Alan Ch. 25byjuliancoreto©
The rest of the summer had passed happily, blackout notwithstanding. Scarlet's parents had swung by with the rest of her things, and Alan enjoyed meeting them and her brother. A few days later Alan's folks and Mrs. Van Devanter drove the three of them and their stuff back to campus; Mr. Van Devanter was still in Cambridge with Pauline, getting her settled into her dorm and attending some parent orientation and welcoming events. He was on cloud nine, one of his offspring at last following in his Crimson footsteps.
Alan was rooming with Soren again, this year in Shapiro Hall, a dorm on the opposite side of Broadway from the center of campus. They liked it because it was quiet; a great many of the buildings on campus were undergoing renovation due to the upcoming 250th anniversary of the founding of the college.
Kate had a single in Brooks, a dorm right on Barnard's campus. Scarlet was in another single just across the hall.
A week into classes Alan met Jack at the office. Jack updated him on his last month of progress with the female assassin. He hadn't fully exploded her mental shields, but he was getting close. Most of what he learned concerned her last mission, and he was viewing tantalizing memories concerning some kind of crystal artifact, the details of which the ninja (ninjess?) was trying desperately to conceal. Wilkins, Karick, and Anne-Marie joined them after a scant hour, and Alan was updated as to the efforts in securing the Iraq contracts, and on security and business matters in general. Anne-Marie mostly kept out of the conversation, chipping in a comment or two when the talk touched on one of her areas of responsibility. When the trio had left Alan asked why Anne-Marie had been taken notes.
"A promotion, my dear fellow!" Jack enthused.
"She is now an ex-officio member of the board, and the corporate secretary, on top of her regular work. She was compiling the corporate minutes."
"So she's working out? I'm glad."
There was a twinkle in Jack's eye, the source of which Alan was knowledgeable.
Harriet, Stan Wilkins's secretary came in with coffee service, and Alan and Jack helped themselves to some brew. Jack asked about his classes, and Alan pulled out his schedule.
"Hmm," Jack said between sips of coffee as he examined the printout. "You're taking both Aramaic, at school, and Classical Hebrew with me; that's ambitious. Well, well, well, I see you in good hands with your other classes as well. Mancini for Literature and Sources of the Ancient Near East."
"Do you know him?" Alan asked.
"Know him? Know him?" he was almost choking. "Why, he trained at my feet! An excellent sort, yes." He scanned the paper again, taking note of who was teaching the Aramaic language class. "S. O'Dwyer? I didn't know Seamus was at Columbia. A very able chap, but be careful, or you'll be speaking Aramaic with an Irish brogue."
"I keep that in mind," Alan answered with a chuckle.
Jack couldn't make out the rest of the classes on Alan's schedule. "What's CC?"
Alan explained that Columbia had a rather extensive core curriculum, the centerpiece being a lit course known as CC, covering stuff from the ancient Greeks to the modern period.
"Well, enough of that. Are you ready?" Jack asked as he made to unlock the heavy door.
"Ready," he responded, steeling himself.
The door swung open slowly. Alan followed the older man in, his eyes adjusting to the dimness of the windowless office. The young woman was wearing a collar around the neck, attached to a heavy bolt in the center of the room. The leash had only five feet of slack, so her movements were quite limited. She was handcuffed with two soft leather cuffs encircling her wrists, connected by a short length of steel chain. Her ankles were bound likewise. She was blindfolded with a black nylon cloth, and she was wearing gym shorts and an I
Alan arched an eyebrow at Jack, and he responded telepathically.
"She is still dangerous. He physical combat skills match her mental acumen, therefore the cuffs and collar," the former professor projected. "As for the clothes, well, what can I say, or in this case, think. The shorts have an elastic waist. I couldn't very well nip her off to the shops to try things on, could I have? A very nice young man from Senegal, proprietor of a small table right outside the train station, sold me the chemises," he added, gesturing to the touristy shirt, "ten tees for forty dollars. I could never pass up a bargain."
She had been asleep when the pair had entered, but she was clearly awake now, her head swiveling around trying to hear the movements of her captors. She could sense them communicating telepathically, but was unable to tune into their mental conversations. Her frustration mounted, a she squeezed her eyes shut under the sash of cloth which blinded her. She had no idea how long she had been imprisoned, and her terror was starting to build.
