Thursday, November 26, 2015

Episode Ten: The Price of Love

The Virus Episode Ten: The Price of Love

“Capitalists profess that there is a price tag for everything. What, then, is the price of love?”- Frederick Wolfenburg, Hessian activist, 1974 editorial

November 8, 2015
11:25 local time,
The Docks,
Helene, Borneo, Birea

“Greetings, Roger,” said billionaire Derek Glengarry in his thick Glaswegian accent, bowing his head to his visitor, as he docked his yacht on the harbour.
“Greetings Derek,” said Roger Milton, a distant descendant from Aberdeen, returning the bow from his perch on the harbour. He came with his henchmen, bringing Glengarry a large crate kept closed with a large metal padlock.

“Open it up,” Glengarry barked, who wanted to waste no time to inspect his latest purchase. Upon orders, Milton started the process of opening up the box, as Glengarry watched with baited breath.

“Wow,” said Glengarry, smiling with glee. “That is a wonderful speciman.” He then docked his boat and climbed up on to the dock to further inspect his new product- an 18-year-old girl, Anna Nyquist, kidnapped from the streets of Stockholm seven months ago. She was a nubile blonde with her hair in a ponytail and stood in the crate naked, attached to the box in chains loose enough to allow some movement, with a ball gag affixed to her mouth.

Glengarry, 36, started to run his hands on her body. Nyquist started to squirm before Glengarry slapped her violently in the face, which caused her to stop. By this stage, Nyquist knew better, as Milton beat her regularly to obtain her obedience and it wasn’t the first time she had been examined by a prospective buyer, though it didn’t change the fact that she was still being violated. Glengarry, though, had soft hands, which made the violation easier to take but not by much.

“Her breasts are nice and firm,” said Glengarry, examining the body. He then put his mouth to her breasts and started playing with her nipples. “I really love her nipples...so nice and hard. Mmmmnnn.” He then put his hand to her genitals and rubbed her clitoris, which caused Nyquist to squirm once more.

“Enough!” Glengarry said, slapping her. “You’re going to enjoy this whether you like it or not!” Nyquist wanted to cry, but she knew it would be no use, so she just hung her head and let Glengarry do as he pleased. As she complied, he kept rubbing her genitals, noticing how quickly she got wet. He then put a few hands inside Nyquist’s vagina and wiggled them around.

“Ooohh...nice,” said Glengarry with a smile. “Nice and tight.”
“She’s a virgin,” said Milton.
“Just the way I like it,” replied Glengarry with a grin.

He then felt his way through her arms and legs, noticing how strong she was. Nyquist was a swimmer and worked part-time as a handywoman, so despite her slender physique, she was well-built, something Glengarry was truly impressed with.

The last thing Glengarry did was extend his arms out and wrap them around Nyquist, giving her a warm embrace. At first, Nyquist wanted to squirm, but although she still met the menacing eyes of her slave owners, she felt genuine warmth from Glengarry, making her start to reciprocate the hug even more. Glengarry enjoyed the hug, holding on to her longer than he usually did.

“Such a warm, warm person,” said Glengarry, holding Nyquist tight. As they embraced, Nyquist began to cry, overcome with the emotions of her situation, and, although overall the situation still registered as a nightmare for her, the way Glengarry held her, it gave Nyquist a brief sense of genuine compassion and love, something she hadn’t experienced since she was kidnapped. Although Milton did enough to keep up her shape by feeding her well and allowing- and sometimes forcing- her to exercise, he still treated her very callously, never failing to remind her who was her slave boss. Glengarry, though, seemed like he wanted to treat her well, even though she knew she would still be his slave.

“I think I’ve seen enough,” said Glengarry, satisfied. “You were right, Roger, about having a top quality girl and she is TOP quality. What’s your price?”
“£70,000,” said Milton, with slight hesitation.
Glengarry scoffed. “No no no...I’d only pay that if there was a middleman...come on...don’t play games with me.”
“Okay fine...£65,000.”
Glengarry was curt in his response. “£45,000.”
“£55,000, but that’s it.”
“Deal!” Glengarry then pulled out his chequebook and wrote Milton the cheque for Nyquist, as well as an additional £8,250 in tips and another £200 to cover the shipping fees for a total price of £63,450. A cleric was on hand to officially wed the couple, although Glengarry planned a more formal gathering at a later date.

The two men then bowed and said their goodbyes, each satisfied they completed the deal. Nyquist was then grabbed by two henchmen who held her as they released her bonds and applied handcuffs to her wrists behind her back, before pushing her towards Glengarry, who led her into his boat. Glengarry hastily ushered her into her new bedroom, putting her into a new set of chains that made her lay spread-eagle on the bed. Glengarry took another glance at Nyquist’s naked body, admiring what he saw.

“You know what I’m going to call you?” said Glengarry with a smile. “Kiki. Do you want to know why?” He then adopted a playful tone before continuing. “Because you’re so kinky!” He then chuckled as he removed his fez and began undoing his shirt.

Nyquist, realizing what was about to happen, lost her composure on the bed, beginning to whimper and cry.

Glengarry noticed Nyquist’s tears and took pity on her. “Oh…Kiki…don’t cry,” he said, softly. “It’s going to be fun, I promise. I know…your first time…it’s a little scary but I’m going to make sure you enjoy every minute of it.” Nyquist, though, quickly realized how fruitless it would be to undo her bonds, so she took a deep breath and decided to make the most of the most unfortunate way for her to lose her virginity. With Nyquist calmed, Glengarry decided to take off his pants and his underwear, and proceeded to start having sex with her.

November 8, 2015,
13:09 local time,
Market Square,
Helene, Birea

“Come on Carter,” said Angus McNaughton to his friend, Carter Downey. “Everyone is doing it...there’s no other way to get a girl now.”
“It doesn’t matter, Angus,” said Carter, as he grimaced from the sunburn his pale skin received on this hot day. “You don’t buy people…that isn’t love. It’s fake...you didn’t earn it. Besides, what does it say about our people if the only way our men can obtain love is by buying it?”
“Carter, Carter, Carter.” Angus sighed and grimacing slightly. “It’s noble of you to want to do the honourable thing...but one day, you’ll realize that reality isn’t noble.”
“Perhaps...perhaps you’re right. Perhaps I’m just naive and see the world in rose-coloured glasses where doing the right thing always gets you what you want...but, you know what? I’d rather die alone than know that I gained something that compromised my morals.”
Angus then put his hand on Carter’s shoulder and sighed. He had recently bought his wife and found so much happiness afterward that it pained him to see his best friend so downtrodden because he was alone. “Sometimes I worry about you buddy…I don’t want to see a nice, kind, religious man like yourself die alone. Many women would kill to have a guy like you, and you know there are many men who have gotten married that don’t deserve it. You know this buddy…so why deny it? Plus you’ve heard the statistics.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know- 15 million Birean men are going to be unable to find a wife if they stay in Birea…”
“There you go…you know ‘the normal way’ will not work.”

Carter sighed, thinking that Angus had a point, but decided against arguing further. Carter then left his friend and continued his shopping through the marketplace. He was 51, never married, though he had two brief girlfriends in his past. Debates like these enraged him, because he hated thinking about the lack of romance in his life, even though everywhere in Birea he would be reminded of it. Every second billboard he would pass would advertise some kind of matchmaking service, and it seemed like everywhere he turned there was a man offering him a chance to meet a beautiful wife. The pursuit of love in Birea had become ubiquitous, and with the addition of each new service to procure a wife, Carter often wondered how many of them were legitimate and how many were scam artists looking to exploit a lonely man like him.

At this stage of his life, he’d been through the gamut of dating agencies and practices, and, having failed to secure love each time, he started to wonder if his pursuit really was worth it. In recent years, he began to realize that his many friends- including Angus- had provided him the companionship a romance would have provided him anyway. Still, he wasn’t getting any younger, and women did seem much harder to find in Birea, confirming the statistics. It was here that a shop billboard caught his eye- and perhaps changed his ideas for good.

November 8, 2015
20:39 local time,
Encinitas Beach
Encinitas, California

Regina Goldman loved the waves. At 21 and a graduate of History at nearby San Diego State University, Goldman decided that before she settled down to enter the dreaded “9-to-5” working fray, she needed to have some quality time to herself and her surfboard. After all, once she started working her days of surfing could be numbered, and she was still on the cusp of her prime physical years.

Right now, though, the wavy, slender brunette sat on the beach, clad in a flower-printed bikini, sunglasses and wearing her trusty bracelet, an embroidered one she made herself featuring one smiley face giving the other a side hug. She sat there, feeling the sea breeze, and felt at peace.

