half the cup. “Yes, yes, I do want to just know what you want from me,” she admitted, the suspense driving her crazy.
    “I’m sure by now you know that Darwin, Stephanie and Eve are all demons,” Charles said, ignoring her question as if his explanation of what she must have been thinking was less a series of taunts and more just statements of the obvious. “With Darwin, it was very easy to recognize. After all, his horns had already been formed by the time we first met. But Eve,”--he paused, his eyes glazing over with a look she hadn’t seen before--“well, that’s an entirely different story. If I hadn’t watched her materialize through a blue portal, I’d never have guessed from looking at her that she was anything but an incredibly beautiful young woman. When she first spoke to me, she didn’t even have an odd accent. She might as well have been raised in the States her entire life, thrown on a pair of red contact lenses and then tricked me with a fancy illusion into believing she was something other than human.”
    “So demons are like people?” Kass didn’t understand the point of this story. What does this have to do with me?
    “Indeed, they are the spitting image of what might pass as a perfect person, but that’s not the point, Kass. You’re sharp. We’ve already established that. Surely my explanation leaves some doubt in your mind?” His grin returned.
    “They spoke English . . . but they weren’t from here.” She put it together out loud almost before the thoughts even had a chance to clearly form in her head.
    “There you go.” His words were almost patronizing, but his tone was congratulatory. “I must admit that I suspected they were just from another part of our country when they first arrived, their accent blurred by ages of television, but then they told me their story. It was a long and terrible tale of war and destruction, where they fled a conflict zone in which their people were fighting against genocide in order to come here, and it didn’t fit. First, Eve told me, then Stephanie told me, and they both seemed very close to the same mark, but it didn’t make sense. I’ve never met a person from another country even in our time that wasn’t plagued with some form of accent that deviated from native pronunciation.”
    “So you don’t believe them?” She still didn’t understand how this related to her. Is he trying to make me distrust Darwin too?
    “The question isn’t if I believe them; it is if you do.” His face turned about, his lips curling upwards in an even more devious expression than before. “The question is, would you be content with their story, satisfied knowing the conflicting facts of it?”
“No,” Kass shrugged. “Why would I? Have you ever just asked them about that?”
“I thought about it,” Charles looked at his cup of tea, “but what would there be to gain from that? Even if the worst of cheaters is caught in the act, their first words are generally ‘it’s not what it looks like’ or ‘I can explain.’ So if we assume that they are liars, then we can assume that they will try to explain it away, thus defeating the point of the confrontation. If they are honest, and their story matches up, then all we’ve done is planted the seed of distrust within them, making them now suspect our intentions.”
“So you hope to avoid them not trusting you by spying on them?” Kass almost laughed out loud at how comically silly that sounded.
“That is one way to look at it, but no. I don’t plan on spying on them. I just don’t plan on trusting them entirely.” He pushed his now empty teacup to the side and folded his hands in front of him.
“But that’s just one detail, isn’t it? It doesn’t seem like you should distrust them so easily. Have they given you more reasons?” Kass queried, honestly confused. Last night, Stephanie and Darwin were joking around with Charles as if they were long-time friends, yet here he was trying to infect her with his doubt.
“Kass, the people that are still in some far off world trying to exterminate her race, they are humans. They are both humans and every single reason I need to assume that her intentions for you and I are ill. When an individual spends centuries running from a bloodthirsty pack of wolves that slaughtered their family, friends and species, would they look at them with anything other than hate and resentment? Eve, the younger of the two, is different. She’s loving, kind, and worried about the greater good to a fault. She gives everyone a chance on an individual basis, but not Stephanie. Stephanie has never mingled or mixed with humans. She even uses me as a sort of proxy for all of her endeavors that might force her to talk to people. I have good reason to believe that she means us ill, and I know that she is capable of scheming. I remember watching Stephanie work once. She was putting together a piece of technology, something simple, but the way she laid it all out, the way she methodically assembled each and every piece, it was different. I’ve seen hundreds of techies work, and they work like ants, assembling building blocks one at a time, stacking detail after detail in an effort to build their pyramids. When Stephanie worked though, it was very similar to watching a spider weave a web.” Charles paused, his eyes flickering for a moment. “It inspired an odd feeling of terror and awe, as if the world she saw and the possibilities she considered were infinitely more complex yet almost tangible to her than you or I could ever understand. Even after we are caught in her web, she’ll still keep spinning us around for her own purposes and only sink her fangs in us when she is good and ready.”
