“You will only have problems when you ask fools to lead fools.”- Publius Bacchus, “The Folly of the Republic” (1715)
September 30, 2016,
17:12 local time,
Anatu Martuenki’s House,
“Anatu Martuenki”, said Assyrian Federal Police officer Roger Stanner as Anatu Martuenki opened her door.
“Yes,” said the buxom blonde, terrified at his presence but resigned to her fate. “I am Anatu.”
“I’m Roger Stanner with the Assyrian Federal Police,” said Stanner, his gruff, rigid voice and disheveled look betraying the many years the grizzled veteran had been with the force.
“I’m going to guess you are here to arrest me,” said Anatu with a heavy sigh.
“You would guess correctly,” said Stanner, somewhat pleased Anatu offered no resistance at all. He wished all of his arrests were this straightforward.
As Anatu turned around and put her hands on her head, allowing Stanner to arrest her, she let out a heavy sigh, doing her best to corral her tears and her emotions, something Stanner picked up on.
“I don’t agree with this myself,” said Stanner as he completed the arrest, one Anatu noted as he did not even try to grope her. “I know this is entirely political...heck, as Assur is my witness, you should still be running for President, but Virtue’s got other ideas.”
“It’s always Virtue isn’t it,” said Anatu with a resigned sigh.
“Always is with us,” said Stanner matter-of-factly.
“Now I’m caught in the crossfire,” said Anatu.
“That’s what you get for fighting the establishment,” said Stanner, “but, between you and me, I don’t think this fight is over. I still feel you got a chance to beat ‘em.”
September 30, 2016,
13:45 local time,
Aramean Imperial Palace,
Nicosia, Cyprus, Aramean Empire
“Sir,” said Aramean Foreign Minister Pazo Pacos on the phone with his boss, Aramean Chancellor Aris Pomas. “Virtue has agreed to assist you with fighting the Pope’s representatives and the Romans in order to help you establish a republic.”
“Good,” said Pomas smiling. “Very good.”
“Next week,” said Pacos, “we may be able to sign the deal that allows us to join Virtue.”
Pomas let out a very pleased sigh of relief. “Wonderful,” he said, “wonderful work. My life’s goal of finally being free of Rome will now be finally realized. What about Pamphylia?”
“They’ll let you decide if you wish to keep it,” said Pacos. “Virtue is intent on punishing the AMF for even allowing Anatu to become a candidate for President, and your attacks help reinforce that.”
“Good,” said Pomas. “Keep me posted.”
Pomas then glanced at his computer and saw that he missed a few urgent messages from his intelligence director, so he clicked on the messages and read with interest. He then quickly called Pacos back.
“The Governor of Cilicia is dead,” said Pomas to Pacos angrily. “Could be at the hands of the Pamphylians...it occurred after another attack by the Knights.” He let out a huff before he continued. “Get on the phone with Virtue...I want answers. I want to know why they would let this happen.”
A few moments later, Franz Guggenheim, the representative of Virtue dealing with Aram, gave Pomas a call.
“Relax Aris,” said Guggenheim in his soothing baritone. “We are just as upset as you are, and we’re going to send the Virtue Guards to investigate. We believe this was done by someone out to stop our courtship, so rest assured we will find the guilty culprit.”
“The Guards?” Pomas said, relieved to know Virtue’s top police force was being sent to help, a sign that Virtue took the matter as seriously as Aram did. “OK, thanks. That makes me feel better. Looks like our friendship is going to get off to a great start.”
October 4, 2016,
07:45 local time,
Virtue Guards Headquarters,
“Hello my lovelies,” said Leroy Simms as he confidently strolled into the lab assigned to him and his team, the newly formed Guard Science Unit (GSC), all recently promoted along with Simms from their unit in Crete. “How’s the new lab?”
“Oh it’s so GREAT!” said Louloudi in her trademark shrill and her wide grin. “I already love it!”
“The people here are so nice and friendly,” said Skepsia, readjusting her top so that more of her cleavage stuck out of her blouse, to Simms’ excitement. “Their hands are so warm when they reach inside my shirt.”
