Story Collaboration: Chapter 6 Posted. (Anyone want to write Chapter 7?)

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Hello and welcome back to the Little Writing Workshop of Horrors Story Collaboration. I hope everyone has been having fun either reading or writing this story.

Now that chapter six is posted (which you can read below), claims for chapters can begin here, and then following each new story collaboration post I publish.

The rules have changed! While still first come, first serve, you can now reserve a place in the collaboration by commenting below with your interest in writing a particular chapter. When it is your turn, I will remind you in the comments section.

Remember the rules if you want to participate:

  • Leave a comment expressing direct interest in writing a chapter. If you’re the first to ask, the writing baton is bestowed upon you for that chapter. You must comment to reserve a place and when it is your turn, I will remind you in the comments section. Clock’s ticking, though! You have three days from that point to write the chapter and send it back to me as well. However, if I don’t hear back past three days, I will be looking for another participant to write the chapter.
  • Please do not submit to the form without commenting your interest in writing a chapter. As well, only one author per submission, meaning if you submitted a chapter and it is accepted, you cannot submit again for a different chapter.
  • The minimum word count is 500. The maximum word count I will accept is 5,500. When it’s your turn, submit your continuation here where I will then review and edit it. The day after you submit your continuation and it is accepted, the chapter will be posted and the process starts all over again.
  • I will not accept anything religious, outwardly political, hateful, pornographic, slurs, or anything that is demeaning, threatening or harmful in its content. Please nothing that is against a particular group, or anything that demeans a certain group of people that would be considered racist, homophobic, sexist, religious discrimination or prejudice. I will not accept your piece if that is such the case.

No clue what’s going on in the story so far? We got you.

Chapter One by Lucy

Chapter Two by Liyona

Chapter Three by James Strummer

Chapter Four by Matt Snyder

Chapter Five by Silver Stone

Current chapters claimed:

Chapter 11

 

Note: I will be re-posting this to attract different readers and writers of different time zones internationally. If you reblog this and I re-publish the post, the link will lead to an error message. The way to fix this would be to update the link on your end.


Chapter 6 by DK.

“This is Steel Viper. Waiting for your command, Señor Sanchez”, I still didn’t know what was I saying or why was I saying that. I felt my body had become more stiffened than before. It was like I was given a dose of steroids. I was feeling heavy as well like my flesh and bones were replaced by metal. I didn’t feel any pain, though.

I saw a big screen switch itself on in front of me. A voice slowly gaining clarity.

“Welcome to the Gamma, Señor Charlie.” I could not see a face. Just a voice which was eerily sharp, or rather shrill and it was of a woman. Was it Venus? I thought. No, how could I even remember from what happened before? It seemed fuzzy. Amnesia just wasn’t fulfilling its satiation within me. Although my body had changed a lot, I was still harping on remembering what had happened until now. The last thing I remembered was Cracker snapped from behind and discarded out of context.

“We don’t usually choose one of ours for this mission that Gamma wants to fulfill. Standing out in the world of data base, data science and information, we aim to wipe out the entire history of mankind, from the mankind. We want to give the mankind a new history to live with. We will control the world economy, we will control the communications with space, and we will control medical and technological advancements. One global power will be there, The Gamma.”

Thud. A large bang was made and I came back to reality. It was for me to realize now that I was indeed trapped in a big web of deceit and lies. I lost all trust. The voice was not of Venus, but a woman I have heard somewhere before.

“I have a special mission for you, Charlie”, a man now said.

The voice was recognizable. It was Z. Damn, what have I got myself into? I stood still as Z continued.

“You have been installed with our latest development in the field of Integrated circuits. You see, right now the chip that has been installed within you will help you forget who you were, even your name, where you have been, your mother land and everyone else you ever came in contact with. As we speak, we are gaining access to all your medical conditions.

“Let me tell you, for a guy of 28, you have early signs of full blown dementia; we just registered that you have a mutation in your 21st chromosome’s long arm. Well, that does not concern me. You see, we are the first organization to have secretly built an imaginary connection with the Deep Web; we have hackers working to breach the network securities and firewalls in the White House, followed by their allies in India and South East Asia. We already have control over NASA’s live feed. They might be thinking that they are seeing what they are seeing, but it is actually what we are showing them that they are seeing.

