<== ==> (Coming 10/22/2019)

 “-So bearing this in mind, we must recollect that witches should only ever negotiate from a position of strength,” Hyperion said, her voice sharp and crisp. “The mundanes rely upon us: our abilities, our blood and toil, are the foundations of their commodious existences. How do they repay us? By press-ganging us into leashes, employing our abilities to enrich themselves while we suffer the pernicious side effects. Who cares if the witch grows depressed, apathetic or suicidal, so long as she’s properly exploited like the resource she is?”

Hyperion spoke with calm assurance. She lacked Grace’s natural magnetism… the speech was clinical, like a scientist’s notes. But she indisputably meant every word she said. “TORCH would have us live in fear of them,” she continued. “TORCH would minimize and ostracize us, construct machines to supplant us, and ultimately butcher us like hogs when the opportunity presents itself- just as they did to our sisters in SMOKE. But we will not allow it. They need us, hard as they feign otherwise. Ergo, I will not kowtow nor compromise. For you, my sisters, I ask only that you remember who your enemies are and treat them accordingly. And for the mundanes among us, recall that your role is to act as the auxiliary in the struggle- and we will struggle, until we are free.”

She stepped down from the podium to polite applause. “Well, at least she’s in a good mood,” Henrietta said, rolling her eyes. “I see she shares your message of unity.”

Grace pursed her lips in grim amusement. “We’re not as incompatible as it seems at first glance. Hyperion knows what she’s doing, and she and I have a working relationship. There are a couple things you ought to know before you meet her, however: she’s not friendly. She may try to get a rise out of you… stay diplomatic.”

Henrietta nodded. That wasn’t exactly her specialty, but it didn’t seem so hard to keep calm. “Hyperion and Enron are the only branch leaders who aren’t Matres, right?”

“That’s correct. Hyperion has been a significant figure in TORCH politics for decades, long before she formally took the reins of LUX four years ago when Eve…” Grace trailed off as she led Henrietta (and the silent Manna) to a tall, elegant office building. “… Well, you know. Hyperion was Eve’s daughter, and the two of them were a legendary pair. I hope that you and I can establish a working relationship half as effective as theirs.”
Henrietta’s cheeks warmed again. Sapiens, Grace’s compliments were addictive. “I won’t let you down, boss.”

The sign out front read “OFFICES OF THE CHANCELLOR”. A dead-eyed secretary with an Arcane Suppressor strapped to her forehead greeted them and offered them tea, which they politely declined. The secretary spoke in a monotone and moved like each step was a Herculean feat… that must have been the Suppressor’s doing.

Hyperion’s office was devoid of warm colors, sterile as a surgical suite. The only decorations were evocative, minimalist and highly abstract paintings plus a mounted fencing foil. The petite LUX chancellor didn’t have any bodyguards, and was dwarfed by her huge desk. 

“Marshal Diakon,” Hyperion said with a nod. “You’re late.”

“Thank you for your patience,” Grace replied. “It seems you took advantage of the extra time to let your speech run long.”

“You heard that?”

“I caught the tail end of it. Fiery by your standards. Something on your mind?”

“Always.” Hyperion had little flesh on her bones but she wore that semi-starved look well. It gave her this startlingly attractive blend of frailty and grit. She had luscious, pouty lips that seemed forever curled into a scowl, and her small eyes were inscrutable from behind her thin-rimmed glasses. Like Grace, Hyperion wore gloves: pale grey ones. “Who’s this?”

“Henrietta St. Thomas.” Henrietta offered a handshake. “New BEACON Sorority sister. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Chancellor.”

Hyperion stared at the hand like it was something foul. “And why have you brought some pup of no import to our meeting?”

“Don’t worry about her,” said Grace. “Henrietta is just here to observe. The meeting is between you and me.”

“I think otherwise,” Hyperion replied. “A BEACON Mater is one story. Some rumble bumble lout with delusions of statescraft is another. Get out.”

Henrietta refused to get angry, so instead she smiled. “That’s not fair. You hardly know me. Why don’t we get to know each other better before you decide I’m-”

“Fine,” said Hyperion without warning. “You may stay. But seal your lips while grown folks converse.”

“That’s all I wanted to do,” said Henrietta, as she crossed her arms and sat down.

<== ==> (Coming 10/22/2019)

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