FACT: Identified incidents of child sexual abuse are declining, although there is no clear indication of a cause. • The number of identified incidents of child sexual abuse decreased at least 47% from 1993 to 2005-2006.3,4 FACT: Even with declining rates of sexual abuse, the public is not fully aware of the magnitude of the problem. Tweet Share 0 Reddit Pocket LinkedIn 0 Email Marna attended counselling to try to do “something” with her memories of child abuse that currently seem to be affecting her life. She attended twelve appointments over a six-month period. In this scenario, the professional counsellor uses an eclectic approach incorporating Humanistic, Psychodynamic, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and […] Little is known about how the dynamics of sexual abuse and disclosure are discussed in criminal court. We examined how attorneys ask child witnesses in sexual abuse cases (N = 72, 6 –16 years of age) about their prior conversations, both with suspects and with disclosure recipients.Prosecutors’ questions were more open-ended than defense attorneys, but most questions asked by either ... The sexual activities may include all forms of oral-genital, genital, or anal contact by or to the child, or nontouching abuses, such as exhibitionism, voyeurism, or using the child in the production of pornography. 1 Sexual abuse includes a spectrum of activities ranging from rape to physically less intrusive sexual abuse. Hammer’s attorney argued before the trial court that the jury should hear this evidence of prior false abuse allegations because (1) it was relevant to the alleged victim’s truthfulness, (2) it was permissible under the Confrontation Clause, and (3) it would show the girl’s motive of falsely accusing her father because he was trying to ... Sexual abuse cases have torn through institutions such as The Pennsylvania State University in recent years, and the state of Delaware is grappling with what is being called the most heinous case of sexual exploitation in healthcare in history. A pediatrician is serving 14 life sentences plus 164 years, and the hospital is facing multiple lawsuits, including a class action lawsuit that could ... Intense scrutiny is being devoted these days to Pope Benedict XVI's history on the sex abuse crisis. Revelations from Germany have put his five years as a diocesan bishop under a spotlight, and a ... Investigative Procedures in Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse Part III: Indictment and Trial John C. Wideman * ABSTRACT: In the first two parts of this series, we discussed the basic investigative procedures to use in approaching cases of child sexual abuse. ... there will rarely be physical evidence of the abuse except in those cases where ... The role of disclosure in framing the issue of child sexual abuse . Research shows that many children do not disclose sexual abuse immediately after the abuse occurs. In fact, many children do not disclose the abuse for years, if they disclose at all. Many adult survivors of child sexual abuse have never disclosed their abuse to anyone. There are many ways to report child sexual abuse including child abuse hotlines. Reporting child sexual abuse, though, often starts with the act of disclosure on the part of the child and this disclosure must be handled carefully in order to facilitate the effective reporting of child sexual abuse.
2020.09.26 06:09 AdequateSizeAttache Hidden camera office doctors
(Continued from Part 1)
The Experts: Who are these people and what are their qualifications? Here is some background information on the consulted child sexual abuse experts who testified to JonBenet's prior abuse:
Andrew P. Sirotnak, MD, FAAP*
Dr. Sirotnak graduated with a MD from Thomas Jefferson University in 1989 and completed his residency in the Child Abuse Pediatrics program. From 1992-1994 he was the Pediatrics Chief Resident and Fellow in Child Abuse Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
At the time of his involvement in the Ramsey case, he was the Director of the Child Protection Team at Children's Hospital Colorado and a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, positions which he still holds today.
His work and research has been published in: Child Abuse & Neglect, Child Maltreatment, Journal of Pediatric Surgery, Pediatric Clinics of North America, Clinical Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Pediatric Surgery International, Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, and The Journal of Pediatrics. He co-authored a chapter on child sexual abuse in the textbook Berman's Pediatric Decision Making (5th ed.) and is one of the editors of the textbook Child Abuse: Medical Diagnosis and Management (4th ed.) which was released in 2019.
Dr. James Monteleone became an outspoken advocate for abused children, after seeing his first case of child abuse during his residency at Cardinal Glennon in 1962. He was a founding member of one of the nation’s first child abuse management committees and the first sexual abuse management committee, both formed at Cardinal Glennon shortly after the medical community recognized child abuse as battered baby syndrome....
In his years of practice, Dr. Monteleone witnessed more than 7,000 cases of child abuse.
In 1989, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services honored Dr. Monteleone with the Commissioner’s Award for Outstanding Leadership and Service in the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. He was the author of Recognition of Child Abuse for the Mandated Reporter and A Parent’s and Teacher’s Handbook on Identifying and Preventing Child Abuse, among other work on the subject.Dr. Monteleone died on February 10, 2020 at the age of 87.
My office treated JonBenet Ramsey from March, 1993 through December, 1996. Throughout this period, there has been absolutely no evidence of abuse of any kind.In an interview with Paula Woodward, when asked if he thought JonBenet was sexually abused, he stated:
I do not think she was sexually abused. I am convinced she wasn't sexually abused. [source]Note that he does not deny that she was sexually abused, because he cannot deny it. As he did not suspect any abuse, Dr. Beuf did not evaluate JonBenet for sexual abuse nor conduct a genital examination for sexual abuse. It's not something he ever clinically assessed or ruled out, therefore, he can say only that he did not see evidence or signs of abuse or that he doesn't believe she was abused. That is not the same as stating the medical opinion that she was not abused.
[On the question of whether the autopsy findings indicated chronic abuse] "Arapahoe County Coroner Dr. Michael Doberson says you would need more information before you could come to any conclusion.This is not a dissenting opinion. Dr. Dobersen is declining to give an opinion.
From what is noted in the autopsy report, there is no evidence of injury to the anus, there is no evidence of injury to the skin around the vagina, the labia. There is no indication of healed scars in any of those areas. There is no other indication from the autopsy report at all that there is any other previous injuries that have healed in that area.Note that this comment refers only to two specific areas: the anus and the skin around the vagina (the labia). Either Dr. Henry has been misinformed about what the experts actually said about JonBenet's genital injuries, or this is a deliberate straw man. The evidence of prior abuse has nothing to do with the anus or the skin around the vagina (the labia). It is misleading for the documentary to present this information as if it were relevant to the evidence of prior abuse.
The exam reveals no evidence of healing, or prior injuries. No evidence of scarring. No evidence of other changes or findings which forensic pathologists look to to indicate prior sexual abuse.1) Dr. Kelly is correct that the autopsy report contains no information about indications of healed scars or previous healed injuries. However, that doesn't mean there were none present. Interpreting such details was outside the scope of the coroner's abilities; it would have been inappropriate for him to comment on it in the autopsy report. Per standard protocol when a coroner is uncertain about a finding, experts were later consulted to make an assessment. Much of the prior abuse evidence was documented and established outside of the autopsy report. It is misleading for the documentary to conflate the autopsy report with the "evidence on prior sexual abuse."
Much has been made about a few lines of information where the pathologist describes some chronic inflammation. Some have extrapolated that to mean 'well, we've got chronic injury, therefore we've got chronic sexual abuse.' In fact, that's not what those few words of text mean. Vaginitis, which is a very nonspecific term for inflammation, is very common in children and can be due to things as simple as irritation from soap or poor wiping. So common to the point that it's essentially a normal finding. And to extrapolate someone else's guilt as far as inflicting sexual abuse, that's not based in science.
The FBI believed that JonBenet's vaginal trauma was not consistent with a history of sexual abuse, and they had turned up no evidence of any other type of abuse. The sexual violation of JonBenet, whether pre or postmortem did not appear to have been committed for the perpetrators gratification. The penetration, which caused minor genital trauma, was more likely part of a staged crime scene intended to mislead the police.This is the opinion of FBI criminal profilers, not medical experts. It is an assessment based on behavior and elements of the crime and crime scene, not genital findings.
[Perfect Murder, Perfect Town, Lawrence Schiller, p. 305]
No evidence, however, suggests that she was the victim of chronic sexual abuse. (SMF P 50; PSMF P 50.)This is not a medical opinion. It is a claim taken from a document called Defendants Statement of Undisputed Material Facts which was prepared by the Ramseys' defense attorneys in the 2003 civil case Wolf v Ramsey.
All other opinions — by those who haven't seen the genital findings and/or lack expertise in child sexual abuse evaluations and pediatric anogenital anatomy— are just noise.
- The identification and interpretation of medical and laboratory findings in children with possible sexual abuse require an evaluation by a health care provider who has a high level of knowledge, clinical expertise, and familiarity with the research studies describing findings in nonabused and abused children.
[Joyce A. Adams, MD. Medical Response to Child Sexual Abuse: A Resource for Clinicians and Other Professionals, p. 117]
- Medical providers who examine children for suspected sexual abuse must be well trained, knowledgeable, and comfortable performing a specialized genital examination. They must be astute at diagnosing findings related to abuse and findings that only mimic abuse.
[T]he majority of medical providers remain inadequately trained to examine children for sexual abuse...Many examiners are unfamiliar with prepubertal genital anatomy and the range of anatomic findings that can be considered normal. An untrained or undertrained medical provider should not provide an expert opinion in a case of child sexual abuse.
[Suzanne P. Starling, MD, FAAP. Medical Response to Child Sexual Abuse: A Resource for Clinicians and Other Professionals, pp.259-261]
Although we have made tremendous progress over the past fifteen years, sexual abuse continues to present a unique challenge to the medical professional. Making the diagnosis requires that clinicians first come to terms with their own inner rejection of the fundamental concept that adults use children for sexual gratification.Sexual abuse being a discomforting taboo topic is a problem that child abuse experts have been trying to correct for a long time. Another problem is the tendency for people (including physicians and healthcare providers) to hold assumptions or biases about what victims of sexual abuse are like, and what what perpetrators of child sexual abuse are like.
[Astrid Heger, MD. Evaluation of the Sexually Abused Child: A Medical Textbook and Photographic Atlas, p. 2]
Pediatricians receive the most training on abuse related topics, but they are still undertrained.Several studies have demonstrated a shortfall in physicians' and pediatric residents' knowledge about sexual abuse and ability to label basic parts of prepubertal genital anatomy.
[Suzanne P. Starling, MD, FAAP. Medical Response to Child Sexual Abuse: A Resource for Clinicians and Other Professionals, p. 263]
Diagnostic acumen in child abuse can be a reflection of the decade during which a physician trained. Child sexual abuse research did not become prevalent until the late 1980s. Physicians trained during or before that time who have not had updated training may be basing their knowledge on obsolete and incorrect information.Some comments made by Dr. Beuf in interviews lead me to question if his training and knowledge in the areas of child sexual abuse evaluations and genital anatomy were sufficient.
