Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Chapter 16: Yellow Alert

Summary: All hell seems to have broke loose on the AMF base again, and now Lynne is left scrambling for answers. Meanwhile Brian seeks answers of his own, which leads him back to the mysterious Madame La Rouge, hoping she can provide, while not expecting a deeper look into the person hes become and what he must do to change.

It was about 3 AM when the imprisoned guard, Stephen Everett had awakened to the sounds of footsteps approaching his cell door. Lying on his left side on the cot, he rolled over and sat himself up to see just who it was outside the door now. Only there didn’t appear to be anybody, despite the fact he had clearly heard footsteps a moment before. Did he imagine it? Possibly, being that it was pretty early in the morning and also because he’d gotten nothing but horrible rest since he’d been locked up here. He might as well have been in a real prison at this point.

“Who’s there?” Stephen tiredly called out then, waiting for a response. But of course there was no answer.

Grumbling to himself thinking he was merely losing his mind, he lied back down and shut his eyes again, and that’s about the time he heard his cell door pop open.

“Commander Williams?” The startled guard asked sitting back up, while hoping her early visit meant he was finally being released. But what he saw next practically caused him to piss himself, as a tall silhouette now stood in the doorway.

Terror immediately filled the guard’s eyes and he wanted to scream but couldn’t. And then the shadowy figure started towards him and he knew in his mind it was all over for him now.

It had only been about six hours later when Lynne had entered the brig to inform Stephen that a decision had not yet been made, despite the fact she had discussed the issue with the admiral and gotten nowhere. And while she knew the guard wouldn’t be the least bit happy about the news she never expected to find him lying face down on the floor outside his cell along with the cell door left ajar.

Had he escaped and passed out? She wondered then as she knelt down beside him to check for a pulse, only to discover he was cold and stiff as could be as rigor mortis had appeared to have already set in. She hadn’t smelled it when she first entered the room, but once the realization of the man’s demise had been made clear, she could now smell that sickly sweet scent of decomposition; the smell of death. Stephen Everett was in fact dead, she couldn’t believe it.

Heart now pounding in her chest, she raised her left right hand up to her face and cupped it over her nose and mouth while she continued her examination of the guard’s corpse, trying to figure out how he could have died. Her first thought was that it could have been an illness, however the more she pondered over the matter she realized it wouldn’t account for why he’d gotten out of his cell. Either he escaped somehow or someone else had let him out. But who else would?

Then as she continued looking for any signs of visible wounds, she suddenly noticed a peculiar looking shaped bruise around his neck as she pulled back the collar of the man’s uniform. It almost looked like the shape of a hand at first glance, however that sounded much too absurd in her mind so she quickly dismissed it. Had the man strangled himself with something? She wondered now. Or was he possibly mur—

No, no. She shook her head as she pushed back those thoughts while she stared down at the body. I refuse to believe it.

She felt a deep sigh coming on just then, but she knew the minute she exhaled deep she would have to breathe in that sickly smell once more, and she wasn’t about to do that. Still battling with her thoughts, she tried convincing herself that the man had merely gotten out of his cell somehow and killed himself outside of it to make some kind of statement. Yet the only problem with that theory was the fact there was nothing outside his cell that he could have used, and nothing at all on or near his body for that matter.

The truth she was refusing to believe was beginning to creep its way back into her thoughts. No, please no. Anything but that, she shook her head. I’m not giving in yet.

Next she turned her attention on his empty cell, slowly rising back up to her feet before cautiously making her way inside. The small room was dark but the light from the outside was bright enough that she could make out the obvious details, such as the sheets which were still covering the cot’s mattress, the flattened pillow, and the stack of magazines sitting on the floor beside the commode; nothing out of the ordinary as far as she could tell.

After she walked out, that’s when she noticed the security camera mounted on the wall in the corner of the room facing the cell. Apparently the shock of finding the guard dead like this had been enough to make her completely forget all about the one thing that could provide the very evidence she needed in order to rule out his death as a murder, or so she hoped. She wasn’t about to go there just yet, despite the fact the alarm bells had been sounding off in her head the entire time.

I’ve got to get down there so I can check the footage, she thought anxiously as she began hurrying out of the room, when another sudden thought hit just then.

First I need to notify the admiral. She next headed right for the emergency phone, picked it up, and pushed the button for his office. After a few rings he finally answered.

“Yes?” Abraham said.

“Admiral, it’s me.” Lynne replied, not even trying to hide the panic in her voice.

“What’s wrong?” He asked once he immediately picked up on it.

Lynne took a moment to gather herself before responding.

“Stephen Everett is dead. I came in just now to give him an update on his status, and that’s when I found him on the floor, face-down, out of his cell. I even checked to make sure he wasn’t just passed out but the moment I touched him he was cold as ice. He is dead, Admiral. And I don’t know what to do.”

There was a brief minute of silence before Abraham could even comment on the situation.

“First of all, I’m deeply shocked to hear this.” He stated. “Second, I want you to go ahead and call the nurse’s station in the infirmary, they’ll get in touch with someone from the city to come retrieve the body and deal with the rest.”

“All right.” Lynne grudgingly accepted. “But how long is it going to take until we find out the exact cause of death?”

More silence before Abraham answered her.

“That depends on how long the autopsy takes.”

Lynne didn’t like his answer in the slightest. “We need to know now in case he was murdered. As a matter of fact, right before I called you I was about to head down to the security room in the basement and check the footage for any possible clues. When I first found his body I had forgotten all about the camera in here.” She paused briefly before continuing. “Admiral, I need to find out if the Tjatey are behind this. If they are we’re going to have to deal with them, you understand don’t you?”

“You seem to quick to assume he was murdered, or that the Tjatey were the ones behind it.” Abraham replied in almost dismissive kind of manner. This only seemed to frustrate her even further.

“I checked his cell, Admiral. I didn’t find anything that he could have used to escape or even take his own life with. So don’t you sit there and tell me I’m wrong for what I believe. Because I’ve found nothing else that proves otherwise, so I’m going down to the basement and I’m going to check that footage.”

Abraham sighed hopelessly. “Look, I’m not going to rule it out, because it may be possible, but I don’t want us jumping to conclusions either. I’m just saying it’s best to wait until we have the proof we need before making any decisions here.”

“What about the others?” Lynne asked now, sounding deeply concerned about the panic this would cause once the word got out. “Are we going to let them know or keep this under wraps till we have confirmation? We need our forces to be alert and prepared for another assault wave. We can’t afford to lose any more of our soldiers.” She stressed, sounding as though she were holding back from screaming.

“Go ahead and check the footage.” He advised then, meeting her half way at least. “If you find anything at all, I want you to report it back to me immediately, understood?”

“Yes, Admiral.” Lynne agreed.

“First call the station so they can remove the body.” He ordered next. “If anybody on our base asks about it, just say it was a medical condition and nothing more.”

Lynne couldn’t help but groan, but at the same time she couldn’t believe she was being asked to keep quiet about something as serious as this. And for a moment she wondered if this is exactly how William and Justin had felt before. And now it seemed as though the tables had been turned. What a predicament.

“All right.” She finally accepted. “I’ll end this call so I can go ahead and contact the nurse’s station. I’m tired of this smell as it is. If I have to stay in this room any longer than necessary I’m going to hurl.”

And then he said something else she hadn’t at all anticipated.

“Why don’t you take the day off and relax? It sounds to me like that’s what you need after all this is handled.

Lynne couldn’t help but frown at such a suggestion. “I’d rather not. I’ve got many more recruits to interview and—

“I’m making that an order, Commander.” He replied sternly cutting her off. “You are to take the day off. That is all.”

He then hung up.

Whatever, she groaned hanging up her end, before picking it back up and dialing for the infirmary to let them know about the situation.

“What was the cause of death?” One of the nurses asked her.

“Unknown for the time being.” Lynne answered reluctantly, wishing she could just tell them the truth despite the admiral’s orders. In her opinion they deserved to know the truth. “Just alert the local coroner’s office and have them schedule an immediate pickup.”

My god we’re discussing the man’s arrangements as if he were an object, she thought sadly looking over her shoulder at the body. While he hadn’t been the most cooperative of men he still didn’t deserve this kind of treatment. And that’s when she realized this was a possible act of revenge.

After exiting the brig, Lynne pulled out her military grade pocket knife, and flicked it open before making her way down the long corridor, not wasting any time in looking over her shoulder as she continued towards the lobby for the elevator. She poised herself, ready to strike and stab anyone who dared to attack her.

However, what she wasn’t expecting was for William to be standing there in the lobby, just to come walking up to her the minute she exited the hall with her knife in hand, startling her and nearly getting himself stabbed in the process. She could have honestly killed him for that alone.

“Damn it, Corporal!” Lynne exclaimed furiously as he quickly backed away. “I could have killed you just now!”

Lynne now realized they weren’t the only ones here as some of the other recruits standing by were giving her strange looks, as though she had lost her marbles. William must have agreed with them because he too was giving her that same look.

“What the hell?” He huffed looking down at her knife. “Why do you even have that thing out?”

Her eyes narrowed as she closed it back up. She already felt a little more secure in his presence.

“Out of my way, Sterling!” She then barked, causing him to step aside. Only he wasn’t about to back down just yet, as something was clearly wrong and he needed to know what it was.

Then as she started for the elevator, he quickly got in front of her blocking her path.

“No, you’re not going anywhere until you tell me what’s going on around here.” He stared her down. “You’re carrying a knife out in the open. You’ve never done this before, so that tells me something is up and I want you to tell me what it is. No beating around the bush either, Commander.”

She gave him a most scornful look in response but that didn’t seem to have any effect on his defiance, as it was clear he was more than determined to get the truth out of her. Not to mention he had blocked off her only means of getting to where she needed to go, so either she would have to tell him or do the unthinkable and sic the guards on him instead. But while she didn’t mind showing him who was boss around here she realized she would probably be a lot safer if he came with her.

“Fine, let me on the elevator and I’ll tell you.” She sighed with bitterness.

