“When the doctors are unwilling to cure their patients, it is prudent to ask- who is it that is really sick?”- Rufina Cosima, “Society’s Turning Point” (1699)
September 13, 2016,
20:36 local time,
Coos Bay Correctional Facility,
Coos Bay, Roman Columbia
“So this is really just a cover?” said Corey Biggs, conversing with his three guests, Trevor Rawlings, Galla Claudia and Maria Castroiti, inside his cell before “quiet time”.
“Pretty much,” said Claudia. “Fighting The Virus requires us to evolve our tactics in so many different ways…and one of those ways is fooling them into thinking I’m in prison.”
“I thought The Virus was firmly defeated,” said Rawlings. “Ingrid was the last link…and you got her.”
“You’d think it was,” said Claudia with a slight, wistful chuckle. “However, when I was out as an investigator, I learned that ‘The Virus’ soon came to be more than just an organized group…it became a hashtag, a rallying cry, one that millions of people across the world have used to voice their displeasure against those who they feel have oppressed them. It is true that a segment of them, led by Ingrid Fjallsdottir, infiltrated the Global Anarchists’ League and used the GAL for their own gain, but I have my doubts that arresting that network truly ‘defeats’ The Virus…a social movement doesn’t die. It evolves. I’m positive there are supporters of Ingrid who aren’t happy we put her away…and they’re going to strike at any point. Since The Virus didn’t stop targeting me until they put me away in prison, I have to make them think that I’m in prison…or else they’re going to come after me again.”
“Don’t worry Galla,” said Castroiti with a wide smile. “We’ve got your back.” She then pounded her chest with her fist before continuing. “We’re your crew…you’re family to us.”
“Yeah,” said Rawlings, “You helped give my brother closure…I’m forever in your debt.”
Claudia laughed and lowered her head, heart-warmed by their show of support. “Thanks guys,” she said with a smile. “Your support means the world to me.”
Just then, a guard came around and knocked on Biggs’ door.
“Quiet time guys,” said the guard as Biggs opened the door.
“It’s nine o’clock already?” said Castroiti, scrunching her face in frustration. “Darn…we were just getting started.”
“Sorry guys,” said the guard curtly. “C’mon Galla, we have to get you back to solitary.”
Claudia nodded her head and left her friends, turning, smiling and waving at them before she left.
September 14, 2016,
05:56 local time,
“Thanks so much for coming,” said Reza Shamanaz as he handed over the payment to his babysitter, Marjorie Torquaz. “I believe this should be enough.”
“It is,” said Marjorie with a smile. The 19-year-old dark-skinned svelte blonde smiled and pocketed the cash, not bothering to check if Reza had indeed given her enough.
“Well,” said Shamanaz, “I’ll leave you to it then.” The real estate developer smiled and waved before going on his way to dinner with a potential client.
After Shamanaz closed the door, Marjorie went upstairs to check on his baby, Gupta, whom he named because of his fondness for Indian history. Gupta was barely two months old, born to a prostitute Shamanaz had seen in Delhi. Marjorie expected Gupta to be sleeping, since Shamanaz said he had put him to sleep, but as soon as Marjorie opened the door, Gupta was wide awake.
Oh great, thought Marjorie as the baby’s wailing screams irritated her ear drums. I just *had* to wake up the baby, didn’t I? She let out a heavy sigh before collecting herself in a vain attempt to sooth Gupta back to bed. She picked him up and held him close to her body, singing softly into his ear but her tone-deaf warbling had no effect. She then took Gupta and lowered him against her chest and supported him with her forearms, cradling him and rocking him back and forth. When this didn’t work, she tried playing a game of “peek-a-boo” with him, lifting him up and down at regular intervals, saying “there I am” when the two were at eye level.
Gupta was nonplussed, continuing to cry wildly. He then calmed down after he noticed Marjorie’s breast, where the nipple had crept out of a shirt that was too big for her. His hands began to reach for it and even managed to touch it before Marjorie pulled him away.
“No, no, no!” she said in a playful but stern tone. “You don’t get to have that.” Gupta, upon realizing that he wasn’t going to get breastfed, again began to cry, which flustered Marjorie once more.
You know what, thought Marjorie, you leave me no choice. I need to do this now.