[Suzanne P. Starling, MD, FAAP. Medical Response to Child Sexual Abuse: A Resource for Clinicians and Other Professionals, p. 260]
DIANE SAWYER: If there had been an abrasion involving the hymen, you would have seen it?To me, this response betrays an unfamiliarity with the standards and protocols of sexual abuse evaluations and genital anatomy.
Dr. FRANCESCO BEUF: Probably. I can't say absolutely for sure because you don't do a speculum exam on a child that young at least unless it's under anesthesia.
The anogenital examination in cases of suspected sexual abuse of the prepubertal child is principally an external visualization by varying techniques of separation, traction and positioning. It does not require anal or vaginal palpation or the use of specula.Second, the hymen is at the entrance of the vaginal orifice and can be easily visualized without instruments. The purpose of the speculum is to see past the hymen at the vaginal walls and cervix, not at the hymen — the use of a speculum would not only impede the view of the hymen it will damage the hymen. Anyone with a basic understanding of prepubertal female genital anatomy and knowledge of how genital examinations are done would find the notion of a speculum being needed to examine the hymen absurd.
[B. Herrmann, F. Navratil, Sexual Abuse in Prepubertal Children and Adolescents, p. 8]
Moreover, it is common for children, who are regularly cared for by their pediatrician, to be involved in incest for many years without their physician knowing. Incest makes pediatricians and everyone else very uncomfortable.[C. Henry Kempe, MD. Sexual Abuse, Another Hidden Pediatric Problem: The 1977 C. Anderson Aldrich Lecture]
Those are physical facts. Identified by the nation's leading expert on pediatric genital anatomy. Those are the injuries. Though Jonbenet cannot speak, her injuries can testify on her behalf. No amount of smoke and mirrors from you will erase those injuries. Thank God. You cannot silence this child.
2020.09.26 06:09 AdequateSizeAttache Hidden camera doctors office
[This post has been split into two parts because of selfpost character limits.]
Introduction It surprises me how often I see discussions involving speculation on whether JonBenet's UTIs, vaginitis, bedwetting, and history of frequent doctor visits indicate sexual abuse or not. These discussions invariably include people chiming in to share how they or someone they know had similar issues but were never abused. From these discussions, one could get the impression that itchy pageant costumes or Mr. Bubble useage are perfectly reasonable explanations for the evidence of sexual abuse.
The fact is, there's no need to speculate based on these things. There is physical evidence of prior sexual abuse. This is the evidence that should be at the forefront of discussions on the question of sexual abuse, not bubble baths or bedwetting. Issues such as vaginitis, UTIs, and bedwetting are not specific to sexual abuse; there are other possible explanations for them. There is no other possible explanation for the physical evidence besides trauma from physical penetration.
In reading discussions on the case over the years, it's always puzzled me how often the evidence of prior sexual abuse gets downplayed or dismissed. In considering why, I believe it is due primarily to these two common misconceptions:
Common Misconception 1 (as demonstrated above): The evidence of sexual abuse = vaginal irritation, UTIs, rashes, bedwetting, soiling, frequent doctor visits
Common Misconception 2: There is a medical debate on the issue and there's evidence to support both sides
Common Misconception 1 is a straw man argument — the actual evidence (the physical findings) is not being addressed or refuted.
Common Misconception 2 is an argument from false equivalence. An equal, rather than accurate, amount of weight is given to both sides of the issue. People see the mountain of conflicting information and contradicting opinions and think "It looks like expert opinion on this issue is divided; I guess a case can be made for either side." The enormous difference in expertise and experience between the various experts is ignored, as is the level of access they had to the evidence. This misconception gives the impression that all these expert opinions cancel each other out, rendering the issue debatable and open to interpretation. Consequently, the probative value of the evidence is undermined, making it easier for people to feel they can dismiss.
I think several factors have contributed to these two misconceptions:
"It is my understanding that this (vaginal inflammation) is not uncommon among children of that age," Korten said.Child abuse experts were asked to join the fray with their own reactions. In a February 20 article, the Daily Camera reported this quote from Dr. Joan Slook, pediatrician with the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston:
"Poor hygiene can cause chronic inflammation," Slook said. "Some little girls don't wash themselves properly." Improper wiping or washing in the vaginal area can introduce bacteria and produce inflammation, she said.In all this media commentary and premature speculation based on incomplete information, chronic inflammation became conflated with evidence of sexual abuse. Even after the full autopsy report was released and information about the evidence of prior abuse came out, Ramsey defense campaign representatives continued to respond to questions about prior sexual abuse with explanations involving poor wiping, bedwetting, and bubble baths. These sneaky answers did the trick — it convinced people who didn't know otherwise that the evidence was something it wasn't.
"Some little girls can have asymptomatic bladder infections that can cause irritation in the vagina," Slook said. "Chronic inflammation is a pretty non-specific thing to say," she said, adding that epithelial erosion also is vague.
Boulder Police would later ask several child sexual abuse experts to review the autopsy findings* in order to help them determine if there was evidence of prior sexual abuse. In addition to Andrew Sirotnak, these are the experts whom we know were consulted:
- Dr. Meyer also observed signs of chronic inflammation around the vaginal orifice and believed that these injuries had been inflicted in the days or weeks before the acute injury that was responsible for causing the bleeding at the time of her death. This irritation appeared consistent with prior sexual contact.
[Foreign Faction: Who Really Kidnapped JonBenet?, A. James Kolar, p. 58]
- Following the meeting, Dr. Meyer returned to the morgue with Dr. Andy Sirontak, Chief of Denver Children's Hospital Child Protection Team, so that a second opinion could be rendered on the injuries observed to the vaginal area of JonBenet. He would observe the same injuries that Dr. Meyer had noted during the autopsy protocol and concurred that a foreign object had been inserted into the opening of JonBenet's vaginal orifice and was responsible for the acute injury witnessed at the 7:00 o'clock position. Further inspection revealed that the hymen was shriveled and retracted, a sign that JonBenet had been subjected to some type of sexual contact prior to the date of her death. Dr. Sirontak could not provide an opinion as to how old those injuries were or how many times JonBenet may have been assaulted and would defer to the expert opinions of other medical examiners.
[Kolar, p. 61]
- Dr. Meyer was concerned about JonBenet's vaginal injuries, and he, along with Boulder investigators, sought the opinions of a variety of other physicians in the days following her autopsy. Dr. Sirontak, a pediatrician with Denver Children's Hospital, had recognized signs of prior sexual trauma but neither he nor Dr. Meyer were able to say with any degree of certainty what period of time may have been involved in the abuse.
[Kolar, p. 63]
In mid-September, a panel of pediatric experts from around the country reached one of the major conclusions of the investigation - that JonBenet had suffered vaginal trauma prior to the day she was killed.The experts expected to testify in court had the case gone to trial. As we know, there was no criminal trial, but we know the experts were called to testify before the grand jury.
There were no dissenting opinions among them on the issue, and they firmly rejected any possibility that the trauma to the hymen and chronic vaginal inflammation were caused by urination issues or masturbation. We gathered affidavits stating in clear language that there were injuries "consistent with prior trauma and sexual abuse"...."There was chronic abuse"..."Past violation of the vagina"...."Evidence of both acute injury and chronic sexual abuse." In other words, the doctors were saying it had happened before.
The results, however, were not what is known in the legal world as "conclusive" - which means that there can be no other interpretation - and I would fully expect defense lawyers to argue something different. Nevertheless, our highly qualified doctors had brought in a remarkable finding.
[JonBenet: Inside the Ramsey Murder Investigation, Steve Thomas & Don Davis, p. 253]
|1||Chronic inflammation around vaginal orifice||FF|
|2||Small amount of dried blood on perineum||AR|
|3||Small amount of dried and semifluid blood on skin of fourchette and in vestibule||AR|
|4||Hyperemia of vestibule and vaginal wall||AR|
|5||Abrasion on hymenal orifice at 7 o'clock position, involving the hymen and vaginal wall||AR|
|6||Epithelial erosion with underlying capillary congestion of tissue from 7'oclock||AR|
|7||Hymenal orifice measuring 1cm x 1cm||AR|
|8||A lack of hymenal tissue between the 10 and 2 o'clock positions||AR|
|9||Vascular congestion and focal interstitial chronic inflammation of vaginal mucosa||AR|
|10||Bruise on hymen||BP|
|11||Three dimensional thickening from inside to outside of inferior hymenal rim||BP|
|12||Narrowing of inferior hymenal rim to base of hymen||BP|
|13||Exposure of vaginal rugae||BP|
There was a three dimensional thickening from inside to outside on the inferior hymeneal rim with a bruise apparent on the external surface of the hymen and a narrowing of the hymeneal rim from the edge of the hymen to where it attaches to the muscular portion of the vaginal openings. At the narrowing area, there appeared to be very little if any hymen present.To understand what this means, take a look at the white line segment labeled "Hymenal width" in this colposcopic photo (warning: image of vagina/hymen). It demarcates the length of the hymenal membrane from the rim/edge to the base where it attaches to the vaginal wall.
These findings are highly suggestive of abuse, even in the absence of a disclosure from the child, unless the child and/or caretaker provides a timely and plausible description of accidental anogenital straddle, crush or impalement injury, or past surgical interventions that are confirmed from review of medical records.Among those findings that are "highly suggestive of abuse" includes point 37, listed in the subsection titled "Residual (healing) injuries to genital/anal tissues" under section E:
Healed hymenal transection/complete hymen cleft, a defect in the hymen below the 3-9 o'clock location that extends to or through the base of the hymen, with no hymenal tissue discernible at that locationThis is precisely what Dr. McCann described having observed in JonBenet.
If any doctor or medical provider today observed a transection on the inferior half of the hymen of a prepubertal female patient, he/she would be required to make a report for suspected sexual abuse and an explanation would be required for how that healed injury got there. In forty years of research, this finding has not been seen in any other instance besides from penetrating trauma. In prepubertal girls, it is indicative of sexual abuse unless it can be shown otherwise.
- Multiple studies have noted the presence of hymenal transections only in prepubertal girls with a history of disclosed sexual abuse.
[ Sara T. Stewart, MD. Hymenal Characteristics in Girls with and without a History of Sexual Abuse, p. 533]
- Hymenal transections are very rarely seen in prepubertal girls who have not been sexually abused. However, a demonstrated transection, based on multiple studies, is commonly viewed as “a clear but uncommon indicator of past trauma.”
[Mishori, R., Ferdowsian, H., Naimer, K. et al. The little tissue that couldn’t – dispelling myths about the Hymen’s role in determining sexual history and assault.]
