The Steel Expanse. That's what they call Vetton. A modern marvel, they said – the "birthplace of new-age technology." Hundreds upon hundreds of freestanding buildings rose from the concrete earth beneath it. Nature persisted, but only at the direction of human, or non-human, landscaping. Expansion persisted constantly, and new structures seemed to grow from the ground on a monthly basis. More and more people were leaving their country homes and moving here, seeking opportunity.

At the heart of the city, where expansion had all but stopped, one structure stood out amongst its fellows. Still under construction, the locals had come to call it a "skyscraper." The beams and multi-leveled rafters created a bare, skeletal image when placed amongst its clothed brethren. It was, of course, a holiday, so construction crews were gratefully at home with their families, cooking supper and enjoying the modern marvel of electricity that, so far, only existed here. An onlooker may have found it odd then, that three figures stood – well, two stood and one cowered – in the barren skyscraper, exposed to the elements and seemingly there for a purpose.

"Adele, come here." Adele avoided the eyes of her mistress – her captor, in truth - as she quickly made her way across the room. A broken, near-dead creature stood at their feet, whimpering softly. "That's a good girl."

"Yes, Mistress." She felt like whimpering herself. The cold steel interior did nothing to lighten the mood, nor did the biting winter wind that whipped through the rafters. Mistress Raina seemed completely unaffected – almost at home – in the bleak surroundings. A wicked grin even found its way to her beautiful face. Beautiful but dangerous.

Her mistress was of the most pure evil imaginable. She was beyond petty murder and politics, beyond even power itself. No, she simply enjoyed the thrill that unadulterated malevolence brings. The rush of another's life ebbing away, of a soul destroyed, of morality corrupted. The woman had shown Adele all of these things, and she felt a chill that had nothing to do with the atmosphere. That particular chill had become a familiar feeling, and oddly a little comforting, over the month or so that her mistress had owned her. A month and already her life before seemed a distant dream. How she missed her family.

"Adele, this miserable wretch of a creature has finished its tale."

"I heard, Mistress."

"Is it of any use to us now?"

"No, Mistress." Adele cast her eyes to the creature before them – a Shand. A humanoid insect species of sub-human intelligence. They were disgusting, to be quite honest. Adele had always thought so, and even her time with her mistress had not changed that. Its antenna twitched, its soulless black eyes staring into her.

Raina smiled again, staring at her pupil. "Adele. Kill." She said. "You have earned it."

"Yes, Mistress." A surge of suppressed excitement rang through Adele's entire body. Despite every attempt to quell the rising joy with each fresh kill, it always came back. She always enjoyed it. Desiring so strongly to do something you had no desire to do taxed a person. The experience was just as confusing as the logic. She knew what was happening to her, and knew that Mistress Raina was behind it. She even knew why Mistress Raina was behind it; she had all but told Adele exactly what she was doing.

But it didn't stop it from happening.

The first time she was forced to kill was horrible. She remembered the queasiness she had felt as in a dream. Being forced to do something terrible took its toll on someone. The second time she was forced to do it was numbing. After the third time, and each subsequent time in the past month, she knew she was beginning to enjoy it. Enjoying misery; it was another unsolvable conundrum.

"This time, young one, cause pain." Her mistress commanded. Helplessly she called to the Spectrum.

Adele didn't say anything. She couldn't. The weight of everything she had tried to dam away became too powerful and she simply gave in, let the emotion overflow and sweep her up in its ecstasy. She savored every feeling, reveled in the anguish she caused the creature as it slipped into oblivion through more pain than it had ever imagined. After what felt like hours, and in truth it could have been so, she felt its life force leave completely.

Raina pulled her student into a small embrace at her side. "Well done, child." She felt the lightest touch as Raina lovingly stroked her hair.

Adele looked up at her as a child to a mother. "Thank you, Mistress." For the first time, she meant it. Adele could feel the evil growing inside her. For the first time, she no longer cared.

She was no longer cold. For the first time in one month – Adele d'Shane Ovrander smiled.

-~-~- Two Years Later -~-~-

"Lieutenant Adele, my child, you are ready." Raina gazed almost affectionately at her adopted child and most devoted servant. "You are to return to Vanguard as an escapee. Reinstitute yourself in the hierarchy, and wait. You told me I set you free two years ago. Now I will set you loose upon my enemies."

They walked among the hallways of Telgrand, its sleek black stone rising all around them. An endless expanse of spires seemed to grow out of the land in every direction, made of the same black stone. It housed Raina's silent army. The entire world whispered of such an army, but few actually knew it existed. The entire land was protected from prying eyes by Raina's command over the Spectrum – the power that allowed a being who had command over it to alter nature – along with the Spectral command of a few trusted servants. Adele had been privileged to be among them for over a year now.

Adele smiled at her mother – more so her mother than her birth mother ever could hope to be, at least – and returned her gaze to the spires. "Thank you, Raina." She was one of few who also had the privilege of calling her mistress by her first name. "And what of my," she chewed her tongue in disgust before spitting the words out, "old family?"

Raina seemed deep in thought for a moment. Tugging slightly at the Spectrum, Adele felt Raina's deep pride in her. "After the task is done? My child, you know exactly what you must do. I leave the honor of it to you, of course."

"Slaughter them, then?" It was barely a question but Raina nodded anyway. Adele smiled. "With pleasure."


The prologue is set 20 years into the future, it does this to give you a striking contrast of where Raina is at the start of chapter one, and where she will be by the time she finishes her journey. Any feedback is welcome. I realize it's dark, that's the point. I've never done a story like this but the idea has always intrigued me. Thanks for reading! :)