Wrinkling her nose, Cass pushed yet another untouched plate of food away from her and sat back in her chair to cast her eyes around the rest of the table
The dinner party was in full swing now that Lindstrom had arrived, and was, in Cassandra's experience, one of the more bizarre things that she had ever had the displeasure of attending. Lindstrom and Alexis seemed to be enjoying themselves, but the rest of the Dwarf's crew seemed to look as out of place and uncomfortable as she felt.
It was the conversation which was perhaps the most telling - Usually free flowing and dynamic, tonight it was stilted and awkward; and even in spite of Lindstrom's exhortations to enjoy themselves under pain of death, not even the melodious strains of music from the string quartet playing in the corner, could completely mask the painful silences
"Anyway, that was about all we saw" Lindstrom's wife burbled happily to an ill at ease looking Jade "We were only there a few minutes before your ship defences somehow detected us and we had to flee"
"What a pity" Jade said stonily "It's almost as if we were expecting you..."
"Yes, isn't it" Alexis trilled "Gums and I would have loved to see more; maybe some of you other little people had children too - I love children..." she paused to look wistfully down the table at Lindstrom "Did you know that daddy's helping Lindy and me have babies?"
Cass glanced away at this, trying not to let her revulsion show as she kept up the pretence of stupidity and gazed vacantly across the room at the string quartet. The four dead eyed, miserable looking women played well, although Cass didn't recognise the piece, which, she supposed, wasn't all that surprising, given that it could have been drawn from almost any period in human history
"Was the dish not to your liking madam?"
Starting in surprise, Cass glanced up into the expressionless visage of one of the mechanoid butlers
"What?" she frowned
"Your food madam?" the mechanoid primly gestured towards Cassandra's untouched plate "Did you not like it?"
"Nah" Cass shook her head and paused to give the matter some consideration "It were shit"
"I'm most terribly sorry" the butler bowed obsequiously as it reached for the plate "I'll make sure the chef is well flogged. Can I bring you something more to your liking?"
"Do you want anything else?" the butler asked testily
"And how would madam like it?"
Cass looked a little confused "Umm..." she replied warily "On a plate?"
"Of course" the butler nodded curtly and withdrew, knowing full well not to embarrass dinner guests with their own ignorance
Cassandra's stomach growled as she watched the mechanoid's retreating back. Truth be told she was famished, and the food he had rejected had looked and smelled amazing, but she was a long way from being stupid enough to trust who or whatever had prepared it; and besides, she reflected, she was that tired, if she ate anything, she'd crash and would probably be asleep within twenty minutes, which wasn't what she had in mind
The steak arrived some ten or so minutes later, cooked to an unappetising medium rare instead of bleu; but Cass paid it little heed, concentrating instead on Lindstrom chatting to the simulant over several glasses of wine, which were in all likelihood fine enough to gain even Seymour's approval
She gave it another fifteen minutes of braying ego-centric conversation from Lindstrom, by which time her steak had cooled to the point of cardboard inedibility. Noting one of the butlers heading in her direction to whisk yet another untouched plate away, Cass threw her linen napkin down on the table in front of her and stood, deftly palming the steak knife from beneath it and slipping it up her sleeve
"I need a pee" she announced, staring pointedly at Lindstrom "Where's the toilet?"
“Over there, my dear” Lindstrom gestured dismissively behind him “Let one of the butlers show you”
Colouring slightly, Cass slipped away from the table, nervously slipping her left hand into a pocket as she did so and closing her fingers around Kenneth's light bee. She had been able to spend a bit of time working on the AI while she had been away on the planetoid, and while Kenneth was still offline, she had been able to repurpose the bee's hard light projector into a crude shield of sorts, which she pulled out and activated as she moved past Lindstrom
The look of surprise on the man’s face as the shield blossomed into being was a joy to behold, as was the horror in his widening eyes as Cass uncoupled the idiot-collar from around her neck and with a flick of her wrist snapped it closed around Lindstrom's in one smooth movement
Two things happened in the ensuing uproar, the first being the snipers hiding up in the gloomy arches of the roof, opened fire; the ensuing hail of bullets pinging harmlessly off the hard light shield while the rest of the diners scrambled for safety
The other thing that occurred was Lindstrom going into shock, just as Cass had done when he had gifted her with the collar in the first place, which gave Cass the opportunity to smash the dully unresisting Lindstrom's face into the table in front of him
"You said I was dangerous, didn't you?" she hissed in his ear after she had hauled him back upright, his nose bleeding profusely as another volley of sniper fire ricocheted off the shield
Shaking the steak knife out from within her sleeve Cass held the serrated blade up against his jugular
"Call the snipers and guards off," she instructed "Make one wrong move and you're dead!"

Mike - how's Lindstrom get out of this, or does Artemis have use for a living breathing Lindstrom instead of a bit of DNA?
Lindstrom's neural functions have been disrupted, and if he or any of the wardens make one wrong move, Cass will kill him

What's everyone else do? - How about using this to start a riot? ;-)

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