Sirvanna found herself in a comfortable bed with lots of cushions. She sat up and looked around. There was a plate with some kind of rice dish in it on a table that clearly wasn't made for chairs in the middle of the room. The room did have an easy chair, which was facing some kind of electronic screen. The room was otherwise unfurnished but it had two doors.
Sirvanna walked over the plush carpet and tested the first door, locked. She sent a burst of lightning into it. The bolt dissipated around it. Some kind of shield?
She moved over to check the other one. It led to a simple bathroom. A change of clothes had been left sitting on the cabinet.
Alexa looked at the change of clothes that had been left for her. Yeah, she wasn't getting naked in this place. It didn't look like there were any cameras in the bathroom. The tile, walls and ceiling were all completely solid, but she wasn't risking it.
She glared at the dish they'd left. Poisoned? She had to find some way to escape.
Yuni spread out across the bed. Alena had felt dead when she'd touched her. Tears streamed down her face.
"Please," she sobbed "tell me it's a lie."
"What, no bell to ring for room service?" Katelyn asked. She smelled the dish that had been left for her. "What is this stuff anyway?"
She took a bite.
"Actually, that's pretty good."
Alena finished her careful examination of the room. She tried punching one of the walls, her hand bounced back like she had hit rubber. It looked like the only way out was going to be through the locked door.
She looked at the cylindrical device she'd found under the chair and turned it over in her hands. It seemed to have some kind of circuitry in it, but why?
Ines paced. She'd eaten her food, showered, changed clothes and couldn't figure out how the screen turned on. Now she was bored.
The screen flickered on and Michael Wagner appeared.
"Ladies," he began. "Now that you've had time to eat and take care of other needs, we can talk. The chairs in front of you have microphones beneath them. He held up a small electronic cylinder. The buttons are at the bottom. You may press them to ask questions or otherwise communicate with me.
"Why not just talk to us in person?" Sirvanna asked
"Because I respect your abilities," Michael answered. "This seemed like the most efficient and safe way to talk with you."
"Then why did you kill Alena?" Yuni cried, her voice shaken.
"I'm not dead," Alena said. "Please don't cry."
"What you perceived as her death was an illusion created by my friend," Michael said. "I apologise. Had I known that you were under that impression I'd have arranged for you two to see each other before this conference. As you may know, multiple governments tested a synthetically enhanced strain of the plague on several orphaned or discarded children in Munich some time ago. There was one survivor, me. They ran endless tests to try and figure out what gift I had developed. Little did they suspect that my cognitive abilities had been enhanced. After many events that don't need explored at this juncture, I decided that the most reasonable course would be to use that gift to unite the planet."
"If you're so smart why haven't you cured the plague?" Alexa asked.
"A fair question," Michael said. "Tell me, do you know why we all develop different gifts as a result of the plague?" He waited for nearly a minute. No one spoke. "It's because our bodies develop different defenses against it. The antibodies that enable us to survive are also what cause us to develop gifts. However, since everyone has different ones finding a way to cure the plague has proven a very formidable challenge. I have tried synthesising a cure using various types of anti-bodies, but they've all proven ineffective."
"Why jump straight into fighting?" Alena asked.
"I know what you mean," Michael said. "There should be a better way, shouldn't there? However, our people are suffering. We're herded into prisons, killed, experimented on and given all other manner of vile treatments. I will not stand idly in the face of such injustice. I swiftly realised that I had two options. The first being to start a civil rights movement and the second being to unite the world under one banner and give our people equal rights and protections under the law."
"Why not the civil rights route?" Sirvanna asked.
"Trying to acquire civil rights peacefully is an arduous process," Michael said."Trying to do it on a global scale even moreso. And I was unwilling to sacrifice all of the innocent lives that would be lost while waiting. No better, in this case, to fight and save as many of our people as possible than to allow them to keep being sacrificed." For a moment he seemed to be looking directly at them through the screen. "Take yourselves as an example. Your government locked you in cells without you having committed a crime without any kind of trial. With the intent of leaving you there until your deaths. And now that they've been forced to go to you for help they've placed these..." he held up one of the explosive implants in a jar. "in your heads to force your compliance."
Sirvanna rubbed the back of her neck. "Is that..." she began.
"From you?" Michael said. "No, this one came from Miss Doyle."
"Me?" Alexa asked. "But there isn't a mark on me."
"There won't be a mark on any of you," Michael said. "Although you're all officially free."
"How?" Alena asked.
"Let's just say I know a lady with a gift that enables her to move substances out of the body without harming organic tissue," Michael said. "Now, your lives are your own. You have three choices. One, you can join me. Two, you can withdraw from the battlefield. I'll provide you with a safe place to live behind the lines until the war is over. Three, you can continue to fight against me. In which case I'll have to have you relocated as prisoners of war. Where you will be welcome to try to escape should you wish." He rose. "I know that this won't be an easy decision. I'll give you twenty four hours to decide. In the meantime, we will see to your needs. Should you decide sooner, you can use the communication devices to summon me."