Enter Mason Rey, a fabulous, fabulous creature. Legends are told, lies whispered, rumors mongered. Nothing humble about him. No matter what you've heard, he always seems shorter in person, and he's always more Machiavellian than you could imagine.
And, yes, he's wearing the black gloves, see? He says it's a skin condition, if you dare to ask.
But don't ask.
For a moment, Madeleine Vallejo is tempted to step across the room and greet him with an outstretched arm, as though nothing is wrong, as though she doesn't know the rules. But there are still things she wants, so she doesn't. Mason Rey, Chief Executive Officer of Roar-Sol Codifiers, Inc., sits down behind her desk and makes himself comfortable. Vallejo takes the cue and stands before it and waits.
At least he has class. He doesn't make her wait. "Director Vallejo, effective immediately, you are suspended with half-pay while an investigation is made into the unfortunate incident involving the intruder."
"Director, let's be frank." She's too tense; she's biting the inside of her cheek. "I've always liked you. I have thought that you do good work. It is obvious, however, that you need a break from your current routine. Do you agree?"
She's caught by surprise. He waits for her answer. She's quick enough to pause, rather than stutter.
"Yes, sir. I must agree." Poppycock. Where's he going with this?
"I want you to do me a favor, then. I want you to find my child. I want you to bring the child to safety, to me. You will be reinstated when you have completed this task."
Vallejo can't help it. Her eyebrows go up. Which is unfortunate, because this is just the sort of thing that Mason Rey despises. He sees it as a lack of self-control. He's always admired her stoicism, so he glares at her for a moment. She can practically hear his teeth grinding.
He punches the console on her desk, stabbing his fingers at it almost vehemently. She realizes that he's embarrassed to have to ask her for this, especially now. And he's going to make her pay.
"You will keep your Leash activated at all times."
He finishes at the console with a punctuated series of gestures. He rises and goes to the door. Turning back, he says, "And when you see Punter, you will kill him."
He leaves the door open, but she can't hear his footsteps falling away--the carpet's too plush in the hallway. She goes around to the desk and examines the terminal.
All of her security rights have been cleared. A counter shows that she has nine minutes and forty-eight seconds before the compound security system starts reading her as an intruder.
He didn't tell her to kill Punter because he's afraid of Punter, nor because Punter matters to him. No. He did it because he's that sure that she'll obey him. He did it to punish her.
Nine minutes and forty-two seconds.