nike_ravus (nike_ravus) wrote,
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nike_ravus

Nights Spent Listening to Noises

Title: Fake Empire Side Story:  Emily's Notebooks volume 2 (pt 7): Nights Spent Listening to Noises
Author: Alsike
Rating: R
Fandom: X-Men/Criminal Minds
Pairing: Other Emma Frost/Other Emily Prentiss
Disclaimer: I do not own X-Men or Criminal Minds. I owe 
[info]wizened_cynic for the concept of quantum babies.  She does it much better than me.  Title stolen from the poem The State of Virginia After Southampton: 1831, by Geoffrey Brock.
Apologies:  And now for something a little bit different.

Summary: In a different world, Erik Magnus overthrew the US government when Emily Prentiss was only twelve years old.  On that day the course of her life changed irrevocably.  This is her story.

Fake Empire Side Stories:
Emily's Notebooks 1: The Christmas Revolution
Whore, PainFear, Death

Original Fake Empire Stories


I'm sorry if this one's too much exposition and set up.  I hope it's still interesting.

 

I just ran, not looking where I was going.  I saw the footman’s uniform before I hit, but I couldn’t dodge, and crashed into the row of pale buttons.  Hands caught my wrists and kept me from falling.

The hand was dark blue with only three massive ugly digits and long curved yellow nails.  I looked up, for a moment expecting it to be the doctor, but this mutant’s face was darker and narrow, with a pointy chin, pointed ears, and pupil-less glowing yellow eyes.

I recoiled in fear and disgust.

“Excuse me, Miss!”

His accent was thick and German, and he was polite and looked worried.  I started to cry.  It seemed that the ones who looked like demons were kind, and ones who looked like…  the ones who looked like Emma had demons inside.

“Ja, please, do not…”  His eyes widened.  “You are bleeding.”  He offered me a handkerchief held between two claw-like nails.  I took it and pressed it to my face, slumping to my knees.

He was right.  I was bleeding from inside my mouth.  My lip had caught on my teeth when my mistress had hit me. 

So much for promising she wouldn’t hurt me. 

I wiped my face and offered it wanly back to him.  He wouldn’t take it.  His strange hands, which would be more fitting on a dinosaur, waved it away.  Instead he crouched down in front of me and asked if I was all right.  I was ashamed of crying.  What reason did I have?  Rejection?  Wasn't rejection better than having to serve that?  Having to bury my head between her legs and choke on it…

“I’m fine.”

Even with a face like a demon, his skepticism was clear.

”I’m fine,” I said harshly.  Speaking like that to a mutant would have gotten me shot in Moscow, but I didn’t care anymore.

He looked slightly hurt and embarrassed.  “Then will you help me?  I am ze new footman, ja?  But I was instructed to introduce myself to the mistress of the house.  I am lost.”

I stared at him for a moment.  What were the other footmen trying to do to him, sending him to Emma’s rooms when I was supposed to be there, right after her bath?  I wondered if mutants hated the ones who looked different as much as humans did.

“I wouldn’t go now.  She’s… not in a good mood.  I would wait until tomorrow.”

Then I stood, and started towards the stairs.

“Danke, Miss,” he called after me.  But I didn’t turn back.

He was new.  Perhaps he thought me a mutant servant.  It would be strange to be mistaken for a mutant, but the shirt I wore disguised the brands on my back.

*            *            *

That week was the only time I seriously considered running away.  Suicide by sentinel.  The metal beasts had been reprogrammed to hunt humans without a letter of marque, a chip in a card that was remote controlled by their master.  If the slave did not turn up at the expected time and place, the marque was turned off, and the sentinels would find him.  Although the sentinels were programmed to capture, sometimes they had a hard time differentiating between capture and kill.

It was pointless to run away, because there was nowhere to run to.

But it felt pointless to stay.  What did I have to live for?  What future did I have here?  I was a slave who wasn't allowed to work.  ‘Worthless’ was a kind epithet for me.

Evan JJ tried to stay out of my way.  I was angry and unhappy, but I couldn’t do anything.  If I tried to join a group, they would turn their backs, and create an unbreachable rank.

