The next day, Nova was riding her motorcycle down the highway, heading for the capital that shared its name with their country.
Of course, she was too young to legally ride a motorcycle. Her driving license was a forgery, which her mother had given to her a while back. When someone had already proven herself capable of driving vehicles ranging from cars to bikes to APCs to tanks to helicopters to airplanes to boats, following proper regulations on the matter didn’t seem quite as critical anymore.
Nova’s motorcycle outwardly looked like an old-fashioned Triumph, but like almost every other motorcycle on this planet, it was powered by an electric engine – Aaron and Nova had retrofitted it together. Nova was a tad ambivalent on this particular matter, though. On one hand, the motorcycle’s new, modern engine was good for the environment, which was a definite plus in her book. On the other hand, she liked the roar of a combustion engine, and her sensitive body really liked the feeling of sitting on what was essentially a giant vibrator with wheels. Still, one couldn’t always get what one wanted…
At her speed, it took 3 hours to make the trip from Saltwell to Altera, then another before she finally reached the business district and parked in a miraculous free space right in front of Ryner’s company’s giant skyscraper.
How on earth does a 21-year-old make enough money to buy a building like that so quickly? I know for a fact he didn’t dip his hand into the family coffers, so… mob connections?
As Nova watched the two black-suited guards standing alertly in front of the revolving doors, whose bad-guy faces worked hard to confirm her ‘mob connections’ theory, she wondered if she should keep her motorcycle helmet on. She had no wish to cause another commotion here by showing her face, but judging from the way the guards were staring with naked suspicion in her direction, if she didn’t unmask, a different, even more troublesome sort of commotion would likely take place.
Sighing to herself, she unbuckled the strap of the helmet and took it off, slinging it over one of the motorcycle’s handles – with building security standing right in front, no one was going to run off with it. When she turned back to the entrance, the two guards – and the passersby walking on the sidewalk in front of the building – were staring at her for a whole different reason than earlier.
In order to make double sure no unpleasantness would occur, Nova proceeded to take the earbud she’d kept in her pocket and inserted it into her ear. Then, she pulled up her left sleeve and used her bracer to give Ryner’s office a call. She usually preferred to refrain from using phones, considering the limitations brought by her inability to speak, but it seemed wise to try the peaceful way before attempting to sneak into the building.
The phone only rang once on the other end before a velvet-smooth female voice answered. “Storm Corporation, Director’s office. What can I do for you?”
Nova had a lot of ideas on what the owner of that beautiful voice could do to or with her, but she strove to keep it professional and simply submitted the sentence she’d already typed on her bracer’s keyboard. The usual robotic voice streamed into the earbud.
‘Hello, Esfir. Want to talk to Ryner.’
“Ah, Nova. I’m sorry to tell you that the director is absent, at the moment. He’s expected to be back in a little less than an hour. Could you call again then?”
There was a lull in the conversation as Nova formulated, then typed the next message. Fortunately, Esfir was used to it, but someone unaware of Nova’s circumstances would probably have wondered if she’d simply hung up on them altogether.
‘Outside building. Can enter?’
“Oh my. Of course, allow me to warn the guards at the front door. They’ll expect you and let you through.”
“You’re quite welcome. I’ll be waiting for you upstairs, then.”
Nova terminated the call and removed the earbud, putting it back into her pocket, then rolled down her sleeve. She walked up the wide stone stairway up to the front doors. The guards stiffened a little upon seeing her coming, but before she could arrive, they clearly received the expected message in their own earpieces – theirs had a spring-like cord disappearing into the neck of their uniform, rather than Nova’s wireless one.
Nova stopped in front of them and waited until they’d heard the whole of their instructions, then the one closest to the door nodded once and opened it for her.
“Miss, apologies for the delay. We’ve just received word pertaining to your arrival. Please, go ahead.”
‘Pertaining’? Impressive. Worthy of Altera’s famous education system. Even mob enforcers are learned and possess complex vocabularies.
