The woman calls herself Lady T. She is somewhat exotic-looking, with very dark skin, dark hair, and dark full lips. But by far the strangest thing about her is the fact that she’s wearing glasses.
She explains about the glasses before the conversation really begins, knowing that her companions will be curious about them. “I’m wearing glasses because I don’t believe in genetically modifying humans,” she declares. “I’m not against imps, of course, but I think that humans should just be humans and imps should just be imps. It’s all right for imps to receive modifications, since they’re designed for that sort of thing, but humans and imps are two different species that shouldn’t be combined.” She taps the rim of her spectacles with a tiny, wry smile. “Hence, these things. All of the eye surgery is done with improved genes and things, nowadays.”
Felix assumes that this stringent ethical stance is also the reason why there are creases etched around her eyes and forehead; anti-aging treatments must be another “improvement” that she doesn’t believe in. The whole concept seems a bit nutty to him, and he doubts that she really has a solid idea of what to do about the Settlement 211 crisis.
The four of them – that is, Lady T, Felix, Mr. Mika, and the Human Resources director Mrs. Belinda – are gathered around the long table in Conference Room 1A. Felix finds it odd that so few people are there, but Lady T clearly thinks that she has all the answers, even if she is possibly crazy. Her chin is tilted high, a vague smile curls across her lips, and her fingertips are pattering against each other confidently.
“In case I haven’t mentioned it yet,” Mr. Mika begins, “Lady T is from Settlement 211. She’s the CEO of Evolutionary Research Associates.”
Felix blinks, startled.
“I’m the former CEO now, it would seem.” Lady T sighs deeply. “I’ve been thanking my lucky stars that I happened to be away for an emergency meeting when the ILG attacked. Otherwise, I have no doubt that I’d be dead now.”
“I didn’t think that the ILG had actually killed anyone,” says Mrs. Belinda nervously.
“No one’s sure if they have or not,” responds Mr. Mika impatiently. “Go on, Lady T.”
Lady T clears her throat. “Anyway, I was stunned when I heard about the rebellion, just as everyone else was. I immediately met with the World Gov authorities, who were trying to control the situation without success, and I realized that we need something a little more drastic if we want to pull through this. Essentially, we need our own army.”
Felix stiffens, and whatever credibility he lent her after hearing that she was the boss of ERA quickly vanishes. Suddenly she seems like a lunatic again, and a dangerous one at that.
“Hold on there,” he speaks up crossly. “Isn’t your logic a bit backwards? War isn’t something we can just jump into, and the World Gov’s policy requires diplomatic negotiation before anyone even thinks of breaking out the guns…”
Lady T forces a smile. For someone who doesn’t believe in “improvements,” she has very white teeth, which flash disconcertingly in the illumination of the fluorescent lights. “Have you even been watching the news? We’ve beentryingto sort this out peacefully, and we haven’t gotten any response. I don’t want to start throwing the dreadedW-word around, but war might turn out to be our only option.”
“Felix doesn’t like to think about war,” remarks Mr. Mika drily. “It makes him squeamish.”
“So don’t think of it as war.” She shrugs. “Think of it as defense. After all, we’re not going to be using nuclear weapons or biowarfare or anything like that. All I want to do is gather up a group of imps to beat the ILG at their own game. Then everything will go back to normal, and that’s what we all want, isn’t it?”
“You only want imps for this counter-army of yours?” asks Mrs. Belinda.
“Preferably. If there are some humans who really want to join, I suppose they can, but I think it would be less dangerous to just have imps versus imps.”
“But none of the imps in Settlement 209 have combat experience,” Mrs. Belinda points out. “Certainly no one at this company does. This is a peaceful community. Why would our imps know how to fight?”
Lady T seems prepared for this inquiry. “The ILG didn’t know how to fight, either, until they taught themselves to. And we have equipment that they never had access too, so we can do better than teach.” She angles her head and spears Felix with her dark, intense gaze. “That’s where you come in, Dr. Mansen.”
He narrows his eyes. “Lady T, I hope you know that I’m a pacifist. I’m not going to fight for you, and I certainly can’t train anyone.”
“I know that,” she answers, unperturbed. “But you are a genitech, aren’t you? And you can program an imp’s brain, so to speak.”
“You mean, external insertion of tactics and information? Yeah, I can do that…” It takes him a moment to realize where this is going. “Wait a minute. You want me to turn a whole bunch of imps into fighting machines for your army, don’t you?”
“No one who doesn’t want the procedure will have to go through it.” Lady T straightens her glasses. “You should be able to tell that I’m not the sort of person who wouldforcesomeone to change. But it would be the fastest way to get our volunteer army trained, and the fastest way to stamp out this conflict.”
Felix looks down. “You have to get all of this checked out with the World Gov,” he says softly. “This is heavy-duty stuff.”
She arches her eyebrows wryly. “The World Gov hired me to do this. It’s very complex – you didn’t think that I came up will all of the solutions by myself in less than two days, did you? Well, we’re still working out all the details, but my job right now is to recruit as many imps as I can from the nearby settlements. And I need you to be in charge of the genetic modifications in Settlement 209. Will you help us, Dr. Mansen?”
“He’d be happy to,” says Mr. Mika before Felix can respond.
Felix swallows. He doesn’t like any of this; how can he modify imps in order to turn them into soldiers, or stand by and watch calmly as an army is raised? But this is a plan coming from as high up as the World Gov, and letting the ILG run rampant is obviously not good for anyone. Deep down, he understands that even if he doesn’t physically join the fight, it is still his duty to help in any way he can before everything falls apart.
“Excellent.” Lady T pushes her fingers into a steeple and turns to Mrs. Belinda. “As for you, ma’am…you’re the Human Resources director, and I’d be very grateful if you could send a message around this company, asking for recruits. I’ve already composed the cover letter; I’ll forward it to your comm. Both your company and the individuals who volunteer will be compensated for lost work time. And Dr. Mansen, why don’t you go and talk to your four imps about this tonight?”
Felix gulps, then nods hesitantly. Hopefully he’ll be able to discourage his imps from getting involved in this.
“What do you call this group of yours, Lady T?” asks Mr. Mika.
“They’ll be called the Uniters.” She stands up, brushing off her trousers purposefully. “Because they’ll be the ones to unite humans and imps forever. Now, do any of you have any last questions before I jet off to Settlement 208?”
“I do.” Felix stands as well, looking her straight in the eyes. “Why are you calling yourself ‘Lady T’? That can’t be your real name.”
“No,” she agrees. “My superiors in the World Gov are afraid that I may be a target for the ILG. They asked me to go by a pseudonym so that I’d be harder to track. Anyway, I’ll see you soon, Dr. Mansen. Thank you again for agreeing to help.”
Like I had a choice, he thinks.
Two armed guards – both humans – are awaiting her at the door, presumably to escort her to a waiting aircraft. In a heartbeat, she is gone, like a shadow that vanishes at the flick of a light switch. Felix allows himself to release a slow, pent-up breath.
“Yeah, she’s a charmer,” says Mr. Mike humorlessly. “Now, both of you, get back to work. We’ve got a world to save.”