B2 — 5. Esther
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Helena paused, shifted to lean against the wall to not impede traffic. This will be quite troublesome.  Sevilla already seems to have a decent opinion of me which will pique her interest when she realizes I’m after something in her faction.  I need to know more about Rean to give an acceptable explanation and lay out the plan to Esther, then there’s the issue of why all the higher ranks above me allowed me to act in such a way; Esther will expect a strategy when I arrive to report.  Rean didn’t come off strong in the Black Box; she was a tool from the start.

She hummed, pursing her lips.  What reasons could I give for my sudden interest in her?  She didn’t seem particularly powerful … can I get to WITCH’s information on her?  She activated her HCID and manipulated the input to get to the desired information.  It seemed she was locked to the Purist Network, but it was simple to bypass the encryption with her administrator account and mask the information viewed by creating a dummy account to search, wiping the creation log data in the process.  Rean’s information popped up on display.

Helena read through it quickly; there wasn’t much.  The information is linked to Sevilla’s network, so she’ll have access to the same data … this is rather bleak.  The report on her capture is unimpressive; she was apprehended by a Turquoise recruiter with Zoopathy … he was controlling a Worg … she allowed the Worg to sneak up behind and sedate her … very unimpressive.  There’s no possible way I can give the excuse that she’s intelligent. From reports issued by her handler, it seems she follows the Deity Faith … even more of a failing. She wouldn’t have practiced with her abilities and would have been brainwashed into thinking she’s some abomination.  Could the Deities be real? Possible, but from what I understand, what they teach the commoners is far different than what’s examined in the Houses.

She closed her eyes, leaning her head back against the cool steel wall.  She’s mentally suppressed by her belief in the Deities; she can’t utilize her abilities well; she was easily subdued and used as a tool … is there anything good I can center on?  What could I possibly say that would give merit for wanting her inside the Purist Faction and in my own unit? I could use my own image in Sevilla’s eyes to dismiss my authority to gain access to recruit someone into my unit.  I’m sure Olivia will also give me appropriate resources to offer as a trade; Kara insinuated as much—that could also be a concern...

Shifting her weight, she pressed a hand against her forehead with a light groan.  Why would anyone want her?  Why does Kara want her in the first place?  I guess that’s the question. Peter gained some piece of information that makes Rean useful for some reason; it could be her identity, but from the reports, they’d identified her as a peasant.  Her father isn’t in the picture, for whatever reason, and her mother makes her living off fishing among other things. She’s just some random peasant … perhaps her father’s identity? How … well, Peter could have fished that out of her head.  It must have something to do with the girl’s identity; she did have witch characteristics, such as her brown hair. Witches and espers conflict though; they don’t inherit both magic and esp … at least, that’s what my education taught me. How much can I accept Drake’s explanation on that?  Well, he wasn’t lying, I could tell if he was … no, I can’t think that way. I don’t know Drake’s ability, he could have been fooling my reception.

She opened her eyes to glare at the ceiling.  What do I know?  Peter discovered something, Kara seems extremely interested in that, and now I’m being sent to make Kara’s demand come true.  What’s Peter’s gain in this? Peter is in a very volatile faction that looks down upon weakness; they seem to have a proclivity toward torture and deadening their member’s emotion.  He obviously doesn’t enjoy it, but stuck his neck out to give Kara some very valuable information. Kara was very interested in it, and Peter seemed to know she would be, and his request was for me to take in Rean.  If Rean is to be placed in my unit, then it means her safety would also be in my care … Peter wants Rean protected for some purpose, and Kara feels the same.

Her head lowered to passively follow personnel moving supplies or walking down the halls; she noticed she was drawing attention, but no one stopped to question her or start a conversation.  If I can’t give the Turquoise Faction a decent enough answer for my interest in the girl’s ability or intelligence, then it would imply she holds information or her identity runs deeper than they investigated.  It would also depend on where I start the bid; what I use as a starting point should be relative to a slave … she is basically a human stove from what I’ve read of her handler’s report.