November 8, 2015
20:44 local time,
 Eternal Sunshine Resort,
 Encinitas, California

Down the street from Goldman was a beachside restaurant connected to the luxurious Eternal Sunshine resort. Staying there was the family of Mark Sanderson, the CEO of auto giant British Leyland, who came traveling with some friends, mostly other workers from BL. At this hour, Sanderson was having a late dinner with his wife, Marta, and five of his friends, and, remembering that he had put to bed his kids- five-year-old Heidi, a blonde girl whose left eye had a mark called “coloboma”, and three-year-old twins George and Robert- a little over an hour and a half ago, he excused himself to check up on his kids.

Upon arriving to his suite, he opened the door and found nothing out of the ordinary- the kids were sound asleep, the windows were shuttered and everything was in its place. He then noticed one of his suitcases seemed a little off kilter, but he attributed that to the wind that sometimes howled in when the windows were open and thought nothing of it. Satisfied with the appearance of the suite, Sanderson left to rejoin his family at the dinner table.

November 8, 2015
21:23 local time,
Encinitas Beach,
Encinitas, California

It was at this time Goldman decided to head for her car so that she could go home. A teenaged boy with a thick Aberdeen accent, a tan and swimming shorts pulled up past his belly button noticed Goldman and tried to strike up a conversation with her.

“How are you doing lassie?” The teen asked, flashing a warm smile.
“I’m doing good,” said Goldman, who returned the smile but kept her pace walking to her car. The teen, not caring that Goldman paid him no heed, started to follow her as well.
“What’s your name?”
“Listen, I’d love to stay and chat, but it’s late and I really need to get home.”
“I really need a favour from you...my car’s broke down and I need some help.”
Goldman felt something was off about the teen. “Well, I’m sorry but there’s nothing I can do about that.”
The teen then grabbed her, and pleaded again.
Goldman angrily ripped his hands off of her. “Listen, punk, if you don’t leave me alone you will leave me no choice but to call the police!”
“I’d really like to know how you can do that when your cell phone doesn’t work.” The teen then pulled out his cell phone jammer, and, almost instantly, ten other men had come from Goldman’s car and surrounded her.

Goldman wasn’t fazed though, adopting a battle stance. She was a trained fighter, although eleven athletic men was something she never faced before. She still welcomed the challenge, knowing she had to- she was literally fighting for her life.

“You guys know I won’t go quietly,” said Goldman.
“Come on lassie,” said the teen as one of the attackers drew a gun. “You don’t want to play games with us. If you play along and come with us, you’ll make it out alive.”
“Oh yeah? So you want me to be submissive, so you can rape me and beat me and then possibly kill me after luring me into a trap. Do you really think I’m that stupid?”
“We can make a lot of money together.”

Though the last statement struck Goldman as odd, she decided there was no point reasoning with these men. Seeing an opening, she kicked the man holding the gun in the jaw, making him drop his gun and sending him to the ground. Goldman then tried to run, but one of the other men caught her and threw her back into the circle.

It was here the fight really began. Once back in the circle, one of the men jumped on her back, causing her to grab the man’s arm and flip him over top of her and onto the ground, hitting two other assailants to the turf in the process. Goldman was lucky, as the flipped man had pulled out a syringe and was ready to use it if Goldman didn’t act quickly enough. The syringe flew well away from the melee and got forgotten, and Goldman never realized it was even there. After the flip, she then got kicked in the back of the head, sending her to the ground, but she instinctively swung her leg behind her tripping the man that just levelled her. She then backflipped herself back upright, facing a man who attempted a punch that Goldman managed to block. Goldman, though, then got grabbed from behind with her arms incapacitated, allowing the man whose punch she blocked to get a few hits to her face. Goldman then flung her head at the attacker that was behind her, headbutting him, before delivering a roundhouse kick that levelled the man who had been getting free shots at her.

A few more waves of fighting- with Goldman holding her own- followed, eventually reducing the fracas to just herself, the teen and another man, the rest having been knocked unconscious. The man remembered the gun that had been drawn but lost in the melee, and picked it up, pointing it at Goldman. He decided he didn’t want to mess around, and cocked the gun in preparation to shoot Goldman. Goldman realized what was happening, so as soon as she saw the man brandish the gun at her she found a nearby rock and chucked it at his head, knocking him to the ground and forcing him to drop the gun again. This left just Goldman and the teen, who picked up the gun.

“You’re a resilient one, aren’t you lassie?” The teen said, holding the gun and pointing it at Goldman. “Don’t play around now...I may just be 15 but I received first place at the Birean Youth Marksmanship Academy. Now...this is your last chance...come with me or you will get hurt.”
“You’re 15, eh?” said Goldman with a smirk.
“Yeah…are you mocking me?”
“No…I just think you’re pretty cute.” Goldman then flashed a playful smile, which caused the teen to get redfaced.
The teen, not expecting the compliments, began to stutter and loosen the grip on the gun. “Well…uh…wow…um…thanks.” He then hung his head, sheepishly, while babbling incoherently, smitten by Goldman’s comment. The distraction was all Goldman needed, delivering a roundhouse kick to the teen’s head, knocking him out cold. She then made a beeline to her car, and, after inspecting it to make sure it was safe, drove off as fast as she could, finding a safe spot where she called police about the incident.

November 8, 2015
22:15 local time,
Eternal Sunshine Resort,
Encinitas, California

At the restaurant, the Sandersons were thoroughly enjoying their night. Time seemed to flow just like the wine did, and what had once been a strict regimen of going back to the room to check on their kids became a “once-in-a-while” thing before the parents, in their drunken stupor, had forgotten to do it completely.

By 22:30, the Sandersons’ forgetfulness irked Ira Bushell, the only member of the group who wasn’t drinking. She decided that if the Sandersons weren’t going to care for their children, she had to, so she went up to the Sandersons’ suite to check up on the children. As she walked up, she thought she saw a middle aged man with a fez carrying what appeared to be a blonde girl in pajamas fast asleep in his arms, but, since she couldn’t get a good look at the girl, she dismissed the find.

Immediately alarm bells went off. The door to the Sandersons’ suite was open, and, immediately after she opened it, Bushell saw that the door to Heidi’s room was open as well. A draft also appeared to be coming into the suite, felt strongest at Heidi’s room. Bushell, sensing something was wrong, walked to Heidi’s room and opened the door.

She gasped in terror. “Oh my…”

Heidi’s bed had been disturbed, with her covers completely removed. The child was nowhere to be found, with a note that simply said “Thank You!” put in the bed in Heidi’s place. There were footprints coming from her bedroom window- which was wide open- with the prints belonging to an adult. There were also skid marks found on the floor, most noticeable by Heidi’s closet. Scared at the sight, Bushell ran from the room to the restaurant, yelling “Heidi is missing!” Immediately she was confronted by a security guard, Rodrigo Fernandez, as her yelling disturbed and confused many of the guests.

“Ma’am, calm down please,” said Fernandez, whose sunny demeanour and large frame evoked a “teddy bear” sense to him.
Bushell babbled incoherently, too distraught to properly form a reply.
Fernandez spoke softly. “Take a deep breath.” After Bushell did so and regained a bit of her composure, the guard continued. “Now, tell me what happened.”
Bushell spoke with a noticeable quiver, although she was coherent this time. “Okay, so I’m here with some friends, among them is Mark Sanderson and his wife…we were all having a great dinner but at varying points in the evening we all agreed to check up on his kids at regular intervals…however, everyone got drunk except me, because I hate beer. Anyway, I went up to check up on the kids and I noticed the door to the Sandersons’ room was open…and there was a draft…and the window to Heidi’s room was open…and…” Bushell by this point couldn’t keep her composure and buried her head in her hands, starting to cry uncontrollably.

Fernandez realized that he couldn’t get any more information out of Bushell so he looked for Sanderson, eventually spotting his table. To Fernandez’s consternation, Sanderson and his group were beyond sanity, laughing and guffawing uncontrollably because of their intoxication.

“Lightweights…” muttered Fernandez before deciding he had to talk to the Sandersons anyway.

He walked imposingly to Sanderson, which caught the drunkard’s attention, but not in the way he had hoped.

“Hey It’s Mr. Burly Man!” shouted Sanderson, who got up and put his arm around Fernandez, who let out a loud groan. “What’s up Mr. Burly Man?” Sanderson then patted Fernandez’s noticeable gut. “Say, when are you due Mr. Burly Man? You seem quite far along.”

Fernandez snapped, grabbing Sanderson’s arm and twisting it behind his back, making Sanderson let out a loud yelp. Fernandez kept his grip, allowing the pain in Sanderson’s arm to throb uncomfortably all over his body.

