After the emotional high she had gotten from her Wednesday night internet stalking spree, Thursday moved at a crawl. Though she tried to get information on Keyes Island, it was classified to the point that she would be easier to retrieve the intel from work (rather then hack it from the unsecured hospital room)… which meant she would have to go back to work, which in turn meant she would have to make her appointment with Sinclair. Not that she had a choice on that one, she had done some spot research, at her current salary, it would take ten years to pay off her hospital bill. Sinclair owned her. Totally and absolutely. She didn’t like that. There had to be a loophole, she just needed to find it, use it and then go where ever it was that Yuki and Kitashi went. Until then she’d play along with Sinclair, she just had to keep in mind that like his callsign, he was a chimera… with three heads; lion, goat and a third that was both a tail and a slithering snake. She figured the goat head for the business side of things… normal stuff, running the Sinclair Building. The lion was the fighter, the public face of the Praetor, this was the side that she’d be fencing with. That left the tail… she was going to have to be very careful of the venomous snake that was his tail, the side that started Project Phoenix in the first place.

She was discharged from the hospital Friday morning, and it had been about time. Her eidetic memory made it pointless to study or read over things more then once, so after she drunk from the initial goblet of information, there were diminishing returns. She had grown restless and bored in the hospital room, even if it did have free pay-per view and a minibar. By the time the meeting rolled around, she was nervous even though being home and taking a shower and getting into some fresh clothes had helped her mood to a point. She, however, caught herself daydreaming about Yuki in the shower, and it did not seem to help her.

She arrived at the Sinclair Building early as usual, and couldn’t help but feel that she was about to step into the lair of a great monster as she rode up the elevator to Justin’s office. She looked at her hazy reflection in the mirror polished tiles and inhaled deeply. “It’s just a meeting, you’ve had them with him before.” She told herself. “Yeah, but that was before he put multimillion C-Bill implants in your head.”

Tami greeted Aglaya from her desk, giving the girl a broad grin. “Great to see you up and about Ms. Solomon.” Aglaya gave her a nod and a pert smile then sat down on the leather couch and pulled out her nPhone because it was all she could do to keep from fidgeting. A successful game of Spider Solitaire later and Tami cleared her voice and gave her a warm smile. “He’ll see you now Aglaya.”

Some how she got from the couch to the inside of Praetor Sinclair’s office. The Praetor smiled at her and greeted her like an old friend, though she detected a dagger in his smile. “Aglaya! I’m so glad you’re doing well… come, sit.. sit!”

She obeyed and sat primly in one of the wing backed chairs across from the Praetor where he sat in his desk.

“I trust your experience in the hospital was satisfactory?” Aglaya nodded and pursed her lips, keeping her gaze steady on Sinclair. “Good. I like taking care of my family.” Aglaya blinked. “Family, sir?”

“Indeed. Let me start at the beginning. I have done some thinking in the three weeks since you helped me clean up Project Phoenix, and in that time I have come to realize, that no matter how hard I tried to force Gorgon, Cockatrice, Basilisk or even Phoenix herself… we weren’t ever truly family in the way that mattered most… in the fact we were never completely united in one goal.  My goal.” He got up and walked to the window. “They all had attachments that allowed for them to become distracted. I see now that I let those fester until they rotted away the family into pieces until my treacherous siren of a daughter was able to call my sons to her side.” The Praetor stared out at the streets of Imperial City. “You though Aglaya, you have done everything I’ve ordered of you. You brought in the shattered remains of my family, even capturing that damned Siren for me and ignored her lies about me.   For the gift of that traitor that you gave me, I can never repay you enough…”  In the window, Aglaya saw Sinclair lick his lips as he hissed the last words, and suppressed a shiver.

He turned back to her and motioned for her to come to the window with him. “I confess, I looked at your file before, but the significance never truly dawned on me until now.”  He smiled like a serpent. “You and I are alike Aglaya. We have no attachments… and we avoid forming them. So then, in a sense we are already kin.” He extended a hand. “The truth is, I shall make Project Phoenix rise from its ashes, and it will start with you. You shall be my Unicorn, and I will train you and sharpen the skills you already have. Join me in my new family.”

A lump formed in her throat. It was about like she thought. He wanted her to be his new pet assassin. She forced a smile and nodded and took his hand for a split-second, leaving frost crystals on his insulated glove. “Da, Praetor Sinclair… I owe you my life. Of course I’ll help you with your dream. When do we start training?” It was a lie, but the truth would get her killed. Those attachments she had avoided? She wanted them very badly now, and she would have them. One way or another.

“Please Aglaya, you may call me Justin… and we shall start tonight. Tami will give you the address.  In the meantime, your new office will be ready on Monday, I am promoting you to head analyst.  Under the circumstances, I will also expedite a greater security clearance for you. Do enjoy the remainder of the day. I look forward to working with you.”

Aglaya almost swore she heard his coils rub together as she was dismissed. She had been wrong. She wasn’t going to be fencing with the lion’s head, she was going to be tangoing with the vicious viper itself, and she was in more danger then she had even begun to fathom that morning. There was some good news though. The promotion meant that she’d have the correct clearance to look into Keyes Island, and furthermore it would no longer look odd for her to request the files.  Now all she had to do was stomach training sessions with Sinclair and learn the rules to an evermore complicated game. No problem. She let out a breath and stepped out of the office. Tami handed her a card and she found herself sighing as the elevator door closed. It was going to be a long weekend, but at least on Monday she’d be able to start working towards her new goal.


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