The Rebellious Slave Ch. 14byHisPet21©
Author's Note: As always, thanks for the comments and ratings. I adore them. And for those of you eager for the plot to move along, I hope this chapter doesn't disappoint you.
The day of the board meeting, Greenwood invited Lord Arlington to lunch. And, luckily for Kara, Arlington decided to take her along. They ate in the garden since it was an unusually warm day, and Kara thought the sun on her skin a pleasant sensation. But overall, the meal was a humiliating experience. Throughout its entirety, Kara was hand fed by Lord Arlington, while Greenwood watched. Worse still, Kara had to listen to Arlington as he described her most recent training sessions to Greenwood, in agonizing detail. Luckily for Kara, eye contact restrictions were in effect, so that she didn't have to look at the men while they talked about her sexual conditioning.
Thankfully, Greenwood soon changed the topic of conversation, and began to discuss Calihistra's take over. He opened a little briefcase as he talked, bogging Arlington down with visual presentations and paper work. It was intentional, of course. Greenwood was distracting Arlington, so that Kara's lord would lose track of the time. And, as Greenwood had hoped, it worked. When Arlington finally checked his watch, he cursed a little at the hour, and immediately began to pack up. There was a Legislative Debate he had to attend, and punctuality would be imperative to his image.
"Greenwood, would you mind watching the girl until tonight's board meeting?" Arlington asked, obviously anxious. "I'm so sorry to do this to you, but I really can't take her with me. And besides, since we are having the meeting at your place again, it would be a big help." Arlington took out his phone then, to call for his driver, instructing the manservant to swing around front and pick him up.
"Of course, my lord," Greenwood answered, sincerely. "It isn't a problem at all." He had, after all, planned on watching Kara. The plan had been a gamble, of course. There had always been a chance that Arlington wouldn't lose track of the time. There had always been a chance that his lordship wouldn't leave Kara with Greenwood. But after many years as a double agent, Greenwood was a master of manipulation, on par with Arlington. He played his supposed "co-workers" as he might a cello, and Kara soon found herself in Greenwood's den, a glass of water grasped in her hands, all without a hitch.
Since it was a beautiful day outside, the shades of Greenwood's den had been opened to let in the soft, autumn light. The fire was lit too, in order to warm the room and its occupants. And to heighten the peaceful ambiance, a record was playing classical music. Greenwood knew all of the composers on the record, and pointed them out as symphony after symphony began and then ended. Kara couldn't keep up with his commentary, but she thought the sound positively beautiful and wished she could lie on the carpet before the fireplace listening to it forever and ever. But, of course, there were pressing matters to attend to. After waiting a few moments, to ensure that Arlington had really gone, Greenwood turned very seriously toward Kara.
"Did you find anything?" Greenwood whispered, his voice oddly monotone. It was clear, from the blank expression in his eyes and his smoothened features, that Greenwood was trying to assume some semblance of calm. Perhaps, he wished to appear uninvested in Kara's answer, so as not to upset her with the intense pressure of their situation. But the poor man wasn't doing a very good job at hiding his true emotions. He sat back a little too rigidly in his chair, and his knuckles were white with the strain of grasping onto the arm rests. Greenwood desperately wanted good news, even if that good news was unlikely.
"I have four locations," Kara confirmed, and it was as if an invisible tension had drained from the room, freeing its occupants of an oppressive darkness.
Kara felt especially liberated, enough to visualize herself in Nardia, a free woman. In her mind's eye, Kara could see herself at a local Nardian pub, with a pint of amber beer in her hand and maybe some fried frog meat on a skewer. Kara decided that, once free, she would stay up all night dancing with strangers and getting progressively drunk, until the local talent actually sounded good. Then in morning, Kara would find a grassy hill and climb it, so that she could watch the sun rise over the landscape, covering it in dark orange and bright pink tones. God, Kara hadn't seen the sun rise in a long time. In Calihistra, Kara had never voluntarily stayed up late or woken up early to watch a sunrise. Her parents had to force her into it, even on New Years Day, when the "Dawning of the Future" was celebrated. But now, for some odd reason, Kara didn't think she could survive another day without a sunrise.
