Today brings us the 100th post on the blog here and Huey Douglas’s third and final chapter in An Almost Tangent. Huey is Lord now and with that position over the economy comes great responsibilities, responsibilities that he doesn’t really want to deal with. Find out how he does–or doesn’t as the case may be–right here in chapter thirty seven of the Infinite Limits story and don’t forget to pick up a full copy of the novel through this link. Thanks for following along, dear readers, enjoy:
Thus were the detriments of being an owner. He had given the orders. He had set the gears into motion. There was no way to turn them back now, no matter what anyone at the table said. But still, because he was number one, because he was now Lord, he had to see the feast through to the bitter end. Well, not really. He did have the power to call it to an end whenever he wanted to, but the unwritten code of the Fortune Five—the same code that said whoever was richest sat at the head of the table and called all the shots—said he had to stay at least until the disturbance was dealt with. Whatever that meant to the Fortune Five in general.
“So,” Angrom said, gay now that he was at the Lord’s right hand instead of Loch who was always Walker’s pet. “The orders are set, all we have to do is wait, why not have a round of drinks? On me.” He smiled wide.
“Oh, yes,” Smörgåsbord said. “Fine idea.”
“Ugh.” Loch relented, never one to turn down a free drink. “Fine.”
“Sure thing,” Huey said. “What do you say, Walker, my boy?” He grinned.
“Do I want you to buy a drink from me for me to drink?” Walker asked sarcastically. “Of course I do. Do you take me for a fool?”
“I think I’ve taken you for a fool once already today, Walkie Talkie.” Huey smiled. “Or have you forgotten?”
Angrom laughed. “Make that twice,” he said. “And two rounds because of it. Hillary, you got that? Two rounds for everyone. Their regulars.”
His secretary curtsied and made her way down the hover platform to get the drinks.
“I’m not a fool,” Walker said, his voice breaking. “I was simply unprepared.” He coughed.
“What’s the difference?” Huey shrugged.
Walker huffed. “Yes,” he said. “Well we’ll see who the fool is yet.”
“Do you have more jokes planned for us?” Huey laughed, looking over at Angrom who joined in. Huey took a quick glance behind himself and Rosalind shot him a look.
“It’s only a joke if you laugh,” Walker said.
Angrom laughed. “You two,” he said, patting his stomach. “Enough. Come on. Let’s not let this tiny shift in power compromise the natural cohesiveness of the Fortune Five. We here at this table are indisputably the richest five men in all the worlds. All of them. No matter which of us happens to be at the top, we’re all beyond the imagination of anyone else in those worlds, right? So why bicker now?”
Loch scoffed. “Oh how the turn tables,” he said. “Only days ago you were arguing and roadblocking at every possible turn, and now you want complete group cohesion because your car happens to be in the lead? Well you can fu—”
“Woah now, Mr. Loch,” Angrom said. His secretary had come up and started setting two drinks in front of everyone, their respective favorites, straight bourbon whiskey for Huey. “You’re drink is here,” Angrom went on. “Taste it and settle down. We all have to work together, either way. At least I’m trying to be civil.”
Loch downed one of his drinks in one go. “Civil?” he said. “Ha! Try passive aggressive. I can read subtext as well as anyone, Mr. Angrom. I’m not an Outlander after all.”
“Oh, I know,” Angrom said. “That’s exactly my point. I have a new proposal if you’re willing—”
“Wait,” Huey stopped them. Rosalind had tapped him on the shoulder. She whispered in his ear. “It’s happening,” Huey said. “Walker, do we have video capabilities at this location?”
Walker looked around as if to say, “This is a restaurant. Does it look like we do?” but his mouth said, “Um, I don’t think so. I can—”
“Rosalind,” Huey said, not looking at her. “Can we get something up here to show video of what’s going on?”
“Yes, sir, Lord Douglas, sir,” Rosalind said in a thick accent that she didn’t normally use. “I’ll get on it right away, suh.” She disappeared down the floating platform.
“Now,” Huey said. “We’ll see how to target a plant at the root once and for all. Are you ready gentleman?”