Meletia could only sigh and shake her head at her teammates’ obliviousness, but she figured that since the team was new, she wasn’t in position to protest.
“At least we have stuff that works,” deadpanned Meletia, forcing a smile at Simms.
“Good,” said Simms. “We’ve got a case, an it’s a big one. The Cilician Governor, James Gudleskis, and his wife are missing, possibly dead.”
“Dead?” said Louloudi, the perky blonde breaking down in tears. “Who could do such a thing?” Meletia looked on, her eyes wide with amazement, shaking her head in frustration that it somehow surprised Louloudi that as a homicide investigator she’d actually be investigating a homicide.
“I hope we get to have a lot of blood and stuff,” said Skepsia, her voice getting more excited as she spoke.
“Oh we might,” said Simms, grinning with glee, his eyes now noticing the top of Skepsia’s areola peaking out of her shirt. “Oh we might.”
Meanwhile, Meletia wondered if she got stuck on some bad comedy, before deciding she had enough.
“When were the Gudleskis reported missing?” Meletia asked, hoping to inject some professionalism into the proceedings.
“On Monday they were supposed to return to their post,” said Simms. “Every year they go away on a vacation to a place no one is aware of, just so they can truly ‘get away ‘ from their duties.”
“Disconnecting is a great way to get rid of stress,” said Meletia, “but this time it came back to bite them. Do we have any leads on where they may have been headed?”
“Unfortunately no,” said Simms, still glancing a peak at Skepsia’s breasts, which she decided to expose for him. “However...there are reports that say they may have been heading towards the m-m-...mountains. Yes, the mountains.”
“You mean the Taurus Mountains?” Meletia replied, doing her best not to get upset at Simms’ wandering eyes. “As in the border between Cilicia and Pamphylia?”
“Ooooh, yeah,” said Simms, licking his lips as Skepsia started to rub her nipples, making them nice and hard. “Yeah...those...mountains.”
“Oh for the love of Zeus!” Meletia said, now unable to hide her frustration. “Can we not discuss a case without it devolving into a sex show? Or is that all we really are to you, Leroy- sex objects?”
“Actually,” said Skepsia, “I whipped out my breasts to make a point. I noticed in our file that the Gudleskis enjoy hiking and rock climbing. I figured the Taurus Mountains would be a natural place to look, being so close to Tarsus and all.”
“Oh,” said Meletia, shocked that Skepsia actually had a brain. “Well...good job.”
“Thanks,” Skepsia said, giggling to Simms’ amusement.
“Anyway,” said Simms, “let’s get to work. Focus your attention on the Taurus Mountains... let’s see if it’s a fruitful lead.”
After Simms left, Meletia pulled aside Skepsia and spoke in hushed tones.
“All this time I’ve worked with you,” said Meletia, “I never knew you had a brain.”
“Honey,” said Skepsia, “there’s a lot you don’t know about me.”
“I guess I never noticed,” said Meletia, lowering her head and sighing. “I get so caught up with my own issues and trying to rectify that my greatest abuser is also a good friend.”
“I do that too,” said Skepsia, “but I also learned something else- what do abusers crave the most?”
“Power,” said Meletia without skipping a beat.
“So you get power over him,” said Skepsia. “Virtue’s a man’s world…they view us as nothing but sex objects. That’s just reality. So you throw it back at him…and use it to control him.”
“I’m sorry,” said Meletia, “but I can’t do that. Maybe you’re comfortable flaunting your body and exposing your breasts…but I’m not. My body is sacred.”
“You don’t have to do that,” said Skepsia. “Just stay who you are…stay vigilant. Confident. Keep him in his place, but never show him fear. If you stay strong, you’ll see he’ll eventually be the one that falls.”
October 4, 2016,
21:34 local time,
“What?” said Danforth Grayson, looking at his computer with shock and revulsion. “No…no…this…it can’t be!”
He then left his motel room and went to the one of one of his companions, Majoran.
“We can’t do this trip,” said Grayson. “We have to abort! Now.”
