Chapter 15:

"That Night" — [2]

The Story Of Who


THREE HOURS AFTER MIDNIGHTBookmark here

I had been in the Baron's head enough to know that his wife would be the biggest problem. She was too smart, too calculating, to let Bess into her husband's heart. She knew what it would mean for her and her family if none of her children ended up being named heir. Despite her love for him, Baron Kor had married her for her and to strengthen his waning influence with her own. Despite already getting hold of everything else, watching Bess succeed at something she herself had failed at would only make her bitter and vengeful.Bookmark here

I had seen what jealous wives did to their husbands' mistresses once they felt threatened. My patrons complained about it all the time. Bess couldn't be a mistress. I couldn't trust her safety to something as tricky as my mental sway. If my hold on the Baroness ever broke, I would be too far away to fix it and it would be too late by the time I managed to.Bookmark here

No. I needed a more permanent solution. One that required me ditching Matron Ann's clothes in search of something more inconspicuous. The first I had needed to do was ensure that Bess was never a suspect by creating conflict between the Baroness and myself. My cheek still throbbed lightly from where her fingers had scraped my skin.Bookmark here

If anyone ever searched for it, they would find my DNA under her nails. That would be enough to distract them from Bess long enough for the Baron to marry her.Bookmark here

Ahead of me, the dock loomed. I watched it from the shadows as a hunter watched prey. HVSS Mariposa bobbed quietly on the ocean's surface, less imposing now than it had been when I had been a child. Retired, too. It had been converted into a floating hotel and would never again navigate the stars. Still, its past made it a tourist attraction. Who didn't want to sleep above the holds that had ferried millions of stolen children across the galaxy? In the minds of the rich, every child forced into a Sorting Farms added more to their pockets. More soldiers meant more war, and it was the war that had gotten them rich in the first place. In situations where thousands died, one always stood to gain.Bookmark here

The skin-tight XOry suit helped me blend into the gaps between the buildings as I inched closer to the ship, closer to the open space lined with guards nervously clutching their rifles.Bookmark here

If technology had been this good back then, I wouldn't have needed to get separated from my family.Bookmark here

I walked past the guards, moving slowly and along the direction of the wind but it wasn't them I was afraid of. I was afraid of the PIRANHAS—giant robotic dogs with an acronym that spelt danger.Bookmark here

They yowled and snapped at the air, growling and hissing as I got closer to the ship. They couldn't see me either, but they could smell the fear on my breath—feel the heat of it on my skin. And with how hard they were tugging on their leashes, the guards would notice too.Bookmark here

The one downside to my power: I couldn't control something that wasn't born.Bookmark here

I stopped walking when one of the dogs cut across my path and dragged a guard right in front of me. I held my breath and counted the seconds down in my head.Bookmark here

A loud explosion rocked the buildings behind me, sending shrapnel and cinder blocks flying in all directions. The entire dock tilted when another one went off, this time on one of the support beams holding the platform above sea level.Bookmark here

The sound alone was enough to distract the dogs enough that I could have just strolled into the Mariposa before they noticed but the next round of EMP attacks shut them down completely. I waited until they collapsed to the ground and dragged their guards down with them before sprinting towards the ship.Bookmark here

All around me, chaos erupted. It wasn't the first time someone had tried to attack the wealthy that so openly flaunted their power by living on the ship that had destroyed so many families, but I had to admit that I was the one who planted the idea into the mind of this particular "protester" to attack by this time.Bookmark here

I dashed up the ramp and into the ship, shoving past panicked deckhands to get to the belly that housed the servants. I wished more than anything to be able to torch the ship along with the dock but there were only three hours to sunrise. I needed to be back in bed long before then.Bookmark here

As I walked, I stripped the suit and collapsed it into a bid small enough to fit in my pocket just in time to blend in with the stream of servant women who were taught to never been seen or heard. The maids distributed themselves silently, working in pairs to push their carts up ramps to the rooms they needed to clean.Bookmark here

I grabbed one by the hand and when she turned to me in shock, I commanded her to [Sleep]. The fatigue she had been hiding slowly crept to the surface and I pulled her into a closet before she started yawning. By the time I found the key card hidden in her skirt, she was already asleep. I slipped back into the crowd and fell in step with the only maid lacking a partner. Dressed in the maid outfit I had pawned Matron Ann's uniform for, I looked almost identical to the others, and no one looked up enough to recognize that I looked like no one they knew.Bookmark here

Counting the minutes till the next explosion, I helped the maid push the cart up to the topmost floor, glancing at the corners for surveillance the schematics I purchased a month ago might have missed.Bookmark here

