The woman who called herself Sia Kandor tested the strength of the slender, metallic restraints about her delicate hands and glared at the large masked man strapped to the opposite side of the windowless cargo hold of the automated Security Commission mag-ray. The way before the vehicle was smooth, and the interior was silent, save a subtle jangling and the whir of the wheels until the woman spoke.
“If you’d not deceived me, neither of us would be in chains.”
“A woman working under a false name complains of deception.”
She tilted her head up with haughty ire. “Says a man wearing a mask.”
“A mask is not a lie.”
“Its an obfuscation.”
“So is a medical dressing. A wrap obscures a wound, yet signals its existence.”
“What are you on about?”
The man reached toward his veiled face, but the restraints obstructed his grasp. He craned his head forward until his fingertips were flush with the surface of his helm, methodically unlatched the face plate and slowly removed it. The woman’s mouth parted at the sight of his naked visage. She looked on in fascination and horror. For several seconds she was too stunned to speak.
“Gods below. What happened to you?”
“Seven years ago I was tasked with securing an Aestival stronghold in the city. My team made easy entry. The site appeared abandoned. Foolishly, I relaxed, wandered from my team and removed my helmet to get a better look at some schematics laying on a table. Designs for a bomb, more potent than anything the terrorists had previously deployed. The next instant, a man flew from the darkness and showered me with industrial solvent. He escaped with the plans and I was left,” he gestured at his visage, “Like this.”
He raised the face plate back to the helmet and latched it in place with a muted click.
“Why do you care about any of this?”
“Any of what?”
“About Hastings and her benefactor.”
“So, as I suspected, someone put her up to it. Who?”
“You gave over seven years of your life and your face to this city, what has it provided in return? Nothing but the hatred of the masses. Did you hear what they were saying about you last night on Vis?”
“Tell me about Hastings’ benefactor.”
“It must be galling, to see how much of a media darling Kleiner has become. How they shower him in praise and you in execration.”
“Tell me about Hastings’ benefactor,” the man repeated without perturbation.
The woman somnolently shook her head.
“Your situation is grim enough.”
“You’ll talk eventually. If not to me, than to the Consortium.”
“You’re thoroughly mistaken, Colonel.”
The road became bumpy, a cacophony of voices resounded beyond the hold and somewhere further away a Security Commission siren rang.
The woman leaned against the cold metal wall and spoke as one before the gallows.
“Because, very soon, the Consortium will cease to be.”