Strings of Retaliation – 6a – Coronation

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I soon realized that keeping scores between the board of detractors and myself would lead to violence; I was a very sore loser. No use denying it. The meet-and-greet — otherwise known as the grand-vitrine-of-hypocrisy — slowly crushed my self-control. Ben’s throat may meet a broken mimosa glass before the hour ended.
Everyone knew Merrilyn Tech took a considerable hit after my little mayhem eight months ago. The share price plummeted and so did the sales. The expenses increased to fix all the mess. Production slowed down to a costly crawl. The new heads of the company hated each other’s guts.
Yet, we stood side by side, smiling as we spewed out empty reassurances.
It all played into the FBI’s strategy to cripple the monster, tame it and cure it before another monster took its place.
Two sides, one very sore puppet.
“How is it going?” Vexx’s voice rang in my brain.
Worst since you hacked my chip.
“I can see that. Hang in there!”
Gail, who followed me around, whispered a newcomer’s name and title in my ear before he walked up to me, cutting short my mental conversation. I knew all of the tech heads; they each had an entry on Death Row, my personal database of future targets. I met some at the annual Merrilyn Ball though I never cared to interact with them beyond the generic smile and handshake.
Now, I had to engage in conversations where I couldn’t say anything I actually meant.
“Sure Mister Two-Face-Politician! We’ll support your garden project that’ll rejuvenate the slums by evicting over a hundred thousand families. We’ll even relocate them in our illegal human testing labs free of charge!”
“What’s that Mister Pocketful-O’-Dirty-Money? You’ll create a new tech surgery loan so that more people can O.D. on tech by-product. Wanna sweeten the offer with a free consultation with one of our top surgeon? We’ll jack ‘em up good and your profits will skyrocket!”
I could have puked, even without the sickening perfume of the mayor. But I didn’t! I smiled and shook his hand long enough for the reporter to snap our picture.
I would either grow use to the duplicity or unwind in bloody fashion.
“There you are!”
I spun toward Vexx’s voice as he walked up to me sporting his Vincent face and a designer suit. Something in me relaxed; I had a friend, someone I could actually trust.
With a gentle finger and a crooked smile, Vexx made one of my earrings dangle. “Lovely!”
I almost burst in laughter: his enthusiasm was too fake to go unnoticed.
“We actually had some accessories made for you as well!” Gail’s genuine enthusiasm combined with her statement almost made me frown, but I caught myself.
“What a surprise!” Ben exclaimed with the same overdone tone. He wedged himself between Vexx and me to offer his hand to shake “Ben Stern, CMO. I didn’t have a name to put on the list.”
‘Vincent’ and I showed up together at a couple of events. The paparazzi picked up the gossip right away so the whole planet knew I had a ‘boyfriend’. It wouldn’t have been hard for Ben to find his identity, had he bothered to look.
“Vincent,” Vexx shook Ben’s hand — who flinched for a beat. “I have my ways.”
He hacked his way in.
“And quite a grip!” Ben’s uneasy smile was the highlight of my day until he said: “Try not to break her.”
Vexx and I burst in laughter so loudly everybody froze and stared — which only made it harder to catch our breath. Gabriel would scold me for this, but we couldn’t help it. He would prefer this form of release to my less-than-civilized alternative.
Taking advantage of the moment, Vexx stepped toward me a bit so Ben’s ‘divide and conquer’ welcome flowed into a ‘us against you’ formation that included Gail on our side since she stood a step behind me. Singled out, Ben fidgeted while we took our time to catch our breath.
“Oh Ben,” Vexx said between two chuckles, “thank you for the compliment but I can recognize a queen.” He grabbed my hand and planted a kiss on top of it. “Nothing can break her.”
His eyes locked with mine and I breathed easier.
“Well said,” Kim chimed in, not wasting the opportunity to step on Ben and support me. “To our new queen.”
She rose her mimosa and everyone followed suite. The toast dissipated the awkward moment and conversations resumed. Ben melted in the crowd without another word.
Vexx wrapped an arm around my waist and murmured: “That nickname is going to stick.” He nodded toward the reporters who scribbled down a few notes.
“Yep.” I took a victory sip. Then another. I hadn’t realized how delicious the mimosa was until this moment. “Every time I make the headline, Ben will remember this moment.”
Photographs snapped pictures of us, the happy couple. Smiling came easily for the first time since I walked in the office.
“Isn’t is his job’s to ensure that happens as often as possible?”
“Yep.” Victory sip.
I must stop creating emotional bonds with my drinks.

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About Aheïla

Somewhere in Quebec City, Aheïla works as a Game Design Director by day and writes by night. Known for her blue hair, unyielding dynamism and tasty cooking (quails, anyone?), she’s convinced “prose is the new crack”. She satisfies her addiction daily on The Writeaholic’s Blog and weekly on Games' Bustles View all posts by Aheïla

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