Category: NonConsent/Reluctance Stories

Jessa Ch. 14

by Chimera44©

Dear readers: I want to thank you so much for your patience of late. My husband has been in the hospital for three weeks, even as we are preparing to move to another city. It has been a very trying time these last couple of months. I hope you enjoy this offering, and I expect to be back up to speed soon!

*****

"No!" Jessa wailed as Jacq swung her back by the one arm he controlled, then passed her off to someone else who was dragging her away from the scene. "Raza!" she called, even knowing the girl would never hear her again. She struggled against whoever was pulling her from behind and then in a moment of lucidity brought her training to bear, twisting and bending to throw the current source of her confinement over her back and onto the rough asphalt. Jessa stumbled away from the man as he reached for her legs and turned to run only to find Jacq there blocking her way again. She sobbed as she struck uselessly against his chest. He pulled her into a tight bear hug until she could hardly breathe.

"Let me go! I have to get away from here."

"Why do you think I told you not to come?" he demanded in exasperation.

"You knew she was dead!" Jessa screamed. "You knew and you didn't say anything?"

"Of course not. I knew something was wrong and I knew you were in danger from what you told me of last night. Therefore, obviously, this was not where you belonged. And yet here you are, with no one to blame but yourself, for seeing something you didn't want to see." He suddenly thrust her back into the grip of someone else. "See if you can manage to hold on to her this time."

"You think that's what it's about?" she continued to rail at him. "My delicate sensibilities? I'm not a fucking Tenth Lady with a handkerchief to my nose, Jacq!" He loomed in front of her, the anger flaring in his eyes making him seem much taller despite only having an inch or two on her. Jessa realized belatedly that he was married to one of those 'faint of heart' Tenth Ladies, but she continued to glower at him. "Someone I care about is dead. Because of me?"

"That remains to be seen. Take her back to the office. And keep her there," he snarled, turning his back on them.

"Get back here," Jessa yelled after him. "Talk to me, damn it." She struggled in the grasp of the man behind her, but he was not being nearly so gentle this time. Jacq only waved a hand in the air, clearly meant as a signal to his man to get her out of there. A car pulled up next to them and she was shoved unceremoniously into the back seat.

****

Jessa was dreaming, running blindly, sobbing, as she wiped furiously at her eyes; running all out, running away from what she couldn't control, which was everything. She tore through the streets and alleys of Paris, tore past the yellow ribbons marking the occupied sector, tore past ancient landmarks that had become meaningless in the cold new world. She awoke with difficulty, clawing her way through darkness and struggling to open her tear-encrusted eyes against a bright light. She remembered being half dragged, half carried through Jacq's command center, thrust into an inner office, then crying herself to sleep, haunted by the sight of Raza's eyes, pleading with her even in death. She moaned softly in frustration, the rest of her body being much slower to wake and far less willing to move than her eyes. When she finally could focus and turn her head, she realized she was laying on a short couch. Her legs were draped over an arm of the couch, her head up against the other arm. She managed to roll slightly and saw a man, leaning against a door across the room, busy with a cell phone. He glanced at her, then opened the door behind him and said, "She's awake."

Jessa levered herself up into a sitting position, making her head throb in the way it always had after a crying jag. She closed her eyes against the brightness of the room, taking a deep breath. When she reopened her eyes, Jacq was entering through the door. He scowled at her. "Why do you insist on fighting hardest against the people trying to help you?" he demanded. His very voice made her head throb even worse.

"Because you terrify me," she whispered.

"And people hunting you, people willing to kill an innocent servant, don't?"

"What?" She shook her head despite the pain. "They killed Raza because of me?"

He sank wearily into a chair perpendicular to the couch. "It looked like she was tortured," he said more softly. "Someone trying to find out your location."

Jessa gasped. "Shay!"

"She's safe. We moved her. Fortunately, she was in her own apartment when someone smashed the door to yours." He sighed heavily. "I hate to say this, but your disobedience may have saved your life. Although if you ever disobey me again, Torah be damned, I'll whip you myself." He waited a moment for the words to sink in, but she just clutched herself and rocked softly. "We're collecting video. I want you to look at it. See if it might be the man you saw last night."