Sevilla herself placed her in the kitchens; she might have been interested in Rean since we were in the same test.  Her response with Peter was evidence that she’d done a little more homework on me and connected the events; especially with her questions about the incident.  I might have even sparked her interest in Rean when I mentioned the Black Box to her. She must have been disappointed with what she found since Rean wasn’t added to the SOP roster, but given as a plaything to her kitchen staff.

I could run off the premise that I believe she has hidden potential from what I observed in the Black Box, but the incident was recorded; Sevilla or her members could access the footage.  If they did check it, they’d see that Rean was used, went hysterical, and was subdued by the twins. Of course, I could run with the mystery aspect of it; similar to my own mystification with Kara and Peter’s interest.  If I went that route, then they’d try to up-bid the offer until I started to cave, trying to determine how much of a price she was worth to me, which I have no clue, to begin with. It seems like my only viable option; she holds hidden ability potential that could benefit my unit.

Helena vision snapped to a boy in his mid-teens broke away from the flow of traffic as he nervously stepped up to her.  “Umm—Vix, I umm…” He shifted a little.

“Yes?”  Helena’s features pacified as she looked up at the boy.  What’s he want?  He’s nervous, not a sign of higher station.  I doubt it’s a message, people can just message me on my HCID … so, what does he want?

“I just—I—it’s an honor to meet you.  I was losing a bit of hope—I just, I haven’t been able to increase my ability for a while, but watching your fight … I just wanted to say thank you!”  He ran back off down the hall.  Well, okay then, I guess there are people that admire me.  I suppose that’s natural. Morale could be a tough thing to keep up in a system such as this.

She sighed before pushing off the wall.  This seems like the only strategy I have to work with.  There’s some mysterious aspect about her that will benefit me, I'll start like that and hope they’ll buy it.  I’ll have to come up with a stopping point, something I’m not willing to go beyond; that can be determined when I meet Olivia to see what I have to work with.

She made her way to the library.  Her trip was uneventful; there were a few people that glanced down at her, several nervous glances or hardened expressions, but for the most part, people kept to themselves.  The library automatic steel door opened when she neared, and she stepped through; the room she entered was massive with five stories. Stairs were leading up to each level with multiple exits; it was surprisingly empty with only a few people walking around, examining the spines of different volumes.  I didn’t expect a Totalitarian organization to have such a massive collection of books, but I suppose real destructive power is the key to their enslavement, not mental constraints.

She caught sight of Esther in an armchair, reading a small green covered book; she looked up with a slight smile.  “Helena,” placing a folded orange piece of paper in the corner of a page, she closed the book. “What does the Turquoise Faction want?  Anything we must speak in private about?” Helena walked up to her before nodding. Esther’s smile grew slightly. “Very well, let’s go to a meeting room.  I suspect you have means of canceling out electrical equipment. So, we can move down the hall to a sitting room.” A statement.  She knows I can interfere with electrical equipment.  Is that a part of my file? I’ll need to read it, possibly scrub some of the information.

Helena followed her down the hall; they passed several doors before Esther opened one to their right.  Going inside, she closed the door, pressing the lock function inside. The room was very similar to the space she’d talked to Peter in with the exception of the fire.  Sitting in an armchair, Esther motioned for her to sit across from her. Her voice was filled with curiosity. “So, what’s the scoop?”

Extending her electrostatic field, she disrupted the several bugs within the room.  “May I ask something first?”

Esther nodded, leaning back before folding her fingers, “Go ahead.”

“Why are there so many listening devices around the Purist base?  I’ve sensed them all over the place; there have been cameras and many other devices for gathering information.”

She shrugged.  “My guess is that they’re here from other factions; some must be from Sevilla, she did reconstruct the entire city several years ago, but I’m sure Kara has her own devices.  It’s wonderful having a Lieutenant that can create a safe space relatively anywhere; I’m sure there are some restrictions on range, but this seems acceptable since you didn’t voice your objections.”  She’s smart … she was able to determine a little bit about my ability from this scenario.  I suppose that is an important thing to determine if those under you could attack at any time; she’s understandably cautious.

