Princess of the Shadows ➺ [FC Series Bk.2]

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Chapter 7: Ultimate Reputation

She had what everyone else called; ultimate charisma. Basically, she was always in a place within the spotlight that made heads turn and ears open. It was a type of top notch and ultimate reputation. Everyone loved her and she knew all the right words to say.

I could see it all from my position above.

Jessica was my prime target and my focus for my next move.

After I came to terms with the fact that I was her opposite and that wasn’t going to change… I also decided to see the strengths in my weaknesses in order to use it for my own gain. Unlike my beasts, I never went through desensitisation and rigorous training to think only critically - I dealt with base emotions more so than them, emotions that I was proud of.

I preferred to have them; it’s what preserved my humanity. It’s what brought out other possibilities with my beasts. Emotion was therefore a weapon of mine, but today - my lack of influence was.

I had worked out my plan while I lay in bed last night, sleepless and restless with Dale’s cruel statements. I had gone back and forth, hating him for his words, acknowledging the harsh truth in them and then coming back to what I knew. Proving loyalty and power seemed to win faith at the end of the day.

That was something I had a bad history of - I often lost trust with others if I acted out of their interests, trusting my own feelings above all others. Unfortunately, it was in my genes to do so. There was a reason I trusted my own instincts more than most.

So, after considering all my options last night, I knew that Jessica was my immediate issue.

Hence, she was my target.

Which is why I drugged her tea this morning and I was just waiting for the slow acting effects to come into play.

“Isn’t this set up just fabulous?” Holt has pranced up the metal stair case after deciding to join me on a luxurious green fabric seat opposite the one I’m reclining on while gazing over the balcony to the cemented floor below.

“Mmmhmm,” I answer Holt dismissively as I watch the floor below with a tentative and patient gaze.

The basement of her Shadow Lair was impressive. This was where the ‘Gang of Shadows’ of Avalon came to congregate on a Saturday. The place was set up to cater for all rebelling citizens of Avalon. Along the open floor, while loyal and trusted attendees gathered, Jessica was busy welcoming the newest members.

They were all rich snobs, hoping to invest in other parts of Avalon besides the Avalon Government, which controlled 90% of the city.

Yep, Avalon’s rebellion was about money.

To me, it was laughable. The real issue was slavery - yet they didn’t discuss FC inhabitants regularly, if at all. It was one thing I found odd about Jessica, she tried to avoid the topic of mutants. Except, of course, for the fact she was dating one, unless Dale had hinted that he wasn’t a mutant at all.

Just a super soldier. Correction, just a super soldier pretending to be Jessica’s bitch until the right time to make his ultimate move.

I hated that I couldn’t just push my emotion aside when it came to her. If I was logical, I might just trust Dale to work it out, however, one whole year of mind numbing slavery by Reuben’s side had forced me to squash down many basic emotions, even hope - for too long.

I just wanted to belong again, to feel safe again… but most of all, I wanted to succeed.

Before I even knew I was an Ultimate, I had hoped for fame.

Now, I knew the place that inner strive really originated from.

I had genes programmed to be Ultimate; to be the best. I was smart enough to know that didn’t mean necessarily having to control others. It’s why STRIKE never bragged about their endeavours when back in FC. They gained loyalty through plain respect. I understood Dale’s mind on that level.

When you knew you were the best, people would see it regardless - so if you didn’t try to win respect, they would respect you regardless. You know you’ll make the best decisions so everyone sees it and then bam, suddenly you’re more powerful than most politicians... because you have real raw influence.

I was now acting upon that knowledge within me that I could succeed.

And I was making an important, decisive move.

One to simply remind my beasts that I was far more worthy than they gave me credit for.

“Are you okay, Alyssa?” Holt asks me, confused by my silence even with his presence, “You look a little flushed. If the guards that stay with you are intimidating you, let me know. You know it’s only temporary too. Once Jessica fully trusts you and after you co-operate with her… it’ll be like you’re a part of our family -“

“Why are you really here, Holt?” I cut the crap and lower my eye lids to gaze at the driver, who looks flustered that I’ve caught on so quickly that he was trying to butter me up before asking me something.

“I… I, um… I was curious about your interests,” Holt states.

“To what purpose and for what end?” I ask swiftly again as he skirts around the issue.

“Oh, uh,” Holt goes red in the face as I wait patiently for his news, “Jessica will be placing you in employment soon for her enterprise… you could be many things. What higher education did you achieve?”