Nova nodded politely as she passed the two guards, whose names were presumably ‘Knee-breaking’ Tony and Felix ‘the Strangler’, and strode into the first floor of Storm Corporation’s building. There were quite a lot of people, here, and a vast majority of them wore formal office wear – as mafiosi were wont to do – so even without her eye-catching beauty, Nova would have still been especially conspicuous only based on her casual clothing. Before anyone could approach her, however, she hurriedly headed for the series of elevators lined up on the opposite wall.
By chance, one of them had just reached the first floor. Nova stepped to the side to let it spill out its load of arrivals, then rushed inside, slapping the button for the top floor and hoping no one else would appear to deny her a whole elevator to herself.
However, her wish was not to be.
When the doors were just about to close, a hand squeezed in-between them, and they slid back open, detecting the obstruction. A young man, wearing an expensive suit, along with a strident red necktie that almost burned Nova’s sensitive eyes right out of their sockets, stepped into the elevator. He smiled at Nova, and even if she’d been able to, Nova wouldn’t have returned it, because she didn’t miss the hunger in his gaze as it roamed unabashedly over her whole body. She also noted that he wasn’t breathing hard or anything of the sort. He clearly hadn’t rushed to catch the elevator. Either he’d arrived perfectly on time to slide his hand between the doors, or he’d planned to slip in from the start and had waited until the last moment just so he could make an entrance. Nova favored the second explanation.
His mobster moniker, she decided, was Jimmy the Two-faced Weasel.
“Why, hello there, Miss,” Jimmy said. “Haven’t seen you around here before.”
The young man leaned against the wall of the elevator and didn’t even bother pressing a button on the panel. He was clearly here for the sole purpose of hitting on Nova, and he apparently disdained in even pretending otherwise. The lack of subtlety was unpleasant.
“If you want, I don’t mind giving you a tour of the place. I know a few good spots from which the view is simply spectacular. Though not as spectacular as the one in front of me right now.”
Jimmy gave her another smile he probably fondly imagined was charming. When coupled with his eyes fixedly staring at her chest, however, it looked little more than lecherous.
Usually, Nova truly didn’t mind people showing interest in her. It happened often, and it didn’t bother her. She saw it as a natural result of the 94 points she’d invested in her ‘beauty’ stat. Considering she’d been the one to bring the value up that high, it would have been unreasonable to blame people for reacting to it.
Similarly, the fact that the one ‘wooing’ her was male didn’t bother her in the least. Gender had never been a factor, for Nova. She tended to prefer women, generally, but she didn’t really have anything against the idea of dating a man, either.
However, there was a marked difference between someone showing interest in her and someone staring at her like she was a walking sex toy. Nova certainly didn’t expect deep and heartfelt love to sprout in everyone she met. Sometimes, people just wanted to fuck each other into the ground, and that was perfectly fine with her. But for that sort of relationship to be acceptable, there needed to be at least some measure of respect and equality involved.
Which was not the case today, unfortunately.
Oh, this idiot definitely wanted her. It couldn’t have been more obvious. But there was no consideration for her own feelings in his desire, only a will to have fun on his own, at her expense if need be.
Which really didn’t sit well with Nova.
Her pride would never accept anyone implying that they were seeing her as anything less than an equal. And this moron wanted nothing more than to use her for his own personal gratification, without any notion of giving anything back in return.
Well, I think my reaction is justified, in this case. Even someone with less pride than I would find this guy repulsive.
Jimmy the Two-faced Weasel kept talking endlessly, apparently interpreting Nova’s unblinking stare as interest in whatever boring nonsense he was spouting out. It seemed as if he didn’t at all notice that her eyes were getting colder and colder with each passing second.
Fortunately, the elevator was fast approaching the top floor. Nova would be freed from this idiot soon enough. She tried to focus on the steadily rising number on the digital display above the doors.
She felt she was doing a pretty good job at tuning out the worthless droning of the little fly buzzing around her, but then, as they reached the 50th floor, Jimmy tried to touch her arm, perhaps to try and bring the two of them closer together through a deliberate gesture of fake intimacy.
That was a mistake, though.
It wasn’t that his hand was dirty or anything. She was wearing a long-sleeved jacket, anyway. He wouldn’t be able to touch her skin.
But letting him touch her would be giving him a profit.