"I don't understand any of this," Jessa moaned.

"We went to great lengths to keep your location secret..."

"Arnau! He knew, I took him there!"

Jacq shook his head. "I told him what was going on, where we had located you. It was one of his buildings, because we knew the surveillance would be good. He keeps protectees there himself."

"But if he wanted to hurt me... Get revenge..."

"He wouldn't have any reason to kill your servant. And he would have known how to avoid his own security. I've been assured we have at least some surveillance video capture. Arnau can be slimy at times, but not like this."

"Then Renik? I mean, his men?"

Jacq shook his head. "We know them all. They couldn't get within fifty kilometers of Paris without me knowing, let alone into the occupied sector."

"Then who?"

"I don't know." He reached out and grasped her hand, much more comforting than his initial entrance. "Torah is on his way. We will sort this out, but in the meantime, you need to stay safe. I can't be chasing you and your hunter around at the same time. Jessa, please. Just do what you are told. Don't fight me on this. Don't try to solve everything yourself."

Jessa's head snapped up. "My tablet. In the apartment."

Jacq frowned. "What was on it?"

"Was it still there?" she asked, ignoring his question.

His eyes narrowed. "I'll have my men check. Jessa, what was on it?"

"Just please, bring it to me. Don't let them try to access it. You can wait till Torah gets here to give it to me, just don't let anyone try to see what is on it. Please, Jacq."

"I will see if it is still there," he agreed noncommittally.

"Why Raza?" Jessa moaned, feeling her eyes well with tears again. "She never hurt anyone."

"Arnau's idiot City Forces. They knew to be concerned when they found your car in the parking lot, but then they broadcast it on the radio. I'm guessing that when the man you saw last night couldn't find you, he staked out the car until Raza showed up. Tortured her until he got the address, then killed her."

"Tortured her how?"

"You don't need to know that, Jessa. It doesn't matter."

"It does to Raza!" she sobbed. "So it does to me."

"Jessa, let it go. I swear to you that Torah will make it right by her family."

"Money can't replace a life," she snapped, jumping to her feet.

Jacq stood up at the same time and shoved her back down onto the couch. "This is what I'm talking about, Jessa. What are you going to do? Fight? Fight whom? Or maybe you think you can go to Raza's family and tell them you're sorry? You think that will make them feel any better than Torah's money? Get real," he snapped, stalking out of the room.

Jessa curled in on herself and sobbed, but part of her had to acknowledge the truth of what he said. There was no way to ever make things right by Raza. She uncurled slowly and noted with chagrin that the man at the door was back again, leaning against the exit to the room, enthralled by his cell phone. She examined the room more closely and realized it only had that one exit. There was a window, though blinds covered it. Jessa stood and went to the window to look out. Her 'companion' was there before she could even reach for the pull.

"No," was all he said.

"No, what?" she demanded, but he would not elucidate, simply holding the blind pull out of her reach. She took his measure, but he was built like a brick wall, stolid and heavy. She knew she could outrun him easily, but wrestling him for a blind pull was simply a fool's errand. She turned back to the blinds and tried to separate the slats. He pushed her away so brusquely she fell on her ass. She glowered up at him.

Jacq came back in the room and took in the scene with exasperation. "Ten minutes? You couldn't even go ten minutes without disregarding everything I told you?"

She looked over at him, trying to appear in control despite sitting on the floor with her arms braced behind her. "I wasn't trying to run or fight. I just wanted to look out the window."

"So that whoever might be out there could look in?"

Jessa straightened and shrugged uncomfortably. "I can't do this, Jacq. I can't do any of it." She ran her hands through her hair. "You want me to live in fear. I don't know how to do that. I don't even know how to begin to do that. I don't want to do that. I wasn't raised to do that." She threw her hands in the air in frustration. "I see a goddamn window, I want to look out it. I see a door, I want to walk through it." She drew a deep breath. "Most of all, I fucking don't want other people dying because of something I am. What the fuck am I, Jacq?" She turned an intense gaze on him, then repeated, "What the fuck am I?"