Dying in battle was one thing, but capture was a far worse thing. She knew her mission was a dangerous one, but never had she imagined circumstances like the one she now found herself in. The man, the older one, the one who had thwarted her at the last moment of triumph, was getting to her, breaking her down, eroding her mental defenses, and she was coming to realize that it was just a matter of time before she crumbled completely. Nothing in her training had prepared her for this. The arrogance of her training astounded her, overwhelming the sense of shame she knew she should at this instant be rightly feeling. Never in her years of training and mastery of the Art had she been instructed against the possibility of capture. Such a fate had never befallen a member of her noble order.
One of them was touching her, holding her by the shoulders and lifting her into a crouch. She was pushed onto the sofa, on her back. She did not resist, knowing she had no choice. The only saving grace was that she hadn't been raped, but she feared that this would not be the case for long. She trembled. A hand on her head, attempting calm her. Sympathy, just what she needed. With a mighty effort she lashed out with her weakened mind, hoping the physical contact would help transmit her commands more powerfully.
Alan tensed, feeling her mental energy stream forth. His hand hurt as he held it to her forehead. It stung, but was bearable. "What's she doing?" he asked Jack, speaking aloud for the first time since they entered the room.
"Attack," he answered, shrugging his shoulders. Alan withdrew his hand and the sting dissipated.
"She's much weaker," Alan projected, resuming the communication by mind. "It was almost effortless to keep her from my mind. In fact, I didn't even know she was attacking until you said it."
Jack approached the couch and sat her upright. Alan took the left flank, his partner the right.
"I think it's time we double up on her," Jack projected into Alan's mind. "She's been eating of late, a good thing too, because she refused the smallest bite for quite a while. I think the isolation has been trying on her."
"What do you need me to do?" Alan asked, his lips not moving.
"Try to scan her."
Alan tried. He got virtually nowhere. He could see inside her mind, but all was shadowed by the shields protecting her consciousness. Jack was monitoring his progress, and shot him a wry grin as Alan withdrew his ineffectual probe.
"What were you looking for?" the older man asked.
"I was trying to learn why she allowed herself to be set against me. We already know some of it, the part having to do with Lord Thornbow. What we still don't know is why she and her order have allied themselves with him."
"A vexing point, yes. Did you see the crystal, the black crystal on the wooden stand in the center of the chapel?"
"What about it?"
"I believe," Jack said slowly, marshaling his thoughts, "that we have reached the ineffable core of our dilemma, and by 'our' I am referring to all of us, you me AND the girl."
Before he went on he tightened the assassin's bonds and led Alan out of the secure room, into the conference room next door.
"I've been making some calls, asking around, making inquiries," the European gentleman began as he gestured Alan to have a chair.
"But, but, you don't know anyone, or rather no one knows you," Alan sputtered in reply.
"My dear boy, when you are a Vessel of the Seed, introductions, and, dare I say, earthly pedigree means nothing. There are numerous human resources available here in your fine city. I had a very interesting afternoon with an elderly professor down at NYU yesterday afternoon, and another interesting meeting the day before last up at your current place of education. If you didn't know it, the Starr East Asian is an excellent resource. Sad to say, I haven't discovered too much about this monastery, but time, young man, is most certainly on our side."
Alan voiced his doubts. "Your brother--"
"STEPbrother," Jack corrected sharply, but without malice.
"Your stepbrother has made two attempts on me, and tried to kill you in London last year. Tell me again: How is time on our side?"
"We have a number of natural advantages, or supernatural advantages, you might say. First, we are Vessels. Second, my stepbrother thinks there is only you. Third, Mr. Patel informed me there is no firm backup plan if the young lady next door was to fail. Fourth--no--I could go on, but you get the point.
"There are legends, Alan, legends of ninja assassins with almost supernatural power. Never confirmed to the most slightest degree. I believe our female guest is myth personified. We need to find this mysterious order, and perhaps ally ourselves with them. I'm somewhat surprised that nobody's come looking for her."
Jack went on to tell Alan of his research, but Alan didn't follow much of it. After a while Harriet came in and asked if they wanted to order lunch up, and they did, Jack ordering for himself and a separate meal for the prisoner.
