Sunday, 6 March 2016

Visitant: Hostile Takeover

The latest installment of terrible game fiction for my incomplete sci-fi hack of World of Darkness.

Francis sat in his office, idly tapping an executive toy with his paperknife. The chrome spheres swayed and clacked softly as he waited. Everything was prepared. There was a knock.

“Come in.” He laid the paperknife carefully on his desk, and straightened up.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Hawarden.”

A blond man in his middle thirties slipped through the door, and at Francis’ gesture, shut it behind him. He was tall and amiable-looking, just unshaven enough to be endearingly scruffy, although his clothes were smart enough.

“Please sit down, Michal. Thank you for coming. Drink?” he indicated the water jug on the side table. With a smile, Michal poured out a glass and sank into a seat with fluid grace. He looked enquiringly at the manager.

“I hear you’re settling in well. Louisa speaks highly of you.”

“Oh, uh, thank you.” Michal sipped his water, in the classic nothing-to-say manner.

“Perhaps you’ve been wondering why I requested your transfer to my department.” He spoke with habitual precision, trying to appear casual while watching the man like a hawk. Michal blinked, and looked vague.

“I, um. Well. Yes, I suppose so.”

“I’ve been following your work for some time, Michal.” Francis let a little power slip into his voice, testing the waters. “I realised you were worth watching as soon as you arrived. I keep an eye out for… unusual talents. And you are unusual, aren’t you?”

As expected, Michal shifted nervously. It could have been simple embarrassment, a junior clerk not knowing how to respond to the director of corporate finance. The information Francis had collected implied that he had other reasons to be nervous. If he was wrong, well… that was easily taken care of.

“That’s… well, thank you…” Michal began. No outburst of confession, but that was to be expected. It had only been a little power, after all, and this resistance tended to confirm his view. Francis cut him off.

“I have kept you under observation for some time. You hide your tracks well, but I have considerable resources at my disposal, and some unusual capabilities. Quite frankly, you’re fortunate that I discovered you first. I am a reasonable man, and I believe your talents could be of great use to me. I’m prepared to offer you what I believe would be a very profitable partnership.”

A wary look slid into Michal’s eyes. “I don’t really know what you mean.”

Francis had dealt with these situations before. “Your passport was an excellent forgery. Indistinguishable from the real thing, they tell me.”

The man froze. Better.

“I am aware of your other activities, many of them illegal. My agents have provided ample evidence of your capabilities. There’s really no point being evasive. Make no mistake, others will find out about you soon. I have, in a small way, been protecting you. Many of my contemporaries are less flexible in their thinking, and would either destroy you or enslave you. I consider that foolish and wasteful. A man – I use the term loosely – like yourself would be an asset to my, ah, affiliates.”

This was the pitch. Francis let a layer of mental honey slip into his words, leaning back and staring into the man’s eyes. He saw confusion and caution flicker in those eyes, fighting against the intrusion. Michal shook his head as if to clear it, and fumbled to his feet.

Without taking his eyes from Michal’s, Francis waved a hand. There was a solid click as the door locked. The moment had come, the dangerous point, when all had to be laid open. There must be no mistakes; at all costs, Michal must not be permitted to leave with memories intact. He had fed well last night in preparation for this moment, and felt the power flowing through him. The paperknife lying in easy reach added to his confidence; his right hand slipped discreetly into his pocket.

“Hear me out, Michal. We both serve other interests and wear a mask. I have considerable influence and knowledge that would be of use to you. Your own capabilities would make you a valuable agent. Far better than a mere human.”

That struck home. Francis was watching closely, fearing a burst of rage, but the look on Michal’s face was simple alarm. Everything was going well, so far.

“Don’t act rashly. I would not have invited you here if you posed a threat. Besides my own not inconsiderable power, I have enough silver here to fell a dozen of your kind.”

“Silver..?” That was… wrong. The tone, the expression. Francis knew how this went. It should be fear, or anger, or perhaps calculation. Not mild perplexity. An act? Surely the man’s self-control did not extend so far. With a growing sense of unease, Francis drew his right hand from his pocket. A glittering silver chain was wrapped around his fingers, just in case.

“You must realise I cannot allow you to leave. Not without an agreement between us. Don’t play games with me, Michal. I know exactly what you are.”

“You are mistaken.” The man’s speech patterns had shifted, echoing somehow, and he turned towards the door.

Damn it.

With practiced ease, Francis furrowed his brow and let loose a burst of power that seized Michal’s psyche with a grip of iron. The vampire seemed to tower up towards the ceiling, shadows flickering about him in guttering candlelight that was not there. His teeth and nails lengthened, his eyes grew sharp. His victim stumbled and fell to his knees, clutching his head.

“Dear me. I had hoped this would be amicable. But if you insist on making things diffic-”

His measured, weary speech was cut short by agony. A noise like heaven falling burned through him, juddering his bones and sending blood spurting from his nose and ears. The glass on the table shattered into splinters, the chrome spheres of the executive toy sang like bells. His aura whickered out like a blown candle as he slumped back into his chair.

Michal rose with an effort and walked towards him, face limp as wax. Astonished, brushing through the pain, Francis reached out, seized the silver knife, and hurled it into the werewolf’s chest with superhuman force.

Michal swayed slightly and paused to look down, then carefully drew the blade from his flesh. He should have been curled up in agony, but here he was, turning the blade this way and that with no visible expression. Blood seeped slowly from the wound.

“Silver. No, Mr. Hawarden, we do not detect any particular ill-effects. As we said, you are mistaken.” His voice hummed, echoing against itself.

Francis fought to regain control, bringing his shattered thoughts back into order as the thing that was neither human nor werewolf stepped towards the desk – and sat down again.

“And you manifest potent mental capabilities, and survived a sonic exposure considered lethal to an adult human. It appears we were both mistaken.”

Michal, or the thing calling itself Michal, massaged its face for a few seconds. When it looked up, the life had returned to its features, and it smiled pleasantly.

“Now… you spoke of a mutually-beneficial partnership.”

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