He stared back but offered no answer. Jessa stood slowly, deliberately, and walked toward him until she was toe to toe with him. "I am walking out of here and I am taking control of my own life."

"I'm sorry, Jessa. I can't allow that," he said, seeming sincerely apologetic.

"I'm not asking, Jacq. I'm warning you not to stand in my way."

He ducked his head, trying to hide his humor at her brashness, and she clenched one hand around the other and slammed them upward, into his chin, with all the force she could muster. He staggered back and she didn't wait to see if he fell. She leapt for the door, knowing she could only be a few steps ahead of the other man, let alone Jacq if he maintained his footing. Her only hope was to run at her top speed, without pausing to decide on direction. Indecision was disaster. In the tiny glimpse she'd been afforded between the slats of the blinds, before being shoved on her ass, she had guessed that she was on the third floor of the building.

She burst through the door into an office, Jacq's presumably, with another door opposite. She raced for that and emerged into a larger office with a number of desks and a door at the far end. She ignored the two men sitting at desks in that room who jumped to their feet. It didn't matter how many might chase her. It only mattered that she was the fastest. That was what had been drilled into her when she competed, and now she was competing for her life, or so it felt. Reach, spring, kick, she recited to herself, as if on a cinder track. The door before her opened and she was faintly aware of a surprised face before she literally knocked the man to the ground and leapt over him, sprinting down a hall, hoping for an exit along the way.

She could hear pursuit behind her; someone calling her name. She didn't care. At the end of the hall, she could clearly see an exit sign. Nothing mattered to her in the moment save being away; away from everyone that sought to make her be someone she was not. She lost maybe half a step pulling the heavy stairway door open, but then a welcome sight greeted her. She had spent may long hours practicing on the steps of an old football stadium, leaping down six or more steps at a time, because she didn't have a coach there telling her it was better practice for her muscles to run each step. Without even thinking, she took each flight in three strides, using the handrail to swing across the landings to the next flight. She heard someone fall on the stairs, perhaps trying to emulate her feat. She didn't care, because the main floor landing was in front of her and she was tugging at the door.

It wouldn't open and she screamed in frustration, even as she turned to descend more steps. No hesitation, she scolded herself. Jessa felt panic rising in her chest as she flew down the last set of steps. The window in the door showed a level of parking. She tugged at the door and felt it give, reluctantly. Again, there was no time for decision-making. She raced down the parking aisle straight in front of her, hearing feet pounding in pursuit before she had covered even a third of the way to the end wall.

"Focus on the finish," her father had drummed into her, but she didn't know where the finish was in this race. What she did know was that she was underground, and that meant she had to go uphill. As she got closer to the end wall, she could detect an incline to the right and angled that way. She refused to look back, but she could hear footfalls, angling across the aisles of the parking, trying to cut her off. She was racing up the incline and ahead she could see small elongated triangles of sunlight hitting the floor where the underground parking gradually began to emerge at ground level. Areas where a svelte, toned female could squeeze through. As opposed to a stocky, muscle-bound council agent. Again, it was one of those instant decision times, but this was one of the few decisions that Jessa felt capable of making anymore. She gauged the sun and angles and leapt sideways, slithering through the opening just as fingers grazed her ankles. Jessa rolled and ran the opposite direction from her previous track, knowing her pursuers would need to follow the incline to find wider openings.

She was in the administrative part of the occupied sector, filled with office buildings. She reached a corner and turned downhill. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see two men running after her and another two pulling themselves from the parking garage. Jacq was one of those in full pursuit, and yelling into a cell phone. Ever so briefly, she wondered if he was talking to Torah. But then she shook that thought off, and concentrated only on each step. She knew the foot race would soon give way to cars and she couldn't hope to win unless she found terrain where cars could not follow. That meant the river, and she dearly hoped the current downward slope of the street she was following was leading her there.