“None, I just went to high school,” I answer, “And I don’t need a job.”

“You’ll need one to live here,” Holt answers emphatically, “Perhaps we can get you a job in the kitchens? We’re always low on cleaning staff, or perhaps you like administrative work?”

I am just about to blow his head off with his stupid suggestions, until I hear about this perky little last option, “...administrative,” If I could look at files with information, anyinformation - I could gain the upper hand.

“Oh, perfect,” Holt gives me two thumbs up, happy that I’ve chosen something.

“What do other women do here?” I ask, curiously.

“Engineering, structural architecture, defences, accounting,” Holt lists them off generally, “Many things.”

“So Jessica offered me cooking, cleaning or filing folders, did she?” I ask sweetly, but when Holt now realises Jessica did offer me the lowest of the low jobs, he blushes brighter.

“I’m sorry, Alyssa, we all have to start at the bottom, I think you -“ he’s interrupted once more, this time not by me.

“No! Look!” a kid cries out and my eyes dart down, to see Jessica slumped to the floor amidst a crowd.

I hadn’t seen my beasts today, besides Dale, who is standing with Jessica... or had been, until she collapsed. I watch with a smirk as Dale falls to his knees beside Jessica, checking her pulse and other vitals.

I cannot contain my joy.

Holt sees.

“Excuse me, Holt,” I jump to my feet, “I’m good with first aid.”

“O-oh, m-my,” Holt puts a hand to his chest, completely flustered at seeing Jessica slumped to the ground in what looks like a fainting spell.

I probably shouldn’t have exposed my smile to Holt - but I’d deal with him soon enough.

I had a plan for him as well - and my beasts weren’t going to like it.

However, I can’t get ahead of myself, that was step 2 - I had to focus on step 1.

I face my guards who stand off the cement wall, ready to escort me, “What are you both gawking about?” I ask them, “Let’s help your boss.”

They nod, following as I strive ahead. The moment I meet the metal stair case I can see Dale hauling Jessica into his arms while his gaze surpasses all the heads around him - and his predatory eyes lock onto my own.

By the fire in his tyrian purple irises, I know that he realises that this is my doing.

And he doesn’t look happy.

I hurry down to the last step, watching Dale stalk his way through the crowd - he is trying to leave before I can intercept him.

He ushers people aside, assuming that he has this situation under control and that Jessica will be okay, but I can not let him escape.

I push past people to quickly reach Dale, and as he enters the lift on the right side of the large cemented basement, I manage to stick my hand out and stop the doors from closing.

Because my guards are close behind me, Dale chooses not to react to my presence the way he would wish.

“I’m a doctor, I know how to handle this - she needs some rest,” Dale answers politely, while the guards gruffly reply in agreement, unwittingly falling for his superior gaze and firm tone.

“How funny, because I’m a doctor too,” I add, pretending to sound like I’m full of good intentions as I swing to my guards, biting my bottom lip, “Dale and I will keep Jessica safe - he can watch over me. Why don’t you take your lunch break? We won’t be far.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” the guard I threatened last night, speaks up, suspicious of my intentions.

“Jessica is my life,” Dale answers the guard, ignoring me completely “Her safety is of utmost importance to me, boys - and I know Alyssa from our past life in FC, she can help if she wishes. You have my word, Alyssa can be trusted,” oh, how I see the stony look in his eyes as Dale tries his best to call me trust worthy when he thought I was anything but.

“Sure thing,” the nicer guard nods and looks relieved to have some refreshments, while the other one gazes at me with worry. He eventually nods and gives in, so I hop into the lift and take my hand off the doors so they close.

I smile my brightest, until the lift doors click shut and I’m left alone in the small space with the prior Lord of the Underworld.

“Still a bitch, I see,” I speak lightly while smirking to myself, “What did she do, cut off your dick and balls?”

I wait for Dale to answer, but he looks unwilling to even acknowledge my existence.

Not for long though - he can’t help but lash out.

“You miss them?” Dale asks.

“I miss you,” I state, “But - I also miss Frankincense City. I’ll do what I have to, to help get us back to our city.”

“You’re not needed, kitten,” Dale smirks to himself as he says this - and as the lift finally hits the fourth level, I’m surprised to see the doors open into a whole apartment that takes up the entire level.

It’s Jessica’s home - and I see three beasts standing around a coffee machine on the counter, while they try to figure out how it works.

“Try a spark of intelligence,” Serge suggests, because clearly he knew how it worked and was entertained by Ace and Jose trying to work it out.

