Flavia van der Riijn entered the elevator from her lounge on the 44th floor of Fano Tower, the tallest building in Fanowar, the capital of Horlus I. It was one of several secret elevators reserved for her personal use and that of her slaves. Outside of this small circle only few people knew of their existence. They didn’t even exist in the building plans—well, not anymore. Flavia had personally ensured that any reference to the elevators had been erased. If anybody bothered to look, all they would see were service shafts for utilities.
Flavia herself had overseen the design and planning of Fano Tower. Not in person of course, but through her public double. She now commanded the top ten floors for her personal use. The 45th floor penthouse was where her robot double ‘lived’, though her public stand-in never entertained guests at home. Even the public Flavia van der Riijn was knows as an extremely private person. That obviously fuelled speculation and sensationalism that had culminated in the attempt by wily newshounds to get some private pictures of her by jacking a satellite. A good thing she was connected as she was. One of her countless informants had heard the rumors so she had created an automated alert that let her know if any satellite within range was zooming in on Fano Tower. Once she even had her double oblige by sunbathing topless on her rooftop patio next to her rooftop pool with one of her slaves stretched out on his stomach next to her. Those pictures had kept the media excited for weeks with speculation rife as to who the unknown suitor might be. Media—public—all of them gullible fools she thought and had ensured to exploit those images to the best of her knowledge.
The nine floors the real Flavia used provided everything, including the secrecy she desired. Officially rented to several shell corporations, including a medical research lab, a robotics and electronics engineering company and a high-society catering business, she had access to anything and everything she could possibly want. Now she was headed to the medical research facility on the 38th floor. Except for Flavia whose private apartment spanned the 43rd and 44th floor and her slaves who lived on the 42nd, very few people had access to the levels 36 through 41 below. Most of the workers populating these levels were robots like Flavia’s personal double. And each of the humans had been hand-selected for his loyalty. All of them were men. Flavia didn’t tolerate any real women in her employ.
The man she was on her way to see was Dr. Balkenhorn, her personal surgeon. He had also performed the paralyzing surgery on Garran Raulsten. Flavia still mourned the loss of the handsome Commander—in her own twisted way.
The elevator doors opened silently in front of her and Flavia, accompanied by the towering Rag, stepped into the carpeted office where Dr. Balkenhorn was sitting at his expansive desk waiting for her.
“Hello, Flavia.” He greeted her warmly. “It’s been a long time since you last paid me a personal visit. Good to see you. Are you well?”
Flavia slowly rocked her large head from side to side as if contemplating what to say. “I’m fine.” She finally answered with a smile on her face.
“I had him transferred here as you requested. He officially died of his injuries last night, so nobody will ask any questions.” He lowered his voice conspiratorially and winked at her. “There can always be unforeseen complications. It was a miracle he hung in there this long anyway.”
“Is he still in a coma?”
“Yes. He was starting to come out of it, but I decided under the circumstances it would be best if he stayed under a while longer.”
A screen behind Dr. Balkenhorn’s desk came to life, showing the head and upper body of a seemingly sleeping man. The right side of his head was shaved and showed the marks of a recent craniotomy. The entire right arm was encased in a cast. Not bad, Flavia thought, actually quite attractive, though not nearly as much her type as the Commander had been.
“Do we know his name?”
“Soul Whitefeather, Captain, specialist marksman, hand-to-hand combat and com-sec expert.”
Flavia nodded in acknowledgement. Captain Soul Whitefeather would have to do. “What is his prognosis?”
“The brain injury is nearly completely healed. The latest scans show that brain cell density has been restored to ninety nine per cent of pre injury levels. He may have to relearn some things, particularly regarding fine motor skills in the left side of his body, but his cognitive capacity is still the same. The burns to his body have been treated successfully with minimal scarring, too.”
“And the arm?”
“He had a few simple fractures which with the common metabolic accelerators have already healed enough to allow him to move normally, his right tibia, some ribs, et cetera, but he has complex fractures in his right elbow and the lower end of the humerus. The government hospital was busy growing a new elbow joint for him. I could probably still get it, but it may raise some eyebrows. I thought it better to leave it and start the process over.”
“How long will that take?”
“Two weeks give or take.”
“But otherwise he’s healthy?”
“If it wasn’t for the elbow I could wake him up and present him to you later today.”