Of course, accompanying Kara's joy was a feeling of sinister satisfaction. After all, Kara had finally beaten Arlington. Despite a full week of torturous training sessions and twisted mind games, Kara would leave Isleydor intact, unbroken by one of the world's best interrogators. Better yet, she would leave knowing that her freedom was both earned and well deserved. After all, Arlington had tried to thwart Kara's plan of escape, and Kara had defeated him. Despite Arlington's creepy, mind reading talents, Kara had managed to hide the secret of Greenwood and Alyssa from her lord. The bastard had fucked up. The dick wad had failed. God, Kara liked the taste of those words between her teeth, together like that: Arlington and Failed. Although the terms "Arlington" and "Dick Wad" also went well together. So many choices; So little time.
"I found a single sheet of paper, containing details on the Parallel Project," Kara continued. "And then, I memorized four of the locations listed." She watched with warm satisfaction as Greenwood's stern features melted away to form a more human face. His eyes were lighting up now, disbelieving but overjoyed. "But I'm a little worried," Kara admitted, casting her eyes momentarily downward. "Will that be enough? For bartering purposes, I mean?"
But Greenwood, ecstatic, was quick to reassure Kara. "Now, don't go thinking like that," he laughed, standing to his feet and rushing over to embrace the girl. He smelt of sandalwood and his skin felt warm and comforting against Kara's own. It had been weeks since anyone had touched her with something besides evil intent, let alone affection, and Kara allowed herself to enjoy the safety of Greenwood's massive body.
"Please, for the love of god, don't fret," Greenwood continued, the happiness in his voice serene. "What you have is more than enough, I can promise you that. Like I said, Nardia's intelligence is grasping at straws. They would take far less than what you have to offer." And patting Kara on the back, Greenwood withdrew from his monstrous bear hug. There was a grin on his lips, genuine and boyish, which seemed out of place on the man's typically solemn face. But with escape so close at hand, the color was returning to Greenwood's cheeks, giving the man a softer look. And with that, Greenwood gestured enthusiastically at Alyssa, motioning for her to come forward and join them in celebration.
But strangely, Alyssa ignored Greenwood's shouts of excitement and his enthusiastic waving. In fact, Alyssa didn't look the least bit enthralled by the trio's good fortune. If anything, there was a darkness to her expression that was almost depressed, or maybe even guilty. Rather than joining in Greenwood's embrace, Alyssa remained standing beside the window, the autumn light illuminating her stern features and her short blue locks, which were tied back in a pony tail. Kara tried to better read the woman's expression, but the hood of Alyssa's jacket was up, so that her face was overcast with shadow.
"Do you have a copy of the document?" Alyssa asked Kara, her voice grim and serious.
"No," Kara replied, a little irritated. Alyssa's tone sounded accusing. But Kara couldn't keep a copier in her skirts or under her collar. How the hell was she supposed to have copied the document down? By hand? There hadn't been enough time. And besides, Kara had been successful in her mission. The trio were all going home, so what right did Alyssa have to be upset or judgmental? But rather than voice her anger, Kara bit her tongue. She was still dependent on both Alyssa and Greenwood for an escape route, and didn't wish to make either angry by becoming defensive.
"I'm sorry," Kara offered instead, though reluctantly. "There wasn't enough time to copy anything down. I memorized a few key terms, and that was all I could manage."
"And that, I think, is more than enough," Greenwood began, his features as bright and hopeful as ever. "So, if you please, Alyssa---"
But Alyssa had no time for Greenwood. In fact, she ignored his words completely. Stepping away from the window, her muscles bunched up like a cat's, Alyssa approached Kara with a determined air, not unkind but demanding. She removed a pad of paper and a pencil from her hoodie as she walked. When Alyssa was a mere foot away from Kara, she shoved the items into the slave's hands, and pointed to a blank sheet.
"Write it down," Alyssa insisted, her tone forbidding any argument. "Write all four locations down on this sheet of paper, so that you won't forget them. Then, I'll hang onto the information, until we meet up with our respective guardians."
"Now, see here," Greenwood insisted, suddenly concerned. Quickly, he snatched the pad of paper away from Kara, and looked at her with an apologetic air. "I don't think that's a good idea, Alyssa," he told the Weapons Specialist. "In the unlikely event that we're caught, having physical evidence of intelligence like this," and he waved the pad of paper around, "could cause us problems. Hell, it could even get us killed. Better if Kara keeps whatever information she's got tucked away in her mind. I doubt she will forget it. Then, when we get out of Isleydor, we can discuss the details." And with that, Greenwood crossed the room and headed for the liquor cabinet. "It's still a little early," he admitted, turning toward Kara with a smile. "But this is a special occasion. What's your drink, sweetheart?"
