"You want to say that again?"
"I'm an empath," the blonde repeated.
"No, the other part. What's so special about me? And what's so special about you?"
Number 14 took a step closer to the redhead. "Well, it's complicated. A-and I can't really tell you, anyway."
"Right, do I need to start talking about failed experiments and blowing your cover, or are you going to start telling me what is happening?" The redhead gave the other woman a menacing glare.
The blonde relented. She said, "Fine, I'll tell you. All I know is that they n-need me to manipulate you. You already know I'm an empath, but their coven have determined that we are... connected. My ability to read p-people changes under certain circumstances, and I can use my power to influence them. We sedate you through your nightly cup of tea, and you're taken to my laboratory. I inject a drug into you, we are connected through your dreams, and we use those that are close to you to get what we want."
Number 6 assessed the other woman. "So you're supposed to manipulate me and get me to reveal the reason I resigned. Sounds neat. You must be getting a lot out of this?"
"Not for me. M-my mother. She's sick. Dying, actually. They have her in a hospital, and the only way I can get her cure is to cooperate."
"No offense, blondie, but how dumb are you? You think they'll just let you go? And even if you got me to tell why I left the Council, how can you know they'll cure your dear old Mum?"
Number 14 threw her sad eyes to the ground and answered, "Simple. They're not going to let me go."
The redhead had a slight feeling of sympathy for the woman before her. It still did not quite make sense, so she pressed deeper. "And your Mom? What's her insurance?"
"Me. They will retain my services in exchange for my cooperation with future prisoners. Any sign that my mother is harmed will mean the failure of many... important projects." The blonde curled a stray hair behind her ear and crossed her arms across her chest.
"Right, okay, so you're stuck between a rock and a hard place. This connection must be pretty strong," the redhead stated.
"Our auras are linked, our spirits are perfectly matched. Do you, I mean... don't you feel it?" The blonde looked at the other woman through anxious blue eyes.
The redhead tilted her head and appeared deep in thought. She could not deny that she somehow felt close to the other woman. Her mind connected the dots. "So, the other day, I recognized you not just because of the experiments?"
Number 14 shook her head. "No. For better or for worse, our souls were meant to find each other. Trouble is, they found the perfect way to trap both of us."
The redhead considered the new information. She suddenly realized, "Then you must know information about this place - how to get out, who runs the place, all that stuff-"
"I don't. I might know more than you, but I don't know how to get past their radar, escape the rovers-"
"Big white balloon things that swallow you up?"
The redhead nodded with understanding. She added, "They're deceptively scary."
"Part of their charm. As I was saying, I don't know how to escape, and I don't know the identity of Number 1 or any of the p-people that are really in charge. I only know why I am here and why you are here. They like to play their cards close to their chest," the blonde finished.
Number 6 concurred, "That they do. You seem like you're telling the truth. Thing is, why are you suddenly spilling the beans? Let me guess - that's part of your charm."
Number 14 spoke up, "N-no, I had no way to plan this, and they don't have this place bugged, that's why I come here. I didn't know you would ever confront m-me, as opposed to Number 2 or any of the other people they've got working on you. You can do whatever you want to me, they'd rather let me die than let you go."
'This doesn't add up. She's not so evil, and if she's telling the truth, we're both victims here... and there's something beautiful about her,' the redhead thought. She asked, "How do they know we won't work together to escape, and possibly cure your mother?"
"Well, that would require trust, something that is in short supply in a place like the Village. They make the citizens paranoid - rightly so. There are operatives throughout the Village, there's no way to know the true nature of any individual."
The redhead proposed, "That might be the problem with their plan. We are all individuals, true, but why couldn't you and I just... know that we can trust each other? I mean, you with the empathy goodness and me with the whole bag of chips on my shoulder, and our supposedly linked souls, and not to mention my technical and magical know-how... we'd make quite a team."
The blonde did not know how to react. It would be wonderful to escape with the redhead, but she couldn't leave without helping her mother. She said, "I can't leave while my mother is sick, you know that. I'm sorry."