“Finally, Google and Facebook too are now just dummies. We have all the information and we have created pseudo sites and servers where we are transferring this information somewhere In the South Pole. From tomorrow onwards, there will be no existence of them. Now, we also have installed another IC in your system in which we will reintegrate all this information, and then you will be transported to various countries where you will be cloning yourself, like key Government officials, top bureaucrats and so on.”

He stopped after revealing all of his sinister plans in one breath. I still couldn’t believe this. I started calculating my position here. They probably believe that my memory is a clean slate now. So they are under the impression that I can’t recognize any of them. But I can, I just don’t know how long I can retain whatever else I should remember.

My first confusion was, was Delano 618 and OPTIK GATE the same bloody organization? Were Richards and Z the same person? I wouldn’t be surprised. I decided to keep myself calm and I told myself that I will come out of this mess. I just had to know how long I had left before they send me off. And the last thing that ate my head off was where is this Gamma located? I wish I could have noticed the location, but it was just voices. Smart move, I thought to myself.

“I hope you are aboard here, Charlie—sorry, Viper,” he laughed after calling me out. I was still chained.

“Just one last thing,” the woman chimed again, “don’t try to be smart. You have 24 hours to prepare yourself for this or else we have a lot of other options.” Thud again, and the light dimmed on the screen.

I was taken back by two men who had seemingly been inspired from The Matrix’s outfit.

Once locked in the cell, I started planning something daring as well as trying to be smart. All my neurons started firing and I slowly started to plan how I could possibly avert this. Well, for starters I really need to know the main heads involved. I have a lot of questions still unanswered, I thought. I need to gain their trust and then deceive them, but it is not going to be easy.

In that pin drop silence, I heard some voices approaching. I guess I was locked inside some container, like the ones used to transport large chunk of consignments across countries. Maybe I was in the middle of the Atlantic, already being transported somewhere. I slowly moved, wary of any unwanted sound I would make. I stopped myself a yard away from the gate and I tried to listen to the voices outside.

“This Charlie is going to come around, right?” One man asked the other.

“Do you think he has any option left?” replied the other.

“He doesn’t leave us with any option, does he?”

“I bet by the time we reach our destination, he will be completely fine by then. He will be one of ours.”

I wish he said the name of the place I was headed. Slowly, I started feeling a little dizzy. But, I had to hold on; the conversation was still going on between the two men.

“Franz and Richards and Venus are just the greatest sinners of all time. These three guys will control the whole world, the whole of the free world pretty soon, trust me.”

This was a bombshell. What does he even mean by Franz and Richards and Venus are all the same? I had to get to the bottom of this but I couldn’t stand the buzzing anymore. I guess the chips and the drugs had started taking their effects; I was breathing heavily. I fell on the ground. I couldn’t keep my eyes open but before I dozed off, I heard a large honk, something that sounded like a foghorn.


 

Story Collaboration: Chapter 5 Posted (Chapter 6 Claimed!)

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Hackers, abductions, brain washing, oh my!

This story is definitely changing things up, and I am very excited to see where this leads and what the end promises (which is many months away). It looks like we’re going to have a novella by the time the collaboration ends, and that is so interesting to think about.

Now, we’re up to chapter five, and I already received a claim for chapter six. Ye who asks first, shall receive. Those were my terms.

But, since chapter six is claimed, I think I have an idea that can disseminate around. At this point, everyone can make a claim on an individual chapter, which reserves a place for them in the collaboration. This means if you want chapter fifteen, it’s yours. It is still first come, first serve, only accepting submissions that pertain to the guidelines.

Remember the rules if you want to participate:

  • Leave a comment expressing direct interest in writing a chapter. If you’re the first to ask, the writing baton is bestowed upon you for that chapter. You must comment to reserve a place and when it is your turn, I will remind you in the comments section. Clock’s ticking, though! You have three days from that point to write the chapter and send it back to me as well. However, if I don’t hear back past three days, I will be looking for another participant to write the chapter.
  • Please do not submit to the form without commenting your interest in writing a chapter. As well, only one author per submission, meaning if you submitted a chapter and it is accepted, you cannot submit again for a different chapter.
  • The minimum word count is 500. The maximum word count I will accept is 5,500. When it’s your turn, submit your continuation here where I will then review and edit it. The day after you submit your continuation and it is accepted, the chapter will be posted and the process starts all over again.
  • I will not accept anything religious, outwardly political, hateful, pornographic, slurs, or anything that is demeaning, threatening or harmful in its content. Please nothing that is against a particular group, or anything that demeans a certain group of people that would be considered racist, homophobic, sexist, religious discrimination or prejudice. I will not accept your piece if that is such the case.

