Gavin frowned as the last of his surveillance windows blacked out on the screen of his laptop, and brought up the software settings to make sure, yet again, that nothing had changed.
No; everything was still set the way it had been before, the program had simply stopped receiving any signals from his bugs. Theoretically, the inhabitants of the Hyperion might have been bright enough to realize they were being observed-- a spell could have taken all the bugs there out at once, or even the demon they had on staff with the operatic voice. But all the other locations? One by one they'd all gone dark, from Lilah's apartment to Cordelia Chase's digs to the ruins of the Wolfram and Hart offices, and nothing he'd seen in the moments before the footage stopped offered even a hint at an explanation.
And that, he realized suddenly, was a rather worrisome explanation all its own. He opened up his email program, creating a new message with a flick of the keys, and began to type.
," he began. "I believe my position here may have been compromi
White light flared around him before he could finish detailing his suspicions, and his stomach sank straight to his scuffed, full-grain leather, captoed, Goodyear welted shoes.
"Gavin, Gavin," a little girl's voice addressed him, in amused, scolding tones. "I didn't want to believe Lilah when she told me; I didn't think you were that stupid. But I see it's true. You've been a very naughty boy."
Gavin glanced around automatically, taking in the vast room he'd appeared in. It looked like the inside of an enormous warehouse in which a home improvement store's entire inventory of white paint had exploded, forming a smooth coating over walls, support structures, light sources, and floor surface alike. He couldn't tell if it was concrete or tile, what type of lighting illuminated the space, or even how big the room was; the only breaks of color were himself and the young woman addressing him, wearing a velvety red, old-fashioned dress.
This was the White Room. He'd never been invited there when the Firm was intact, but he'd heard about it. And that meant... he was fucked, unless he came up with an adequate, believable explanation in a tearing hurry.
"M-Mesektet," he blurted, wincing as he betrayed his nervousness with an unaccustomed stutter. "I don't know what lies Lilah might have told you, but I assure you, I've had nothing but your best interests in mind with every move I've made. Lilah, on the other hand...."
"Bwah, bwah, bwah." The embodiment of darkness made mocking duckbill motions with her right hand, then smirked, as he found himself abruptly deprived of his voice. "I know all about the money, Gavin. Do you really
think I care about a little cash? A snap of my fingers, a little human sacrifice, and I can rebuild the entire offices without bothering to spend so much as one disk of copper-plated zinc. What I care about is that one of my so-called brothers has made inroads on my territory in my absence... and that one of my own
minions not only failed to help free me, he helped that waste of a lovely panther skin instead."
"If I'd had even the slightest
clue that you were alive... I thought, since you were gone, the Firm...." His throat closed up again, strangling off his justifications. He was
Surely Lilah hadn't fared any better, though. He'd watched her; Lilah hadn't helped Mesektet, either. Had she?
"You thought, hmm? And yet, Lilah's move is the one that ended up setting me free," Mesektet waved a finger in his face, torpedoing those thoughts. "It might not have been her intention... but since when do good intentions matter in this business?" She laughed then, a charming little girl's giggle undercut by the malevolent spark of brightness in her eyes.
"What matters," she continued, "is where those intentions take you. And I'm afraid your wasting of several of my key resources to such little effect has led you to... well, see above about the requirements for raising the offices again." She gave a chilling smirk. "Not quite as clever, perhaps, as the other side's solution to their
inconvenient opponents... who's going to be able to identify a bunch of long lived shrimp added to a universe filled with nothing but crustaceans?... but at least you'll be useful to me this way."
Gavin's hands shook, and he grasped desperately for anything that might save him. "But... are you sure you wouldn't rather...."
"Fun as it is to watch you squirm, I'm sure," Mesektet said, in chiding tones. "Really, Gavin. Be a man about it. You always wanted to be part of the foundation of the Firm; now you literally
will be. And maybe your next time around the wheel will be more successful, hmm?"
She approached, tugging him down by his tie to bestow a burning kiss on his brow...
...and with that gesture, the story Gavin Park had been a part of came at last to a close.Index