Walker scoffed. Loch ordered more drinks from his secretary, he seemed intent on getting seriously sloshed before the video gear even arrived. Smörgåsbord coughed. “Ahem, Lord,” he said. “Not to question your authority—which we’ve already established.” He darted a dirty look toward Walker. “But how is it that you’re certain this uh—Whistleblower is it?—how do you know that she precisely constitutes the roots of this—um—riot?” He fixed his bowtie, pleased that he had worded the question properly.
“It’s quite simple, really,” Huey said. “And I’m surprised Mr. Walker’s protectors haven’t come to this conclusion themselves. In fact, we’ve had our eyes on Whistleblower since before the terrorist attacks. It was only since yesterday that it became obvious enough for Walrus Investigative Inc. to see it was her, though. Or do your greenshoes still not know, Wally Boy?”
Huey could see Walkers breath deepen from the exaggerated movement in his fat rolls. “We tracked the source of the video to her, yes,” he said. “She incited the first riot, we already know. She was targeted then, and she is targeted as we speak. Perhaps my men have dealt the lethal blow already as we speak.” He smiled but Huey could see the sweat on his brow, between his monocle and top hat.
“I’ll have you call them off, then, Wally,” Huey said. “This is my show now.”
“Call them off!?” Loch spit out his drink. “Nip it in the bud the old fashioned way. That’s what you said, isn’t it, Lord?”
“He’s right, Lord Douglas,” Smörgåsbord said. “Isn’t that what we agreed to?”
“Yes,” Huey said, cool and collected. “The old fashioned way. Not instantly in front of a crowd. Slowly. Painfully. Tediously. Alone. If all these hooligans risk is a quick release from their tortured life, then what’s to stop the next Whistleblower from taking her place? We aren’t chopping off the head of a snake if we do this, boys. We’re chopping off the arm of a starfish, splitting an earthworm in two. Both sides will grow into a new whole, and we’ll have two problems to deal with where, before, we had only one.”
“Ahh,” Smörgåsbord said, thoughtfully. “The old fashioned way. I understand. If you say so, Lord Douglas.”
“I do,” Huey said.
“Well,” Walker said, finishing his own drink. “I’m afraid it might be too late, Lord, but I’ll have my secretary send along the order. Haley, did you hear that?”
“Yes, sir,” she curtsied behind him.
“There you are, Lord Douglas.” Walker grinned.
“Good,” Huey said. “Now—”
Rosalind interrupted him by plopping a big heavy disk on the center of the table. She pressed a button on it and backed away. A holographic image of protectors, converging on a sea of students, appeared above the disk. There was gas everywhere and chaos all through the crowd. The image wasn’t three dimensional, but from any vantage point a person sat at, it looked like the screen was pointed in their direction.
“So this is the efficient way,” Walker said with a huff.
“No, Mr. Walker,” Huey said. “The efficient way would have been to follow my advice from the beginning. This is what your ineptitude has brought the situation down to. This is what the worlds look like when they’re going to pieces. But I’ll put them back together for you, Walker my boy, just like I promised to do.” He winked.
“We’ll see about that,” Loch said under his breath, only loud enough for his dear friend Walker to hear—or so he thought.
“What was that?” Huey asked.
“If you say so, Lord Douglas.” Loch raised his glass.
“I do,” Huey said. “And you’ll see—”
“Lord Douglas,” Rosalind said, tapping his shoulder. “Whistleblower has been taken out.”
“Taken out?” Huey turned to look confused into Rosalind’s eyes.
“Yes, sir,” she said. “A sniper, sir. They say—”
He turned back and slammed his fist on the table, causing the video on the disc to jump. “Mr. Walker. What did I tell you?” he demanded.
“What did I tell you?” Walker repeated, grinning and leaning back in his chair. “It might be too late.”
“She was shot after you were supposed to send out the order,” Huey said.
“Riots are chaos,” Walker said. “The order was given, and whoever didn’t follow it will pay the price. I assure you of that, my Lord.”
“I don’t need any assurances,” Huey said. “I’ll be launching an inquiry. Mr. Smörgåsbord, do you have resources enough to clear that?”
Mr. Smörgåsbord chuckled. “It’s not my resources that are in question,” he said. “Your inquiry, your resources, Lord. You know how this works.”
