Origins Part 1: Indoctrination
When I opened my eyes I was in a closed off lounge area, lying on a red sofa. The carpets were a dark yellow, a few shades off gold, and the walls a muted green. The combination should’ve looked ugly but instead it matched the loud opulent nature of the rooms furniture. I sat up slowly, trying to remember what had happened. I looked down to see I was dressed in plain jeans, top and grey hoodie, a weight in the pocket. I frowned and reached in, pulling out a gun. Then I did remember, the horrible scenes playing out too fast for my emotions to keep up. I choked on a yelp and threw the gun into the wall on the other side of the room.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you. You’ll need a weapon in your new work.” My neck snapped to the owner of the voice that sounded disjointedly familiar. The man sat in an elegant armchair didn’t seem particularly interesting. Nondescript suit and build, a mop of brown hair and lightly tanned skin. His eyes though, something unsettling shined in the dark blue depths.
“You were the one talking to me in … there,” I added emphasis to the word, as if he might somehow not know what I meant.
“Yes, I am known in the syndicate as The Black Ace,” he replied, his voice surprisingly smooth and soft for someone in his line of work. I felt my eyes widen for a second before recovering. The Black Ace was called as such because he was hidden ace up Gregors Gustkes sleeve in tight situations. His right hand man who had abilities that have, according to stories, made assassins walk out of a room and shoot themselves in the head. And for some reason he had been watching over the maze and speaking to us, and saw god only knows what in our minds.
“Gregor is waiting to meet you. If I were you I would not keep him waiting.” I blinked at him, Gregor? Waiting for me?
“This is what you wanted, no?” he asked, standing up. I screwed up my face but he had already turned his back on me and started walking. I rushed and grabbed the door before it shut, following him through a windowless corridor, with the same thick carpet but this time the walls had dark wood paneling. We passed other doors and then into a elevator. I fidgeted nervously as it ascended to the top floor. If Ace could sense my nerves – and he most certainly could – he didn’t say or do anything in response. I jumped as the elevator dinged and we were in a penthouse suite of what must be a very expensive hotel.
“Juliette?” I glanced to the left of the penthouse and saw Kellen was nestled in the corner of a fancy L-shaped sofa, a tablet laptop on her lap.
“This way,” Ace said, placing a gentle hand on my shoulder and guiding me away from the quizzical look on Kellens face and to a door on the right. He knocked the door once.
“Come in.” It was said with a tone that demanded respect. I gulped and looked at Ace who merely motioned towards the door handle. I licked my lips once nervously and opened the door. I really hoped he didn’t want to shake my hand, because my palms were definitely sweaty. I walked in to see a clean shaven man with a heavy tan, who no doubt walked and breathed authority while wearing a polished suit. He was stood by a floor to ceiling window, looking at the darkness outside. Was it still the same night I had been taken? Or had a day passed? I’d have to ask someone later. So many questions were swimming through my mind. Why had Ace been involved in that trial? Why had I been put in that trial? Who had the others been? Why was Kellen here? Why did Gregor want to speak to me of all people? Also, who the hell cleaned me up and changed my clothes? I felt violated without that knowledge. Or maybe I was just hyper sensitive after everything that had happened.
“Juliette, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” Gregor said, turning to look at me with a proud assessing look. “Kellens spoken about you quite a bit since she got here. I also understand from Jacob you were concerned about her wellbeing.”
“Is that why you put me in there? I wasn’t going to blab her location to anyone outside the organisation,” I replied. I blinked at my own tone. I was talking to the guy who led the syndicate in Europe but I was bone tired and ever so slightly annoyed by everything I’d been through; I guess the combination gave me a bit of an attitude problem.
“Of course,” Gregor laughed, apparently indifferent to my tone as he sat at his desk and motioned to the seats before him. Ace took one, I choose to stay standing.
“The trial is a mandatory test for anyone wishing to act as a bodyguard for a very important persons,” Ace quietly put in. I don’t know how but the sound of his voice helped me take a calm breath. Even so I could feel some anger building.
“Jacob told me you would take over keeping her safe, and I took that to be the end of it,” I said.
“Well, yes, and I intend to keep her safe. However I cannot do that by keeping her with me. I sometimes travel to dangerous situations, and tend to attract a few enemies just by being in the area. I am going to arrange to send her to an all-girls private school. Very remote, very safe and an excellent education for herself and the person I send with her; someone to keep her safe in the unlikely event something were to occur.” I blinked, as understanding dawned.
“What about Heppenhein?” I asked.
“His type of work requires a lot of industrial space. There is a nearby city but it won’t suit his needs. However we have organised a house there and during holiday periods you will both stay there with a female housekeeper acting as a parental figure as far as the school will be concerned. I would permit Heppenheim to visits but the risk someone might recognise and tail him in too high.” I nodded, taking in what was being asked of me. I didn’t like the idea of being far from Heppenheim.
“Who were the others in there?” I asked. Gregor frowned.
“She means in the trial,” Ace supplied.
“Oh, I left it to you to organise all of that. Any questions about the trial you can ask Ace. While I can already assume the answer, will you take the job?” I glanced at Ace who was watching me intently, I couldn’t read his expression though.
“What if I decided I wanted to stay with Heppenheim?” I asked.
“Jacob will throw you in the chimera pens,” Gregor answered without missing a beat, not a hint of remorse in his voice. Of course on the scale of horrendous things he’s no doubt done, blackmailing a teenager to go to school with his niece probably wasn’t high on the list.
“Then I guess I’ll take the job offer,” I replied.
“Excellent!” Gregor said, standing up and clapping both hands. “I need to get a flight out of the country now but Ace can cross the I’s and dot the T’s.” And like that he left and I was alone in the fancy office space with Ace.