Trouble at the Palace

“What did she do now?” I wondered from my prison. What trouble was Tilly causing? And would she able to get out of it? She was out there all alone against all the palace guards. I had to get out of here! I had to help her!

But how? How could I get out? I tried the door again, but it was, of course, still locked. I tried to bash it down with my shoulder, but managed only to hurt myself. I tried to kick it open, but these shoes were not made for this. I stepped away. I was not going to break that door.

But I had to! I had to get out there! Tilly was out there! She was in trouble! I had nothing on me. I had brought nothing with me. I couldn’t risk getting caught with any of my inventions and break my cover. Besides, pretty much anything I would’ve needed, Tilly could have done with her bio-upgrades. Or so I figured. Fat lot of good it did me now.

It was ten minutes before the door opened and Hera stepped in. I thought briefly about jumping her, but her eyes made me think twice about it. The fire that burned behind her cold exterior made if clear she wasn’t here to chat. At least not in a friendly manner, that was. “Did you plan this?” the woman demanded. “Were you just a distraction? Is that what this was?”

“A distraction?” I asked. “Distraction for what?”

“Don’t play dumb with me, Fran,” Hera said. “I am an expert at getting the Truth.”

“I have no idea what’s going on Hera. Honestly.”

“So, I’m supposed to take it as just a coincidence that the American government decided to send a first-time diplomat to this party? You just happen to be here when we have an infiltrator deep in the palace for the first time in years? Right after you attack the General?”

“Attack the General?” I repeated. “More like he attacked me! I just tried to get him off of me!”

“I doubt the General would strike you.”

“He didn’t hit me! He kissed me!”

Hera eyed me up and down. She did not look impressed. “Like I’m supposed to believe that.”

“It’s true!” I told her.

She shrugged. “Then you should consider it an honor. He IS the leader of this wonderful country.”

“An honor?” I was appalled. “He forced himself on me!”

“So you say. What is more likely is that you tried to seduce him.”

“Seduce him? Why the hell would I do that?”

Hera snorted. “Because you are a spy, Miss Stone, if that is even your real name!”

“I don’t know what you think is going on here, but I really have no clue. Whatever that alarm is about, it has nothing to with me.”

For a second, Hera wavered and then her stern mistress attitude returned. “I don’t care. You’re coming with me.” She reached out and grabbed me. Hera pulled me out of the door.

“Where are we going?” I asked, pretending to struggle but not too much.

“You’ll see soon enough, Miss Stone.”

Hera and her armed escort led me down the hall to an elevator. Inside, she pressed down and the car began to descend. “What the hell is going on?” I asked.

“We’re taking you to the General. He has some questions to ask you. And you are going to tell him everything he wants to know.”

The elevator stopped and the doors opened. Hera pulled me out into a large room that reminded me of an evil version of the Quantumcave. There were massive televisions across the wall, showing what I assumed were various parts of the estate. Guards were running this way and that. I searched the screens for Tilly but I couldn’t find her.

“It won’t work.” I turned my eyes toward the General’s voice. In the middle of the room was a large throne-like chair, it rotated around until the General was facing us. “Your plan, it will not work.”

“The only plan I have is to attend your son’s birthday party and represent my country’s interests to the best of my abilities,” I told him, sticking to my story.

“Do not play coy with me, woman!” he growled. “You tried to use your feminine wiles on me, tried to seduce me! But it did not work! I am too strong for your womanly ways! And now, we are mere moments from catching your partner.”

“I don’t have a partner. The only person with me is my daughter.”

The General’s expression went thoughtful. “Your daughter?”

Uh-oh! Did I just put this maniac on Tilly’s trail? “But she has nothing to do with anything!” I said, quickly.

“SOMEone has infiltrated my base,” the General replied, angrily. “And I assure you that that person, no matter who it is, will die.”

I had to act. There was no more time to play it safe. I had to stop this madman before he did something drastic, but before I could take my second step, I was on the floor with Hera standing over me. She shook her head. “Don’t even think about it.”

The General laughed. “You see, Miss Stone? There is nothing you can do to escape. I am firmly in control. You might as well tell me who you’re working with because it is only…Ah, here we go. It is too late, Miss Stone. We have already found them.”

Oh, no, Tilly! I thought as I looked at the monitor. Wait, that’s not Tilly. That’s…Lu Wu? What the hell was Lu Wu doing down there? Was he a spy, too? If he were, how could he bring his children along with him? Sure, I had brought Mathilda, but she was more than capable of taking care of herself. Lu’s children, on the other hand, were much, much younger. They would be at the General’s mercy. No man could do that to his children. There must be some kind of mistake. In all the commotion, Lu must have gotten turned around. He must have gone down the wrong stairway or something.

But it was too late now. The General’s men appeared on screen and they quickly surrounded him. Whether he was innocent or not, it no longer mattered. Those guards were surely going to kill him! But Lu Wu didn’t look frightened. He didn’t cower or apologize. No, he merely just clapped his hands and suddenly his children were by his side!

How the hell did that happen? Where had they been hiding? And why had he taken them down there? Was he insane? And now he was using them as human shields? What kind of monster was he? There was no sound so I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but as he did I could see he was making a strange gesture with his hands. What was that? What was he doing? Was he trying to talk his…

Oh, my god! His children! They…they were beginning to…to change!?!

to be continued…

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