Pursing her lips, Flavia tried to picture the same treatment for the Captain as she had previously envisioned for Garran. Somehow the picture wouldn’t fit. Plus his right arm would be weak. Hardly the same effect suspending him from the ceiling. What to do? “Will he remember the attack and his squad?”
“Probably. Memories are holographic and not limited to a single location in the brain.”
“Can you erase his memory?”
“I can suppress his memory, but it’s likely that he will start to remember bits and pieces after a while, especially with the right triggers.”
“A familiar picture, sound, name, smell, anything really that has a strong enough link to his past.”
“Let’s do the memory suppression. I want him as one of my slaves.” Until he remembers too much—she added silently in her mind. It might be fun to see him wrestle with his memory, trying to piece his identity together. Who knew for what else he might still prove useful. Maybe he could be a pawn or a bargaining chip to get to some of the people who had sent the assault team their way in the first place. They were powerful and protected, but maybe she could uncover some weakness.
“Certainly, Flavia, I will make him compliant. I assume you will want a failsafe implanted as usual?”
“Of course.” A smile appeared on Flavia’s face at the thought of another way she might derive some entertainment from her new guest—ex-hand-to-hand combat expert Soul Whitefeather. Along with that thought, Flavia’s smile turning triumphant, came the perfect name. “And Dr. Balkenhorn?”
“Where is the highest fracture in his arm?”
“About the middle of his bicep.” Dr. Balkenhorn indicated the level by pointing to his own arm.
“Good. There—cut it off. He doesn’t deserve to keep me waiting for two weeks.” She walked back into the elevator, Rag following behind. Turning back she addressed the doctor once more. “Have him upstairs by tomorrow afternoon and if he happens to ask, tell him his name is Tyr.” Then she closed the doors and giggled.
A couple of hours later when Aurra was getting ready to let Garran know of her decision and to send him on a break, Aurra found she was still no closer to an answer on how to seduce the man than before. She distinctly lacked experience in that area.
Maybe she should just play it by ear; or maybe she should raid the board library for romantic novels to provide her with some inspiration. It was completely against her nature to act coy or affected, so for the time being she decided to continue with what she knew: spontaneous, funny remarks and touching him whenever possible. So far he had reacted positively to that. Maybe the spark of inspiration would strike on its own at some point.
When she approached the cockpit she saw that Doc was with Garran, his shock of gray hair visible over the edge of the pilot seat. They had fallen quiet at her approach. Doc was rising and Garran turned toward her, an anxious and worried expression on his face.
“I have decided …” “I should have explained …” They said simultaneously.
Aurra laughed nervously. Garran bit down on his lower lip, his look of concern deepening. Doc slipped between the two of them with an, “I’ll let the two of you discuss this in private,” on his way out.
Aurra sat down on the edge of her chair so that she was facing Garran who watched her silently. Wow, how awkward was this? She wanted to extend her hand and touch him, reassure him, but that somehow seemed inappropriate without a word of explanation first. “I have thought about your request and I like the idea. It saves me from having to find yet another copilot. But I still can’t pay you, so you would stay on voluntarily and you will have to cover whatever medical expenses you incur. Not for Doc’s time of course, but for any specialized equipment or supplies he would need. Is that fair?”
For a brief moment Aurra thought she saw profound relief in his eyes. Then a neutral, if not quite relaxed expression was once more in place. “Yes. That’s fair.”
“Good; then it’s a deal.” Aurra pivoted into her chair. Garran leaned towards her and extended his hand.
She took it.
“Thank you, Captain.”
“Aurra.” She whispered.
His pupils widened momentarily. “Okay. Thank you, Aurra.” But he didn’t let go.
Aurra couldn’t help the smile spreading across her face. By Horlus, was that gratitude she had seen on Garran’s face? She pulled her hand extra slowly from his grasp, acutely aware of his touch. Was it her imagination or did he just gently brush his thumb over the top of her hand before he let her go?
Aurra stared at the console in front of her for a moment, trying to get the butterflies in her stomach to settle. Intelligence—that’s what she needed. Recon was what the military guys called it; she needed to find out more about him. The more she knew the better she would be able to find a way if not into the man’s heart then at least into his bed. The latter being her immediate goal. Without turning back to him she ventured. “I get the impression that there is more to your story than being treated by Doc alone.”
Garran sighed audibly. “Your impression is correct.”
She turned her head his way again and said invitingly. “Well, in that case, why don’t you keep me company and bring me up to speed?”
Aurora - Part 14
Aurora - Part 14