Marjorie then opened her purse, put on latex gloves and pulled out a syringe, which contained enough sedatives to kill Gupta in seconds. She took the syringe and stabbed it into the baby’s neck, injecting its contents completely. Gupta soon became quiet, dying almost instantaneously, after which Marjorie put him back in the crib. She then put away her syringe into her purse, picked up Gupta and left the house, before which she reactivated the house’s cameras. She then carried Gupta and placed him in Reza’s garbage bin by the roadside before walking a bit up the road and pulling out her cell phone and making a phone call.
“Ricimer,” said Marjorie, which was really an alias. “This is Majoran. I completed the task.”
“Good work,” said Ricimer. “Justice will be served now.” Ricimer knew that soon the garbage man would collect Shamanaz’s garbage and find the dead baby, which Shamanaz hoped to hide since he killed Gupta’s mother, who he regularly visited as a prostitute in Delhi before debts forced Shamanaz’s hand. The Delhi police refused to investigate, since the locals did not view prostitution favourably, leaving Gupta the only evidence that his mother had ever existed- and only by killing him could Majoran force the police to investigate its circumstances and reveal her existence.
“Listen, Majoran,” said Ricimer, “I’ve been thinking- you’ve done so well lately…I think you might be ready for the next step.”
Majoran smiled. “Really?” she said with glee.
Ricimer smiled, happy to hear Majoran’s excitement. “I think so.”
“I’m ready whenever you are.”
“That’s good. I like to hear that.”
“I’ll be back at the airport in an hour.”
“Good. We’ll discuss things then.”
September 23, 2016,
13:21 local time,
Rome, Roman Republic
“Listen, Caesar,” said Byzantine Empress Alexia Comnenus, in a conference call to the residence of Roman Emperor Valerius IV, alongside English Foreign Affairs Minister Jack Kent and Birean Emperor James Dowell. “You have to understand the reality…we can’t create 15 million eligible Birean bachelorettes in five minutes, or even a year. The demographic reality is that, for at least the next twenty years, the Birean men will be shortchanged. There is nothing we can do.”
“We’ve done everything you have wanted us to do,” said Dowell. “I’ve ended the one-child policy, allowed the Bireans to emigrate or even just to travel to find a wife, and I’ve enacted new laws to outlaw human trafficking completely.” He then let out a frustrated sigh before continuing. “This is why, I’m begging you, to open your borders to legitimate Birean tourism, so our men can find a wife.”
“Nope,” said Valerius curtly. “There is not even a discussion about this. The whole mess you had with the Order of Maria Goetti and other networks of its ilk was a creation of your own making. You guys at Virtue allowed it get out of hand and did absolutely nothing to stop it until we got involved. Why should I let you and your merry band of village idiots run amok in my territory and muck things up again? No…not going to happen, and I don’t care how many times you protest about it.”
“Caesar,” said Kent with a chuckle. “May I remind you that you sat on your own hands as well and did absolutely nothing about the human trafficking rings until unauthorized investigation into the rings was initiated? You act like you are so high and mighty, but the reality is you are far from blameless.”
Valerius chuckled in disbelief and shook his head, refusing to get into a childish “blame game” with the English.
“We had problems with our own response,” said Valerius strongly, “I won’t doubt that. However, this whole thing is not a question about whose response is more adequate…this whole thing is about you dunderheads coming to me and grovelling to me to trust your repulsive enterprises won't operate on my soil, and, in order for me to allow that to happen, I have to trust that you would be capable enough to do that…and I do not have that level of trust. So I don’t care who is more right or more wrong in their response to the crimes…your response was also inadequate, and therefore I cannot trust that you would be able to effectively do the job.”
“That is well and good,” said Comnenus, “but allow me to remind you that you had millions of Romans willing to sign up for the services. Your allies in Scotland and Morocco already allow the Birean tourists to come without impediment. So you can argue all you like about us ignoring our realities, but it seems to me like it is you who is ignoring your own.”
Valerius let out a pensive sigh, feeling that part of him knew that Comnenus was right.
“Fair enough,” said Valerius, “I’ll allow Bireans to come as tourists. However, there will be extreme vetting of every potential tourist, all of whom will need a visa, and under no circumstances will Birean businesses- of any kind- set up any kind of branch in Rome, either directly or indirectly, and should there be any hint of Romans kidnapped against their will or Birean businesses are found in otherwise any way to be committing crimes against Roman subjects and/or against the State, we will be in a state of war- there is no ‘ifs’ and/or ‘buts’ about it. Do I make myself clear?”
