She could remember.

Even now, she was entirely aware, and she could still remember.

Remember everything. Her name...


Her occupation...


How she had come to be here...


Down in the blackness, blackness tinged with spinning swirls of purple.

That last, that was what she remembered most of all, the one thing that she kept coming back to again and again, pulled like a moth to a flame. She remembered walking up to a heavy steel door. The door sliding aside, leading her into a room... an office, that was as good a word as any, one silent foot carefully in front of the other on the tiled floor, her tinted eyes carefully harmless under her dyed-blonde hair. She remembered pulling the sleek gun from its well-crafted hiding place, pointing it with cool professionalism at the man behind the desk, pointing it at his heart...

She remembered this moment again and again and again.

She remembered looking directly into his eyes, the tall man seated in the even taller black chair behind the cold hard metal desk, in that moment before the trigger was to be pulled.

She remembered that she had looked into the eyes of men who were about to die, many times. Men that she had been sent to kill. She had looked and she had not flinched and she had pulled the trigger.

These eyes...

Black. Bottomless, sucking, pits of cold dead tar, spinning, black made up of every color of the rainbow vibrant and deeply intertwined and so very much alive...

There had been no surprise there. No surprise, no fear. Not even any anger. Not even amusement.

Nothing. Just rainbow blackness, icy and methodically, clicking and whirring. Promising... promising...

She had screamed in horror, her years of training and experience burned away in an instant and she had pulled the trigger, wildly, to shatter the blackness, blow it to pieces, escape...

She had tried to scream. She had tried to pull the trigger. Nothing had happened. The blackness had just pulled her deeper and deeper, pouring in her eyes, wrapping around her neck, sliding down her throat, strangling her, tangling around her limbs, locking her every muscle tightly in place.

Had there then been words, a voice, along with the blackness? That was practically the only thing she could not remember, no matter how hard she tried.

Yes, she decided. There had been words. A Voice had spoken Words.

In the end, however, there was nothing left. No light, no Voice, no sensations. Finally, after an eternity, the Voice again, loud and crystal-clear now, sharp edged in its emotionlessness, etching itself into her memory. A voice that rotated the blackness, whirled it around in a frenzy, deepened it tenthousandfold.

“Place her in storage.”

Other, lesser, voices murmured in reply. Movement. Change. Hands prying the gun from her still-curled fingers, undressing and redressing, carrying her rigid form like movers hauling a sofa, all careful but ultimately indifferent, no groping, no pawing. Then a new room, a final room, cool and narrow. buckles tightened, locks clicking into place.


Floating free in the forgotten Words, strapped tightly in place by the forgotten Words.

Leaning back, back, soft and comfortable, still rigid, arms and legs glued together, glued in place...

And then the purple had started to swirl in the darkness, and behind it, the new voices started to whisper, soft and sweet.

She listened to the voices, only to the voices, and she remembered.

She remembered, and she was aware. Horribly aware, even as the color continued to swirl.

But then after a another, even longer, eternity had passed (hours? days? eons?) the voices faded away, and there was a new sound. The cool slick sliding of metal against metal, a door opening somewhere, and behind that the wide metal desk, bare and polished and behind that the man and behind him...

The door opened and closed, and there were...


Yes. Boots, firm and steady.

And beyond the boots something else.

The whisper of silk against metal, so very faint. Aware.



“Are you prepared, my child?”

And suddenly, she was expecting this question, the voices, the new voices had taught her to expect it, trained her as to the answer...

“Fully prepared, my Lord.” Her mouth moved, forming the words.

“The Committee dispatched you here to kill me?”

“Yes, my Lord.” She had been sent to kill him. The pain, the horrific grinding pain...

“And of course, the Chairwoman issued the command to you... personally?”

“Yes, my Lord.”


In that room

with the silkpapered walls

and the trickling water

so cool and wet and endless

trickling over and over her brain

and those lights, those terrible wonderful lights high overhead

and the bit and the leather and the needles

She couldn’t remember the color of the Chairwoman’s eyes. That was the only thing she could not remember from that room. Everything else burned bright now in her memory, every gesture, every syllable.

They were the same color as her dress, her long silk dress...

Cold, but not dead...

Full of fire...

And her smile...

“As you have you recounted, the honorable Chairwoman’s technique is... overly baroque and dramatic.” Recounted? She realized for the first time, even after speaking, that her throat was bone dry. Had she been talking all this time? Had that been her voice behind the purple swirls? Just her voice? “But she has nevertheless shown on occasion the flash of unstructured brilliance. I find myself... anticipating... our eventual discussion of the matter. In person.”

She was actually able to move. Just enough to tremble for a moment. The owner of the Voice, her undisputed Lord and Master... and the Chairwoman with her colorless eyes... together... in the same room. Her brain couldn’t handle the concept, tried to explode, twisting tightly against itself.

“You will be returned.”

“I will be returned, my Lord.” Again, the words came without thought, without effort, mercifully sweeping away all of the impossible images.

“You will teach the Committee the error of its ways, the error you have already learned.”

“I will teach, my Lord.”

Her curled trigger finger clenched, again and again and again, and the ripples of joy spread out from it, spread through her entire body.

Twelve lessons to be taught, one smooth sharp bullet at a time.

Her mouth stretched itself into a smile, and her eyes weeped with joy.

“All but the Chairwoman. She will be dealt with in the proper time and place, by me alone.”

“By you alone, my Lord.”

She didn’t even try to think about it this time.


It was not just a command to her, but others in the room. He was gone. She crumpled with a tiny gasp of relief and despair, and someone caught her as the straps and clamps melted away from her legs. Every muscle was limp now, like a strand of spaghetti, and the catcher draped her over one broad shoulder and carried her easily away, his boots again loud and firm on the metal floor. Her head bobbed loosely against his back, and in the midst of her floating hair she stared at the sword that was strapped there.

She was taken away.

She was redressed and dispatched.

She remembered everything, and she smiled as she taught the lessons that she had been sent to teach, one smooth bullet at a time...

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