Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Scourge of Idealism

“The only difference between an extremist and a visionary is their ego.”- Publius Marcus, speech (1745)

March 6, 2017,
08:11 local time,
South Beach District,
Miami, Florida

“We must not let this get to our heads,” said Erasmus to a roaring crowd in a video recorded earlier. “We still have a lot of work to do, and if we want change to occur, we must work to make it happen!”

He says the right things, thought Danforth Grayson, watching Erasmus’ speech on his phone while lying on the beach, but will he do the right things? Being a visionary and being able to act on it are two different things.

“Genera Fallang is a smart woman,” said Anatu, the Assyrian Empress, delivering an impromptu press conference on her way inside the Assyrian Palace in another video that Grayson decided to watch. “I’m happy for the Casaran people and I wish them well on their new endeavour. “I know that there are some things I disagree with her on, but, as always, I’m certain there will be areas that we will see eye to eye on, and that is what I wish to focus on. Good day.”

Grayson then shut off the videos and hibernated his smartphone.

So Erasmus is leading the polls to become the next Roman Emperor, he started to ponder, lying on his beach towel and enjoying the soothing Sun. Well, he talks a tough talk and he sure sounds like he’ll have more fortitude than Valerius ever did. Sounds like he’s going to need it, because that Genera woman is going to be quite the handful, and Anatu can’t fight the good fight by herself. What a coup that is for Virtue…the world’s third strongest power joining the second and a host of other nations to really tilt the balance of power in Virtue’s favour. It makes sense, because the alt-left, they’ve really taken hold in Virtue and North America and it’s only a matter of time before it permeates elsewhere in the world.

I mean, those guys, the alt-left…they sound so nice. Their values are so wonderful…it almost makes you want to join them, don’t you? I mean, seriously, who could be against fighting rape and racism? Those are good things, right? Sure sounds better than Juan Castro and those Nathanites, who seem to think that men are nothing more than cavemen who are entitled to everything. Yet, the alt-left…and Castro for that matter…they still do it wrong…they want to throw out the rulebook and police every thought and action, snuffing out even the slightest instance of impropriety. Talk about your society that walks on eggshells…sheesh.

Grayson let out a sigh before continuing his thoughts.

I guess as long as it’s talk then it’s no big deal, but some of those guys- Haylie Modine especially- all they want to do is fight. I’d be very afraid for this world if it ever came down to that. Of course, if they’re doing the right thing, should it matter?

“Yeah,” said Grayson, now thinking out loud, “but what does it mean to do the right thing?”

August 21, 2015,
03:49 local time,
Mason Jeffrey’s home,
Thompsonville, Birea

Connie Hedberg slept soundly. A contented housewife, the svelte blonde snuggled next to Mason Jeffrey, the two wrapped in a warm embrace. She had an odd journey to this point, but Mason eventually became the love of her life.

It was something she couldn’t have been happier for. Just three short years ago, she was struggling on the streets of Malmo, forced from her home by her mother’s vengeful paddle. She would be forced in her new state to accept sex from random strangers- many of whom weren’t exactly kind to her- just to have a place to sleep at night. Every day passed, Connie hoping for something different, but it always the same. Panhandling by day, raped at night, and then off to another corner of the city to try it all over again.

Sometimes, Connie told herself, that the people she interacted with truly were different. Sometimes, there would be that sweet old man who came by with fast food, allowing her to not have to worry about dumpster diving that day. He’d then invite her to his apartment, where he’d let her take a shower. Connie would revel in the fact that she had the opportunity to wipe all the grime and dust off her, and finally get to feel like a truly beautiful woman. The old man would give her a change of clothes and a bed, and Connie would fall asleep content.

Until that dirty old man slipped into bed with her while she was sleeping, calmly but quietly undoing their clothes and running his hands all over her naked body, before deciding he had a free opportunity.

Connie would then be jarred awake, shocked and confused, but ultimately helpless because the man had already conquered her with his penis. She was left with little choice but to let him finish, where he’d wake up with a satisfied, toothy grin and she’d be left to cry herself back to sleep.

In the morning she would flee, but the only thing it did was drag her back to another “nice” man who was only helping her just for free sex.

She always told herself she’d end this cycle...but street life was so stressful and so dangerous that the first man who pledges to help you becomes too tempting to pass up.

Eventually she came to realize that being raped in a bed was better than sleeping alone on a dirty slab of concrete…at least it was better on her back. While it helped her stay relatively physically healthy, the toll it took on her dignity and soul was immeasurable.

So when she chanced upon the Order of St. Germain Cousin while running away from another rapist, she jumped at the opportunity. There she met doctors who examined her and brought her back to health, giving her proper nourishment and making her feel how she was before she left for the streets. They oddly paid a lot of attention to her genitals, but, she figured, she likely wasn’t the first street urchin they believed was sexually assaulted. Her handlers then told her she had to have an abortion, which shocked Connie but she didn’t protest. Lucky they found it, she thought at the time, relieved she didn’t have to use a coat hanger and hurt herself like so many of her peers did.

She then filled out a questionnaire asking many personal questions, mostly on her feelings on dating and relationships. She was told that, if she liked, she’d be matched with a man in Birea, someone she could talk to and “approve” before being sent to him. She proved picky, but she pressed on as she liked the idea. A few months later she found a match and flew to his house, a man who turned out to be Mason.

Connie, upon leaving the plane, suddenly became frightened, getting cold feet about the whole scheme. Something didn’t feel right, she thought, and though her traffickers were all kinds of nice and respectful towards her and eased many of her concerns about the process, she her intuition told her that something was just going to go wrong, just like everyone else said about human trafficking.

Until she saw something in Mason.

Mason, a goateed, stocky man whose pale skin sunburned easily, wasn’t like many Birean men. He never bought the cultural idea that stated he always had to be mean to women and treat them as a slave- harsh treatment always led to resistance, and he just could not bring himself to mistreat another human being. Yes, he did go to the Order because it promised him what the demographic reality of Birea could not- a wife- but he trusted that the Order would deliver on their promise to find him a woman he would like. He also figured if he was nice and respectful to her, she might fall in love with him and give him the companionship he always wanted.

If that didn’t work out, Mason figured he could at least give the woman he bought a better life, and maybe she would fall in love with one of his friends if she didn’t fall in love with him.

