Friday, April 8, 2016

Episode Fourteen: St. Jasper's Fire

“What is the world’s greatest resource? It is not gold. It is not oil. It is not even water. It is women- for without women, there can be no life.”- Ingrid Fjallsdottir, activist, speech at Times Square, New York (1987)

March 29, 1995,
02:11 local time,
Ingrid Fjallsdottir Female Dormitory, East Timor University,
New Hibernian, Timor, Birea

“Anna,” said Milton Roberts as he grabbed Anna Rattu by her shoulders to gain her attention. Roberts led a team of six dozen men dressed in army gear towards the dormitory, with everyone except Roberts, Rattu and five men who manned the dorm’s only exit inside collecting the dormitory’s 213 women. Most were sedated and carried out individually, although some had to be subdued physically while others would be corralled as they tried to run away, with no one escaping. As Roberts’ team had cut the building’s phone lines, none of the women would have a chance to call for help.

“Anna!” said Roberts, raising his voice and giving Rattu a shake as the 18-year-old lowered her head. “Oh by Jove Anna! I don’t have time for your pouting!” Roberts then gave Rattu a strong slap across her cheek, causing her head to snap to the side.
“I’m sorry Brother,” said Rattu sheepishly, while again hanging her head in shame. Roberts was not amused, again slapping her hard.
“Stop lowering your head!” he said, delivering another slap. “Look at me!” Roberts then grabbed Rattu’s cheeks and steered her head so that she was looking right at him, his hands pressing her cheek so hard that her mouth was forced open. “Look me in the eyes! Do you remember what you have to do?”
Rattu nodded her head.
“Say it!” Roberts barked as he let go of her head.
Rattu responded with a barely audible blubber, which caused her to receive another slap.
“Louder, b***!” snapped Roberts.
“When the man comes by and gives me the signal,” said Rattu sheepishly, “I light the match.”
“Yes, that’s correct,” said Roberts, who then undid his pants. “Now, he’ll be some time still, so come get your Juice.”
“…but I don’t want my Juice!” cried Rattu with tears starting to flow. “Please, Brother, please!”
“Enough!” snarled Roberts, slapping her several times. “If you don’t do it, I’ll tell Daddy…and Daddy won’t like to hear it!”
Rattu pondered for a second and took a few deep breaths, which eventually allowed her to calm down and stop crying.

She then got on her knees and wrapped her mouth on Roberts’ erect penis, which she began to suck on. Roberts closed his eyes and let out an ear to ear grin, enjoying the fellatio, while Rattu did her best to pleasure him while bottling up her nerves and her fears. Even though she’d been through this before, it was still hard for her to completely relax, because she felt eternally afraid that she would make the wrong move and send Roberts off again into a wild rage. She was getting better at faking it, though no matter what happened, she only wished the nightmare would end.

Eventually, Roberts climaxed, and tonight he ejaculated quite a bit, causing Rattu to gag as she attempted to swallow every last bit of Roberts’ semen. She then licked her lips and smiled after she finally finished swallowing, only because she knew that Roberts would appreciate it, as secretly she detested the salty taste and the sweaty odour she had to contend with that night.

“Good girl,” said Roberts with a smile before kissing Rattu’s forehead. He then put his pants back on as one of the militiamen walked up to the pair after pouring a path of gasoline all the way back to the dormitory.

“Milton,” he said. “We’re ready.”

Roberts gave Rattu a nod, to which Rattu lowered her head and put on a dour face. After Roberts raised his hand to slap her again, Rattu cowered in fear, dutifully lighting the match and throwing it on the ground.

Soon, the fire followed the path of gasoline to the dormitory building, which, because of its poor construction standards, was immediately engulfed in flames. Minutes later, the rest of the dormitories- all-male facilities that contained 649 men in total- would also be burned to the ground, their occupants all killed. The militiamen then left with their loads, packed inside a tractor trailer rigged so that the women could be chained inside of it.

Eventually, the armed group made their way to the seaport that the militia owned, where the trailer would be loaded on to a barge and set sail. Before it did, Roberts met with the barge’s captain.

“Do you have the money?” said Roberts, approaching the captain.
“It’s all here,” said the captain, handing Roberts a suitcase. “Unmarked, non-sequential bills. $50 million. You better have not disappointed me.”
Roberts smiled assuredly. “I promise you, Daddy will be very pleased.”
“Very well then. Pleasure doing business.” The captain then shook Roberts’ hand before instructing his men to lower the trailer onto his barge, where he would disembark for his journey.

March 29, 2016,
05:03 local time,
Civil War Memorial Park,
Bowling Green, Kentucky

“So what do we got here?” said Officer Toby Mills as he came upon the crime scene alongside his partner, Clarence Washington.
“Looks like simple desecration,” said Washington, observing the damage done to a memorial statue dedicated to Graves, a plantation owner from before the Civil War, noticing its nose had been cut off.
Mills scoffed. “I don’t think it’s simple desecration.” He walked up towards the statue and pointed out the fractured nose. “The guy cut off Graves’ nose…it’s reminiscent of when Napoleon-”
“Yeah, yeah, when Napoleon- supposedly- cut off the Sphinx’s nose because he thought the Sphinx looked ‘too black’. Yes, I know that story.”
“This? Why do this? There’s no question that Graves was white, and he was a notorious slave owner…no need to make a statement like that.”
“Maybe our guy misinterpreted why Napoleon did what he did…maybe he thought defacing Graves’ nose would be an indicator that he’s too white. There are several other statues in this park…he could have defaced them, but he chose Graves. Why?”
“The slave revolt against him was a precursor event to the Civil War…he’s a symbol of white nationalism…so that’s probably our angle.”

Washington then motioned Mills towards the rear of the statue, where some writing was visible.

“The Virus?” Mills said with a sigh. “I thought we were done with those punks. Don’t tell me they’re flaring up again.”
“So this is political,” said Washington, agreeing with Mills’ disappointment. “That’s the only explanation I have. There are cameras everywhere, we’ll have this guy caught in a week.”
“That’s the good news. The bad news is…this is more than just desecration…those stupid protesters are back. You know, I got sympathy for them, I really do…I get it, things are tough…but crime is no answer for it.”
“Tell that to our guy. This has to be a response to the Roman crime report insisting that North America’s crime levels are down once again. We both knew that was hogwash.”
“I bet our buddies in the GAL are behind this…we need to focus on them. Can’t understand why we let them run their mouths.”
“Free speech, buddy. Free speech.”
“Yeah…well is speech really free when only terror gives you the right to use it?”

