Iron Rose Bleeding

Chapter 5

Anne Azel

To: Inga, Lisa, and Susan, thanks for your help.

The Anne Azel's World web site is now found at

Note To The Reader: All the information used in this story about trends and concerns on our planet is current and accurate data. In the next fifty years, our world will change completely.

These are the events as we know them.

We recorded them factually and objectively.

And now we report them to you.

Tap was totally naked and she was gorgeous. Her body was lean and strong and yet still feminine in her lines. She walked with casual confidence over to Courtney, who was to admit later that she had been trying hard not to stare at certain significant parts of Tap's anatomy.

"There has been a change of plans. I will be leaving in seventy-two hours. You will come with me."

Courtney forced herself to look into Tap's pale eyes and not let her vision head south. It wasn't easy. "Where and why?"

Tap showed her frustration with Courtney's stubborn nature by lying down in the sand with a sigh. "We are going to Italy. Rome. There we will hear a series of lectures on the world economy. There is much you will need to learn before then."

As if on clue, the door opened and Samuel Attenburg entered carrying two palmpilots. He showed no reaction at all to finding his boss laying in the sand completely naked and with her eyes closed.

"I think she was hit by a bus but she didn't get its license." Courtney shrugged, looking up from the prone figure. "How are you, Sam?"

"Fine thank you, Court. Welcome." Sam smiled. He left the materials close to Tap's side and left without another word.

"I was not hit by a bus, Courtney Hunter. I got too cold in the water tank. You will be more comfortable if you take your clothes off. You may change in the other room so that you don't get sand on your clothes"

"It was a joke. I like to be called Court and no thanks, I would not feel comfortable walking around in my birthday suit."

"Sit and read then, Court."

Courtney sat, surprised to find that the sand was warmed from beneath. She opened up one of the files on a palmpilot and started to read a report by the US Navy on ice thicknesses in Antarctica. She squirmed a good deal over the next three hours, and finally ended up stripped to her underwear with her feet in the water. She had read through two lengthy reports and knew that Tap had read considerably more. She forced herself to focus on a report on island elevations.

"You are in good shape and genetically well structured." Tap's quiet, melodic voice seemed to boom out in the still room.

"Is that a compliment?" Courtney asked with a good deal of sarcasm.

"It was an observation."

"It is not polite to stare."

"I was not staring. I was observing. As you observed me. Do you find my body acceptable?"

Courtney got to her feet in a rush and started to fumble with her sandy clothes. "Listen, Tap, I think you have gotten the wrong impression here. If you think that you have given me red status so that you can ...well it is NOT going to happen."

Tap was on her feet in one continuous movement and bristling with anger. "Are you suggesting that I was wanting sex with you? How dare you! My comments were a simple observation, nothing more. I would not sleep with the likes of you."

"Oh you wouldn't, would you! Well, go fuck yourself. I am out of here."

The hand that closed around her arm was like an iron bracelet. "Let me try this again. I admire your physical condition and I find your bone structure pleasing. You are not here to be my sex partner. Your new role has not yet been defined. It will depend on your performance over the next few weeks. I meant no offense."

"Very well. I am sorry I misunderstood your remarks. Your position as my boss makes such comments inappropriate." Courtney was hurt but did her best not to show it. Humans, of course, have the ability to feel and accept opposite viewpoints at the same time. She did not want to think that Tap would use her for sex, on the other hand, she was deeply hurt that Tap did not want to have sex with her. After all, had she not fantasized about what it would be like?

They parted then. Haichen met Courtney and took her for a cup of tea in the green zone lunch room. She explained that those who had worked today in the green zone would use the lunch room on that side of the house, while those working in red zone used the dining hall off the domed room. This meant that the few people that Courtney saw there working late were people she had met before. After tea, she was left to her duties as the house archivist. Her tea with Haichen had helped her gain two more pieces to the puzzle; ten of the people she worked with were "outsiders", people, who like herself were hired to do a specific job in the green section and went home each night. Twenty others were " Tap's people" and lived on site. Now she was the twenty-first.

Sitting at her desk in the quiet house, she was tempted to walk out and see what would happen, then thought better of it. She was committed for the next month and she meant to keep her part of the bargain. Besides, she had always wanted to travel and now she was going to Rome.

Suddenly her heart dropped and she sat up straight. She didn't have a passport. Damnation! Already she was going to upset Tap's plans. She had called Haichen right away and explained that she needed to see Tap. She was informed, however, that Tap would not be available again that evening. Courtney fumed and reluctantly explained her problem.

"You have a passport. Do not worry,"came the response.

One would think that such a reassurance would have satisfied Courtney. It did not. How had she got a passport without producing any documentation? Who had arranged it? Why? And was it legal? Once again she thought about leaving before she got in any deeper. Again she rejected the idea. When she had entered Tap's private world this morning, she had committed herself to a course of action that she meant to see through to her own satisfaction. There was no backing out. It was just not the way that Courtney operated.

Courtney sat back in her office chair and considered. She needed to establish her new position, whatever that was, and test to see just how much power she really had. If Tap was telling the truth and was not looking for sex, then what was her interest in Courtney? She had gone from an employee who was definitely out of the ring, to a prisoner, and now to Tap's trainee all in one day. But what was she being trained for? With a sigh, she called up another file on her palm and started reading about the growth of world deserts.