Fortunately, Mason and Connie hit it off almost immediately, as their personalities truly were compatible. Connie was a vibrant spirit that helped calm his many nerves, and Mason was the caring, attentive one, the only man Connie had ever met who “got her”.

She, just like Mason, couldn’t have been happier about it. Mason truly was a saint, doing everything he could to take care of her needs and truly make her feel special. He celebrated her birthday and many other occasions and helped her out with the household chores, sometimes doing them himself if Connie wasn’t up for the task. He even taught her some self-defence moves so that Connie could feel more confident when she stepped outside of the house and drove into town on her own, the only woman in Thompsonville who did so. He never stopped her from developing friends and often let her spend time with them, alone.

In short, he trusted her, because she was his world…and Mason determined to make Connie his queen.

For the first time in quite a while, in their quiet house on the hilltop, Connie felt that she was home.

February 14, 2017,
21:14 local time,
The Maiden’s Bourbon,
Seattle, Sierra

Carl Ratzinger sat at the bar, hunched over, his beer mug having barely been touched. It had been a rough go for him over the past few years, as he travelled extensively in a bid to “find himself”. The 23-year-old longed to establish himself as an adult, desperate to prove his father wrong and establish that he truly could live on his own.

He was always coddled, Carl was, not surprising given he was an only child. His father raised him by himself, and, in overdoing his responsibilities, his father was a relentless micromanager of Carl’s life. Carl knew that Paul did so to make him feel safe, but it still took an incredible toll on him and his psyche.

Just once, Carl often thought, he’d like it if he could go out on his own or whip up a meal or even watch TV without Paul asking a hundred questions about it. Carl understood it when he was younger, but as he got older he thought that Paul might actually understand- for a change- that Carl knew what he was doing, at least in some cases.

Yet it never happened, so by the time Carl hit 18 he decided he had enough. He took his meagre savings and left his home on a whim, vowing never to come back. He was engaging enough that he quickly found work wherever he went, which allowed him to travel to the next place that Carl felt drawn to.

It was fun at first, but Carl began to think that maybe it was time to settle down. Seattle seemed like a nice place, and while the weather wasn’t quite like California, it was still more palatable than the harsh Ontario winters he had been used to. Plus, it was cheaper than Los Angeles while offering many of the same benefits, so the call to stay in this idyllic location moved him.

Unbeknownst to Carl, a few seats down were two women, both young like he was. They were having a much better time, gleefully gulping down shots and throwing back other drinks that they became very boisterous. The other men at the bar soon took notice, many wondering if they’d be able to score a date with them.

An hour into Carl’s stint staring at his drink, the two women again went back to the bar and ordered another drink. In their drunken state, they forgot to pay attention to the bar and didn’t see their drinks arrive. This gave one man a perfect opportunity to get beside Carl and slip a vial of liquid into one of the women’s drinks, slipping away unnoticed.

One of the women started to get woozy, which caused her friend to panic. There was much yelling and screaming, to which the barmaid quickly paid attention to, but Carl had managed to tune it out- he had been to enough bars to know that commotions were a common occurrence. He was caught off guard when the more stable woman tapped him on the shoulder.

“Did you just spike my friend’s drink?” said the woman, looking at Carl with an icy glare and venom in her voice.
“Um, what, excuse me?” said Carl, dumbfounded by the accusation but refusing to turn to look at her. “I respect your consternation but rest assured I would not do such a thing.”
“Really?” said the woman, putting her hands on her hips. “Do you really think I’m going to fall for that?”

Carl shook his head and got up. He turned around and finally looked at her, pursing his lips.

“Look, miss,” said Carl, as politely as he could. “I just wanted to come here to take my mind off things…it’s obvious your friend has just had too much to drink…happens to all of us…so, please, respectfully, I do not wish to be a part of your drama.”
“I’m sorry!” said the woman, forcefully grabbing Carl’s arm and stopping him from walking away. “You don’t get to choose what drama you’re a part of when you started it!”
“I really don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Carl with a chuckle. “I’ve been spending the last hour staring at my drink…I didn’t even know you were here until you touched me…which I really don’t want you to do.”
“Oh, so you don’t like it when a woman touches you,” said the woman, refusing to let go, “but you can totally spike a woman’s drink…that’s perfectly OK!”
“I never said I don’t want women touching me,” said Carl, “I just don’t want you to do it…a simple request you seem unable to fulfill.”
“Because I’m not letting the man who poisoned my friend to get away,” said the woman.
“I’m sorry,” said Carl, trying to pull his arm away but failing, the woman’s grip stronger than he thought, “but I really don’t wish to be involved in your fanciful delusions.”
“Fanciful?” said the woman, incensed. “Is that what you call what happened to my friend? I’m going to guess that you’ll tell me if only she didn’t have too much to drink she wouldn’t be in trouble. Right? RIGHT?!?”
“Well,” said Carl, “the perils of overdrinking are well established and-”

Before he could finish the woman delivered a hard, painful slap to his cheek, which would leave a mark.

Shortly afterwards, a security guard came over and confronted the pair. Meanwhile, the man who actually spiked the drink fled the scene, realizing the commotion meant he could not kidnap the drugged woman as he wanted to.

“Is something going on here?” said the guard, a towering man with a shaved bald head and piercing eyes.
“This monster drugged my friend’s drink!” said the woman, forcefully poking Carl in the chest. “I saw him do it!”

That was all the guard wanted to hear, grabbing Carl’s arm with such force that it started to tingle.

“That’s it?” said Carl in disbelief. “You’re just going to take her at her word? I don’t get a statement in my defence?”

The guard was unmoved, refusing to answer Carl while dragging him out of the club. There waiting for him was the police, who wasted no time in handcuffing him.

“This is a disgrace!” shouted Carl, tearing in anger as the police applied their handcuffs. “I’m an American! I have rights! You can’t do this!” Carl then tried to hold his ground, continuing to prattle about the denial of his rights and how the woman could have been lying or that the security guard might have identified the wrong man. He even threw in a jab at newly elected American President Haylie Modine, who pledged to review due process laws in a bid to end “rape culture”. The police tried to be patient but even this ran out. One officer decided she had enough, clenching her fist and cold-cocking Carl in the face, dazing him to such a point that allowed the police to haul him away.

