Just Enough Power - 16

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The room came back as it always did, feet first. Lonnigan had been through the recalibration procedure often enough to wear thick socks before coming down to the tech lab. Still, her first sensation on regaining consciousness was prickly cold from the ankles down, like she'd been wading barefoot through deep snow. There was a moment of disorientation, then the rest of her senses and memories snapped into place. Her brows came together in an involuntary scowl. Almost as quickly, she forced her expression into as smooth a mask as she could manage.

On either side of the table, the straps hung loosely. The marks on her arms were redder and more chafed than previously; she must have been thrashing around quite a bit. The knowledge added to her anger, but she did nothing to let it show. While she waited for the last traces of dizziness and nausea to pass, she rubbed her wrists and flexed her hands, balling them into fists and letting the fingers go limp.

Wig sat in his chair, book on the table beside him, his Glock in his lap. He looked as though he hadn't moved since she'd been put under an hour before. Lonnigan resisted the urge to feel gratitude towards him for his attentions; it was his job to stand watch over her while she was out. From the first time she'd had to come down here to Sung Bo Kim's domain to get her psi-suppressor collar serviced, Wig had been with her for it. Every two weeks, he'd brought her here, sat himself in that chair with a book or magazine and waited while the chains of her servitude were reforged.

"Lonnigan," he said, "you know how I can tell you're in a bad mood? Because you look so calm and serene. When you're in a good mood, you just look pissed. You ought to learn to do something about that." He holstered his weapon under his jacket and remained seated. By now, he knew better than to offer a hand to her. Unaided, she swung her legs down off the table and made to stand.

"Hold it," he said, "relax for a minute. This looked like a bad session for you. I'm guessing a couple of extra minutes would do you some good. Besides, you still need to tell me about the guy you had lunch with. We might as well have that conversation here as anywhere." So saying, he glanced over at Sung Bo Kim. Without giving any evidence of having heard or understood anything Wig had said, the technican nevertheless left the room, taking his assistant with him.

"Well? Let's have it, Lonnigan."

She reached up and rubbed the collar around her neck. As always right after a recalibration, it prickled, an unpleasant, electrical sensation that would fade in an hour or so. The band of nanomech circuitry was roughly an inch wide, carbon-black and smooth against her skin. The intensely dark color, characteristic of a lot of graphene/fullerene nanomech, absorbed light and disguised the mass of the thing, making it look as thin and light as satin. In fact, from a distance, it might have looked like nothing more than a tawdry fashion mistake were it not for the status indicator lights and the goddamned lumpy gelbattery pack at her throat. Lonnigan despised how it made her look like a fucking St. Bernard dog, complete with a cask of brandy slung around her neck. She'd asked to have it relocated to the back of her neck; if she had to have it on the collar, she'd said, at least let it be someplace where she could hide it with her hair.

No good. She'd been told that, firstly, the collar electrodes had to stay positioned over her spinal cord to do their job of suppressing her Talent. Secondly, the weight of the gelbattery pack pulling down in front kept the pressure off her windpipe. If it were in back, she'd have trouble breathing.The collar was designed that way, so that was how she had to wear it.

Bullshit. It was all bullshit, and she knew it. What was worse, she knew that Sung Bo Kim knew that she was onto the lies, but he didn't care. You wear it this way because this is how we want you to wear it. It made her want to kill somebody.

"Lonnigan? Who was he?"

She looked up at Wig, brought back to the present. She took a deep breath. "He was an agent for the Department of Justice. He wants me to be a double agent for him, threatened to lock me up or kill me if I didn't play along."

Wig stood up in a smooth motion, like a snake coiling up for a strike. Somehow, in the same motion, he'd drawn his Glock and had it half-up toward Lonnigan. "This is something you should have told us immediately."

"Yeah, well, he was an asshole, and I don't like being pushed around."

"What EXACTLY did he say, Lonnigan? Play along how? What does he want you to do?"

Over the last day and a half, shed given long hours of thought to how best to play this. "He wants to use me to get at Meng-Shiu Tong. He thinks I still work for him, that I'm a double agent here under the nose of Mr. Kim. The agent, Jones or whatever the fuck his name really is, he thinks he needs to strongarm me to get me to hand over Tong to him. He doesn't understand that I work for Mr. Kim now."

Wig's gun arm didn't relax in the slightest. The moment stretched on in silence.

"And who the fuck do you really work for, Lonnigan?"

She lifted her head, but didn't reply.

The Glock came up. Wig's thumb moved over a switch and a red laser dot sprang to life on her forehead.

"I said, who do you really work for?"

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  1. Goddammit! I kept pressing the next button and I didn't get any more chapters.

    Really pleased you're posting this series again, but I can't handle waiting for the next chapter.


  2. My initial response to the St Bernard line was to chuckle, then upon pondering the collar tech some more I realized I agreed with Lonnigan. Not only do they want to keep her on a short leash, but with a little aesthetic humiliation they constantly remind her just who's boss.

  3. Wig isn't nice at all. I had figured all wrong until the end there.

    Interesting serial. I write a serial too. I hope you check it out sometime.


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