September 23, 2016,
07:55 local time,
Buffalo, Roman New York
“Have a seat,” said Foederatio Borealis Indigatores Imperiale (FBII) Director Lucius Black as Behavioural Analysis Unit Chief Aaron “Fitch” Fitchner walked into his office. Fitchner walked a few steps before Black reminded him to close the door, which Fitchner did, embarrassed he had forgotten.
“Director,” said Fitchner, taking in a deep breath as he sat down.
“Your gun and your badge, please,” said Black curtly, an order Fitchner complied with even though he was downtrodden by the request.
Black then nonchalantly pulled out a folder and began leafing through the documents, stopping occasionally to read some of them. Meanwhile, Fitchner looked on, anxiously, doing his best to remain calm and composed but knowing that his badge and his gun had been shorn of him, he was restless for Black to continue on with the meeting.
“Yes,” said Black, pursing his lips and nodding his head with a small shrug. “OK,” he continued, letting out a sigh.
“Office of Professional Responsibility has given me their report about the BAU,” said Black, who again let out another sigh as Fitchner adjusted himself in his seat. Black looked down again at the report, raising his eyebrows and giving off a restrained smile before shaking his head, stopping his speech dead in its tracks. Fitchner let out another sigh, and again adjusted himself in his seat, looking on in anticipation for the words Black did not seem to want to utter.
“Listen,” continued Black, “there’s no easy way for me to say this…” Black’s voice then began to trail off, after which he again stalled with various verbal and physical ticks in his facial expressions. Fitchner again adjusted himself in his seat and began fidgeting with his thumbs, before the anticipation got the better of him.
“Oh will you just spit out!” said Fitchner, banging the desk with his fist and getting out of his chair. “I already think I know what you’re going to say, but by Jove, I’m done with you beating around the bush! Just tell me so I can get out of here and get on with my day!”
“Their report was glowing,” said Black with a wry smile on his face. “They thought the BAU was the pinnacle of professionalism and thus they believe you no longer need to be scrutinized. So I’m releasing the OPR from its review and allowing your team to resume its independent operations.”
The relief on Fitchner’s face was immense, as he lowered his head and let out a wide smile, licking his lips and shaking his head, knowing Black played him perfectly. He sat back down again, tears having formed in his eyes after being overcome with the relief that his stresses were now gone.
“You had me there for a second,” said Fitchner, starting to laugh and wiping his eyes. “Man, I can’t believe it.”
“I know you needed something to spice up your Friday,” said Black with a wide smile. “I know I did too.”
“Well, you sure perked me up,” said Fitchner, as the two laughed about the situation.
After the two of them calmed down, Black and Fitchner engaged in some small talk before Black handed Fitchner back his badge and his gun and another folder after Fitchner got up to leave. Fitchner opened it and read the document a little before his smile became a frown.
“A purse snatching?” he said, his mood souring. “I thought we were done with the OPR.”
“Oh,” said Black, “you are. This is just your next case.”
“I…I don’t get it. I understood we weren’t going to get ‘meaty’ cases because we had to re-prove our worth under the OPR, but now that they’ve finished their report, one which I assume was glowing, I thought we’d get back to our ‘normal’ cases.”
Black was curt. “Well, you’re not…and I can’t tell you when you will.”
“Lucius…” Fitchner stammered and shook his head, his eyes wide with shock. “I don’t know what to say.”
Black looked straight into Fitchner’s eyes and spoke sternly. “Yeah you do…you just won’t say it. Now get to work.”
Fitchner left Black’s office, deciding the argument wasn’t worth his time, although Black’s last words to him left him befuddled.
September 26, 2016
00:09 local time,
Governor Gudleskis’ Ranch,
Outskirts of Tarsus, Cilicia
“Stop moving!” Ben Cypress said, as he held down Mary Gudleskis, the wife of Aramean Governor James Gudleskis, on her bed. He punched her repeatedly to get her to submit to him, but Gudleskis fought valiantly, using whatever she could- fingernails, her teeth, the notepad that was in her reach- to bite and prod at Cypress, but, given that Cypress was twice as strong as Gudleskis, all it did was cause an annoyance. Eventually Cypress spun her around, slammed her head against the wall, dug his elbow hard into her solar plexus and then choked her, almost to the point of unconsciousness. Gudleskis was left gasping for air with little energy left, making her limbs very limp allowing Cypress to pose them as he saw fit.
