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"Rogue in Velvet", part 4

Annnd… Part 4. Follows on from Part Three
“Rogue in Velvet” (this is part 4, which completes chapter two. I know, I should make the chapters shorter.). After making one attempt too many at bargaining with the Stranger, Eri has found herself in rather a tight spot, and finds out firsthand just who she is talking to…

Rogue in Velvet
(-- part four --)

     It all fell into place – his outrageous looks, his unnatural skintone, and those awful pictures he’d put in her head, of becoming subjugated by a self-proclaimed ‘master race’ that probably would be great and terrible and incredibly powerful. “Siinu-… that’s-… that’s synthetic, right? You’re Synthoid?”

     “Such a clumsy word,” he blew a tiny ring of smoke, and pinched his spent cigarette out between thumb and forefinger. “But the essence of it is correct. I am one of these… non-biological sentient machines that everyone is so obsessed over.” A slight grin trickled over his face. “I told you I could disillusion you.”

     “You know, I bet the people here would love to know about you,” she observed, innocently, and a transient look of mixed dismay and disgust flashed across his face. “All the questions you could answer…” she went on, but more thoughtfully, watching his face for a reaction. He didn’t react, that time, but the damage was already done. He doesn’t WANT them to know about him.

     “Typical. Now you know far too much, m’chi.” He confirmed her suspicions with a quiet, poisonous observation, but then added, unexpectedly; “Which means now I’ll have to dispose of you somehow.”

     There was a clutch of dismay deep in her stomach. Sweet Alopeia, he means it. He’d kill her just to shut her up. She swallowed thickly, but felt her throat constricting, dry with fear. “Why will you have to do that?” she struggled to get the words out evenly, without squeaking, and noticed that flicker of amusement in his eyes again.

     “You know too much, dear, I can’t risk you accidentally letting the secret out…” He sat forward, letting his feet drift back to the floor, leaned his elbows on the table, and gave her a playful smile that sent a chill up her spine. “I have to be guaranteed that you’ll keep quiet.”

      Come on, girl, you’re smarter than you’re acting. Play this right and you might just get out with your skin intact. “Well, um… listen, uh, I’m still prepared to do a deal with you,” she told him, sounding a lot bolder than she felt. “If you give sha-ev Rospert’s belongings to Lost Property, then I won’t report you. I promise, I won’t breathe a word about what you are. But if you try anything… Dear Gavos, I’ll scream my head off and bring everyone running. And I mean, you’re Kiravai-”

     “Kirasiinu.”

     “Whatever. You’re from Imperial Space, which means that for the sake of technicality you could be seen as a spy from a hostile Government, and they won’t take much persuading that you’re a hostile individual. Which means they could arrest you as a prisoner of war even if they don’t recruit you to our own Synthetics Development Program,” she took another swig of wine, and refilled her glass. Come on, alcohol, do your work. “So if you give all the stuff you stole back to Security, then I won’t report you. And I’ll keep your secret.”

     He lifted a brow, and looked both amused and unimpressed. “And that would be your solemn vow, would it?” he asked, resting his chin on his laced fingers. “Remind me again why this is a better option than me just killing you.”

     “You wouldn’t do that,” she asserted, vainly.

     “Well, why not, m’chi?” he sat forwards, closer to her. “I mean, let us consider how very easy it would be for me to remove the threat you now pose to me,” he covered her fingers with his, and smiled as she shuddered and draw her hand away. “Sex has the ultimate power over biological organisms, wouldn’t you agree?” he said, in a soft, seductive whisper. “I could take you down into those bushes at the end of the garden,” he gestured lightly, “sit you in my lap, and choke every last dying breath out of you. And the guards?” he smiled, and an insanity glittered in his eyes. “Would be too polite to disturb a couple indulging in intimate relations. I would be long gone before they realised.”

     “I may not be able to fool the guards as well as you,” she countered, quietly, unnerved by his stare. “But I can scream fairly damn loud if I have to. And you won’t get as far as your elaborate execution if I get the guards running over here now.”

     “M’chi, Pretty One, Dear of my Heart, you have no possible power over me,” he smiled, then – catching her completely wrong-footed – pulled her into his lap, and closed his fingers around the line of her jaw. “Your bargains are empty and valueless.”

     “Please,” she clawed breathlessly at his fingers but they felt as cool and as unyielding as marble, and he knew exactly where to pinch; he had his fingers pressed tenderly into her carotid artery, and her head was already swimming. “…you don’thave to killme, I promise-… Ipromise Iwon’ttell… notaword… noteve… notevenawhisper…”

     “And that is your solemn vow, is it?” he asked, softly, leaning close enough that she caught a whiff of his unusual, sweet breath – an odd, heady mixture of praline, light machine oil and ozone.

     “Yes just… pleaseletmego…” Don’t let me pass out please don’t let me pass out and leave me even more defenceless against the monster.

     His fingers unexpectedly relinquished their hold, and the rush of blood to her brain made her feel giddy. “All right,” he agreed, at last, while she gathered her scattered wits. “But I’m afraid I need a little more assurance than you can give me.”

     “What does that mean?” she sagged in his arms.

     “We’ll see,” he stood her up, and held her steady while she swayed and attempted to recover her balance, using his feet to sweep the wallet through the grass. “Now, either you come quietly with me, or I’ll snap your neck. All right?” He offered his arm and smiled genially.

     She hooked her hand obediently over his arm and tried to ignore the sensation of freefall dismay building in her stomach – the way her heart pounded her ribs and the nausea in the back of her throat. “…all right…” She didn’t want to try and guess where he was about to take her.

     “Have you got all your belongings on you?” he asked, and she nodded, a quick convulsive little jerk of her head. He chuckled, pleasantly, and patted her hand where it rested on his arm. “Good girl.”

     Inside, the place looked deserted, but there was the murmur of voices in the background, and the ripple of laughter, so the speeches were still in full flow. They moved unnoticed and unchallenged to the reception desk, where Eri reclaimed her heavy winter coat.

     Iios deposited the wallet on the desk with a flourish. “I found this in the garden,” he explained – that would explain the artful dirt he’d brushed onto the back of it. “I’m not sure whose it is, but I suppose someone’ll come along for it, right?”

     “Thank you, sir,” the guard on duty acknowledged, barely looking up, took the wallet and set it down in one of the pigeonholes behind his desk. “We’ll make sure it’s safe until the owner collects it. Have a good evening.”

     “We will,” Iios agreed, smiling. “Won’t we, dear?”

     Slipping her coat around her shoulders, Eri felt another of those clutches of nauseating dismay deep in her stomach, torn between yelping that she was being kidnapped and just doing as she’d been told, and a phantom echo of his fingers around her throat reminded her of the dangerous ground she stood on. She inclined her head and smiled, faintly. “Thank you, officer.”

     Iios took her hand, almost tenderly, led her out into the wintry street, and away.

---------

Part 5 follows.

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