I stopped going to the refectory to eat.  I couldn’t deal with the way they would turn from me.  If I left something to mark my place, sometimes would come back to find it shoved to the center and all the seats filled.  Other times I would ask if I could sit in an empty place and be flatly rejected.

I didn’t leave my bed.  There was nothing to leave it for.  I had never realized before that nothingness and indecision were such a heavy weight.

But finally I realized it had gone on too long.  They could hate me for as long as they wanted, but I couldn’t hate myself anymore.  I didn’t deserve this.  I had done what I was told to do, no more and no less.

*            *            *

During the pre-dinner morning shift I stole into Aaron’s room and waited for him.  I wandered around his room while I knew he was eating dinner.  It was larger than the other slave quarters, and his alone.  He had a desk, schedules carefully written out in his neat handwriting, piles of notes, mostly complaints, and some evaluations.  To my surprise he had someone reporting back from every crew, rating the workers’ morale, how hard they worked, how much they could reasonably do.  He kept a file on everyone.  A short list was on the corner of the table, “reasonable for replacement” it read.  There were four names on it.  One was mine.

I felt my heart stop for an interminable moment.  It was like wearing a for sale sign.  I didn’t understand why I felt so horrified by the idea, because I had thought about being sold many times in the past week.  But imagining being sold was different from the reality of it. 

Most slaves rejected from household service ended up in pools of laborers who worked mines, or farms, or construction.  If they were sold on the black market, it was easy to end up in a brothel or being used for scientific testing.  Other rumors suggested worse fates, but there was no real way to imagine what could happen to you after your records disappeared and according to society you did not exist.

I found my file.  More than half the reports were critical: lazy, slow, stupid, different ways of saying, “I don’t want her on my team.”  I kept paging through them in disbelief.  Even the positive ones said that I did what I was told, but couldn’t work with a team.  The more recent the report the worse it was.

I couldn’t believe it.

Aaron walked through the door and stopped short as he saw me.

“You shouldn’t be in here.”

I turned on him, one particularly egregious report clutched in my fist.  “What is this?”  I had trusted him.  Was this what he thought of me?  “Is this what they say?  This woman wasn’t even with me during my shift!  She disappeared and left me to make up Emma’s room alone, and then she tells you that I’m lazy and can’t be trusted?  And you’re going to sell me?  Fine!  Thank god!  No one wants me here!”

Aaron looked a little stunned by my tirade.  “It’s just a recommendation.  I have to do it every week.”

“And they think I’m the traitor,” I spat.  I wondered who knew that the one we had chosen to govern us saw nothing wrong with informing on us.

He reached out, as if to placate me, but his hand hesitated before it reached me.  Even he couldn't bring himself to touch me.  “They’re not going to sell you.  You’ve been on the list the past six times.”

I stared at him blankly.  “Every week?  Every week since I fucked her?”

His eyes widened.  “I didn’t-”

“Why was I never asked to do a report?”

“Your English…”

“My English is fine!  Yeb vas!  I can write better than this!” I threw the paper on the floor and ground it under my foot.  “I want to work.  I need to work, but because I do the job that none of you could stomach, you won’t let me?”

Aaron stumbled over his words, something about duty and reliability.  I didn’t listen to them.

“You don’t have to be disgusted by me anymore.  She doesn’t want me anymore.  Maybe this time they will take your recommendation and get rid of me.”

“I’m not trying to keep you from working.”  He had regained his composure.  I hadn’t.  “Is your back all right?”

“Better than yours I’d suppose.  You’re still working.”

His shoulders stiffened, but I couldn’t read him.  Was he angry?  Was he afraid?  He glanced toward the list and then at the floor, and I knew.

“I didn’t run to her and tell.  I didn’t complain.  I don’t understand her, or know what she’s planning, but if she were going to sell you, you’d be gone already.”

“I see.”  Aaron looked at me and then picked the list up off the desk, scratching out my name and adding a different one at the bottom.  “It’s hard to believe you, since there were so many reports that agreed, but they did change drastically after… after she called you for the first time.  I thought, perhaps, you were suffering from depression.  I didn’t want to call you on it.”  He looked away.  “If you didn’t tell her…”

“I fainted.”