- Thus a deep notch, transection, or perforation on the inferior portion of the hymen may be considered as a definitive sign of sexual abuse or other trauma.
[Berenson, et al. A case-control study of anatomic changes resulting from sexual abuse, p. 829]
- A transection of the posterior hymen between 4 and 8 o’clock in prepubertal girls suggests genital penetrating trauma; however, the presence of this finding is not confirmatory of sexual abuse. Posterior hymenal findings including transections between 4 and 8 o’clock, deep notches, and perforations were not seen in studies of prepubertal girls without a history of genital trauma from sexual abuse included in this systematic review. Therefore, one can conclude that the posterior hymenal findings of transections, deep notches, and perforations are extremely infrequent findings among children without a history of genital trauma from sexual abuse or other means. [...]
However, because the prevalence of posterior hymenal findings (between 4 and 8 o’clock) such as transections, deep notches, and perforations are near zero in nonabused prepubertal girls, the presence of these examination findings suggests genital trauma from sexual abuse. In the absence of known genital trauma from accidental means, the possibility for sexual abuse must be strongly considered. In a prepubertal girl with a posterior hymenal finding of a transection (between 4 and 8 o’clock), a deep notch (between 4 and 8 o’clock), or a perforation, a report to child protective services should be strongly considered. At a minimum, an examination by a child abuse specialist should occur to confirm these findings and to help provide a careful interpretation regarding the likelihood of sexual abuse.
[Molly Curtin Berkoff, MD, MPH; Adam J. Zolotor, MD, MPH; Kathi L. Makoroff, MD; et al. Has This Prepubertal Girl Been Sexually Abused?, p. 2790]
Of 161 accidental genital injuries reported in the literature, 3.7% involved the hymen.However, they do occur and the resulting injuries can mimic those of sexual abuse. In such cases, it is important that the cause of the injury be confirmed.
[Child Abuse: Medical Diagnosis and Management, 4th ed. Antoinette Laskey and Andrew Sirotnak (eds.), p. 359]
Whether an acute or healed genital or anal injury is identified, it is incumbent on the medical professional to obtain a complete history of the nature of the injury. [...]If JonBenet's prior hymenal injury was the result of an accident or a past surgical procedure, it should be reflected in her medical records and easy to prove. An accidental penetrating injury that results in a complete laceration of the hymen is considered severe, one that would be painful and cause bleeding. It would be expected that most parents or caretakers would seek medical attention for their child's injury.
Key differences in the history of accidental trauma, such as a straddle injury, are that accidental injuries are more commonly observed by a third party, medical attention is sought immediately after the injury, a scene-of-injury visit confirms the plausibility of the injuries and the accompanying history, and the pattern of injury is consistent with the history.
[Child Abuse: Medical Diagnosis and Management, 4th ed. Antoinette Laskey and Andrew Sirotnak (eds.), p. 359]
2020.09.24 01:57 Coco-P Burning Stars, Falling Skies - Chapter 17 - Making History
Previous Chapter - At The Threshold| First | Next Chapter - Reclamation
I have a discord!
There are audio/youtube versions of some chapters now!
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“I don’t want to keep lying for your Threedak,” Dormah hissed at her as she packed her diagnostic equipment into its carrying satchel. “Your daughters have clearly noticed that something is amiss, and now they’re turning to me. I won’t speak to them without your permission, but they deserve to know.”
“Dormah,” Threedak chuckled as she stood up from her couch. “I think you’re the only Dhajtel to refer to me by my name in over a decade. It’s always Mother, Grandmother or Empress. I do have to say that your impertinence is refreshing, the bowing and scraping grows old after a while.”
“Maybe I’ll start deferring to you when you actually take your health seriously,” Dormah snorted, snapping the latches on the satchel shut before slinging it over her shoulder. “This isn’t a game we’re playing here. Your daughters have the right to know.”
“They’ll just worry,” Threedak answered with a sigh. “There’s already just so much going on between the Maxist insurrection and the invader outpost. If I tell them they’d just fret over me rather than focus on the starvok at the empire’s door. I will not let some minor pains of the flesh become a distraction from our purpose and destiny.”
“Threedak,” Dormah put a grasper on her shoulder as she tried to step by the doctor. “They do worry. Bekai has been asking me more and more pointed questions about your health since yesterday, and Dahlass even brought something up. You know they’re almost out of their minds if Dahlass is mentioning it.”
Threedak stopped. The grasper on her shoulder weighed heavily on her. Thoughts swirled through her head. The past fifty or so years had been like walking a tightrope through a hurricane. Kahtash, Bekai, Dahlass, and in her own way Pinrakt provided her with the support she needed to keep their fledgling society on course, even during the darkest of times. It didn’t seem fair to dump more worries into their graspers now, when the empire faced its greatest test. But, Dormah was right. Her daughters worried and it wasn’t fair for her to keep them in the dark.
“How much longer do I have?” She asked the doctor quietly, turning her head slightly so that Dormah’s muzzle filled her view.
“It’s hard to say,” Dormah sighed. “It’s metastasized and spread through the entirety of your lungs. You’ve probably noticed an increased difficulty with breathing. That’s only going to get worse until-”
The communicator around Threedak’s neck chirped, interrupting Dormah. Frowning, she picked the small metal box up in a grasper and checked the sender.
“We have to go Dormah,” Threedak opened the door to her quarters. “Kahtash’s fleet is nearing the enemy outpost and she wants to speak to me before battle.”
She moved to exit the room but stopped. Turning to face Dormah once more, she continued. “I’ll call the girls to me and tell them once Kahtash comes back from the battle. Don’t worry about me old friend. I’ve survived too many years for this body to give out on me now. There’s still a bit of fight left in me yet.”
Dormah simply stood in her chambers, her muzzle set into a line and shaking her head as Threedak departed. Threedak sighed. They’d been over this argument so many times it made her head spin. She could stretch her life out further if she retired from public duty. Relaxed and sought treatment.
But that wouldn’t be her. Threedak’s life was one of motion. Every move had two planned after it as she pulled her race kicking and screaming toward its destiny. Dormah wanted her to retire, but to Threedak that would be just as much of a death as the one that awaited her if she kept working.
She cleared her face of the worries and indecision that dogged her just before entering Meridian Station’s command center. Bekai and Pinrakt were already waiting for her, standing next to the holographic display. Dahlass was still on Dhaj, reorganizing in the aftermath of the raid on the Maxist compound. She would participate via her own communication hub.
The entire battle and all of their reactions would be recorded for posterity. Pinrakt’s editors would be splicing it together into a vid drama for the masses. Part history and part propaganda, the vids would be the empire’s official response to the Maxist claims regarding the invaders. True, some of the fringe Dhajtel might think that the vid was doctored, but without an organized response from the Maxist propaganda wing, their numbers would be limited.
“Mother,” Bekai inclined her head to Threedak as she approached the holographic display. “We’ve received a signal from Kahtash’s communication officer. They’re ready to put you on fleetwide on ten seconds notice. Right now the fleet is just waiting for your address.”
“Very well,” Threedak replied, stepping in front of the cameras that would broadcast a three dimensional image of herself to the battlefleet and governmental offices all across the empire.
“This is Meridian Station,” Bekai said after pressing the transmit button. “Empress Threedak will begin transmitting in ten seconds.”
She stood as tall as her slight stature would let her on four legs and tried to ignore the bustle of the Dhajtel operating equipment behind her. She didn’t often speak to all of her people. Rather, she had become an almost mythological figure working behind the scenes to ensure the empire’s growth and success. Even if she was unpracticed as a public speaker, the memories of Jon Reaves and Franklin Mitchell were there to guide her. Her eyelids closed for a second as she mentally leaned on both of them, absorbing their thoughts and advice.
Then the light next to the camera turned green and Threedak’s eyes snapped open.
“Women of the Navy,” Threedak squared herself toward the camera, trying to look as formal as possible. “My name is Threedak and you may know me as the Empress of the Dhajtel. Others amongst you know me as their mother, grandmother or great grandmother. Whatever our relation, I am speaking to you from a place of immense gratitude.”
“As you know, everything we have created on Dhaj is transitory,” she continued, a grasper waving at the planet beneath her feet. “Our race’s legacy has always been the stars themselves. Any civilization tied to just one planet could disappear in the nictation of a membrane. Only by expanding our empire to multiple worlds can we give our daughters room to grow and the security they will need to join us.”
“Even before we touched the stars we knew that the Dhajtel were not alone,” Threedak’s voice lowered as her neck pouches swelled, the instinctive response of a Dhajtel responding to a challenge. “The galaxy is a vast and dangerous place. From Humanity we have inherited knowledge and purpose, a birthright like no other. We have also inherited their enemies. The invaders.”
“Everything we have built is in their shadows,” her voice vibrated as the pouches thrummed. “From the first day we smelted iron and fashioned it into a crude blade, we knew that the invaders were that blade’s eventual goal. We assumed we would have centuries. Our world is so far from Earth that we would have time to expand the empire and build up our forces before we encountered the invaders.”
“We were wrong,” Threedak’s voice quieted. Her eyes glistened with unshed moisture. “I never bothered to ask where the invader fleet that shot down the arks went. I never even thought that it still might be in the system, licking its wounds. Captain Laksheer due to that oversight. Sacrificed herself so that tens of thousands of your sisters and daughters might escape to Dhaj and live.”
“We were wrong,” her voice swelled, a bass thrum that almost rattled the equipment in the command center. “But we were not unprepared. Even before we expanded our solar colonies, we built up the navy to expel just such a threat.”
“Today,” her breath began to burn in her throat from the prolonged speech but Threedak continued regardless. “I envy all of you. You are taking up my mantle to avenge Captain Laksheer and protect our race. The enemy is vicious and well armed. Not all of you will survive the coming conflict, but the rest will return victorious with blood wetting your teeth and a song in your hearts.”
“Marshal Kahtash,” Threedak fought with her entire being to avoid coughing as the air burned and rasped through her lungs like sandpaper. “Though the stars may burn and the sky may fall, you will lead my daughters to victory. I would tell you to make me proud, but you already have. All of you have. Commence the operation, you have command.”
With a chop of Threedak’s grasper, Bekai pressed the button that terminated the transmission. Immediately, Threedak doubled over coughing, her entire torso shaking as her lungs spasmed in agony. Pinrakt stepped forward, extending her grasper toward Threedak only for Threedak to shoo her away.
“There will be time to talk of this when Kahtash returns,” Threedak ground out, furtively checking the grasper that had been over her mouth for blood. This time, there was none. “For now, edit my weakness out of the stream. To the people, I am a symbol. They can’t hear any word of this.”