“I appreciate you indulging my curiosity,” Helena better positioned herself before continuing.  “Has Kara contacted you?”

“No,” Esther frowned.  “So, Kara was brought into this request.  Most curious; the Lieutenant from the Turquoise Faction that has information to make Kara get involved while a Lieutenant under my command has the ability to contact her.  Kara pays very close attention to detail; so, there must be a reason she left the details up to you.” Yes, Kara does seem detail oriented, but this is a delicate conversation.  How will she take the information?

Helena was silent for a moment.  “Peter brought information to present to Kara; after analyzing his explanation, and the fact that he’d have to go through Olivia to reach me, I determined that it was worthy of granting his request.  It involved Rean, a Pyrokinetic that was present in my first test, inside the Black Box. I allowed him to send the information he requested to Kara, but before I could look at it, Kara zeroed it. His request was that we bring Rean, a cooking slave within the Turquoise Faction, over to our faction, and to bring her into my unit.”

Esther’s features darkened as she glared at the floor.  “I see. Kara accepted this then?” Meaning she has no choice but to accept.

She nodded.  “Kara sent me a message that the information sent to her was vitally important; she instructed me to keep this matter only between Olivia and you.  I am to go over to the Turquoise Faction and negotiate for her; Olivia will give me the appropriate means to set a price.”

Helena paused as Esther’s eyes narrowed, lifting to study her.  “Really, she,” her mouth shut, jaw shifting a little. “Do you know why she wants Rean on your unit?”

“My only guess would be Peter’s request.  Peter mentioned that he wanted Rean in my unit, which, to me, it sounds like he wants her protected.  When I received the message from Kara, I could speculate that Kara wants her trained with my other members.”

Esther bit on her lip for a moment before sucking on it; after a moment, she took a deep breath.  “What can you tell me about Rean?” Obviously, she’d want to know a little more about a recruit that just shifted factions, even if she was only in that faction for a few days.  She also is asking why Kara’s interested in her.

“Why Kara is interested; I have not been able to discern.  She did not tell me the reason. From the Black Box incident, she’s unimpressive; she was manipulated, she was helpless against a Worg during her capture, and completely oblivious to her surroundings.  She was brought up in the Deity Faith and believes in their teachings, which hampers her ability and reasoning. That also has me somewhat concerned about initiating a negotiation for her.”

“I can imagine why,” Esther muttered.  “She doesn’t appear intelligent, and because of her background, her ability suffers.  Why would we want her?”

“Yes, but Peter is a Telepath.”

Esther sighed with an understanding nod.  “I see … he must have identified something in her past that makes her important.”

“From the message sent by Kara, the information is time sensitive; however, she didn’t send me any requests to gain or send her any information … I’m only to add her to my unit.  So, I can only assume Rean is the target of the information. With what I have; the only possible route I can take with negotiating is the mystery. She has some form of hidden potential that I saw in her during the Black Box, and then I have to shoot blindly with the starting bid.  It will need to be compelling enough to warrant me personally showing interest, but not enough to draw an extreme amount of attention.”

“Yes, it does seem rather hard to identify a starting point and to sidestep their suspicions.  You’ll likely begin the deal with Boltis if she’s in the kitchens.”

Helena pressed her index fingers together, shifting them up and down.  “That is the name of her handler from what I’ve been able to research.”

“I figured as much,” Esther whispered, glaring at the wall.  “He’s a repugnant man that has quite the sadistic reputation.  He’ll likely not be willing to give her up easily, but he’s not SOP—hmm, actually, that might be a bit preferred.”

“Oh?  Do you have some information that might help me negotiate for her?”