“I’m sorry,” said Majoran, looking on in confusion. “What happened? Have we been found out?”
“No,” said Grayson. “We’re still safe.”
“Okay then,” said Majoran, clasping her hands in front of her. “What is the problem then?”
“The Virus,” said Grayson, his voice filled with disgust. “Those losers have taken up the cause of Anatu…they’re pledging to get her free…they cannot get anywhere near Anatu. We cannot get anywhere near her…it’ll ruin all of our work.”
Majoran laughed before walking over to her bed and sitting down on it.
“Relax,” said Majoran, flashing a wide smile. “We’re going to be just fine.”
“What,” said Grayson, shock overcoming him. “What are you talking about?”
“I sent that message,” said Majoran. “I made Anatu a Virus cause.”
“You?” said Grayson, his voice rising. “You are part of them?!? How…how could you…how could you betray me after all I did for you?” He then pulled out his gun before Majoran deftly brought out hers, with both of them pointing at each other.
“Don’t do something stupid Danny,” said Majoran calmly. “Now, if you put the gun away, I’ll explain it to you.”
“This ain’t going anywhere until you tell me what’s up,” said Grayson, staring into Majoran’s eyes with intent and not relinquishing his gun.
“I know you’re a marksman, Danny,” said Majoran, “but I was trained by the Sharokh Force. I can shoot that out of your hands and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“Prove it,” said Grayson defiantly.
Majoran didn’t flinch, turning and firing her gun in one swift motion that knocked it out of Grayson’s hand, which caused the gun to hit him in the head and leave a deep gash on his hand due to shrapnel. A dazed Grayson fell to the ground, clutching his hand in pain, as Majoran quickly moved to wrap his hand with a towel.
“All right,” said Grayson, taking a few deep breaths and still grimacing in pain. “Not going to question you. So what’s the deal?”
Majoran then pulled out her medical kit and applied stitches to Grayson’s hand, causing Grayson to wince in pain, though he was appreciative of her work.
“You said The Virus was nothing more than a hashtag,” said Majoran. “A rallying cry that had no unity…no voice. It was just people who used the term to cover whatever pet project they wanted to pursue…but it was still a group of people who felt unified, who felt they were part of a greater cause. They’re screaming for a leader, someone to give them direction…so we can do that. We can give them purpose. The whole situation is tailor-made for us to take it back over and reclaim it as our own. So I created a MyFriends account and claimed The Virus, telling them we’re freeing Anatu, ‘The People’s Leader’…and I can give the account to you. All you need to do is shoot a video.”
“That’s…that’s all?” said Grayson, overcome with emotion. “I…I don’t know what to say. You were helping me and I didn’t even realize it…I was so blind. From the bottom of my heart…thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” said Majoran, smiling.
“I’d give you a hug, but it’s not my style,” said Grayson.
“I’m not offended,” said Majoran with a smile, walking towards her bed.
“…but why did you do that?” said Grayson. “You owe me nothing.”
“Maybe not,” said Majoran. “You owed something to yourself, though.”
“What is that?” Grayson responded, his interest piqued.
“You looked lost too,” said Majoran. “You lacked a purpose…you said as much when the first iteration of The Virus was taken from you. I felt that you were kind of wasting away, like you didn’t know where you were going. So I gave you a direction…something to live for.
“Remember Danny, there comes a point in everyone’s life where a minute wasted is one you’ll never get back.”
October 5, 2016,
08:00 local time,
Marcos Dionysus’ Law Office,
“Our top story,” said Terry Milewski, the Virtue News Network’s top anchor, on Marcos Dionysus’ TV screen as he was watching his local TV channel, “rioting continues today all over Asia Minor as partisan tensions continue to escalate in the country following the surprise dismissal and arrest of Anatu Martuenki as the Presidential candidate for the Mound Party.” The screen then cut away from Milewski (who continued his report) to scenes of clashing protesters, many of whom were carrying banners for Anatu while others were carrying banners for Mound’s rivals, the Bearers of the Cross.