He agreed, and then stepped aside so she could push the button and summon the lift.

Once the doors opened and they both stepped in, there was bit of an awkward silence between them, especially once they both recalled the last time they had been in this same situation. But just like the last time Lynne didn’t seem to hold back anything at all once the doors closed.

“That guard is dead.” She explained looking at William as though he might have the answers.

“What happened?” William gasped with shock.

“That’s what I’m going to find out now.” Lynne answered as she pushed the button for the basement, and the lift began taking them down.

“The admiral wanted to wait until after the autopsy, but I insisted that we check the footage to see if that holds any clues. It’s almost like he’s in denial that something else could happen again.”

William’s thoughts immediately drifted back to Stan and how he’d told him to stay out of it. But as far as he knew Stan wasn’t a killer so it couldn’t have been him, if the guard had indeed been murdered.

There were more silent looks between the two of them, when the lift finally reached its destination and the doors flew open. Lynne and William headed out and began making their way down the two way hall, where one part led to the hangar and the other to the security room.

But once they were standing outside the door of the room, Lynne instantly felt something in her gut almost warning her not to open the door, but she did so anyway.

Cautiously, she grabbed the handle and pulled the door open, gasping the minute she walked inside once she discovered the dead body of the security maintenance worker lying on the floor in a similar fashion to how she found Stephen. Now there was no denying they had both been murdered and the killer, whoever they were was still on the loose.

“Jesus Christ!” William exclaimed in horror as he came in behind her.

Lynne felt like collapsing onto the ground, and William must have sensed it, because he was right there to catch her before she fell.

“It’s okay, I’m here, I’m here.” He said softly as he held her tight. “I won’t let you fall. All right?”

In that moment she felt like she could just break down and cry in his arms. She felt so scared and panicked inside, unsure of what to do and how to handle this mess now.

“I don’t know what to do.” She sobbed. “Two bodies, and with a possible killer on the loose on our base. I can’t do this again, Sterling. I can’t and I won’t!” She landed a few good blows on his chest with her fists.

It hurt a little but he would rather her punch him than do something stupid such as trying to elicit a violent confrontation with anyone she suspected, especially without any proof.

“I just don’t understand it, why is this happening again?” Lynne looked up at him worriedly, noting the somber expression on his face. It was obvious he didn’t understand what was happening either.

“We have to check the footage now.” She suddenly pulled away from him and bolted over towards the console, where she immediately pressed the rewind button for the monitor showing the brig and the empty cell. She hadn’t noticed once she first checked the screen, but Stephen’s body had apparently already been removed. At least she didn’t have to worry about that anymore.

“All right, I’ve rewound the tape back at least eight hours ago, let’s see if anything shows.” She answered a moment later, and then hit the play button and stood watching. William watched as well as he stood in the background. He was already missing that feeling of holding her in his arms much to his own surprise.

So far the footage only showed back when the guard was inside his cell and the door was locked. Lynne couldn’t tell just how much of this they would have to sit through before anything else turned up. With impatience she promptly fast-forwarded , stopping once she observed a very strange static blip on the screen and hit the play button once more.

“It must have been around this time.” She gestured at the screen which displayed the time 3:02 AM in the timestamp.

She watched once again, until she noticed the footage had suddenly cut out as though a cable had been disconnected.

“I don’t see anything but static.” William said scratching his chin with puzzlement.

“Same here.” Lynne agreed and then looked down at the body on the floor. “But it’s apparent this was planned.” She then looked over at William. “What was the name of that child’s mother again?”

“Rehema.” William answered with uncertainty. “But I don’t think she’d be able to pull something off like this. I know she was angry about him letting Safiya run away, but I don’t think she’d resort to revenge, especially not after what happened with Naeem and her husband.”

Lynne then turned her attention back to the snowy screened monitor. “Well She would be the only one with the motive to kill that guard though, right?”

William nodded while looking rather disappointed. “Yeah, she would.”

Hearing this, Lynne closed her eyes and sighed deeply. The last thing she wanted to do was leave that poor little girl without a mother, but what other option was there? Unless….

“Can you think of anybody else who would want that guard dead?”

William sighed and then thought it over. Once again the only other person that came to mind was Stan, and again William didn’t believe the man was capable of something so heinous as this. Yet he couldn’t deny Stan had a violent streak in him, and one that could eventually lead to him accidentally killing someone someday, or maybe even purposefully.

“I did tell Stan about the altercation that happened between that guard and I.” William mentioned next.

Lynne felt her blood run cold at the very mention of that man’s name. “You don’t thin—

“No he wouldn’t!” William quickly cut her off, sounding a bit on the defense now.

Lynne already knew just how much Stan meant to William, and how he always seemed to jump at any chance to defend him, even when he shouldn’t. But while it was very noble of him it was also very dangerous, especially if Stan had been responsible for these two deaths. But the keyword here was if, as there still wasn’t any proof for either of them to go on.

“Sterling, he almost killed Private Mathis before.” She reminded him, just for him to act short with her once more.

“But he didn’t!” William snapped, causing her to frown. “It was the Tjatey who finished him. Stan tried to save him and failed.” Then he looked her right in the eye. “He also helped protect us when it all went down. If it weren’t for him being here a lot more of us wouldn’t have made it.”

She said nothing else and instead acknowledged his words with a quick nod of her head, as it was plain to see that William was totally convinced that Stan could do no wrong, no matter what she said. Therefore, it was better that she drop the subject altogether and focus on what was in front of her.

“I know it wasn’t him because I asked him to stay out of it.” William mentioned next, sounding a lot more calm. “He listens to me because he respects me.”

More of the same, she thought hopelessly and then moved over to the phone on the wall and picked it up.

“I have to notify the admiral now.” She informed him. “And also make arrangements to have this body removed as well.” She gestured down at the corpse on the floor, which was already beginning to stink up the small room. Lunch was only in a few hours but after dealing with two corpses in one day she was most certain she didn’t have any appetite left.

“I’ll try talking to Rehema.” William replied covering his nose with his hand as he turned towards the door and headed out.

“Thank you for your help!” She called after him, wondering if he was feeling just as sick to his stomach as she was.

“Hey asshole!”

Brian heard someone shout just then and his eyes shot open. He had fallen asleep on his back at some point between the on-goings of his insomnia and hearing strange sounds all night. But the voice he heard just now had most definitely come from outside, as he’d forgotten he left his bedroom window open.

Brian groaned as he groggily sat up on his bed, still wearing his day clothes as he often did.

“Hey watch where you point that fuckin thing!” Brian heard another man shout, prompting him to get up and wander over to the window to see what was going on.

“Don’t worry it ain’t loaded!” The other man chided his partner, as it appeared there were a couple of criminals passing through Brian’s part of the neighborhood now. This didn’t come as any surprise though, especially since a good part of the crime usually took place here in the slums anyway, so these two were just your average scumbags no more no less. And while Brian didn’t condone their behavior he still found their jabbering most amusing and even took it upon himself to sit down in his chair for a smoke break while he eavesdropped on their conversation. Those two were fools if they thought nobody was listening to them, especially in front of an apartment building with open windows of all things.

“I don’t give a rat’s sideways ass if it ain’t loaded, don’t you ever point that thing at me!” The man who sounded very much like the brains of the operation, crossly retorted.

“Anyway we got problems.” The criminal mastermind continued, while Brian quietly listened as he smoked his cigarette.

Yeah you sure do, Brian thought sardonically.

“Some broad beat us to the punch, got away with millions in cash.” The boss-man droned on. “I tell ya that was supposed to be our hit, but she got there before us!”

Brian could tell whoever this man was he was sure mad as a hornet over a female bank robber usurping his good name and stealing what he believed to be his. Was the man going to plan revenge on this woman? Brian had to wonder now.

“How does a broad even know how to use a gun?” The other man quipped. “Ain’t she afraid of breaking a nail or somethin?”

The two men laughed together, and even Brian quietly chuckled at that comment. This was far more entertaining than any radio show he’d ever heard.

“Well whoever this broad is she’s dead!” The boss-man stated next, as though he were making a promise to himself. “Those millions should belong to me!”

“Us!” His partner corrected him. And while Brian couldn’t see the action below, he was sure he heard that man give his boss a good hard shove just then.

“Right, us.” The boss-man corrected himself. “But touch me again and I’ll pump your noggin full of lead! First things first, I’m starving. Let’s go have us some chop-suey!”

Oh don’t leave now, Brian thought with disappointment while taking a long drag of his cigarette. Not when things are getting so interesting.

“Alright boss, chop-suey it is!” The boss-man’s partner agreed.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Brian thought humorously, while listening to the pitter-patter of their boots on the gravel road as they started crossing the street. He figured they were heading over to that same restaurant where he’d smelled the doughnuts before. Even now Brian could smell something; mostly greasy and oily foods, but whatever it was it was even making him hungry. So after finishing his cigarette and stubbing out the butt in his ashtray, he stood up from his chair and then walked over to where his loafers were sitting on the floor beside his bed, and slipped them on his feet. After that he walked out into the living area where he collected his leather jacket off the back of his couch and put that back on as well, checking to make sure he had a pack of smokes in one of the pockets before heading out of his unit and locking the door behind him. Once outside the building, he crossed the street heading for that same restaurant where the two criminals had just gone.

The name of the place was The Nightly Grub, and while the name didn’t make it sound the most appetizing it did see a lot of business, so whoever the owners were they must have been doing something right. Even now as Brian pulled open the door with its little neon open sign hanging in the window, he could smell fried noodles and smoked peppery chicken. And while that alone sounded like a good choice for lunch he figured he would have the same dish those criminals had come here for; the chop suey. But unfortunately there was a bit of a line in front of the register, which told Brian he was probably going to be here a while, and so he went ahead and lit a cigarette while he waited. He figured that would help to pass the time some.

