“Not only are you a coward, but you’ve got bad manners.” She squeezed her large backside into the chair. The arms of the chair cut painfully into her hips and thighs, but the alternative was the floor and if she got down there, she might never be able to get up. Jamal, on the other hand, didn’t seem in the least bit bothered by sitting on the floor. He pulled his knees up under his chin and looked up at his wife.
Jorine waved her hand. “Don’t blow smoke. Just shut up and listen, because we are about to be raised to the level of favorite again. Professor McKinley is going to lament the day that he threatened to demote us. He is going to trip all over himself to make it up to us.” Jorine’s eyes glazed over as she spoke. “We will be more than favorite, we’ll take over…”
Annoyed at being abruptly ripped from her reverie, “What are you talking about?”
“How will we be favorite? What did the boy tell you?”
Jorine tried to relaxed. She pinched the bridge of her nose, “He told me about the girl.”
“Yes, the girl.”
“Am I supposed to understand what that means? The girl.”
“His twin, you idiot. He told me about his twin.”
“Ok. How does he know about his twin? We have only just recently told him about the girl, a mistake if you ask me---“
“I mean really, look at where we live now. This tiny apartment twenty-two stories above the ground. Like this is any safer than our comfy house in Quick Quarters, which by the way, was far larger and nicer than this shack in the sky. My point being, if we would have kept that information to ourselves, we might not be here in the first place. I wouldn’t be sitting on this floor and you wouldn’t be stuck, as you most certainly must be, in that hard, straight-backed, antiquated, assemblage of steel and ripped leather that you are sitting in.”
Jorine tried to steady her hands by placing them onto her ample lap. Soon, she was gripping her knees and she could feel her face flush.
“My other point is how does he know about someone he doesn’t know about?”
Jorine threw her hands up. “Exactly! Just think. We have news about his sister, Honor. The Professor has been searching for her for years. And, even more importantly, we know that Truth has the power to see the future, because he told me that she is coming. He said that she is coming. And best of all, he promised me that he would help us to capture her.”
Jamal stood up and paced the length of the table then stopped in front of his wife. “We’ll have both of them?”
“Yes, we will have both.”
Their eyes locked and they both smiled.
Jamal kneeled down in front of Jorine, took her right hand between the two of his. “I knew there was a reason that I married you.”
“For my money?”
“Well, of course, but you have proven to be more than just a source of money. You are a seriously cunning woman. Intelligent. Savvy. I am a lucky man.”
Jorine thought about this for a moment. “Yes, you are.”
Jamal stood behind his wife and massaged her plump shoulders. “And, you are beautiful too.” Had Truth been watching, he would have seen Jamal’s aura faze into a warm fuscia with hazy edges. Jamal was an honest man, despite the circumstances, despite the fact that he was a Scientist.
“So, what next?” said Jorine.
“Well, let’s send a message to the Professor. Let us tell him of our progress, but to be safe, let’s not give him any details. Just string him along a bit, until we have the prize right here in our grasp.”
Jorine accessed her account on the computer. The loaner was far smaller and slower than their former computer, so she had to squint to see the screen. She leaned back and looked up at her husband, “How shall I begin?”
Jamal squeezed her shoulders again, smiling so broadly that Jorine could count all thirty-two of his perfectly white, uniformly straight, teeth. She’d paid a lot of money for those teeth, the narrow pampered nose and those crystal vision blue eyes. It had all been worth every piece.
“Well, let’s see…Dearest Professor…”
Jorine’s fleshy fingers flew over the silver toned keyboard.
*************************************“Delete message,” said Professor McKinley. The screen of the hand computer went black and Professor McKinley set it on the seat beside him. He brushed a piece of lint from the sleeve of his black suit, then sipped from a porcelain tea cup. He removed the earpiece and placed it on the fold out table in front of him. He’d been listening to the Esclaves for days, and it was becoming tiresome. At least today, there was a development, small though it was.
Professor McKinley realized that he had a decision to make. Would he wait for the girl named Honor to come to Truth? He could do that, but could he trust the Esclave imbeciles to keep them both, until he got what he wanted? He leaned forward and looked out of the tinted window of his vehicle up at the high rise the Esclaves now called home. He could take Truth. If Truth is what Honor was after, she’d come anywhere he was, even if that meant entering the Professor’s maximum security compound. He could relax security a bit, make it easy for her and then once he had her inside, put the invisible electrified perimeter walls back up, lock her in. But, if he did that, she might kill herself and Truth in an attempt to escape.
Professor McKinley put the portable hand held computer on the pull out table in front of him, and spoke the command, “Play video HNR8.” Instantly, Honor’s face appeared on the screen in relief against the crumbling tenements of End Row. The Professor shook his head in disgust. Someone as gifted as Honor, should not be relegated to living in such a disgusting place. The video panned back away from her face, taking in half the street. Honor moved sideways, shielding a group of girls, two or perhaps three years young than her. A very large man moved into view, greasy black ponytail swing across his back.
The Professor voiced another command, “Increase volume by five.” Now he could hear clearly.
“Just leave them alone. Okay? I’m asking you nicely.” Honor’s voice was steady but unsure. She sounded almost as if she were on the verge of begging. The professor wondered if this was for herself and the girls, or Lulu. Poor fool never had a chance against her.
“Forward ten seconds.” The Professor knew this video by heart. It was his heart. No, this girl was his heart.
Honor dodged a swipe by the filthy lumbering giant, crouched and twisted with the agility of a cat, and ended up behind Lulu. He swung around, confused, annoyed and swiped at her again. She dodged and his arm went through the glass pane of a storefront. People were gathering, cheering her on.
The Professor leaned forward. This footage never ceased to enthrall him.
Lulu hollered, “I will kill you!” This time, of the dozen or so times he had attempted to strike Honor, his blow met its mark. He hit her shoulder. She stumbled and fell. Lulu’s foot connected with Honor’s back and head. The crowd screamed. One brave yet foolish man lifted a trash barrel over his head and threw it at Lulu. This hardly slowed the man, like a steam engine, determined to finish what he’d started.
Somehow Honor had managed to get up, blood trickling into her eyes. She wiped it away. Here, the camera came in close again. “Hold frame,” commanded the Professor. A tear always came to his eyes when he saw this frame, the blood in her eyes and at the corner of her mouth. He was a lover of beauty and sterility. It was simply unfair to mar such a face in this way. Lulu was truly a barbarian and got what he deserved in the end. “Forward five and play.” The professor’s voice cracked.
As Honor regained her footing, Lulu placed his hands, like baseball mitts, around her neck and squeezed. And then, she wasn’t there. The camera panned back and she came into focus two full seconds later several yards away, behind the crowd, who had gone as silent as a night in Midling territory. The sight of this shifting - he had heard of it from the core scientists, but few had ever or would ever see it - amazed and intrigued him everytime he watched it. “Rewind five.” He watched this again, and then he said, “Stop.” The screen went black. He did not desire to watch the following violence. It was such an ugly thing. He blamed Lulu and Mad Mike entirely for bringing this clearly remarkable girl to the point of using such disgusting tactics. She had asked nicely. He’d heard her.
The answer came clearly to the Professor. He would not remove Truth from the Esclaves in order to entice Honor to his compound. He wanted her to feel safe. He didn’t want for her to have to resort to the type of violence recorded on the video. But, he would place his guards in the Esclave vicinity, to watch for her coming and to report back to him.
Professor McKinley swallowed the last of his tea and set the cup down. He tapped on the tinted divider window between himself and the driver. The window lowered. “Take us home, Airun.”
The driver nodded and the window slid up.