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Cleansed by Fire
Chapter 8, Framed in Pain (continued)
Once again showing a remarkable ability to avoid repeating herself in her excessive displays of lurid misdirection, Domina was dressed in a remarkably dowdy yet highly fashionable woman’s suit, inexplicably barefoot with her toes colored meticulously and all manner of Ishmaeli jewelry adorning her head—while all of the transmit panels of her apartment were set to display large-screen projections of sex vids. All six panels were running thus, and each with a different vid, ranging from the artisitically sexual to the stunningly raunchy. And, in the center of her sitting area, a holographic tri-vid projection of some sort of nude, body-painted acrobatic troupe whose antics bordered on the licentious.
Gregory rolled his eyes at Miko as she took up her post near the door, and sighed loudly as he settled into what had become “his” seat in Domina’s apartment.
At least she didn’t leave any of her leg-hosiery there today for me.
“Gregory, my sweet. Is it time for today’s meeting already? I haven’t even had time to take off these prim clothes. If you don’t mind…” she said, trailing her fingers down the button-front.
“If it’s all the same to you, keep them on. I think we have enough naked people in the room with us as it is,” he responded.
“Very well, then, dear, lovely Peteris. I shall remain bound in this outfit. I don’t know what possessed me to buy it. I’ll be squirming the entire time you’re here from the way it scratches at my delicate flesh,” she said, sitting across from him in a pose that somehow hovered just on the edge of proper and unladylike. “What shall we talk about today?”
“I’d like to try talking about Pope Kuang-Hsu again.”
Domina’s face darkened; it was the only topic at his disposal that seemed able to consistently ruffle her.
“Why must we go over dead history again, Gregory?”
“Because your former Red Pope was deeply immersed in studying Kuang-Hsu. Now, it would be bad enough the fact that both Tommis and Kuang-Hsu died right before a cognos upload and that Tommis was so interested in him. But now, with Nova York…”
“A horrible piece of work that you were involved in there,” Domina said.
“You know full well the UFC had not a damn thing to do with that hellpod attack,” he growled. “And I find it interesting Kuang-Hsu’s role in the near genocidal Final Crusade against Islam, shortly after which he died mysteriously, while Tommis mysteriously dies just before several hundred thousand people are incinerated in Nova York.”
“Life is full of coincidences, Gregory.”
“Yes, just like the coincidence of you arriving to us on the cusp of the Vatican declaring a holy war on us, Domina. Let’s shut off the sexual showcases here, shall we? I think we have a lot to talk about today.”
Napping in the late afternoon heat, Bohlliam was startled awake by…something.
He couldn’t put a finger on it. Not a sound. Not a feeling. Not a dream. But something that teetered on the edge of all three.
With a start, he realized he was feeling energized in a way he hadn’t felt since…
Since before I contracted the emophage virus.
He had kept his sensorium array off the past few days, stubbornly refusing to “feed” off the emotions of the people assigned to his therapy. His prophetic interpretation work had allowed him a few appointments in the past two days to get a minor empathic fix to hold him over.
But now, he felt whole again. The more he paid attention to his renewed emotions—emotions that were so intense and fierce—the more he almost felt dizzy with it all. There was something about these emotions. Complex, but so accessible. Fresh somehow, but with a strange overlay of age and experience. Childlike. Yet old. He hadn’t thought so deeply about emotional flavors since the earliest days of his therapy.
As he tried to pinpoint what might have happened, wondering if he was somehow cured or—no, he knew too well, these weren’t his own emotions. They were still someone else’s. But they were so distinct. After years of feeding off of people with hyperexpressivity disorders, manic conditions, polypersonality syndrome—people who had an overflow of feelings and emotions—these ones were so pure somehow.
The emotions were so immediate. Yet so not his own.
He felt an impression. Not just emotions but a thought this time. A name.
Purity? No. Divine? No. Sanctity. No.
Grace. I am Grace.
A voice in his head. Young, yet old. And then a sensation as if someone were both stomping their feet incessantly and waggling a finger scoldingly.
I am not a meal. You are required. Get up. You are going to Nova York.
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