The room swam around Threedak as she struggled to pull enough air into her aching lungs. If Dormah were nearby and they weren’t in public, the doctor could provide her with a facemask pumping pure cool oxygen to soothe her ravaged pulmonary system. Today, that wasn’t an option. The people needed their symbol standing tall and strong as they triumphed over their hated foes. For the moment, infirmity wasn’t an option.
After the delay enforce on their communications by light speed transmission, Kahtash’s image appeared on the holographic display, most of her body hidden behind the environmental suit designed to keep her alive in the event of sudden depressurization. Through the suit’s facemask, Threedak could see the resolve in her daughter’s face, highlighted by her dark orange markings. She slammed her armored forearm to the chest of her suit in clattering salute.
“The Empress has given her order,” Kahtash replied, steel in her voice. “Turn on active sensors so we can see what we’re dealing with. It’s time to pay back the invaders that butchered Captain Laksheer in kind. We might have been unable to collect her body for her daughters, but we WILL end this threat to our people today and we will do it in memory of her sacrifice.”
Beyond Kahtash, the bridge erupted into cheers. A far cry from the uneasy silence filling the command center as most of the staff looked at her worriedly. Threedak refused to let their worry trouble her. Kahtash was on the cusp of history, in a mere hour or so she would be the first being, Dhajtel or Human to defeat the invaders. Admittedly, the fleets the humans encountered dwarfed the handful of run down torchships Kahtash would be facing today. Still, even a lopsided win would be good for morale.
The data from the active sensor ping came back, and Threedak let out a sigh of relief. There were only five invader torchships around the moon. The only information the active sensors added to their scouting report was the moderate industrialization of the moon. Small craft periodically flew to and from the planetoid, likely carrying goods and materials. They were building something.
Threedak frowned. Whatever the invaders were building, it wasn’t done yet. The constant flow of cargo ships told her that. What worried her was the amount of time the invaders had to build whatever it was. She didn’t know when this particular moon was colonized, but the invaders had likely been in system since Ashley Koenig’s shuttle crashed into the great desert. That was a long time to build something that wasn’t yet working.
On screen, the great green oval representing the two kilometer bulk of the Empress Threedak surged forward surrounded by the six green triangles of her torchship companions. The time for indecision and worrying was over. If the invaders had built something capable of tipping the balance on the moon, Kahtash would find out shortly. For now, there was nothing to do but wait as the great warships burned toward the enemy base.
- - - - - -
Previous Chapter - At The Threshold| First | Next Chapter - Reclamation
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2020.09.17 04:29 MidnightPaper Hidden camera doctors office
It’s gone. The first Midnight Paper, which arrived last Friday, has somehow vanished. I put it in a drawer in my dad's study and now it’s gone. Either someone broke in and stole it or it…I don’t know. It sounds ridiculous but then again this whole thing is. Maybe it disappeared on its own.
After last time, I wanted to be prepared. Tonight, I set a chair by the front door and waited anxiously since 11 o’clock. Every time a car drove by, every time a leaf crunched on the asphalt outside, I rushed to the peephole. Nothing.
The minutes dragged, time seemed to stretch. I’ve felt this feeling before, when I ordered something I really wanted online, and I knew it was delivery day.
But this was different. Something about this paper is just…wrong. If anyone else has gotten one, you’d know. It feels like looking at something you’re not meant to be seeing. Like it somehow slipped through the cracks, past all the rigid laws of ordinary life, and made its way to you. Holding one in your hand feels like you’re touching a physical manifestation of a mistake. I imagine this is what it feels like when you touch something radioactive as if every second that it’s in your presence it’s somehow warping the very fabric of your life.
11:55. It’s close. My heart’s beating fast, the anticipation coursing through me like a drug. I stood in front of the peephole, not wanting to miss a second.
I was looking at my front porch. The street outside was dark, and the front steps were illuminated only by the light above the doorway. I’d placed the welcome mat a little further away, so I could see it clearly through the peephole.
And that’s when it happened. The light above the doorway starred to flicker slowly, then faster and faster. Suddenly, it shut off completely. The entire porch was smothered in darkness, the only light coming from the streetlights outside. Somehow, the shadows around my doorstep were darker than the rest, as if swallowing every last hint of light.
Then the light turned on again. Through the peephole, I could see that my front porch looked normal. The bulb above the doorway shone steadily as if nothing had happened.
I rushed, my fingers slamming against the lock, and pulled the front door open. The front porch was empty. The street was empty. One second passed. Two. The normal sounds of the world around me started to seep back in.
I looked down at the welcome mat and it was there, a bundle of black paper, wrapped tightly with black twine.
I hesitated for a moment before grabbing it. Should I bring it inside? Should I read it out here? Should I read it at all?
Then I grabbed it anyway. I had read one. That threshold had already been crossed.
I took the paper into my dad’s study and set it down on his desk. The knife from the kitchen was already there. All the pieces were in place. All I had to do was read it.
I grabbed the knife, cut the twine, and watched the paper unfurl itself like a strange flower.
Immediately, the white words jumped out at me, and I started reading. There were a few pages this time, including the front cover, but still only one story.
This is what was printed on those black pages:
THE REMOVAL DOCTOR: POLICE WARN OF DANGEROUS INDIVIDUAL
After a spate of reports of a so-called “Removal Doctor,” local police urge residents to stay away from strangers who approach them in public places and to avoid abandoned buildings of any kind.
It started a few months ago. The first report appeared on an online forum for reporting interactions with strange individuals. And this one certainly fit the bill.
The anonymous user stated that she was walking across a public park just before closing time when a man approached her and introduced himself as “the Removal Doctor.” The woman wrote that, at the time, the man seemed “professional,” “reliable,” and had a “strange persuasiveness” about him.
The man gave the woman a card and walked off. She has since lost it, but according to her, the card simply had an address printed on either side.
The next day, the woman decided to check the address out. She inputted it into a map application and arrived…only to discover that the building had long since been abandoned.
Undeterred, she found an open door and walked in. The rest is internet history.
Inside the building, the woman was greeted by what looked like a state-of-the-art clinic. The floors were epoxy and spotless. The walls were painted white, and there were tarps set up to cover any broken windows. There were even fluorescent lights hanging from the ceiling.
This was a far cry from the “kill room” the woman had imagined upon finding the abandoned location…but now her mind was wandering more toward an underground organ trafficking ring. She was half right.
The woman reports that she found the door to a clinic in the back of the building. She knocked and was welcomed inside.
What was awaiting her was a consultation office straight out of a high-end hospital. There were doors to several rooms, one she could see was labeled as containing a CAT scan machine, another was labeled as a dental office.
In the center of the room was a desk, and behind that desk was the same man she had met in the public park. The woman was unable to describe him clearly in her post, only stating that the man was wearing a lab coat and that his face was hidden behind a surgical mask.
The man wasted no time getting down to business. He introduced himself again as “the Removal Doctor,” and explained to her that he was in the business of “removing things” from the human body. “Anything you can think of,” he said.
The woman was clearly unconvinced (and somewhat alarmed), but the man assured her that it was a voluntary procedure and one that had the potential to be life-saving.
The “doctor” proceeded to ask the woman to “name one thing about herself” that she was unhappy with. “A memory, a body part, an inconvenient habit.” Anything. “Even a tumor or a fatal condition such as cancer or a clogged artery.”
Online, the woman admits that she wasn’t “in her right mind.” She was, after all, ignoring a million red flags that are staples of a dozen alleged accounts. Accounts that have transcended culture, time, and location, to become old-wives tales everyone has grown up with. Like waking up in a bathtub filled with ice only to discover that your kidneys have been stolen, for example.
Luckily, this wouldn’t be the case for this woman. Nor has it been the case for anyone who has encountered this strange man. There was no bathtub filled with ice, at least.
The woman decided against asking to have anything physical removed, perhaps fearing that there were other parties listening in who were ready to act on her words right away. She did, however, state that she wouldn’t mind parting with her “crippling procrastination.’
The “doctor” nodded, as if he were expecting this answer, then explained to her that this was “an exchange.” He would take something she didn’t want about herself, but he could pick anything of her’s that he wanted in return. The woman was hesitant but ultimately agreed, allowing the man to lead her to a private examination room.
The woman claims that, a few hours later, she woke up in the same building…but everything around her was different. The floor was filthy concrete, the walls were covered in chipped paint, and there were no examination rooms or medical equipment of any kind.
She stated that she immediately chastised herself mentally, for falling for a trick a child could see through. After quickly checking herself for stitches or wounds, she was unable to find any mark on her skin. “Not even a bruise,” she wrote.
It was only a few days later that she realized that something actually had happened in that building. She’s a writer, and she was unable to start working before hours upon hours of watching YouTube videos and playing mobile games. But now, she could sit and get to work immediately. It really did seem like the Removal Doctor had “surgically removed” her procrastination. She was elated…but only at first.
Soon, she realized that something was wrong. First, it happened when she was in a video chat with her sister and her newborn. Then, it happened when her girlfriend arrived at their apartment. Finally, she confirmed her fears in front of their bathroom mirror…no matter how hard she tried, or for how long, she was unable to smile.
Dozens of doctor’s appointments later, the cause is still unknown. “Some of them have said that it may be a mild facial paralysis caused by stress. But I know better,” the woman wrote.
She’s convinced it was the Removal Doctor. “I hate him,” she wrote in her post, “everyone used to say I had the nicest smile. Now it’s gone.”
But, why take her smile? The woman described her last moments of consciousness. Just as the Removal Doctor administered an IV filled with anesthetic, she spotted a room off to one side. The door was half-open, and she could see a gurney with a blanket over it. It was obvious that, given the size and the shape of what was underneath it, that it was a person. But the shape was wrong.
“Parts were missing,” she wrote, “the shape was off. But it had a head and two legs.” There were jars along the far wall…jars with all manner of body parts.
There are nights, the woman wrote, where she dreams she’s back in that strange clinic. Nights where she’s convinced she remembers part of what happened when she was under. She spots grotesque and bizarre surgical tools through blurry eyes, hears the doctor muttering to himself. Hears him say that something, or someone, is “almost complete.”
Other stories about the Removal Doctor’s “patients” have surfaced. One man who claimed to have asked the Doctor to remove his addiction to cigarettes had his tongue removed as well. Another man who asked to have his fear of heights removed had his ability to drive taken. A man with a brain tumor asked for it to be removed, only to wake up without one of his legs. A woman asked for her depression to be removed, and lost one of her eyes in the process…
One of the accounts spreading the rumor even claimed that a missing person who was found without his head was one of the Doctor’s victims. Still, when asked what, if anything, this person may have asked to have removed, this anonymous poster couldn’t say. “Whatever it was, it had to be huge. Maybe something that he and a large group of people shared, like a fear or a financial condition.” Speculation abounds in most of these reports, but this headless corpse shares something in common with all other alleged reports.