February 16, 2017,
10:05 local time,
Seattle Police, 20th Precinct,
Seattle, Sierra

“The Constitution of the American Confederacy is very clear,” said Counsel Betty Siren of the Seattle Public Defenders association. “You can’t just detain someone without just cause, and you certainly can’t deny them their rights.”
“Madam,” said Robson Street Captain Julian Miles, “we’ve got multiple witnesses who say that your client drugged Alicia Waterstone’s drink. We’ve got just cause.”
“Don’t give me that,” said Siren. The ebony-skinned woman of average build sat back in her chair and folded her arms, delivering an icy stare into her adversary’s eyes.

The stocky, pale-skinned Miles could only chuckle.

“If you seem so certain, why do you think Carl Ratzinger is innocent?” said Miles, folding his arms.
“I don’t have to prove innocence,” said Siren, “you have to prove guilt, and you can’t do that. Both witnesses- Waterstone’s friend, Rebecca Coddler or security guard Revis Gladside- gave wildly conflicting testimonies, Coddler was drunk, neither could say definitively they saw Mr. Ratzinger spike Waterstone’s drink, Mr. Ratzinger was not found with any substance or vial on his person, a search of his apartment turned up no substances, his social media, Google searches and his contacts provided no evidence that he was even remotely interested in finding a drug to rape a woman, nor would any of his contacts be able to facilitate that request. He also has a clear criminal record, and none of his female contacts ever believed he’d be a danger to them or any of their friends. He’s about as clean and law-abiding a citizen as you could ever find.”

Miles chuckled.

“He does have a lot of pictures of women in various positions of bondage and submission,” said Miles simply.

Siren couldn’t hold back her disbelief.

“Is that the best you’ve got?” she retorted. “Some artwork? How many millions of people view and indulge in that kind of work without raping women? Huh? How many? No court of law will ever accept that argument.”
“You know, there’s lots of literature that states men who view pornographic material may eventually become sexually deviant themselves,” said Miles.
“I’ve read those studies too,” said Siren. “Almost all are self-reported, the effects are never long-lasting, and all fail because correlation does not equal causation. Besides, it’s the old ‘chicken and the egg’ argument- does pornography create objectification or are objectifiers drawn to pornography?”

Siren got up and paced, throwing her hands in the air. She then turned around and put her hands on her hips before pointedly addressing Miles.

“Look, Julian,” she said. “I, as much as anyone else, do not want anyone to get raped. I don’t want anyone to get sexually assaulted. Heck, you know I’ve dealt with some pretty bad men out there and you know I’ve got personal experience with misogyny and hate.

“You know what, though? We’re not going to get anywhere if all we do is pander to emotions and resort to ridiculous arguments and generalizations. We lose all our credibility if we round up innocent people and accusing them of doing things they’d never dream of doing. You’re just asking for the hate you want to eradicate to proliferate.”

Miles could only laugh.

“You spin a good yarn, Betty,” he said tersely, “but I think it is you that doesn’t understand the problem. Too many men are ticking time bombs of abuse just waiting to happen…Haylie’s right, it’s not an issue we can sweep under the rug. Besides, so many instances of abuse fail to be properly prosecuted because they occur when there are no witnesses, giving attackers a ‘free rein’. Face it, Betty, the ‘evidence-based’ society just is inadequate to deal with sexual assault and harassment, so we have to be hard on it. If we have to round up a few innocents but wind up eradicating rape, I’d say the effort was worth it.”

Siren’s eyes widened as she let out a huff.

“You say that,” said Siren, “until you’re the innocent that gets their life destroyed.”

May 19, 2016,
17:32 local time,
Mason Jeffrey’s home,
Thompsonville, Birea

“There you go,” said Mason, emerging from the kitchen with a hot bowl of pasta, placing it on the dining room table. “Fettuccine al carbonara…with extra olives, just the way you like it.” Connie smiled, motioning Mason over in order to give him a kiss. The two then peacefully had their dinners, engaging in rich conversation as they always had.

When the two of them were finished with their dinners, Connie got up with the intent of collecting the dishes, but Mason motioned for her to stop.

“It’s okay, honey,” he said. “You had a rough week…tonight I’ll do the dishes.”
“Are you sure?” Connie said, appreciative of Mason’s generosity but not desiring to take advantage of him.
“Really, honey,” said Mason. “It’s okay. I know how important that song is to you…go ahead and finish it. It’s no trouble for me.”

Connie then gave him a nice, soothing kiss in appreciation before bolting upstairs to her study. Mason knew she had a future in song writing- a future her parents often denied her- and encouraged her to pursue it. Mason was still her only fan, but his encouragement soon meant she gained more confidence in her abilities. Now, he felt, she was actually at a point where she could start recording and maybe even performing locally- if she could only finish a song! Mason often thought.

Once he finished the dishes, Mason went to a room in the basement, where he housed all his video games and his comics. Gaming was his release after long days at work as a mall security specialist, a job that he loved even though he worked with too many idiots. No one was allowed to bother him while he was in the room, as he turned off his phone so that he could focus on taking out his stress over Raiders of the Magic Crystal.

Well, one person was allowed to bother him.

“Hey Connie,” said Mason with delight as Connie walked into the room. “How’s the song coming along?”

Mason was perplexed when Connie didn’t respond, walking purposefully towards him. Mason watched as she slithered underneath the cords for his controllers and knelt down in between his legs. His surprise soon turned into elation, as Connie coolly undid his pants and used her hands and her mouth to start pleasuring his penis. Mason always loved her blowjobs, because Connie was the only woman he’d ever met who did them right, and this time was no exception. Sufficiently aroused, Connie worked hard sucking on his erect penis, stroking it with her mouth and refusing to let go until he climaxed.

Several minutes later, with Mason at the peak of ecstasy, Mason ejaculated. His sperm gushing into Connie’s mouth, a gush that Connie was only so willing to swallow completely.

Satisfied, Mason leaned back on his couch, letting out a very pleased sigh as he readjusted his pants. Connie then snuggled up next to him, wrapping her arms around Mason in a tight embrace.

“I had to thank you for tonight,” said Connie, resting her head on Mason’s chest.
“Connie,” said Mason with a grin, “it’s nothing…I’d do anything for you. You bring so much joy to my life that it’s only fair I give you a break every now and then. It wouldn’t be fair otherwise.”
“Oh I know,” said Connie, looking up with a wide smile, “but tonight is different.”
“How so?” said Mason, his interest piqued.
“I actually finished my song,” said Connie with a grin of her own.
“Really, you did?” said Mason with excitement. “Can I hear it?”
“Of course,” said Connie, herself giddy with pleasure. “Come upstairs.”