“Listen,” said Fernandez, menacingly, “I don’t care who you are or what you can do to me…your child is missing and, for once, I want you to give one wit about her!”
“My child is wha?” said Sanderson, slurring his speech and still grimacing from the pain Fernandez was putting him under.
“Your child is not where she is supposed to be.”
“Huh?”
Fernandez was exasperated. “She’s gone…vanished…disappeared…gosh, do I need to spell it out for you?”
“Well, maybee if yaw dint crush maw shoulder blade I migh be abil to understan wha’s gon on.”
Fernandez, realizing that Sanderson was being genuine, released his grip, causing Sanderson to fall over and clutch his shoulder in pain.

After about a minute Sanderson got up and started to stumble towards his room, drawing a crowd. As he opened the door to his suite, Fernandez walked right behind him, allowing the members of his party into the room but stopping other people in the crowd from coming in behind.

Instinctively, the Sandersons began milling about their room, looking for Heidi even though both were stumbling badly through it.

“Waw…dis wine sure iz strong,” slurred Mark. “It can make kids disappear!” Fernandez buried his face in his hands and shook his head at the statement, as Marta made an important discovery.

“Markie,” she said from the twins’ bedroom, also slurring. “The twins are missing too!”
Mark bolted from inspecting Heidi’s bedroom to meet Marta. “Wha?” he said, confused. “The twins weren’t part of the-” He stopped when Marta gave him a look, a look that Fernandez took notice of.

“I saw a man,” said Bushell, joining the group in the twins’ bedroom. “He was carrying a little girl in pajamas that looked a lot like Heidi…it was before I entered the room to check on Heidi…he was too far away for me to get a better look…oh gosh, I’m sorry.” Overcome with grief, Bushell began to cry again, as the Sandersons collapsed to the floor and just fell into a deep sleep. Fernandez let out a deep, frustrated sigh and left with the rest of the group and organized a search party. It would last well into the night, but none of the kids would be found.

November 9, 2015
11:58 local time,
Encinitas Police Headquarters,
Encinitas, California

“I can’t believe how stupid you are man!” yelled Constable Ming “Tyler” Luo Kuang, to his boss, Captain Harvey Monroe, Tyler’s eyes wide with anger.
For the last time,” said the burly, clean-shaven Monroe, waving his hands by each other, frustrated. “We are not bringing in the Sandersons. End of discussion!”
“Sir,” said Tyler’s partner, Ernest “Reefer” Madnis, softly but sternly, “the Sandersons’ stories just don’t hold up…there are a lot of inconsistencies and abnormalities…I think they qualify for a further round of questioning.”
“I’m sorry,” said Monroe, exasperated, waving his arms wildly. “Who’s leading this investigation? You puny rookies…or me?”
“With all due respect sir,” said Reefer, his thick Surinamese accent in full display, “but your views are short-sighted. Are you afraid of the Sandersons?”
“No,” said Monroe, scoffing at the suggestion. “If they were viable suspects, then I would bring them in…but they’re not, so it doesn’t matter.”
“Okay then,” said Tyler, putting his hands on his hips. “Who is the suspect then? You’ve spent the whole day telling us who isn’t a suspect…tell us who is!”
“Exactly,” said Reefer, calmly. “I don’t know how you can dismiss the guy with the fez…I mean, the child he was carrying was a dead ringer for Heidi.”
“Fez guy,” said Monroe in a sardonic tone, “wasn’t carrying three kids…remember, three kids are missing, not one. Three.
Tyler waved his hand at Monroe while replying. “Who’s kid could that possibly be then?” he said, frustrated.
“I don’t know,” said Monroe waving both of his forefingers across the air, “but it ain’t Heidi.”
Reefer let out a sigh as Tyler shook his head at the suggestion. Monroe thought for a second before continuing.
“Okay,” he said, “you know who I think did it? The cleaner. The only one who could have access to the room without needing a key. Besides, the cleaner went into the room after Mark Sanderson checked it but before Ira Bushell checked it.”
“Seriously,” said Tyler, deadpanning sarcastically. “You’re telling us the butler did it? What are we, some terrible mystery novel?”
“Not the butler, the cleaner,” said Monroe, incredulous.
“What difference does it make!” said Reefer, angrily.
“Whatever,” said Monroe, “this ain’t a novel to begin with this is real life…if the butler actually did it, then we’re bringing him in. No questions asked.”
“I can’t believe you man!” said Tyler, throwing his hands up in frustration and beginning to walk away. Reefer also gave Monroe a look and shook his head.
“You know what?” said Monroe, indignant. “I’m suspending you both. Don’t come back until tomorrow!”
“Fine then!” said Reefer, angrily, as both he and Tyler left in a huff.

Just before they got to their lockers, they met Goldman, turning in a form to reception. Tyler, as was his style, couldn’t help but be taken by the fair-skinned brunette, clad in a camouflage-style tank top and green Capri pants, much to Reefer’s chagrin.

“Hey pretty lady,” said Tyler, casually strolling up to her and leaning against the desk, flashing a smile when he got there.
Goldman gave him a disapproving look, scoffing at his advance.
“Oh come on,” said Tyler, tapping his chest before outstretching his arms. “Don’t you love a man in uniform?”
“Yeah I find police officers sexy,” said Goldman with wry smile. “When they please the greater good. Not when they just try to please themselves.”
Reefer chuckled behind Tyler, though Tyler pressed on. “Oh come on,” scoffed Tyler. “Today I helped looked for a missing child.” Tyler then smiled, believing his deed was righteous enough for Goldman to be impressed by it.
“Great!” said Goldman, giving a mocking clap. “You did your job! Do you want a gold star or something?”
“Now I was on an important investigation that could change the world,” said Tyler, smirking. “Gotta give me some credit for that!”
“So you think that because you went on some grand investigation it makes you a worthy person,” said Goldman sardonically, “and you don’t seem to think that’s the slightest bit narcissistic about yourself?”
Tyler stuttered, trying to figure out an effective comeback.
“Do you know how many times I’ve said that to him?” said Reefer, jumping in. “He never gets it that women aren’t impressed by what you’ve done but rather what you can do for them. He never understands that.”
“Oh yeah?” said Tyler, scoffing. “What do you know about picking up women? You’re gay.”
“I sure know more than you do,” said Reefer, “besides, haven’t you forgotten- gay guys get all the chicks.”
Goldman laughed at Reefer’s remark, as Tyler conceded the point.

“Well,” said Goldman, flashing a smile with a hint of awkwardness. “I probably should get going. It was nice talking to you both.”
“Wait,” said Reefer, sensing some distress in Goldman. “What brings you to the station?”
“Oh last night I was attacked by eleven men,” said Goldman. “I’m not quite sure what they wanted out of me but I had to kick all of their asses in order to get home last night.”
“Wait,” said Tyler, surprised. “You took on eleven men and won with barely a scratch?”
“My jaw got it good,” said Goldman, “and I’ve got some bruising on my gut, but…yeah, I beat up eleven guys.”
“Damn girl!” said Tyler, excitedly.
“I grew up with all boys,” said Goldman. “Plus I had a boyfriend in high school who tried to rape me, and the principal did nothing about it…so I had to learn how to fight to get by.”
“I’m impressed,” said Reefer.
“Yeah,” said Goldman. “Today I had to write a deposition…the police didn’t do much at the scene, and the officers I reported to today didn’t seem all that interested…everyone seems to want to talk about that Sanderson kid, when I think there’s something much bigger going on. I can’t be the only one that’s noticed how many Californian girls have gone missing lately? With reports of them being last seen with Birean nationals? That can’t be coincidence.”
“We were just on the Sanderson case actually,” said Tyler. “We just got suspended by our boss because he dismissed our observations- one of which was a Birean holding who we think was Heidi.”
“You guys got suspended for that?” said Goldman, shocked.
“Yup,” said Reefer, frustrated.
“I’m Regina Goldman,” said Goldman, shaking hands with Reefer and Tyler.
“I’m Ernest Madnis,” said Reefer, “but,” he said, pointing to his hair before continuing, “because of my dreads, I go by ‘Reefer’, even though I don’t touch any of that stuff. It started in high school.”
“I’m Ming Luo Kuang,” said Tyler, “but you can just call me Tyler.”
“There’s a Jimmy Cochrane’s down the road,” said Goldman. “We should talk about this…I think we’re on to something.”

November 27, 2015
00:02 local time,
Cargo Holding Quarters, Cargo Ship,
102 nautical miles en route to Port Moresby, New Guinea, Birea

“I’m cold,” said Heidi Sanderson, waking up from inside her crate. Alongside her, in other crates, were 334 women, all between 12 and 32 years old, along with 51 girls aged from 4 to 11. Everyone was unclothed, aside from the blankets they were periodically given which helped a little in combating the cold, damp conditions of their confinement. They were in the cargo den of a cargo ship, destined for a converted prison in Padang that held other slaves like Heidi, slaves that would be sold to eligible Birean bachelors hoping to land a wife.