March 31, 1995,
06:34 local time,
Roadside gas station,
102 km from New Hibernian, Timor, Birea

It’s too early for this, thought Carter Downey as he pulled into the gas station to fill up his Rover 100, but I’ve got no choice.

Carter needed the drive. A million things were going through his head, which stopped him from sleeping, chief of which was his girlfriend, Sarah Gilmore. They had been together for three years at that point and living together for a year, but the past few months had been tough on Carter. Gilmore was always outspoken, but lately, Carter felt, she was going too far, nagging at him constantly for things he believed he should never have to deal with. Unfortunately, his friends- far more into Nathanism than he ever was- were not of much help, as they routinely suggested he slug his girlfriend because that’s what they did to bring their significant others back into line.

Instead, Carter had a different idea- he was going to drive, and he might never drive back to his home, opting to find a new home for himself. He wasn’t sure what he’d do- he just felt that he couldn’t live one more minute with Sarah.

When he finished filling up his car, the gas station attendant came out. It was Rattu, who essentially lived at the gas station, one of the many front businesses the militia Roberts was a part of owned. Since it was a waypoint for the seaport, Roberts himself manned it alongside Rattu, but, as the extreme Nathanite he was, Roberts bossed Rattu around and made her do most of the work.

Carter pulled out the money to pay Rattu when something struck his eye.

“Hey sparky,” said Carter as Rattu walked up to him, with Rattu avoiding eye contact as was her custom. “What’s your name?”
“I-I,” said Rattu, stuttering. “I…um…”
“It’s okay…you don’t have to give it to me.” Carter then saw more clearly what caught his eye, and that was the signs of scarring along her face and the presence of multiple bruises, some darker than others.

“Are you okay?” said Carter, concerned for Rattu’s well-being. He didn’t wait for her answer to put his hand on her cheek, which caused her to instinctively draw her face closer to his in an attempt to kiss him, as she was instructed to whenever a customer touched her face. Carter, though, pulled away.

“Woah,” said Carter, shocked that Rattu would try that. “I’ve already got a girlfriend, man…and I’m older than I look.”
“I’m…I’m,” said Rattu, hanging her head in shame. “I’m sorry.” She then began to cry.
“Oh honey, no,” said Carter, feeling bad for Rattu. “I didn’t mean it like that…gosh, I’m sorry…man.” Carter began to hang his own head down in shame, upset that he let his own wishes get in the way of the affection Rattu needed. “Listen…all right. You obviously need a kiss, so if it makes you feel better…come here and give me a kiss.”

Rattu looked up at the man, who could only flash a weak smile, before again breaking down in tears, frozen in what to do. Roberts instructed her to do whatever the man wishes, but Carter was the first man she’d ever encountered who seemed to actually care about what she wanted, and Rattu wanted nothing more than to leave the gas station.

“My name is Anna Rattu,” said Rattu, her voice cracking but beginning to recover. “You gotta help me…those men…they beat me. They beat me all the time. They don’t want to help me…they just want to use me…everyone in this country does. Except you, I think.”
“Well hello Anna,” said Carter, extending his hand to shake Rattu’s. “My name is Carter, Carter Downey…I’m here to help.” Even though they were done the handshake, Rattu continued to hold on warmly to Carter’s hand, with Carter deciding it was best for Rattu not to object to her doing that.
“Carter,” said Rattu, her sad tears becoming happy ones. “You seem like such a nice, warm fellow. You said you had a girlfriend…what’s her name?”
“Sarah,” said Carter. “Known her for three years…I came out here because…because I was selfish. I lost my job two weeks ago, and…I know a guy who could give me another one and she keeps bugging me to contact him but I’ve been dragging my heels…I kind of like the freedom but, by Jove…you know…” Carter let out a sigh before continuing. “Sarah is right. Yeah, she bugs me but she looks after me. I know that’s more than you wanted to hear but I guess I just had to get it out.”

Rattu flashed a warm smile, showing a small sliver of the beauty she could be if her soul wasn’t so destroyed.

“I think too much about myself,” said Carter, letting out another sigh, “like too many people in Birea. I look at you and I think, ‘I gotta be the change that this country needs’…we can’t keep doing this anymore…we can’t keep thinking about ourselves…’cause, look what they’ve done to you.”

Rattu’s happy tears again began to fall, which caused her to open her arms and jump into a warm embrace with Carter, which Carter reciprocated.

However, the tender moment was spoiled when a bald white man with a gruff, accented voice came out to talk to the pair, a man Rattu instantly recognized as “Daddy”.

“Is everything okay here?” said Daddy, sternly as Rattu let go of Carter and hung her head.
“Yeah,” said Carter, looking Daddy squarely in the eyes. “Why wouldn’t they be?”
“Anna has been out here for a little too long,” said Daddy. “She’s got chores to do.”
“Who are you to tell her to do them?” Carter shot back fiercely. “I see what you’ve done to her.”
“There isn’t a policeman in this town who will believe you,” said Daddy assuredly. “Your hollow threats mean little.”
“Who said anything about going to the police?” snarled Carter. “I’ll just take her myself.”
“Not a wise move,” said Daddy, “because the police will definitely follow you up on that.”
“Yeah, because I’m sure you didn’t kidnap her yourself,” said Carter. Daddy looked at Carter sternly but was unfazed, staring at him for a moment before deciding his next course of action.

“I don’t care,” said Daddy, who drew his gun. “You’re going to get back into your car and drive away, as if none of this had happened, and I’ll forget that you tried to steal my girl. Or…I’ve leave you on the ground with a bullet in your head. The choice is yours.”

Carter sighed but decided against arguing further. He slapped the cash in Daddy’s hand and drove off, much to his regret.