Mason smiled with glee as Connie took his hand and led him upstairs. He was so proud of her, and he could not wait to hear the finished product.

February 20, 2017,
22:15 local time,
Seattle Police, 20th Precinct,
Seattle, Sierra

Carl looked up, roused from his slumber. Though the bench he had to sleep on in his cell was hardly beneficial for sleep, the last week was so stressful on him that he got so tired that any surface would do.

Coming into his cell was Siren, who entered the cell alone. Carl quite enjoyed their talks, even though he was getting frustrated with the police for always finding some reason to keep him locked up. Tonight, he hoped, he was going to get different news.

“How are you doing, sugar?” said Siren, sitting on a chair in front of Carl.
“I’ll admit,” said Carl with a nervous chuckle, “it’ll depend on what you have to tell me.”

Siren sighed and pursed her lips, which Carl noticed immediately.

“What?” he said. “What is it?”
“Carl,” said Siren, “there’s no easy way for me to tell you this…”
“Tell me,” he said, starting to breathe heavily, “tell me what?”
“They’re talking about deportation,” said Siren with another heavy sigh.
“Depor-what?” said Carl in shock.

Carl glanced around the room aimlessly, still trying to process what he just heard. Deportation? he thought. Where would I go? I’m a North American citizen…born and raised. They can’t just throw me overseas…especially considering they haven’t a shred of proof that I’ve committed a crime. How could this happen to me?

“It’s a shock to me too,” said Siren, “but it’s because you’re an Ontarian, and Ontario isn’t a part of the American Confederacy.”
“Well that’s okay,” said Carl. “My dad…my dad lives in Ontario.” Carl actually didn’t like the thought of going back to live with his father but it was better than nothing.
“Unfortunately they can’t send you to Ontario,” said Siren. “You renounced your Ontarian citizenship three years ago and applied for the generic North American Union citizenship, which now doesn’t exist. Therefore, the only country of which you are a citizen of is the Vandal Kingdom.”
“The Vandal Kingdom?” said Carl, finding all this difficult to process.
“You were born in the Vandal Kingdom,” said Siren.
“Yes,” said Carl, “Icosium. I moved to Ontario when I was one. I never met my mother.”
“Well,” said Siren with a heavy sigh. “You might actually get your chance now.”

Carl’s eyes started to well up with tears, his body overcome with intense sadness.

“How can there be nothing you can do?” he said, tears oozing out. “I know no one in Icosium…I don’t even know if my mother is even alive…they…they…”

Carl then broke down in tears, burying his head in his hands. He cried for several minutes, which made it hard for Siren to keep her own composure.

“Carl,” said Siren, speaking softly. “Carl I know…I’m in shock about all this too…the way Haylie has run this country…it just makes no sense. She puts her zeal above reason and doesn’t realize she’s undermining her own problem.”

F*** Haylie!” shouted Carl. “F*** feminism! They ruined my life!

Carl again howled in tears, breaking down emotionally as the sadness over his dire situation completely took hold of him.

A distraught Siren could only look on, knowing there weren’t the words available that could comfort Carl.

“Please, oh please!” said Carl, crawling to Siren and grabbing a hold of her arm. “Please tell me you’ve filed some kind of motion that will block all this! This is insane!”

“I did,” said Siren assuredly, which relieved Carl. “I’m challenging your deportation as unlawful given that you haven’t yet been charged with a crime. It’s one of the few rights you actually do have.”

Almost on cue, a prison guard, two police officers and two Immigration & Citizenship Enforcement (ICE) officers entered Carl’s cell.

“Hold on, the judge that can decide on his case won’t be on the bench until tomorrow morning,” said Siren, getting in the way of the officers. “This is beyond unlawful.”

“Betty Siren,” said the prison guard coldly. “You are under arrest.”

“Under arrest?” said Carl, doing his best to dodge the ICE agents. “For what?”

“For filing too many frivolous requests,” said the guard as the officers applied handcuffs to a silent but defiant Siren.

“Is this how Haylie runs her country?!” shouted Carl after the ICE agents had tackled him and subdued him, “by arresting everyone who dares stand in her way? A liberal fascist is still a fascist!”

The officers were all unmoved, finishing their jobs and leading Carl to his inevitable fate.

February 21, 2017
23:04 local time,
Mason Jeffrey’s home,
Thompsonville, Birea

“I’m going to bed,” said Mason, getting up from the couch and kissing Connie on the lips. The pair had just finished having sex, a round both found deeply satisfying, as they always did. “Do you want anything from the fridge?”
“No,” said Connie with a smile. “I’m okay.”
“Good night then,” said Mason with a smile, giving Connie another kiss, which Connie extended briefly.

As Mason got himself prepared for bed, he couldn’t help but hear sirens in the distance, getting louder and louder. He wondered why they would be out in this area- it was so quaint and “removed” from everything he couldn’t recall the last time in his 20-plus years here that something of significance actually happened.

His curiosity soon turned to worry, as he realized that the amount of sirens meant that more than just a few police cars were on their way- he could have sworn he heard a military tank or two.

Worried, he rushed downstairs, desperate to bring Connie to safety.

“Connie!” Mason hollered, his blood pumping as he rushed down the stairs. “Connie!” Mason didn’t realize it, but Connie had fallen asleep on the couch.

“Connie!” Mason hollered again when he got down the stairs. He saw her asleep on the couch and turned to get towards her when his door suddenly burst open.

“Mason Jeffrey!” shouted Mundiali officer Zeke Coleman after successfully kicking down the door, freezing Mason in his tracks. “Mundiali! Don’t take one more step towards her! You’re under arrest!”

“Mundiali?” said Mason, confused as more officers- some of them Birean Police- came in behind Coleman, including his teammates Pascal Yves, PhD, and Zoe Parkes alongside team leader Galla Claudia. “Who the hell are you? I swear by St. Jasper’s grave that you don’t have any jurisdiction here!”
“Birea signed the Treaty of Buffalo,” said Claudia assertively. “We have jurisdiction here, and Birea has allowed us to arrest human trafficking customers like yourself and prosecute them.”

“Mason, I know this is a lot to process right now,” said Yves, calmly but sternly, “but we don’t have time to discuss the details…we just want to bring Connie back home safely.”