“Hey there little fella,” said Paige Hutton, 22, in the crate across from Heidi, with a small quiver she tried to fight as she spoke. “Where are you coming from?”
“I was in California,” said Heidi, “but I’m from Dover.”
Hutton chuckled warmly, hoping it would ease the fears of Heidi. “Oh nice. I’m from Freemantle, in Australia. My name is Paige.”
Heidi replied, thankful for a warm soul like Hutton, although she was still scared at the ordeal. “I’m Heidi. It’s nice to meet you. How did we get here?”
Hutton sighed. “Well, I was walking home from my job at the bar when these guys came from behind me and stuck a syringe in my neck…next thing I know, I’m here in this crate, naked, with some of my piercings removed, though they let me keep my nose stud and my bellybutton barbell. What about you? How did you get here?”
Heidi, still scared at her surroundings, was quivering. “I was sleeping…and I felt a needle…and then I woke up here…and I don’t know why.” Heidi then began to cry, which shook Hutton, though she tried her best to stay composed for Heidi.
“Aww…muffin…I wish I could hold you right now. Truth is, we’re all scared. We don’t know where we’re going. All I know is that we’re going to get sold.”
“Sold?”
“Yeah…some bad people, who can’t find a mommy for their kids have to buy one.”
“Buy me? Mummy always told me that I can’t be bought.”
“Good people know that…but these aren’t good people. The good news is, I don’t think they want to hurt us…they want to love us…but we can’t forget no matter how nice they are they’re not good people.”
“I’m not old enough to be a mommy though.”
“They probably won’t make you a mommy right away. Whoever buys you will raise you to be a mommy when you are old enough, where you’ll likely get sold off again. Me...I’ll likely be a mommy right away.”
Heidi then began to cry again, a realization striking her. “Am I going to see my mommy again?”
Hutton sighed with tears welling in her eyes, but put on a brave face. “Yes you will. Yes you will. Always remember that, no matter how tough things get.” Hutton couldn’t fight it anymore and cried, realizing the significance of her own words. “Never forget her…she will be the one who will get you through this.”

November 27, 2015,
00:02 local time,
Detention Room,
The Cargo Ship En Route to Port Moresby

“Explain it to me,” said John, one of the cargo ship hands, helping another ship hand, Scott, bring a slender but curvy blonde woman, 18-year-old Silke Dubois, onto a table. “What he’s doing is very novel.”
“It basically works like this,” said Scott, as they placed Dubois on the table spread-eagle, clamping down her wrists and ankles and affixing a cleave gag to her mouth. “Before, when women did this voluntarily, you had to pay the woman fair value before you got her as a slave.”
“Shut up!” John said, punching the frightened Dubois in the jaw, hoping it would stop her squirming. He then took out a wire with clamps on both ends, affixing the clamps on her nipples. The wire was then looped through a knot connecting it to a loose strand of rope and another rope that was tied to a rope-like device at her waist. The device had one loop that fit snugly around her waist, and another loop that ran along the centre of her body, the loop just tight enough so that it could be placed right inside her genitals and her butt crack and press inside against both, especially when it got tugged. Though it officially had no name, informally they called it, “The Fixxer”.
“She really needs to learn how to behave, doesn’t she?” Scott said with a wry chuckle.
“You always get a few ‘problems’,” acknowledged John, as he added some oil to a large spindle right next to the table. “That’s why we fix them.” He then looped the loose rope through a hook on the ceiling and then threaded the loose rope through the spindle, making The Fixxer tug at its strings and fit “just right” on the petrified woman.
“So anyhow,” continued Scott, inspecting the rope as Dubois panted frantically in terror. “Obviously, to make a profit in that case, you needed to charge the buyer something extra on top of what you paid...and no one was going to tack on simply an extra dollar, since you’d earn nothing.”
“So if a woman charged £20,000 for her services as a slave,” said John, as Scott approved The Fixxer for its torturous duties, “the slave trader would have to charge the buyer £40,000 for the girl, to recoup his losses.”
“Exactly,” said Scott, starting to turn the wheel pulling at the wire and the device, causing The Fixxer to clamp down on her nipples, stretch out her breasts and start penetrating into the openings of her genitals and butt crack. This made Dubois scream in pain, screams the two men ignored.
“So this way,” said John, “we only charge the £20,000, keeping the prices down.”
“Well, we still need to charge a little extra,” said Scott, “because we are still breaking the law...but, you are right, costs are not as high because we no longer need to pay the woman.” He continued turning the wheel, pressing even further on Dubois’ sensitive spots, causing even more pain. “Of course, in some areas, we’ve bribed government officials, allowing us to operate without worry, and bribes are still cheaper than paying the woman. Especially when you can provide shares in our budding venture.”

John then walked over to Dubois, breathing frantically, her eyes wide in pain and in terror.

“Have you learned your lesson?” John asked, rubbing the woman’s forehead. He then pulled down the gag, which made her decide to spit in his face.

John then reapplied the gag and wiped the spit off his face. He then twirled his hands in a clockwise motion, signaling to Scott to turn the wheel some more, which he did. By this point, the pressure applied to Dubois was so great that she was lifted off the table, pressing her extremities right against the chains. The rope penetrated into her vagina and anus as deep as it could go, and her breasts were stretched as far as they could go, the clamps applying tremendous pressure onto her nipples. Dubois screamed in pain right from the outset, and kept on screaming the longer John and Scott kept her up.

“You know,” said John, as both men paid no heed to Dubois’ distress. “I really get this venture...it’s trailblazing. Seedy, but trailblazing.”
“You have to look at it this way,” said Scott. “The Romans, the North Americans, the Europeans, Britain, even our colonial fathers the Scots...heck, the rest of the world...they all took from us. Stole from us. So we steal from them...and why not take their most prized possession...their women?”
“Especially when we need them,” acknowledged John.
“Exactly,” said Scott. “Besides, the Romans still celebrate The Rape of the Sabines...so what we’re doing is all fair game.”

By this point, they had bothered to turn their attention to Dubois. John again rubbed her forehead.

“Have you learned your lesson?” John said, as Dubois frantically shook her head “yes”. John then tested it, pulling down her gag and kissing her, open mouthed. Dubois, despite hating it, reciprocated, hoping it would make them take pity on her and release her from The Fixxer, though John and Scott had no intention of that.

“I think I need a shot of rum,” said John.
“I agree,” said Scott, smiling.

The two men then departed, leaving Dubois stretched out agonizingly, the pain getting more unbearable with each passing minute. She fought the urge to faint, but she got close several times. Ten minutes later- an eternity to Dubois- John and Scott came back to lower her to relieve her pressure, but they didn’t take her off the table. Eventually, she passed out on the table, upon which they released her from The Fixxer and raped her, before contorting her still sleeping body into a small box.

November 9, 2015,
12:19 local time,
Jimmy Cochrane’s Coffee Shop, beachside location,
Encinitas, California