“I’ve never seen this design,” Jose murmurs.

“Give it to me,” Ace reaches in, and then he glances up to see Dale waltz in holding Jessica, with myself in tow.

I watch Ace and Jose stumble away from the coffee machine quickly, pretending they weren’t completely oblivious a second ago.

“It’s okay,” I hold up a hand, smiling warmly, “Just because you can’t make coffee doesn’t mean you’re stupid, you’re still just below average intelligence - you haven’t changed.”

"What coffee making are you speaking of, doll?” Ace asks me, narrowing his eyes.

“We were looking for the alcohol,” Jose adds, too casually, “...and then we were just inspecting the coffee machine.”

“Ahuh,” I answer, stopping by a mat as Dale slowly places Jessica down onto a long couch, “Why are you all in Jessica’s apartment?” I ask.

“Don’t answer her,” Dale speaks low as he checks on Jessica one last time before standing tall to watch his beasts keep their distance - while they stand together to face me, while coming to stand next to Dale.

“She dead?” Jose asks, sort of sounding hopeful while gazing down at Jess’s unconscious form.

“Drugged,” Dale murmurs, “By our jealous kitten. Fair move, doll, you thoroughly lived up to our expectations,” Dale answers neutrally while the beasts stand together, looking awkward out of their Black Lair bunker; now in some random home.

“Jealous? No,” I shake my head, “Envious? Yes. Slight difference. She has the power - but I’m taking it back.”

“I’m listening tentatively,” Dale answers, over the top joyfully as he backs off and sits down on the opposing couch to Jess while Serge joins him and Ace and Jose eye me off wearily from the couch arm rests.

“Did you really sell us out?” Jose asks, quietly.

“Think about it,” I whisper, “Dale is clearly correct. I was having a secret love affair with a ghost, whom convinced me to expose the locations of your bombs and Casey - an innocent child - to a corrupt government who threw me in Preventative Care last year in an attempt to control me. Yeah, clearly, I’m helping the enemy. Clearly, I’m also your enemy. I was designed to match you all, so, give me a break, I’m just being a cold heartless bitch because that’s my life purpose.”

“Sarcasm to that depth is new for you, doll,” Serge murmurs, “You offended that we logically assumed you sold us out?”

“Long story short, ladies,” I try not to sound condescending but it’s hard, “Hacksaw was in the bunker that night, he found his way in. He left visible scratches on the lift walls which you could assume were made from my hair... but the marks were too long, because they were made by his hair strands, not mine,” I watch all their reactions carefully as they listen to my honest words, “He wanted to lure me out, I found him, he gave me information I never expected to hear. I have the face of his former lover - he thinks we’re soul mates. I refused his advances after proclaiming my love for my beasts, all of you. Hacksaw is known for being insane - so he decided to change the world to change me. Ripping me metaphorically from your arms, into a world where perhaps I would only find solace in him. I haven’t had any contact from Hacksaw while in Avalon. He could be dead, or in hiding. But... he is dangerous and he is crazy and he thinks I’m going to fall in love with him again. I’ve thought about it, multiple times - that he must be waiting for me to seek him out.”

“So Hacksaw said you have the face of his former lover?” Serge asks.

“He never ages,” I answer, “I have the face of his former lover, yes.”

“Nice story, kitten,” Dale winks at me, “I almost believed you for a second.”

“All I need is a picture and when I find it - you’re going to kiss my ass, every morning, for the rest of your pathetic life, Dale,” I smile, “Deal?”

“Just because Jessica is my pet right now, doesn’t mean I won’t take the chance to fuck a strong reminder into you - you were made to be our whore, kitten. Therefore, you still will be, whether we love you, hate you or want to kill you. You’ve got a use, so you can stay,” Dale is quick with his words, trying hard not to be too kind.

“That reminds me. ‘Patience... whore’,” I bring up the note that was my saving grace, “Patience for what? I want answers.”

“So you drugged our saviour to question me, not her?” Dale asks, “Smart.”

“She restricts me from basic freedoms, so yeah,” I nod, “Whats the ‘merchandise’ you mentioned last night that Jessica is transporting to a safe location for you?”

“Why do you want to know?” Dale asks in a growl while scowling, “All you have to do... when the time is right... is suck our cocks. Keep us happy. Keep Serge happy - so he doesn’t start slaughtering for fun. Because when we get out of here - it’s either going to be really secretive and silent - or it’s going to be loud. Very loud. We’ll need a whore either way. What’s a war worth without a whore to fight for?”