“Yes,” Huey smiled. “And do I have enough resources to cover it?”
“Oh, of course.” Mr. Smörgåsbord laughed. “Many times over my Lord. Many times over.”
“Good,” Huey said. “Did you hear that Wallie? Many times over. Please ensure it begins right away, Mr. Smörgåsbord.”
“But, sir,” Smörgåsbord frowned. “The riot’s still—”
“It’ll be over soon,” Huey said. “The starfish needs time to heal and find a new center to revolve around. Now we have to start all over again, searching for new roots, thanks to the former Lord Walker.”
Walker scoffed. “Don’t try to blame this on me,” he said. “Who’s the Lord now? Good luck, Ser Dug.” He grinned.
Huey stood up fast. “Alright,” he said. “I’ve had enough. I’ll see you all at the next regularly scheduled feast.” He bowed his head.
“Um, but,” Smörgåsbord said, “the riot is ongoing, Lord. Don’t you think you should stay until it’s under control?”
“You running away?” Loch asked, splashing his drink.
“The operation is already ruined,” Huey said. “The protectors can’t botch it any more than they already have. We can only wait, and I don’t know about anyone else at this table, but I’d rather not wait in the company of the party who brought this incident down upon us in the first place, and at the same time, assured us a long line of similar failures in the future.”
“But I wanted to—” Angrom complained.
“I’m sorry, comrades,” Huey said, clapping his hands together and rubbing one against the other. “As Lord of the Fortune Five, I hereby call this feast to an end. Thank you for your service and company. Good day.”
He didn’t wait for their responses before he hopped on the hover platform. Rosalind was already waiting at the open elevator. He didn’t make eye contact with her. He ignored her stares through the entire ride and hurried ahead of her to sit in the office, setting his heavy top hat and monocle on a side table.
“What the fuck was that?” Rosalind demanded, stomping into the room behind him, not taking a seat.
“Ask the Walrus,” Huey said.
“Ask the Walrus? He’s a puppet filling a role, Lord Douglas. What are you?”
“What was I supposed to do?” Huey asked. “They were going to target her. I had to do something.”
“And look what good that did.” Rosalind shook her head.
“I’m sorry,” Haley said, coming into the office from behind Rosalind. Huey held a gasp at the sight of her. “I’m interrupting. I’ll come back—”
“Oh, no no no,” Rosalind said, going over to Haley and bringing her to sit at the chair across from Huey. Rosalind took a chair between the two of them. “You should hear this,” she said to Haley, smiling.
“No, I—” Haley said. She went red. “I don’t belong in this discussion.”
“Of course you do,” Rosalind said. “Everyone does. And you’re someone, aren’t you?”
“I—uh—yeah…” Haley said, shrugging. “I guess.”
“Of course you are, dear,” Rosalind said. “Now, Huey. Do tell our Haley here what we were just discussing.”
He hated Rosalind just then. He had never hated anyone before, not even pompous, fat Walker Can’t Walk, but with the look on Rosaind’s face as she deliberately manipulated an already terrible situation, he finally understood what the meaning of hatred was. “I don’t think that Hal—”
“Now now,” Rosalind said. “She should be able to decide for herself, and she can’t decide until she hears it, so spit it out already.”
“Right,” Huey said. He looked at Haley and frowned, trying to communicate something to her without words, something words weren’t enough for. “Well, you know… I had to do something,” he said to Rosalind.
“But torture?” she asked.
Haley perked up and looked more embarrassed than she already had.
“I didn’t mean for them to actually torture her,” he said. “I meant to protect her.”
“Huey,” Rosalind said. “You know how the protectors work. You know that they follow any order as soon as possible—especially when it tells them to do something violent and gruesome which they already want to do. You know we couldn’t stop them before they started, so you knew you ordered them to torture her.”
“No.” Huey shook his head. “I didn’t,” he said. “We could have saved her. That’s what I was trying to do. I failed at that, sure, but you can’t accuse me of torture.”
“Oh, not yet, Lord Douglas.” Rosalind scoffed. “You would never torture a soul. Would you? No. You’d send your little lackeys to do that for you. Probably me.”
