Strings of Retaliation – 6b – Coronation

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Vexx’s presence supported me in more than one way; it steadied my mood swings and split people’s attention. He stood close by without touching me so I could interact with the guests unhindered — anything else and the detractors would consider Vexx a nuisance. Nonetheless, between him and Gail, guests could not intrude on my personal space without feeling very awkward.
Unfortunately, Vexx’s presence came at the price of going around the room a second time to introduce him to everyone I met before his arrival.
“My binaries, this is a well-oiled machine,” Vexx murmured when Gail walked away to refill our mimosas.
Tomorrow’s headline: ‘Rich heiress murders her boyfriend during a company meet-and-greet.’
My glare betrayed my thought and Vexx quickly added: “You threw a major monkey wrench in their system and it slipped right off. It’s deal-with-the-devil freaky!”
Gail’s return forced me to swallow my retort and think Vexx’s assessment over. The tight network of powerful allies made MerriTech almost impossible to take down. Like crab grass, I could weed out the company’s heads as I saw them pop, but there would always be some middle management dude with the tyrant seed, ready to sprout and take over. The only way humanity won over the bloody weed had been to eradicate traditional gardens altogether. Hardly something that translated well to Merrilyn’s branches spreading all over the world.
“Lorelei!” Ben called out as he made his way across the room.
I recognized the fifty-something man behind him and paled while other people’s eyes lit up. The slender man sported otherworldly physical implants and alterations. Combined with his tousled white hair, permanent eyeliner and custom-made leather, his looks prevented any case of mistaken identity.
“Cy, this is Miss Lorelei Beyer,” Ben said as if the legend needed an introduction. “Lorelei, this is Cy.”
“Sorry for the unannounced visit. Schedules, you know.”
Cy extended a metallic hand covered with a diamond design that matched the black tribal tattoo on his left, flesh and blood arm. While I shook it, I focused on my breathing for fear a dry heave would betray my discomfort. People in the slums had rusted body parts because they needed them to survive but couldn’t afford the life-like tech. Cy’s choice to show metal — of the super pricey and decorated variety — insulted the origins of the look.
“Glad you could make it!” To infuse my tone with joy, I focused on the one thing this man deserved props for: he let his age show instead of keeping himself artificially young-looking.
Everyone looked at us, holding their breaths for the good news/blow under the belt Ben was bound to deliver.
“Cy agreed to manage your tour!” my CMO exclaimed.
The room bursts in cheers and chatters.
“What a match made in heaven!” Gail squeaked. “It’ll be memorable!”
I opted for the happy-yet-reserved-business-woman attitude as I couldn’t possibly fake the over-the-top enthusiasm. This was Ben’s revenge for our earlier encounter, his way of reminding me that he manipulated my public image and thus, a part of me as well. I couldn’t even scold him for not informing me beforehand because witnesses heard him mention the tour again during our board of detractors’ meeting. And now that he announced the involvement of the world’s most sought tour manager in front of a very influential crowd, I couldn’t back out without compromising my reputation.
Cy bowed and turned the handshake into a show; he kissed on top of my hand.
“Lor. The Merri Queen,” he winked.
I cringed at the shortened version of my name; only Vexx used it. Cy better not hold onto his habit of reducing every name to one syllable.
The rest of his statement, however…
“An already popular nickname!” I found a giggle in Ben’s frown. We both knew Cy would leverage the title for the tour.
“I cannot wait to share my ideas with you. But now is not the time,” my tour manager said. “I’ll just say it’ll be the biggest tour the world as seen.”
Journalists began questioning Cy whose attention remained on me until I nodded to release him from my company. The second hour scheduled for the meet-and-greet was coming to an end so I took advantage of the shift of attention to slip away. Gail was too busy congratulating Ben to notice.
“Your own world tour, huh?” Vexx teased after we stepped in the executive elevator. “So posh!”
“Just a way to keep me from managing the company,” I grumbled. Gabriel would be pissed.
“Oh! I hadn’t thought of that.”
Young CEOs often toured to build an emotional bond with their clients and fans. In order to have something to do on stage besides advertising their company, most chose a signature talent and had the proper tech installed to perform it.
Worst cheaters than the turn of the century pop stars.
As soon as the elevator opened on the top floor, I made a beeline for my bar. One of my ‘assistants’ bolted out of their office to follow me, but Vexx closed my double doors in her face.
“Is it me or are you under constant watch?”
I flipped the switch that turned off the cameras and microphones in my office. “Sickeningly so.”
“I guess I’ll get the same answer if I ask about all the pink.”
“First day and I already wish for a punching bag.”
“There’s enough room for it.” Vexx walked around the space while I poured us some scotch. He took a sip and moaned. “Good stuff.”
“Evil empire. Vice.”
“Chicken or egg?”
I downed my glass and refilled it.

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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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