She slept that night on the rug in the library. She had no intention of going back to the room where she had been held prisoner and it seemed the only one available. To use it would be a sign of acceptance of Tap's authority over her life. That was not going to happen. Already an idea was forming in her head as to where she could live. It would suit her fine and it would certainly upset Tap's people and the merry little voice system that followed them around. That thought formed a smile on her face and she drifted off to sleep.

Despite the stressful day and late night Courtney had the night before, she was up early and already putting her plans in motion. First, she made a phone call. "Haichen, please ask Tap if it is convenient for us to visit my apartment around eleven. Tell her it would be best if we took my car and I will see to lunch in exchange for her help."

There was shocked silence on the other end of the line. Then Haichen's voice came hesitantly, "I will get back to you."

Courtney filled in her time working at her job in the library. There was not much to do now that Tap was here and no material was flowing in from various conferences and resource bases. The call she had been waiting for came back within the hour. "Tap will meet you at eleven-thirty in the central room that is domed."

"The central room, fine. Thank you, Haichen. Good bye." Courtney put the receiver down and smiled with satisfaction. She felt the familiar tingle of excitement run down her back that she always got when she had a lion by the tail. She got up, and headed off to the red zone kitchens. She needed to know what Tap enjoyed eating because it certainly wasn't coffee or grilled cheese sandwiches.

A visit to the kitchen revealed that Tap lived mostly on rare vegetables which she ate with a hot, spicy mix of boiled grains. Occasionally, she ate fruit as well but rarely ate meat or dairy products. It was a healthy if very boring diet. Having got the information she needed and got things organized to her satisfaction, she returned to the library.

Tap was punctual partly because Tap always was punctual and partly because she was very curious as to what Courtney Hunter was up to. This study was proving to be most interesting. Courtney Hunter was very difficult to predict. She didn't appear to be a spy. It didn't seem as if she had planned to steal anything. No, Courtney Hunter had entered the red zone simply out of curiosity. Tap was used to people and governments being very interested in her. She was used to individuals wanting to know her for more personal reasons too. But Courtney Hunter didn't seem to fit into any of the pigeon-holes. Nor had she reacted as Tap had expected. Tap had planned to scare the small woman by holding Courtney in the guest room until the end of the day and then to release Courtney after she had fired her. She had been greatly surprised at Courtney Hunter's ability to escape, not once but twice. And she had been more impressed still that Courtney had given up her escape attempt to come back and help her. Tap needed to learn more.

She found Court waiting by the well with a large knapsack beside her. "There was not a picnic basket to be had so I had to improvise."

"We are going on a picnic, Court? I thought I was escorting you while you picked up any belongings that you will need for your stay."

"That too. Are you ready?"

Tap hesitated. "I have a number of vehicles and excellent drivers. Would it not be best to use one of these?"

Courtney snorted. "Not in my neighbourhood. It would be in the chop shop before you even found a parking spot. Trust me on this."

Tap looked at her with pale, serious eyes. "Why should I trust you?" It was a good question for in the last twenty-four hours Courtney Hunter had been very troublesome. She had entered an area that was off limits to her and then escaped twice and in doing so hurt one of Tap's employees.

Courtney blushed. "Good point. I am right about this though."

Can you trust her?

You are taking a great risk.

Should you do this?

The voices made Courtney annoyed. "Will you please turn off that stupid system and just think for yourself! Make up your mind, are you coming with me or not?"

Tap looked completely shocked. "You do not understand. Yes, I am coming with you. I would not trust you out of my sight for a minute."

Courtney rolled her eyes and headed out. This is to say that she did not have a comeback to Tap's statement and yet was not willing to accept the truth of her employer's words.

Courtney Hunter exited through the formal living-room and out into the lobby. They left by the front door and made their way through the garden maze.

Ian was in the security booth again. He sported a large goose egg of various nasty stages of bruising on his forehead. "Hi Ian. Look, I'm really sorry. It was a wild pitch. I never meant to hit you in the head. Are you alright?"

Ian straightened at the sight of Tap standing quietly behind the smaller woman. "Yes, I am fine, thank you, Court. Tap is there anything I can do for you?"

"Courtney Hunter and I are going out. We will follow the usual security procedures."

"Yes, Tap."

"See you later," Courtney smiled. They head off down the cedar walk , through the security gates and on to the car park. A large pool of oil was eating its way through the asphalt under Courtney's beat up car.

"Court, is this vehicle of yours road worthy?"

"It will be. Get in. Oh just move the garbage off your seat. I had breakfast at MacDonalds on my way to work yesterday morning."

Tap opened the passenger door and sniffed. The inside smelt of dust, stale grease and oil. At least one of these offensive odors she could eliminate. With a look of complete disgust, she gingerly picked up the bag of fast food remains and placed it on the sidewalk. "The grounds keepers will see to this."

Courtney Hunter was not listening. She was observed through the security cameras removing several liters of oil from a box in the back seat and lifting the hood to check the dip stick before pouring the oil in with a sigh.

Security watched her movements closely, keeping her every action centered in the cross hairs of their scope. It would be regrettable if they needed to take action.

Chapter 6

original fiction index | xena homepage | what's new |