The blonde walked briskly down the middle of the station. She wasn’t at all interested in most human affairs, but she had spotted at least two different kinds of commuter. One kind always dressed in painfully sensible suits, and carried briefcases or bags holding their laptops or other impossibly thin electronic device. The other kind was unkempt, wearing a pale blue shirt or hooded coat, carrying a heavy rucksack on their backs and chewing gum, looking like some bizarre human/camel hybrid.
The blonde’s name was Sandrine, and she didn’t like other people, so she didn’t like trains. But it was the easiest way to get from Wales to England without the use of a car. And, if she was lucky enough to get on a crowded train – not uncomfortably crowded, for she didn’t wish to be squashed against the window with someone else’s elbow lodged squarely in her ear - there would be less chance of anyone overhearing her conversation with her accomplice. Sandrine had had enough of that for one day.
The accomplice turned up a few moments later, having to walk at some speed to keep up with her. Its name was Élodie and it was a Wraith. Sandrine was not a Wraith, but she worked with them.
Élodie respected the power Sandrine had. Sandrine told it what was what and gave it its orders. Élodie was having to walk fast to keep up with her, but it could not ask her to stop. It certainly couldn’t grab her by the shoulder and pull her back a step or two, because a Wraith’s touch meant Death, whether it wanted it to or not.
‘This train is quite full already,’ Sandrine remarked in French. ‘We should be safe to talk there.’
‘I’m not so sure,’ said the brunette, carefully. ‘I don’t want to have to kill another passer-by. I might get caught, and being in prison is boring.’
‘Relax. The only people we need to kill are Banker and Grail – and whoever happens to step up to defend them.’
‘Well, of course.’
Sandrine walked more briskly still. ‘You know, of course,’ she said to her accomplice, ‘what my plans are.’
‘Yes,’ came the response.
‘I want to improve the way Wraiths live. Not because I care about any of you specifically, but because I believe that they are better than humans. Without souls – without emotion, reason or desire, of which Plato has told us the soul is comprised – we can put the planet to better use, make it function.’
‘Indeed,’ the Wraith called Élodie said, though it did not agree. In its own opinion, Wraiths were as capable of reasoning as anyone else, and could think and use their minds perfectly well, so it did not believe it needed a soul to reason. However, as Sandrine was effectively its boss, it kept these opinions to itself.
‘So, in order to carry out my plan, I need to speak to you. I want to know why Wraiths kill.’
They both approached a train door and stepped on, Sandrine leading the way. Élodie followed, wriggling around the people surrounding it, not wanting to touch them.
‘We kill because we can,’ it said. ‘There’s no other explanation.’
‘I know that, but why were Wraiths built to kill? You and I know that if you so much as brushed against that man there, he would fall down dead.’
Élodie glanced at a balding man in a painfully sensible suit, holding a briefcase close to his chest.
‘I don’t know how we kill,’ Élodie told its boss. ‘We do not question our own abilities. We are lucky to be alive now that there are Silencers everywhere.’
Sandrine took a seat, and gestured to her accomplice to sit opposite her. Élodie sat carefully, as there was a woman of about seventy beside it, fast asleep with a newspaper in her hands.
‘That’s right,’ Sandrine said, nodding slowly and smiling. ‘There are more Silencers than before. And there are more people than before who are learning the truth. People like Banker and Grail, who need to die.’
‘This journey will be very productive,’ Sandrine said. ‘I have been told that Banker and Grail have moved on, and so we shall need to find them. But,’ she said, raising a finger pointedly, ‘this will also give me a chance to track down and retrieve one of the rarer Wraith texts. You remember, centuries ago, when the Consortium didn’t exist on the web, and had to use books instead?’
‘I remember being told about it,’ Élodie answered.
‘One of these texts tells us about all your Wraithy beliefs – some of which dissipated years and years ago. This particular text, Élodie, is the only one of its kind in the World.’
‘Stop playing with me and tell me what your plans are,’ Élodie said threateningly.
This didn’t scare Sandrine, who only laughed. ‘You’ll have to wait and see. The book could be anywhere, but we start the search in England. As soon as we kill Banker and Grail. Thank you for pointing those two out to me, by the way.’
Élodie merely nodded, moving its arm to a more comfortable position. It brushed against the arm of the old woman, and her head slumped forward suddenly.
‘Ah, zut,’ Élodie exclaimed.
‘Don’t worry about it,’ Sandrine said, waving a dismissing hand. ‘We’ll just tell the guard before we get off.’
The Wraith relaxed. ‘She was probably going to die anyway.’