“One day, I’m going to blow you away,” I purse my lips, “Literally, Dale - and I’ll watch your limbs regrow or snap back into place, whatever they do - and I’ll eat my popcorn, drink my whiskey and my coffee - while I ask my Brownie Squad to paint a picture of you in a bloody mess.”

“Banter, banter, yet no sex... why aren’t we all railing her right now?” Ace asks, putting up his hand to add his thoughtful oppinion.

“Because she’ll get fucked when she learns to crawl again,” Dale can’t help but smirk.

“You can cuddle me if you want,” Jose growls in, watching me with dark eyes, “I’ll hold you nice and tight, doll.”

“Did being Playboys confuse you?” I mock both Ace and Jose, “I don’t cuddle, I don’t get railed... I make love - to four horny beasts that I own. You just think I am yours - and I let you believe it.”

“Make me believe it,” Serge raise a cocky brow while reaching for his pants, “Come on, doll.”

“The plan,” I hold up my hand and Dale grabs Serge’s wrist, yanking his hand from his pants with an irritated glare, “I know what it is, I just want you to admit to me that you’re helping her steal your bombs back,” as I see Dale’s eyes flash with annoyance at my correct guess, I smile brighter, “Now - what purpose does Jessica want with them?”

Dale doesn’t speak - but Serge does.

“This isn’t a rebellion,” Serge speaks, low, “It’s a take over.”

“Of?” I ask, “A business? The Avalon family? The city?” I scoff on this last word.

“The world,” Dale answers for me, “The last three cities.”

“Jessica wants to rule?” I ask.

“Oh yeah, doll,” Dale winks at me now, “She’ll do a damn good job of it too.”

“Ha, ha,” I smile, “So funny.”

“This is where I don’t like the plan,” Serge adds in, scowling, “He’s serious, doll.”

I pause, waiting for the punchline.

“What?” I ask, raising a brow.

Ace and Jose shrug, both looking a little confused like Serge.

Only Dale looks confident.

“Jessica is going to rule the world, we’ll help make that happen,” Dale answers, slowly and seriously, “You happy about that, kitten?”

“Why? You want to return to your bunker and rule from the underworld again?” I ask, coming to the most logical solution.

“Jessica will be in a strong position - but I’ll make her lead, and I’ll know her every move before she makes it,” Dale explains.

“B-but, why don’t you rule?” I ask the obvious question because I am really hoping for a clear cut answer even if I don’t receive one.

“I’m a soldier, a master mind - a megalomaniac. Not a King. A gangster - who executes a plan, takes lives and fucks whores. And I’m damn happy doing all that from the shadows. Which you will be damn happy doing too, by my side,” Dale still sounds serious and I’m just... I don’t know what I am... I don’t know how to react.

“You’re... serious?” I ask, raising a brow, ”What happened to putting a bullet through her skull? Not that I’m into murder, just...”

“Cute,” Ace winks at me and I blush a bit.

“That’s plan B,” Serge scowls at Dale, “We could just do it the old fashioned way and assume we will succeed.”

“We should,” Dale shrugs.

“We should?” Jose asks, confused, “Boss, are you alright or did Jess suck the spirit out of your fucking soul? Where’s your drive?”

“I’m working on it,” Dale suddenly snarls, glaring at Jose and the rest of his team, “I’m working on it,” he repeats, more quietly.

“You need counselling for all the pussy whipping you’ve been through the last ten months, Dale?” I ask, ‘sympathetically’.

“Plan A is,” Dale snaps, instantly while trying to ignore me, “Free Casey. Acquire the merchandise. Transport it back to FC. Shoot little red’s brains out and continue on our merry way back to FC with our merchandise waiting for us in a safe location. The rest will follow, I will demand the return of the FC inhabitants - or I’ll blow them all to dust and we’ll have to start repopulating the earth with little baby super soldiers, who will rule like gods.”

Clearly the last part is a joke, but I am still confused about - “Okay... but why does plan B exist again?” I raise a brow.

“Mmm... yes... plan B. Make little red a real queen,” Ace answers, “She loves us - we love her - we dominate together. It’s a good back up plan if we decide not to kill her.”

“Does. Not. Compute,” I answer simply, “She. Human. Us. Ultimate. She. Stupid. Us. Better. You. Idiots.”

“With that tone I beg to differ, kitten,” Dale narrows his eyes at me.