March 29, 2016,
12:34 local time,
Donald Trump Square,
Manhattan, New York

“The Virus seems to have woken up,” said Cassie Celebra to her best friend, Galla Claudia, after reading information from her phone as the two walked around.
“What happened now?” said Claudia, sounding concerned. “They were dormant for a while.”
“Three crimes were reported last night, and a couple more this morning, all with ‘The Virus’ hashtag on the crime scenes. So far, they’re just a case of desecrators…but it may just be a matter of time before things escalate.”
“Desecrators…why this and why now?”
“Well, your old ‘buddy’ Black released the crime figures for North America in 2015 and they’re only now being widely disseminated…this must be a response, because we all know those figures are hogwash.”
“Blatant hogwash. All politics, no substance. Any silver lining?”
“Unfortunately, no…you reported a while ago that The Virus took on a life of its own, spreading beyond any official capacity…it seems to be confirmed. The GAL support it, obviously, but my sources convincingly confirmed to me that they’re not behind some of the desecrations. This is going to be a much bigger problem than just infiltrating an organization.”
“It’s about Rome and Virtue realizing their ‘game’ has consequences they can’t be bothered to see.”
“Something bigger is being hidden…maybe GAL has their own human trafficking ring. Just like Virtue.”
“My friends who still are Agentes tell me that every GAL operative they know deny any existence of a GAL-sponsored ring.”
“Well, you know what they say about denials.”

“Hard to believe that in this very Square stood a feminist icon,” said Claudia, switching gears as they continued to walk around the area formerly known as Times Square before the New Yorker Emperor Donald Trump changed its name upon assuming power in 1997.
“I agree,” said Celebra. “Now it’s dominated by a guy who has a massive inferiority complex.”
“I think ‘massive’ is an understatement,” deadpanned Claudia, upon surveying the Square’s billboards, all of which had pictures of the Emperor or advertised one of his many businesses, some of which weren’t even in New York.

“So what made you come here for your day off?” said Celebra as the two of them continued their leisurely stroll. “Please don’t tell me you’ve fallen in love with The Donald.”
“Oh, by Jove, no!” said Claudia after a chuckle. “My love interests tend to be a little more grounded.”
Celebra smiled and nodded in agreement. “True, true.” She paused before continuing. “So, is it Ingrid, then?”
“Partly…I’m thinking more about St. Jasper’s Fire…that was 21 years ago today in Birea.”
“Right. The one that completely changed the country.”
“Not sure I’d say completely, but it sure was the point it hasn’t looked back from.”
Celebra sighed. “Poor Ingrid…she had so much promise.”
Claudia responded assuredly. “She was fighting a losing battle…she openly confronted the Bireans and talked down to them, ending any hope she had to changing their society.”
“Well, it’s Birea…what did you expect? It’s not like those people are the most agreeable and open bunch out there. Plus, they have a shortage of women…that definitely reinforces the man’s entitlement to the women.”
Claudia chuckled and sighed. “Cassie…I like your frankness, but I have to disagree. There’s no one in this world who can’t change if you show that it benefits them…that’s what no one understands. You need, ultimately, to work with people, because that’s the only way they change. If you fight them, they will only fight back- and fight back harder. It’s the basic human survival instinct.”
“The backfire effect.”
“Yeah, that’s what it is. Was Ingrid right in her intentions and motivations? Yeah, she was…and Birea likely would have benefitted. Ingrid could have told the Bireans that if women could work it would cut down on ‘male preference’ for babies, and that if Bireans could leave the country and come back when they married, they could quickly do away with the shortage in women. Furthermore, if they told the men that it’s okay for them to be sexual as long as they’re respectful, there’d be a lot more women available to them since respect makes someone more comfortable. However, she didn’t stand a chance the minute she started to talk down to the Birean men, told them everything they held and did was wrong and tried to guilt them into changing…and St. Jasper’s Fire was the breaking point.”
“Because the women fled after burning down all the male dormitories, telling the Bireans that the feminists had gone too far in their fight, and thus women needed to be ‘controlled’ again.”
“Exactly…and, after Morta, I’m afraid North America is on the same track.”
Celebra looked at Claudia, confused. “I’m not so sure…no one in North America really thinks men ‘own’ women…women are far more free than in Birea.”
“That’s how it looks…but this continent, like England, was built upon Victorian virtues that said that women stayed at home and answered to the man’s wishes because he was the only one who could work. It’s Nathanism…only without being explicit…and something tells me we’re one wrong move before we’re back to that reality.”

January 15, 1990,
11:12 local time,
The Loveboat nightclub,
New Hibernian, Birea

“Gentleman,” said Loveboat owner Juan Castro as he burst through the doors of the club’s offices with a wide smile on his face walking with a long, purposeful strut. “How are we doing? How did we do over the weekend?” Castro, 27, was a well-built and gregarious man, who boisterous demeanour gave him a magnetic personality that he used to his advantage to secure many a deal as a businessman. Born in Manhattan, Castro made a name for himself with The Loveboat’s first location in New York, not just because of its business success but because it allowed “Don Juan” (as he became known) to solidify his status as a successful womanizer. Rumblings of the Third World War forced him to branch out, finding a home in Birea.

“We did very well,” said Monty Morris, the club’s general manager. “We still haven’t tabulated all the survey results, but from what we’re seeing, the reviews are extremely positive. Those dancers you brought in…they were a great touch.”
“I knew they would be,” said Castro with a huge smile. “You can’t have a successful nightclub without promising the men that there will be women available for them…it’s something this society desperately needs. Men…they get too protective, and those stupid feminists who run their mouths…well, you know what I say about them.”
Morris chuckled. “Oh yes, I know, decrying the man’s natural need to deserve a woman…but it never gets old.”
Castro put his arm around Morris and squeezed affectionately. “One day, they will understand that a woman’s job was always about serving the man…it’s the one thing I am glad Birea gets right. No pussyfooting around that.”

Castro and his staff continued to discuss other details surrounding their weekend, which gained international prominence as a rare incident of “good news” following reports of the Poles’ breach of the Berlin Wall six days prior. About an hour through the meeting, just when the group was to break off for lunch, the nightclub’s receptionist- Michelle Broadway, a Filipina clad in lingerie as she was also one of the club’s hired dancers- buzzed for Castro. She didn’t sound impressed.

“What’s the matter?” Castro said, getting concerned but doing his best to hide it.
“It’s her,” said Broadway, disgust tinged in her voice. “She’s here and refuses to leave until you come down to talk to her.”
“She’s got a restraining order…she can’t step within a foot of this facility, especially after what her and her goons tried to do on opening night.”
“Sir, I’m aware of that…and I’ve called the cops…but she won’t listen.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll get rid of her.”

Castro then left the meeting room and walked to greet their visitor at the reception area, opposite the club’s night time entrance and thus it did not have any cameras.

