Sasha Meers was out of her office and stalking towards Human Resources with only one thing on her mind. This time, her Uncle would die.
There was little left of Human Resources, and even less of what had been the Head of Department. Three years previously someone had cleaned off the last of the brain splatter from the wall behind Samuel’s desk, and the bullet hole had been covered with a painting of the Scottish Highlands. Sasha rather liked the painting. It was cheery in comparison to the rest of Headquarters.
Her Uncle was not in Human Resources. Nathan Carraman was locked in a cell on the twenty-fourth level of Headquarters, just below the department of biological research and development, a floor that no one but Sasha was supposed to have clearance to. The entrance to the floor just so happened to be hidden in Human Resources. Tuck away behind a filing cabinet that no one had bothered to use in sixteen years since the runners had a nasty habit of being rather temperamental and sticking one minute, while whizzing out of the cabinet and slamming into a person’s chest the next.
‘What the hell is this?’ she demanded, slamming the scrap of yellowed paper against the glass wall of her Uncle’s cell. He blinked lazily, lifted his head from where it leant against the pillow and smiled at her.
‘My darling niece,’ he crooned. ‘What brings you down to this dank and dreary place?’
Level Sixteen was not dank. In fact it was very well lit, with soft grey paint on the walls and hardwood floor underfoot. Level Twenty-Four had been her Uncle’s private quarters once upon a time, and now it was his prison with only a single box room sitting at the centre of the apartment, with four solid glass walls that weren’t even glass but a high density material that Sasha had forgotten the name of. It might not have been as pleasant as it once was, but it was by no means dank. She glared at him through the clear material, watching as he drummed his fingers against the cracking leather on the arm of his seat.
‘Are you going to explain this to me or not?’ she asked, tapping against the back of the paper with the index finger of her free hand. ‘Do you have any idea what would happen if anyone topside got a hold of this?’
‘It would mean all-out war,’ said her Uncle. ‘Oh wait-’ he brought one hand to his mouth in mock gasp. ‘All-out war is already taking place!’
The muscles in Sasha’s jaw twitched as she forced herself to calm.
‘How?’ she hissed. ‘How did you manage to get this out?’
Her uncle shrugged and smiled again.
‘We have to keep some secrets to ourselves.’ he said. ‘Even if we are family.’
The message crumpled beneath Sasha’s fist.
‘I thought you wanted to protect me?’ she said. ‘That’s what you told mother wasn’t it. That I was the most important thing in the world to you. That you would do anything to keep me safe?’
The smile slipped from her Uncle’s face and the lines from nearly eight years in captivity began to show through more clearly. He’d put on weight and silver was starting to show both in his beard and hair.
‘You had me arrested. Alongside most of your father’s most trusted allies,’ he answered. ‘That sort of behaviour doesn’t help forge strong family ties.’
‘You betrayed me first,’ Sasha reminded him. ‘I still have the scars to prove it.#’
Her Uncle shrugged.
‘I did tell them you would be more difficult than they first anticipated.’
Sasha allowed herself to grin.
‘They didn’t have chance to reassess their evaluations of me. It almost seems a shame that they left with such a low impression.’
‘You always exceeded expectations,’ agreed her Uncle.
‘I always exceeded yours,’ she said. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever reached any of the standards that mother set.’
‘I’d take that as an achievement,’ he told her. ‘If you were any more your mother’s daughter then Headquarters would have been decimated upon your father’s death.’
‘You think I would have allowed top-side to bury us?’ Sasha asked.
‘No,’ her uncle said. ‘You wouldn’t have left anything for them to bury.’ He leant forward and interlocked his fingers beneath his chin. ‘You would have burned this world to ashes.’