In all cases, there were no stitches, no wounds, no scars of any kind. Whatever the Doctor took, it was as if it had never existed. This fact has baffled both law enforcement and medical professionals looking into these reports.
This publication would like to remind you of the police department’s request. If a man approaches you with a business card and introduces himself as “the Removal Doctor,” remove yourself from the situation immediately and call 911 when at a safe distance to report your sighting. Do not, under any circumstances, go to the address on the card. Do not, under any circumstances, ask for something to be removed from your body or your personality…you will lose something in return.
I put the paper down, confusion growing through my brain like a strange kind of infection. I could feel my heart beating faster again. I knew something was wrong, not just because of what was written on the pages or how the paper was delivered.
A few internet searches later and I found out I was right. There were no reports online of a “Removal Doctor,” or a “Ledge Game” either. So why were the articles mentioning their presence on the internet and the media? Was the writer of these articles just making these reports up? I still down know, but doesn’t feel like it. The stories don’t “feel” fake. They feel real. Like they’re happening close by.
I decided to take a few photos of the paper with my phone and soon realized that this wasn’t an easy process. It was like there was something on the page that reacted badly with the camera lens. I tried taking a photo with the flash on and off, but it made no difference. The picture was ruined either way.
I’ve linked the photo along with this new article. I hope it serves as a way to both prove my story and also to document each paper if they also go missing. You can find it here if you’d like to see it: https://imgur.com/a/v0XSDTt
If what my dad said was true, I’ve made a grave mistake. “Never read one,” he told me once. I asked him why, but he wouldn’t say. He just changed the subject or blurted out “just don’t” or “because.” Eventually, I thought he was just trying to scare me, and forgot all about it. Now I wish I had asked him more about the Midnight Paper. About why I should never read it, about whether or not I should even touch it or bring it inside.
All I know is that my dad said the paper arrived on Wednesdays and Fridays at our home. So there’ll be another one coming Friday night. It seems like it’s too soon. Too overwhelming. But I’m going to keep going, to keep documenting it. And next time, I want to try to have the door open when the shadow shows up once again.
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2020.09.17 01:41 TheEggplantEconomist Hidden camera doctors office
Joel struggled to find the right words.
He’d written so much so often lately that it had become difficult not to describe his thoughts but to piece together sentences that differentiated them from one another.
“Incompetent,” he typed, then paused.
No, scratch that, he thought. Delete, delete, delete.
“Negligent,” came out through the flurry of clicks.
Too easy to rebut, he thought.
“Malignant and diseased,” he typed as a sneer crossed his face and tears spilled over his lip and into his mouth.
He’d found the perfect words with the perfect weight.
He hit the enter key and felt a wave of exhilaration that made his face flush.
Just two months and more than a hundred thousand words ago, Joel decided he’d had enough of his mother, his boss and what felt like a million others walking across his back each day. Any man with an ounce of pride would never have taken the abuse so long, which meant there was no reason to take it a day longer, Joel thought as he stared at his paunchy reflection in a mirror spotted with flecks of toothpaste.
“I will build my own empire. Today,” he whispered through gritted teeth then wiped away the evidence of his sobbing and put in eye drops hoping to avoid tipping off his mother that he’d been crying again.
But the groundbreaking had to wait. Eight or nine hours, at least. Mr. Figginbottom promised Joel he’d be fired if he called out again and Joel was sure the octogenarian wasn’t lying this time. His boss’s 50-something nephew had recently moved back to town, surely after being kicked out of his own mother’s house after yet another failed stint at a rehab, and Mr. Figginbottom was looking for any excuse to give away Joel’s gig. And while no man ever became rich selling pool supplies for a man who couldn’t even become rich owning a small chain of pool supply stores, Joel needed at least one more paycheck to cover his own startup expenses.
The windfall came sooner than expected, though. Joel had barely clocked in when the phone at the front desk rang. INTERNAL, it said.
“Checkout, this is Joel,” he answered.
“Joel, this is Figs. Can you come back and see Linda in my office?”
“It’s a little busy up here, actually. There’s a woman who was asking Roger for help with chlorine tablets and as soon as she asked, two more people walked in …”
“Joel, I want to make clear that I wasn’t asking a question, I was giving an order,” the man on the line said.
A long silence took hold before Mr. Figginbottom tired of waiting.
“Joel, I said …”
“Yessir, be right back,” Joel said and slammed down the receiver.
Joel was surprised to see Mr. Figginbottom in the office.
“I thought Linda was supposed to be here,” Joel said from the doorway, still holding the knob.
“She’s right there,” Mr. Figginbottom said, pointing to a blonde woman holding a clipboard sitting on the small sofa hidden behind the door.
“Hi, Joel,” she said warmly as she leaned into view.
“Son, sit down,” Mr. Figginbottom said.
Joel had no idea what this could be about but he wondered if it wasn’t his opportunity to preemptively quit. To tell Mr. Figginbottom this was the worst job he had ever had working for the biggest idiot he had ever met who owned the worst company in the world.
“Joel, we saw the tape,” Mr. Figginbottom said. “I’ll be honest, I’m half tempted to beat you myself first but Linda here says that’s not going to look good for my insurance rates, so I’m just going to tell you to get out of here right now.”
Joel was stuck on the part about the tape when he realized there was more to process.
“Joel, actually, there are some papers we have to go over,” Linda said as she began pulling some documents from beneath the clipboard’s hinge. Mr. Figginbottom cocked his head, a little perturbed the office manager’s politeness had sucked the vinegar out of the rant he was building up to.
“Wait, what tape?” Joel asked.
Mr. Figginbottom looked at Linda, who turned back to Joel and opened her mouth to speak before being cut off.
“Joel, there’s a security camera in the back of the building,” Mr. Figginbottom said as he leaned across the desk, face reddening as the position pulled his shirt taught and made the rolls of fat hang out over his collar more than usual. “We started getting complaints from the closer that someone was blowing mud behind the dumpster. We looked at the camera, and by God, if that wasn’t you, Joel.”
That much was true. Joel had always hated going to the bathroom at work. Or rather, he hated going to the bathroom in the bathroom at work. It was a single-stall, unisex bathroom the employees shared with customers. It was usually clean enough — Joel often had to take care of that himself — but it was a cacophonous tile room that sent reverberations of even the gentlest tinkle throughout the store. There was a smaller but better-insulated facility in the back room but that was reserved solely for Mr. Figginbottom, who had “the I.B. syndrome,” as he’d often say unburdened with the shame Joel carried for such talk. The way Joel saw it, he had no other choice but to go behind the dumpster.
“Son, are you even listening?” Mr. Figginbottom asked as he pulled a handkerchief from the pocket of his plaid western shirt and wiped the beading sweat off his bald head.
Mr. Figginbottom leaned back in the chair again and swallowed hard, covering his mouth.
“I’m nauseous right now thinking about that video, you …”
“Fig,” Linda interrupted, “we talked about the paperwork for Joel? Remember the paperwork?”
The rest was a bit of a blur. Crying now for the second time in an hour, Joel nodded along as Linda told him about how he could sign up for COBRA Health Insurance and how he’d have 10 days to return all three of his work shirts, properly washed and pressed, please.
“And you’ve accrued 32 vacation hours that we’ll be paying you out for today along with the rest of your scheduled hours for this week,” Linda said as she handed him a check in exchange for the clipboard full of documents he’d been signing.
It was 9:25 a.m. Monday and Joel held $388 in his hands. The tears started to dry as he realized this was his seed money. Mr. Figginbottom had inadvertently become an angel investor.
Thirty minutes later, Joel was a new man. He paid his mother $300 for two months’ rent in advance and he was a free man for the next 60 days. Nothing could get in the way of his empire now.
First, though, Joel needed to get something off his chest. He pulled out his laptop and signed in to a Facebook account under the name Colby Stimpson, a chiseled man with perfect hair whose stock photos Joel stole for an account he used to stalk all the girls he knew a decade ago high school who wouldn’t accept a friend request from his real account.
“If I could give Fig’s Pools no stars, I would,” Joel typed into the review field as Colby Stimpson. “It is run by a fat and old man who loves having power over everyone for no reason other than he has the IB syndrome … aka DIHARREA! He also loves his employee Linda so much he has sex with her at work without his wife. I suggest you try a different pool company that cares for its customers because this is a no star place with an owner who could drop dead and anyone could care less!”
Joel slept as well as he had in months that night and awoke at 2 p.m. thanks to the blackout curtains he bought the afternoon before. It was an investment in himself, he thought as he watched his newfound nest egg dip to about $50.
He rolled over and picked up his phone to open /hentai but saw a stack of text message alerts on his lock screen, all from Roger at the pool store.
“Can’t believe it. So crazy!” the latest message read. “I guess it happened last night when he got home,” another read as the story unraveled in reverse as Joel scrolled to the top of the text chain.
“Figs is DEAD!” the first message said.
“LOL,” Joel replied, following up with a laughing emoji.
The next few days were a mix of emotions for Joel. He had intended to spend them building an empire of some kind — maybe an app company or a place that sold graphic novels and adult novelties, he thought — but instead found himself watching anime and wondering whether it was right to feel so vindicated by Mr. Figginbottom’s death. Confused by his own emotions, he left the house for the first time since being fired and walked the two blocks to the Stop-N-Shop.
He filled up the handbasket with a dozen Little Debbie snack cakes and as many Rockstar energy drinks before throwing a one-pound back of pretzels on top of it all.
“Forty-six eighty-eight,” the man at the counter said after scanning it all.
It seemed like a lot of money for groceries but it was enough to let Joel avoid leaving the house again for a least three or four days.
The card reader let out a flat honk. “Declined,” the man behind the counter said.
“Let me try it again,” Joel said.
“Do you have another way to pay?” the man asked Joel.
“No, but there’s at least $50 in the account,” he said.
“It’s declined. Do you have cash?”
“No, but there’s money in there.”
“Then you’ll have to go to the bank to get your cash out,” the man said, pulling the handbasket across the counter to his side.
“If there was negative stars this place would get them all,” Colby Stimpson’s review read. “They won’t do business with their best shoppers and it means they will LOOSE THEM ALL! Bad customer service = never shopping there again because of the experience. Totally negligent and discrimination from the clarks with no respect. I wouldn’t give a rip if this place burned down tomorrow. Shop at a better place who cares about customers such as Murphy’s.”