No clue what’s going on in the story so far? We got you.

Chapter One by Lucy

Chapter Two by Liyona

Chapter Three by James Strummer

Chapter Four by Matt Snyder

Note: I will be re-posting this to attract different readers and writers of different time zones internationally. If you reblog this and I re-publish the post, the link will lead to an error message. The way to fix this would be to update the link on your end.


Chapter Five by Silver Stone

Author Acknowledgment: This chapter is based on Symphony of Destruction by Megadeth. I just had to, because my previous idea was trash…. Keep reading for some epic plot twists! (Also, I had to use a translator for this chapter, because I’m terrible at that language 😅)

Those words sound so familiar. I just can’t remember where and when they were said. It seems too hazy… I hear footsteps approaching, and the sound of something being dragged.

“¡Toma a ese tipo ahora mismo!” Take that guy right now! was the last thing I heard, before everything faded to black once again.

***

“¿Qué piensas? ¿Es el correcto?” What do you think? He’s the right one?

“Él es el indicado. Parece apto para ser el candidato perfecto.” He is the one. He is the perfect candidate.

All I heard were some indiscernible voices mumbling in… Spanish? I try to open my eyes, but fail to do so. I can feel myself being bound tightly to a chair. Once again, I hear heavy footsteps approach me, and I was awoken with a splash of ice cold water. It felt like I was being stabbed with a thousand knives.

“Are you awake now, Senõr Charlie?”

I look around completely startled, and then look at the face of my captor. He appeared to be six foot two, was a heavy set man, a good crop of jet black hair, and had a bushy moustache that rivaled Groucho Marx’s. He was also dressed in an ash coloured suit and had mocha coloured dress shoes. I had a million questions running through my brain. Who is this guy? How does he know my name? What am I doing here? Most importantly, what’s even going on?

“I know what you’re thinking. Don’t worry, everything will be taken care of. My name is Eduardo Sanchez, and you’re just what we were looking for.”

That still doesn’t answer my question, dude! Why am I here?

“Hope you had a nice rest, ’cause you’re going to have a long night.”

Wait, what do you mean by that? Okay, this guy is really scaring me. I’m struggling to break free from this chair, which is of no use. I desperately pray that this wasn’t some sick prank played by my co-workers, or it was just a twisted nightmare. Everything’s going to be fine. However, my prayers weren’t answered; I saw four men in medical attire come up to me and proceed to pin me down, and one of them is holding a syringe.

No, no, no, no, no! Please don’t tell me I’m going to die at this moment. This isn’t a dream, this is a horror show going on right now.

“Relax, Senõr. It’ll all be over, soon.”

That was all he said, before he injected whatever liquid was in there into my bloodstream. I couldn’t feel anything momentarily, and I started to feel disoriented. I could hear the voices, however they sounded to indiscernible; given my current state.

“NO, NO! Take only a small section of the scalp! What are you, stupid?”

“Give me the microchip. Easy, easy does it. Perfect!”

“Senõr Sanchez! It seems to me your “candidate” is prepared for training.”

“Good. Take him to the Green Room. His training shall begin there.”

***

I woke up once again, and saw that I was in a dark room where the only source of light was coming from the rectangular mirror that’s opposite to me. I look at my reflection, and saw myself in a black bodysuit; I had a brown tool-belt that was filled with guns and some bullets. What was even going on? What happened to me?

All of a sudden, an image of the Ace of Spades card appeared in front of the mirror, and a voice over the P.A announced:

“Steel Viper, are you ready for your mission?”

“…………………..”

“…………………..”

“…………………..”

“This is Steel Viper: waiting for your command, Senõr Sanchez.”


 

Story Collaboration: Chapter 4 Posted (Who wants to write Chapter 5?)

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Four chapters down, this story has the potential to expand very far at the rate it is being completed. I have been honestly surprised at the turnout so early on in the game, and how this story is being developed by these different writers and authors. I am amazed.

With that said, I’m on the lookout for someone to write chapter five. Who wants to take a stab at it? Come one, come all, it’s up for grabs–but first come, first serve.