“Okay,” said Goldman, joining Reefer and Tyler with her coffee in hand. “So California typically sees about 2,000 women go missing each year.”
“Yeah,” said Tyler. “A good number of those are runaways and absent-minded seniors...only a fraction are ‘stranger abductions’.”
“So what do we know about Birea?” asked Reefer. “I think we need to figure that out before we go further.”
“Right,” concurred Goldman, “we need to know our enemies.” Goldman then pulled out her cell phone, a jerry-rigged Blackberry Q10 that also had the Android and Apple software available to it.
“Hey,” said Reefer with a look of suspicion “is that phone legal?”
“Designed it myself,” said Goldman. “In fact, I’ve fool-proofed it so that all my software is technically legal…took me about a month to do…lot of long nights. It’s worth it- I can access any database that I want.”
“Oh man, that definitely is illegal,” said Reefer.
“…but so useful,” said Tyler, nodding his head in appreciation, to which Reefer eventually agreed.
“Anyway,” said Goldman, without looking at her phone. “In 1707, England, Wales and Scotland were united as the ‘Kingdom of Great Britain’ via an act of Parliament. The Scots begrudgingly accepted this, since by that point their economy was in shambles and the English could actually help them.”
“…but, at the first chance,” said Tyler, “in 1779 they left Britain.”
“Yeah,” said Goldman. “The British, in the middle of the American Revolution, were in no capacity to be able to defend against that secession, so Scotland, rejuvenated, formed its own powerful kingdom.”
“The French helped them out too,” said Tyler, “let’s not forget that.”
“Right,” acknowledged Goldman. “Two years later they establish a colony in Africa at Malabo in Equatorial Guinea, but that wasn’t when the fun started.”
“The Coffee War,” said Tyler with a smirk, “Lot of fun on both sides…Scotland won the East Indies, or Indonesia, from the Dutch in 1787 after replacing Javanese coffee shipments with Scottish tea. Although by that point Scotland had turned the tide and started to win the war, it was only after the Scots replaced the coffee with the tea the Dutch hated that the Netherlands eventually relented.”
“…and so began the Scottish East Indies,” said Goldman.
“Now,” said Reefer, listening with keen interest, “as I understand, the Nathanites were essentially rewarded the East Indies for their loyalty to the Scottish Crown.”
“Yeah, basically,” said Tyler. “The Nathanites were initially English, but were expelled from England after the Spanish Armada was defeated since the Nathanites were spies for the Spanish. Scotland saw their usefulness and allowed them to come to the kingdom as refugees, but repeated incursions by England meant the Scots had to find a new home for them. They found one in Florida- where the Nathanites eventually influenced other Christian sects and evolved into the ‘Nequissimi’- but Nathanism didn’t really take off until the East Indies were captured by Scotland, as it gave them substantial territory in which to settle.”
“…and they called his country ‘Birea’,” said Goldman.
“After a misunderstanding of a local word for ‘unity’,” said Reefer.
“Anyhow,” said Tyler, continuing the discussion, “the Bireans, as they came to be called, became known as the ‘Crown Jewel of the Scottish Empire’, and they were a willing colony for over 200 years, although English subterfuge tried to undermine this, since England realized they’d be good allies too. It was only after World War II, when Scotland’s reserves were depleted fighting for the Allies, that the Bireans gained their independence, although Scotland still tried to fight it. The Romans were the ones that brokered the peace, allowing both countries to co-exist and even co-operate nicely.”
“That was in 1952,” said Goldman, “and, predictably, the Bireans were excited.”
“They were f***ing like crazy,” said Tyler with a wry smirk causing Goldman to roll her eyes and shake her head.
“So that’s why the Bireans have their one-child policy,” said Reefer, “because they had too many babies after independence.”
“Yeah,” said Goldman. “They didn’t get around to it until 1974, which the population more or less followed rigidly. Alarm bells were sounded almost as soon as the policy went into effect, but they went unheeded…until now when we can actually see the effects of it.”
“True,” said Reefer, nodding his head. “Birean society, due to the restrictions placed on working, tends to favour men over women, although not to an extreme degree. Add to that the fact that Bireans are more apt than other Nathanites to have multiple wives, and you have a recipe for disaster.”
“Birean emigration for a wife is no secret,” said Goldman, looking at her phone. “It’s estimated that 34% of eligible Birean bachelors went abroad to find a wife, although those were voluntary wives.”
“Of course, with the imbalance increasing,” analyzed Reefer, “it’s only a matter of time before someone starts thinking about kidnapping a wife outright, especially if you’re in your late 30s and desperate.”
“That’s what’s happening here then,” said Tyler. “Women are getting kidnapped by Bireans to be married off.”
“This brings us back to the number of missing women,” said Goldman. “I could quote the statistics, but we all know some don’t get properly reported missing.”
“From what we’ve seen around here,” said Reefer, “the number is higher than it usually is…but the government doesn’t seem to want to do anything about it.”
“Looks like we’ll need to,” said Goldman, firmly.

November 20, 2015,
17:08 local time,
Derek Glengarry’s house,
Thompsonville, Borneo, Birea

“Crap,” said Nyquist in frustration, looking over a frying pan in the kitchen. After her first night she was given clothes, and fitted with an ankle bracelet that had a tracker on it. “No matter what I do it seems like it can never come out right.” She was trying to make haggis for Glengarry for when he arrived, but the special seasoning she applied to the potatoes just didn’t seem to simmer right, among other things that went wrong that day. She angrily shut off the stove and placed the potatoes with the turnips and the haggis anyway, before putting a cover on it and putting it in the fridge to warm up later. She then walked to the couch and slumped onto it, crying, with all the frustration of her failed cooking experiment boiling over.

A few minutes later, Glengarry, a stock broker, arrived home with a large box and a bouquet of flowers. As soon as he heard Nyquist crying, he hurried to the couch.

“Kiki,” said Glengarry, putting his arm around her and pulling her close. “What’s wrong?”
Nyquist didn’t respond and just reciprocated Glengarry’s action, wrapping her other arm around him so that she could be hugged and cry on his shoulder.
“Aww,” said Glengarry, kissing the top of her head. “It’s okay...did you have a long day?”
Nyquist nodded “yes” on his shoulder before speaking. “I was trying to cook you dinner,” she said, “but nothing I did seemed to come out right.”
“Kiki,” said Glengarry softly, looking into her eyes and wiping away tears, “I’m sure it came out fine...besides, what matters to me is that you’re okay...as long as I have you, then I don’t care if you make a mistake on the stove. It happens.” He then spoke with a wide smile, excitedly. “I got you flowers...and I remember you told me you love the XBox, so I got you one with all the fixins and your favourite game.”

Nyquist then got up, putting her hands to her face, still crying and wiping away tears.

“Why?” Nyquist said, still bawling. “Why are you so nice to me? I’m just a slave...I really mean nothing to you. I’m from Stockholm...I know all about the Stockholm Syndrome...you just want to control me by making me like you.”
“No,” said Glengarry, protesting. “No...why would I want to do that? I love you. I really do. Every minute that I’ve known you I have grown that much more fond of you.”
Nyquist reacted angrily. “Then why did you make me wear an ankle bracelet? Are you that afraid that I will run?”
“Your slave masters suggested I do it so I was just following procedure but you don’t have to wear it, Kiki.”
Nyquist got even more upset. “My name isn’t Kiki. It’s Anna. I wish you would know that.”
Glengarry patted the air, trying to signal to Nyquist to calm down, understanding the importance of the situation. “Okay...okay...I’ll call you Anna then. I’m sorry...I should have asked for your name.”
“One other thing.”
“Anna...anything. I would give you the Moon if I could.”
“We need to start over...have our first date...fall in love like we’re supposed to.”
Glengarry had a look of worry on his face, afraid of what this might mean for him.
Nyquist caught the look. “Look Derek, if you can’t trust me that I’m doing all that I will to make this work...then I’ll know who you really are, that you’re someone who doesn’t actually love me and just wants to control me. If your feelings are true...you must trust me.”
Glengarry sighed and pressed his tongue to his cheek, concerned. He thought about it for a moment before responding. “Very well then,” he said. “I’ll leave the guest house for you...and we’ll do this the right way. When can we have our first date?”
“Tomorrow evening. I’m exhausted right now.”
“As you wish.” Glengarry then spent the rest of the night setting up the guest house for Nyquist, even giving her a set of keys all for herself. In the back of his head, he hated acquiescing like he did, but he wanted Nyquist to be happy, so he accepted the turn of events.

The date went ahead as planned, with the two going out for dinner at a fancy beachside resort. The jasmine tea flowed freely, although the conversation did not. The date was a classic example of why Glengarry had been single for so long in the first place- a crippling fear of rejection that stopped him from making any kind of move or stumbling in his sentences. Still, Nyquist was endeared to him, and they saw each other for a few more dates.

After the fourth date, Nyquist and Glengarry found themselves strolling along the Mahakam River, after attending Church together. Nyquist, in her favourite blue keybaya, and Glengarry, in his fez and a batik shirt and pants, were walking side by side each other but were careful not to display too many signs of affection, lest a jealous man jump Glengarry and try to steal Nyquist from him. Glengarry, knowing the area well, found a little nook in the buildings and walked Nyquist down it, so the two could be secluded.

“Thank you for this, Anna,” said Glengarry, giving Nyquist a hug.
“No, thank you,” said Nyquist, reciprocating and rubbing his back. The two of them then parted a little so they could look in each other’s eyes and hold each other at the waist.

“Anna,” said Glengarry wistfully, looking down.
“What’s wrong Derek?” asked Nyquist, concerned.
“I was such a disaster…and yet you kept coming back to me. Why?”
“Because I know who you really are…I knew, deep down inside, you are a great person that any woman would be lucky to have. You just let your insecurities get the better of you…you’re so scared of screwing up that you aren’t yourself, and that’s why you failed with all these women. I knew you needed some time to get you out of your shell, and I was right- and the results have been fabulous.”
“I’m sorry I put you through all that…I wish I didn’t have to buy you.”
“I understand…you did what you needed to do.” Nyquist then brushed Glengarry’s hair with her hand. “I didn’t like how this started either, but I knew, deep down inside, that you were a good man.”
“You just wanted me to prove it.” Glengarry lifted his head and flashed a warm smile.
“Prove it you did…and I couldn’t be happier for it.” The two then locked lips and began a romantic kiss, their first genuine one, leading them to kiss well into the night.
November 27, 2015,
16:08 local time,
The Muirhead Household,
New Ayr, Celebes Province, Birea

“Hey buddy,” said Alan Muirhead, to his son Alex.
“Hey,” said the 14-year-old Alex, excitedly.
“I’ve got something for you,” Alan said with a smile, using his finger to tell Alex to come with him. The birthday boy followed, his mouth agape like Pavlov’s dog.

