Honor followed McKinley down a curved enclosed staircase that emptied into a white tiled hall. The hall, fifty yards long, was lined on both sides by black unnumbered doors. The air was cool and had the musty scent of a cave. Honor judged they were about three stories below ground.
McKinley glanced back to be sure that Honor was following as he led the way. "I want you to know that I do not hold it against you." Honor said nothing to this. "I am referring, of course, to the incident earlier." His voice echoed eerily in the hall. "You're in a strange place and you're afraid. It is only natural that you act out in unexpected ways. It is only human nature."
Honor rolled her eyes. What would McKinley know about being human?
McKinley lifted his hands in a gesture of submission. “I know that in time you will be more at ease and your true feelings will shine through. We will eventually become fast friends. Don’t you think?”
Amusement and disgust mingled in Honor’s gut like twining snakes. She snorted. How could anyone be so delusional? McKinley was a terror. Whether Scientist or Believer, most people cringed at the mention of his name. His part in the attempted destruction of the Believers went deeper than his allegiances reflected. He was no less ruthless when it came to his own people if he didn’t approve of them, if he didn’t feel their zeal for persecuting Believers was fervent enough for his taste. There were pockets of Scientists living in Soroton, who by McKinley’s decree, had been ejected from Scientist territories, forced to scrounge out a lonely life among Believers who would never trust or befriend them.
“The only way you and I would be friends is if,” Honor tried to conjure the worst case scenario, “you drugged me like you did Airun.”
“It would be tragic if I was forced to resort to that.” Then, in a voice almost low enough to be masked by the echo of their foot falls, he said, “I always get what I want, one way or another.”
“Not if it has anything to do with me.”
Midway, McKinley stopped and turned to face Honor. He pinned her with eyes the gray of storm clouds. The emotion churning behind them was just as turbulent. Honor’s internal alarm, strong and primal, warned her that she should be careful. She withdrew until she could move no further and her back was pressed against a door. McKinley placed a hand against the door on either side of her head until she was locked in the cage of his arms. “We’re here,” said McKinley holding Honor’s gaze. He lowered his left arm until he was grasping the knob and opened the door.
“This is your apartment,” said McKinley. They stood in the foyer, a massive wide open circular room. The chandelier, fashioned from diamond shaped multi-colored glass bathed the room in dappled color. “In square footage, this place is larger than Old Mother’s entire house,” bragged McKinley. The floor was tiled in chocolate brown marble with veins of red and white. The ceiling and walls were ornamented with painted on vines and trees, the textured paint lending a multi-dimensional effect that was like walking into a forest. “Allow me to be your guide,” said McKinley with a flourish and half bow. Honor was intrigued, but unwilling to play show and tell. She pretended to ignore him and walked off in the opposite direction. She ended up in an office.
A rattan and mahogany antique roll top writing desk stood along the farthest wall. There was a computer and a telephone. A telephone? Honor arched an eyebrow. Surely McKinley had brought her to his compound with the intention of keeping her prisoner, and yet he would give her a phone? To what end? Honor lifted the receiver and placed it against her ear.
“Good evening Miss Honor. What can I do for you?” said a tinny nasally voice.
“Who is this?” asked Honor.
Incredulous, the lofty voice on the other end replied, “Why my name is Clive, of course, and I am your,” he cleared his throat, “servant. My job is to see to all of your needs…and make your every dream come true.” He sounded as if he was reciting from a script.
“So,” said Honor into the receiver, eyes narrowed and pinned on McKinley, if I told you that I wanted to leave this place with my friends, you’d…”
Clearing his throat yet again, Clive responded with an equally rehearsed response, “Well now, that is one of the very few things I cannot oblige. My apologies.”
Honor dropped the phone into the cradle and walked away from the desk. She made a circuit around the lavishly furnished room. There were two adjacent walls of books with rolling library ladders. Honor ran her fingers along the spines of the books along one shelf, some of which were written in unfamiliar languages.
“I’ve assembled an eclectic collection of titles,” said McKinley as he eased into one of two massive leather armchairs. “You can snuggle up with a book and forget the outside world.”
“Right,” said Honor as she exited the room.
McKinley caught up with Honor in the living room. She stood in front of a massive fireplace where orange flames leapt behind a cast iron and mesh screen. The mantel was fashioned from large gray and brown river stones. The obligatory bear skinned rug lay over the marble tile in front of the fireplace. Lit candles had been placed in sconces every few feet along the walls, casting the room in overlapping shadows.