Remember the rules if you want to participate:

  • Leave a comment expressing direct interest in writing chapter five. If you’re the first to ask, the writing baton is bestowed upon you. Clock’s ticking, though! You have three days from the point you’ve asked to participate to write the chapter and send it back to me as well. However, if I don’t hear back past three days, I will be looking for another participant to write the chapter.
  • Please do not submit to the form without commenting your interest in writing the next chapter. As well, only one author per submission, meaning if you submitted a chapter and it is accepted, you cannot submit again for a different chapter.
  • The minimum word count is 500. The maximum word count I will accept is 5,500. After commenting your interest in writing the next chapter, submit your continuation here where I will then review and edit it. The day after you submit your continuation and it is accepted, the chapter will be posted and the process starts all over again.
  • I will not accept anything religious, outwardly political, hateful, pornographic, slurs, or anything that is demeaning, threatening or harmful in its content. Please nothing that is against a particular group, or anything that demeans a certain group of people that would be considered racist, homophobic, sexist, religious discrimination or prejudice. I will not accept your piece if that is such the case.

No clue what’s going on in the story so far? We got you.

Chapter One by Lucy

Chapter Two by Liyona

Chapter Three by James Strummer

Note: I will be re-posting this to attract different readers and writers of different time zones internationally. If you reblog this and I re-publish the post, the link will lead to an error message. The way to fix this would be to update the link on your end.


Chapter Four by Matt Snyder

Author Acknowledgment: Lyrics From Hard Man Fe Dead by Prince Buster.

Total darkness.

Words I can’t quite discern coming from a distance. “Them boil one pot of chocolate tea and all the fried fish they caught in the sea. They also got a six quart of rum saying that they waiting for the nine night to come.”

I recognized the words, lyrics to a song called Hard Man Fe Dead by Prince Buster.

Where am I?

There is a chill in the air as well; I feel I exist but I cannot seem to move. I hear bits and pieces of a muffled dialogue. I sense movement, yet I see nothing.

My eyes crack open slightly and there is a bright blinding light above, too damn bright. Am I peering into heaven?  Back to the muffled voices, I strain to make out what is being said.

“Is he awake?”

“You hit him too hard… Were there no other means that were less violent?”

I feel a pin prick on my arm. I am surprised I can feel again.

Growing hazier, groggier…

“Why did you do that, Cracker? Don’t we pay you enough? Was it so hard to find an easier, less messy way of bringing him here?” said Venus.

“I did what you asked, he’s here as promised, what exactly are—”

Before he can finish his sentence, Cracker crumples to the floor, having had his neck broken by the seven foot thug standing behind him.

“Remove the carcass from the operating room,” Venus states callously, “It served its purpose.”

Silence, at last.

For what felt like an eternity, again I hear voices yet I cannot make out who they are.

“Was it a success?”

“Yes, it’s inside. We have managed a full erase. He is now ready to be used so you can get what you need.”

“Splendid.”

A full erase? I wonder what they meant by a full erase?

There is a lull; it’s quiet again.

I finally begin to awaken. I feel a roughness beneath me. It’s sand. I’m on a beach. The air is crisp, the gulls are flying overhead and the murmur of the waves are soothing.

But where exactly am I? Wasn’t I working? Am I on vacation?

And most importantly, who am I?

A cop approaches me and tells me to move along; he’s got a real tough and gruff approach about him and he’s real big like easily three hundred and fifty pounds at seven feet. “The beach ain’t open yet ya mug, cantcha read?” he says.

I tell him I’m not from around here. I apologize and start heading down the boardwalk. I come across a sign, it reads THIS WAY TO THE 9TH with an arrow pointing forward. I decide to take this path, though I’m not quite sure why.

I stop dead in my tracks.

There is a man lying on the boardwalk. He seems to have been struck on the head, and is bleeding profusely. I call out to the cop that I need help—

In every direction there is nothing and no one.

I stare into the man’s eyes. I want to help. But, I don’t know how. I feel a genuine closeness to this guy, like we’re brothers. But try as I might, nothing I do helps; it all feels hopeless.

He whispers something in my ear. “They….have….us…now…”

Us? What did he mean by us?

I look away for a moment to try to gather my thoughts. Who was this guy that seemed familiar to me? Where am I? What happened to the cop? What the hell is the 9th? And most importantly who am I?

I look back down. The man is gone. I find myself alone again. Did I imagine this guy I saw before me?