This place wasn’t at all like those other restaurants where you’re taken to a booth by a host and given a menu. Instead you had to order your food, pick it up when it was ready and sit down and eat it at one of the available booths; that is if you could find a place to sit at all, otherwise you’d have to stand or sit outside on the ground. Not the greatest business model of course but it sure didn’t deter the amount of customers this place attracted, so obviously the food was worth the trouble. Not to mention Brian was already looking for those two crooks, wondering if they might even be standing in line ahead of him as he listened for their voices now.

There were definitely more men here than women from what he saw. Brian guessed it was because the men were more drawn to the fatty and greasy foods than the women, or it was because a lot of these men lived and worked around the area and liked the easy access this place provided. However as Brian noticed more and more people beginning to file inside and get in line behind him, he was beginning to feel slightly aggravated, especially the minute he started hearing some child whining and pouting, practically putting up a fight with their parents. It was apparent they didn’t want to wait in line either.

Brian groaned as he smoked his cigarette, keeping his focus on the shrinking line in front of him as each customer placed their order and paid, and then took off to stand around and wait till it was ready. Again, not the best business model, especially for a place that was too small to accommodate everyone as it was. But Brian also noticed a lot the people were getting their orders to go, and for a moment he thought about doing the same, until he suddenly recognized one of the voices ahead of him.

“God damn, it’s about time this line gets moving.” Brian now heard the infamous boss-man gripe, as well as his partner agreeing.

“Say, why don’t you go grab us an empty table if you can find one. I’ll take care of the orders.”

Brian then glanced over to where all the booths and tables were. They were all completely filled up by now.

“No can do, boss.” Brian heard next. “It sure don’t look like there’s any vacant spots to me.”

Brian then saw the boss-man grab the other man by the collar of his coat. They were both wearing dark colored fedora hats which seemed to aid in obscuring their faces a bit, along with the high collars of their trench coats. For a couple of crooks they sure didn’t seem to care about blending in.

“I don’t give a Thanksgiving turkey’s gizzard, you get your kiester over there and find us one!”

Brian suddenly went back to acting all nonchalant as the boss-man’s lackey now looked in his direction. Brian knew these guys weren’t stupid, and that if they even suspected someone was onto them then things could get ugly real fast. And since this was downtown Atlantis the police force was always slow to respond, therefore Brian wasn’t about to take any chances with making these crooks the least bit nervous, especially not in a building full of innocent people.

“Don’t just stand there, go!” The boss-man barked at his partner, giving him a nice good shove back.

Then without further hesitation, his lackey turned and headed off to find them an empty table. Although Brian had a feeling this guy was probably going to threaten others just in order to free up a space. And then as Brian casually turned his head in that direction, sure enough he could see that man flashing his gun at a young couple, who then hurriedly got up and rushed out of there as quickly as they could.

Yeah, I think I’ll take my food to go, Brian thought after deciding these two were no longer worth the entertainment.

After picking up his order, Brian headed out of the building and began making his way down the sidewalk. He figured he’d find a nice secluded bench and eat his lunch there for a change. And then as he suddenly came up to an all too familiar strip-mall, he wondered if it must have been fate that brought him back here. Especially now that he was looking right at Madame La Rouge’s place of business, and of course there was a cozy wooden bench situated right across the parking lot too.

Why do I keep finding myself back at this place? Brian asked himself then as he sat down and took the plastic container of food out of the bag, along with a plastic fork and began eating. I keep telling myself I’m done with this woman, and yet I can’t seem to escape for good. What is going on here? Then he remembered that strange voice he’d heard yesterday and began to wonder if the crazy medium might be able to shed some light on that, or at the very least convince him he wasn’t crazy and that he really did hear it.

Whatever. I need answers. He thought now.

After he finished eating he disposed of his garbage in a nearby trash receptacle, and then made his way on over to the medium’s shop. Although much to his surprise, he’d walked into her building while she was in the middle of some kind of card reading with a young female client, possibly in her early 20’s with dark hair and a pink tea dress with a white lace trim. Brian remembered when he last saw Madame La Rouge with those cards before and he asked her what they were, and now he was actually seeing them in action.

But what he found most interesting was the actual order she had placed the cards in after shuffling the deck. Brian knew they obviously weren’t playing cards, so he wondered why she even had to shuffle them in the first place. Either way his curiosity was piqued and he quietly stood in the background, watching as the bizarre gypsy woman suddenly turned one of the cards over to reveal a particular image. And while Brian couldn’t see all the details he was still at least able to hear them as she spoke and explained to her client what it meant.

“The high priestess.” Madame La Rouge held up the card for her female client. She also knew Brian was standing back there watching her.

“What does it mean?” Her client asked worriedly.

“It is the symbol of intuition and spiritual enlightenment.” La Rouge explained. “It means you are mentally strong, my child.”

Brian found himself rolling his eyes now. Was this more of her usual hogwash or what? He decided to wait and find out for himself.

“Now let’s see what your universe card reveals.” Madame La Rouge turned over another card.

Brian still found the particular way she’d arranged the cards very strange, and also remembered how Enrique had warned him about her being into black magic and what not. But as he continued observing this strange formation he had to wonder if this might be it.

“Ah, ace of wands, a sign of new beginnings.” La Rouge explained, which seemed to excite her client very much until she suddenly held her finger to her lips and quietly shushed her. “I’m afraid it’s not always a positive outcome, given the universe card is supposed to indicate that which is preventing change in your life.”

Brian now listened intently, but her client on the other hand sounded very much concerned now.

“But I thought new beginnings was supposed to be a good thing?” She griped. “What’s the issue?”

Madame La Rouge now gave her poor client a most empathetic look, and even gently patted her on the shoulder like a motherly figure. “It simply means you cannot move forward until you’ve dealt with the past. What are you still holding onto, my child?”

Her client seemed much more nervous now as she bit down on her lower lip. “I never got over an ex boyfriend of mine.” She suddenly admitted rather sheepishly. “I’ve been trying my best to meet someone else but I’m still not over my ex you see?”

This isn’t a reading it’s a damn therapy session, Brian shook his head in annoyance, and then turned around and walked back out to have himself a smoke break instead. He figured he would wait until La Rouge was finished with her client to even bother heading back inside. Still, he wondered what he might possibly be missing while he stood outside of the building. Probably more relationship drama, he guessed. That’s how it was with young women anyway.

Taking a drag of his cigarette, Brian gazed up at the cluster of stars hanging overhead, noting the varying sizes and even brightness levels between them. There were so many up there and many more spread throughout the entire universe, and that’s when he suddenly remembered that so-called “universe card” as Madame La Rouge had called it.

I wonder what my universe card would reveal? He wondered while lost in deep thought. Maybe it would reveal my darkness? He pondered the thought a while longer, until the door behind him opened and that female client was making her exit.

Well it’s about time, Brian sighed with relief. Only he couldn’t help but notice how dejected that woman’s expression looked now, as though she had just walked out of a house of horrors. For a moment it even looked like she was about to have a mental break down, and that’s about the time Brian pulled the door open and walked inside just to get away from whatever waterworks show was about to go on.

“I see you’re back already?” Madame La Rouge remarked from her chair while she looked to be taking a cigarette break of her own.

Brian could already see all those cards were neatly placed back into a full deck. And now it was his turn.

“I had hoped you would stay for the whole reading.” She then took a drag from her cigarette as she studied his reaction.

“I don’t have time for female drama.” He quipped.

“Oh I see.” She noted as she placed her cigarette in one of the slots of her ashtray, and then picked up the card deck, looking right at him. “I know this is what you came for, Brian.” She started shuffling the cards as he watched, wondering just what his set would reveal about himself.

“Can I ask something?” He interrupted then as he walked over and sat down in the chair across from her. The chair was still a bit warm from the last client. “I noticed the order you had those cards in.” He gestured at the table with his left hand. “Can you tell me what all that’s about?”

“The order huh?” She arched a brow in surprise looking back at him. “Why, Brian. That is what’s known as the Pentagram spread. Cards are arranged in a star formation, with each representing the classical elements and the spirit.”

“Pentagram huh?” Brian remarked with disapproval. “So it’s like black magic then?”

She then chuckled wildly and shook her head at him. “You are too humorous for words. No it is nothing of the sort. Now would you care for a reading of your own?”

Brian had to take a moment to calm his nerves before finally answering with, “sure, go ahead.”

“All right.” She smirked with a kind of deviousness he hadn’t seen before.

“I want to know what my darkness is.” Brian said, his voice taking on a more somber tone now. “I want to know why strange things have been happening to me lately.”

She picked up her cigarette again, flicked off the ash, and stuck it in her mouth before she resumed shuffling the deck. “Well, let’s find out, shall we?”

Brian couldn’t help but find it utterly fascinating how she would pull a card from the deck after each shuffle, placing them all face down into that star or “pentagram” formation, as she had explained before. But after she’d finished shuffling and drew that last card and placed it with the others, Brian began to feel far more anxious than he’d ever hoped to be, especially over a bunch of cards. It was utterly ridiculous.

And then she picked up the first card, revealing a curious image with the word Judgement on the bottom. Brian immediately tensed up as he waited on her to explain what it meant.

She took a quick drag of her cigarette and then set back in the ashtray slot. “This card usually indicates that one is living a fulfilling life, however in your case, Brian, this card means you will need to make a decision in order to have the fulfilling life you so desire. You asked me what your darkness means, well in the case of the Judgement card, you will need to take the necessary steps to change that darkness. Onto the next card.” She then picked up the second card and showed it to him, only this one had no words just a curious image and a lot of odd symbols as far as he could tell.

“Four, from the suit of cups.” She said with a thin smile. “A sign of introspection and reevaluation.”

Brian narrowed his eyes. “What does that mean for me though?”

“It means you are unmotivated and unwilling to change your ways.” She stated in a matter-of-fact kind of manner. “And this is why your darkness will linger. Next.” She turned over the third card. “Five, from the suit of pentacles.”

Brian sighed deep. He was beginning to wonder if coming back here was a mistake.

“This card is a sign of financial hardship, but also of isolation.” She explained already noticing how uneasy this was beginning to make him feel, yet she knew this was the only way to show him his own truth he’d been ignoring for so long. “This tells me you feel alone in your troubles, are you, Brian?” She asked.