The office buildings gave way to a corridor of restaurants, shops and parking lots facing the park bordering the river. Jessa laced a convoluted path through the buildings and into the park. She was seeking an area of the river roughly equidistant from bridges crossing it. She angled upstream, hoping her pursuers would think she was making for a footpath along the banks and possibly angle even farther upstream to cut her off. Without breaking stride, Jessa veered suddenly and dove into the river. The water was icy cold, but not that different than her beloved lake, and she knifed through it underwater as far as she could before coming up for air and breaking into the fastest stroke she knew. She ignored twin splashes somewhere behind her, focusing on her father's words when he was teaching her. "In a river," he had said, "never fight the current. The river will always win. Don't set your goal as a spot on the far bank, but simply as the bank itself. Let the river carry you where it will." She did just that, stroking hard for the far bank, ignoring the splashing behind her and the running footsteps headed for the foot bridge downstream. Either she would make it to the bank ahead of them, or she wouldn't.

When Jessa reached the far bank, she barely spared a glance at her pursuers. Her ploy had gained her significant distance. The swimmers in particular were struggling against the cold and the current. The two runners had only just reached the far end of the bridge and were beginning to slow, breathing hard. She wasted no time on gloating, though, as she made her way across the green space and into a residential area. Here there were more alleys and spaces between buildings, and that was what she needed now. Places cars couldn't follow. She wove and twisted between buildings and through shrubbery until she reached the unoccupied zone.

She began scanning the streets before emerging into the opening. As she had expected, there were frequent cars, cruising slowly through the streets, looking for her. She also noted with chagrin that at least half of them were City Forces. Jacq had called in Arnau's help. She ran in spurts, dashing across open spaces, then stopping as soon as she reached cover to plan her next dash. The farther she went from the occupied zone, the more decrepit the buildings became, some even totally collapsed making nearby streets impassable, to Jessa's relief. Other buildings were so riff with decay she skirted wide around them just for fear they might collapse at any moment. She reached an overgrown park and plunged into the greenery. She was trying to maintain the northerly heading she had first taken, her instincts pushing her to put as much distance between her and Jacq's headquarters as possible. Once in the park, she found herself constantly having to backtrack when she would reach areas so overgrown she couldn't pass. When she finally emerged on the far side of the park, it was to find herself in another area of apartment buildings. The cars seemed less frequent now, but she noticed they had taken up vantage points at long abandoned intersections, looking up and down the straight avenues to watch for signs of her.

Jessa realized that her only hope was to wait for nightfall and the help of darkness. And to pray that her pursuers were not well equipped with thermal imaging. There was no crowd to hide among, here. Even feral animals appeared to have abandoned the city and its empty confines. She crawled deep into one of the less decayed buildings and curled up to rest and wait for darkness. Unfortunately, once she quit running and thinking only about the next few moments, her thoughts turned to dread of the anger that was already turned her way. She had seen just this morning - it seemed like days ago - that Jacq was capable of the same deathly cold anger that had been trained into Torah and Erich. And now, he had said, Torah was on his way. From where? How long would it take him to get here and be on the hunt for her, too? Did she have any hope of surviving, despite the Council's plans?

Yet, underneath the fear, at a much deeper level, there was a solemn resolve that she could no longer live this way, not knowing who was friend or foe, who's wrath might deliver instant death, to her or someone she cared about, and most especially, not knowing what the Council, or whoever was behind all of the mysteries, meant for her and Torah, and most especially for their offspring. In the darkness of the empty guts of the building, her eyes glowed with resolve. She would live free or she would die. It didn't really matter where or how, at this point. Simply surviving was no longer a viable option. And somehow, reaching that realization filled her with strength and will, rather than despair. She became eager for night to fall, to continue her journey, even entertaining thoughts of finding some way to reach the Americas, out of the reach of Council agents, their enemies, and the even more mysterious scientists that lusted after her progeny. Jessa closed her eyes, but she did not sleep. Her mind was flying with possibilities, now that she'd made a decision for her own life, even as it had when she decided to forego marriage and the ludicrous rituals of Summer's End to live life on her own terms. That hadn't worked out so well, thanks to Torah and his Council, but she was much wiser now in the ways that this world operated, and if anything, even more determined.

Category: NonConsent/Reluctance Stories