He looked shocked and slightly guilty at that.  How could he have any guilt left after he had been punished for it so thoroughly?  I could still see the imprint of a lash coming out of the collar of his shirt, marking his chest and curling over his neck.

“If you want to work, take these to the Butler.”  He handed me a pile of papers, the list on the top.  “If I can’t trust their evaluations, I will watch you myself.”

I let the papers settle into my hands, not quite understanding what this meant.  It wasn’t what I had wanted.  I wanted to be thrown away like trash.  I wanted this endless disparagement to end.

But I would take what I could get.

*            *            *

The full-time servants lived on the floor above, but there were no staircases leading directly there.  The downstairs was only accessible from the main floors, and those doors could be bolted from the outside at the entrance on our floor, on the first landing, and at the exit.  The exit opened into tight corridors that led to the kitchen, the public areas, and the private areas.  The public areas were riddled with doorways and hidey-holes to keep the servants available but out of sight.  The private area corridor led up a second staircase and let out at the end of the hallway by the least important guest bathroom.  Emma’s rooms were at the opposite end of the hallway, around a corner and down another set of stairs.  Slaves were not allowed on the main staircase that led up from the public rooms.

The stairs down to the servants’ quarters were behind the kitchen.  Slaves were not allowed on them either without an escort.  The cleaning crews that worked there were on a set schedule and had guards at the doorways of whatever room they were working in. 

It was easier to get out of the building from the servants quarters than from any other area (save the roof, but one would not survive the escape).  It had three direct routes outside.  But I didn’t believe the extra security was because they were worried about escape.

In a society where there are two lower classes, one slave and one free, the most important thing to the free class is to differentiate themselves from the slaves.  Because they know, that if the lines ever blur, their freedom is forfeit.  That was why they made sure to guard us while we were in their quarters, and they would never stand a slave in a job that required a uniform.  A uniform meant a professional, and that was something a slave could never be.

I had never been in one of the crews that cleaned the servants’ quarters, so it took me a few minutes to find the stairs.  I couldn’t ask directions, because no one in the kitchens would meet my gaze or respond to my query.  When I found it, I was surprised that there was no guard.  I had expected to pass on my burden, or be escorted to the Butler, but instead I had to make my way down the dim stairwell alone, every step treading into more and more foreign territory.

The hallways were larger and better lit than the downstairs, but I didn’t know where to go.  The first door that was open I looked into.  It was a gymnasium, and inside there was a fight going on.

*            *            *

The blue demon I had run into a week before was wielding a foil with his three deformed digits.  He crouched and then extended in an impossibly long, amazingly graceful lunge, his forked tail in a curve behind him matching his back arm.

His opponent was a broad heavily muscled man with thick golden fur sprouting from his chest, breaking out of the collar of his uniform.  He skittered backwards, trying to avoid the lunge, and fell, clumsily batting away the blade with his own weapon.

I was distracted by the fight, and only noticed the woman coming up behind me when she grabbed the back of my shirt and threw me into the gym.  The papers scattered across the floor.

“Who are you?  And what are you doing here?”  The woman had her weapon out and it was pointed straight at my throat.

“I-  I’m sorry.  I’m looking for the Butler.”

Her sword slashed the buttons off my shirt and it fell down my shoulders.

“Turn around.”

She was looking for my brand, but it was shaming, clutching my shirt closed, and crawling on my knees until my back faced the tip of her sword.  I felt the cool metal trace over the two burn marks.

“Who sent you?”

“Aaron.”

“Jessica?  What is happening?”

The blue demon had left his opponent on the heavily waxed floor, and bounded over.

“I caught a slave sneaking around.”

The demon crouched and looked at my face.  “Ja.  It is my friend!”

He offered me a hand.  I stared at it for a long moment, bewildered by his words.  I took it.  It felt soft, like the fur of a mouse.  He helped me to my feet.

The woman, Jessica, was staring at me with an expression like she had tasted something disgusting.  I stared at the floor.