“I was recently robbed.” Brian couldn’t help but frown. “So that card is pretty damn accurate to me.”

She gave him an apologetic look before turning over the fourth card.

“The World.” She showed him the card which showed a half naked woman in the center of some kind of wreath. “This symbolizes accomplishment and usually means one is about to achieve their goals, however in your case it symbolizes the need to bring closure, as in the death of your brother.”

Brian hated the fact that she’d even dragged his brother into this to begin with, but there were only two more cards left so he decided he would keep his cool until the entire thing was over with. He was definitely ready for it to be over with.

“Eight, from the suit of swords.” She picked up the fifth card which displayed quite an unsettling image of a woman who was bound and blindfolded, surrounding by series of exactly eight swords from what he saw.

He could already tell this one wasn’t going to be good either.

“You feel trapped, maybe even restricted by your own convictions and self imposed barriers.” She said giving him an odd look as though she could already see deep into his very soul. “Your hatred of the military as well as your belief that you don’t need anybody at all are your self-imposed barriers, Brian.”

Brian’s eyes were wide as saucers. He had never even told her about his hatred for the AMF and yet she could clearly see it. And now there was only one more card left. To say Brian wasn’t ready to keel over from the shock of it all was an understatement.

“Six, from the suit of pentacles.” She turned over the last and final card of his mysterious reading. “This implies generosity due to financial security. You’ve helped someone recently I presume?”

Brian still couldn’t believe how accurate all of this had been, especially now.

“Yes.” He answered nervously. “I helped a lost child.”

She smiled softly at him then. “That shows you are capable of doing good in this universe. And the goodness will be your path out of the darkness.”

Tears suddenly filled Brian’s eyes but he quickly wiped them away.

“I’m not a bad person, I know that. And she wasn’t just any ordinary child, she was Tjatey.”

He suddenly had the woman’s full attention as she arched her brows in surprise. “Really?”

He nodded. “Yeah and it felt really good. Felt like I was doing my part to change things in this city.”

Then he remembered how La Rouge’s son had been murdered by the Tjatey and worried if the very mention of them might have felt like pouring salt in her wounds, yet she seemed very calm and supportive of the whole thing.

“I’m sorry, I forgot all about your son.” Brian went ahead and apologized anyway just to remain on good terms with her.

“No need to apologize, Brian. You’ve done nothing wrong.” She replied.

“Good to know.” He sighed and closed his eyes, when he finally remembered the actual reason for his visit and they opened right back up.

“I heard a voice yesterday.” He explained now, while the woman stubbed out her old cigarette butt and then pulled out another from her pack and lit it.

“Go on.” She insisted after he’d paused for a moment, as if unsure of whether or not he should even bring it up.

“Well I was listening to the radio for a while, but after I turned it off that’s when I heard this voice say, help me?”

Madame La Rouge took a long drag from her cigarette before asking, “Male or female voice?”

“Female I think.” Brian answered nervously. “My bedroom window was open but this voice was so quiet sounding, almost like a whisper in my ear.” Then his face took on a much more serious expression. “Is it possible I was really hearing someone and not just hallucinating?”

She took another drag of her cigarette while she thought it over herself. “Spirits do exist and some of us have the gift of communication with them.”

Brian shook his head in disagreement. “Not me, I don’t have any special gift. Certainly no ability to contact the dead, otherwise I would have heard from Robert by now.” His face looked grim.

She shot him a curious look. “Who are you trying to convince, me or yourself?”

Brian shrugged as he looked back at her. “I don’t know? All I know is I heard someone asking me to help them, whether or not it was specifically me they were trying to reach, I have no clue. But I heard it, and I know I’m not insane, not yet anyways.” And then Brian thought of something else and wondered why he hadn’t asked her before.

“How come you know my name but I don’t know yours?”

She took another long drag of her cigarette as she looked back at him.”Do you want to know my name?”

He nodded. “I’d rather call you by something else other than Madame La Rouge all the time, you know?”

She chuckled softly. “Belva. Belva Dewitt. That’s my real name. I am also fifty years old, if my age was the next thing you wanted to ask about.” She teased next.

“No just your name.” He answered plainly, not wanting to give her the wrong impression. “Anything else you can just keep to yourself.”

She had to laugh at him. “Well I also dye my hair to hide all the gray. Although one of these days I’m gonna stop.” She stubbed out her cigarette in the ashtray. “Nobody likes to grow old, it’s nothing but a reminder of our inevitable mortality. All things live and all things die.”

“And what exactly is death?” Brian asked her then. “If there’s any kind of communication afterwards then it can’t be the end, right? There must still be something there.”

She couldn’t help but notice the desperation in his voice with the way he spoke. He was determined to make contact with his brother, and now she wondered if that’s why he kept coming back to her.

“The first time we met I could sense you were desperate for answers.” She then mentioned seeing his confused expression. “You were lost, wandering in the dark and then you found me.”

Brian narrowed his eyes. “What are you even saying?”

“Your subconscious mind, Brian.” She answered. “That’s what led you to my doorstep. It often takes us places we’d prefer to avoid in our regular mindset. Pretty much what I’m saying is you were looking for a way to make contact with Robert and you saw me as the key.”

He looked at her as though she was insane at first, and then he wondered if she just might be right about him. After the accurately scary tarot reading of his, he was willing to believe anything now.

“Maybe?” He answered with a shrug. “But can you even do that? Reach him for me, I mean.”

“I don’t know? Can I?” She responded casually as she looked back at him.

He knit his brows in response. “No games.” He said firmly holding her gaze. “Can you help me or not?”

She then raised her right hand up, with the palm facing him as though to stop him from saying another word. “I can but not at this time.”

“Why not?” He demanded angrily, already beginning to lose his patience as well as his temper.

“Because I don’t think it’s something you’re ready for.” She replied honestly.

Brian clenched his teeth and glared at her. “Screw you then if you can’t help me now.” He quickly rose up from the chair, ready to walk right out and never return.

“Brian, I do want to help you, believe me.” She sighed deeply. “But I can’t guarantee that your brother would answer you.”

Hearing this, Brian huffed. “Why, because you’re a fraud? Is that it?”

She shook her head slowly. “No it isn’t that. It’s because the dead aren’t always happy with us. And you may hate me even more for what I’m about to say, but I feel that your brother fears what you’ve become, Brian. You’re someone he doesn’t recognize anymore, and it’s not your fault.”

He sighed and closed his eyes. She was right it did anger him, but at the same time he had a strong feeling she might be right about this as well. He had changed and not for the better. Robert probably does look down on him over what he’s become after all these years.

“Now can you understand?” She asked a moment later, while he just stood there frozen in place looking as though his whole world was unraveling and falling apart around him.

“Yes.” He answered bitterly, before turning around and seeing himself out. He hoped this would be the last time he’d ever venture here again for answers.

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
8 months 3 days ago #28182

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Replied by jeanie on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

I wonder what my card reading would say.
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5 months 1 week ago #29406

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

jeanie wrote: I wonder what my card reading would say.

Fun fact, the tarot reading in this chapter was actually done in real time with an actual tarot deck. I've always been fascinated with tarot cards and readings myself so I bought myself a deck a while back to learn more about it and even learn how it worked. I was actually surprised over how accurate the reading was to Brian's character. I had shuffled the deck and everything before laying the cards out. There will be another reading for a different character in the near future, so I'm curious to see if the result will be just as accurate to them.

One thing that fascinates me about tarot are the different kinds of spreads. The most common one is the three card spread. But I felt the Pentagram spread was the better option for this chapter since it helped add to the idea of Madame La Rouge being into black magic just like Enrique warned Brian. But there's also the Celtic Cross spread which looks a lot more intricate since it requires more cards, but I didn't think the "reading" needed to be 10 cards long. 6 was more than enough.

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
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5 months 1 week ago #29414

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Replied by jeanie on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

My mom was into tarot for a while there. I always feel about them like I do about ouija boards - it's either dumb or it's way more powerful than I wanna mess with.
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Replied by ds55 on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Bringing this back up
Macross forever :D

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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

Getting this back on track......
Chapter 17: Coming Undone

As soon as Admiral Grant had learned about the second victim from Lynne, he immediately issued a red alert for the entire base. This meant nobody was permitted to enter or leave for the time being, and any persons refusing to follow the lockdown orders would be locked up in the brig as punishment, and later interrogated to decide whether or not they still belonged in the AMF.

The admiral like Lynne, wasn’t taking any more chances with the rest of their people’s lives, and so it was imperative that everyone kept their eyes peeled for any suspicious activity, and if witnessed, to report it right away. The guards were especially on high alert, and even armed with the rifles of their ancestors once they learned one of their own had been murdered. It felt a little too close to home, especially since it had only been over a month after the last attack on their base from the Tjatey. And once again, all fingers were pointing at the former warriors, and the tension between them and the humans was quickly growing.

To make matters worse, the guards had also been given direct orders from Lynne and Grant to shoot and kill any Tjatey that approach them, armed or not. They were done taking chances with these aliens and done losing their people. It was time to start making tough decisions, but they were choices that would at least keep the rest of their people alive. It was time to start thinking and operating as a real military, as Lynne had explained during an emergency meeting in the mess hall, which of course had excluded the Tjatey from attending. And as Lynne was speaking to the men and women of the AMF, she paid close attention to all the facial expressions of those looking back at her; some forlorn and even confused, others rightfully as angered as she was, and of course some even looked back at her as though she were the bad guy for speaking her mind. The only expression of utter indifference seemed to be coming from none other than Stan himself, and Lynne paid special attention to him alone.

“No more games,” Lynne had stated with urgency, as she stood before her audience gathered at the tables in the mess hall. Abraham stood behind her with his arms folded across his chest, wearing a heavy look of concern as he stared down at the ground. He was only here to give Lynne his support and nothing more, since he believed she was a far better speaker than he was. She always knew the right words to use during times of crisis, and went about it in such a way that whomever she was speaking to at the time, would feel the impact of the emotion behind those words; and those emotions ran deep. Because of this, Abraham had always believed she would have made a fine politician in Atlantis City, but nevertheless he was thankful she had chosen to stick with the AMF instead. After all, the people here were the ones who needed her the most.