"I don't have a route for her, Greenwood," Alyssa said quietly, but unapologetic. "She needs to write her intel down."
Upon hearing this, Kara turned to Greenwood for direction, unsure of what was going on. What was a route? Would Kara need one of those?
But Greenwood wasn't moving. Kara couldn't even see his chest rise and fall as he breathed. Furthermore, his features were no longer joyous and excited, but grim. "Please tell me you are joking," Greenwood hissed, turning toward Alyssa with rage in his eyes. "You had better have a very, very good reason for this, Alyssa. Are they taking us in pairs, or something?"
"No," Alyssa replied, her voice curt. She lit a cigarette then, her face betraying neither concern nor care as it suddenly glowed in the open flame of a match. "But Kara doesn't have any combat or stealth experience," Alyssa insisted. Then, with an exhale, her face was obscured by smoke, before reappearing suddenly. "My contact and I talked about it, and we both agree that Arlington's slave will only slow us down. But you'd be doing the right thing, by staying behind," Alyssa told Kara, her voice gentle. And she gripped both of Kara's shoulders in a strange embrace. "You'd be doing both us and Nardia's intelligence a huge favor."
"Excuse me?" Kara very nearly screamed, and she ripped her arms free of Alyssa's grasp. "Are you insinuating that, after all I've been through to save your asses, you intend to leave me behind? With Arlington? Do you have any idea what I've suffered at his hands? What that evil bastard is capable of?" Kara couldn't believe what she was hearing. She was angry, sure. But Kara was also aghast. She hadn't thought it possible, that her allies could betray her like this. And there was panic, too. Kara could see her happy fantasies fading away, of the pub and of the sunrise in Nardia, only to be replaced by Lord Arlington's sinister face. Kara opened her mouth then, to scream and shout and curse Alyssa out, but Greenwood beat her to it.
"You fucking bitch," Greenwood growled, and his voice was surprisingly matter-of-fact beneath all the anger. With quick, determined steps, he strode toward Alyssa and then stopped, a mere three inches from her face. His fists were trembling by his sides, and Kara wondered if he might hit her. But he didn't. "I don't know what's happened to you, Alyssa. But right now, I couldn't care less. I thought, at the very least, that the woman I love would have some degree of integrity!"
"It's not personal," Alyssa insisted, as Greenwood coughed in a wreath of her cigarette smoke. "It's business only."
"Do I look like the kind of man who respects such arbitrary distinctions?" Greenwood screamed, in the midst of another coughing fit. "You let Kara assume all of the risk, for our sake. We are literally about to ride on her tailcoats to freedom, Alyssa." And he gestured wildly toward Kara. "Yet, you want to leave her behind, after all of that? Have you no shame, or have you just gone mad?" Greenwood lost it then, and raised his fist as if to strike Alyssa, but caught himself just in time.
Alyssa didn't even flinch. If anything, she looked amused. "You're gonna hit me, Greenwood?" Alyssa smiled, tossing her cigarette onto the carpet and stamping it out. "You aren't gonna hit me. You're just a big ole teddy bear."
"Maybe I am," Greenwood admitted, his eyes hurt and his tone frightening. The man then lowered his fist by his side, defeated. "But I'm not going to let you betray a friend and an ally, who has risked everything to save our sorry asses. Your contact should still be in town. You're going to go find him, get a third underground route, and be back here in an hour." Alyssa opened her mouth to argue, but Greenwood shut her up with a look. "Or I am not going," he told her, his voice threatening. "And you will be on your own."
This response seemed to surprise and upset Alyssa. Instantly, her smug features dissolved away, leaving behind only worry and a hint of guilt. But Alyssa did not give into Greenwood's demands immediately. Instead, she began searching her partner's features for a hint of weakness or a break in his forceful demeanor.
Alyssa's eyes were awfully intense as she stared Greenwood down, but the double neither turned away nor blinked an eye under Alyssa's gaze. He wanted her to see the resolve in his heart. And she must have for, a moment later, Alyssa was huffing angrily, before putting the hood of her jacket down, flipping open a cell phone, and trotting out of the room.