And, just as much as Nova was prideful and selfish, she was also petty and spiteful and vengeful and unforgiving and vicious toward anyone she felt had somehow wronged her.
When Jimmy’s hand was about to reach her arm for a gentle touch, her own blurred into action. She grabbed his thumb and twisted it inward, the motion spreading up his arm and twisting his elbow, as well. Reflexively, Jimmy gasped and turned his whole body around to try and ease the pressure on his joints. Nova took that opportunity to kick the back of his knee and, as he lost his balance, grabbed the back of his head with her other hand and slammed his face into the wall of the elevator.
A muffled cry rang out as Nova ground the idiot’s face against the wall. Unfortunately, the sheet of metal was thin and flexible. She couldn’t hope to break his nose or anything of the sort.
Wait, what the fuck am I doing? When did I turn into such a punch-happy maniac? I’m someone who’s never dealt violence to anyone even once in my entire life. Well, apart from training. And apart from that helicopter pilot, I guess. But I can’t just use violence in a public place like this… This isn’t the far west or anything. What if that guy presses charges against me for assault? Shit. The elevator’s security camera will definitely prove I reacted too aggressively…
It seemed as if the 2 years of military training with Viper Nest had had more of an impact on her personality than Nova had expected. Or was it that her temper had worsened while she was in the middle of puberty?
All right. I know. A guy like that, who thinks with his dick first and foremost, can’t possibly be clean. I’ll dig up some dirt on him and blackmail him with it. That should shut him up. I better hack into the building’s security and delete the incriminating recordings, too, just in case.
In any case, despite some misgivings about her own rash behavior, Nova didn’t intend to release Jimmy’s head just yet and kept him pressed against the wall. He seemed to have been dazed by the impact and wasn’t resisting very hard. Even if he tried, though, Nova was still holding his thumb behind his back, and this idiot wasn’t Yuri. There was no way he would be able to get out of a joint lock without breaking something painful along the way.
It was at this moment that, with the small, clear sound of a bell, the elevator’s doors slid open on the 53rd floor. Right beyond the door, a tall, dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty wearing a sharp business suit was waiting for them.
Upon seeing the scene inside the elevator, she didn’t say anything. She only quirked an eyebrow, her gaze moving back and forth between Nova and her kneeling, wall-kissing prisoner.
Glancing over her shoulder at her unexpected spectator, Nova froze for a second before promptly letting go of the young man’s head. She turned around, avoiding eye contact and awkwardly scratching her cheek as Esfir tilted her head in question.
“Hello, Nova,” she said with her perfect velvet-like voice. “What a pleasure to see you again after all this time.”
Nova had to suppress a small shiver of pleasure at hearing that voice directly, rather than through the filter of a phone call. Hesitantly, she stepped out of the elevator and threw a glance back as the doors closed behind her once more. Inside the elevator, the young playboy was rubbing his forehead with his left hand while holding his sore right arm rigid along his flank. He was staring fearfully, not at Nova herself, but rather at Esfir next to her.
The elevator’s doors closed completely, and a second later, it headed back down again, the numbers above the doors decreasing quickly, taking the young man away from their sights.
“Would you care to explain what happened?” Esfir calmly asked after a moment of silence.
‘Philanderer. Unwelcome. Rejected him.’
“I see.” Esfir nodded to herself a few times. “Excellent.”
It was Nova’s turn to tilt her head interrogatively.
“I recognize the person who was in the elevator with you,” Esfir explained. “We’ve already received a complaint once before about his… inappropriate behavior. Apparently, he didn’t take our warnings to heart, so now, he’s fired.”
Ohohoh. Perfect. Looks like covering up my misdeeds will be even easier than I expected. I might not even have to do anything at all, if Esfir already has him in her sights.
The young woman clicked her tongue and continued. “This kind of thing from one of our employees could really give a blow to the firm’s reputation, if it happened to a visiting client. Oh, not that we would want it happening to you, either, Nova. Sorry. That was somewhat insensitively put.”
Nova shook her head to show she hadn’t been offended, and together, they walked through the floor’s lobby toward the wide desk in the middle of the room.