“Ingrid!” said Castro after walking into the reception area. “So good to see you!” He then dove right in to an embrace of Ingrid Fjallsdottir, a petit, pale-skinned woman with bleached hair, who tried to get away from the much bigger Castro but there was nothing that stopped him from wrapping her up in his arms.

“Yeah, good to see a monster like you,” said Ingrid, not hiding her disgust. “Tell me, you couldn’t be bothered to ask if I had wanted a hug from you?”
“Ask?” Castro scoffed, letting out a belly laugh at the suggestion. “Ask? In Birea? Are you kidding me? There’s no need to ask…I always get it. Right Michelle?” He outstretched his arms for Broadway to give him a hug, which she gleefully accepted. The two held each other tightly for a few moments, before entering a pose where the two were side by side with Broadway’s arm around Castro’s neck and Castro’s arm at Broadway’s waist.

“You know,” said Castro, snarling at Ingrid. “You need to be more like her…do things for other people.” He then leaned in with his eyes wide open, staring right into Ingrid’s eyes. “Not do them for yourself.”
Ingrid chuckled sardonically. “Speak for yourself you big brute,” she snapped.

“Look,” said Castro, standing tall but still maintaining his gaze with Ingrid and his pose with Broadway. “I don’t know what you came here for, but you have a restraining order…you’re not supposed to come here. Ever. You or your merry band of ‘feminists’. The police are on their way…so it’s best you get leaving if you know what’s good for you.”
“I don’t care,” said Ingrid, defiantly. “The fact that you won’t talk to me tells me everything I need to know- that you and your ‘merry band of misogynists’ that think they run this country are afraid of me, and afraid of me very much.”
“Bullocks, Ingrid, and you know it. If it wasn’t for our idiot of an Emperor mistakenly thinking our tourism needed a boost you wouldn’t even be here. Our country is safe enough for women…it didn’t need any improvements.”
“Safe for you to objectify and degrade women…which was the basis for your weekend spate of shows. I’ve come here with a petition that I will hand over to city council asking they tear down your filthy club and replace it with nightlife that is less threatening for women. I’ve already got a thousand signatures…from both men and women. I was hoping you would change your practices, but it seems like you can’t be bothered to.”

Castro and Broadway both let out huge belly laughs in response to Ingrid, who could only stand with her arms folded in indignation.

“Threatened?” said Broadway with incredulousness. “Seriously, b***? What’s so threatening about what I’m wearing? All we’re doing is giving men eye candy…and we kick anyone out that acts inappropriately without consent. Besides, most of the men I deal with are nice, respectful people…sweetheart, they’re angels compared to scum like you. Oh, and the women that come out to our events? They all tell me they have such a nice, wonderful time because they get something that you won’t ever experience in your life- attention and appreciation from other people.”
“I don’t need a boyfriend to validate myself,” said Ingrid, putting her hands on her hips. “Besides, Michelle, did you ever ask yourself why you are so vapid that the only way you feel any value for yourself is if you get the approval of others? Are you, much like your buddy Juan here, so narcissistic that approval is the only way your life gains any meaning? Is it?

“You know, I’ll tell you what’s so threatening about your outfit. Because your culture has so regularly demeaned and degraded women- throughout the centuries- your outfit serves as a reminder to men that your only worth is your sexuality. That means that they feel validated to not just degrade you but expect to degrade other women…and that makes your entire society unsafe. That is why I have to fight Don Juan’s club and others like it, because if we want women to come visit Birea, we have to tell them that they will be completely safe when they do so…and seeing footage of nightclubs who hire scantily clad dancers does not do that.”

Castro could only lower his head and laugh at Ingrid’s impassioned rant.

“Wasn’t you guys who said that a woman should be able to wear whatever she wants?” said Broadway. “That men and men alone are the sole reason for the assaults that happen to women? Aren’t you just playing into the same arguments that you claim ‘slut-shamers’ are making? If you fault them for their logic, then how you can you use it yourself? Doesn’t that make you a hypocrite? A lying, dirty, deceiving hypocrite who will say whatever she needs to in order to get what she wants? With ethics like that, you should be a politician- you’d fit right in.”

Ingrid let out a few loud breaths through her nose, looking at the pair icily but she offered no response.

“Don’t got anything for that, do you, toots?” said Castro, who grinned.

Ingrid was not amused, but, absent any words for her to say, she responded by opening her hand and slapping Castro’s cheek with the full force of her strength. It was at this point the police arrived.

“Is everything okay?” said the policeman as he entered the reception area.

“He assaulted me!” said Ingrid, pointing furiously at Castro. “He hugged me without my permission!”
“Yeah,” said the officer, quickly dismissive. “Sure he did.” After handcuffing Ingrid to the door handle, he then turned his attention to Castro, who was still rubbing his cheek while Broadway, who was studying dentistry, looked into Castro’s mouth. “Are you okay, Juan?”
“She slapped me,” said Castro, who was slightly shocked but was otherwise unfazed.
“As you can see,” said Broadway, directing the officer to Castro’s mouth, which he opened wide, “the force of the slap caused Juan to bite down on his tongue, drawing blood.”
“I can confirm this,” said the officer, smiling assuredly with Broadway and Castro. “Don’t worry, Juan. I’ll see to it that she gets the justice she deserves.”

He then shook Castro’s hand and went to shake Broadway’s hand, who instead offered the officer a hug which he accepted. The officer then detached Ingrid from the door and placed the handcuffs on her wrists behind her back, where Ingrid thought she had a chance to escape. She headbutted the officer underneath his chin- with her hairband opening a gash on his chin- and tried to dash, but the officer quickly caught up and tackled her to the ground. As he lifted her up, she bit down hard on his arm, which she only released after the officer cold cocked her by punching her in the face and slamming her head several times against the police car. With Ingrid finally incapacitated, the officer was able to take her into the car and drive off.

August 29, 1992,
13:56 local time,
Morals Office Hearing Room, Birean Imperial Palace,
Helene, Birea

A hush descended on the room as Morality Minister John Malcolm, followed by Nathanite Patriarch Jesse XI and his aides, as they sat behind their panel at the back wall. Also present at the meeting was Castro and his aides, seated at their desk facing the panel while a large crowd gathered behind them, eagerly anticipating the discussion.

