“You never did like me,” he said, with his eyes on hers. “It wouldn’t exactly be a hardship to kill me, earlier. But you need me later, don’t you? For whatever scheme you have cooked up with.”
Her now was so different to the her he knew, the her from before; but enough had happened that he no longer had any problems dealing with the divide. This will be a new turning point in their history. After everything she'd put them through, they'd finally managed to outmaneuver what would’ve been her power move.
He tightened his fist around the device. “But this time, you are out planned. I would say that I hope you have a backup plan that doesn’t involve this,” he wiggled the innocuous-looking hardware in his grip, “and millions of people losing their agency. But I don’t.”
Her eyes were on his. He didn’t bother kneeling to put her at eye-level, so she looked up from where she was restrained in her own office chair, and he stared down from where he towered over her.
“You are right,” she intoned, her face a practiced blank slate. “I thoroughly dislike you. I had disliked you even from the start. You had never harbored any love for me, either. Why would I ever do so for you?”
“Don’t you dare talk about love,” he spitted, blood rushing in his ears. “She’s at home, still loving you. She even backed out of this mission because she said she couldn't do it. You never deserved any of it, of her, even before you started going off the rails. I’m glad that this will be your final nail on the coffin, Duchess, and you lose. We win. You are never getting out of maximum security.”
She hummed dubiously. “Don’t be so sure,” she rolled her shoulders, looking mildly discomfited at her awkward position, hands bound securely behind the back of her chair. He watched her every move, and her arms stilled after her little stretching exercise. Not struggling out of it, then. Good. “Though you did win our fight this time. I’m impressed; you’ve improved,” she continued, then lifted the corners of her mouth, wrinkling the corners of her eyes. He took a deep breath.
Her smile infuriates him. Her condescension had fire racing from his chest to his face, heating up his skin—
He was on his knees before he knew it—
“Yeah, I did,” he hissed, right into her face. “I just took you down. My team will take you even further down, and they are going to rip apart your plans and maniacal dreams to shreds. While I’m going to get stronger and stronger, you will be doomed a life sentence, your fortune, your life, your legacy will rot to nothing. You hear me? Nothing.”
By the end of it, his lungs felt empty and his throat hurt. He was startled to realize that he had screamed it. As he panted, she leaned forward. This close to her, she smelled like smoke and ginger. All of a sudden, he felt woozy, and wrong. He never acted like this, this angry and impulsive, in any other mission.
Focus, he thought. Her face was mere inches away, her features, from the shape of her eye to the line of her jaw, were just the same as the her from before—it's strange. He always thought it would be different, like maybe the change would’ve been more apparent, would've been made physical, like she would've transformed herself into a stranger in every way. But it’s not. She stayed familiar.
It was becoming a real struggle for him to keep his eyes from crossing.
Her smile widened. Something clanged from behind her.
She blew into the air from right beside his ear. “Gotcha,” she said. Then he was convulsing on the floor before he knew it, a burning flare at his neck and his muscles juddering hard to the point of bright pain.
The bitch had tasered him, he thought. Then she adjusted the pen in her hand until it sparked with electricity and her forearm jabbed down. It was the last thing he sees.
When he woke up, the aches in his neck and chest were what he knew, first. Then he felt the restraints wrapped around his arms and torso. A clean-tasting piece of cloth was wrapped around his head, lodging uncomfortably into his mouth as a makeshift gag.
Well-made shoes stepped into view. He lolled his head up.
Duchess stood before him.
“I believe this is your earpiece,” she held it up for him to take a look, then dropped the device onto the cement floor, foot stepping forward to crunch it to pieces. She bore down to just to grind the GPS chip into fragments.
“Now your team will know to arrive here, shortly,” she said, voice somewhat echoing in the warehouse they were in. “Thank you for delivering the Reyes holodrive back to me. It’s going to be somewhere secure, so don’t bother wasting time or energy looking for it.”
He didn’t say anything, and looked away from her, putting his chin back onto his chest. He knew when he was defeated.
Clacking footsteps circumvent his seat, then got further and further back. There was a click, then the sound of an opening door. The noises stop. He didn’t bother looking backward.
“Tell Katrina that I love her still,” she said. “And that I’m sorry.”
The door clicked shut. There was no one in the warehouse but him.