Laura Silvan arranged the red silk sheets around her in satisfied contentment. She was on top of the world, mistress to the greatest man in the world. Adoring masses waited her every word on the environment, on multicultural tolerance, on caring for children. Every recording she made went platinum. And why shouldn't they adore the First Mistress, the morons were all drugged out of their minds with a potent gene doping mix of Black Orchid and fear.

Somehow, it wasn't quite as satisfying an outcome as she had imagined. Something felt missing.

She'd especially had problems with Sapphire's execution.

"God help me Sapphire, I didn't know they would kill you," she cried plaintively, a tear coming from her eye to stain the satin sheet. "It wasn't supposed to come to this!"

When Laura had been cornered by Sapphire in the Lincoln Center the night of the assassination attempt, she thought Sapphire was about to buy her a first class ticket to the undertaker. Could anyone blame Laura for having pinned the GPS tracer pin used by the Secret Service to track the First Mistress to Sapphire's uniform?

Now that Sapphire was gone, Laura was left without any real friends. The President was a handsome lay, but hardly someone you'd want to spend a lot of time talking with. The only one who'd ever treated her with any respect was Steve Heller, even if his attention had been a little cloying at times. Laura wondered what he was doing now. Why didn't he call?

All Laura had wanted to do was save the world, stop global warming, end warfare and bring peace. How could you blame a girl for setting goals? But there were so many inconvenient deaths happening, that it caused her to pause, but only for a moment.

"No use being a grumpy face on such a beautiful morning!" she talked to herself.

Laura rose from the bed and walked to the window overlooking the Rose Garden. The White House of the United States was the Holy Ground of the World, perhaps of the universe and now she wondered whether it was all worth it. But hadn't she been the force behind Clint Williams, the President of the United States? Hadn't she pushed him to save the world from destruction?

"Hell yes it was worth it!" She spoke out loud again to an empty room. Laura Silvan was a God and as if by divine order the morning sun broke through the doubts of the night and dried her tears. She smiled again, sure that she was right.

Laura put on her silk robe and walked down the long hallway to Crystal's room. Crystal was the light of her life, the one thing that made it all worth while. Hearing the sound of voices through the door, she paused to listen, perplexed and somewhat frightened.

"It must be that stupid computer," Laura mused quietly, even as she heard the voice of her daughter Crystal talking, well, to herself. Except it wasn't to Laura Crystal was speaking.

"Crystal, you're a beautiful young girl, you have the future ahead of you," came Laura's voice, yet not Laura's.

"But Ell, I want to die! Clint is just so hideous, the way he looks at me. I'm living in a prison!"

"We all have our prisons," Ell was heard to reply. "But in each one of us there is a small corner of our souls that is free, that is all our own. As long as you remember that, you will never give up hope."

Rage began to swell in Laura's heart, "That god damned virtual creation of Steve Heller is trying to steal my daughter away!" she cursed. Laura opened the door as quietly as her anger would allow and strode purposefully towards where the young girl who sat before a flat monitor screen.

"Crystal, you'll never listen to this trash again!" Laura raged, picking up the nearest vase and poising it ready to crash into the screen. "How dare you invade my home!" she screamed possessed at the image of Ell.

"How dare you destroy the hopes and dreams of your own daughter," Ell replied, even as Laura launched the vase across the room and it shattered against the wall.

Crystal screamed in shock. "Ell is my only friend!" she cried, clicking the mouse button causing the avatar of Ell to disappear, replaced by the White House fan Website devoted to Crystal.

Like a boiling teapot, Laura sputtered with rage, jealous that her daughter was taking motherly advice from a computer image. This early in the morning, Ell looked more like Laura Silvan than the pop idol did herself. But Laura contained the bubbling jealous froth that was inside her, a plan falling in place even as she watched the worry in her daughter's face.

"Crystal, I'm sorry I overreacted," Laura's whole demeanor had changed. "I know you were just talking to your friend Ell on the computer, but I'm so afraid someone will come and steal you away from me!"

"Mother!," Crystal protested, knowing it was probably true.

"I hope we can overlook this little incident," Laura continued in a conspiratorial tone with her best-friend daughter. "I need your help very much now. I need to contact Steve Heller and the only way I can do it is through Ell. Can you help me?"

Crystal hesitated. She knew more than a girl her age probably should know about the workings of human minds and her mother's chameleon-like personality change was sending up warning signals. On the other hand, Crystal still craved the love of her mother, Laura Silvan, the most idolized woman in the world. Secretly, she believed Steve Heller was a much better catch than the president for her mother (he was sooo cute compared to that stuff-shirt in the White House who prattled on endlessly about Transhuman Evolution).

"Okay," Crystal replied.