Joel’s hunger strike didn’t last long. He woke up the next morning with an empty stomach and a headache so bad he winced. He needed sugar and caffeine. He put on his Crocs, pulled $5 in quarters from the old coffee tin his mother used to collect coins and started his trek to the Stop-N-Shop. He had barely turned the first corner when he saw the black smoke rising from the other side of the strip mall. He picked up his pace excited at the prospect of seeing something burning down and turned the last corner wheezing from the brisk walk to find a few beams and a row of gas pumps covered in ash where the Stop-N-Shop was a day earlier.
The fire must have started hours ago because only one fire truck remained and its sirens weren’t even on. How the sound didn’t wake him up just two blocks away was a mystery but the store caught fire sometime during the night and there was nothing but rubble left.
Joel was dismayed by his first thought. “I’ll have to walk another six blocks to the next store.”
His second thought put him in a better mood: “I did this.”
Joel spent the rest of the afternoon pacing his room taking mental note of everyone and every company that had ever wronged him, no matter how minor a slight.
“I wish there were zero stars instead of one star but it’s thanks to everyone gets a trophy in this society,” read Colby Stimpson’s screed on the Old Navy Facebook page. “The employees at this particular location are very judgemental and have no interest in finding what is the truth from lying customers. They have a changing room that is just a curtain and if you are man and are shopping there and have to try on clothes you can’t knock on a curtain. And when you open it and there’s a girl in there the employees at this location will say the cops are coming even though you followed all their own rules. I hope they all get laid off for being INCOMPETENT!”
Joel stayed up for hours on end posting in an almost fugue state. Long-forgotten memories came flooding back.
A Hormel Chili can that had some kind of root vegetable in it. “Can you say health codes? What is going on in that factory?”
A grocery store that was always out of his favorite pasta sauce. “Disappointing to say the least. This store needs to be shut down ASTAT!”
A Target whose manager once refused to let him return a package of briefs that were too small. “This store is a scam! How would you even know if they fit if you can’t try them on but then you can’t return them once you put them on? The BBB needs to investigate this illegitimate business.”
In the weeks that followed came a reign of terror. Inspectors shut down canneries for unsanitary conditions. Shopping malls closed, taking out all of their tenants at once. Stock prices dropped and stores were closed after bad earnings calls.
From his fingertips to God’s ears.
As time went on, Joel realized it was easier than he first realized. He hardly had to mention a slight or even why he was offering a one-star rating. Just posting an inane comment in the reviews was enough to cause some damage.
“This hammer looks weak and dumb. One star crap,” Colby Stimpson’s review read. A week later, a pallet of ball-peen hammers crushed a warehouse worker at an Amazon fulfillment center 1,200 miles away.
The allure of this new power kept Joel so occupied that he rarely left his room. He barely had time to eat between screeds and he had lost almost 20 pounds in a month. He had only seen his mother twice in that time, so he hadn’t noticed she, too, was quickly losing weight until she collapsed in the shower.
Joel’s fingers tapped on his knees, as much a nervous tick as a habit now as he sat next to his mother’s hospital bed. There were machines and tubes keeping her stable but the doctor warned him they were a temporary fix at best. Days, maybe hours, were all she had left.
Joel awoke the next morning to a nurse sitting next to him in the waiting room her a hand on his arm.
“Are you Mr. J. Porter? Annie’s son?” she asked as Joel sat up and nodded. “I’m sorry, sir, but your mother has passed.”
Joel spent the next two hours walking home to clear his mind and subconsciously avoiding his destination by taking the long way through a park. He sat at a picnic table for a moment and felt the tears cut chilly trails down his face in the crisp fall air. Phone in hand, he opened Facebook and searched for the hospital’s page.
“I wish I could surgically remove stars from the ratings because the doctors and employees here are MALIGNANT AND DISEASED and all their tools look more like they are from 1819 not 2019,” read Colby Stimpson’s review. “This place is so filthy I would not be surprised if they cause a new plague.”
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2020.09.11 18:24 Brent-Miller [Powerless] - Chapter 12
First Chapter---Previous Chapter---Next Chapter
Medical professionals are baffled by a one-of-a-kind genetic disorder presented in a rural Oklahoma town. A child born last night stunned the staff by emanating light from his body. Eyewitnesses claim the infant cried when the lights were extinguished before glowing on his own and illuminating the room. The doctors have taken bloodwork and are running tests, but so far, the child seems otherwise normal. While information is limited, theorists have taken to the Internet to pitch their own ideas. Some refer to this child as “superhuman” while others believe this to be evidence of the United States government hiding extraterrestrial activity. We’ll keep you updated with the latest as the results for testing come in. – Jonathan Simmons, 0 Anno Imperi Ortu
Pulling the hood of my jacket over my head, I prepare for my next adventure. A single flickering light illuminates a section of my base, where I have set up a few sheets I managed to scrounge out of a dumpster. I’m grateful the construction workers have already completed the wiring of the basement because it grants me that light, but the exposed wires around me don’t give me much confidence.
I shuffle through my stash beside my bed. I have a few non-perishables and some leftovers from the garbage, but I’m not confident they’re edible. I hate stealing, but people don’t discard enough food for me to survive on the scraps.
I pull the cord on the hood, tightening it around my face. Turning away, I find my way to the stairs. Slowly, muting each step, I ascend into daylight. Having lost concept of time, I don’t know if it has been days or hours since I’ve seen the sun. Either way, it burns my eyes, so I offer myself shade with my hand.
I duck under a girder and walk through an unfinished wall. Glancing around the street to make sure it’s empty, I emerge from the relative safety of my hideout and try to avoid arousing suspicion. Keeping my head low, I wander through the city.
I miss the taste of cereal in the morning. I miss my mother’s smile. Right now, I’d even take one filled with pity. I miss Ashley and my dad. I miss Rhett. I need human interaction.
Shaking my head, I force my thoughts of self-pity away. I can’t be concerned about anything so trivial. My primary objective while I’m out is procuring food. Some sort of reading material would be nice as well, but I don’t think I can get into a library without arousing suspicion.
Someone approaches me from down the street, so I duck into an alleyway and hide behind a dumpster. Squatting down, I wait for the stranger to pass before I peek my head out and scan the area for more activity. Satisfied with the lack of motion, I continue on my way.
I know it’s unwise, but I can’t help but head toward my house. Carefully choosing the least populated streets, I weave my way through neighborhoods. The green grass and well-managed gardens are a welcome sight. The various colors of the houses seem to reactive the cones in my eyes.
Finally, I reach my street. As usual, there is a Peacekeeper standing outside trying to appear inconspicuous. Even if he weren’t present, I know I couldn’t walk in. There is almost definitely another Peacekeeper concealing themselves, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more inside.
I’ve tried to master the art of echolocation, but I’m still learning. Closing my eyes, I release a small, undetectable telekinetic burst in all directions around me. I wait for each piece of the wave to bounce back toward me. As expected, most of the energy collides with the surrounding buildings. Other pieces collide with the Peacekeeper standing in a black suit outside my house. His partner – invisible as expected – is beside him.
Quietly, I sigh and take one last look at my old home. Mom, Dad, and Ashley are probably in there right now. I wonder if they’re worried about me or if they’ve already given up. I wonder if they believe what they’ve heard.
One more stop before I get food. I have to try the library again. The librarians have proven too quick at emptying the return bin in the past, but I can’t give up. I would take anything – even a children’s book. Anything to give my brain the smallest amount of stimulation.
As I approach, I see a crowd entering the building. The library also has far more cameras than the average street. I can’t get too close, but I can see the return bin. Focusing intently, I picture the air within the bin. In my mind, the air rises, bringing itself to the top of the bin. Glancing down, I see that I’m guiding that motion with my hands. The door of the bin vibrates, but that’s the extent of the movement. Whether its empty or my plan is merely a desperate and nonsensical gambit, I’ll have to wallow in m boredom.
Sighing, I turn away and head toward the market. This is the real reason I came out anyway, so my expedition doesn’t have to be a complete failure. I feel hunger pangs growing more vicious, demanding to be sated.
The market is filled with people, but that’s actually better for me here. I know where the cameras are and which alleys offer shelter from them. I can also blend into the shuffle with relative ease. I slip into the crowd and keep my head down, searching for a vendor with easily accessible food.
Over the cacophony of various voices, I hear static from a television within one of the stores. Separated from me by a glass wall, it flips through channels until it finally lands on the news. I step out of the moving crowd and gaze at the screen.
“Peacekeepers are still searching for the culprit of the terrorist attack on the high school,” the reporter announces. The screen displays an image of the entrance caved in. I watch as Derrick pushes aside rubble and pulls Fillion from the wreckage. Turning on his heels, he runs back into the school building. Suddenly, my picture appears in the bottom left corner. “Class I Powerless Carson Adachi is the perpetrator. Councilman Derrick Levine witnessed the attack, but was unable to pursue the assailant because he was focusing on rescuing survivors.
“Any information on Carson Adachi’s whereabouts should be reported to Peacekeepers immediately. The Council will reward your loyalty.”
I scoff, staring at the screen in disbelief. I know they’ve been running similar stories, but this is the first time I’ve seen this one. They’re hiding most of the facts, of course, but now they’re also spinning it to make Derrick look like a hero. I wish I could convince people they were being lied to, but I know they’ll blindly believe the Council. I need solid evidence, and at the moment all of the evidence which exists is stacked against me. The footage continues and pans out to show me running from the wreckage. It’s completely condemning.
“This individual should be treated as armed and dangerous. Do not approach. Inform the Peacekeepers.”
I wonder how often they’re posting my pictures in the news. It’s going to become even less possible for me to sneak through the city without getting caught. I don’t know how much longer my lifestyle will be able to support me.
Stepping backward, I fall back into the crowd. The news repeats the story as if it’s the only thing worth talking about. I think it might be, actually. Normally, everyone pretends to be so happy. There’s rarely anything interesting to report.
I don’t have many options. I can’t wait for the news to end. It could repeat forever, or at least until everyone has cleared from the market and taken my cover. If I try to escape now, I’ll starve. I have to try to get food and get back to my hideout as soon as possible.
Keeping my head hung low, I approach a stall. Fruit is displayed in front of me in cartons. It’s easily accessible, but I need a distraction. Someone else rushes past me, so I pull a quick burst of air toward me. Clumsily, the passerby bumps into the fruit stand and sends apples tumbling to the ground. The shopkeeper, shouting profanities, shoos the offender away while he apologizes profusely. Sneakily, I slip an apple into each of the pockets of my hoodie before disappearing back into the crowd.