At sea level of their seaside hut sat Alan’s yacht, with a large crate inside it. Alex’s eyes widened more with excitement as Alan took his time (on purpose) to open the padlock.

“Oh that’s so awesome!” Alex said excitedly. Chained and gagged inside the box was Dubois, her body still showing the scars of her torture even though her handlers took great care to fix up her health and beauty. Alex took no time to walk up to her and start feeling around.

“Wow,” said Alex, feeling her up, “she’s a real girl!” He continued groping and feeling, giddy like a schoolboy with his new toy. “She’s all mine?” Alex asked, disbelief at his new treasure seeping in.

“Yes, yes,” reassured Alan, his face bearing the widest smile. “She’s all yours.”
“Awesome,” said the still wide-eyed Alex. “Does that mean I get to punch her in the gut?”
Alan smiled, not hesitating one bit. “Of course.”
Alex responded by laying a haymaker right into Dubois’ stomach. “Oh man, that was awesome! I need to do it again.” Alex, giddy over his newfound possession, punched her a few more times in the stomach, causing her to cry. “Hey b****!” Alex called out to her, punching her in the face a few more times, “you’re my toy now! My toys don’t cry!” He then punched and slapped her a few more times before Alan, chuckling at his excitement and happy for his son, stopped him.
“Now now, son, you don’t want to hurt her too much...she will be your wife when you’re old enough. So don’t treat her too badly.”
Alex acknowledged the point, his giddiness still not subsided. “Okay daddy.” A thought then came to Alex. “I can have sex with her, right?”
“As many times as you like. We’ve given her a bed in your room with chains on it so you can restrain her there and f*** her as many times as you like.”
“Awesome! This is the best birthday ever!” Alex gave his father a big hug as the two of them closed the crate and moved Dubois (after Alex again punched her in the gut) to her new spot in Alex’s room- a spot whose terror she wouldn’t be able to begin to imagine.

November 27, 2015
13:21 local time,
Jakarta District,
Warricksville, Java, Birea

“We charge an average of £150 a month and £50 a week,” said Martin Riggs, manager of the Warricksville Dating Services shop in downtown Warricksville, to Gary Strudwick, who wanted an “attraction” for a heavy metal-themed nightclub he had just opened. “We usually have around 50 women for you to choose from, and, if you decide you want to marry the woman you’re renting, you’ll be required to purchase her at cost, which is 20 years’ worth of rentals minus what you’ve already spent.”
“Interesting,” said Strudwick, standing in front of the service desk. “Do I get a test drive, though?”
“We allow you to communicate with her for one hour before deciding on a rental. You are free to do whatever you like with her provided you are not violent and cause her physical harm. This includes sex with the woman, if you’d like, unless the woman is a virgin where we ask that you respect that and restrain your activities to everything that does not require vaginal penetration.”
Strudwick was perplexed. “Some of your women aren’t virgins?”
Riggs did not skip a beat. “Not everyone around the world follows the Birean way of life. However, I assure you sex is not forbidden...the clerics have been more understanding of our societies ‘troubles’ and thus knows that finding a woman is much harder these days than it used to...so it allows these ‘test drives’ just to make sure that a man is not stuck with a wife he does not desire. Furthermore, once the woman is rented, a cleric is on hand to grant a temporary marriage, which becomes permanent should you decide to purchase the woman.”
“If a man can have sex with a woman without renting her...it sounds an awful lot like prostitution.”
“Well, we can’t control what our customers come in for, but we do charge £100 if all the customer does is have sex. We also forbid customers from having sex with the woman again unless he decides to rent her, and we charge for additional ‘test drives’ anyway. Believe me, we have gone through great pains to make sure we are not a brothel.”
Strudwick nodded in approval. “All right...give me a tour.”

Riggs showed Strudwick around. At the moment, Riggs had 55 women for the customer to choose from, all of which were kept in cells that were furnished like a small bachelor pad. The women were all naked, kept with a chain attached to their necks that started at the wall overlooking the bed, loose enough so that they could walk around somewhat freely in their cell. The women were forced, on a rotating basis, to work at Riggs’ other establishments, Warricksville’s chain of luxurious Crescent Hotels and its upscale restaurants, where they could be observed in their more ‘traditional’ roles of cooking and cleaning.

As Strudwick looked around, he saw many that caught his eye, but only one piqued his interest.

“Interesting,” said Strudwick, noticing a woman. “When did you get Lolita?”
“Oh she’s one of our best,” said Riggs, acknowledging the customer’s interest in Paige Hutton. “Don’t let all the tattoos and piercings fool you...she’s an excellent cook and cleans up very nicely. She’s also as sweet as jasmine tea...thus, we charge top dollar for her.”
Strudwick had a ploy to reduce her price. “All those piercings are not proper...they’re forbidden. She may be nice but she should not modify what God gave her.”
“All my other customers love her piercings though.”
Strudwick liked them too, but decided to continue the charade. “I find it interesting that she hasn’t been sold...if the piercings were that good, then someone would have paid ‘top dollar’ for them, would they not?”
“Yes, but not everyone has ‘top dollar’.”
“So all of your top women have troubles being rented, right? Eventually, if they stay here long enough, people are going to start wondering about them. Besides,” Strudwick paused to examine her body, “she’s not a virgin...that’s not top dollar right there. Any true Birean knows that.”
Riggs grimaced, letting out a sigh without offering a response.
“I’ll tell you what...I’ll give you £200 a month for her. No questions asked.”
“Deal.” Riggs agreed reluctantly, hoping she could fetch £400 for her, but had to concede that the customer was right. He arranged for the cleric to come with traditional marriage clothes for Hutton, as she was officially married to Strudwick in a hasty ceremony before being spirited off with him.

November 27, 2015,
14:09 local time,
Encinitas Police Headquarters,
Encinitas, California

“Do we really need to lead this interrogation?” Tyler asked Monroe, frustrated.
Monroe was curt. “May I remind you who is paying your salary, Tyler?” Monroe said. “The butler did it...now go in there and get it out of him.”
Tyler took a deep breath before going into the interrogation room with Reefer, reluctantly.

As they were in the interrogation, Monroe fielded a phone call.

“Yes, they’re in there,” said Monroe on the phone. “We got the butler...now we’re working on getting that confession. You’ve got a child’s remains with Heidi’s and the butler’s DNA on it? Nice lab work. That should do the trick...we got this guy dead and buried...what’s that? Well, what more do you want? I’m getting a phony confession with planted evidence and a diversion away from the Sandersons...oh okay, I’m sorry, thanks for that. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Monroe then closed his phone. After an hour, Tyler and Reefer emerged from the interrogation, satisfied.

“We got it,” said Tyler to Monroe.
“Good,” said Monroe, flashing a wide smile. “See, you should never doubt your captain…it’s why I got the job.”
“We’re going to get this transcribed,” said Reefer. “He told us he had some help but couldn’t remember the details so we’ll need to talk to him later.”
“That’s fine.” Monroe’s smile was wider than the Pacific. The captain stood triumphantly basking in his glow as Tyler and Reefer left to write out the tape. Before they did, they fielded a call to Goldman, who made another call.

Hi,” said Claudia, picking up her phone. “This is Agent Galla Claudia. Who’s calling?”
“Listen,” said Goldman, “I know this is weird...my name is Regina Goldman...I live in Encinitas, California, just outside of San Diego. I’ve been working with the Encinitas Police on an investigation that I believe you have ties to, so I found your number and gave you a call.”
Claudia was still perplexed. “Okay...so you illegally obtained my phone number. You do realize I can turn you in to your own police and have you jailed, right?”
“Oh they’ll probably jail me and my co-investigators if they found out what we were doing.”
Claudia was intrigued despite her confusion. “What are you doing?”
“We’re investigating the Heidi Sanderson abduction...we believe there are a few irregularities that Encinitas Police are covering up, so myself and two Encinitas Police officers are investigating covertly. We’ve interrogated a suspect and it led us to you. Can you help us out?”
“Absolutely. I’ll pull some strings…we seem to have the same goals.”
“Thank you Agent Claudia.”
“You can call me Galla if you’d like.”
“...and I’m Regina.”
“We’ll touch base soon. Bye for now.”

