The second installment of the great short story about a predictive artist.
…Mika dragged herself out of the sleep station. She could swear she had just closed her eyes when the alarm went off. She checked the comp unit indicator though and it clearly showed she had gotten a full 3 hours of sleep.
She made her way over to the food station and dialed up a hot caf. This would be a long day. Then she pushed herself through her morning rituals and dialed up a second caf with a quick portable meal as she headed back to her gallery. There would be customers there to pick up their orders shortly.
As Mika activated the store opening routine, she could see the streets already filling up with shoppers. She quickly gathered the orders that were scheduled for pick up today and double checked to make sure she did not have clay in her hair or paint on her face or smock before gathering her paints and returning to the portrait she had worked on late into the sleep period yesterday.
It was nearly complete, just a bit of touch up here and a little feathering around the cuff where it rested on the Fean.
There, that’s perfect.
Mika went over to her comp unit and sent the order ready notification to the high councilor. Surprisingly she got a very prompt response. The councilor herself would be right over to pick it up.
Then the proximity notifier sounded letting her know one of her customers was near and she quickly removed the painting apron and went to her counter, arriving just as the young man entered. He smiled graciously and walked over to the counter as she set the box containing his new battle warriors game pieces on the counter.
“Is this them?”
He anxiously reached for the box as she nodded, and he was lost to her for a couple minutes as he lovingly examined each of the creatures individually.
“They are wonderful! The guys were right, you are better than a 3d printer. I’ve never seen such fine detail, and the Srin Master, he looks like….me. It’s awesome.”
“I’m pleased to have been honored with your order sir. If you are happy with the work, please tell your friends.”
“Oh, I will. Don’t worry about that. In fact we have tournament starting tonight, I will unveil this new set then. Thank you!”
The young man pressed his thumb to the screen and the payment registered, then he carefully rewrapped each piece placed them back in the box and left still talking about how wonderful they were.
That always works with these guys. Put their face on the piece they talk the most about and they go away feeling like they are the Srin Master, or Fleet Commander, or whatever.
Mika smiled to herself, he had not even batted an eye at the price, too excited about showing his prized new pieces to his friends. Likely she would receive four or five more orders in the next week.
A few minutes later she heard a commotion on the street as security guards cleared the walkway for someone important. That would be the high councilor. Mika straightened her smock and thought for the briefest moment that she should have taken the time to put on some makeup today. How was she to know the high councilor would be so quick to respond?
The security service came in holding their portable threat detectors and scanned the whole gallery. She had to jump a couple of times to rescue things that got bumped as the team did their job with great enthusiasm.
Finally the gallery was declared clear and the High Councilor was escorted in. Mika bowed her head as her mother had taught her and greeted the visitor with respect.
“Good Day, Ma’am. Welcome to my gallery, I am truly honored that you have come personally.”
“Yes, yes. I am pleased to be here. Where is the portrait, I would like to see it. Hopefully it is as good as I was told it would be. The High Councilor’s daughter is coming tomorrow and I would like to have this on display when she visits.”
“Yes, ma’am, it is right over here.”
Mika was startled when the security team moved immediately to intercept her as she stepped toward the high councilor.
“Let her past. Let her past. Damn, do you really think she is a threat to me?”
The security team moved out of her way, but stayed between her and the high councilor as she went over to unveil the painting she had positioned to have the perfect lighting.
“I’m sorry ma’am. I should have given your team warning that I would have to cross the room to unveil the painting.
Here it is.”
As she spoke she flipped the veil back and revealed the portrait.
She heard a very quick intake of breath. Then…
Mika felt a security guard grasp her hands and pull them behind her. He was strong and knew what he was doing and in less than a second, she was helpless with her arms secured behind her back as she was forced to lean backward barely maintaining her balance.
“What is the matter? What did I do wrong?”
“Who told you?”
“Watch your tongue, you know who you are speaking to.”
The security guard twisted her arms as he spoke to her, and she winced in pain.
“Sorry ma’am. Who told me what? … Ma’am”
“Who told you about the Fean, of course? No one is supposed to know about that trip yet. I could lose my opportunity to impress.”
Mika was shocked into complete silence. She searched her memory, but she already knew the answer. There was no indication of a Fean in any of the information she had been given. This was that unfathomable knowing that came on her sometimes when she worked with her art.
“The high councilor asked you a question. I suggest you answer her and damn quickly.”
Mika gasped as the guard twisted her arm once again as he spoke to her.
“Please forgive me ma’am. No one told me anything, it was just an animal I had seen in a vid that I thought would add life to the portrait.”
“I don’t believe that for a second. Bring her back to the chambers; I want to know what else she knows about. We must find the breach before the party from Fleron arrives.”
Mika felt her hear sink. They meant to arrest her because she put a fean in the portrait.
“Take that, and I want a search of the gallery. Find out how she knew about this.”
“Ma’am, please. I didn’t know about anything. It is just a mistake.”
“Shut her up. No knowing who might have this place tapped.”
Mika felt something crack into the back of her head just before everything went black.
…”Ma’am, with all due respect, we need to make her disappear. If she knows the Lady Seala, she will report our treatment of her.”
“No, we have done nothing but question her so far. Make sure it stays that way. IF she knows Lady Seala, then we will have her healed and apologize. Lest you forget, the Lady has a real talent for discovering the truth in things and I would not be eliminated over this.”
Mika was very confused, and her head was sore, but she could see the two having the discussion. The one facing her was the high councilor’s body guard who had threatened her and presumably given her the sore head. The other could not be mistaken even if Mika had not been able to see her. That was the high councilor. The question was who were they talking about? Mika tried to move very slowly and quietly to look around the room. It would be important to be associated with someone who knew the Lady Seala. There was really no other hope of surviving this mess.
