Tangled Webs

Lofty Skies

Chapter Eight: He watches

The Poppy sat in her office, her fronds enmeshed in her computer's interface. The messages flooding in from her fellow Department Heads were encouraging - at long last, the tide of Afflicted seemed to be lessening. The Head of the DMS shook her blossom. It was hard to remember that each of the so-called Afflicted was an Agent or Flower of the PPC, driven utterly insane by the malevolent, mysterious somebody Anya had warned her about. If the attack was slowing, it could only mean he thought he was winning.

That isn't going to happen, she murmured, bringing up the interface with Medical. Dr. Fitzgerald had put together several lists - of Agents killed and injured, unconscious Agents who may or may not be Afflicted and Afflicted captured. The Poppy saved the last list to her working folder and began to trawl, searching for some clue to the somebody's identity.

She knew he had come in with Anya and her partners from a mission, but his file in Personnel had mysteriously vanished. She was searching now for a pattern in who he could drive insane. If she knew his method, she could find the counter-measure. Then she would have something solid to take to the SO.

A whisper of breath made her turn. To her mind's eye there was nothing there, but recent events had made her paranoid. She focussed her light-receptors and saw a dark shape - a black-cloaked figure. Even as she strained to resolve details, it moved.

"A pity," it said, its voice sounding dead and unreal, with no psychic echo. "I was going to make this quick."

The Flower stumbled backwards, maneuvering to put the desk more surely between them. Stay away! she cried.

The figure winced beneath its hood. "Do you realise how irritating that is?" it asked. "Having a voice inside your head that isn't yours?"

You should know all about that! the Poppy retorted. You're him, aren't you? Anya's mysterious somebody!

The hooded man smiled, his teeth glinting in the dim light. "The Mysterious Somebody. I like that. I think I'll use it. Not that this means I won't kill you," he added, "but I will remember you."

You can't kill me! the Poppy exclaimed. They'll know it was you! The cameras-

"Oh, yes, thank you for reminding me." The Mysterious Somebody waved a hand negligantly. "They've just had a minor malfunction," he informed the Poppy. "Funny, that."

I should kill you now, the Poppy snarled, and was surprised to find that she meant it. Her Assassins had always said she wasn't bloodthirsty enough for the DMS - perhaps she was finally proving them wrong.

"Maybe you should," the MS agreed. "It would save your life - and that's what's important, yes?"

No! the Flower snapped. The PPC is most important! You're one of the greatest threats we've ever faced, and you must be stopped!

"Ah, yes, the PPC's great threats," the Mysterious Somebody said. "Threats like defenseless girls, or a defenseless planet full of your relatives."

The Poppy flinched. It wasn't like that! she protested. The Cascade - what happened to Origin was an accident, a mistake!

"There's a ‘verse called Middle-earth," the man said, "you may have heard of it. They have such ‘mistakes' in their history - and they have a word for those who committed them. How does it feel to be a Kinslayer, Poppy?"

I didn't! the Poppy screamed. I just did what I was told! The Sunflower Official-

"Your radiant leader," the MS murmured. "The Flower who controls everything that happens in the PPC. Do you really think he doesn't know what I've done?"

Of course he doesn't! A Kinslayer would never-

"A Flower, you mean?"

No! Kinslayer! He killed them he killed them!

"The first Kinslayer in Middle-earth was killed by fire."

Fire! Burnburnburn! Killkillkill!

The Mysterious Somebody stepped to one side as the Poppy charged out of the door. Walking over to her console, he examined the screen for a moment before pressing a key and blanking it. "And that," he murmured to the empty office, "is how you bring a good girl down."

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