Only days before, the last Scottish battalion had been expelled from Borneo with the help of England and Carolina, ending Birea’s involvement in the Third World War. Castro expected this meeting to be one where the Patriarch would permit the reopening of his Loveboat nightclub, shuttered because of the War, but clashes between pro- and anti-feminist groups led to worries that Birea was headed towards the same sectarian violence that was befalling North America, Europe and mainland Asia, so there was no way of actually knowing which way the meeting would go.

“Thank you all for coming here today,” started Malcolm, whose intense, full baritone commanded the room. “As you know, the events of the past month were jarring for all of us, and, while we escaped the brunt of the terror that has befallen much of the world, it still reminded most of us that not even we in Birea are safe from the worst of what the world has to offer.

“It has thus become evident to me that our society has reached a critical juncture, one of which we must vehemently respond to. We cannot sit back idly and pretend that the rest of the world is not watching us, because it is now painfully obvious that they are.

“That is the only conclusion that I have after Scotland, our former colonial masters, attempted to take us back, because, as the rest of the world has so often told us, we cannot be members of this world if we alienate ourselves with confrontational rhetoric. We have to change, and by God’s good graces, we have been given that opportunity.

“So, with the blessing of our dear Patriarch and by the grace of God, I am proud to announce that the Loveboat will no longer stand. In its place will be a sign that Birea is serious about reform, renewing our commitment to ensuring that women in our country will forever be strong, safe and free.

“Thus, I am formally announcing that, not only is Ingrid Fjallsdottir cleared of all wrongdoing and set free, in the Loveboat’s place will stand the Ingrid Fjallsdottir Female Dormitory, the first place in Birea where women will be allowed to live freely and by themselves. Through this, we hope this will empower women, by showing them that we are serious when we say we believe they do not need a man to provide and care for them, as well as enrich our men, by showing them that women work better alongside men when they are equals, not when they are subordinates. Thank you.”

A noisy furour took over the room, with equal amounts of cheering and jeering going on. None were more aggrieved than Castro, who had to speak several times before the crowd quieted down enough to allow him to speak.

“How dare you make a decision like that,” said Castro loudly as his eyes widened with anger. “You are making Ingrid the victim here, when you don’t realize she’s the enemy here. Not only did she assault me, she assaulted her arresting officer and resisted arrest!” As Castro continued, he began forcefully wagging his finger at Malcolm. “Furthermore, her and her ‘merry band of miscreants’ desecrated my establishments and harassed my patrons. Multiple. Times. For what? Because a few people are babies and have so little self-esteem that they’re ‘offended’ by my dancers? Those same dancers who, time and again, won multiple awards and brought joy to millions of people, men and women alike? Not to mention they entered into their jobs willingly, and no one was forced to enter my club or support it in any other way.

“To say nothing of course of the millions I poured in to the New Hibernian economy, of which this new dormitory will not do. We were just fine before the War and we would have been fine now- I can’t believe you would pander to such candy assed pussies all because of a small threat that was made to be bigger than it was.

“You know, I’m sure I’m not alone, but I am ashamed to be a Birean right now. We should be better than this.”

Howls erupted behind Castro as Malcolm furiously banged his gavel in a futile attempt to regain control. No matter what he did, the din grew louder and louder, to the point where the Patriarch- usually a silent observer during Malcolm’s rulings- got up himself and waved to the crowd to quiet down. However, not even Jesse could control this raucous crowd.

It didn’t take long for actual fights to break out in the crowd, as anger between the pro- and anti-feminist crowd reached a boiling point. The meeting hall became a mess of flying papers, binders and other debris as people did what they could to deal with the flurry of limbs and other items that were used to deal bodily damage around the hall. Blood soon flew, splattering all over the desks and the carpets as people literally started to fly across the room as the combatants engaged further and further into their fight. Eventually, the anti-feminists coalesced into a united front, chanting “men aren’t evil” as they continued to bash and smash their hopeless adversaries. Seeing the cause was lost, the Patriarch and Malcolm quietly exited the building alongside their aides, soon followed by the few pro-feminists who weren’t crushed to oblivion by their vicious enemies.

When the fight was won, Castro- who got in a few licks himself in the melee- smiled and addressed his supporters.

“Friends,” he said bombastically, “I’m proud of what you were able to achieve today. For we didn’t just defend our ground and defend our rights, we showed the government that no one can push us around! We were a country built by men and it is a country sustained by men- and we showed today that the future will only be constructed by men!”

Loud cheers erupted as Castro stopped his speech to smile in appreciation.

“However, today proves that our battle has only just begun,” said Castro, continuing his bombast but with concern creeping into his voice. “That dormitory will still go up, and countless other feminists are going to rally their troops to combat everything that we will do. So we must not stop, but dig in. It will be long, and it will be hard, but if you keep up the commitment to our cause that you showed today, there is no one we cannot beat!”

More loud cheers and thunderous applause erupted after Castro was finished. After several minutes of wild cheering, the group soon left the building together, a joyous bunch galvanized for the fight ahead.

October 15, 1993,
01:05 local time,
Jack Kent’s home,
London, England

Though he had prepared himself for bed, English Foreign Affairs Minister Jack Kent refused to go to sleep. He had one last task he had to work on before he could catch one wink, so before he ventured to his bed, he reached for his phone and made one last phone call.

“I apologize that I am calling you at this hour,” said Kent in his bombastic but smooth baritone. “I’m sure you understand that the circumstances require this timing. As you may already be aware, the British Empire is no more, as both Wales and Ireland have made official their departure from the United Kingdom despite the fact neither country has the resources to be on their own, but I am glad that I no longer have to deal with peoples whose pride is so big they cannot see the forest for the trees.

“Anyway, I call not to vent about our difficulties but because I have been told that you can assist in rectifying them. Our poll numbers have been down, mostly due to the fact that liberalism has started to gain an ever increasing foothold in the English political discourse, one that has grown so large that, for the first time in well over a decade our Conservatives face the very real possibility of being thrown out of office. Despite Margret Thatcher’s brilliance in keeping England afloat through some of the worst economic times this world has ever seen, as well as maintained the English prestige by destroying the Argentines in the Falkland’s War, our narcissistic vagabonds continue to be dissatisfied until all of our traditional values have gone up in smoke.

“How bad is it, you say? On just the walk alone from my house to Westminster I saw over a dozen women whose dresses were so short you couldn’t even tell if they simply weren’t just T-Shirts in disguise. I cannot tell you how badly I wished to rape one to show them how stupid they are for letting all of their assets out for the world to see. Then I had to walk by the horror of two men who believed the street corner was the perfect place for a deep, sensual make-out session…gross. I tell you, I have often said how despicable that sight is but today reminded me about just how disgusting that visual is.