Wilkins came in after lunch and the rest of the afternoon was spent at business. Jack had sheltered some of his investments and business concerns from his estate, and Wilkins had spent much of the summer reorganizing them under the Cyaxares umbrella. The lobbyist in Washington was making progress with the Iraqi contracts, but the three of them agreed that Jack's presence in D.C. would be required to close the deals. He and Anne-Marie would be leaving Monday, and spending the whole week away, and Alan agreed to stop by the offices each day to feed and tend to the prisoner.
Still, Alan was uncomfortable as to the manner in which the corporation was now structured, specifically that he was President and CEO, and he made his worries known.
By the time they adjourned Jack was President and CEO, and Stan and Alan were board members. Karick and Neil were also added to the board, and Anne-Marie was confirmed as corporate secretary, a non-voting member.
* * *
A few weeks later...
Kate sat with her friends at a table in McIntosh picking at her food. Alan was late, something very out of character for him. She was following the conversation, but not really participating, and with a shock she realized that Scarlet was leaving, along with almost all of her companions.
"Hate to dine and dash, dear," the redhead said as an apology as she bussed her stuff of the tabletop, "but I have about two hundred pages of sociology to read by tomorrow."
The only one left at the table beside Kate was a fellow sophomore, a pretty blonde named Jenna, who Kate had noticed being increasingly catty towards Scarlet over the past week.
"I know you were roommates and all," Jenna sneered, "But I can't for the life of me understand why you're still friends with her."
"Who?" Kate asked, "Scarlet? Scarlet's great. What the beef between the two of you? I thought you liked her."
"Really?" Jenna sniffed. "How much do you really know about her?"
Kate turned away for a second, troubled by what Jenna was insinuating, and she saw Alan enter just as Scarlet was exiting. They met near the door and exchanged pleasantries. Kate stood and waved so Alan would see where she was sitting.
"That your boyfriend?" Jenna asked, watching Alan and Scarlet chat.
"Yeah, that's Alan."
Kate had only begun hanging out with Jenna since the start of this term. They sort of knew each other freshman year, but they had lived in different dorms, and hadn't shared any classes. This year they were in two classes together, and lived only a few doors down from each other.
"Well, from what I've seen, Kate," she said acidly and starting in again, "You wont have to worry about Scarlet stealing him," she said, smugness clear in her tone, "I know for a fact she's a dyke. You know, a--"
"Excuse me?" Kate said with indignation dripping from her voice, now that Jenna was laying her cards on the table.
"You know, a lez, a carpet muncher, a--"
"I know what you meant," Kate huffed, "And you shouldn't spread rumors."
"It's not a rumor. I saw her kissing Jess Starmer. Her door faces mine, and last Sunday night Jess went in there and didn't come out until morning. And when she left I saw them swapping spit, and--"
"Just can it, Jenna! Scarlet's like my best friend, and you shouldn't be a gossip. Hi Alan." He had just arrived with a sandwich in hand from the Montague's Deli counter.
"Are you two ladies gossiping? Anything good?"
"No, nothing really," Kate said quickly, her eyes shooting daggers at Jenna. The other girl took the hint.
"Nice to meet you Alan. Gotta run, I've got Latin American Literature in Translation in five. See ya 'round."
"She seems nice," Alan said, putting his tray down next to Kate's.
"I thought so until just now," Kate answered.
"She called Scarlet a dyke. Scarlet is very private about her sexuality, you know, and by this time next week everybody's going to know she does it with girls. You and I plus a few more people know, but her boyfriend back in Ohio doesn't, her family has no idea. It could get back to them," Kate sighed.
"Maybe we can figure out a way to have Jenna not tell."
Kate snorted, "Fat chance of that."
"Don't be so sure," her boyfriend replied, a wry smile plastered across his face. He changed the subject. "I'll come by tonight, we'll get some dinner, and I'll study in your room."
"Sleepover?" she asked expectantly. He nodded.
* * *
Jenna Roush stepped off the elevator; it was near ten o'clock, and she was satisfied that she was prepared for her next day's classes, having cloistered herself all afternoon in a library carrel. As she made her way down the hall greeting friends she could see the dyke's door was closed. The idea of having a lesbian right across the hall disgusted her. What was worse was that she had actually witnessed it. She had heard a quiet rumor that Scarlet was gay, and so she had mostly tried to avoid being near her when she could avoid it, and she made it her business never to be alone with the damned dyke. She liked Kate, admired her really. Kate was rich, exceptionally smart, pretty, and had a cute (but not movie-star handsome) boyfriend. All of her friends who knew Alan thought he was great, but, in her mind, if Kate was friends with that fucking rug muncher, this Alan fellow could do better.