“Let’s cut the crap, ladies,” I cut Dale off and he does not look impressed as I crack it. I need to stop thinking about them making her a queen, “What’s our next step? Because I’ll be helping. And it better involve reuniting my girls. I want them back under my wing. I’ll need your help to do it.”

“Your sweet Brownie Squad are on the list, don’t worry,” Serge answers, “But first - we free Casey from Lab Singular.”

“When?” I ask, “I’m coming.”

“Tonight, kitten,” Dale replies, before watching me smile and be content with those words, “Don’t get too complacent, kitten. The moment we find some privacy - you won’t be confused any longer.”

I pause at this.

Confused?

Hell yeah I was confused!

They’d say they’d kill her, not kill her, maybe kill her - maybe rule together, maybe not, maybe-

“The look on your face,” Dale whispers, slowly smiling as his beasts can’t hold it in, “When I said she’d be a queen.”

They all burst out laughing, deeply, so damn amused by my facial expressions.

I stand their, bamboozled.

“Um?” I murmur my confusion.

“Told you she’s a jealous whore,” Serge gives me a smirk while he chuckles as Ace and Jose high five one another. Ace then leans in to kiss Serge on the head - and I watch as Serge electrocutes his ass so he falls off the back of the couch. Dale pushes Jose away as Jose tries to put and arm around his boss’ shoulders, proud of Dale’s... their... prank.

This whole last min conversation was a farce.

“There’s no plan B,” I state.

“So cute,” Ace stands up from the back of the couch, his hair frazzled as he grins and puts a hand to his chest, “Boss, she’s so in love with us.”

“I thought that was sort of clear?” I ask, “Did you all think I really betrayed you?”

“Uncertain,” Dale answers, “But scaring you into thinking Serge and I distrusted you was worth your frustration... kitten...” Dale can’t contain his happy smirk.

None of my irritating beasts can hold back their shared smirks either.

“B-but... what was the purpose of doing all that?!” I ask, almost yelling at them, ”Lying to me for what end...?”

“Don’t worry, kitten,” Dale winks, “We’re just training you... if you think being lied to his painful... if you think I’m going to let your Ultimate mind go to waste, untrained, useless and naive, think again.”

“Clarify training to be an Ultimate? Because right now I assume that means ‘confuse the shit out of the kitten’” I smile, fake - because i am both embarrassed and frustrated.

Dale slowly blinks, he doesn’t answer me.

None of my beasts do.

But they all share knowing looks.

“One year, doll,” Serge pipes in, “...one year.”

It takes me a moment to realise what they’re all thinking about now.

And I shouldn’t have been so naive on this account, because I had experience.

Their cocks.

They were thinking about their cocks.

And my body.

And our bodies - mushing together to become one.

Romantic.

Yep - they were super soldier gangster beasts - but they were still, in some ways, simple minded males; thinking about one thing only.

I want to insult them but I can’t help but buy into it when I see the lust shared in all their gazes - and it makes me a little flustered.

“You’re not the only ones who waited,” I murmur... right before I see a spark of humour appear in their gazes next.

The mocking was about to begin.

I had to destroy their bubble of happiness.

“The look on her face, though,” Serge reminds them, his permanent scowl gone and back in a matter of seconds when I back towards the lift and say my departing words.

“Sorry, ladies, I’d love to stay, but I have to go do my part into our inevitable dominion of this Shadow Lair,” I smile and as I reach back without looking, I press the correct button for the lift, “I have a date with Holt - the driver. Hopefully he’s resilient in bed, because by the time I’m done with him... he better be awake enough to answer all my questions.”

My happy, smirking and amused beasts, all pause, taking in my last statements - but before they can process it, let alone speak, the lift doors start to close.

I wink at them first, seeing a hint of their own confusion - my pay back.

“Patience...” I murmur, “...beasts.”

The lift doors click shut and I feel a rush of power.

They thought they had won that round, but I destroyed them with a few simple words.

And let’s be honest here... if Dale had to use Jessica to gain his influence, I was going to gain mine through similar means... after all, he inspired me.

Let’s also let out the little fact I wasn’t going to do anything with Holt at all - I just made that bit up to piss them off.

A lie for a lie... and I still came out on top, at least this time.

Hereby, instilling my own form of Ultimate reputation.

Jessica’s was pronounced charisma.

Mine was underhanded - but useful when needed.

I was back - and they were all going to see a brand new side of me that they hadn’t seen before.

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