Fruit is great, and it will temporarily calm the raging hunger building within me, but it won’t be enough to keep me alive. I have to find more than two measly apples. I need a source of protein. Surfing the crowd, I find my way to the meats. This is going to be trickier, because I can’t pour the contents over the ground. Not only are they less easily accessible, I also don’t want to destroy a shopkeeper’s livelihood simply to eat.
A glass counter separates me from my prize this time, and I’m not sure how I plan on getting around that. If I could trick the shopkeeper into looking away for a long enough time, I could bring the meat to myself, but that isn’t feasible. Even if he doesn’t notice, someone else is bound to. No, I have to think of something else.
I approach the counter, keeping my eyes focused on the meats and my face out of view of the shopkeeper. Silently, I look over each cut, pretending I wouldn’t be satisfied with any of them. I cross my arms, narrowing my eyes and ducking down as if to get a better look. I’m almost hungry enough to eat this raw.
“Anything catch your interest?” The butcher asks.
“I’m not sure, they look dry,” I shrug.
“Dry?” He laughs. “Each of these are marinated for at least twenty-four hours.”
“That’s all?” I counter.
“You’re free to shop around,” he snaps.
“Fine, fine,” I say. “I’ll take one pound of the brisket.”
“I’ll wrap that up for you,” he says. I catch myself drooling as he places the brisket in paper and folds it closed. Setting it on a scale, he demonstrates his impressive accuracy. I wonder if he’s a Sensor who can feel weight as a scale. It’s quite a useless power in everyday life, but Artisans seem to make use of it.
Another customer approaches the counter while the butcher is distracted. This could be my opportunity. He turns toward us and I avert my gaze, realizing I’ve been ravenously eyeing my dinner.
“One moment, sir,” the butcher says.
“It’s no bother, I can wait,” I wave dismissively.
“I only have the one scale,” he laughs, turning to face me. I panic, realizing that I don’t have a way to obtain the food. That becomes the least of my problems, though, when I see a look of recognition polluting his face. Leaving the scale behind, he walks closer to me and furrows his brow. I look down, but I know he’s seen me.
“Look at me, son,” he orders.
I pull his scale toward me. Carefully, I bring it to the ground. I want to startle him, but I can’t break his scale – especially after he’s just told me it’s his only one. The small crash pulls his attention away and he races to the scale. The packaged meat rolls off the scale and I direct its path, bringing it around the stall. Kneeling down, I grab it and quickly walk off.
“Hey, you didn’t pay for that,” the other customer yells. Why do people have to keep butting into other people’s business? “Stop him, he’s a thief!”
I pick up the pace as the butcher leaves his stall to chase me down. I’m hoping he decides I’m not worth pursuing. He’d have to leave his stand, exposing all of his merchandise to potential thieves.
“Officer! Help!” The butcher yells. “The kid in the red hoodie!”
This isn’t ideal. Commotion fills the air behind me and the patrons of the market fall to the sides, creating space for the Peacekeepers. I break into I run, clutching my food for dear life. I glance over my shoulder and see two enforcement officers gaining on me.
Releasing a burst of energy, I detect an invisible one on the street in front of me. Diverting my path, I turn down an alleyway. I knock down a banner for a stall and a few boxes as I run. I hate harming the innocent, but I need to put obstacles in the path of the Peacekeepers. I can’t guess their powers, but a Runner would quickly bring my day from bad to worse. One of the Peacekeepers rams his shin into the crates, but the other jumps over with ease. I turn down another corner, trying to weave my way through the alleys. I have walked these paths dozens of times specifically for this circumstance. I need to stay calm, I know I can handle this.
“Stop!” The Peacekeeper orders, turning the corner and growing closer to me. With one hand, I clutch the meat tightly, hoping my apples don’t fall from my pockets. Every piece of food I can find matters, especially now that I can’t go back to the market for a few days. I point my open hand behind me, shooting a blast of energy at the Peacekeeper. Like a fist slamming into his gut, the energy knocks him back. Gasping for air, he falls to his knees and clutches his stomach.
“I’m sorry,” I mutter, as if he can hear me. I know it doesn’t make my actions forgivable, but this is what I must do to survive. I hope it won’t always be this way, but for now, I’ll do what I must.
I turn another corner, leaving the gasping Peacekeeper behind me. After a few more turns, I find a large dumpster in an alley with no cameras. I jump into it and close the lid behind me.
The grotesque stench is almost enough to make me lose my appetite, but I’ve gone without food far too long for that to have a lasting effect.
My hoodie has been compromised. I remove it, wrap it around my apples and meat, and tie the sleeves together, creating a sack. Moving all the garbage to one side of the dumpster, I set my belongings in the corner and begin digging through the trash. I find a few cans of expired soup and an old pot, which will let me cook food over a fire without holding it there telekinetically and exhausting myself. I add those to my container and continue my search. Footsteps in the alley draw my attention. I cease all movement and listen as intently as possible.
“He went this way, I know it,” one Peacekeeper asserts. I silently curse myself, wishing I’d run further. My stamina failing me, I had taken the first and easiest respite. I hope that doesn’t come back to haunt me.
“He couldn’t have gone much farther,” the other agrees, running past the dumpster.
“Maybe he’s hiding,” the first surmises. No, they never check the dumpster. Please don’t check the dumpster. The footsteps grow closer and stop just outside my temporary abode. I hear the other draw a gun as the first reaches toward the lid. I clench my jaw, knowing what I have to do. Lying down, I form a ball around my belongings, making myself as small as possible. Then, I pull trash over myself, trying to keep a small bubble around myself to avoid getting too close to the filth.
The Peacekeepers lift the lid, poking at the top layer of trash. I feel the weight of everything I’m holding begin to bear down on me. I see the layer just above me begin to shake. A small notebook is dislodged, sneaking through my grasp, and falls on my head. I bite back a grunt and try to remain perfectly still. My brain aches as if it were physically responsible for holding the weight of the garbage. It seems to grow heavier and my head begins to pound. Finally, the lid closes and the Peacekeepers walk away. I push the trash aside, not leaving myself nearly as much space from it as I’d have liked.
A sleeve pokes out of the mountain of trash, so I grab it and pull it loose. I find a long-sleeve sweater with a hood. It’s pink and full of holes, but it’s better than the one which is now recognizable. I look through the notebook and find a few journal entries in feminine handwriting, but most of the pages are empty. I may not have much material to read, but I can write using one of the pens I’ve found scattered around the construction site. At least it will be something to keep my mind active.
I wait an hour in the unbearable stench until I’m confident the Peacekeepers are long gone. The pounding in my brain settles, which I take as a signal that I’m ready to use my power again. Pushing the lid open, I grab my things and slip on the sweater, pulling the hood over my head. With nightfall aiding me, I navigate through the dark alleys back to the Industrial district. Along the way, I release a few energy pulses. No one is anywhere nearby, thankfully. Finally, I see my building. Eagerly, I climb into the basement and breathe a sigh of relief. For good measure, I release one more energy pulse, but there’s nothing unexpected in my new home. I set my haul with the rest of my food and grab my pen. I’m almost more excited to write than to eat.
My stomach doesn’t agree with my list of priorities, and it howls at me. I set the book and pen down on my tattered sheet and unfold my old hoodie. I find my way to the campfire and strike two pieces of scrap metal together, igniting wood. With one hand, I levitate the brisket over the fire. With the other, I direct the smoke toward the stairway. Tomorrow, I will try to create a way to use the pot. For now, I’m too hungry to think.
After much longer than I would have liked, the meat finally begins to brown. The juice dripping down into the fire is slowly driving me insane. When I’m confident it’s safe to eat, I remove it and bite into it. I have to portion out the food – this has to last me a while. I carefully eat a reasonable amount of brisket before shredding the rest with my mind and storing it in empty cans around me. I can’t reseal the cans perfectly, but it’s better storage than nothing. I’m able to fill five cans – each one can be a reasonable meal. I have at least three days before I have to try to search for more food.
Leaning against the wall, I tap my pen against the notebook. I’m not sure how long I’ll survive with the entire world out to get me. When they do finally catch up with me, I want to leave something behind. Of course, odds are the Council will discover it first, but I feel the need to write something down, just in case. I decide to write my points to address the corruption in the Council.
“1. Centralized power with no checks and balances. 2. Assigning roles and not budging on them segregates the citizens and prevents them from uniting. 3. Giving people what they haven’t earned encourages laziness and fails the hard workers.”
No, this is boring. No one is going to want to read my list of problems. Even if they do, they’ll simply justify the Council’s behavior or argue that I can’t possibly know better. They’ll blindly worship their Council even if I give them logical reasons they shouldn’t. What will be far more effective is telling them my story. Most won’t believe, but some will.
“It all started on the day of Recruitment,” I start. Now I’m starting to judge my writing style, as if that’s the major purpose of this work. It’s not about entertainment, it’s supposed to be informative. Still, I have to capture the attention of my readers.
“As the alarm clock screams, ripping me from a peaceful sleep,” I begin before stalling once again. It’s not perfect, and I’ve heard too many warnings about starting with waking up. Regardless, that’s where my story starts. This will do nicely.
Rustling from above takes hold of my mind and I drop the pen and book. I jump to my feet and retreat to the darkness. Has the Council found me? I knew it was only a matter of time, but I had hoped I’d be able to write more than one sentence of my story. The world has to know what they did to me.
The stairs creak violently as someone slowly descends them. The intruder is clearly trying to be stealthy but failing miserably. He has yet to learn the sweet spots of the stairs like I have. Without stepping on them perfectly, one is bound to make enough noise to pull me from the deepest of slumbers. That’s part of the reason I love my hideout so much. Of course, if I make it out of this alive, I’ll have to leave it behind. Such is the life of a fugitive.
When the person reaches the bottom, I’m barely able to make out a face. It’s somewhat familiar, but I can’t place it. He doesn’t appear old enough to be an Peacekeeper, but I have no doubt he’s a Council sympathizer. I may be the only person left on the planet who isn’t. At least inside the walls of the city.
“Carson?” The young man calls. I remain hidden and absolutely silent. In denial, I convince myself that I may be able to keep my hideout if I’m quiet enough. I know I have to give up on that possibility. He’s already seen my things. I’ve been discovered.
“Carson,” he repeats. “I’m not with the Council. I’m here to help.”
I don’t trust him. I can’t. He won’t leave quietly, though. Perhaps I should take the first action. With a preemptive strike, I could kill him before he has the chance to alert anyone else. Even if it’s the most logical course of action, I can’t bring myself to do it. I don’t want to kill anyone – if for no other reason than because that would make me what they call me.