Kate's door was open as she passed, and to her surprise, the only occupant of the room was Alan, lying on her bed propped up with a big bunch of pillows, a book in one hand, a pencil in the other.
"Oh, hi. Jenna, right?"
"That's me," she giggled seductively. "Where's Kate?"
"Finished her coursework, so she went to UFM to get some sodas and snacks. Should be back soon. Are you looking for her?"
"What are you reading?" she asked, twirling a finger through her blonde locks.
"Huh? What's that?" she asked as she moved towards the bed.
"The Epic of Gilgamesh. I'm reading it for this great class I'm taking. Literature and Sources of the Ancient Near East."
She was standing right next to him, so close he could smell her perfume. "You can read that?" she asked.
"Sure. I'm still learning the cuneiform, but it's an interlinear translation and transliteration. See, each line of Akkadian text is followed by a phonetic rendering, and then a translation."
"Impressive." She sat down next to him, her boob pressing into his arm. "Is that what you want to study? Old stuff?"
He laughed, and she knew she was getting to him, her feminine charm doing its business. Guys were easy, calculus was hard.
"Yeah," he said, "I like this stuff." He made a last note in the margin and closed the book. "How was your class? Latin American Lit?"
"Great. It's a great class." She leaned against him with more of her body. He didn't object.
"Hmmm, maybe I'll take it next year."
"I," she started, leaning in to him, her face approaching his, Alan not objecting, "Highly," she continued, her lips almost brushing against his, "Recommend it," she concluded, pressing her mouth to his.
"Stop," Alan commanded, holding her by her shoulders, pushing her away and holding her at arms length. "What the fuck do you think you're doing?" he demanded.
"She's not good enough for you. Her best friend's a lez. Hell, they probably were licking each other out all last year, when they were roommates."
"What's going on in here?" Kate asked, setting the shopping bag down.
"Kate," Jenna gasped, "I can explain."
Kate shut the door and turned the desk chair to face the bed and sat. "This I've got to hear. OK, Jenna, shoot."
"I'm sorry Kate, I really am. He started coming on to me, and I should have tried harder to get away, but he grabbed me, hell, he's still grabbing me!"
"Oh? And what, pray tell, were you doing in my room, with my boyfriend. I know you tried to steal Carole Foster's guy last semester. Keep this up and you'll get a rep."
"You don't believe me!" she gasped in false indignation. "Your animal of a boyfriend tries to feel me up, and you don't believe me?"
"Alan?" Kate asked, looking right in his eyes. Verbalizing the question was unnecessary. He shook his head, grinning, winking at her.
"You bitch!" Kate yelled, though not loud enough for her voice to carry.
"You're the bitch!" Jenna shot back. "Just you wait. The minute I leave this room I'm going to tell everybody on the hall that your boyfriend is a filthy rapist who tried to get over on me because you and your bitch friend Scar-lez go down on each other every other night!"
Kate shot out of the chair, moving faster than Alan had ever seen her reach and slapped the blonde girl on her cheek, hard.
Jenna was stunned, and decided to flee before things got out of hand. She shoved Alan off of her and sprang off the bed, heading for the door. "Fuck, I'll tell everybody that you and Scarlet started hitting on me, and it was a close escape just to get out with my panties intact."
"Stop," he said again. His voice was calm and measured, and for some reason she couldn't fathom she obeyed, her hand inches from the door knob. "Turn around," he commanded so quietly she had to strain to hear him, but she acquiesced nonetheless. He was looking right at her, and for the life of her she couldn't tear her eyes from his.
"You owe us an apology. Scarlet, too, but that will come later."
She tried to speak, but couldn't find her voice. She was outraged, and as her lips flapped soundlessly as bile built up within her. She tried to scream, to berate the pair of them, but nothing came out. As her hate built within her she became more and more frustrated, her horror boiling over as she realized she was unable to move or speak. She passed out, her back sliding down the door until she was sitting, her head lolling forward.
Alan took two steps to the door and grabbed her under her arms, lifting her up, turning, and the dropping her flat on her back on Kate's mattress.