“As rioting enters its eighth day,” said Milweski, his velvet baritone soothing to Dionysus’ ears, as he tried himself to understand the carnage, “we are receiving reports that the Ensurers are considering cancelling the Asia Minor elections, stating that the violence indicates that the vote may not be able to take place with the guarantee of voter safety. Many here point the finger squarely at Anatu, who has been long accused of playing to divisive politics with her ‘us vs. them’ rhetoric, with ‘them’ in this case being the mythic ‘establishment’.”
“Seriously?” said Dionysus, shaking his head in disgust. He then picked up his remote and angrily turned off his TV, disgusted by what he just heard. “They’re blaming Anatu for all of this? When everyone- even her own party- were saying things and working to undermine her and her message of hope at every corner…I mean, seriously? Virtue is messed up.”
He then shook his head again and scratched his eyes, still tired from sleeping on his couch. Because of the rioting, Dionysus felt it was too unsafe to even attempt to leave his office for home, as his route would pass through downtown, the epicentre of the rioting, while his law office was in the outskirts, where things were relatively calm. He also left his underlings the task of washing his clothes and getting him food, since they better blended in with the protesters who were mostly poor.
A knock on his door interrupted his thoughts.
“Hi,” said a slender but buxom red-haired woman with ivory, freckled skin as she walked in to Dionysus’ office.
“Hi,” said Dionysus, a well-built man with curly, “rock star” locks. “You’re awfully early...how may I help you today?”
“My name is Melly,” said Melly, nervously taking her seat as she was taken in by Dionysus’ looks.
“Oh,” said Dionysus with a smile. He turned on his charm and relaxed his own body, picking up on Melly’s nervousness and hoping it would relax her. “Hi Melly. I’m glad you made it today.”
“I’m glad I’m here too,” said Melly, readjusting her glasses and fixing her hair. “Listen, I have a problem.”
“Well, I’m more than happy to help,” said Dionysus who leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head. “It’s what I do…not every lawyer is a crook.”
Melly laughed. “That’s a good one,” she demurred.
Dionysus then leaned forward, pulling out a bottle from his desk. “Bourbon?” he asked with a grin. “It usually helps me relax.”
Melly looked at him strangely, finding his offer odd. “You know what,” she said, “yeah, sure. Give me a shot.”
Dionysus gave her a thumbs up and a knowing nod before pouring her and himself a shot, which they both drank after clanking glasses.
“Ahhh,” said Dionysus, satisfied. “That always hits the spot. My buddy got it for me when he was down in New Orleans…it’s a local favourite. One of these days, I’m going to take a trip down to the Big Easy…get me a bottle myself.”
“It is very good,” said Melly, grinning as she was now more relaxed. “It’s been years since I had that kick.”
“So, Melly,” said Dionysus, putting his hands together and leaning forward on his desk. “How can I help you today?”
“Well, it’s my brother,” said Melly. “He’s in jail…arrested for protesting the Pamphylian government who then framed him for a crime he didn’t commit.” Dionysus’ interest was piqued as Melly’s thought process was interrupted when she noticed a picture on Dionysus’ mantle.
“Do you know the Gudleskis?” said Melly.
“Oh yeah,” said Dionysus, looking fondly at a picture of him with Governor James Gudleskis and his wife, Mary, at the Cilician Ball last year. “Good friends…or, were, anyway.”
“Were?” said Melly, looking on with interest.
“Yeah,” said Dionysus, wistfully. “I spent a lot of time with them…litigated a few cases for them. They even invited me a few times to their summer getaway, a ranch up in the mountains…nobody knows about it except them…and me.”
“Sounds like you guys were pretty close,” said Melly. “What happened?”
“A week or so ago I worked on this case,” said Dionysus. “His name was Ben Cypress…told me this heartbreaking story about how the Knights of St. Peter- sent by the Gudleskis- were attacking his neighbourhood in Antayla. They killed his wife and his daughters. Dismembered them too.” Dionysus’ voice got louder and he started to gesture wildly as he continued. “Then the local prosecutors, instead of being impartial investigators, decided they hated the potential negative attention and decided that Cypress was really the one who killed his own family. This despite the fact Cypress’ family was killed while he was at work, but the prosecutors decided they didn’t care.”