“This is now a life or death situation, so we must treat it as such,” Lynne pressed, her eyes locked on Stan’s in that moment, trying to read his face but getting nowhere. That’s one hell of a poker face, she thought curiously, furrowing her brow. He’s either responsible or he flat out just doesn’t care, either way I’ve got my eye on him.

“Not only that, but you also need to look out for each other,” she continued, looking directly at the rest of the faces in the audience, especially Justin’s. It was that sorrowful look of his that stood apart from the rest of the worry and fear. “We are all we have left, so please don’t let anybody go off anywhere alone, and arm yourselves if necessary. I’ve decided to unlock the armory so now the rest of you have full access to any and all firearms available. I know it should have been this way from the start, but with all the murder and chaos happening in the city, the AMF simply didn’t want to give Morane nor the council any reason to pin the blame on our people. And if it ever became known that we had kept the weapons of our ancestors after all this time; we’d never hear the end of it. But up until a month ago we also believed we’d never have any use for such weapons. As I said before, they are the weapons of our ancestors and we thought the war had been left behind on Earth. But in truth it never ended, not even when we ended up here in the vastness of space where we were forced to start all over.” Her expression hardened then, and some of those who knew her best could tell it pained her to even bring up the past.

“We were always training and preparing for an outside threat, when all along that threat has been inside our own fences,” she continued, a weary look of sadness beginning to creep its way onto her face. “We even thought the threat was over when Naeem and his followers were put down, and now look what we have.” Her focus shifted over to William’s face now, inadvertently putting him on the spot. “Two more victims a month later, and one of those deaths with a strong motive behind it.”

William bowed his head solemnly, remembering his encounter with Ammon and what the former leader of the Tjatey had asked of him. But that was before things had gotten out of hand, back when William still believed there was a chance to really turn things around, and back when he believed he could help the former warriors down a better path. But as of now, he wasn’t sure what to believe. All he could see before him was more of the same “us versus them,” mentality, and with Lynne pitting the rest of their forces against the remaining Tjatey, and without any proof they were the ones behind these new deaths, he realized how much more difficult his mission was going to be. But that wasn’t about to stop him from giving up now. Nothing was.

And while Rehema certainly had every motive for killing that guard, William didn’t believe she was behind it, which brought him to another urgent thought. He still needed to talk with her before things got even more out of control, especially since he knew her well enough to know she wasn’t the type to stand down without a fight; not with a child to care for. Rehema was still very much a dangerous warrior, and William knew she would do anything to protect Safiya, even if it meant killing one of them.

There’s going to be another rebellion if this isn’t nipped in the bud, he thought worriedly as he tried to tune Lynne’s icy voice out of his head. I know she means well but this is only going to get more of us killed. They’re former warriors and they will defend themselves and each other, just as we’d do if it were the other way around. And it was not that long ago. She can’t forget that.

Then, just as William had feared, the tension was beginning to worsen as some of the other soldiers began speaking up and expressing their own concerns.

“If they’re still a threat to us then why don’t we just kill them all already and be done with it?” One soldier suggested, echoing Stephen Everett’s same words he had expressed to Lynne a few days before his death. “Isn’t that what we should have done after that last attack? Why are they still alive?”

Justin felt a shudder coming on just now as he listened. He hated to admit it, but he kind of felt the same with the way things currently were, and just because he liked a few of the former warriors such as Dendera and Sebak, it wasn’t enough to convince himself that the rest of them could be trusted. He didn’t even trust Artis Frederic anymore for that matter. But to kill them all? Justin didn’t think he had the stomach for that, or that it was the right solution. They were better than that. They had to be.

But while Lynne appeared distracted by that soldier’s sentiments as well as her own thoughts, she didn’t notice the menacing smirk Stan was giving her in that moment. He couldn’t believe the amount of ruckus he’d caused just from killing those two men. And now he had everybody around him in fight or flight mode, and at each other’s throats thinking it was the Tjatey after all of them again. He knew Morane would definitely approve of this once he found out.

There’s going to be another civil war on this base soon and I’m the cause? What an honor it is. Perhaps I should kill another guard just for good measure, Stan thought with a fiendish delight.

“Because not all of them are out to kill us.” William suddenly spoke up, wanting to break through the tension in the room as much as he could.

“Butt out, Corporal!” One of the soldiers sneered in response. “We all know you’re only coming to their defense because you share their blood!”

William could feel his anger rising, yet retained his composure. “Yes that’s true, but I also share your blood as well,” he stated matter-of-fact, which only seemed to annoy that soldier even more.

“We also haven’t forgotten what you and Corporal Church did either,” added another disgruntled soldier. “Therefore neither of you should have any say in what we decide to do with the Tjatey!”

Now Justin felt enraged.

“Withholding information that ended up getting a lot of us killed!” The soldier continued, not hiding his disdain at all.

William shot Justin a concerned look from across the other side of the room. Justin closed his eyes and sighed deep. Keep it together, Church, C’mon now, don’t give this asshole an inch.

Jayce, who was seated right next to Justin, also couldn’t believe all the hostility coming from his other comrades, but he remembered there was a time when he too felt the same. It was different now thankfully, and even though he lost old friends he gained new ones in Justin and William, and maybe even Stan if the silent giant would give Jayce a chance to prove himself worthy. For now, it seemed as if Stan wanted nothing to do with him; or possibly even hated him.

“That’s enough, Private Grover!” Lynne finally shut that young soldier down, seeing that both Justin and William were looking very angry and tense in their seats. “We appreciate you speaking up, but the purpose of this meeting is for us to come to together, not to tear each other apart. The AMF is about unity and has always been.”

She thought of Chris Dickerson then, as well as the time he’d expressed to her his own concerns with the lack of unity in the AMF. He was right with what he said, about how she talked a lot about it but never really had much to show for in the end. Well that time was now, and she would do so in order to honor his memory. She hoped he was listening, wherever he was in the universe, heaven or not.

“We have to stand together despite our differences and our feelings,” she emphasized the importance of that last word. “I know I’ve been interrogating some of you about your feelings recently, and for that I apologize. I should have known that you were all trustworthy enough, but I had to be sure.”

“And while you were busy with that the Tjatey were busy murdering two more of our own people!” Private Grover shot back furiously, leaving Lynne utterly stunned. He was another to add to her list for sure, right under Stan.

Now Jayce had finally had enough.

“Shut up, Private!” He angrily snapped, coming to Lynne’s defense as well as that of his new friends. “It happened at night while we were all asleep in our beds. And if I remember correctly, during the attack from a month ago, you also hid with me, Mick, and several others while she, Church, Sterling, Winston and the rest, stood their ground to defend the base and the rest of us! So shut it with your holier than thou attitude. You were as big a coward as I was that day, and none of us would even still be here if it weren’t for them!”

Hearing him out, Lynne happened to notice a lot of guilt ridden faces in the audience as she looked back. These were obviously the other soldiers Jayce had been referring to that hid when they should have been fighting alongside the rest of them. But on the other hand, she found it mighty courageous of Jayce to admit something like that in front of everyone else, especially to her and the admiral. She did forgive him however, but most importantly she hoped that he and those others had learned a valuable lesson from that day. She had hoped that they were remorseful for their actions, but just too afraid to admit it.

Turning her attention back to Justin and William, Lynne noticed how relieved they both looked, and then she curiously looked over at Stan again, seeing nothing but impassiveness on his face. He even reacted as though he couldn’t see her, staring ahead at nothing, and probably feeling nothing as well. Her mind was made up then; he would be next for evaluation. Lockdown or not, the interviews had to continue.

After Jayce had spoken up, nobody else seemed to have much else to say. Lynne assumed it must have been because of the guilt most of them now felt, being reminded of their own cowardice; if they even felt anything at all. Some of the faces she saw were hard to read. Perhaps it was time to bring this meeting to a proper close and allow the men and women to leave and make plans for how they would defend themselves against their old enemies. Lynne hated to refer to the Tjatey as such, but after everything they’ve been through it was nothing but the truth.

“Since it appears that nobody else has anything more to add we’re going to go ahead and end this meeting,” Lynne announced a moment later. “As I stated before, the armory is unlocked and you are all free to head there immediately after dismissal. I know we’ve already issued military grade switchblades, but I realize now that those won’t be enough. Also firearms training will be available to those of you who need it, and I don’t want to see any of you turning these weapons on one another, are we clear on that? Your enemy is the Tjatey, not each other.”

William felt a deep pit in his stomach at the sound of that last sentence, and realized just how urgent it was that he find and inform Rehema immediately. He would need to warn all of the former warriors for that matter, and do whatever was necessary to stop things from escalating into a full fledged war.

“Yes, Commander.” The men and women answered in unison.

Lynne furrowed her brow as she looked back at them all, as though to illustrate just how serious she was.

“Very well,” she said next. “Every one of you is dismissed, except for Private Winston.”

Stan looked mighty surprised to hear his name called out like that in front of everyone else. The others even looked at him as though he were guilty of something before they started getting up and leaving.

William seemed particularly in a hurry to get out of there, and didn’t even bother telling Stan goodbye; just up and left him behind. Stan did however, notice the glum look Justin was giving him as he turned to leave with Jayce. This made Stan wonder if William might be upset with him again. Why he would be in the first place was all but puzzling; he didn’t know what Stan had really done as there hadn’t been any evidence left behind to connect him to those deaths. Still it bothered him, but he wasn’t in any position to leave and find out, especially since one of his superior officers had ordered him to stay behind. And in order to keep up with his façade as a soldier in the AMF he would have to comply.

Now she approached him, her grey eyes locked on his, and her stern expression unwavering. She must have known or at least suspected him of something, which only put him on high alert, as well as remembering the orders Morane had given him if she ever tried to corner him for answers.