“Um, what?” said Connie, groggily. She squinted her eyes and did her best to regain her energy, but all the lights and the noise made her awakening especially rude. She also had difficulty processing what was going on, since everything seemed so quiet when she fell asleep.

“Connie,” said Parkes, walking towards her. Connie then recoiled against a pillow along the couch, which caused Parkes to pause her progress. “It’s okay…don’t be afraid…we’re the police…we’re only here to help.”

“Help?” said Connie. “I don’t understand…what did Mason do? What did I do? What did we do? We didn’t commit any crimes…we’re…we’re just a happy couple.”

“No Connie,” said Parkes assuredly. “You’re not a happy couple…Mason kidnapped you and used you for his own ends…”
Used her?” shouted Mason, interrupting Parkes and throwing up his hands wildly. “I did not use her! Did I go through human trafficking? Yeah…I did. I had no choice, though. You walk around the streets of Birea, you’re not going to find a single woman out there…when I contacted the Order, I hadn’t been on a date with a woman in ten years. So many of my friends have similar stories…if you want love in Birea, you have to do something drastic…like human trafficking. I know you guys in the rest of the world…you don’t understand why I would think that way…you only see what you see on TV, the chained women and the callous men…yeah, some of them are like that…”

Mason then paused, taking in a deep breath. Tears began to form in his eyes as he began to fear that this relationship, one that had done so much for him and given him so much joy, was going to be pried away from him by foreign idealists who had no clue what he went through. He then began to cry, as the thought of losing Connie felt more and more real, even though he hoped this was all just a bad dream.

“…but let me tell you something,” Mason said through tears. “Most of these human traffickers…they’re good people. Honest to good people. They cared about the women they were finding…just ask Connie.” Connie then nodded her head for “yes” that the officers paid little attention to while Mason continued on. “They were well fed…they were well treated…heck, they were well respected and they were never forced into any relationship…Connie chose me. I know there are a lot of Birean men who abused their wives and did all kinds of horrible things to them…I know we’re a society of people who are sick because we believe we have to hurt and abuse women to keep them ‘under control’ but know…but know that I didn’t buy into any of that…I believe in women. I respect them. Mistreating them is the last thing I would do.”

Mason turned and looked at Connie, who was already looking at him with awe, tears flowing from her eyes as well. Mason was going to continue his speech but he broke down in tears. Mason buried his face in his hands, causing Connie to get up and approach him to console him. Coleman was about to intervene before Claudia told him not to.

“Let them have their moment,” said Claudia, stopping Coleman with a hand on his shoulder. This caused the team to lower their weapons. “She doesn’t appear to be in any danger.”
“Guys,” said Yves, as the conversation turned into a whisper, “I’m not sure this is Stockholm syndrome…she’s looked at him tenderly this whole time…and look at their pictures…this isn’t someone who’s unwilling to be here.”
“Pascal,” said Parkes, annoyed. “You know better than that…Stockholm manifests in many different ways…it’s a survival mechanism…besides, he knows unbridled love and affection is the perfect way to control Connie.”
“I don’t know,” said Coleman, “usually in Stockholm cases even if the affection is genuine it’s almost always one-sided…they both willingly went for each other…they might actually be in love.”
“Seriously, guys?” said Parkes as she shook her head. “Have you guys forgot everything you’ve read about prostitution, human trafficking and exploitation?”
“All right guys,” said Claudia, motioning with her hand. “This is an interesting debate but now’s not the time to have it.”

Claudia then walked towards Mason and put a hand on his shoulder.

“Mason,” she said, softly but assuredly. “I understand you’re upset. I understand that you feel like the law isn’t on your side. I get that…I really do. There are lots of laws that I don’t understand why we follow them, and many times I wish we could just ignore them because then our society would be better for it…but, ultimately, if we are to have any order…we need to follow the laws.”
“Do you think human trafficking is one of those weird laws?” said Mason as he and Connie parted with one last squeeze.

Claudia lowered her gaze and let out a sigh before returning to eye contact.

“I’m not going to answer that question,” said Claudia. “I just know that resisting the law only destroys it.”

Mason then backed up, staring Claudia in the eyes with a menacing glare, which didn’t faze Claudia.

“This isn’t about the law,” he snarled. “This is about love. A natural feeling all of us have, male and female. Telling me I’m wrong to pursue it is in itself wrong, because we can all do it in a healthy way…and I have. I don’t care what it looks like to you foreigners…just because this isn’t a marriage I gained through ‘courtship’ doesn’t mean it isn’t legitimate.”

“Mason has been, without a doubt, the best person I’ve ever known,” said Connie assuredly. “It’s like God came to me and asked me everything I wanted in a man and He delivered…and then some. Yes, we had our differences…we’ve had our fights…but we always made up and we always sought common ground. Really, though…I can’t think of a more picture-perfect relationship than ours.”

Connie then glanced at the police officers with a steely glare.

“Say what you guys want,” said Connie, “but you don’t know us…and you never will.” She then looked back at Mason and shot him a sincere smile, which Mason caught and returned the favour before angrily looking at Claudia again.

“All right,” said Claudia, “enough’s enough. Mason…we can talk about your case. Get you some clemency or leniency…the Birean government, they’re still working out the details about this whole mess, I’m sure we can arrange something for you so that you two can resume your life together…but for now, we have to go.”

Mason shook his head and looked at Claudia with fire in his eyes.

“No,” said Mason. “No…I’m not going. The Birean government sold its soul to Virtue and Rome…I don’t trust you. Besides, I know what this is like…you guys give me some fake promises so that you can haul me off to jail, knowing full well that you’ll just forget about them later. Well, I ain’t falling for that.”

Mason turned to his right and saw his switchblade on the shelf. He grabbed it and opened it, expecting to be shot at it. He then punched Claudia in the face, knocking her to the ground, before raising his knife to stab Claudia. Before he could do so, Coleman, Yves and Parkes fired at him and shot him dead, as Connie shrieked in horror.

She then walked to Mason’s body, kneeling down beside it and cradling his head in her arms, sobbing uncontrollably as she did so.

“Oh why, oh why did you do this?” Connie said, overcome with emotion. “Mason, oh Mason...we’ve been through so much...why did you give up?

“...and you,” Connie said, turning to the officers, rage boiling in her eyes. “If you had any compassion, you wouldn’t have driven him to this!”
“Now Connie,” barked Coleman, “you don’t want to do anything stupid.”
“Oh this isn’t stupid,” said Connie, eyeing the knife in Mason’s hand and reaching for it. “If he died for me then I’m dying for him!”