The redhead was disappointed, but she dismissed her feelings and said, "Well, it's about time I take off and leave you to your... candles. You don't seem interested in helping me, and you clearly don't know much. Thanks for nothing." Number 6 began to walk out of the cave.
The blonde's placid face hid her wounded heart. She realized that she wanted Number 6 to understand her feelings. She surprised both of them when she said, "Wait. Don't go. There must be a way to figure this out."
Number 6 stopped in her tracks. She looked over her shoulder at the blonde and asked, "Do you have any useful suggestions, or is this going to waste more of my time?"
"Well, w-we can help each other. I might be able to gain access to information in the Village, and you might be able to help me get my mother's cure. Besides, I want you to get out as much as you do," Number 14 stated.
"I somehow doubt that. Anyway, I hate to break it to you, but I'm no miracle worker. Even at my best I couldn't control life and death."
The blonde looked her in the eye and said, "I think we both know that's not true."
Fear and apprehension flashed through Number 6's green eyes. She regained her focus and responded, "Or, in the world of the sane we could examine the possibility that it isn't the best plan. Hey... I'd like your mother to get well, but that could open some doors that should stay closed. I'm sorry."
"I can tell you want to trust me, or you wouldn't have mentioned cooperation in the first place. Do you have a better idea?"
The redhead considered the situation. She suggested, "You inject a watered-down dose, or something non-lethal, into my arm, and let me take care of the rest. We'll regroup here early tomorrow morning, and work out a way for you to get information and a way for me to help your mother." She paused, then stated, "You're right. I do want to trust you, and you seem to want to trust me. We could both get something out of this, and it would be nice to do more than want to trust you."
The blonde smiled and said, "Sounds good. It... all sounds good."
The pair of women parted ways. The redhead went to the gymnasium to work out. The blonde made her way to her laboratory to alter the syringe of the last dose. Both were afraid to hope that the other could be the path to freedom.
Number 2 sat in his round chair and drank a glass of Scotch. He picked up the white phone and pressed the button to speak, "Number 14, come to my chamber please." Five minutes later, the blonde walked through the doors and stood before him. She did her best to hide her anxiety as she asked, "Was there something you wanted, sir?"
"Yes, we need to discuss tonight's procedure. I think all of Number 6's references to "principle" may be an effort to conceal the possibility that she was going to sell out. I want to be more focused with tonight's subject, which means that I want to know more about the individual. We need to access their relationship and prevent mix-ups like the one that occurred last night. Who is the third subject?"
"There is no name or picture, sir. Just a written description and the disc for subject 'C.' I wish we had received more information, it would make me a lot more comfortable." She looked at the ground before she continued, "I don't know that the results will be to your satisfaction."
The man stood. "Perhaps you should have better faith in yourself, Number 14. We have many resources at our disposal, and I've no doubt that you will do your utmost to ensure the success of the project."
Number 14 tucked her hair behind her ear. "Of... of course, sir. I just, I don't know that subject 'C' will yield results with so little information. We will do our best, I just want you to be prepared for failure."
Number 2 looked at the large red phone and said, "Failure is not an option. We will meet back at the laboratory tonight and we will have answers, or you might find the price of your reward increase substantially."
Number 6 walked into her apartment after a quick dinner at the cafe. She thought back to that morning, and her rendezvous with Number 14. 'Even if I can't trust her, maybe I can use my feminine wiles, er - something, to get information,' she thought.
She saw the maid set a cup of tea on her bedside table. After remembering that the tea is supposed to knock her out, she quickly poured the liquid into the nearby flower vase. The redhead then staggered around her apartment and gave a convincing performance of a drugged person, if you asked her. She fell to the floor and waited for the men to take her to the laboratory.
About 20 minutes later, she was finally wheeled into the laboratory on a stretcher. She could hear Number 14 and a British man in the room. She snuck a glance at the new man. 'Oh good,' she thought, 'another Number 2. This will be more fun than I had anticipated.'
Number 14 held the syringe up to the light. She carefully injected the contents into the redhead, and was quite impressed that Number 6 did not even flinch when she pricked her arm with the needle. The blonde inserted the disc of the party.
