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"Rogue in Velvet", part 6

Part 6. Follows on from Part Five

Rogue in Velvet
(-- part six --)

      So how do you plan on getting out of this one, girl? There’s got to be some way of getting a message out… tried your mobile, yet? She emptied her handbag and dug through her meagre possessions, fished out her mobile communicator, but it informed her “no signal” and scuppered her attempt at contacting Uuvern before it had even started. There was a small computer terminal and a chair in the corner – maybe that’d have a comms module? – but after a few minutes poking and prodding, checking and double-checking connections, she’d satisfied herself she wouldn’t get it to activate. He must have disconnected it at its source, somehow.

     She sighed, defeated, and plonked herself down on the bed. Face it. He’s smarter than you are – he’s probably thought of things you never even considered – and you can be sure you won’t get out of this until he lets you.

     As he’d promised, he brought her some supper – at least, a cup of tea and some biscuits – which he left on a worktop just inside the door, gracing her with a wordless smile. The biscuits were sweet, but dry (could have done with some light cheese to go with them), and the tea was not only insipid, it was too sweet to drink. She ate what she could – it didn’t help that her throat had long ago parched with dismay, and swallowing the sweet crackers was almost impossible – then stripped off her coat and fancy dress, irritable at the way it had matted up her fur, leaving the fabric rumpled on the floor at the end of the bed.

     She curled up under the sheets, convinced she wasn’t going to get any sleep. She felt nauseated, and shaky, and couldn’t dislodge the fears from her mind – what’s he going to do with me, where’s he going to take me, what happens when he gets tired of feeding me? Will he just… dump me off somewhere? Find a habitable world and leave me there? No communications, no way of getting home?

     She must have gone to sleep in the end after all, she later realised, as everything grew surreal and dreamlike. He came back and retrieved the tray with her cup and plate, leaving in its place a collar, which she studied from a distance but didn’t touch. Her room was considerably larger than she recalled it had been, the entire end wall open to space (although somehow retaining atmosphere), and her bed was gone, replaced by banks of computer equipment.

     She settled herself on the floor of the small bridge, at her captor’s feet, and felt his fingers brush idly and affectionately through her hair. He had a pleasant touch, one she had to resist the urge to lean in to, and instead she concentrated on her collar and her outrage at having to wear it. How dare he treat me like a pet. She grumbled softly and wordlessly under her breath, then heard his laugh from somewhere above, and shuffled out of reach of his fingers when he touched her ears.

     A breath of sound from the real doorway disturbed her from dreamland, and she had to very briefly just double-check she wasn’t wearing the collar. (She was relieved at finding her throat was unadorned.) She looked up, blearily; he’d already vanished, but just inside the door was a new tray, with a steaming cup and a plate of somethings. At least he’s not going to starve me, she considered, gathering the sheet around herself and hobbling to the door, like a giant caterpillar. Well, that’s the idea, at least, I suppose. And at least there’s no collar to go with it! The plate held a slice of plain toast and some chunks of bright fruit, and the cup had some kind of strong, milky tea. Uninspiring. She took the plate anyway, and sat on her bed staring out of the window.

      So now what happens? she wondered, quietly, chewing on the toast and watching as the murky streetlight-tinged grey dawn evened out into a slightly lighter grey morning. He can’t keep me cooped up in here forever. Can he?

     Iios came back to retrieve her tray after an hour or so, when the last of the streetlights had flickered and gone out and the port had started to wake up. He’d changed his hairstyle, she noticed – it wasn’t the floppy mane that had made him so peculiarly attractive the previous evening, but sleek, velvet short, almost shaved. His clothing was different, too – not the crisp suit and tie, but a lazy pair of grey-green trousers and a close-fitting white short-sleeved shirt. He looked almost thuggish, by comparison.

     “Why don’t you ever talk to me?” Eri asked, softly, as he picked up the tray from the worktop inside the door and turned to go.

     “Do you have something to say that I may be interested in?” he asked, pausing.

     “Well, I don’t know-”

     He shrugged, and returned to the doorway.

     “Hey! Hey, wait–… see?” she went over to him. “That’s what I mean. You’re acting as though I have no possible worth to you except as a guarantee your dirty little secret won’t get out.”

     “It isn’t a dirty little secret,” he corrected, evenly. “And you don’t really have much worth to me, do you? You being here serves no useful purpose.”

     “If that’s the case, what happens when you decide you’re tired of having to look after me?” she caught his arm, and noticed a look of distaste flashed very briefly through his eyes. “You promised not to hurt me, remember?”

     “A promise I intend to honour,” he confirmed, removing his arm from her grip. “As for what happens later… we will see.”

     “And in between times? What am I supposed to do, just sit here?”

     He shrugged, offhand. “Do what pleases you, m’chi.”

     “Oh for goodness-… Last night-… Last night you were almost being nice to me! You were talkative and polite and-”

     “That was last night,” he corrected, facing her from the hallway, one hand holding the tray and one hand on the lock. “This morning I have prior arrangements, and spending time talking about unnecessary subjects does not get those things done. Good day to you.” And the door closed.

     “How can someone so supposedly clever be so damn stupid?” she yelled, at the door, and hammered her palms against it, but there was predictably no response. “You can’t keep me cooped up in here!! This is an illegal act, I swear I’ll call the law down on you…!!”

     She knew that if he even heard her, he’d have immediately recognised it as an empty threat – she had no way to call the police, after all! – and she stamped around for a few minutes, itching to break something (if just to sate her anger). Fear of what he might do to her if she did break something cooled her fury, though – she’d not seen him angry, and didn’t really want to. He didn’t have to hurt her to make her life even more miserable.

     After spending a fruitless hour trying to find the controls for the door, removing panels from the wall and finding a maze of incomprehensible silver wiring and Kiravai script, she spent the rest of her morning moping, alternating between watching the world become whiter as a growing blizzard painted over the details outside, and laying on her bed and using a fingernail to draw patterns of grooves in the sheets. There was nothing at all that she could do – nothing.

     He brought her lunch at exactly four minutes past sun-high, according to the clock on her mobile communicator. It looked almost like he’d made an effort, compared with her bland breakfast – cold cuts, salad, some kind of seeded cracker, a light, sweetened porridge, and sweet Unserian jek-mar, a spicy hot drink brewed from a dried lichen.

     “Thank you,” she said, quietly, as he set the tray down on the same worktop just inside the door, then added, before he vanished; “Can I ask something?”

     He cocked his head, but didn’t just shrug it off and abandon her like he had last time. Must not be so terribly ‘busy’ right now. “All right,” he acknowledged, pausing obediently in the doorway. “You may ask, provided you accept that I can’t guarantee the answer will be to your liking.”

     “It’s not too outrageous a request,” she smiled, tiredly. “I just want something to read.”

     He quirked an eyebrow. “What like?”

     “Well… Have you got any books? Any magazines? A newspaper?” she spread her hands, helplessly. “I don’t care, just get me something to do. Because I swear, if you don’t find me something to occupy my thoughts, I’ll bodily assault you next time you come in, just for something to do!”

     He frowned, irritably. “I’ll see what I can do,” he grumbled, turning away.


Part 7 follows

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