“You have my permission to kill that bitch, Stan.”

Seeing the way she looked down at him as though he were nothing more but a heap of scrap metal was motive enough for him to want to snap her neck right then and there, but he realized now wasn’t the time or the place; not with the admiral standing in the back watching them both.

“Private Winston,” Lynne harshly addressed him. “I’d like you to come with me to my office for a little chat.”

Feigning a look of concern, he looked back up at her. “What’s the issue, Commander? Have I done something wrong?”

Right as he spoke she could tell something was off about him. There was something about the tone he used that instantly made her feel uneasy.

“No, Private.” She forced a pleasant smile in order to put him as well as herself at ease. “I’ve been interviewing everybody as of late, and your name simply came up on the list.”

He returned the gesture with a thin smile of his own as he then rose to his feet, towering over her like a dark shadow. “Very well then, I guess I’m next in line.”

Outside of City Hall, Morane found himself swarmed by a sea of news reporters and journalists prodding him for all kinds of answers about the council’s new proposition for dealing with the city’s rising crime rate. He stood before them all in his best dark blue striped suit, wearing a fake smile while pretending to show concern. Flashes from the cameramen in the background nearly blinded him as they snapped photo after photo, as though trying to capture the man at his best. But underneath that false smile was nothing but a simmering hatred for all these people, especially the photographers. And the more these people pestered him, the more he wished he could just kill them all and put them out of his misery for good.

“Chairman Morane,” One male reporter with a nasally voice now addressed him. “Is it true you and the rest of the council have a plan to lower the crime in this city? Because I’ve heard from other sources that some of the people don’t have much faith in any of you.”

Whoever those people are they’re dead, Morane thought furiously before answering.

“Yes, it is true. But the goal here is not just to lower the crime rate, but to do away with it completely. After all, the goal of the council is to make the city as safe as possible. Therefore, those people should have faith in us, and lots of it,” he feigned a smile, despite feeling like a cornered animal.

Now he heard lots of appraisal and claps coming from the surrounding audience. They were all fools if they believed he had any plans of wanting to keep the entire city safe. He was only concerned with his part of the city and the money coming in.

“But how exactly do you and the council propose to do this?” A female reporter then asked. “The police force we have doesn’t seem to be enough, so what are these other solutions?”

Morane was beginning to sweat a little now. He knew there was no way in hell he could reveal to the public that he has an illegal android mopping up the streets for them. That would only blow his cover with the AMF.

“We are dealing with it. That’s all I’m permitted to say for now,” Morane answered with a straight face, when a young man suddenly caught his attention.

“Chairman Morane, one of my best friends was shot and killed by a bank robber the other day and still the police have no leads on his killer. I want justice for my friend. I want to see his killer pay for what they’ve done. Do you think you can make it happen?”

One of the female civilians hiding within the audience listened intently.

“There will be justice I promise you,” Morane stated reassuringly. “What was your friend’s name?”

“Vance,” the man answered.

“There will be justice for Vance!” Morane shouted, pumping a fist in the air. “And justice for anyone else who suffers at the hands of these criminals! Let it be known that myself and the council will make sure of it!”

There were more cheers and applause from the audience, all except for that same timid woman who still wasn’t sure if she should even be here at all. But then as she spied Morane turning away from everyone, readying to head back inside the City Hall building, she realized it was now or never. And so she bravely walked out from the crowd and began making her way up the steps of the building where she suddenly called out to him.

“Mr. Morane! I need to speak with you, Sir.”

Turning back around, Morane gave her a dismissive wave with his hand. “Sorry, dear. But there’ll be no more interviews today. I don’t have time for that shit.”

Frowning, the woman replied with, “I’m not a reporter, Sir. You should already know who I am since you’re the one who ordered my death.”

“What now?” Morane looked as though he were at a complete loss for words. He also hoped nobody else had overheard what she said just now, especially the part about him wanting her dead.

“I’m afraid I don’t know who you are at all, my dear,” his smiled waned. “But I think you should come up with me to my office so we can work out this matter, whatever it is. Sound good to you?”

She accepted and nodded. “Yes, Sir Mr. Morane.”

Stan seemed completely motionless as he sat across from Lynne at her desk. It was almost as though he were a mannequin sitting in that chair. She couldn’t even see the rising and falling of his chest as he breathed, if he even breathed at all. Still, it was those cold green eyes of his which lingered on her face the entire time, as though he were the one reading her and not the other way around. She even attempted to shake off some of that fear and unease by focusing her attention on the interview form on her desk, picking up her pen to begin writing down her thoughts, as well as the answers she was about to ask of him.

“I’m sorry about this, Private Winston,” she began then, doing everything she could to avoid looking him in the eye in that moment. “This is just a standard procedure to ensure that you and the others can be trusted not to cause harm to anyone else. Of course, I’m far more concerned about harm being done to you, Church, and Sterling, than I am about any of you instigating fights. So let’s get right to it, shall we?”

She then glanced up at him and flashed a quick smile, before looking down at the questionnaire again. She couldn’t see it, but he knew she was afraid of him, and he could sense that fear as thought it were emanating like the heat from her very body.

“How do you feel about the Tjatey?” She now asked, ignoring the creepy stare he was giving her. “Do you trust them or not?”

In an almost amused sort of way, Stan tilted his head to the side and gave a shrug. “We don’t have proof they’re the ones behind those murders, so I can’t say for certain.”

“But do you trust them?” She met his eyes directly then, despite not wanting to.

“No,” he answered gruffly.

She wrote down his answer and then proceeded onto the next question on the list. “How about your comrades, do you trust them?”

“Yes,” he answered.

“All of them?” She asked next, lifting a brow.

“No,” Stan responded.

“Why not?”

“Because they don’t trust me or my friends.”

“And why do you feel that way?” She asked.

“Because of our previous actions regarding the attack on our base,” he replied.

“Do you feel that lack of trust is justified or not?”

Stan shook his head. “We saved a lot of lives, it could have been worse.”

Suddenly, her voice took on a much stricter tone. “That’s not what I asked you. Try again. Do you feel they are justified in not trusting any of you after what happened?”

“Yes,” Stan answered, narrowing his eyes at her.

She could tell she was already beginning to anger him.

“What about violence? Do you feel any of those actions are justified?”

Stan was silent now.

“Yes or no?” Lynne sounded as though she were losing her patience with him.


“From you or from them?”

Stan glared back at her, beginning to wonder if he was nothing more than a suspect in her eyes and that was the real reason she had requested him for this interrogation.

“From them. If I act in order to protect myself or my friends, then it is justified. You have any other questions you need to ask me? Such as did I kill those two men and why?”

Frozen, her head shot right up where she met his cold lifeless scowl. It was obvious she couldn’t pretend any longer because he already knew what this was.

“And did you?” She managed to force out now, equally dreading the answer.

“No,” he lied, giving her a temporary sense of relief. “But I wanted to kill that guard who attacked William.”

“Why?” She asked.

“Because he deserved it,” Stan said point blank. “He was a dangerous man.”

“So are you,” Lynne said icily, holding his gaze.

Stan appeared most amused by this and smiled thinly. “Well, that would explain why you’re so afraid me, now wouldn’t it?”

Whether it was the exact words he’d spoken, or the cold tone of his voice, Lynne instantly felt her skin go numb. It was the kind of sickly feeling a person gets when they’re feeling cornered by an enemy, and Lynne had to wonder if Stan just might be hers.

“If I was so afraid of you, Private Winston then I wouldn’t be sitting here in this office alone with you, now would I?”

The corners of his mouth fell, and that unnerving smile was gone, but the evaluation wasn’t over just yet as Lynne proceeded to ask the next question off her list.

“Are you willing to defend this base and your fellow soldiers at any cost?”


“Are you willing to defend the civilians as well?”

Stan took a moment to think it over before responding with a hard resounding, “No.”

“Why?” She asked.

“They’re the enemy,” Stan answered, straight-faced.

“Not all of them are,” Lynne corrected him.

“Too many of them are,” Stan countered then. “Did any of them come to our rescue that day? Surely they must have heard the explosion, or even felt it to know enough that something was wrong.”

“And your point?” Lynne shot him a blank look.

“The point I’m making is the civilians don’t care what happens to us, so why should we care what happens to them?”

After writing down his response, Lynne capped the pen and set it down on the desk before lifting her head back up and meeting his stony eyes once again.

“You’re right they don’t,” she admitted then with a heavy sigh. “But does that mean we should stoop to their level? Or don’t you suppose we should try to be the better person?”

Stan suddenly had that same smirk again, as though he were mildly entertained by her line of thinking.

“What does it mean to be the better person?” He asked in a rhetorical manner. “To give your life to protect someone, who under the same circumstance, would gladly turn their back on or even stab you themselves? Exactly what does one accomplish by sacrificing their life for another who clearly shows disdain for your very existence?”

“It’s just human nature,” Lynne explained to him, hoping he would see it in a different light if possible.

“So is killing,” he then shot back in a rather defensive manner, leaving her speechless.

He doesn’t seem to see anything wrong with killing at all, and keeps making a point to bring it up. Why is that? She thought then, making a mental note to herself.

“I noticed you’ve stopped taking notes,” Stan pointed out just then. “So does this mean our little interrogation is over?”

She quickly nodded, as though she were eager for him to leave already. “Yes, Private. You are dismissed. I have no further questions to ask.”

Stan said nothing more, but he also didn’t appear to be in a hurry to leave either, and instead just sat there in the chair, staring back at her while she was busy skimming through her stack of papers from all of her previous interviews, seemingly unaware he was still there until she looked up again.

“I said you’re dismissed, Private Winston,” she repeated herself in an irate tone of voice, as though hoping he’d take the hint that his presence was no longer welcome.

“Very well then,” he smirked with his eyes locked on hers as he slowly rose up from the chair. She had to wonder if he might be toying with her at this point.

Turning his back to her, he began walking as slowly as possible towards the door, behaving very strangely as though he had an ulterior motive. Fearfully, she watched him close, and even slid her right hand down into the pocket of her uniform coat, clasping her hand around the pocket knife. If he tried anything at all he was going to get stabbed. That was a promise.