The redhead returned to the party. The scene on the screen swayed from side to side, and Number 2 grabbed the blonde's arm. He demanded, "Why is the scene jumbled? Fix this! We must have success. Inject more of the drug."
Number 14 shook her head and reminded him, "I told you: three doses is the absolute limit. We must give this time to play out. Let's wait and see what happens."
A loud tango blared through the room. The redhead circulated among the guests. Recognizing a former nemesis she inquired, "Haven't they killed you yet? Oh, that was terribly rude. Be seeing you!"
She sauntered into the next room and found a group of people circled around something. They seemed captivated by something, or someone, that stood in the center. She glided over to catch a glimpse of the object of fascination and saw a woman posing nude.
The woman had long blond hair, deep blue eyes, and Greek letters painted on her back. Her classic stance seemed all the more graceful with her arms curled up over her head. She was beautiful, and the redhead could not help thinking she would be beautiful even if she was fully clothed and walking down the street.
Number 2 was exasperated, "What are you doing in her dream?! Where is subject 'C?'"
The blonde frowned. She replied, "She might recognize my aura, or she could have seen me around the Village. She's a very perceptive woman, this might be her subconscious manifestation of her observations. We must allow her dream to take its course."
The redhead turned away after one last appreciative glance, and she noticed that a mirror hung lopsided on the wall. After she straightened the mirror, she saw Giles' reflection. He inquired, "Are you enjoying the party?"
She smiled at her host and answered, "Very much, though it's not really my type of crowd. I prefer more intimate gatherings, don't you?"
"As a rule, but there's nothing like a good cocktail party. Were you on your way somewhere?"
She reached into her pocket and pulled out a sealed envelope. "Going to turn in my resignation," she explained.
He nodded and asked, "Taking a sabbatical, or are you changing sides? I would hate to think you were selling out."
"Heh, gee... everyone's so interested in plain old me. Look," she grinned before looking at Giles with a stern glare, "I have my reasons, and they are MY REASONS. I am sure you, more than anyone, can certainly understand the dangers of this game."
Giles smiled and offered, "Why don't I give you a ride? Or you can try your luck at roulette?"
The pair walked to the roulette table as a tall, middle-aged man with graying brown hair approached the redhead. He took a chip out of his pocket and handed it to her as he said, "Well, hey there young lady! Why don't you bet on number 6? Gosh, you know, I'm just sure it's your lucky number."
She accepted the chip and placed it on red 6 square. The croupier announced, "No more bets, please," and spun the wheel. The ball landed in the red 6 and the redhead collected her winnings. As she walked away with Giles, the strange man said, "Be seeing you!"
They walked down to the garage and hopped into Giles' red BMW convertible. As they sped up the winding roads of the mountain top, Giles asked, "So where am I taking you?"
"To the summit, to finish this. I will be glad when this is over," she said.
He asked, "Will it be alright if I return to the party? I must attend to my guests. Even I work for someone."
"Of course, I wouldn't want to take up your whole evening. Just drop me by the castle."
Giles brought the convertible to a stop in front of the iron gates. He asked, "Shall I pick you up later? I'd hate to think that it would take long to sell yourself out."
The redhead smirked and replied, "No, go on. I can take care of myself. And I still won't tell you why I am resigning."
She stepped out of the car and went through the gate. After she walked along the stone path and past the sculpture garden, she found her destination. The figure stood at the end of the garden and spun around to show a masked face and a flowing cape.
The figure said, "I've been expecting you."
"Yes, yes, yes! This is it! If we find out who she was selling out to, we might finally have a solid lead," Number 2 exclaimed.
Number 14 frowned and watched the screen with an intense gaze.
"I'm sure, it's not everyday that one ends their career." She pulled the envelope out of her pocket and handed it to the figure. She said, "I think you'll find everything in there."
The figure took the envelope as the redhead asked, "One more thing: I'd like to know who I'm selling out to. We mustn't disappoint them, the people who are watching." She flicked her wrist and chanted, "Reveal."
The black mask fell to reveal the tired face of Number 2. He gasped.