Another man walks past me, an older gentlemen; he hands me a paper and all it says on it is THIS IS THE YEAR. The year of what? Far too many unanswered questions.

I decide to ask him, “The year of what?”

“Tonto del año”, he says.

It all sounds familiar to me, but I am bewildered as to what it all means.


 

Story Collaboration: Chapter 3 Posted (Who wants to write Chapter 4?)

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The story collaboration has been off to a great start, and I dearly hope it continues this way. What an awesome story this is becoming!

Remember the rules if you want to participate:

  • Leave a comment expressing direct interest in writing chapter four. If you’re the first to ask, the writing baton is bestowed upon you. Clock’s ticking, though! You have three days from the point you’ve asked to participate to write the chapter and send it back to me as well. However, if I don’t hear back past three days, I will be looking for another participant to write the chapter.
  • Please do not submit to the form without commenting your interest in writing the next chapter. As well, only one author per submission, meaning if you submitted a chapter and it is accepted, you cannot submit again for a different chapter.
  • The minimum word count is 500. The maximum word count I will accept is 5,500. After commenting your interest in writing the next chapter, submit your continuation here where I will then review and edit it. The day after you submit your continuation and it is accepted, the chapter will be posted and the process starts all over again.
  • I will not accept anything religious, outwardly political, hateful, pornographic, slurs, or anything that is demeaning, threatening or harmful in its content. Please nothing that is against a particular group, or anything that demeans a certain group of people that would be considered racist, homophobic, sexist, religious discrimination or prejudice. I will not accept your piece if that is such the case.

No clue what’s going on in the story so far? We got you.

Chapter One by Lucy

Chapter Two by Liyona

Note: I will be re-posting this to attract different readers and writers of different time zones internationally. If you reblog this and I re-publish the post, the link will lead to an error message. The way to fix this would be to update the link on your end.


Chapter Three by James Strummer

What the actual fuck, I thought.

I am not sanctioned to commit murder or organize assassination. Why would my boss even consider I had the means or appetite to end someone’s life? On the organizational chart, I was seriously ensconced in the mid-levels. My boss, yeah, maybe he could get permission from the higher-ups to get physical. He had the means to reach the government, the ones who actually commit black-ops in the real world. On the whole, that was not our modus operandi. We work with numbers, data, info. When we want to make a person disappear, we do it by other means. I tap away on my keyboard. Occasionally, I travel out to meet a target, but it was a rare occurrence. I bring the target in and give him to the others, the real interrogators. It’s what I did with Stephen Richards.

I listened to the air exchanger hum beneath the barely discernible sound of ska on the office sound system. Ska? Maybe Cracker had hacked into the sound system. The techs did it all the time. Turned the volume up at such slow increments, until the music was practically blasting by the workday’s end. I had subconsciously grown to appreciate the sitar through such means. Maybe I would grow to love ska as well given time. Cracker liked their ska from Jamaica, no English second-wave or California third wave ska for them. They also had a nasty habit of sending some really filthy porn around the office. It really was demeaning to all sexes.

“Well,” Z asked, “What have you to zay? I like the initiative, but perhaps we should’ve discussed it first?” Z short for Zeransky, but it lent itself well to his trouble with sibilants. Franz Zeransky, born in eastern Europe just before the fall of the Soviet bloc, had adapted well as technology separated the haves from the have-nots.

While so many of his comrades became service workers, he dove into the computer sciences. He did code in his head. He had been known to produce innovative programs in moments, while everyone else was just settling in behind their screens. He was once a goddamn Mozart of programming. He saw and heard it all in his head. He simply had to transfer it to his computer. And then about when he turned 45, it all just faded away. He lost the magic that once danced from his fingertips. Maybe it was just age creeping up. Most masterpieces are created in the younger years of the artist. The Organization bounced him up the ladder. After all, the thinking went, Z may not be able to create, but he could still lead from behind a big desk.

All this I thought in just a moment as I weighed taking credit for Richards’ death or admitting I had no idea what was going on. Z seemed happy with the night’s work. On the other hand, ignorance of case details was often considered a terrible shortcoming, worthy of demerits in your file.

“Z, I didn’t off him,” I admitted, hoping I had decided correctly. “I was just as surprised as anyone when I woke up this morning to the news.”

“That’s a houze of a different color,” Z observed.

“Horse too,” I replied lowly.