November 27, 2015,
23:19 local time,
Warricksville Riding Services,
Warricksville, Java, Birea

“Hush, little baby, don’t say a word,” sang Paige Hutton quietly to herself. “Hmpf! Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.” Hutton took in a gulp, starting to feel a pain inside her that commenced with her being rocked back and forth.

“And if that mockingbird won’t sing,” she continued, before wincing in pain once more, “Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring. Ouch! Ooooh...ah...” She panted heavily several times before catching her breath and continuing the song.

“And if that diamond ring turns brass,” Hutton sang, a quiver entering her voice, “Mama’s gonna buy you a looking glass.” Hutton then let out a loud scream. Oh dear, she thought to herself, trying to recover from the pain, please let this be over soon. The man on top of her wouldn’t relent, though.

“And if that looking glass gets broke,” she sang before screaming again, “Mama’s gonna buy you a billy goat,” she sang, with tears now starting to come out of her eyes. As she breathed to help her relax, the man’s actions renewed her fear. Oh no, she thought, doing her best not to recoil at the horrors of the man’s hands rubbing themselves all over her breasts, he’s so filthy...what did I get myself into?

“And if that billy goat don’t pull,” she continued her song, quivering and tearing, with deep breaths so she could endure the ordeal, “Mama’s gonna buy you a cart and bull.”

“And if that cart and bull turn over,” she sang before letting out another yelp, “Mama’s gonna buy you a dog named Rover.”

“And if that dog named Rover won’t bark,” she sang, before starting to pant heavily again, letting out many short breaths, as the man’s movements became more intense. “Mama’s gonna buy you a horse and cart,” she continued, before the feelings inside her body started to overwhelm her. Oh no, oh no, oh no! Hutton thought, with her moans starting to get progressively louder before reaching a crescendo with a loud scream that shook the entire house.

She took a deep breath before the man got up from on top of her, wearing an extremely satisfied grin. After the man left the room, Hutton curled up in her bed and finished the lullaby her mother always sang to her after she had a nightmare.

“And if that horse and cart fall down,” she sang, crying uncontrollably, with the singing by now reduced to a barely audible whisper, “You’ll still be the sweetest little baby in town.” Hutton continued her crying, angrily punching her pillow several times and kicking her feet up and down, before getting so tired from the emotional distress that she fell sound asleep.


“Love is the only thing in life that nourishes us and strengthens us. It is also the only thing in life that can deplete us and weaken us at the exact same time. Yet, no matter how many times it lets us down, we keep coming back for more.” -Isla Broderick, “The Quest for Companionship” (1936)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Episode Nine: The Revenant

“A ghost roaming around is haunting. A ghost on a mission is terrifying.” –Robert Pickland, “Omens of Justice” (1989)

October 13, 2015,
16:01 local time,
The Guild Headquarters,
Unknown location

“Hello there,” said Kwame Arko, Virtue’s leading investor, greeting The Revenant and giving her a warm but emphatic hug. “I’m glad you could make it.”
“I am glad too,” said The Revenant, pulling down her hood and letting her hair out while smiling at the 39-year-old Arko, a well-built black man who commanded attention with his jovial baritone.
“Come inside,” implored Arko, an invitation The Revenant was only too eager to take.

They met at a castle, on a sprawling estate far off in the countryside. Though the castle was quite old, constructed mainly out of stone, it was refurbished with many modern amenities, including a militarized perimeter featuring surface-to-air missiles, radar installations, barracks and an underground bunker. It was defended with a large and well-equipped army, with a full compliment of artillery and vehicles, that kept the estate safe but could also be used for offensive purposes. Inside the castle was a state of the art communications apparatus, alongside many other luxuries such as leather couches and silk tablecloths, with a well-rounded, competnent maintenance staff that kept the castle in order.

Officially, it was known simply as one of Arko’s homes, but in truth it is the home of The Guild, a secret alliance of Virtue’s top corporations that met on a regular basis to discuss matters of Virtue’s economy. They engaged mostly in collusion, conspiring mostly to artificially inflate prices and profits, though they were known to discuss other matters of policy, such as innovation and production, though with an entire aim of maximising their own profits. The public, though, would hardly hear of their misdealing, since The Guild’s extensive control of Virtue’s media meant that the “bad news” was often curtailed. While some do slip through the cracks, it never amounted to enough to really damage The Guild’s reputation, and they always found a way to cover their tracks.

The Guild also engaged in eradicating threats, scouring Virtue for even the slightest of threats to their favoured status, and doing everything they can to stamp it out. They also watched Virtue’s public incessantly, looking for troublemakers who might eat at their profits, and stamp those out as well.

It is here that they have hired The Revenant, a trained assassin associated with the Soldiers of the Lord whose entire mission is to uphold The Guild’s policies and suppress any opposition to its methods.

Once they were seated in the castle’s main dining room, Arko wasted no time in breaking the silence.

“The Utah government has indicated a willingness to consider a ban for bottled water,” said Arko, leaning forward. “As you expect, their argument is entirely environmental though not at all based in the facts.”
“Of course,” said The Revenant, letting out a smile and a chuckle, “the masses are always taken by such simplistic solutions…they never seem to realize the problems they face are more challenging than they thought.”
“Caught in the web is Mountain Springs, which brings in millions in revenues in Utah, all of which could be threatened by such a ban.”
“I see…but why are we worried about Utah? It is such a small state.”
“Yes, but Utah is the first national government within Virtue to consider a water bottle ban, and I’m hearing rumblings that larger nations may soon follow if their ban goes through.”
“So…you need me to circumvent that.”
“Exactly…the Utahans go to vote on the issue on November 2, and the vote could go either way. I need you to infiltrate their groundwater to produce the necessary scepticism and make the politicians aware that they need bottled water in order to continue to operate.”
“That doesn’t leave me with a lot of time.”
“I know…but, you’ve done more with less before…I believe in you, I know you’ll make this work. The Guild depends on this.”
“You have my assurances, Mr. Arko.”

October 25, 2015,
12:15 local time,
The Traveller’s Hotel,
Berkeley, Illinois

Persephone,” said The Bactrian as she welcomed in her guest. “I’m so glad you could make it,” she continued, as the two met in a warm embrace.

“I’m glad I could be in your presence,” said Persephone, whose silky smooth chestnut skin, flowing black locks and sumptuous, muscular curves she accented wonderfully with her clothes struck a chord with The Bactrian. “It is not often that I am in the presence of such greatness.”
“Oh please,” said The Bactrian with a slight chuckle, in a vain attempt at modesty. “I am but a mere mortal. One who works hard and reaps the benefits...much like you.”
Persephone laughed, appreciating the compliment.
“You know, I’ve always liked your vigour,” The Bactrain said, cooing softly into Persephone’s ear, walking by her and brushing her hand against her exposed belly to tease the young woman. “Your vim...your courage...but...” The Bactrian came face to face with Persephone, clutching her head and placing her forehead against hers.
Persephone responded by attempting to kiss The Bactrian, but she pulled away quickly.
The Bactrian kept her head away and looked Persephone straight in the eyes. “Do you know what you’ve lacked?”
“Wha...what?” Persephone stuttered as her heart began to race, enraptured by the charms of The Bactrian.
The Bactrian let go of her head and walked towards a large suitcase. “You have the drive...you have the ambition...but you lack a focus.”
“...and what’s in that box will change that?”

The Bactrian wheeled the suitcase over to the unoccupied bed, opening it slowly.

Inside was a nubile blonde woman, cleave-gagged with her wrists and ankles bound with handcuffs chained to the interior of the suitcase (preventing her escape), with her body was curled partly into a ball because it was cortorted to fit inside the suitcase. She’d been sedated, which allowed her to accompany The Bactrian on her private plane, but now was awake, whimpering uncontrollably but otherwise frozen in fear. The tear marks on her face was obvious, though her eyes were glazed as they became dried from too much crying. She darted her eyes feverishly, wondering where she was.

Persephone, however, knew who she was.

“Crystal Marks,” she said with a smile, caressing Marks’ cheek. The 18-year-old instantly pulled away, only to be met with a hard slap by Persephone. “Don’t you dare try that again!” Persephone scolded, which caused Marks to shirk and comply out of fear.
“She’s all yours,” said The Bactrian, as Persephone grinned with glee. Persephone then ran her hands over the top of Marks’ genitals, causing Marks to squirm. She then stuck her finger slightly inside of Marks’ genitals.
“Ooh, nice,” said Persephone with manic euphoria. “I guess I’m going to have to take away your virginity later.” This caused Marks to hyperventilate in fear, but another slap from Persephone stopped her vocal whimpering.

Persephone then walked up to The Bactrian, wrapping her hands around her waist.