In the laboratory, Number 2 shouted, "No! At least open the envelope, you idiot! Open the envelope!"
The man grabbed the end of the envelope and tore it open. The contents fell to the ground, and he could not believe his eyes. Pamphlets for the Bahamas, Acapulco, and Brazil laid on the ground.
The redhead looked up and said, "Not the worst plan, but you forget I've got wonderful resolve. I wasn't selling out, in case you were wondering. Be seeing you."
Number 6 woke up on the stretcher. She removed the nodules, smiled, and walked out, leaving a stunned Number 14 in her wake. The blonde hid her satisfaction with the redhead's strength and intelligence.
Number 2 continued to stare at the screen as the large red phone started to ring.
The women left their apartments and walked to the cave the next morning. Both cast their eyes behind their shoulder to determine if they were being followed once they got past the last camera.
Number 6 arrived first. She lit a few candles and took in more of the detail of the blonde's small altar, and she could not deny that there was something compelling about her. 'Just remember, you can trust her without liking her. You've got to watch your back,' she reminded herself.
The sun shone through Number 14's blonde hair as she walked into the cave. She smiled to herself as she saw the redhead standing in front of her makeshift altar. She decided to alert the other woman to her presence, "Uh, good morning. I hope you slept well?"
The redhead turned around and replied, "Like a baby. Or, ya know, like a baby that pretends to pass out and have crazy technicolor dreams. How about you?"
"Not so well. I was worried about you, and more worried for myself, to be honest. You must think I'm incredibly weak."
"Not yet. I mean, you haven't done anything to make me think that. But, let's keep it that way. I am starting to trust you, after all - you could have put anything into me last night. So, are you willing to collaborate?"
Number 14 could not contain a smile. "Yes, as long as we both figure out a way to get what we need, it could be a mutually beneficial relationship. And - I realized that I might be able to find out more about Village security if I pretend to do "research" for one of my many projects."
Number 6 considered the options. She posed, "You'll have to tell me more about your mother if you want me to help her. If, ya know, you want me to fulfill my half of the deal. How can I help her?"
The blonde paused, then said, "You might want to learn all you can about cancer from the library. But - have you tried to cast since your arrival here at the Village?"
The redhead sighed. She knew she had not, but she was not about to state the reason. She figured she might as well answer, "No, not that I couldn't be a bad-ass wicca if I wanted."
"See, that's where you're wrong. The coven put a binding spell on you. Even if you wanted cast, you'd be stuck. I think you underestimate the steps they've taken to ensure your entrapment."
Number 6 blushed, "Right, well. It still doesn't mean that I'm helpless. I can take care of myself."
Number 14 smiled as she replied, "I noticed."
The redhead blushed. "Super... my loner street cred precedes me.
"You might be able to be a rebel with a cause. If you want to use magic to help me help my mother, we have to figure out a way to break the binding spell. That will be part of my research, but we will need more than that. You are going to have to handle Number 2's plans. They aren't going to give up, and I might not always be able to interfere on your behalf," the blonde said.
"Okay, so... you do your homework, and I'll do mine, and we'll, what - form some kind of bat signal? Or how about a cat signal? They're cuter. But I suppose that might be tough. Um, how about... we wear a white carnation in a lapel when we have new information or... what?" The redhead had stopped talking after the other woman started grinning wildly.
The blonde let out a quick laugh and joked, "I see you're into the classics. Will you suggest sitting in the cafe with a copy of Anna Karenina next?" She gained her composure and said, "How about we leave a lamp lit in the window of our apartments at curfew. Then, we'll know to meet here the next morning. Okay?"
Number 6 nodded. "I might have to redecorate, but it's not like I'm especially attached to my tastefully styled prison. Sounds like a solid plan. And, if that doesn't work, I am fully prepared to learn to use semaphore flags to get out of this place. I mean it. I'm that focused."
Number 14's blue eyes were filled with mirth, and then she remembered a detail of the redhead's dream. "One more question. My appearing in your dream in nothing but Greek letters, you know that I didn't add that?"
The redhead smirked and replied, "The mind can play tricks."