“The coup de grace, though, was when I came across a bus shelter and lo and behold, there was a young couple, a man and a woman, who were actively engaged in raunchy sex. It didn’t bother them that other people may have had to use the bench inside the shelter, or that others are clearly not interested in their amorous rendezvous…they were so consumed by infatuation- and I know this is infatuation, because people who are truly in love can wait until they have found a bed- that the shelter served the best spot for their brazen copulation. It was so utterly disgusting.

“Worse than that, though, was that I alerted a nearby police officer about the intercourse because it’s illegal and the officer not so kindly told me to ‘get over myself’ and quit ‘being such a moralistic downer to a young couple clearly in love’. I was flabbergasted- and it has told me that our society is far too consumed with sex, and I need to put a stop to it before it has a chance to destroy not just our government but everything that makes an Englishman an Englishman.

“I have associates who run human trafficking rings which are designed to create the illusion that English society is so consumed with sex that they see no issues with purchasing it. However, my problem is that there is only so long that we can buy and sell our women throughout our Empire before the authorities catch on and link it back to us…so I need a new market. Birea seems to be such a market, as I look over the numbers and see that Birean men are going to drastically outnumber the women in a few short years.

“Yes, I understand there is a feminist problem, but I have a plan that will get rid of it, leaving the ability of Birean men to operate and dominate unencumbered. You are the only one I know who has the resources that can pull off such a plan, and, as a reward, you will get to keep the women you procure.” Kent chuckled with appreciation before he continued. “I thought that would entice you enough to hear the plan. Let me tell you what it is.”

April 2, 2016,
15:46 local time,
Roadside gas station,
102 km from New Hibernian, Timor, Birea

After arriving at the gas station, Carter, Max Collins and Angelica Pankewicz got out the car and took a look around. The gas station had been abandoned for over four years, but the station’s logo was affixed to the card found at the nightclub the trio had visited several weeks before.

“I got my gas at this pump,” Carter said as he walked around trying to recreate the memory that was in his head while Collins went inside the station. “It was early in the morning…my girlfriend had bothered me for the umpteenth time and I needed a drive to clear my head. It was two days after the Fire, and my buddies finally got to me and told me that I didn’t have to put up with her crap…and stupid old me believed them. So I filled up my car and this girl comes out…she couldn’t have been more than 19, I figure, but she moved and acted like a kid. She had bruises and scars everywhere on her face, and was too scared to even look at me. I spotted the scars, and I tried to lift her face to examine them further…but then she tried to kiss me.”
“She tried to kiss you?” said Pankewicz, surprised at the revelation.
“That’s how it goes in Birea,” said Carter with a sigh. “Women…they’re taught from a very young age to always do what your man wants you to do. It’s Nathanism…women have no choices. The only one who can make those choices are the familial men in their lives. Obviously, whomever controlled that girl told her that if a man holds her face she has to kiss them…I suspect they used her for much more than that.”
“I thought Ingrid actually got through to the Bireans before the Fire, though,” said Pankewicz, standing next to Carter.
“Some of them,” said Carter, “including the politicians…the Patriarch too…they all made decrees telling men that women have rights, that they have the right not to be assaulted, the right to object to activities they don’t wish to do, the right of mobility, the right to work, the right to wear what they like…and many men agreed that it wasn’t honourable to treat women like they were slaves, even though Birean law says they are. We needed to enter the modern world, where slavery is all but abandoned, not just for our image but to be economically prosperous…many countries powered ahead of us because by granting women independence, they easily doubled their workforce and doubled their tax base. Unfortunately, no changes ever come without backlash, so, predictably, there were the men that would object- Juan Castro chief among them- saying that if women were slaves then the government has no right to tell their owners what they can do with them, aside from what Nathan’s Manifesto said.”
“What’s the Manifesto?” said Pankewicz.
“Nathanism’s other holy book,” said Carter, “in addition to the Bible. Supposedly the founder of Nathanism, Noah Caldwell, wrote it as an ‘inspiration’ from God but no one has ever found the original manuscript. From the earliest copies of the Manifesto, it clearly states the rules of female slavery, stating that a woman’s physical integrity has to be maintained- so, no maiming allowed- and that they must be well fed and given enough rest to perform the tasks they need to do. It also states that female ownership resides with the father first before being transferred to the husband upon marriage. Other than that, men are given free reign to do what they like, and, before Ingrid came around, that’s precisely what they did.”
“No maiming, huh,” said Pankewicz. “So what happens if a woman gets breast cancer or needs a leg or an arm amputated? Do they just get discarded?”
“Some men do that I’m afraid,” said Carter, who let out a long sigh. “Women just didn’t have a lot of rights…until Ingrid came around and breathed some fresh air into this society.”
“Is that why they set the Fire?” Pankewicz asked. “To show the women that it’s really the men who are in control?”
“I suspect that,” said Carter. “Though that’s not the official story behind the Fire. They accused Ingrid, because the women- including Ingrid- went missing shortly after the Fire, which spread to some nearby men’s dormitories and torched them while they were all sleeping. Castro and his cronies saw that as ‘the last straw’ and convinced the new Patriarch- Jesse XII- who had assumed power only two weeks before to wipe out all of Ingrid’s gains, because they concluded that it was proof that Ingrid only wanted to fight the Bireans and would go to no end to secure her ‘agenda’. Jesse agreed, and we’re left with a society where the only women that ever get out of their houses are the slaves that bars buy for the patrons to rape.”
“Ingrid didn’t seem like the most rational of people though,” said Pankewicz.
“No,” said Carter. “You’re right…and I wished she employed different tactics than being so damn aggressive and confrontational. However…her heart was in the right place, and the Bireans don’t seem to understand that if they had just worked with the feminists they could have had the society that they wanted…Ingrid said several times she didn’t want to deny men their sexual desires and needs…she just wanted them to be respectful of women, because if women didn’t have to be afraid of men, they could be the ‘liberated’ amours the men so desired.”
“She only seemed to attack men, though,” said Pankewicz. “Hard to win support when you do that.”
“I agree,” said Carter, “however, it leads to the next point- people always say, ‘Ingrid failed because she wasn’t conciliatory’. That may be true, but conciliation goes both ways- we in Birea weren’t either, and if we just used our damn heads and responded in a civil manner, we could have had a rational discussion and actually gotten somewhere. Neither side seems to understand that their reactions just keep feeding the flames of the fire until it, well, actually happened.”