She then grabbed the knife and plunged it into her chest despite the howls of protest from the officers. She was felled instantly, but because the rage made her jittery, the knife missed her heart, meaning after the medics tended to her, she would survive.

In the meantime, Yves couldn’t help but give Parkes one last knowing look.

“Do you still think that’s Stockholm syndrome?” he said, as all Parkes could do was look on.

March 5, 2017,
02:12 local time,
The Casbah,
Icosium, Vandal Kingdom

Although the Sun was hot, Carl was cold. Ever since he landed in Icosium, he hadn’t been able to shower or change his clothes, and, over time, the dampness of his sweat accumulated. He shorn his shirt of its sleeves and reduced his pants to khakis, but not even that would be enough to provide him relief. He eventually decided to strip down to his underwear, refusing to doff that part because Carl wanted to believe he still had a shred of dignity left.

He had no home, as, to his dismay, Carl learned his mother passed way over 15 years ago and thus he had nowhere to go. He thus was reduced to the life of a street urchin, forced to forage for whatever he could and beg others for what he could not find. He carried with him a small switchblade, using it for protection, although as days dragged on and his despair mounted, the idea of using it to threaten the more fortunate grew in his mind every day. At first, he was visible on the street corners, being nice and polite to the passersby in the hopes that they would return their kindness, but it soon evolved into a false hope.

The Vandals, he found, were even colder than anyone he had ever met in Ontario, owing in large part to the country’s strange criminals. Where in other countries people could generally assume a beggar on the street is really just a beggar, in the Vandal Kingdom, many often saw it as a ruse for a robbery or worse, a kidnapping. In fact, the criminal faction- called the “Superkriminelle”- had such a knack for creativity that the Vandals were often distrustful of each other, even people they knew very well- after all, no one could ever tell in this strange world whether or not someone’s actions were genuine or just part of another long con.

Except, Carl found, on the streets, because the homeless had far too much to worry about to engage in deception. He bonded with many of them, and together they helped each other find places to sleep and find food to eat, aided at times by the local outreach centre. Sometimes they would rob a passerby out of the frustration that none of them wanted to help, an action Carl soon accepted as an inevitability.

Tonight, at his usual street corner, he saw a new face. A young woman with glistening burgundy locks and glowing ivory skin, covered in an array of blankets. Carl thought she was beautiful, but he struggled to make a move until the woman called him over.

“Don’t worry, hotshot,” said the woman, patting the ground next to her inviting Carl to sit with her. “I don’t bite.”
“You don’t bite?” said Carl, sitting down next to her. “I’m somewhat disappointed,” Carl continued with a nervous chuckle.
“Sorry I don’t bite on the first date,” said the woman with a wry smile.

Carl laughed, warming up to the woman. He was particularly struck by the scent of her hair and didn’t hesitate to take a whiff.

“Are you a natural?” Carl asked, flashing the woman a warm smile.
“A natural?” she asked, appreciating Carl’s smile but still confused about what he meant.
“Yeah,” said Carl. “A natural redhead.”
“Oh,” said the woman, who readjusted her hair, showing some blonde streaks. “Yeah…I’m a natural. I get it from my mother.”
“Where’s your mother from?” said Carl.
“Ontario, actually,” said the woman. “This strange little place in North America.”
“I used to live in Ontario,” said Carl, starting to get a little excited. “The country…not the city in California.”
“I’m talking about the country too,” said the woman. “It’s nice…I’ve been there a few times.”
“Oh wow,” said Carl, beside himself that he was talking with someone half a world away who knew his long time home. “So, where did you visit?”
“Kendallville,” said the woman. “It’s south of Toronto.”

Carl began to think something wasn’t right, but decided to continue playing along.

“Kendallville,” said Carl. “I wasn’t aware of such a place.”
“It’s a small town by the lake,” said the woman with a wistful chuckle. “It’s so small you won’t find it on any map.”
“...and it’s south of Toronto?” Carl pressed.
“Southeast,” said the woman unconvincingly. “Just a short drive, actually.”
“You’re not very good at this, are you?” Carl said, throwing the woman off her game.
“Excuse me?” said the woman.

“Look,” said Carl. “I lived in Ontario. Southeast of Toronto is Lake Ontario...the eastern part the is the Portlands. There is no place known as ‘Kendallville’’re either an undercover agent or you’re just a very bad liar. I like to think it would be the latter, since you seem pretty nice.”

The woman got up and threw off her cloak, emerging as a woman dressed in a white tank top and workout pants. Carl saw that she was muscular and well built, which she accented by flexing her arms, but Carl wasn’t fazed.

“OK,” said Carl, deadpanning. He thought the display was pointless, since it appeared to him that the woman was trying way too hard to be imposing. He also wondered how such a benign conversation could so enrage the woman like it seemed to.

“So you come here, chat me up and then when I say something you don’t like, you flex?” Carl said, still confused about the whole situation. “Besides, you don’t have much of a moral high ground…you tried to deceive me…I’m not really sure what you’re trying to achieve here.”

Carl stared at the woman while she offered no response, looking at him with a steely glare and clenching her fists. Sensing that she was all show and no action, Carl decided that she seemed like yet another crazy person, so he decided to get up and walk away. Before he took two steps, he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around to see that the woman did it to get his attention, which she repaid by punching him in the face.

“What the…?” said Carl, feeling the part of his face that was just hit, grimacing in intense pain. “What was that for?” He then recoiled in pain before collapsing to the ground, as the pain shot up his jaw and gave him a massive headache.

“OK, OK,” said Carl, stammering as he saw the woman approach him menacingly. “What do you want? Do you want money? I don’t have money…well, I don’t have a lot of it…” The woman then raised her fist, which caused Carl to recoil even more on the ground.

“Please, please!” said Carl, cowering in fear. “Whatever you want, I’ll give it to you! Just please…tell me what you want!”

“You’ve been robbing people,” said the woman coldly. “You need to stop that.”
“…but, but,” said Carl. “I need to eat! We need to eat!”
“We all do,” said the woman, circling over Carl as if he were vanquished prey, “but we all need to secure it legitimately. Taking from others is not legitimate- they earned it, you didn’t.”
“They have so much,” said Carl, “and we have nothing…and they refuse to help.”
“It’s not their job to help you,” she said. “It’s your job to help yourself.”
“…but I am helping myself,” said Carl. “I gotta survive…this isn’t about me stealing a TV…this is about food. We all need to eat.”