“You had a ‘K,’” she said shortly.

“Kremlin,” I muttered.

“You’re that one.”  She wrinkled her nose.  “A woman’s bad enough, but a human too.”  She sneered.  “Deal with her, Kurt.  I need to wash my hands.”

The blue demon patted me on the back.  “These papers are yours, ja?”  He crouched and started to gather them.  I quickly dropped to the floor and scrambled to collect them as quickly as possible.

He gave me his pile when they had all been picked up.  “I’m sorry,” I said.

“It is nothing.  You helped me much.  My comrades were all very disappointed when I avoided…”  He pursed his lips and thought for a moment, “’being ripped a new one.’  Ja?”

I glanced away.  He had taken my advice.  “I need to give these to the butler,” I murmured.

“I will show you the way.”  He smiled, and offered his arm.  I shook my head, glancing toward his former opponent, who was toweling off his fur and watching us suspiciously.

“Thank you,” I said.

He seemed to understand what I meant, and led the way out of the gymnasium.

“I do not think I introduced myself.  My name is Kurt Wagner, formerly of Berlin.”

“Emily Prentiss,” I said, my name sounding foreign on my tongue.  “Formerly of Stoianka, near Kiev.”

Kurt smiled broadly.  “I am pleased to meet you.”

He led me to an office in the back of the floor.  A powerful-looking black man sat at the desk, frowning at a mass of paperwork.  He looked up and caught sight of Kurt.

“Wagner!” he yelled.  “Where are the weekly slave reports?  I want you to go and bash that foreman until they’re on my desk!”

“Ja, Mr. Cage.  Sir.  I believe I have them here.”  He pushed me forward and I held out the pile of papers. 

Mr. Cage took them, hardly looking at me, and started paging through them.  He shook his head.  “As bad as I thought.  Any volunteers to tell our brat of a mistress that torture is demoralizing?  Didn’t think so.”

He was grumbling to himself, but his words were loud enough to echo off the filing cabinet across the room.  I stared at him.  Finally he looked up from the papers and frowned, eyeing me.

“I haven’t seen you before.  Your number?”

I gave it to him, and he gave me an even more intrigued look.  “Really?  Well, tell your foreman that I’ll approve his request to rearrange the schedules, but if the mistress’ rooms suffer at all from this, he’ll be getting in there himself and scrubbing, all right?”

I nodded.  He picked up two folders and handed me one.  “This goes back to your foreman.”  Then he gave me the other.  “This is for the cook, more blasted dinner parties, so get it to her.  Immediately.”

“Sir.”

And suddenly I had a new job.  I was Aaron’s adjutant and mutant liaison.  When I came back to his office, three stacks of folders in my arms from the butler, the cook and the housekeeper, after having run all over the house, looking for different people and relaying instructions, he stared at me as if I had come back from the dead.  I wondered if he had expected me to get caught by the servants in their area and punished for it.  Had it been a maneuver to get rid of me?

I didn’t care much.  I relayed all twelve messages I had been given verbally, and he groaned at the sudden weight of work.  He started sorting out the responses and the instructions he needed to relay.  The cleaning crews needed to ready the two best guest bedrooms.  The cook needed reports from the gardens on what would be ripe by next week.  The air conditioning was making strange sounds, and someone needed to go down to check on it before Mr. Cage called a technician.

“I can do it.”

He gave me a long look, and then handed me the list he had been making of instructions, who to ask, who to tell.

Interacting with mutants all afternoon had made me forget that I was invisible to the humans.  When I approached the head of the gardening crew and he turned away, I remembered.  I didn’t let him ignore me.  I put my hand on his shoulder.  He leapt away from me and started cursing, making the sign of the cross over and over again.

“Don’t touch me demon!”

             I waited for him to finish panicking.  “I have a message from Aaron,” I said, when he finally shut up.  He was obviously surprised, but told me what I needed to know and relay on to the cook.  I could feel everyone’s eyes on me as I left.  But for the first time in a long while they were merely shocked and curious, not baleful.

 

 

Tags: au, criminal minds, emma/emily, fake empire, x-men
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