Chapter 16: Playtime
The elevator takes us up to the first floor of the Black Lair Clubhouse and then we have to transition to the separate elevator in the back of the club to go down into the secret and deep, Earth penetrating bunker. All the while I have to cope with Dale and Serge murmuring to each other and mostly ignoring my presence behind my shoulders while I face the lift doors, patiently waiting for them to open.
I was far too aware that Dale and Serge were making me nervous on purpose by trying to exclude me from their quiet talk. I find myself tapping my finger nails against my palms in reassurance. After all, one poke, one slice and I could have any of them bleeding. Well, except –
The lift comes to a quick halt and my thoughts cease to ponder.
The floor light is lit up on (L) which meant this level was a lounge. Fantastic… I guess?
There is renewed silence behind me as the doors slide open, more smoothly on this particular elevator.
What opens up before me is a classy, rich, spicy and polished-wood scented man’s cave. What else could it be? With high ceilings, red plush carpet, huge floor to ceiling length high definition digital screens and fat black leather couches opposite. There was also a self-serving bar, a pool table and coffee tables made from the finest wood. On the walls were paintings of beautiful Old World sculptures of naked men and women. There was also a bookcase full of what looked like Old World books due to the weirdly thick shape of size.
Books nowadays were usually stored on devices or as hardcopies on digital sheets that contained the whole novel, only sometimes on paper. Having a small compact book with hundreds of pages of paper seemed cumbersome, the most pages I’d seen in a paper book were about ten or so. But none the less, the shelf intrigued me as my eyes trail over it to find the two remaining gang leaders nearby.
Jose is hunched over a laptop, sipping wine while Ace is… oh… hot damn.
I almost pause on my feigned confident walk into the lounge as my eyes dart over his exposed, glistening, sweaty torso. Clearly, he had just been working out. A military tattoo of crossed snipers lie over his heart as he stands under an Old World ceiling fan to dry off. He leans one arm on the back of the couch, looking over Jose’s shoulder.
“I don’t like the sound of Triple-Force SDV jabs,” Ace mentions, just before his eyes flick up to acknowledge the three of us approaching, “Ladies,” he welcomes with a grin.
I stand to the side awkwardly by a separate reading couch as Dale and Serge pass by confidently to get directly opposite Jose and Ace.
“You’ll like this,” Jose looks up at Dale, whom nods towards the black couches opposite the big flat wall sized wide screens.
“Put it up for us all to see clearly,” Dale orders easily, heading over towards the larger couches instead.
Automatically the others follow with a hurried skip in their step.
I take the moment’s distraction by the gang to linger by the old books, reaching out a hand, I was tempted to run my fingers over the leather–
“Kitten,” Dale calls out and I quickly spin, abruptly, to face him and the others. Three besides Ace are all reclining on the black couches and now all their gazes are focused upon me, “Did I say you could stay over there, Alyssa? Distance won’t equate to safety around us, sweet thing,” Dale warns slowly, with amusement.
I can’t help but defend myself.
“But the books, they’re so cool!”
“They won’t be so well preserved if I let your claws over them, now get over here,” Dale curls a finger and I automatically pout in disappointment but give in regardless.
As I walk closer, I slow my approach, my nervous eyes now quickly scanning over the gang.
Dale is reclining, relaxed, an ankle over an opposite knee while simply enjoying my evident inner struggle as I come closer.
Serge was leaning forward, hands clasped, his eyes half closed in a constant glare as he impatiently awaited my arrival.
Jose gives me a look of distrust as he sets up the big screen, while Ace, still half naked but now dry of his sweat, continues to stand.
He is holding out a hand with a shot glass full of whiskey.
“For you, sweet thing,” Ace suggests, lightly, once I’m within reaching distance.
“No, thank you,” I put up a hand to refuse as I finally reach the couches. I look around for an appropriate place to sit down my nervous, twitching ass.
Ace frowns in rejection.
“It’s rude to refuse such an offer, kitten,” Dale scolds, testing my response.
I consider defending my choice, but choose to surprise him instead.
“I don’t suppose one shot will do anything,” I growl, again giving in as I plop down on a different couch to Dale and Serge as I hold out my hand towards Ace. He leans over until I grasp the shot, “…thank you.”
“My pleasure, Alyssa,” Ace winks charmingly while Jose throws a spare remote at Ace’s butt very fast and very violently.
“Sit down,” Jose snarls, “You sly dog,” Ace grabs the remote off the ground and chucks it back at Jose as he slides down next to me in the seat, reclining all the way until his feet are up near my legs.
“Sly? Never,” Ace shrugs.
“You know what girls he gets, don’t you?” Jose asks me, raising an eyebrow, “The ugly ones.”
The sarcasm is strong but none the less it causes Ace to raise a curious brow.
“Jose’s just jealous because he always gets my leftovers,” Ace chuckles and I shuffle along the couch, careful not to sink my nails into the leather as I do so. I needed some space from the easy going, sometimes funny but ultimately belittlingly men around me.
It was a bad habit of theirs, I was starting to get too use to it.
“Girls for breakfast, lunch and dinner for you lot, huh?” I ask, placidly enough, but with a hint of attitude. Luckily for me they all go quiet, intrigued by what I have to say and what I’d dare say next, “You all know how to talk about a female with great respect and it’s endearing. Really. But for all your nonsense and crap you talk about my gender; if you try to serve me over for ‘leftovers’, or even talk about me as ‘leftovers’, I’ll have your blood running into a wine glass as a refreshment to go with me,” I warn all of them, raising my finger nails I inspect their length to remind them of my forever ready weapons, “In other words, I don’t appreciate the way you talk about the females you fuck.”