She managed to turn her head so she could see another wall and some very scary equipment arranged in front of it. But there was no one there.
“Damn! She’s awake.”
Mika felt something slam into the back of her head and again fell into unconsciousness.
…Mika felt a warm comforting presence as she became aware again. This time she kept her eyes closed though as memory flooded in. This was a trick, she was a prisoner of the high councilor and would be put to death after they finished torturing her. It was well known that nobody returned home once the high councilor took them away.
“Ma’am, please remember that I came to your aid and laid the healing on you. I was not part of the misuse you received at the hands of the high councilor. Tell the Lady Seala I’m just a country healer and I had no part in this.”
Mika knew that voice wasn’t natural because she could hear the high councilor talking in the background and it didn’t interfere with the clarity. The voice was clearly female and felt old but she could not decide how she knew that.
This had to be that mind speak she had heard that masters could do. She thought carefully about how to respond and then concentrated on what she wanted to say in response if the person was speaking to her.
“I don’t know who you are, but if you are speaking to me, I thank you for your aid. If I survive to speak to the Lady I will tell her of your assistance. Can you help me to survive long enough to do so?”
“Thank you ma’am. I don’t know if I can help or not, but I don’t think the high councilor will let you be killed until she knows for sure if the Lady is going to ask after you.
The Lady is supposed come down in a couple of hours, that’s why they let me come here and help you.”
Mika felt her heart drop as she heard that. There was no way the Lady Seala would ask about her, she had never met the woman, didn’t even know what she looked like.
Well, maybe she could bluff, if she knew how they came to believe she knew the Lady.
“How did they determine that I knew the Lady?”
“Oh, sorry. That’s right they knocked you out before they searched your place. They found the sculpture you did of the Lady. That really scared the high councilor of course.
When did the Lady sit for that? Never mind, I should not be nosey.”
Mika almost gave herself away. The sculpture! She knew it meant something when she did it but Lady Seala? Did that mean she really would meet the woman?
“Lady Seala will not be happy that I was so careless. Thank you again for helping me. I will need you to do one more thing.”
“Yes ma’am. Anything.”
“Does the high councilor know you can mind speak?”
“No! She would never trust me if she knew that. She thinks that gives you the ability to read minds and she has a lot of secrets.”
Mika had heard that the one came with the other too. It made sense since this woman clearly didn’t know that she had no relationship with Lady Seala.
“Tell her you felt the presence of someone greater with the talent than you and act really scared. I will take it from there.”
“Why? …Oh… yes ma’am.”
Mika could almost feel the woman smile.
“Ma’am. She is coming to. But ma’am, I felt someone with a lot more skill than I have working with me when I did the healing.
May I go, ma’am? I don’t want to be here when whoever it was helping me gets here.”
“What? Are you sure?”
“Yes ma’am. May I go ma’am, please.”
Mika almost smiled the woman was indeed playing the part she wanted her to play. She hoped that the woman was smart enough to disappear after this. The high councilor would be after both their hides when she learned about the hoax.
Time to push the issue and see if she couldn’t bluff her way out of here.
“Where am I?”
Mika pushed herself up to a sitting position and was surprised to note that the bindings she had felt on her hands and feet earlier appeared not to be present any more.
She looked around and noted that she was clearly in a different room. This was someone’s sleep station. There near the door was an older woman in the dress of a small town healer.
She did not pause but kept sweeping the room with her eyes. When her eyes landed on the high councilor and the statue she was holding, she stopped.
“Ma’am, with all due respect. That is not yours. Lady Seala plans to come by and pick that up when she comes here for a visit any day now. Please may I have it back?”
Now there was fear in the high councilor’s eyes. Mika could only hope that it was great enough to get her out of here. A tiny spark of hope was beginning to form.
But then the eyes cleared and the fear was replaced by something else.
“Even Lady Seala would not dare to touch a sitting First Seat without evidence. Make sure there is none.”
The guard looked at her and smiled and Mika felt a shiver run down her spine. Then she heard the sick thunk as the high councilor struck the old woman in the head with the sculpture of Lady Seala. She then casually tossed it on the floor next to the woman.
“Put that with her. If she is ever discovered, it will provide evidence of a murder she committed. And get rid of this one too.”
The guard pulled a small device from his pocket and pointed it at her. Mika had never seen one before but had heard them described and was certain this was a blaster. She was about to die.
“Not yet. Not here. Take her out of here before you do that, I do not want any evidence that she died here in my place.”
The guard slipped the device back into his pocket and walked toward her with a face completely void of expression. Mika was confident she was no safer now with the blaster put away. She got to her feet and retreated keeping the sleep station between her and the guard. He snarled and suddenly he was standing on top of the sleep station coming at her with intent.
Mika dove for the door which was just closing behind the high councilor. She hit something slick and slid into the wall instead, slamming against something soft at the same time. That was it, the door slid closed and there was no escape.
Mika put her back against the wall and turned to face the guard who somehow had not already reached her.
He was standing completely still in a leaping position just out of reach. Why did he not pounce? He could not possibly believe she was any match for him.
Then she saw the shimmering against the opposite wall and a woman appeared. It was the woman in her sculpture. Lady Seala was here, but how, and why?
“Get up Mika. Come over here. He will not harm you I promise.”
Mika could not take her eyes off the beautiful young woman, or was she young? She carried herself with absolute confidence, and Mika could feel the strength in her. Those large turquoise eyes were nearly expressionless only the movement of her shoulder length auburn hair gave Mika confidence the woman was actually present and not just a hologram.
Mika did as she was told and pushed herself to her feet slipping past the guard who still did not move at all. As she moved closer, the Lady reached out a hand to her.
“Take my hand; I am going to take you to my ship for safety. Then I will deal with this one.”