<== ==>


Some women would have crumbled just standing this close to Enron. Henrietta instead called upon her combat experience. This office was a warzone. This conversation was a gunfight. She had to keep her head, or else she’d die. “Nothing in particular qualifies me for the Sorority, but I’m a fast learner. I could ask you the same thing, though. You’re a businesswoman, not a stateswoman.”

“Please. They’re the same thing. If you’re not getting rich then you’re getting played. I bet you’ve bought into all the claptrap about ‘duty’ and ‘sacrifice’. That’s nothing more than a marketing strategy- a shitty, outdated one.” Enron went to push Henrietta aside, but she telegraphed it. Henrietta bent her knees, rooted her feet, and refused to move.

Fuck, was Enron strong though. If Henrietta hadn’t been ready, she would have been sent flying. “Oh?” Enron cocked an eyebrow and smiled grimly. “Some fight in this one. More than the skank I sent to the hospital.”

“I wanted to apologize for that,” Grace said. “Political disagreements are one thing, but none of my sisters have a right to take a swing at you. I’ll be issuing a statement condemning it.”

“I’m not the one who got her ass kicked.” Enron’s smile only widened. “You really are desperate, huh? You spend your whole life trying to ruin mine, and now you’re here for… what, exactly?”

Grace shook her head. “I’ve never tried to ruin your life, Enron. I’ve never meant you any harm. Any misery I’ve brought you was utterly incidental- I have a lot of people to worry about and I can never please all of them.”

“Bull. Shit. I see right through you.” Enron spoke from the back of her mouth, each word a hateful growl. “You dream of the day that you can mount my head on a pike.” Enron then went to muscle past, but this time Manna stepped forward to cut her off and she hesitated. That was strange… Henrietta was almost twice Manna’s size, a musclebound BEACON asskicker. Manna was a shrimpy secretary. Why did Enron shy away from her? “So did you bring your thugs to beat me up?”

“Exactly the contrary. They’re only here to make sure we don’t come to blows.” Grace’s voice was thin, like it had been stretched and strained.

Henrietta decided now was her moment to step in. “We want our security package to go through,” she said. “You know that. You have the power to make it happen. We want to negotiate.”

“Negotiate? Negotiate?” The huge woman threw her head back and laughed. “Is this why Grace keeps you around, because you amuse her? What could you possibly offer me that’s worth the death of SPRING?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that your ‘security reforms’ are nothing more than a ploy for BEACON to impose its will over us. To steal our freedom.  I’d rather jump out the window than vote for them.”

“What do you want?” Henrietta asked. She was mostly able to keep her tone diplomatic. “Work with us and we can all get what we want: the terrorists brought to justice and the girls safe in their beds. SPRING has suffered too, and we both know OPTICA is helpless.”

Enron sneered. “And BEACON is better? Fine. I’ll tell you my price. I want Grace to step down. I want her to publicly admit that she was behind the death of Medici, the Mater Auri. I want her to admit she helped Eve, the former Mater Volcanis, to escape justice. I want her stripped of her Mater rank and brought before a tribunal to answer for her crimes. I want her to be found guilty and publicly executed, her name to be stricken from the record books and her existence to be forgotten.”

There was silence in the room for a long time. Grace was the one who broke it. “You’d support it in that case?”

Grace?!” Henrietta looked back, wide-eyed. There was no humor or sarcasm evident in the Mater’s face. She meant it.

Enron just laughed. “Not a chance. Even if you died, they’d just martyr you and nothing would change. I’m already winning, Grace. Every day, there are more girls who think and act and talk like me, and less like you. You’re desperate enough to stand here and hope I’ll let you win, or settle for a tie, but I won’t do either. I’ll keep beating you, day after day, year after year, until every last bit of what you’ve done has vanished into the dusts of history.”

Enron jerked her thumb to point at herself. “You’re nothing more than a dinosaur stomping around a world that no longer wants you. I’m your extinction event. Mater, meet Meteor.”

Grace’s face was like ash. “Thank you for your time, Enron. See you tomorrow.” She turned to leave, and Manna hurried after. Henrietta lingered for a moment to meet Enron’s dark, angry eyes.

“You seem confident that you’ll win,” Henrietta said quietly. “I like that. It’ll make it more satisfying when we crush you.”

“Come try it, bimbo. I’ll grind you to paste. Now get the fuck out of my office.”

<== ==>

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