    Kass stared blankly at Charles. It wasn’t illogical, and that made it even more horrifying to think about. This woman, the woman that was with Darwin, was the type of person that could both scare and impress Charles, one of the top developers in the world, to such a degree. It was almost enough to petrify Kass, but she still had questions that needed answering. “If she’s this terrifying, why don’t you do something about it? Why haven’t you had people before me follow her? Why do you help her with her schemes?”
    “Why do I help her with her schemes? Because, at the moment, our goals line up. She wants something out of me, and I want something out of her. I’m safe for the moment because I’m useful, but I will not mistake that as an indefinite pass. As for why I haven’t tried to have her followed before, I have. I made that mistake once, and a well-decorated, good man went to an early grave for trying.”
    “She-she killed a man?” Kass gulped.
    “Kass, she spent centuries in a war zone. She’s probably killed more men than you or I could count in a year. Do you think she cares if she adds one more body to the count? I pretended like I had nothing to do with the man, and she never let on that she suspected me, but I won’t take that risk twice.”
    “So, going back to the original topic, what do you want from me?” Kass was now exponentially more nervous about her situation than when she first sat down. “Why am I here? Why are you telling me this?”
    “I’m telling you this because your relationship with Darwin and Darwin’s relationship with Stephanie puts you in a unique position. What I need you to do is to follow Darwin at all times, and let me know if Darwin lets slip any details about Stephanie, or if she says anything in earshot of you. Anything. In exchange, I’ll take care of those money problems that seem to keep coming between you and your father so you won’t need to appear on television again,” Charles offered, leaning back a bit as if the conversation were near its end.
    “So you want me to just stay close to Darwin and then snitch on Stephanie at any chance I get?” Kass wasn’t entirely sure how she felt about this. “And in return I get money?”
    “Yes, and the most important detail I need you to be listening for is anything about my daughter. If Stephanie ever mentions her to Darwin, please let me know immediately.”
    “Wait, your daughter? Is she a hostage? Is that why she isn’t around? Did Stephanie steal your daughter?”
    “No, it’s not like that, but I am worried it is a very real possibility that Stephanie will try to take her from her current location.” Charles frowned again. “Anyway, do you think you can do this? I can guarantee you $10,000 a month, and all you will have to do is play video games with your current guild master.”
    The money was probably insignificantly small to Charles, but it made Kass’s eyes pop instantly. The only hitch was that this was the second time she had been asked to divulge information about people close to her for money, and this time it was even more unsettling. On one hand, she didn’t like the idea of taking money to be a snitch, but, on the other, what Charles had said seemed disconcerting. The facts he mentioned, Stephanie’s background and the reality that Stephanie had somehow managed to scare someone even as powerful as Charles did not make her feel comfortable, either about snitching or about letting Stephanie’s plans go on unhindered. “Look, can I think about it? Maybe call my dad first and let him know I’m okay?” she asked, still not sure what to do.
    “Your dad knows that you are okay. I had Alfred there call him last night and tell him that you opted to skip out on the television interview and instead called me to request a chance at a job, that the interview carried on much longer than expected, and you didn’t feel comfortable driving home, but you’d get around to calling him first thing in the morning.” Charles’s eyes flashed with a smile, but his face stayed flat. “He’s not so much worried now as very happy. I told him that you had the job if you’d choose to take it and that you would tell him the salary yourself.”
    Kass frowned. Now it’s going to be even harder to say no, she thought with a sigh. Charles had put her in a really uncomfortable spot. Before she had time to finish moping though, the doors opened and food came in. Well, at least I can do my worrying about whether or not I’ll die to a vindictive demon on a full stomach, she thought, staring at the delicious looking omelette. Even the smell of it was hypnotizing.

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