"Are you going to leave me?" Kara hissed, once Alyssa was gone. Her eyes were aflame, but also concerned and accusatory. "And what about Alyssa? Is she really trust worthy? Will she give us away?"
Greenwood winced guilty at Kara's tone, then bowed his head shamefully. It was clear that he had no intention of leaving Kara behind. "I am extremely sorry about that," Greenwood insisted, and he approached Kara warily. "Listen, sweetheart. Alyssa is....Oh, I don't know. Overly pragmatic? A little too cold? But she'll follow through. That's just the arrangement we have. And I don't see what choice you have, other than to believe me and give this a shot." His voice was a little apologetic, embarrassed even.
And, Kara realized, Greenwood had a point. So, rather than throwing a temper tantrum, Kara sat down on the carpet and decided to let bygones be bygones. But she was only interested in talking business now, and any affection she'd had for Greenwood and Alyssa was long gone. "Alright," Kara sighed, toying with her glass of water. "Why don't you explain to me how this is going to work. Clearly, I haven't the slightest idea what an "underground route" is, or how you're going to get rid of this annoying tracker." And she pointed to the raised lump in her back.
"Sounds good," Greenwood replied, relieved to be moving on. Carefully, he sat down in an arm chair across from Kara and sighed, trying to regain some composure after their recent upset. When, finally, calm had returned, Greenwood spoke. "Here is the deal," he began. "Our first order of business is to deactivate that tracker implanted in your back. But getting a Martkorp Deactivation Unit is both difficult and expensive. Just yesterday, I found an unslaver willing to let me rent one, but it was a last minute arrangement, and the device hasn't arrived yet. It should be on my back porch sometime this evening, and once Arlington leaves for the night, we should be able to try it out. His lordship has to go to Bremmington tonight, and has already asked me to watch you."
Kara nodded, satisfied. That seemed to be a simple enough procedure. "Alright then," she pressed. "What's an underground route?"
"Well now, explaining that will be a little more difficult," Greenwood admitted. "But, I beg you, bear with me." And Kara watched as Greenwood stared up into the ceiling, trying to figure out the best method of explanation. "The idea is this," he finally began, after a long silence. "You don't want to make this kind of escape in a large group. Large groups are unwieldy, difficult to coordinate, and clumsy. They are more likely to be tracked down than, say, an individual. Plus, it's a good idea to spread out a bit. That way, if one person gets caught, the others still have a chance at escape. Are you following me so far?"
Kara nodded. That all made sense to her.
"Good," Greenwood replied, pleased. "Very good. So then, this is how the escape will work. When Alyssa comes back, each one of us will get a sealed envelope, containing our personalized "underground route." An "underground route" is nothing more than a series of instructions, specific to your situation, that describes where you ought to go and what you ought to do in order to meet up with your guardian. He'll be a Nardian Intelligence Operative, sent to escort you out of the city and to some central location, where we'll meet up. Only the guardians will know the exact nature of the central location, however. They'll be well versed in interrogation resistance, so that will be safest for everyone involved. Still following me?"
"Kind of," Kara admitted. She wanted to make sure that, before the evening was out, no questions remained in her mind. "So, if I am to understand you, we won't be escaping together? We'll be taking different routes out of the city, following different guardians?"
"Exactly," Greenwood praised. "That is exactly right. Tonight, each of us will open our own envelopes, at precisely midnight, and will follow the instructions within. But, you must wait until midnight to open the envelope, or else the timing of your escape will be off and you'll miss your guardian. And you must not tell Alyssa nor myself what your instructions are. That way, if one of us gets caught, we won't be able to give your location away. And that's the gist of it," Greenwood finally finished. "Any questions?"
But Kara shook her head. She didn't have any further questions for Greenwood, nor any worries that needed to be addressed.
Kara spent the remainder of the afternoon enjoying Greenwood's record collection. It was lovely to be able to sit in front of the fireplace, sipping on water and juice, without cuffs around her wrists or a collar around her neck. And, to be honest, Kara needed some time to recuperate after Arlington's latest training session. Greenwood must have known that, and he gave Kara her space. He also had the sense not to ask any questions. For that, Kara was immensely grateful. Honestly, after tonight, she never wanted to speak of nor hear of Arlington ever again. As far as Kara was concerned, Arlington would become nothing but a distant nightmare to her, to be forgotten soon after the Nardian border was crossed.