“So that girl,” said Pankewicz, changing gears in the conversation, “who owned her?”
“I remember,” said Carter, “some bald guy with a gruff voice came out to confront me…pointed a gun at me and told me to back off. So I did.”
“Wait…a bald man with a gruff voice?” said Pankewicz with a look of concern on her face. “That’s…”
“Yeah,” said Carter, knowing Pankewicz was referring to Collins. “I see where you’re going with this.” Carter then purposefully walked towards the gas station, ready to confront Collins.

“You were here that day, weren’t you Max,” said Carter angrily as Collins turned around and gave him a bemused look.
“Actually,” said Collins, “I was in Cairo in 1995…securing another business deal. I heard about the Fire and was devastated.”
“You know.” Carter paused to look Collins right in the eye. “There’s a lot I don’t know about you…how can you prove you weren’t here?”
“How can you prove that I was?”
“Don’t get snippy with me chump. I’m former military, I can drop you in an instant.”
Collins chuckled hesitantly, doing his best not to take Carter’s bait. He walked inside the station and went behind the counter, pulling out a binder.

Carter opened the binder and read it intently.

“It’s Anna’s,” said Carter, his eyes widening at times reading its contents.
“Anna?” said Pankewicz.
“Anna Rattu,” said Carter. “The girl who came out to me while I was pumping my gas…that’s her name. This binder…it’s her diary of all of her abuses.”
“Read the last page,” said Collins curtly but confidently.
“I…I,” said Carter, taking in several deep breaths but sadness soon overcame him. “Oh by Jove no…that’s…that’s not real is it?”
“It’s signed by Daddy,” said Collins. “Containing your girlfriend’s personal information and a note…as well as a cryptic note to come behind the station. I did some digging…you’re not going to like what you see.”
“Sarah?” said Carter, tears starting to form. “She’s…she’s dead? I thought she had left me.”
“Whoever Daddy is knew you would come,” said Collins. “I remember you told me a month after you visited this station you said that Sarah wrote you a letter claiming she was going to leave you, but you said it was a photocopy…that same note reappears on this page, in its original form. Daddy kidnapped her and killed her behind this station, torturing her for her personal information so that he could use her credit card long after her death. That’s why the police never bothered to report her as missing, because the note gave her the ability to leave Birea- which she seemed to do- and she still had credit card activity with the card never reported stolen. Fooled me in our background check…Sarah seemed to have been alive until at least 2008, making payments on that card through payments from a Kazakh bank account registered to a Kiril Mozgov who was reported killed at the same time. Here’s our notes on Sarah so you know I’m not lying.” Collins then handed a still sobbing Carter his phone, who examined its contents and conceding that Collins was right.

“How did Daddy find Sarah?” said Pankewicz.
“I told Anna my name,” said Carter, sobbing. “I wanted to know she had a friend…an ally…and that punk ass used that against me!”
“I thought you and Sarah were on the ropes, though,” said Pankewicz. “She didn’t seem like a girl you had loved anymore.”
“We were fixing things,” said Carter. “Slowly, but surely…it was kind of touch and go, and yeah, things were rocky. Then I got that note and thought I had failed…so I was crushed and never really thought to pursue the matter, because it told me that Sarah made up her mind. I accepted the fact…and then I find out about this and…well, I just don’t know what to think.” Carter then broke down in tears, burying his head as he cried before taking a few deep breaths to recover momentarily.

“Take me outside,” he said, softly but purposefully. “I need to see her one last time.”

Collins complied with the request, taking Carter to the makeshift grave that was dug where he found the body. It was completely decomposed, leaving just the skeletal remains, proof that it had been there for several years. Scuff marks were present on the skull indicating blows to the head, a testament to the torture that Collins said that had happened. The neck bones had also appeared to have taken some damage, which Collins concluded asserted that the cause of death was likely strangulation via a ligature. This left the skull separated from the body, and Carter zeroed in on it.

“Oh Sarah!” he said, crying uncontrollably as he clutched the skull close to his head as if he was hugging Sarah one last time. “Oh Sarah! I’m so sorry…I can’t believe I let this happen to you! If only I could have one day…one more f***ing day, I promise you…we could have made things right! Oh gosh…why? Why?! Why?!?!” He continued to cry, holding Sarah’s skull for several minutes until Pankewicz noticed something.

“Didn’t you say that you got Sarah a prosthetic finger after she accidentally cut off her pinkie?” said Pankewicz.
“Yeah,” said Carter. “Yeah I did. I remember when it happened…I cauterized the wound and everything. That’s why we never went to the doctor about it, because I fixed it myself. Even got her a replacement finger that was so lifelike you couldn’t tell the difference.”
“Explains how I didn’t catch it in the pictures,” said Collins, bemused at this revelation.
“Yeah,” said Pankewicz with a quizzical look. “I don’t see a prosthetic here…I see a woman with all eight of her fingers and both of her thumbs.”
“So…so,” said Carter, startled by this find. “Who is this?”
“It’s not Anna is it?” said Pankewicz.
“The teeth suggest this body is too old to be Anna,” said Carter with confidence. “We need to take this skull…I don’t care if it’s illegal. We’ll need to identify it.”
“…and find out who Kiril Mozogov is.”

April 8, 2016,
12:08 local time,
Domus Flavia,
Rome, Roman Republic

Quaestor Cornelia Bruta Compisia confidently strode into the study room of Roman Caesar Gnaeus Valerius Maderia, better known as Valerius IV, and handed him a flash drive.

“I looked into the Dresden Documents,” said Compisia, “and they’re complete hogwash.”
“As I suspected,” said Valerius. “I knew all along that it was a Virtue plant from the very beginning.”
“Yeah…the alleged source of the documentation was a security firm in Dresden established just two days ago, likely specifically to release these documents, with their founding date backdated 15 years to cover their tracks. None of the files they've released contained authentic Roman watermarks that we used at the time- in fact, they all used one from 1974, almost 15 years before we put documentation online to begin with, and even that watermark isn't correct. Our office has put out a statement asserting this fact, disseminated widely to all media outlets, including Virtue's.”
“I'm going to guess only our outlets are pushing the fact the documents are fake.”
“You'd be right about that.”