“Possibly—hmm, if she’s in the kitchen … what are some of the details you’ve been able to identify?  If you knew about Boltis, within the amount of time it must have taken you to converse with Peter and walk to the library … you’ve been able to acquire some information through another means if you’ve already researched her.  Is that right?” She really is sharp.  I shouldn’t have let that slip; I was skirting how I obtained Rean’s background, but it seems she isn’t interested in how I got it, but she knows I had some means.

“It seems likely that she was brought into the Turquoise Faction after Sevilla took notice of me.  All the Primes seemed to take interest between me being a Noble and Kara's interest; it also appears that when I won the competition, they took even more notice.  Fatchna indicated that. Sevilla looked into the other espers I entered with and recruited Peter; he stated that I had a major role in that decision, which I might have from what I’ve gathered.  It seems Rean didn’t meet her expectations though; she personally appointed her to the kitchens.”

A smile curved Esther’s lips.  “So, the queen actually appointed Rean herself; this might be very interesting.  Sevilla’s personality—she’ll be quite curious about what you see in her and will question her decision.  She personally decided that Rean was nothing special; suddenly, the person that drew her attention to the girl shows up to snatch her away … she’ll be very interested in that.  Did she miss something … why would Vix want this useless and damned girl?”

Frowning, Helena’s vision narrowed.  “Why would Sevilla’s attention be a good thing?”

“You haven’t gained the experience of the Faction Primes yet,” Esther smiled darkly.  “If you point out something that she missed, then she’ll hand over Rean. Sevilla is quite peculiar.  She respects people that can match her; power or intellect, even instinct. Because of this, she makes a habit out of playing with Kara—it’s a game between a few of the Primes.  If you study their behavior, you can map a bit of it out. They each actually have a lot of respect for one another; well, certain Primes, new and old.” That is actually amazing insight, but I still can’t connect it with that being a desirable outcome.  I don’t know why Rean is important, but Peter found something she missed. The moment Kara received it, she acted without hesitation; most definitely Sevilla would be interested in it, but I can’t tell her something I don’t know.

“Fascinating,” Helena tilted her head.  “How can I use that though? I don’t know Rean’s importance.”

“The problem is Boltis,” Esther smirked mischievously.  “He would rather die than give up a toy he enjoys, and she’s fresh meat; however, if you already have Sevilla’s attention, then it’s going to send ripples through the faction.  Peter will likely mention something to his Captain as well—it would be good to know who that was.” Esther eyed her with a twinkle evident. She must have determined how I found out about Rean; it’s not a big leap from my ability, and I’m beginning to see the guile in her.  She’s a lot more intelligent than I would have guessed.

Accessing her HCID, she entered the Turquoise Faction’s network.  “His Captain’s name is Julias Hallmark; he’s a Pannokinetic … that’s an interesting ability.  To manipulate cloth or thread. It doesn’t say how far or adept he is at it, but if he’s a Captain, then it must be to a proficient degree.”  If it turned into a fight, I could burn all the thread, but that could burn me, and he could manipulate my own clothes.  I’d have to be very careful. How would that work with Focus? Does his Focus generate it out of nowhere? It could be a subpart of Biokinesis with organic material.  That would be an interesting one to study.

“Hmm,” Esther licked her lips.  “You’re quite the useful subordinate.  Yes, you are—Julias, huh.” She folded her right hand across her stomach while pressing the knuckle of her index finger against her nose.  “I don’t know much about him, but from what I have seen, he’s very cautious. If Peter does mention what you’re doing as you enter their base … I can see him making himself available when you arrive.  He’ll use that as an opportunity to reveal enough information to spike curiosity in his Captain and possibly even the feeds leading back to Sevilla.”

“What about the possibility of a trap?”  Helena sat back, crossing her legs the opposite way.  “I can’t see this being some elaborate ploy to get me inside their faction walls.  They’d have to fool Olivia and Kara, which I believe to be a very difficult task, but I can’t drop the possibility.”

