<== ==>

Henrietta stared dumbfounded at Enron. The things she was saying… they went beyond conspiracy theories. “You’re full of shit,” she said matter-of-factly.

“How do you know that?” Enron shot. “How can you be sure? You’ve never even seen Gabros-1, all you know about it is what you’ve read about it in BEACON-approved accounts.”

“Do you have evidence?” Henrietta demanded. “Let me see your proof. Cuz you sound like nothing more than a crank.”

“They called me a crank when I said they were trying to suppress LUX‘s division into four branches- but I was right. They called me a crank when I said BEACON and MIRROR were secretly training slaves for the Matres- and years later, when the first Verbena were ready to serve, they declassified the program.” Enron shook her head with conviction. “I know it. There’s no way the version Grace has spoonfed the rest of you is true. She murdered Medici, as good as killed her with her two hands.”

A new emotion entered the fray for Henrietta: pity. Cruel and childish as she was, Enron was undoubtedly brilliant. But grief and bias had spoiled her ability to think rationally. She had drawn a conclusion without first examining the evidence- and having emotionally committed to that conclusion, she would brute force the facts to fit what she believed.

The well of Enron’s mind had been poisoned, and Henrietta couldn’t help but feel bad for the radiant goddess towering over her. “It’s just not true,” she told Enron sadly.

Enron waved that aside. “It doesn’t matter. Gabros-1… you said it yourself, a medieval civilization. Two billion members of the dominant race lived on that planet across thousands of tribes, hundreds of tribal leagues. They were great lovers of music- I happen to be a big fan of what little survived. Every day on Gabros-1, creatures lived and loved and hated just like us, and then one day we came down and turned them into piles of ash. Is that right, soldier girl? I loved Medici more than anyone, but even if the official story is true, I never wanted to see billions killed to ‘avenge’ her death.”

Enron was animatedly furious, her eyes wide and her nostrils flared. “It was politics. A way to prove the importance of the Matres to a new generation who had forgotten all their ‘great sacrifices’. An excuse for TORCH branches to collaborate as a way to fight their increasing independence. Who benefits from that? Your damn Mater. Grace Diakon killed an entire world because she felt her power slipping.”

Henrietta refused to believe it. That couldn’t possibly be true- and yet she didn’t know enough to formulate a defense. 

She wished Grace was here. 

“What do you want from me?” she asked, trying to sound tough and knowing she instead came off as hoarse and whiny.

“I’m here to tell you: you don’t have to stay with her. As it happens… I could make use of your talents.” Enron grinned. “You think much more like me than you do her. It’s only natural.”

Henrietta stopped in her tracks. So. Enron hadn’t just come to fuck with her, or to preach her insane ideology.  “A recruitment attempt? It’s a fucking shoddy one.”

“Nah. It’s brilliant. Everything I do is brilliant.” Enron turned to face Henrietta, calmly unbuttoning her body-obscuring cloak. “That feeling you get when you’re around me? That’s your brain trying to tell you that I’m the choice, not her. Because when she talks, you hear a bitter old woman lamenting the good old days. And when I talk, you hear a vision of the future. We both believe in what we’re saying- but the difference is, I want TORCH to be better and she’s scared of seeing TORCH change. And in your heart, soldier girl, you know TORCH has to change.”

Enron shrugged off her cloak, revealing the sleeveless leotard and short skirt underneath. It hugged her bountiful figure, every curve ample, every sinew and muscle radiating awesome power.

Henrietta’s knees were weak. She had never been so attracted to someone in her life- and she hated Enron’s guts.

“I can see it in your eyes, soldier girl,” the CEO cooed. “I can see that one day you’ll be mine.” Enron’s soft palm rested on Henrietta’s cheek, sending shivers through her body. “I’ve planted the idea in your mind, and it’ll grow and grow until you’re exactly as I want you to be.”

Her head felt swoony from Enron’s everything: her look, her smell, her smile, her titanic raw power. It was intoxicating, completely different from the effect Grace had.


Henrietta sobered up and slapped Enron’s hand away. “Don’t you touch me,” she said from the back of her throat. “You think you have me figured out? Fuck you. I’m nobody’s property- and if you think I’m some stupid thing you can toy with at your leisure, then you’ll find that this plaything hits back.”

Without another word, Henrietta turned and stomped away. The first beams of sunlight peaked out over the horizon.

<== ==>

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