She continued watching him as he then made a grab for the door handle, where instead of opening the door, he just stood there motionless. Lynne’s heart was already beating faster now, anticipating the man’s next move as she held on tightly to her knife. It was then that he finally opened the door, and nonchalantly walked out, closing it behind him.

A sense of relief washed over her once he was gone, but she still couldn’t shake the fear of seeing him acting more strange than usual. He’s always had an intimidating aura about him, but this was something else, something much more sinister for a lack of a better word. But then she thought who would even believe her about him? William was already convinced Stan could do no wrong, so telling him was out of the question. Then she thought about Justin and how he might react if she told him. She knew Justin and Stan were close, but not nearly as close as Stan and William. But would Justin even believe her? She wasn’t quite sure of that. Telling Grant was also out of the question since he already believed she was acting paranoid enough as it was. Who then was left?

With a heavy sigh, Lynne finished putting away the rest of the interviews, pulling out the bottom drawer of the file cabinet, ready to place the folder inside, when one of the many files within the drawer suddenly fell forwards, grabbing her immediate attention. At first she didn’t think much about the file in question, until the folder popped open and a very familiar name at the top was looking up at her.

“Robert Smith?” She read aloud, now pulling out the entire folder to look over its contents, when another name suddenly jumped out at her; Brian Smith.

“I’m looking for my friend.” She remembered the words of that little Tjatey girl then. “His name is Brian and he saved me. But he ran away before my mother could thank him. We also had hot chocolate and sweet rolls together. Stuff I never had before because my mother would not allow it.”

“Brian?” Lynne remembered repeating curiously to which the little girl nodded. “Mhmm, do you know him?”

Lynne’s eyes widened with shock as she read the report in her hand. “It’s you isn’t it?” She gasped as an old memory she’d long since forgotten came crashing back, where she was taken back to that moment in time, back when the young test pilot had crashed onto the runway, and the entire craft had exploded right before her very eyes.
Even at this very moment she could remember in vivid detail all the smells and sounds from that day. She remembered that sickly smell, which had been a combination of burnt chemicals and human flesh, but nothing stood out to her more than the helpless cries and screams of a young boy, who was fighting the servicemen all the way just so he could get close to the crash site; close to what was left of his brother. Her father had even been one of the men trying to hold him back and talk some sense into him.

Lynne even recalled those exact words her father had said to the boy then as he gravely looked into his lost eyes: “Your brother was a brave man, and that is what he’ll always be remembered for. He gave his life to try and help the rest of us. Now you have to be strong for him and do your best to honor his life, son. What’s your name?”

“Brian,” the young boy answered bitterly, turning his head away.

The admiral smiled, and then introduced Brian to his daughter, who was close to his age at the time.

“Brian, I’d like you meet my daughter Lynne.” The admiral introduced a shy red haired girl, who gave a friendly wave in return.

“Hi,” young Lynne smiled sweetly.

“She’s going to help you through this, all right? And we’ll even plan a special memorial for your brother too. His loss is one that affects us all and we won’t forget him.”

“I want his dog-tags,” young Brian sniffled, rubbing his red puffy eyes. “I don’t care if they’re burned up. I want them!”

Lynne recalled how her father had knelt down before this young boy, gently took him by the hand and said, “They’re yours. We’ll make sure of that.”

Now as the memory faded once again, Lynne wiped the tears from her own eyes as she thought about the possibility of the Brian the little Tjatey girl was talking about being the same one Lynne met from six years ago. It couldn’t be the same one, could it? And if so why did I forget about him. How could I?

Then it suddenly dawned on her why the death of that test pilot had devastated her father so much at the time, it was because of Brian’s pain. It had obviously affected him deeply, and enough to cause him to want to leave with a small crew on the old Tjatey mother-ship and never return.

That’s why you pushed us all away, wasn’t it? She thought then, feeling a bit choked up inside herself. It’s why you wanted to leave, to escape that pain. Now I understand, father. Because that pain is all I’ve felt since that last Tjatey uprising. I had to see it on all the faces of those you left me behind to lead. Your pain has become my pain, and my burden. But unlike you I can’t escape it.

Her expression closed up, and she promptly dropped the file back into the cabinet and slammed the door shut; trying to erase it from her memory if she could.

“You all need to return to your homes at once!” William suddenly announced with urgency, as he approached a small gathering of the former warriors, who were standing around outside the academy building.

They all appeared to be taking a break from their daily duties, especially since quite a few of them were smoking cigarettes and conversing about their day. Why they’d even still been allowed to go about their daily tasks with the lockdown in place was something William found rather odd, especially now that their safety was in jeopardy.

But the moment they had heard him, they whirled in his direction, looking beyond confused from what he could see. Apparently they either weren’t aware they were being wrongfully blamed, or they just didn’t think it was such a serious matter. Either way, William knew he was going to have to give it to them straight, and hope they would listen to him.

“All the guards on the base have been given shoot-to-kill orders for your kind, and now the rest of the soldiers are being armed. You need to return to your homes and lock your doors. There is no other way, the people are seeing red.”

Fear and panic filled their faces as they listened.

“But we haven’t killed anyone,” one of the former warriors frowned. “Why are they after us?”

William sighed. “Because they’ve already convinced themselves you’re responsible for those deaths. I’m looking for Rehema, have any of you seen her, or can you possibly take me to where she lives?”

“Rehema is my sister, I can take you to her,” answered a tall female with long reddish-pink hair and eyes so dark they were almost black. “My name is Aella,” the female introduced herself, while the cigarette hung from the corner of her mouth. “I understand there has been two deaths. Do they suspect my sister had anything to do with it?”

There was nothing but pain and regret in William’s eyes as he looked back at her. “Yes, they do, which is why I need to talk to her.” Then, he turned his attention on the rest of the concerned faces staring back at him. “I don’t know how else I can convince you all of just how serious this is, but I am doing this because Ammon came to me in a vision the other day.”

In utter shock, their eyes now widened, some practically full of tears.

“He asked me to help guide you down a better path, and that’s what I intend to do if I can,” William explained to them all, hoping they would believe him after he’d mentioned the part about his vision. They must have at least found that to be true. “But I can only help you if you listen, otherwise it’s out of my hands.”

“Why?” Another one of them; a tall male with auburn colored shoulder length hair and reddish-brown eyes, gave William a harsh stare. “Do we not have the right to fight back and defend ourselves?”

William solemnly shook his head. “We need to prevent any fights from occurring at all. Ammon doesn’t want to see another war. If you won’t listen to me then at the very least you should listen to him.”

The former warriors exchanged concerned looks with one another, and then looked back at William.

“Fine, we shall do as he asks,” that same warrior replied, stamping out his cigarette, and then taking off towards the bungalows. Not long after, several others followed behind, grudgingly throwing icy stares over their shoulders. Aella stayed behind, and then motioned for William to follow her.

“Come, I will take you to my sister,” she said, walking ahead of him.

“Listen, I know things have been hectic around here.” William stated as he followed behind her. “But I just want you all to know that I’m going to do my best to help you down a better path.”

“We want your people to trust us again,” she replied. “My sister and I stayed out of Naeem’s war. A lot more of us stayed on the sidelines. But still we are all punished for what the others have done. I never understood that.”

Hearing this only made William realize just how bad things actually were. “I’m sorry,” he apologized, knowing there was absolutely nothing he could say to make the situation better. “All you can really do is continue showing your loyalty and the rest will follow. A lot of the people aren’t convinced you’ve changed your ways for good. So many are still hung up on the past I’m afraid.”

She frowned and tossed her cigarette butt on the ground. “We keep waiting for change but it never comes. Just like the prophecy we all used to believe in.”

“You mean the one where I was supposed to take Ammon’s place?” He asked.

She nodded. “We stopped believing, now we hold onto nothing because we have nothing.”

Yet, William didn’t agree with her on that in the least.

“You still have something even if you don’t all see it,” he said then. “You have each other, you have your own community, or dare I even say tribe.”

“But without a leader,” she interjected. “With no one to lead us we are lost.”

William could only shake his head at her, yet he was finally beginning to understand why they wanted a leader so badly; it’s because they didn’t know what else to do with themselves. They needed somebody else to tell them what to do and how to think. It was actually pretty sad now that he thought about it.

“Look, Ella—" He started

“Aella,” she firmly corrected him.

“Sorry,” he replied sheepishly. “Aella, you and your people are more than capable of taking care of things on your own. You might believe you need a leader but you guys really don’t. You just need to find your sense of community. I saw you all back there gathered together for your break. And you know what it reminded me of? It reminded me of humanity, because humans do the same and you and them are not all that different.”

“But your humans also have a leader,” she felt the need to point out.

William’s expression hardened. “They have a leader, yes. But he isn’t a good one. Maybe if you and your people only knew what takes place outside of these fences, then maybe you’d understand.”

“What is it then?” She asked, just as they were coming up on one particular bungalow near the far end of the housing unit.

“Not everyone follows that man,” William replied, in reference to Morane. “The only ones that follow him are those stupid enough to believe in his lies, much like Naeem. They are one the same, Aella. That’s what you need to understand.”

She suddenly stopped in front of the door of the egg-shell colored bungalow, and began knocking.

William braced himself for whatever kind of reaction Rehema was about to have upon seeing him outside her residence. And then as soon as the door opened, Rehema gasped with surprise at the sight of her sister and quickly hugged her.

“Aella, it’s so good to see you,” Rehema smiled as little Safiya stood by her side looking up.

“Your daughter is growing more each day,” Aella said, reaching out and patting the girl’s head.

And then Rehema noticed William and her smile vanished as though it had never existed in the first place. “What are you doing here?”

“We need to talk.” William wasted no time in getting right to it.

Now the look on her face seemed to say it all. She knew she was a suspect.

“Come in,” she offered, along with her sister.

The moment William had walked inside her residence he wasn’t sure if he was permitted to sit on her sofa or if she preferred he just stand there.