Esther huffed.  “I think even Sevilla wouldn’t want that kind of attention.  You’re somewhat of a celebrity at the moment; that will die down, possibly—it depends on what else you accomplish.  This, for one, will paint you negatively in a lot of the faction’s eyes; however, Olivia and Kara know this but ordered it anyway.  That makes it of even more importance, and that will also spike Sevilla’s interest; she won’t be ignorant of how Booker’s betrayal hit the faction.

“No—the biggest trap would be bringing Rean into the faction to cause discord, but Kara doesn’t seem worried about that.  This must be quite important.” She chuckled. “And we both can’t figure it out; no, I highly doubt this is a trap—Cassandra’s spike against you that Kara interfered with … everyone can tell that you’ve gained her favor.  Sevilla isn’t on the best terms with Kara, but they aren’t enemies like her and Phantasm—I doubt even Sevilla would wish to be on that kind of relationship with Kara, and she showed her willingness to face someone as strong as Cassandra for you.  Plus, from everything I’ve heard, even Eizea has a high stake in you—you should be flattered, but I have a few theories myself about that. No … between Eizea and Kara; even Primes don’t want that kind of attention—well, Phantasm’s insane, and hides like a mole … can’t apply conventional logic to him.”

“Hmm—that’s well deduced,” Helena nodded.  “Thank you for sharing that; it does help my nerves a bit.  I don’t know a lot about WITCH customs or power plays yet. I’m thankful for your experience.”

“It’s not over yet,” Esther folded her fingers across her lap.  “I suspect that Peter will meet you as you enter. You’ll tell the guard about Rean with Olivia’s document of official representation.  They’ll direct you to the nearest Officer, Peter, which will then decide what to do about it; if Olivia’s seal is on it, they can’t ignore the request.  Since it’s just a slave, they’ll direct you to the handler over that area, Boltis—if it were an Officer request then it would be different, like with Peter’s roundabout method, having to go through higher channels.  Peter will report that to Julias since this is new territory for him, which will come to see what the hype is about—you’re famous after all.

“You show up at another faction’s base taking an interest in a slave, and just recently after being appointed as a Second Lieutenant being sent as an official representative of a First Ranked General … that’s not normal.  Bolis will have no choice but to meet with you, and you’ll state your desires. He’ll have to really consider your offer, at least on the surface, and if it’s of decent merit, then he’ll be in a pickle. Not long after, Julias will show up with Peter, perhaps even Sevilla will show up shortly after … it’s a possibility.  You just have to play the game, be mysterious and let them draw their own conclusions. You’re just there for a business transaction, you’ve gained the approval of your First Ranking General to accomplish this … there must be merit to Rean, somehow, and that, I believe, will be the thing that draws Sevilla out of her metal tower.”  Very well thought out.  There’s some room for error, but it seems the most likely scenario.

“Alright, that seems appropriate.  With Sevilla, I just have to hope that she’ll notice what Kara and Peter noticed, or that they’ll end up taking the deal because it seems worth a bit more than a portable stove that eats, gets tired, and requires supervision.  Now, all I need to do is get the document and resources to trade. Is there anything else you’d like to discuss?”

Esther pursed her lips.  “It will require tact on your part, but your Noble manners will see you through.  I’m not thrilled about this assignment, but it is what it is—Kara must have her reasons.  I am looking forward to how you perform though; quite the first assignment, but I’m expecting it to run like clockwork.”  She rose to her feet. “Don’t mess this up; it seems unknown, but high stakes are at play. I’ll expect a report when it’s done.”  With that, she walked out, thoughtful grin in place.


Update:

Alright, I'm going to be taking a break with The Helena Chronicles to focus more on A Tail's Misfortune and The Oscillation.  Three novels are turning out to be more work than I have time to dedicate.  I LOVE The Helena Chronicles, but it seems to be the least popular of my three girls T_T so, I'll put her in the stasis chamber for a later date.  I'll say that The Helena Chronicles has the most content out of any world I've developed; it really is massive.  However, I know ATM and TO are more popular at this time.

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