Rainbows streak across the sky outside the window next to our table. Some flow through the air gracefully, but most move clumsily, in stuttering jerks. The latter are men and women wealthy enough to live in this city but not wealthy enough to purchase top of the line anti-grav tech from the geniuses who live here. A girl streaks past merrily, corn-silk hair filled with small bows and ribbons flowing behind her, clear artificial light from the dome above us shining down on the colorful decorations.
It looks fun and I wish I could smash through the window and join her. But even if I had my powers right now I would need to sit here, playing my part, having dinner with my enemy.
Hope has just sat down at the table. She is beautiful in an exotic way, this savior of humanity. Her skin is either as white as snow or as dark as pitch. It is impossible to tell because whatever was not her natural color has been died perfectly in swirling patterns. It is artistic, symmetrical, done with such talent that it leaves one wondering if it is a natural or a part of her powers. I just want to call her a zebra, but I hold my tongue.
She looks my age, though I know she is older than Krieg. Her voice is a melody as she asks “And how are we today, Princess Adaliah?”
Freaking fantastic, your dog Void shut down my powers, so I can’t kill you and I can feel how uncomfortable this dress is. Which because of your stupid ban on high tech in this tower is already slightly torn from the trip here because, let’s face it, I’m not good at walking around in normal clothing. It would irk me a whole lot more if my emotions weren’t so tied into my missing powers.
Fortunately they are, so instead of saying any of those things or lunging for her face with my knife I force a smile and tell her “Doing wonderfully, my lady Hope. It’s so good to be back in the company of high society after my time hiding. I believe my title is rather meaningless though given the annexation.” Not that it meant much to begin with. My mother was a dictator who fancied herself a Queen. It had nothing to do with lineage or bloodline like a proper monarchy.
“Nonsense, once royalty, always royalty,” she says magnanimously. The way her hands move delicately across the table, grace incarnate, manners made manifest, I wish she did not think that. If I were not expected to act my upbringing and were here only briefly for my name then I might be able to at least get away with scarfing down this delicious food.
As it is, I know I will have to be careful to eat slowly, to control myself and leave some on the plate. Mildly annoying, as without my powers my stomach grumbles in a form of hunger I have not felt in years. And there is no telling how long Hope will wish to talk, while I must pay attention to. I won’t even be able to focus on my mantra that Krieg needs her alive, at least for now.
Not that I’m sure I even could kill her, even without Void eating with us. She is immortal, as is everyone in her city, Hope’s Bastion, unless she makes them otherwise. I am not sure even my powers could change that. It occurs to me that it will be inconvenient if she has a telepath on staff. Or even a lesser empath, given the rarity of the former and The Butler’s tendency to kill them. Hopefully the hollowness caused by Void would shield me from the latter.
“It is a tragedy, what happened to your mother,” Hope tells me softly, voice gentle and comforting. I silently disagree and hope that my facial expression isn’t giving it away. My emotions may be muted right now, but I should still practice hiding them better in the future. I tried to practice for this meeting with Lilith and Abe in Albion’s world all of yesterday which felt like days with the neural time compression but it’s hard to prep for something like this.
“Is your return from the publicly deceased indicative that your Uncle finally caught the culprits behind her assassination?” Hope goes on.
“My Uncle finally decided to believe that it was an accident, and that there would not be significant risk to my life from revealing I still have one.” My Uncle always knew that it was an accident. A happy, happy accident, and I wonder for the 100th time today what Krieg could have promised him to go back on our deal without consulting me. I may trust Krieg enough to go along with his plan, but my Uncle and I will most assuredly be having a chat after all of this is over. Assuming I’m still alive, of course. Even through the muting a slight shiver goes up my spine and I stamp down on it.
I take a sip of the mushroom soup and marvel at how incredible it is as the warm liquid slides over my tongue. Maybe missing my power for a bit has more silver linings than just making subterfuge easier. In theory, I could voluntarily turn them off, at least for a while, if I were willing to leave myself vulnerable. But it’s not something I’ve ever felt very comfortable doing, to put it… lightly. I’m certainly not comfortable with their forced suppression right now, but Void’s method mutes my emotions enough to stomach it.
“Well, I for one am glad that you can join us in my Bastion. I am surprised, given his means, that your Uncle did not think to bring you here from the beginning,” Hope says. I want to make a sarcastic remark about the time The Plague came and made a third of her city leave and kill itself because even her restorative abilities couldn’t stop their unending pain.
“At first, I think he was worried about the potential impact sequestering me in a different sovereign state would have on the Hexian throne, especially given our little monarchy was only started with my mother. But following the annexation it was a moot point, and I believe he just thought that my hiding place had proven itself more than secure enough.” I daintily pick up my wine glass and take a sip, idly wondering what Hope would do if I ‘accidentally’ spilled it on her. Not worth the risk, but the thought of her white dress soaked in red is gratifying, even if wine is not the substance I really want it soaked in.
“And what did you do all this time, hiding as you were?” Hope asks. This question is concerning. Krieg and my Uncle have conspired to create a detailed cover story for my time out of the spot light. Hope does not know my power, but no doubt she has plenty of scanners advanced enough to tell her how dangerous I am. Void would not be eating with us if she were not aware.
Obviously I can’t tell her the truth that I was out and about killing people. Lots of people, for lots of different reasons, often by accident. Like that time I tried to dance in a rave. As it turns out, it was a spectacularly bad idea. In my defense, I thought taking ecstasy would help me get into a mindset where I could suck it up and deactivate my abilities. I think I'm emotionally deadened enough right now to just admit I was wrong on that. Very, very wrong. You won't hear me admit that often so enjoy it while you can.
All the people I've killed are ones Hope probably wouldn’t care about, wouldn’t pay attention to, but there is always a risk that she could put two and two together. So my answer must be vague enough that I can spin it later if she does. Hope hates those who lie, and the consequences of an obvious one could be severe.
“Training,” I tell her. “I spent the time learning what I can do.” She nods, accepting the answer, and does not push further.
The rest of the conversation contains no traps, as far as I can tell. She asks about the dissertation I made on the Five Factions when I was fifteen, and my thoughts on the current socio-political landscape. She delves deeply into my opinion on the Consolidated Empire’s annexation of my former nation, of which I have few, but manage to come up with some diplomatic bullshit.
The conversation bores me, and I do not know how to act. But I must be doing a passable job, as Hope gives no indication of seeing that I am not the earnest young princess wishing to learn from the world’s greatest chance of salvation if The Butler and The Executioners ever totally cock it up.
The conversation finally ends and I am led to my rooms. I breathe a sigh of relief as my powers return to me, weakened and in need of recharging, but there. But with them comes the full extent of my emotions. My dress rips as I bend over quickly, the hatred socking me in the stomach more effectively than any fist ever has.
I see red, and it takes all the self-control I have not to fly back towards the dining room, intent on ripping Hope’s head off. But I can’t, because of Void. If it weren’t for him, this would all be so easy. I could take her now, straight to Krieg. And when he was done, I could kill her. I could rend her piece by piece until there was nothing left.
Hope, the salvation of man. Hope, the giver of Immortality. Hope, the Protector of the People. Hope the Untouchable.
My Pride simmers at the thought of her, sitting in this ivory tower while the world burns around her, and I promise myself that I will kill her, no matter what it takes.