Still, I can’t give myself away. Instead, I push him against a wall. Staying in the shadows, I pin him to the wall telekinetically and press energy against his throat to stop him from calling for help. He begins choking, so I let up on the force slightly, but I refuse to release him. Emerging from the shadows and extending both arms toward him, I try to look menacing. If he’s afraid of me, I may be able to use that to my advantage.
“I’m here to help,” he croaks.
“Why should I believe you?” I growl. He points his eyes toward a bag in his hand. I release pressure from his neck in order to move my hand, calling forward the contents of the bag. Fruits, vegetables, and canned soups spill onto the ground. In my excitement, I almost completely release him. Silently, I redirect all of the food to my stash, trying to hide the pure joy which tries to creep onto my face.
“How did you find me?”
“I’m an Intellect. Class V, so they don’t think I’m capable of much, but I saw your fight with Derrick. When I fought you, I felt the impact before you touched me. Then at Drone School orientation, the school began shaking. I saw the fight, Carson. I know they’re lying about it. The Council brought me into Battle School because of one lousy invention and then left me to rot when I couldn’t take a punch. Now they’re calling you a terrorist when you weren’t even the aggressor,” he babbles.
“I asked how you found me,” I snap.
“I’m sorry. I built a… kind of a reverse EMP. It’s just an energy scanner. It let me track your small energy pulses.”
I curse myself under my breath. I should have known if I used something to track others, they could easily reverse that. If a Class V can do it, Krista Mullen or Fillion Harris would have had no trouble – if they’d had the idea. That does say something about the sniveling kid in front of me.
Seeing his face contort in pain and fear, I suddenly recognize him, and his story falls into place. Michael Patterson.
“Michael?” I ask. I drop him, feeling more confident now that I know he’s at least partially telling the truth.
“I wasn’t sure you’d recognize me,” he coughs, rubbing his throat.
“Almost didn’t,” I admit. “So what now?”
“I don’t want to be a drone forever, Carson. You’ve been slighted. So have I. You need me to stay alive, and I’m no leader. I’ve seen you handling bullies. You’re a natural born leader, and I’m a tactician. We need each other.”
“Cool it with the ‘need’ talk,” I mutter. He doesn’t seem bothered by my response, and he takes a step toward me.
“We can make a difference, Carson Adachi. I know we can.”
Thanks for reading Powerless! If you're enjoying the story and want more of my work, find me on Patreon, Facebook, or right here on Reddit.
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2020.09.09 15:30 hell0_k1tty2113 a long list of pedophillic cases and charges of well known republicans
2020.09.03 05:11 PawelGladys A VERY long list of U.S. politicians, donors and political figures who have been arrested and charged with child rape, abuse, pornography or trafficking in the last few years. You shouldn’t be surprised to know this list contains BOTH Republicans and Democrats. Pedophilia is NOT politically biased!
2020.09.03 02:22 CommodorePerson Doctors camera hidden office
2020.08.27 00:17 MysteriousWritings7 Hidden camera doctors office
Dr. Elektra Reynolds and Mr. Wendell Barnes made their way down the vast hall of the research center. All of the other scientists had gone home for the night, and save for a few heavily armed uniformed guards at their posts, the place was completely empty. The entire building was dark aside from the few and far in between windows which cast light onto the two people as they continued on.
Dr. Reynolds was a very stern-looking woman despite being so young. Her raven hair was perfectly straightened and ended at her shoulders, meanwhile her bangs stopped right before her flawlessly plucked eyebrows. She wore glasses but had no real need for them, as her eyes had been bio-genetically altered years ago, but she liked the familiar feel of the frame against her nose and ears. Her eyes were almost alien-like with their unearthly blue color. It gave the petite young thing a very frightening air and with a single artificial smile she could silence anyone who dared challenge her. When she spoke it was even worse. Her voice was hollow and almost metallic sounding while also being commanding in the same breath. It didn’t matter if what she said was even the most passive of comments, you would listen as if it were the most important piece of information you’d ever heard. She didn’t wear much in the way of colorful clothes, mostly preferring the same black sleeveless turtleneck dresses under her lab coat, but she did wear heels. Bright red shoes with an echo that resounded through the halls of the facility like some sort of ominous death march. Everyone in the building was scared of her, and even Mr. Barnes found her quite intimidating despite being almost three times her size. Perhaps it was her eyes or her shoes or the super-powered stun gun at her belt that made her so frightening… Or perhaps it was all three.
Dr. Reynolds stopped in front of one of the numerous armored doors and shot a sideways glance at Mr. Barnes, flashing her inhumanely white teeth. Her eyes glowed in the faint moonlight making her appear to be a creature of nightmares. She turned back to the door just as quickly, and Mr. Barnes felt the lump he hadn’t even realized had developed in his throat disappear. Dr. Reynolds took her security card and scanned it as the optical sensor kicked in, its bright red beam examining her iris. She didn’t even flinch. The door slowly slid open, and Dr. Reynolds stepped inside the room. Mr. Barnes hesitated for a moment, but Dr. Reynolds quickly looked back at him. “Are you coming, Sir, or did you ask me to stay after hours simply to gawk at the doorway?” she asked, a brief glare crossing her face before being replaced by her neutral expression.
Mr. Barnes stepped into the dark room and jumped a little as the door slid shut behind him. Dr. Reynolds glanced back at him for a moment with her eyebrow raised, and he quickly coughed and brushed off the front of his suit jacket. He slicked back his greying black hair and waved his hand, “Continue, Dr. Reynolds. You mentioned that there had been a breakthrough in the testing as of yesterday in your call?”
Dr. Reynolds nodded and pushed a button on the panel on the wall, and a single light came on, revealing a holo-glass cell. Inside was a threadbare bedroll, a metal tray containing rotten food, a bucket, and some sort of white curled up ball in the corner. Dr. Reynolds smiled and walked forward, rapping her knuckles harshly on the electrical field acting as the cell’s glass, “Number 47601, you have a visitor, Stand up and show yourself.” she said in a singsong voice. The ball in the corner shifted a little, but quickly fell dormant again. Dr. Reynolds’s smile fell into a frown, “Number 47601, stand up immediately.” The ball did not move again, and in the next moment Dr. Reynolds had pulled some sort of remote control from her pocket and aimed it at the ball, pressing a bright red button in the center. The entire ball was enveloped in an electrical current, and it uncurled itself revealing it was actually a girl with a metal collar around her neck that seemed to be the cause of the shock. She convulsed violently yet let out no screams. After the shock stopped she was smoldering, and Dr. Reynolds aimed the remote again, “Number 47601, are you going to cooperate or must I turn up the intensity of the collar?”
The girl slowly rose to her feet, her white hair trailing down to her knees. She was deathly pale, and her golden eyes were surprisingly dull despite their bright color. She had no shoes, and wore nothing but a simple white gown that reached halfway above her knees, and Mr. Barnes was shocked she was not shivering considering how freezing the building was. Dr, Reynolds smiled and tucked away the remote into her coat pocket, “Good. Very good.” She glanced at Mr. Barnes, “As you can see the trials have been successful, Sir.”
Mr. Barnes cleared his throat and his brow furrowed, “All I see is a girl who looks like she’s been through hell. Where is the proof of the trial’s success?”
“She’s alive, isn’t she?” Dr. Reynolds muttered, a sadistic grin crossing her face. “She’s the very first subject to even survive the trials completely. As of today we’ve taken samples of blood, spinal fluid, small bits of brain tissue, and bone marrow. The results show nothing of consequence… yet. But then again it has only been a week. It may be months until we see any real results. Her systems need time to adjust, after all… but… This also means it is possible for humans to survive the trials.”
Mr. Barnes shook his head furiously, “I asked you to get me results and you’re showing me a human turned into a lapdog. It’s been over a year and I’ve invested more than a fair amount of money into your experiments, Dr. Reynolds. All of your test subjects have been dying and it’s getting very difficult to manage my businesses with law enforcement breathing down my neck. No more. Unless you get me some results that this girl has shown any new developments by the end of the month I’m cutting your funding.”
Dr. Reynolds’s eyes widened, “But, Sir—”
“I won’t talk about this anymore, Doctor,” Mr. Barnes interjected, his steely gaze doing its best to outmatch hers. “Either you get me those results… or you’ll see you and all of your staff out of work. You understand me?”
Dr. Reynolds nodded slowly, her eyes dark, “Yes, Sir… You’ll get your results.” She quickly turned her gaze onto the cell, “And you’ll get them right now!” She slammed her hand down onto a button on the panel, causing the cell walls to deactivate. She all but tore the remote from her pocket and pointed it at the girl, “Number 47601, do what you’ve been modified to do.” She turned her gaze onto Mr. Barnes, “Kill him.”
At first nothing happened, but within a split-second the girl had leapt onto Mr. Barnes and ripped her nails across his face, causing blood to pool into his right eye. Dr. Reynolds only smiled as the girl raised her hand again, metal scales covered in blood glinting in the faint light now taking the place of flesh, preparing to rip out his heart. Mr. Barnes waited in terror for the final blow to be delivered, but instead Dr. Reynolds pushed the button on her remote, administering a smaller shock to the girl. “Okay,” she muttered. “That’s enough.” The girl drew back, hand now back to normal. She stared dead-eyed at Mr. Barnes, who quickly scrambled to his feet. Dr. Reynolds smiled and approached the girl, patting her on the head, “Now, Mr. Barnes… Hopefully this will tell you who’s really running this operation now.” Her smile fell into a cold glare, “Threaten my program or facility again and I will let her finish what she started here tonight. I’d meant to keep her progress a secret, but you had to be foolish and force my hand. Breathe one word of this to anyone outside of me or my staff and the very last thing you will ever see is her with your beating heart in her hand. Have I made myself clear enough for your simple mind to comprehend?”
Mr. Barnes nodded, holding his pocket handkerchief to his bleeding eye, “You’ve made your message crystal clear, Dr. Reynolds, but… What is she?”
Dr. Reynolds regarded the girl with a grin, “Isn’t that obvious? She’s a solider.”
Number 47601. That was what they all called her. The experiment. Elektra loved her little soldier so much. So obedient. So strong. So… flawless. And now that Mr. Barnes knew of her true potential and the all too real threat on his life he has sent another check the facility’s way. All seemed to be going well for Dr. Reynolds and her staff. And soon things would only improve from there.
“Charlie, run the diagnostics on trial subjects 47602 through 47615. See if there’s any new developments with those that are still alive,” she ordered. “With subject 47601’s survival we need to focus on getting more of the subjects past the trials successfully.”
Charlie nodded and rushed out of the room, the door sliding open and closed behind him. Dr. Reynolds sat down at the holo-com and began going over the different subject’s files. As of late they’d begun trials on over a dozen new subjects… It was time to see what was happening with them.