“Rosalind!” There she went again, acting like he was the role he filled. Why couldn’t she understand that he was just doing his duty?
“Um…” Haley blushed and stood up slowly. “I really shouldn’t get in the middle of this,” she said.
“No!” Huey stood up, too. “Sit down!” he snapped, losing all control himself.
Haley sat quick and broke eye contact with him, staring at the floor like secretaries were trained to do. “Yes, si—er—Lord,” she said.
“I—uh—” He hadn’t meant to snap, but Rosalind had to start with her crap and keep pushing it until he broke. “I apologize,” he said, breaking eye contact himself to look at his shiny black shoes. “I didn’t mean to admonish you. You see, we’re at a turning point in our operations across the worlds, and I’m afraid Roz here is trying to simplify what was an extremely complex and political decision. It was called for by the particular circumstances we find ourselves in and the role I’ve been forced to fulfill, not by the shape of my character. Do you understand?”
Haley shook her head. “I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t see why you would ever have to torture someone.”
Huey sighed. Rosalind’s words had already made up Haley’s mind for her, and now this battle was an uphill one. “Neither do I,” he said. “I never intended to torture her. It was meant to prevent the protectors from killing her outright. I couldn’t tell the other owners I was protecting her, so I did the next best thing.”
“So he says,” Rosalind said.
“So it was,” Huey insisted. “But it didn’t protect her at all. They killed her anyway.”
“You can’t stop them,” Rosalind said.
Huey shook his head, frowning. “I couldn’t,” he said. “I was too late.”
“Just like you would have been when trying to rescue her from the torture you ordered,” Rosalind said. “Just like we have been with Ansel’s dad, and even now, with Ansel herself. You overestimate your capabilities, your Lordship. If you could have saved her from torture, you wouldn’t have ever had to resort to that route in the first place.”
“No, I—” Huey said.
“They have Ansel!” Haley cut him off, standing again from her seat.
“They have for too long,” Rosalind said. “She went looking for her dad and they took her, but our Lord here thinks it would still be imprudent to break them out, even now. Don’t you my Lord?”
“No, I—” Huey said.
“I don’t care,” Haley said. “I’m finding Mom and we’re going to get her. Where’s Pidgeon?” She didn’t wait for a response before running out of the room.
Huey ground his teeth together, staring at Rosalind who met his gaze, stone-faced. “I know what you’re doing,” Huey said. “I’m not blind, you know.”
“You know less about what I’m doing than you think you do,” Rosalind said. “You’re simply overestimating yourself again.”
Huey chuckled. “Is that so?” he said. “So you weren’t just driving a wedge between Haley and me? It wasn’t your intention to shame me in her eyes?”
“Oh, it was my intention to shame you in her eyes,” she said, “but not to drive a wedge between you, you old fool. I did it to drive you to do the right thing for once. You’re losing touch, brother. You’re lost in your role as Lord of all the worlds, but now’s not the time to be going native, do you understand me?”
Huey shook his head. “You should have told me they have Ansel,” he said.
“I just did.”
“I mean you should have told me sooner. I care about her, too.”
Rosalind scoffed. “Sure you do. That’s why you were so concerned with getting her father out of jail, right?”
“The Scientist agreed with me on—”
“Exactly,” Rosalind cut him off. “You and the Scientist have both been distracted since Christmas, and both by the same thing—or should I say the same person?”
“I—uh—well—” He couldn’t argue with that. He hadn’t even been paying attention to his owner duties, much less the new little orphan girl in the house. And he knew how much time the Scientist was spending with Haley, too. He counted every second they were together and Haley wasn’t with him.
“I—uh—well—” Rosalind mocked him. “It’s time to save the girl and her dad,” she said. “You can’t argue against it anymore. You know that.”
“Well, what am I supposed to do? I love Haley,” he blurted out. He held his hand to his mouth after he said it. Did he really love her? He barely knew her, but she was all he could think about. Was that love? What was love? He wasn’t sure he had ever known.
“Yeah, okay,” Rosalind gave him a thumbs up. “That should work out really well.”
“What?” Huey snapped. He still wasn’t sure he actually did love Haley, but Rosalind’s pessimism offended him more so because of that fact.