Compisia smiled only to retract it when she saw Valerius’ dour expression.

“What’s wrong, Your Highness?” the Quaestor asked. “This doesn’t seem to be anything more than Virtue's other ‘non-stories’, so why the long face?”
“Because this isn’t a non-story,” said the Caesar with a sigh. “My electoral rivals have picked up on it and they're already using it against me. The public…they probably don’t know or care that the Documents are fake…they’ll become a rallying cry, and Virtue knows this.”
“Haven’t you always said that our populace is too smart to fall for that kind of garbage?” said Compisia, quizzically.
“I still believe it,” said Valerius. “Though my belief fades every day…my poll numbers have been going down since The Virus flared up again…I should have known that people didn’t believe North America had turned a corner…I thought the statistics would be enough, but numbers lie, apparently. I’ve taken quite a few hits lately because of North America…and my opponents won’t care that the Dresden Documents are fake. It’s just fuel to the fire.”
“Then there’s Juan Castro…” Compisia said, sighing. “He has officially left ‘Modern Man’, despite it being the top rated show on North American TV.”
“Inexplicably I would add,” said Valerius. “Fine, he’s a good looking guy who talks a good game, but…no one is that good with women. He gives lonely men false hope while corrupting them by thinking women are ‘interchangeable’.”
“I’m more worried about having to deal with Castro than Dresden, to be honest,” said Compisia. “He could win- women love him, because good looks trumps misogyny, apparently.”
“I’m not worried about that joker,” said Valerius. “He’s not a serious candidate. He’s all flash and no substance. He won’t hold up to campaign scrutiny at all…being a smooth talking fake works on TV but on the campaign trail, when people actually want to hear your policies in depth, people will see right through his fa├žade. I also believe women aren’t going to flock to him…he actually has to be ‘exposed’ for who he is on the trail, he can’t hide from women that he’s a philanderer. You’ll see.”
“I wish I believed you,” said Compisia.
“In four weeks he’ll fade,” said Valerius assuredly. “Or he’ll just give up because it’s not a ‘quick thrill’. Trust me.
Compisia nodded reluctantly, but offered no response.
“As for Dresden,” Valerius said, changing gears, “make sure every candidate is vetted to the extreme. We’ve got to look for every sign that Virtue will try to run a candidate that will disrupt our election, so leave no stone unturned and turf anyone that even looks like a sliver of a Virtual candidate.”
“As you wish, Sir,” said Compisia as she left Valerius’ office to start the task.

April 11, 2016,
10:14 local time,
BAU War Room, Foederatio Borealis Indigatores Imperiale (FBII) Headquarters,
Buffalo, Roman New York

“Hello everyone,” said Aaron “Fitch” Fitchner, Behavioural Analysis Unit Chief, as he walked into the room, folder in hand, to greet the rest of the team, all of whom were seated. “I’m sorry for the delay- I had some details about our current case that I needed to go over.”
“Finally,” said Vince Chesnut with a cackle, “we’ve got a case. I was getting bored.”
“There still are a lot to do otherwise,” said Fitchner curtly. “How’s that report coming, Vince?”
Chestnut responded with a blank stare, to which Fitchner replied to with a crossed look. A few of the other teammates gave Fitchner an incredulous look, as this had been the fifth report Chesnut appeared to have bailed on without reprimand from their boss.
“What’s the case today?” asked Jason Simeon, one of the team’s senior agents alongside Claudio Pucci, in a bid to break the awkward silence.
“Just as long as we’re not chasing the guy who stole restaurant menus,” said Emily Proctor. “Simple policework caught him. That was annoying.”
“How about the guy who purposely pressed soap dispensers too many times,” said Chestunt with a wide smile. “That was fun.” The rest of the team gave him a cross-eyed look.
“No no,” said Fitchner with a forced smile. “This one is different. We’ve actually got a case where we need to use profiling. Pennsylvania State Police needs our help finding a man who has evaded $1,425 in parking tickets in a Philadelphia neighbourhood.”

As Fitchner forced another smile, the rest of his team looked around at each other, with everyone giving confused looks.

“Parking…tickets?” said Chestnut. “Seriously, bro? We’re not even talking millions here…just thousands.”
“Hey,” said Pucci incredulously. “Fitch is not ‘bro’, okay? You don’t use that language around here. Do you got that?”
“Pooch,” said Simeon as Chesnut gave him an angered look, “Vince just got carried away…it’s no big deal.”
Anyway,” said Fitcher, his voice quivering as he tried to regain control of the room- and his composure. “The case is more important right now and, yes, we need to deal with unpaid parking tickets.”
“I guess it’s a job,” said Proctor, who chuckled sardonically and shook her head in disgust.
“The sum is no small potato,” said Fitchner. “Do you know how many things Philadelphia could buy with $1,000? It’s no small haul.”
“All right,” said Simeon, “what are the details?”

Before Fitchner could respond, silence befell the room as Pucci got up from his chair and put on his jacket.

“Um,” said Fitcher, “Claude…um…where are you going?”
“I’m stepping out of this,” said Pucci unequivocally. “I didn’t sign up for the FBII and found this Unit to hunt for some turd who can’t pay his parking fines. I joined this job to fight real crime, not petty stuff the locals are too lazy to figure out themselves.”
“Yeah, but this has been going on for some time,” said Fitchner. “PSP has no leads.”
“Well sucks to be them,” said Pucci. “Maybe if they were a real police force, they’d have one by now. In the mean time, I’m going to be in my office tending to the backlog of research papers that I have to write…you know, to do my actual job, not this phony one you guys think you have.”

Before Fitchner had a chance to respond, Pucci had already walked out of the room and closed the door behind him, softly but loudly.

“Can he,” said Proctor, looking confused. “Can he do that? That’s insubordination, isn’t it?”
“He has been here longer than I have,” said Fitchner with a sigh, “and research is part of his duties…so yes he can. The rest of you can’t, though.”
“We’ll manage, I’m sure,” said Simeon with a forced smile.

Meanwhile, inside his office, Pucci picked up his personal cell phone and made a call.

“Listen,” said Pucci, “I’ve been thinking about your problem…I know someone who can help.”

“If you want to create a revolution, don’t create enemies.”- Graffito found on the Flavian Amphitheatre during the Roman Revolution, Author Unknown (1742)