Strings of Retaliation – 8a – Routine

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By Wednesday, I had met everyone worth meeting on the West Coast. Like a queen on her throne, I sat and they flocked, their hands full of gold and their mouths fraught with praises and requests. Gail followed me everywhere I went, keeping me informed of my upcoming meetings and alterations to my schedule as they were relayed to her communication chip by my assistants. I thought about calling her ‘Mom’, but her secondary duty as bodyguard and the way she watched my office’s door made me wonder if ‘Cerberus’ was a more appropriate nickname.
“Done for this week.” I dropped the branded hoops in my purse. They weighed a ton after a long day. Much like everything else.
“We should celebrate!” Vexx announced with an enthusiasm I failed to understand. He had been waiting in my office for my day to end. “Here, look at this.”
Grinning, he put Frogster on my desk. The frog poked me with its tongue.
“I don’t need a buggy frog,” I growled.
Vexx frowned and spun Frogster toward him. “Double O Seven.”
With the light whistle of sliding metal, Frogster’s flexible throat contracted and split down the middle. The halves spun with increasing speed and Frogster took off. Croaking the James Bond theme song, it flew to the mini-bar.
I rolled my eyes.
“Wait for it,” Vexx said.
After landing, the propeller morphed into a metallic necktie, which Frogster readjusted with a paw before he grabbed a bottle of dry gin with its tongue.
A minute later, Vexx delivered me a martini. Shaken, not stirred.
I shook my head but smiled. “You’re crazy.”
Then, slow clapping resounded behind me.
I jinxed it, didn’t I?
Only showbiz people would dare slow clap without sarcasm outside of a movie.
“That was great! Does it know any other tricks?” Cy walked in with Ben.
I should close the door and shut off the cameras every time I entered my office.
“A few,” I replied. No need to dwell on how much a James Bond Frogster was.
Cy bowed to examine the mechanical frog. It immediately started mixing a third martini.
“We should use it for the show.” Ben tapped the mini-computer on his wrist and the holograph displayed a few pie charts. “90% of the population associates your name with ‘tragedy’. A significant chunk finds you unrelatable and cold. Classics for a business woman. Men think you’re hot which we should definitely leverage. Women pity you. That’s bad for the share price.”
I stifled a dry-heave. “And how many babies were named after me?”
“Only three.” Ben replied, oblivious to my sarcasm.
I put my martini down before my reflex to go for alcohol in periods of stress kicked in.
“We’ll turn the tide.” Cy patted Ben’s shoulder. “Quirky, approachable, humorous.” He picked up Frogster. “Done!”
Gail peeked into the office long enough to say: “Her schedule has been rearranged.”
The plan for tomorrow had been to let me dig into the company’s paperwork.
I batted my innocent pink-coated lashes, half-smiled and looked at Ben intently. Revenge would be so sweet.
“Cy’s in town all day tomorrow,” my CMO explained.
“How grand!” I flutter-clapped, as girlier women did to show excitement.
“The schedule to kick off your tour is pretty aggressive,” Cy continued.
It didn’t surprise me; Ben wouldn’t leave me any time to look into the management of the company. I wouldn’t put it past him to use the schedule he overbooked as an argument against me, make me look too busy to do my job.
I remained cordial for the rest of the encounter and punched my frustration deep into a sandbag when I got home. My head hit the pillow early so I would be full strength for the next day. I dreamt of lies, violence and strangulation, and woke up out of breath.
At precisely eight o’clock, Cy arrived in my office. Gail stopped him by the door to offer coffee or a beverage of his choice. He asked for tea.
“I’m so glad we have some time by ourselves,” he said after kissing my cheeks in salutation. “Ben is well-intentioned, but he can’t grasp the key to a successful tour.”
“And what would that be?” I smiled at the statement and the basic manipulation technique alike.
“The soul of the artist.” His voice dropped lower to create mystery. I cocked an eyebrow and a glimmer crossed his eye. “Today, we learn about each other and figure out where our styles meet to create the show.”
He leaned back, cupping his tea. Habit and experience relaxed his shoulder but stiffened mine; we couldn’t possibly have something in common. Hell, he couldn’t have something to share with the hundreds of artists he planned tours for.
Please hail the return of the Grand Vitrine of Hypocrisy!
“Why don’t we start with your hobbies?”
Oh my!
I sipped my coffee to buy some time. Hobbies? Training for, planning and executing assassinations. That show would spill some ink.
All the dirty rich tech guys, please join me on stage! Can you confirm that these swords are real?
Way to make me relatable.
“Any particular skills?”
Scheming, shooting, infiltrating… The nanobots never fostered artistic expression.
Cy looked at me with an encouraging smile but the stiffness of his lips’ corner belied his patience. “You can just pick something you like and get the implants you need to do it.”
My brain shrieked.
“I’m an acrobat.” Same skill set, different application, that ought to do it.
“Really?” Cy sounded genuinely impressed. “I never had an acrobat before. Most people go for singing.”
“An easy, unremarkable choice.” But one implants could make happen.
“And you’re a natural?”
Cy sipped his tea as he pondered the implication of my talent. “That’s good… Pure… Old school…” His eyes glazed over. He probably browsed through his memory chip for inspiration of some sort. “We could make it a theme. Contrast it with how high tech your company is. And traditional values like family…”
I cringed but his brain was too busy crunching the data. Branding and marketing-wise, he was right on the money. That’s was one of the reason why I didn’t have a secret identity like my father had.
He pointed the holograph of my computer. “May I?”
I nodded. He placed two fingers on the bone behind his ear and tapped some Morse code. The holograph lit up with a wireless loading indicator. Seconds later, a simulation beamed straight from Cy’s mind showed me performing aerial contortions in a metallic-looking drape. The stage mixed old clockwork pieces with high tech holographs and machinery. A Lady Gaga song played – a song with disturbingly fitting lyrics.
“I’m a sucker for turn of the millennium music,” Cy explained.
Now that I thought about it, his looks could be an homage to the pop star’s fashion sense.
I shook my head in disbelief. “We have that in common.”

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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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