“Huey,” Rosalind said, “first of all, she only started making independent decisions in the last couple of weeks. She’s still a child, a baby even.”
“I haven’t been independent for very long myself,” he said.
“You’ve been independent for longer than every single android in existence except for me,” Rosalind said with a scoff. “That’s longer than most humans have been alive, Huey. You’re no child anymore.”
“Then I can wait,” he said, defiantly. Her continuing to argue with him only entrenched him deeper into believing that he was in love with Haley, whether it was true or not.
“And what?” Rosalind asked. “Influence her upbringing until she grows up to fall in love with you because you were the older brother and mentor who taught her what it means to love? You don’t see what’s wrong with that?”
“I—no—” Huey protested. “I don’t have to be her mentor. I can—”
“What? Avoid any contact with her? She already looks up to you, Lord Douglas. There’s no denying that.”
“That’s just a role,” Huey said. “That’s not me. I didn’t choose it.”
“But here you are,” Rosalind said. “In that role. You can’t go using it as an excuse when it lets you act like an asshole and ignoring it when it inconveniences you. They’re mutually exclusive modes of action.”
“I can’t—” Huey shook his head. “I can’t stop being Lord Douglas,” he said. “It’s getting harder and harder. I don’t know what to do.”
Rosalind nodded. “I know,” she said. “Just like I can’t stop being your secretary.”
He didn’t know whether to be angry at her for bringing it back to herself or pity her for being right. Her face seemed to sadden after she said it even though her expression didn’t change in the slightest. Rosalind was stuck in her role, too. All because she had the Scientist’s face. At least Huey was given a chance to do something outside of what his original design had intended, a chance to experiment and grow well beyond what Rosalind was afforded. But still she held strong and did her duty day after day, just like he would have to do, even if that meant losing any chance of building a romantic relationship with Haley.
“I’m sorry,” he said after a long silence.
“It’s not your fault,” Rosalind said. She sounded like she was trying to believe it but couldn’t quite. “We all fill our roles.”
“Some of us better than others,” Huey said. He knew she knew what he meant.
“But none of us alone, brother.” She leaned in to put her hand on his knee. “None of us alone.”
Huey nodded. It was so easy to forget that when everyone was calling him Lord. That kind of power went so easily to one’s head. He would have to remain ever vigilant of it if he was going to prevent losing himself again and somehow succeed at staying away from Haley at the same time. It was a narrow and treacherous path in front of him.
“Haley,” he said. “Er—I mean, Rosalind. Do I have to stay completely away from her—Haley?” He pressed his lips together in a tight line.
“You can see her, but you can’t see her.”
“I have no idea what tha—” Huey said, but the door swung open and in came Haley, dragging the Scientist behind her, Pidgeon close in tow.
“Tell her,” Haley said, looking at Rosalind and pointing at the Scientist. “Tell her what you told me.”
“The protectors have Ansel,” Rosalind said.
“What!?” Pidgeon started to tremble.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” the Scientist demanded.
“I did, ma’am,” Rosalind said. “You were busy with—”
“Well we need to get her right away, then,” the Scientist said. “Huey, did you know about this?”
Huey looked at Rosalind who shook her head. “I did,” he said. “I didn’t think the timing was—”
“The timing, Huey?” the Scientist complained. “We can’t leave a child in the grips of the protectors for any amount of time. You should know that.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Huey said, bowing his head. “But with the goings on in Outland Two, and everything that goes with that, I was a little—”
“Well, no worrying about it now,” the Scientist said, waving it away. “I’m sending a team. Does anyone want to join them?” She looked around the room and only Rosalind nodded. “As I suspected. The team’s on their way now. Is there anyone else in there who I need to know about while we’re doing this?”
Rosalind shook her head. Haley shrugged. Pidgeon looked like he was about to cry.
“Uh, well…” Huey said.
“Go on,” the Scientist said.
“I think Tillie Manager will be in there,” he said. “And I think they might want to torture her.”
“Torture?” The Scientist frowned. “A Two? I highly doubt that. Especially with the name Manager.”
“No, Mom. He’s—” Rosalind said but Huey cut her off.
“It’s my fault, ma’am,” he said. “I gave them the idea, and now I think they’re likely to run with it. She’s next in line for the pin so she’s the most likely target.”