The woman sneered at him and again circled him like a lioness on her prey as Carl could only look on, whimpering and cowering in fear. She then bent down and put her face right into Carl’s, which caused Carl to hyperventilate even more.

“Here’s what I know, scum,” said the woman. “People like you…you choose to be here. If you wanted to get out of this, you would have found a real job by now and would be working legitimately. Instead, you’re here, smelling filthy rotten, stealing other people’s hard earned cash. Why? Because you enjoy it. You won’t admit it…but secretly…you know you do.”

The woman’s words suddenly gave Carl a burst of energy, as he felt a rage inside of him that he never felt before. He got up and looked at the woman with fire in his eyes, clenching his own fists ready for the fight.

“You think I chose this?” said Carl. “I was deported…wrongfully convicted in Sierra. I know no one here…I stepped off the plane and the authorities just told me to walk. All of my relatives are dead or living in Sierra, a place I cannot go back to because of the backwards politicians that exist there. I tried to get a job here, but nobody wants to hire me- they all turn their backs on me after giving me their word, because no one trusts anyone in this place. Furthermore, I have no home because there is no home for me to go to, and the only friends I have ever gotten in this place are fellow street urchins like myself. Why? Because we’re too desperate to care about deceiving others like the rest of you loonies are!”

Carl then walked up to the woman and shoved her.

“Who do you work for?” he said, shoving her again. “Who do you work for? Tell me!”
“I’m just a concerned citizen,” said the woman.
“No you’re not!” shouted Carl. “You know too much about me…you studied me. You’ve been sent by someone to deal with me…I don’t know who.”
“Now what makes you think I’d tell you who I work for?” said the woman with a chuckle.
“Because I’m supposed to have rights,” said Carl. “A citizen of a country is supposed to have rights…to not be bullied by other people arbitrarily imposing their own laws. If you work for the police, you’re supposed to tell me and then tell me what crime I am being charged with. Otherwise, you are no better than the criminals you think you are fighting!”

The woman shook her head and offered no response. She then took a swing at Carl’s head.

Carl, though, was ready for it, dodging her swing before connecting with a swing of his own in her stomach. Before she could react, there was another blow on her face, with Carl now raining blows upon her body relentlessly. The woman didn’t at all anticipate Carl’s speed, and thus had no time to counteract anything Carl did to her.

Meanwhile, Carl, energized by his rage, continued to pound away at her, eventually getting her to the ground where he straddled her hips and rained blow upon blow on her face. The woman could do little except take the punishment, hoping there would be a point where Carl got tired but there wouldn’t be. Sensing the woman was getting weak, Carl picked her up by her shoulder and violently threw her against the nearby store wall, bashing her head against it and making her collapse to the ground, momentarily losing consciousness.

Carl sensed that he was now in for the kill, but his rage wouldn’t allow him to finish her off with just a few blows to the head. He took off his underwear and used his knife to cut open the woman’s clothes, running his hands and his mouth all over her body and enjoying it thoroughly. He then delivered the ultimate humiliation for her, jamming his penis inside her vagina and ramming it many times inside her, climaxing amidst a pool of blood in its wake. The woman, now barely conscious, could only lay there, whimpering for Carl to let her live, even though she knew that it was futile. He beat her face beyond recognition, knocking out her teeth, before taking his knife and jamming it into her heart, killing her right there.

He then backed off of her and took in the bloody mess he had just created. He looked on in shock, wondering just what came over him to do that to the woman. People had crossed him before but he never reacted like this. What, he thought, made this so different? Did something change? Was he no longer the man that he used to be? How could he be capable of such a thing?

He collapsed in its wake, curling up into a ball and crying uncontrollably, sobbing and asking himself how he could be capable of becoming the monster he had just become. I don’t deserve to live, he thought, his sobs becoming louder as the time progressed. He began to think that death sounded more and more attractive, and began to shout hysterically that he deserved to die and wished that someone would just kill him.

Another woman passed by the crime scene and was taken by what she saw. Her skin was as white as snow, and her body was fit and elegantly slender. She had blue hair tied back into a single ponytail, with red eyes and yellow lips. Her top was a bra held up by straps and a bottom lining that looked like chains, interlocking in the middle where a red patch shaped like a skull was present. Her torso was exposed, as well as her thighs, as all she had on her waist was two beaded hip scarves tied together and briefs. Fishnet stockings covered her bottom legs, with each topped by a blue patch in the design of a skull. The blue-haired woman was about to comment about how senseless the act was until she picked up a badge and presented it to Carl.

“Hey,” said the blue-haired woman, tapping Carl on the shoulder. He grimaced and recoiled even further on the ground. She bent down and rubbed his shoulder, speaking softly.

“What,” said Carl, hyperventilating, “what do you want? Whatever it is, just kill me!
“No,” said the blue-haired woman. “No…I can’t do that. You’re a hero to us all.”

Carl looked around and gave the blue-haired woman a confused look.

“I’m a…what?” he said, perplexed.

“Come with me,” she implored, grabbing his arm. “My apartment’s around the corner…they’re going to look for you.”
“Wai-wa-wait,” said Carl, refusing to get up. “Who’s they, and I’ve been deceived once already. I’m not falling for your tricks!”

Sirens could be heard in the distance, which prompted Carl to believe what the blue-haired woman was telling him. The allure of finding out how he was a hero kept him intrigued, as he hurried away with the blue-haired woman leading the way.

March 5, 2017,
06:12 local time,
Casbah Apartments,
Icosium, Vandal Kingdom

When he got to her apartment, he took a long shower, cleansing himself of the dirt, grime and blood that had accumulated from his attack. Part of him still felt like this was a ruse and that the blue-haired woman was associated with the woman he just killed, but he figured at this stage if she was friend or foe it wouldn’t matter- if she ended his life or prolonged it, it was a goal for him either way.

After he stepped out of the shower he grabbed the towel, but was too tired to dry himself. He then found a chair and sat in it, wrapping himself up with the towel.

As soon as he sat down, the blue-haired woman came to greet him. She kissed him on the cheek before kneeling in front of him. She attempted to open his towel before Carl intervened.