“Wow,” said Melly, her mouth agape and shaking her head with disgust. “That’s awful.”
“Your story struck a chord with me,” said Dionysus, who poured himself another shot and drank it. “A lot of Pamphylians have come to me with similar stories…the Arameans seem intent to cause maximum disruption.”
“Why would Aram do that?” said Melly.
“Well, the Arameans are being courted by Virtue,” said Dionysus, “and Virtue is spooked by the possibility of Anatu gaining power in Asia Minor…Anatu being a feminist and Virtue being a ‘man’s world’ and all. Pamphylia is a strong base for her support, so by sicking the Arameans on them, they could disrupt Anatu’s prospects. One thing I found out…all of the people whose families died…they were all Anatu supporters, which is why Virtue is keeping it under wraps. If they’re just a bunch of twisted murder-suicides (or just murders) then the public will believe Anatu’s supporters are all crazy and thus that she must be crazy…undermining her prospects.”
“Yeah,” said Melly, “but Anatu is no longer running.”
“…and look what’s happening,” said Dionysus. “I’ve had to live here, in my office, for over a week because of all the riots. All because the Asians were afraid.”
“Anatu was a fighter though,” said Melly.
“You really believe that?” said Dionysus, chuckling incredulously.
“Yes I do, actually,” said Melly. “Right from day one she put the establishment in her crosshairs, insisting that Asia Minor had problems when they didn’t…and, if I remember correctly, didn’t she once say she wanted to kill her own party leaders?”
“That was taken out of context,” snapped Dionysus.
“You’re in her corner, aren’t you?” said Melly.
“Yeah,” said Dionysus, as if any other answer was sacrilege, “and the Arameans are front and centre at the cause to undermine her.”
“Which is why you built an army of people to take down the Gudleskis,” said Melly.
“Excuse me?” said Dionysus, who began looking around his office sensing something was amiss. Soon he’d know what it was.
“Marcos Dionysus!” said Simms as he burst through Dionysus’ door brandishing his gun. “Virtue Guards! Hands on your head!”
“You,” said Dionysus, his eyes wide with fury. “Who are you Melly? You…you tricked me!”
Melly then pulled out her Virtue Guard badge (which, like all the badges, had a recording device on it) and grinned. “That’s who I am,” she said, revealing herself to be Meletia.
“It actually was a pretty easy get,” said Meletia, as Dionysus was being arrested. “We noticed you filled your car with gas in the Taurus Mountains last week, when the Gudleskis were supposedly on their vacation.”
“Yeah, so?” said Dionysus, looking on in shock. “Lots of people fill up their gas. Why was I special?”
“You also paid Ben Cypress’ bail,” said Meletia. “Two days before you filled up, and one day before you went to an army surplus store and bought all kinds of explosives. We then looked at the area near that gas station and found a crater…made by someone who blew up a ranch, one we looked into that was owned by Mary Gudleskis. Tell me, did you drop him off to kill the Governors?”
“You…you,” said Dionysus, shaking his head slowly, apoplectic. “You are something else.”
“C’mon,” said Simms, angrily pulling Dionysus and getting him on his way out of the office as Meletia smirked. “Let’s go!”
October 5, 2016,
14:22 local time,
10km outside of Nineveh, Assyria
Anatu could only sit in the park and stare, still in disbelief that her life had gotten to this point. I never should have gotten involved with John, Anatu thought, I should have known he was a snake. She usually liked this spot, an area outside of Nineveh that was sparsely travelled which allowed her a place she could visit by herself without many people bothering her, a plus given that downtown Nineveh was engulfed in periodic clashes like the rest of Asia Minor. Still, despite the serenity of the area, it was hardly relaxing, as she was overwhelmed by her hurt. She covered her eyes with her hands and started to cry, which caused a teenage girl who was passing by to come to her bench and sit next to her.
“Hey,” said the girl. “Are you okay?”