As he climbed into position on the bed, he set her down on her back spread-eagle, using his belt to restrain her arms. Her legs were still free and regained some energy so she used them to kick Cypress several times, but Cypress gave her a few slaps to her face which made her stop. He then used his knife to cut open Gudleskis’s clothes, leaving her lying there, naked. Cypress then took off his pants and took advantage of her naked body, enjoying it for as long as he could. As he was raping her, every thrust was therapeutic, releasing a lot of the pain that Gudleskis and her husband had caused him.
“This!” Cypress shouted, as he rammed her hard, causing her to scream in pain, “is for all of the times you and your men stood by as vandals stole our goods in the marketplace, depriving us of our livelihood just so you could get whatever you liked for free!” He then thrusted hard some more, grunting as he did, with Gudleskis starting to cry amongst her moans, though Cypress wasn’t concerned for Gudleskis’ yelps.
“This!” Cypress shouted again, ramming her several more times, causing her to gasp widely, “is for all those times your men stifled free speech at our universities, shutting down protests for the simplest of things. No longer will such oppression be allowed to stand!” He thrusted again, causing excruciating pain in Gudleskis, while bending his head and positioning it on her breast, upon which he sucked, flicked and nibbled on her succulent nipple, making the pain even more unbearable for Gudleskis.
“Finally, this!” Cypress shouted, increasing the intensity of his ramming, causing Gudleskis to scream at the top her lungs in unbelievable pain, a pain so intense it caused her to have her mouth wide open, close her eyes and arch herself towards Cypress, who held her close to his body as he thrusted. “This is for the time that your men stormed my house, tied me up and made me watch as my own wife was defiled before my eyes! Now, you will know every inch of the unbearable pain that you put her and I through!”
He thrusted some more, going harder and faster with every passing minute, with Cypress getting happier and Gudleskis’ pain getting more blindingly excruciating by the minute. Eventually Cypress climaxed which felt like an incredible release, giving him a sense of euphoria that told him that justice had been served. As he got off the defeated Gudleskis, he pulled his pants back up and pulled out his gun, shooting Gudleskis dead just like he shot dead her husband moments before.
He stepped outside the Gudleskis ranch, contemplating what he had just done. The fair-skinned Cypress stood in front of the detonator pensively. He set all of his charges in the right place, ensuring that the Governor’s Ranch would be no more after he set the fuse, so that wasn’t his concern. No, it was the gravity of the moment that got to him- the fact that, after this moment, there was no turning back in his struggle. He would no longer be just a common man with resentments over his overlords- no, after this, he was a marked man. Maybe the man with the biggest mark. Thus, he wondered if what he did was right. Others would come after him, that much he was sure, but could he justify his struggle with them? If he couldn’t, how could he muster the energy to continue the fight? Is continuing the fight even worth it? No, he thought, this is right. He had to beat the Governor with every pound of his fists, just like the Governor’s men beat down his village with every pound of his military might. He had to enjoy the Governor’s wife, just how the Governor’s men enjoyed the wives of his village. He had to set fire to his crops just how the Governor burned down the farms of the village. Last but not least, he had to let the Governor’s men feel the fury they put Cypress through when they held him in prison for all those years on bogus charges, all because Cypress had dared to criticize the Governor for his ruinous taxes. The Governor needed to pay, and pay he did. Without a moment’s thought, Cypress activated the detonator and fled to a nearby hill to watch the fireworks. As he watched the ranch burn, he chuckled to himself, relieved that his quest for justice had taken a positive turn. He lit a cigar that he stole from the ranch and smoked it, revelling in his victory over the Governor. He let out another celebratory laugh as he continued smoking, but urgency crept back into his thoughts. As he finished his cigar, he dumped it on the ground and began the arduous journey inland. The Arameans would seek to avenge the death of Governor Gudleskis so they would be baying for Cypress’s blood, so he couldn’t stay here for long. Still, he fled knowing that he won the first battle, even though he knew the war was just beginning.