“How could I ever thank you?” Persephone said, giving The Bactrian a warm hug. “I’ve loved her my whole life!”
The Bactrian grinned, as the two continued to hold each other at the waists.

“In return for Crystal,” said The Bactrian, as Persephone again tried to lean in to kiss The Bactrian but was rebuffed. “I need your help once more.”
“I’m listening,” Persephone started to nibble at The Bactrian’s neck, but The Bactrian kept her composure.
“I need you to gather your forces and commit many crimes with the aim of assisting the Soldiers in making progressivism look like radicals,” said The Bactrian. “The aim is to apply the Virtue Process in America, by turning it into a favourable state for Nathanism, and we both know progressives stand in the way of that, so we strike at their credibility. Your group will also assist us in any way that we can with the Birean human trafficking ring, in which you can acquire some more girls for yourself free of charge. Do you accept this offer?”
“How do you know this will all work?” Persephone asked, continuing to nibble at The Bactrian’s neck and soon her ears. “What’s in it for me in the end?”
“I’ll explain all in due time, but the goal is to carve a North American empire just for yourself, because I believe Columbia deserves to be strong again. Do you accept these terms?”

Persephone leaned in and beganing making out with The Bactrian. The two went at it for quite some time, getting very deep and passionate with their kissing and eventually their fondling. Eventually the two released from their kiss.

“How’s that for an answer?” Persephone said with lots of glee.
“You know, I think I need some clarification,” said The Bactrian with a playful smirk. The two proceeded to make out again, before having sex that very afternoon in front of Marks.

October 24, 2015,
07:19 local time,
Main Water Filtration Plant,
Salt Lake City, Utah

“Oh man,” said Ronald Weatherby as he scratched his eyes, doing what he could to keep them open. “I can’t believe I agreed to work on a Sunday.”
“Late night last night?” said Sally Jurgens, patting Weatherby’s back as the specialist leaned over a railing observing the flow of the just-treated water.
Weatherby chuckled heartily. “Late night…like you wouldn’t believe.”
“Oh, do tell me.”
“On Friday I was in Pocatello…had some alcohol…well, not some. I basically went to the store and cleared out an entire cooler’s worth of six-packs.”
Jurgens’ eyes widened with shock. “How many beers is that?”
“I can’t remember…I lost count…I just remember I went to this parking lot and just drank…and drank some more…next thing I know, I’ve passed out for the entire weekend and I wake up with just enough time to start the shift today…oh, man am I wiped!”

“Listen,” said Jurgens, again putting her hand on Weatherby’s back, “Why don’t you take a breather…I’ll continue watching the water until you get back.”
“You’d do that for me?” Weatherby said.
“Yeah…you work hard…so take it easy for a while.”
“Um, okay…I’ll be back.”

After Weatherby left the room, Jurgens went to work. Jurgens was really the assumed identity of The Revenant, who happened to kill the real Jurgens a week prior to gain access to the facility. Jurgens was a single woman, already a rarity in Utah (since Utahans typically viewed single women with lots of suspicion) with no next of kin to speak of, so assuming her identity was easy. Jurgens also lived on a country house miles outside of town, with no regular deliveries or visitors of any kind. No one would know she was murdered for months- if they ever found out- by which point The Revenant would be clear of the authorities.

The Revenant’s first task was to press a button that inserted into the security tapes a loop of footage, recorded earlier, of Jurgens standing by herself overlooking the water, which would run for over an hour. The factory’s computer systems were easy to hack, and she knew- after studying Utah’s computer specialists- that none would be able to detect the virus she infected their computer systems with.

After infecting the computer system, The Revenant opened a vial, and dropped its contents into the water. This would eventually go into the taps of Salt Lake City, meaning that within minutes the effects of the chemical- another proprietary Guild specialty- would begin. The most anyone in Salt Lake City would get would be temporary food poisoning, leaving a population that would just largely get sick but would recover in time to get to work the following day.

However, a few would get sicker, with several of those dying. Autopsies would be performed in the following days, but since the chemical that infected the water was beyond Utah’s detection methods, the Utah Government’s Department of Health was forced to conclude the culprit was tap water. A boil water advisory went into effect, forcing the consumption of bottled water- Mountain Springs’ profits soared at this stage- which made the November 13 vote a mere formality. An overwhelming 89% would vote against the bottled water ban, allowing Mountain Springs to continue its dominance of the Utah market.

November 2, 2015,
08:14 local time,
FBII Headquarters,
Buffalo, Roman New York

“Hey,” said Senior FBII Agent and Antivirus Task Force Chief Galla Claudia as she strolled into the office of the North American Prefect, Eva Avita.
“Hey,” said Avita, warmly smiling as Claudia as she took as she took her seat.
“How are things?” Claudia asked as she was getting herself comfortable.
“The wife...you know, always on my case about something,” said Avita with a chuckle. “Last week, I forgot to take out the garbage so she reminded me I had to do it this morning...so I did, but I also reminded her that I’ve had quite a few early mornings lately. This job is never easy.”
“Oh married life...so pedantic.”
“Yeah, but I wouldn’t trade Julia for the world...as much as she drives me nuts, I know I drive her nuts...and she keeps me grounded. I couldn’t have asked for a better life partner.”
“I’m happy for you.” Claudia smiled, which Avita reciprocated, before both adopted serious tones.

“So it’s confirmed, right?” Claudia asked, getting down to business.
“Yup,” said Avita, “Seth was killed by The Revenant...it’s unmistakable.”
“The next question is...why Seth? What do the Soldiers want out of him? Do we know the Soldiers are even in North America?”
“Well, you know the Soldiers...they don’t make their presence known until the last moment. All we know is that they had an attempted deal with Robert Walker for the women in his staff at Walker’s Rangers. We don’t know if George operated as part of the Soldiers or on his own.”
“We can at least assume the Soldiers are operating in North America then.”
“They’ve always been here, lurking in the midst. I know the talk was all about Omega but who do you think kept them in line?”
“The Soldiers...and when Omega strayed, the Soldiers struck back.”
“By taking over The Virus, which we found out was the very foundation of Omega.”
“Omega hid the operation of The Virus away from the FBII though...why did they do that?”
“As I understand, the relationship was tenuous at best...and I doubt Omega wanted to reveal their strongest weapon until they had to.”
“Which became their undoing since it allowed the Soldiers to steal it and undermine their whole operation.”
“Exactly...you understand how delicate this all is.”

Claudia leaned back in her chair, concern coming over face.

“So,” she said after a sigh, “finding President Marks’ killer won’t be straightforward.”
“No, it won’t,” said Avita with a similar sigh. “The Revenant leaves only the evidence they want you to find.”
“Do we know much about The Revenant?”
“No one has ever had a confirmed sighting, thus The Revenant appears more to be a ghost than an actual human being...which is why many view the figure as a spirit. However, I’m far more grounded- there’s nothing supernatural about what The Revenant does- they just follow along and do what they’re told, mostly at the bidding of Virtue.”
“Profiling alone suggests that The Revenant is one person. A loyal one, perhaps to a fault, dedicated to the Virtue cause.”
“Meaning our best bet at stopping them is understanding what they’re after.”
“I understand the Soldiers’ main goal is taking what a country fears and exaggerating it, just so the people panic only for a Virtue operative to come in and ‘save’ them...but Marks was a conservative politician. If there’s one truth I’ve seen in North American culture, it’s that there’s a long fear and distrust of conservatives, harkening back to the days of Reagan.”
“One they cultivated themselves, let’s not forget...Ronald Reagan was fiercely rhetorical in his condemnation of his enemies, and since he was so inspiring, many others adopted his ‘us vs. them’ mentality in their own lives...unintentionally or intentionally creating the divisions North America now suffers from.”
“Which is why the killing of Marks makes no sense...killing a progressive would.”
“So we need to make it make sense.”

November 2, 2015,
11:22 local time,
Gilbert Perreault Park,
Buffalo, Roman New York

“Hello?” said Danforth Grayson as he picked up his cell phone. It was Max Collins on the other end.
“Danny,” said Collins, who spoke with grave urgency.
“Yes, yes, I’m here…gosh, do you always need to sound like you need the bathroom every time you talk to me?”
Collins sighed. “Good to know you're still sharp with the sophomoric humour.”
“Whatever man…what’s up?”
“How do you know?”
“I saw her leave The Traveler’s Hotel in Berkeley the other night.”
“So she killed President Marks…and poisoned the Utah water supply in the same week.”
“Seems so.”
“What’s her angle? She’s never strayed beyond Virtue territory before…why this change?”
“I don’t know…I’m working my sources, though it should be no surprise that Virtue has designs on North America.”
“Still, why would they take so long to start the Process here? Something’s not adding up.”

“I’m not sure…but whatever Virtue is up to, it can’t be good.”