Anatu took her hands from her face and let out a breath, her makeup still running down her face and her eyes still watery.
“In two days I’ll be on trial for adultery,” said Anatu, “and even though I’ll plead not guilty and I’ll have a great lawyer, Virtue has it in for me…it’s just so overwhelming.” Anatu then turned to her new friend and made an observation. “Do you even know who I am?”
“I do actually,” said the girl with a smile. “I love you in The Temple of Love…and I would vote for you if I could. I was just so scared to say hello.”
“Aww,” said Anatu, who outstretched her arms for a hug that the teenager gave her, which caused Anatu to cry. Anatu wiped away a few more tears and flashed a warm smile, her heart taken by the girl’s words. “Honey, you should never be afraid to say hello to me…or anyone else.”
“Lots of people are afraid of you, though,” said the girl.
“They’re afraid of change,” said Anatu. “They’re afraid of someone who challenges their beliefs. They’re afraid of someone who they feel threatens everything they know. You remember The Temple of Love…I may have played a prostitute but I owned my sexuality and I refused to let others dictate the terms of my sexual activities. I also became a woman who wound up influencing men and forcing them to respect me. You don’t get that much in Virtue territory…or in a lot of territories, really…because a woman who is free scares a lot of men, who’d rather have us chained to a wall with our legs open so they can stick their penis inside of us whenever they want.”
“I know,” said the girl. “Just the other day, this boy thought it would be funny if he walked up from behind me and grabbed my breasts. I turned around and slapped him, which caused him to report me to the principal. I told the principal that he grabbed my breasts without my permission and the principal just laughed at me.”
“I…I can’t believe that,” said Anatu, her eyes wide with shock.
“What’s worse is that boy told the principal that he meant no harm,” said the girl. “He said his friends told him if he grabbed my breasts that I’d fall in love with him…someone apparently told him it would work and had ‘showed’ him that it would work by doing it to a friend of his. I told the boy that girl had to have been ‘playing along’ because there’s no other girl who’d accept behaviour like that. I know I wouldn’t.”
“You didn’t,” said Anatu. “You stood up for yourself…you should be proud.”
“Except I was suspended and my dad grounded me,” said the girl, starting to cry. “I’m only here on the beach because I sneaked out of the house…I couldn’t take it anymore. My dad…who’s supposed to protect me, said it was all my fault.” She then buried her head in her hands, crying uncontrollably, which caused Anatu to pull the girl towards her with her head on Anatu’s shoulder as she cradled the girl’s head in her hands.
“Oh honey,” said Anatu, “I’m so sorry…I can’t believe someone could call themselves a father, let alone a responsible one. That’s not how any parent should act. You can stay with me…I know people who can help you out. What’s your name?”
“Lilith,” said the girl. “I got the name because my mother apparently miscarried before I was born…so she was convinced I was a demon.”
“Or,” said Anatu, kissing the top of Lilith’s head. “You can reclaim it…you know, there’s a school of thought within Judaic thought that says Lilith was Adam’s first wife, made of the same clay as Adam was. She left him when she refused to submit to Adam, thus necessitating the creation of Eve.”
“So my name is honourable,” said Lilith, whose mood brightened considerably and began holding on to Anatu as if she was her mother. “I’m so glad I met you.”
“I’m so glad I met you,” said Anatu, enjoying the snuggle. She then remembered her own situation before letting out a huge sigh. “I’m just worried about what we’ll do when I go to jail.”
Lilith then eagerly pulled out her phone, thrusting it in Anatu’s face.
“The Virus has gotten involved?” said Anatu, stunned and frightened at the same time, seeing Lilith’s social media post.
“Yeah,” said Lilith, who rifled through some other posts, “and see, it’s rallying everyone to your cause. You do have people who want to fight for you…don’t give up.”
“You know,” said Anatu, “you’re right. I can’t give up. People like you depend on me.”
Anatu then took out her own phone and made a call.
“Roger,” said Anatu, calling Stanner. “You said the whole police department would stand up for me if I needed them. Well, I’m going to need them.”