The forest theme continued in the bedroom. Of the canopy bed, which alone was larger than any Honor had ever seen, McKinley intoned, “This is an emperor bed, designed especially for you.” McKinley took a remote from one of the bedside tables. “With this, you can heat the bed, or even cool it. And of course, there are massage settings.” Honor turned away from McKinley. “There is even a setting that simulates ocean waves,” he said to Honor’s retreating back.
Honor swung open the doors of a towering wardrobe. It was stuffed from end to end with clothing of every color and fabric.
“Using photos and film footage of you, as well as the most accurate spatial recognition software available, I was able to determine your measurements down to the millimeter. My personal tailors designed and produced this stunning trousseau with your needs and tastes in mind.” McKinley removed a silk lavender kimono from the closet. “This is my favorite piece,” he said holding it aloft so that Honor could see.
She fingered the hem of the sleeve. “Made with my tastes in mind?”
“Well,” said McKinley sheepishly. “Mine too.”
Honor spotted a half open door and she left McKinley to explore. The bathroom was tiled completely in white and smelled of rose petals and musk. A bathtub with golden lion claw feet, large enough to comfortably fit two or three people, sat in the center of the room glistening under globes of warming lights. On the mirrored boudoir table a silver mirrored tray held a matching brush and comb and several glittering antique perfume bottles.
Nodding to a gold panel on the wall near the bathroom door, McKinley said, “When you are ready to bathe, push the blue button and Kaia, the woman I’ve assigned to be your handmaid, will come to run your bath and help you dress.” He shifted the kimono in his arms and reached for the panel. “We should call for her now, so that you can prepare.”
“Did you think that I’d dress up and that we’d play house?” confronted Honor. “Why don’t you tell me what you have planned for me and my friends?” Eyes narrowed, Honor administered a little mental push so that McKinley would know that she meant business.
McKinley closed his eyes briefly and inhaled as if he was trying to clear his head, then he retreated back into the bedroom and replaced the kimono in the wardrobe. Honor smiled, thinking about how much fun it would be to scramble his brains.
“It is late, but I’ve instructed the chef to prepare a light meal. We have many things to discuss and I thought you might appreciate a bite to eat,” said McKinley, his voice as cold and flat as the marble floor. “I’ll be back once the meal has been delivered here to your new quarters.” He stopped, hand on the doorknob, “Wear something nice and be timely. I don’t like to wait.”
This freak had taken her and her friends to his compound, separated them, and now was proceeding to play out his absurd fantasies with her as the star. Honor wouldn’t stand for it. “I asked you a question,” she said through gritted teeth. Honor stabbed at McKinley again with a jolt of mental energy that should have dropped him to his knees. Like a dark blanket blotting out the light, Honor felt wrapped in fatigue. Knees weak, she wavered on her feet.
McKinley cocked an eyebrow. “Is something wrong, dear?”
Honor pushed again, but her efforts seemed to work in reverse. Beads of panicked sweat sprung up on her brow. Honor had never been able to control her power to shift, which she wanted mightily to be able to do now, but she had been able to control and even amplify the anger that fueled the mental pushes. If she could not ramp up her anger, she was no different than the average person. How would she protect herself?
McKinley watched, amused by the anxiety and fear welling up with the tears in Honor’s eyes. “Can you feel it? The asomatous field? My team of scientists created this marvelous device and I’ve had it installed down here in the cellars. The asomatous field contains, dampens, and neutralizes your considerable gifts. Now, now, don’t be overly concerned. It’s only temporary. It’s just a little assurance that you will behave and stay put.”
Honor wished that she had taken the chance to escape from McKinley earlier that evening. She swallowed back a pang of remorse as she realized that in her arrogance, she had underestimated McKinley’s cunning, and overestimated her strength and resourcefulness. It was stupid of her to think she could come and go from McKinley’s lair unobstructed. It was ludicrous to believe for one second that he didn’t have a plan for her and her friends. Now it was her fault that she was caught in his trap. And what about Taha and Airun?
“To answer your earlier question regarding your friends, I’ll either use them, or dispose of them, or both. What does it matter?” McKinley waved his hand as if shooing a fly out of the way. “As for you, I have great plans. You’re going to become the mother of a new race. Aren’t you excited?”