“And now, ladies and gentlemen, the whining officially begins,” Serge growls, but with a hint of amusement at my obviously correctly guessed assumption.
“I won’t mind a bit of fight, little spy,” Jose grins from his place on the opposite couch, “I doubt you’d be hard to subdue.”
“Do you want to test that?” I challenge Jose, my eyes blazing.
“Don’t be offended, sweetest thing of ours…” Ace drawls, slowly sitting up to reach out a hand and lightly grasp my chin for a moment so I turn to face him “…we’re only teasin’ to rile you up, don’t fall for it,” I meet his innocent but cheeky gaze… mostly cheeky.
I pull away from his touch before my hair accidentally flops forward and slices his skin.
“I’m on edge, okay? As I should be in my predicament,” I explain, my exasperation coming through loud and clear. I then look towards Dale, who hasn’t yet spoken. He is simply assessing my reactions and words and is interested in how the others react around and towards me. So I ask, “If I may question…why are you so smug, boss?”
Dale smirks, knowing I’m intimidated by his stare.
“Here you are, kitten, in our lair, willingly on my terms,” Dale reminds me, “It’s cute, that you think the spoken word of our deal is forgotten. You know the bargain and we will not forget. But remember you are more than welcome here, Alyssa. Loyalty is our key to success and breaking that bond is the key to your grave. It’s not that hard to remember, doll.”
I close my eyes to try and find my patience in response to his easy arrogance.
However, hunger and exhaustion were starting to settle in.
I was bad company when I was this tired and overwhelmed at the same time.
I can’t find my zen.
“Comprendo, okay?” I snap rudely as my eyes flick open and I even click my fingers to make my point clearer, impatient. It is at this moment I see a warning spark in Dale’s eye. Damn it! I quickly try to explain myself, “I hear you, Dale. I get it. Death threats are your thing. But I want to help this group do whatever it is you do. I want to be a part of the team… not on the side. You agreed to let me join so I want to contribute in as many ways as I can. Misfits don’t have enough support and you lot help create a sense of belonging for the outcasts. I’m in for that. More than willing and –”
“Blah… blah… blah…” Serge interrupts and answers for me and I see him shoot a shot of alcohol with his lightening before he downs it and taps it back down onto the coffee table before meeting my gaze, “… you done talking, doll? Cause if you want to help, all you have to do is shut up and listen.”
He points to the digital screen and I turn to see what Jose has just brought up; an image of a needle and a milky liquid.
It was the perfect time for a distraction before I kept saying the wrong things with the wrong attitude.
I had to remember who saved me today.
“Triple-Force SDV jabs, new in on the market,” Jose explains, “The makeup is re-enforced with backups. 1 shot of the regular DNA reductant, half shot anti-affect, 1 shot DNA reductant enforced with new gene coding and a half shot of heroine.”
“Entry point to FC?” Dale asks, without hesitation.
“Quarter Gate Factory Line, it’s been shipped in early this morning so it’s all there already in storage,” Jose brings up pictures of an old warehouse.
“We’re going to steal a box and burn the rest,” Dale gets a shot of whiskey from Serge and murmurs agreement from Ace and Jose, “Well, I lied, ladies,” he downs the alcohol before plopping it on the table and smirking slyly at his men.
“Boss?” Jose asks, curious by Dale’s sly look as we are all waiting for an explanation.
“You’ll all be going,” Dale nods at them, “Serge, Jose, Ace, get ready and head out. Right now, the sun is setting, it’s a good time to hit.”
“But –” I begin to talk but abruptly stop when Dale raises one simple finger and locks eyes with me.
“Not us, kitten,” he answers, gently, almost.
It was far more condescending than gentle, if I had to be honest.
I watch as the others stand and band together before heading towards the exit without questioning Dale. Their quick departure is making me nervous.
“Not us?” I repeat his words, finally focusing my eyes back on Dale.
I notice a distinct difference as Serge, Jose and Ace enter into the lift from this floor; they seem so… human… as they chat and bond.
Locking eyes with Dale now… he was something else.
Above the rest.
It was the only way I could describe my epiphany about him.
He had something; that they didn’t. That no one else I had ever encountered, had ever had.
Dale hasn’t answered my question either; perhaps he thought it was a stupid question. I look at my fumbling hands, my nails digging into my skin but not penetrating. I may not have diamond tough skin but my genes made my makeup immune to my nails.
I had to look back up eventually.
I raise my eyes to his again.
“Just you and me, boss?” I ask, the lift doors clicking shut and lifting away the rest of the gang.
Dale leans forward and blinks slowly, a dark, ignited look in his eye.
I don’t expect him to ask what he does so soon.
“Get up, kitten,” he commands but also advices me with his eyes not to defy him, “Now.”
“Why, what do you want me to do?” I blurt out, quickly, my cheeks blushing and my palms getting even more sweaty. When I hesitate and his eyes darken further – his patience is near breaking point – so I quickly dart to my feet.
I cross my arms over my chest while my feet shuffle through the soft carpet, nervously, making sure I face him.
“What?” I ask, again, timidly this time, wishing he’d just tell me exactly what he was planning.
He pauses, to take this moment in.
It was just him, and me, for the second time today.
“Now, kitten of mine,” he drawls, not breaking eye contact with me as he sits up a bit and one of his hands straightens one cuff of his suit, the other hand then follows suit to do the same to the other cuff.
With two tugs, he is now comfortable and the next word flows out of his mouth like he simple can’t wait to see my reaction.