“What’s that?” he asked. “Never mind. We have other fish to filet. If it wasn’t you, we have off-grid competition. They’re playing the game old school. What could they have gotten before tossing him off the roof? The zame things we got last night? We must assume he told them about us. This is not good.”

As I was about to reply, I became aware of the ska getting just a hair louder and then a buzzer sounded. For a moment, I thought I was hallucinating again, but it was a signal to Z that he was about to have a visitor. He looked towards the door just as Venus knocked and walked in. Unlike most of the nicknames in the office, Venus’s wasn’t meant to be insulting or ironic. Someone had noticed she uncannily resembled the Venus in Botticelli’s famous painting, with her flowing red hair and alabaster skin. Most of the time, Venus kept that hair braided and piled atop her head. Her skin too was mostly kept under wraps. She was the picture of professionalism. She spoke her American English without a hint of her northern Italian upbringing. She had her fingers in a lot of different pies, as they say. The mobsters of  Delano 618 being just one.

Venus took the empty chair beside me and gave a curt nod my way. Z said as soon as she settled, “Charles, Angelica has been listening into our converzation. I thought she might have some ideas on how we might proceed given this whole caze is blown.” Z didn’t go in for the cute office nicknames and always called us by our proper names. He didn’t mind being called Z, as he wasn’t particularly fond of his given name. “Go ahead, Angelica.”

She was on a supposedly equal footing as Z within the Organization, but it was widely agreed by the office serfdom, she was, in fact, his superior. Z kept projects moving these days. Angelica created the projects. For all I knew, she was the one who began the whole Richards’ case. Her very presence in this office immediately set off my instinct for self-preservation. My tie suddenly seemed a little tight. As if sensing my unease, she smiled my way, put a hand on my forearm, and said, “Relax, Charles. We’re all on the same team here. I’ve had my people going through the MCs you got from the dearly departed. There are thousands of actionable files in there. If we can contain Mr. Richards’ demise and neutralize whoever had him scheduled for early embalming, we’ll be busy chasing down profits for the next decade. Big bonuses for everybody.” She laughed then, but she forgot to tell her eyes.

“I’m nearing retirement,” Z added. “I could use some adioz money. What’s our first move?”

“Containment,” she replied. “Charles here is going to put Mr. Richards on the discard list retroactively.”

Usually, when we wanted to get rid of a nuisance, we put said person on the discard list. In fact, we called the subjects of the procedure Discards. Within these walls, we had the means to root out all coded reference to nearly any person walking on the face of the earth. In a virtual world, a whole lifetime of records could be made to disappear with just a bit of time and the right passwords. The Organization had both. Hell, half the time, they had made the passwords to begin with. Birth certificate, gone. Government benefit records, gone. School grades, poof! Medical files, vanished. Everything that says a person existed disappears.

Except, ironically, the person himself (or herself; the Organization was an equal opportunity destroyer). He becomes a Discard, a non-being to his colleagues, his friends, even his family. Attempts on his part to contact people from his past would result in severe beatings, sometimes death, meted out by quasi-government goon squads. These were people who reveled in the degradation and physical pain of others. The Organization liked a little wriggle room concerning the Discards. Yes, we ruined lives, but there was still life. If the Discard could adjust to the periphery of society, not draw attention to himself, he might just die a natural death in some alleyway, forgotten and alone. We really had no need to kill or assassinate here. We just needed to discard.

Angelica was directing me to discard after the fact. She said,  “We will confuse whoever  killed Richards. If they aren’t as well equipped as us, some of their leads they managed to get out of him will dry up.”

“Good, and after that, ” Z asked.

Angelica nodded at me and replied, “We keep tabs on our protege here. He’s the only one from the Organization who had contact with Richards on the outside. I’ll personally oversee this operation, Z. I hope you don’t mind.” There was no question, just statement.

“We can name several possible suspects such as the Delano 618, a rival gang of theirs, the Eurasian Central Government, one of our own competitors, or, and I hate to say it, someone within our own beloved Organization.” She got up and moved towards the door. “Shall we Charles?” As she walked me back to my cubicle, she directed me to gather my things and move to her side of the vast floor. She left me to it.

Cracker raised an eyebrow and whispered, “What the hell are you doing with Venus?” 

“Nothing, don’t ask questions, Cracker,” I hissed back. “You know the protocol.” I sensed the ska music get louder almost imperceptibly and again felt almost paralyzed except for the feeling of blood seeping from my forehead.