We walked past Baron Kor's door—Room 1112—and stopped at 1125. I held my stolen key card over the sensor and the door swung out to reveal an empty roomBookmark here

Maids only had access to rooms that weren't currently occupied so the key card wouldn't work on the Baron's door. If he hadn't told Bess two weeks ago the passcode, this night would have been a lot harder.Bookmark here

I helped the maid drag the cart into the room and pushed the door until only a small gap remained between it and the wall. "Hey," I called out to her.Bookmark here

She looked up in shock and I stared into her eyes until I had written a suggestion into her mind. When she looked down again and started cleaning, I pulled out the XOry suit and held it in my palm until it melted and spread onto every inch of my skin.Bookmark here

Fully covered, I slipped out through the gap of the open door and walked to the Baron's door. As I punched in the twelve digit code, I paid attention to the position of the monitoring orbs patrolling the hallway. Something fell in Room 1125 and they sped towards it.Bookmark here

I entered the final number into the panel and the door swung open. I let myself in and, sensing no one present, the door shut itself behind me.Bookmark here

I stalked towards the bed and watched the Baron and his wife. He wasn't a particularly handsome man, but there was something about him that appealed to Bess so he had to do.Bookmark here

"Baron Kor," I said, and because he had been programmed to respond to my voice, he stirred and blinked into the darkness.Bookmark here

I peeled off the patch of the suit that covered my face and he shot up, holding one to his chest. He swore loudly and the Baroness turned in her sleep.Bookmark here

"Careful now," I told him. "Don't wake your wife up."Bookmark here

"You." He hurriedly glanced at the Baroness. I didn't know if he wanted to make sure she was still asleep or wanted her to wake up and rescue him from me. "What are you doing here?"Bookmark here

"I'm here to make sure you made good on your promise."Bookmark here

"I will. You know I love Bessie. It's just that the money... It's hard to gather. You know, there is an interplanetary recession going on.."Bookmark here

The Recession. The excuse he always gave. "I have handled that for you, Your Lordship. You don't need to redeem her contact. You just need to buy her when the time comes."Bookmark here

"Buy her? Yes, buy her. But it will be years before she's put on the market."Bookmark here

"I'm willing to wait."Bookmark here

He blinked slowly, attempting to process my change of heart. "How did you get in here?"Bookmark here

"Does it matter?"Bookmark here

"No. No. Of course not." He stumbled out of bed and tugged the flapping ends of his night robe together to cover his nakedness. "Let me pour you a drink... For all your hard work."Bookmark here

"I don't need a drink." I walked to his desk and leafed through the papers stacked on it. Only someone as obnoxious as him would leave property deeds out in the open and claim to not have money. "What will you do about your wife?"Bookmark here

"She will treat Bess well. We already talked about this. She might seem severe but she is a kind woman. I have discussed it with her."Bookmark here

"What will you do, Baron?"Bookmark here

He dabbed his face with his sleeve and fell back to what he knew—excuses. "You see, her family... I can't afford a divorce."Bookmark here

I pulled a storage ring out of one of the many pockets in the XOry suit and tossed it to him. "Is this enough?"Bookmark here

He slipped it over his fat pinkie and I watched his eyes go glassy, waiting for the exact moment the number popped up in his brain.Bookmark here

"Y-Yes. It's enough," he stuttered, mentally drooling over the virtual currency like the greedy pig he was. "H-How did you get all this money?"Bookmark here

I stared at him until he looked to the ground and remembered his place.Bookmark here

"I will get her to agree to a divorce," he said, resolutely.Bookmark here

"Make Bess happy and you will never have to worry about being broke." I smiled to myself, thinking of how happy Bess would be when she discovered her change of fortunes. "Don't make her happy and I leak the recordings of what you do to apprentices behind the curtains."Bookmark here

He swallowed nervously. "Of course. T-Thank you."Bookmark here

"You're welcome." I covered my face and blended back into the texture of the room. "Don't give your wife anything to complain about."Bookmark here

He nodded resolutely, scanning the room for the spot he thought my voice was coming from. "I won't."Bookmark here

"Good," I told him while walking back to the door. "Oh, and if I were you, I would sell my dock-property before the markets close."Bookmark here

On the bed, the Baroness continued to snore. I wanted to feel bad for ruining her marriage, but Bess was more important than a loveless union. Baroness Kor had an influential family backing her, but all Bess had was me. I could afford, or bring myself, to care for the rich.Bookmark here

I slipped out of the room just as the door to 1125 shut. I trailed after the maid and managed to slip out of the Mariposa just as the last bit of the dock exploded.Bookmark here

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