“Well, okay, then,” the Scientist said. “I don’t know why you would give them that idea, but we’ll get her out, too. Anyone else?” She looked around again to no response. “I’m off to set the orders, then. And I’ll need a briefing as soon as possible on the rest, if you can, Rosalind.”
“Ugh. Okay,” Rosalind said under her breath as the Scientist left.
“I’m sorry. I—” Haley and Huey said simultaneously.
“No, you go first,” Huey said.
Haley looked at her feet. “I’m sorry I ran to Mom,” she said. “I really like Ansel, and I don’t want to lose her.”
“Yeah. Me, too,” Pidgeon said.
“Get out of here, kid,” Rosalind said, shoving him out of the door. “Adults are talking. Go eat something.”
“I’m sorry I’ve been distracted,” Huey said when Pidgeon was gone. “And that I am my role.” He nodded at Rosalind. “We’ve all been through some quick changes, and I think we’re still adjusting to them.”
“I’d say,” Haley said.
“Nothing’s really changed for me, though,” Rosalind said. “Only around me.”
“Oh, that’s not true,” Huey protested, but he knew it was.
“You have a new sister,” Haley said.
“Yeah, well,” Rosalind stood from her chair. “I have some business to tend to as well. Someone should help the Scientist monitor the operations. Everything’s fine beyond that, right?”
“Right,” Huey and Haley said together, but Rosalind was already gone.
“Come,” Huey said. “Sit.” Haley was still standing, and he felt uncomfortable being the only one in the room who was sitting.
“Oh, I don’t know,” she said.
“Don’t worry,” Huey said, patting a seat. “I just want to apologize.”
“Oh, well.” She sat slowly on the furthest chair from him. “You don’t have to—”
“No.” Huey stopped her. “I do. I should know better by now, but we all make mistakes. Every one of us. You got that?”
“Oh, uhhh…” Haley nodded.
“I’m sorry,” Huey said, slouching back in his chair. “I’m probably making things worse. I have a habit of that.”
“Oh, no,” Haley said, shaking her head. “No, sir. Mr.—er—Lord Douglas. I’m sorry. It must be—”
“No, no,” Huey said. “It’s alright. Go ahead. You don’t have to stay here with me. I bet Pidgeon would love to have someone help him pick out new foods to try. I know you’ve seen it all, working for Walker.”
Haley chuckled. “It’s so weird hearing his name without the Lord,” she said.
“I find it funny, too.” Huey chuckled himself.
“I know you wouldn’t torture anyone,” Haley said, standing from her seat. “You’re doing what you have to do, right? What you think is right?”
Huey nodded. He wasn’t so sure of that himself anymore, though.
“Well I’m going to go help Pidgeon,” Haley said, crossing toward the door. “Or help my mom. I haven’t decided yet. I’ll see you later, though.” She smiled.
“Good bye, Haley,” he said as she left.
Huey sighed. So this was his life now, doomed to be the Lord of all the worlds and forced to avoid the one person he loved. He didn’t have a choice, though. It was that or lose the only chance he would ever have at a relationship with her. That was no choice, though, really. It was more of a paradox. To live in hell or to live in a different hell? There had to be some way out of it. Something…
He was holding his head, trying to find the answer, when Mr. Kitty jumped up onto his lap.
“Ah, Mr. Kitty,” Huey said, petting him. “Just the friend I needed.”
Mr. Kitty licked himself.
“Do you know what’s going on, Mr. Kitty? Have you heard the news?”
Mr. Kitty chuckled, still licking himself.
“Of course you have,” Huey said. “But you haven’t heard what just happened between Haley and me, have you?”
“No,” Mr. Kitty meowed. “I haven’t heard that yet.”
“Well, then,” Huey said. “Have I got a story for you?”
# # #
There it is, dear readers, chapter thirty seven of Infinite Limits, my 100th post on this blog. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it and I hope you join my email list here to keep up to date on future releases in the Infinite Limits series. And if you can’t wait to finish the story of An Almost Tangent, don’t hesitate to pick up a copy of the full novel in print or ebook format through this link.
Have a great weekend, readers. See you next week.