“OK,” he said, “too fast here. You still haven’t told me your name.”
“Well my real name is Casri Fallang,” said the blue-haired woman, “but around here, I got by Dauria.”
“Dauria,” said Carl, intrigued by the answer. “What does that mean?”
“It’s a portmanteau of my real name,” said Dauria, “and ‘death’ in Icelandic. My father is Icelandic and my mother is Genera Fallang.”
“She won the Casaran election just the other day,” said Carl.
“A month ago,” said Dauria, “but she’s done so much it does feel like a blur.”
“You don’t sound too pleased,” said Carl.
“Because I know my mother,” said Dauria.

Dauria sighed, the topic a difficult one for her to discuss. Carl began to relax, feeling her pain.

“I was born here, in the Vandal Kingdom, while my father and mother were on vacation,” Dauria explained. “They never got along…they were only together because they were having me.”

As Dauria bared her soul, Carl began to feel more comfortable, which relaxed his hold on his towel. Dauria saw his penis was exposed and began to stroke it slowly, which gave her and Carl an odd comfort.

“At first she told me that my father, Sigurd Halthorsson, was killed by robbers while we were on vacation,” said Dauria, continuing to stroke Carl’s penis, “and I believed it, because Genera was my mother and I had no reason to believe that my mother could lie to me.

“Until, one day I heard a story while I was in Casara. I was 14…the story was about Vandal superheroes, and how the Casaran government used them to get rid of people they didn’t like, because their laws wouldn’t allow for it. Part of that story was a segment on my father, where it was claimed ‘an unnamed Casaran’ accused him of raping her and, because she had no proof of the crime, she went to the Vandal Kingdom to hire a superhero to kill my father, which they did. I confronted my mother about the lie and she evaded me, so I found out the truth from a friend. Not only did my mother lie to me about how my dad was killed, she lied about the rape- they were really a young couple who had a fling- and worse still, I found out I was an accident. Furthermore, I found out that Genera really only used me to make a point- she became a radical Casaran, the kind of feminist that wanted to prove that men were superfluous and thus wanted to show that a baby could be raised without a dad. So she had him killed…and made up the rape to garner sympathy.”
“…and she’s used that to get all the way to the throne,” said Carl, intrigued and saddened by Dauria’s story while still enjoying his handjob.
“Fortunately because I was born in the Vandal Kingdom I could claim citizenship, so I did,” said Dauria. “Four years ago, when I was 16, I got tired of my mother’s antics and moved here. I became an outreach worker, because I wanted to find out more about the Vandal superheroes and why they killed my father. I found out it’s not just Casara that sends their unwanted here…it’s every country, because they know Vandal society is run by the superheroes, who can be convinced to do your bidding if you pay them enough.”

Dauria then saw that Carl’s penis was fully erect, so she opened her mouth and wrapped it around his phallus, sucking it with great delight. Carl sat there and closed his eyes, immersing himself in the pleasure of the fellatio, especially because Dauria did it so well. As Dauria continued to work, Carl could only get more excited, allowing his arousal to take over his entire body. She is a master at this, thought Carl, his breathing becoming soothed as he enjoyed Dauria’s work. Eventually Dauria worked so hard that Carl climaxed with great effect, as a wondrous euphoria set in, a euphoria so wondrous he never knew his pleasure could reach such heights. He then ejaculated several times into Dauria’s mouth, an ejaculate Dauria was only so eager to receive.

“Which is why what you did was so special,” said Dauria after finishing the fellatio and swallowing his load. “You managed to kill the Red Fox, Icosium’s top superhero. No one in the Vandal Kingdom has ever killed a superhero before, and your friends on the street will be forever glad that you did.”
“Why?” said Carl, gleefully satisfied with the fellatio but troubled by Dauria’s statement. “It’s still murder, though.”
“The Vandal superheroes have gotten away with murder for years,” said Dauria. “Since they’re essentially only rivalled by the military within the country and that society relies on them to keep them safe, the superheroes learned they could bully the public and use them for their own needs. the Red Fox, in particular, has killed so many people, often over petty disagreements, and yet the Vandal Parliament does nothing about it, because they need her around.”

Carl sat and pondered what he heard. It disturbed him to think that the Vandals essentially “took out the trash” of other countries, but he wasn’t truly convinced that Dauria was his friend.

“How can I be sure I can trust you?” he said. “You said the guys on the street would know I killed the Red Fox…so too would the police. How do I know this isn’t a confidence trick and the police aren’t going to be banging on this door at any moment?”

Dauria lowered her head and sighed, knowing Carl would ask that question.

“If I had a way to answer that question I would,” said Dauria. “Unfortunately I don’t know how…trust is fickle, I can’t make you trust me. The only thing I can say is- sometimes you just have to believe, even if you don’t know.

“…but, if you really think about it…I let you shower. Wash away whatever evidence they could have to tie you to the crime. Your underwear is back at the scene, and it’s in so many pieces that no one could recognize them as yours. Not only that, but there’s so much blood and grime and other kinds of contamination on the ground where the Red Fox’s body was found that DNA testing won’t be conclusive.”

Dauria then walked to her dresser and picked up her lanyard, which contained her pass to get inside the outreach centre’s offices. Tears formed in her eyes and she presented it to Carl, who, after seeing her picture, realized he’d seen her before.

“If nothing else,” she said, with tears flowing from her eyes, “believe this. Know that you guys are like family to me, and that I’d do everything to help you. Know that…from deep within my heart.”

Carl was so taken by Dauria’s emotional display that he was at a loss for words. He finally believed that Dauria was trustworthy, so he leapt from his chair and wrapped his arms around Dauria and began to kiss her deeply, which Dauria reciprocated. Soon, their passions overcame them and they made their way to Dauria’s bed, where they had sex, spell-binding, fulfilling sex.

When they were finished, Carl and Dauria cuddled, holding each other’s naked bodies tightly against each other. Eventually they fell asleep in each other’s arms, with Carl vowing to help Dauria out. From that point on, Carl was a different man, one who vowed to show the world- and especially Genera Fallang- that the “trash” they discarded would be capable of doing things no one could ever think was possible.

For this, he decreed he was no longer Carl- he was The Rat, the symbol for the ultimate piece of human trash and the ultimate symbol to use to prove the world’s doubters wrong.

“If the law is to work, it must be a tool to protect from mob and not be a tool to serve them.”- Arinius Justus, “The True Republic” (1720)