Chapter 314 [Bonus chapter] Spider Bait
"Tell me, who tipped you off at Westpoint? You left your men to dry there on awfully short notice," said Aldrich.
"Desmond. He told me he suspected an attack was coming my way."
Desmond. The Spider. Aldrich had a good idea it was this guy, but taking him out had been difficult with the hearing coming up so soon and his constant moving. Plus, further research suggested that Desmond's ties with the Trident, specifically the Italian Prong, granted him quite the personal security entourage. Tough and secure enough that a hit squad would not work unless Aldrich used the likes of Okeanos, and Okeanos emitted way too much energy to not be noticed from miles away.
"And how did Desmond know that?"
"Desmond said he had good reason. That's all I know. I trust him, so I listened and scrammed away to my bunker for code red situations like this. I left my men to rot, but they were all temporary mercs, anyway. I could always replace them."
"I see." Aldrich was curious as to how Desmond knew the hit squad was coming, but he would find out soon enough from the Spider himself. "And tell me, does the Trident or Desmond know where you are right now?"
"I told the underboss that I was lying low. He understood. When capos like me need to hide, we're given leeway. So no, the Trident doesn't know where I am. Desmond still thinks I'm at my bunker, but he doesn't know where that is either."
"Good, good." Aldrich gave an appreciative nod to Fler'Gan. "This is seriously impressive, Fler'Gan. You've completely bypassed his mental defenses, and he has a decent AC count of around 4000 - within the B rank range.
I have to hand it to you, you've done a lot in just a week."
"When given space and time, a mind focused on progress blooms wondrously," said Fler'Gan with a bow. "Though as is the nature of progress, there is no end to it.
I still fear I am unable to crack the minds of those in the 'A rank' range, those holding a concentration of Alter Cells in the 5000 and above threshold."
"Let me guess, if I get you a good enough mind controlling Alterhuman sample, you can make a breakthrough."
"You catch on quickly, O Elder."
"A shifting Alter and a mind controlling Alter. Got it. I'll put that on the ever growing list of things I need to do," said Aldrich. He resumed questioning Feather. "What's your relationship like with Desmond? Seniority wise, who defers to who?"
"Desmond defers to me," said Feather. "Absolutely. I'm his handler for the Italian Prong. Without me, he doesn't get the funding or security he needs, especially now, with that shitshow of a civil war going on with those screw-loose Russians."
"I figured as much. Someone had to be paying Desmond enough to turn on his chiefs, and anything less than direct support from a Trident higher-up wouldn't have been worth it.
Now then, the most important question. Riddle me this, if you tell Desmond to jump, will he jump for you?"
"Pardon?" Feather stared at Aldrich blankly.
"Hmm. The metaphorical conception of the mind seems to be somewhat damaged," said Fler'Gan. He tapped notes on his wristpad. "I must make note of this for improvement."
"If you tell Desmond what to do, will he obey you?" clarified Aldrich.
"Yeah. As long as it's within reason."
"If you tell him to meet you, would he do it?"
"Here? No. He doesn't know where this is. I don't know where this is."
Aldrich side-eyed Fler'Gan, and the Mind Eater nodded. "It is safe to tell him of our location, O Elder. His mind is mine permanently. What he knows will never spread to anyone else."
"We're in Haven," said Aldrich.
"Haven, huh? No way. Desmond wouldn't step foot within a fifty mile radius of it."
"Then what about outside of it? At your personal bunker?"
Feather thought about it for a few seconds. "That ought to work."
"Alright then, that's good enough." Aldrich turned around, readying to leave. "Fler'Gan, clean the slime off Feather and get him out of there. I'm going to send a few skeletons here to make him more presentable afterwards.
It's about time he gets a reunion with his friend."
Aldrich took the elevator down the control tower, Valera following close behind him. She was oddly quiet, her gaze shifty, and he knew something was wrong. Though, if she was not voicing it, probably not anything serious. He would give her some time to say what was on her mind in silence.
In the elevator, Aldrich punched in a code on the control panel. NXS0101. When that registered, the lights in the elevator, an unassuming white, shifted into red.
With a jolt, the elevator began a deep descent down to an underground bunker area where Aldrich kept a copy of a Sign he had gotten for reaching level 50 from the Death Lord.
It finally felt right having a Sign in a proper base. Like Fler'Gan, V, and his many other legion members, he was also getting settled in, making this place his new home.
"Master...have I lately not been doing enough?" Valera said finally.
"Hm? What makes you think that?" Aldrich said.
"It is just that...you praise all your underlings from that courtesan to the Mind Eater, but recently, not me. Is there something wrong?" Valera looked at Aldrich with genuine concern.
Aldrich shook his head, smiling faintly. So that's what this was. She was just worried. And also needed attention. Nothing he could not handle. "No, it's fine. Think of it like this: I'm used to you enough where if I'm not saying anything, that's praise in of itself. It means everything's going smoothly without me having to point it out."
"Understood, master. That does make me feel better." Valera sighed. "I am worried, master, about how things are to be. I know it sounds silly of me, insulting to your efforts, even, but I cherish the quiet we have now.
Before, it felt as if we had been fighting every single day, every single moment. And now, there is peace. For once, I have grown to like it. To get attached to it.
Maybe...," She looked down at her hands, her claws lengthening. "I am losing my edge as a warrior. I have never thought this way before. Especially when I was an Exile. I fought to kill every single day, and I lusted for the fight.
Valera looked ahead, at Aldrich's reflection cast in the glossy black surface of the elevator doors. "I fear the fight, not for who I am to face, but who I could lose."