“You can sit.” She then gestured with her hand over at the sofa, where Safiya was already seated and smiling at him.

William and Aella took a seat, and Safiya immediately hopped up on William’s lap, causing Aella to smile and chuckle softly.

“She seems to like you a lot.” Aella pointed out.

“All right, what is it you need to tell me?” Rehema interrupted them both, crossing her arms as she stared back at him.

Safiya was already snuggling up against his chest, attempting to fall asleep in his arms. A look of sorrow filled his face as he now looked back up at Rehema, knowing what he was about to say would only make things worse.

“The humans are out for blood,” he explained, watching as Rehema immediately tensed up, clenching both fists at her sides.

“I had nothing to do with those deaths,” she shook her head at him. “You have to tell them.”

He closed his eyes and sighed deep, feeling only a small glimmer of peace as he held the sleeping child in his arms. It made him long for a child of his own someday, with or without Victoria as his partner.

“I don’t think they will listen,” he answered bleakly. “A lot of them still haven’t gotten over what happened before, and they probably see this as their chance to have their revenge.”

Aella closed her eyes and sighed. When she opened them back up she noticed Rehema had tears in hers.

“We have to make them listen then!” Rehema argued, clearly rattled inside. “Do they know the truth about Abasi? That he did not want to join Naeem back then?”

William shook his head. “You think that will matter? They’re seeing red, Rehema. They’re arming themselves, and I hate to say it but I fear that someone is going to be killed.”

Rehema shook her head frantically. “No! No more of our people are going to fall, not to the humans, not to anyone!”

Hearing her mother’s frightful shouting, Safiya suddenly opened her eyes and looked at her. “What’s wrong?”

“Safiya, go to your room!” Rehema now demanded.

“Why?” The girl asked.

“Just go!” Her mother ordered madly.

William then tapped Safiya on the arm and said quietly, “It’s all right. Your mother will be fine, just do as she asks.”

Safiya nodded at him, and then climbed down off his lap and took off for her room. The moment Rehema heard her door close, she whirled on William, mad as can be.

“This is all your fault!” She shouted accusingly.

A look of utter shock filled his face. He couldn’t believe she was putting the entire blame on him. He had nothing to do with what was happening now. Aella even looked stunned by her sister’s reaction as well.

“R-Rehema, you’re not thinking clearly,” William stammered as he raised his hands. “I had nothing to do with this either, if anything I’m just delivering the message. I’m trying to warn you of what’s to come.”

“You should be stopping it!” Rehema threw back, clenching her raised fists and glaring at him as though she would attack at a moment’s notice.

“What exactly can I do?” William argued desperately, feeling his heart beating like crazy in his chest. He was definitely tense in his seat.

“Fight them!” Rehema shouted, sounding and looking madder by the minute. William was already beginning to worry she’d lost her mind completely now.

William’s eyes widened with shock at such a request. Aella looked equally just as stunned, and was even trying her best to calm her sister.

“Sister, this is not the way,” she stressed. “It is not his fault, and you cannot ask him to fight his own people.”

We are his people!” Rehema shouted furiously.

“He’s only part of us,” Aella corrected her. “They are his people too.”

William then stood, his hands raised high as he dared to approach Rehema in that moment, knowing he was possibly endangering himself with this move, but he was at a loss of what else to do.

“Rehema, what we need to do is cooperate with them,” he explained, softening his voice in attempt to calm her down. “If you show them any signs of violence or resistance, they’re going to believe you did it. Acting in such a way only makes you appear guilty to them.”

Aella nodded in agreement. “What he says is right, dear sister. You cannot react this way, it only makes us look bad in their eyes and gives them every reason to kill us out of fear. We lost enough of our people too. It would be best to prevent more bloodshed from both sides.”

Rehema tensed up as William attempted to get close to her, and curtly turned away from both of them.

“Sister, please! I do not want to see you or any others killed. Just do as William says.”

“And I don’t want to see Safiya without her mother,” William added, nodding at Aella before looking back at Rehema. “Now that you know what to expect, you shouldn’t be surprised if Commander Williams and a few guards show up outside your door wanting to bring you in for questioning. They’ll most likely apprehend you, so don’t fight them and don’t resist. Go along with everything they say, and in the meantime your sister and I will do our best to prove your innocence. You can do this, Rehema. This is what Ammon wants for you too.”

Hearing Ammon’s name suddenly plunged Rehema into utter despair. Tears glistened in her eyes and she hung her head.

“At one time I was to be his partner,” she stated with remorse while she gazed up at the starry universe from out her window. “We shared something special—or so I thought.”

“You were in love with him, I get it,” William acknowledged. “I’m sorry it didn’t work out between you both, but he is still watching over you and wants what’s best for you and the rest of his people. You need to honor him in this way.”

She let out a heavy sigh as she turned around to face them both then, still looking saddened and hopeless as her arms hung limply at her sides; a sign that she was no longer a threat.

“I’ll do it for Ammon if that’s what it takes,” she confessed, wiping the tears from her eyes. William could tell she wasn’t too fond of crying at all. It actually reminded him of Lynne in a lot of ways.

He nodded at her. “You’re making the right choice for yourself. I want you to know that.”

“I hope you are right,” she replied, giving him a questioning look.

“So, let me get your story straight here.” Morane furrowed his brows as he stared incredulously at this strange woman who had come to him for help. “That female bank robber told you that she was there to kill you under my order? Is that correct?”

The woman nodded, and then looked down at her hands while she anxiously tugged on her right index finger. “She also told me she was robbing my bank on your behalf as well.”

“Oh really?” Morane remarked dryly, wondering just who this mysterious bank robber was, although it seemed as if some of the puzzle pieces were slowly coming together. “And you believed this woman?”

“I did, Sir.” The woman replied, feeling more embarrassed with each passing minute. She couldn’t imagine what the man of the city was thinking of her now.

“Well obviously none of that was true, because let me just say, that if I wanted to rob money from the banks I own, I wouldn’t even have to send somebody to do it for me. Hell, I would just have to make a single phone call and demand that the bank be shut down and all its funds transferred to my personal account. Now we know that woman didn’t kill you, otherwise you wouldn’t even be here right now,” Morane pointed out. “She didn’t even have the guts to kill you, did she?”

The woman shook her head.

“And yet, she still insists on blaming me for all of it, which tells me this: she’s got a grudge against me and is probably trying to do whatever she can in her power to make me out to be the asshole. Did you get a look at her face?”

“No, Sir, she wouldn’t allow me to see her face,” the woman answered.

“How about her voice? You obviously heard that, didn’t you?”

“I heard it yes, and at times it sounded like she was trying her best to disguise it by deepening it.”

Suddenly the gears inside his head were beginning to turn. “Was the voice kinda raspy sounding?”

“It was, yes, especially when she got emotional with me. Then it sounded a bit hoarse.”

“Emotional huh?” He scoffed as he took a sip from his wine glass.

“She kept telling me how she was sorry but she was desperate for money, and that it was crucial that I go into hiding so you wouldn’t find out that she spared my life.”

The pieces of the puzzle were already beginning to fit together in Morane’s mind, and now he knew exactly who this mystery robber was, and was already planning his next move against her. Somehow, all of this made the wine in his glass taste that much sweeter.

“Do you know her?” The woman suddenly asked once she realized Morane had become quiet. She couldn’t tell he was simply savoring his drink.

“I believe I do,” he smirked rather menacingly after setting his glass back down and dabbing the corners of his mouth with a napkin. “And my dear, you get the honor of helping me catch her too.”

The woman’s eyes went wide with fear. “I-I do?”

“Yes, M’am, you certainly do,” he replied, eying her with suspicion. “You’re not afraid of her, are you? Cause I can tell you this: you have no reason to be. As long as you’re in my presence you’re the safest you could possibly be.”

She nodded at him in response, but his words did nothing to bring her any sense of comfort. Despite her current predicament, she knew exactly the kind of man Morane was, which is what caused her to clutch tightly at the cross around her neck. She knew she was in the presence of a very evil man.

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
2 months 4 weeks ago #29505

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I've been wanting to do one of these for a while now and finally got around to finishing it.

Lawful good: Lynne Williams, neutral good: Brian Smith, chaotic good: Enrique Alveras

Lawful neutral: Justin Church, true neutral: William Sterling, chaotic neutral: Victoria Thompson

Lawful evil: Stan Winston, neutral evil: Maxwell Graham, chaotic evil: Julius Morane

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
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Replied by LadyGrimes on topic Atlantech: The Early Days (an ongoing prequel)

More like finishing a webcomic I started nearly two years ago but ended up putting on hiatus after the loss of my husband. It took me half a year to even touch my art or writing and even then I was just using it because I was desperate for an escape from my damn grief.

But then the second time I ended up taking another hiatus was after a drug raid happened right over my damn head. I had no idea what was going on up there till the morning it took place and some guy was arrested. The other people who were living up there with him were evicted but refused to leave, even better the activity started up again not even a week after the raid, and now I knew and heard people coming in and out of there day and night, I was paranoid as shit because I was afraid of one of their customers trying to break into my home when I was either asleep or distracted with my earphones in working on something.

I just didn't feel safe for a while after that even AFTER they were forcefully removed by police. I don't own any guns all I got with me are my husband's swords to defend myself with. but now that I've got normal people living up there again I finally feel secure enough to where I can actually get back to work on the web comic. It's just a mini story that takes place in between the two written parts, so I have nothing big planned.

I also don't play the diversity or forced LGBT game therefore my series would probably be written off as right wing BS and I'm not here for that. I'm sticking to independent publishing because I want full control over everything. Not because I'm a control freak but because I don't want to see the one thing I have left in my life butchered to shit for some political agenda. Not trying to sound all ranty I just took some adderall my best friend/sister gave me to see if would help with my energy levels so I can get shit done.

I've only got mini comics planned but if there's any particular thing you would like to see MEMO then feel free to throw out some suggestions.

Thank you @AB for my adorable new avatar! <3
2 months 1 day ago #29538

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