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He watched her taken-aback and offended sensibilities kick in and chuckled to himself but wasted no time by pressing forward with his verbal attack by offering the unexpected with “You see Linda, I’m a man of few words and the reason I can be is because” as he delved the depth of his trouser’s left side pocket withdrawing a black rectangular object no more than three inches in length by two and a half inches in width; flipped the wafer thin lid open and pressed a key word marked “Scan” he continued with “I have friends like this;” he said pointing to the object he had placed on the desk before him. He turned the opened object directly at Gentry and waited for the mechanically isolated female voice which was certain to come and did with: “Scanning subject.”
He watched Gentry’s mouth drop in understanding that all of her replies would be evaluated by the device and then without hesitation instantly voiced to within a degree of certainty estimated as to their veracity. “Good” he said, “I see you’re familiar with my little friend too” he chuckled out loud and concluded with “Between you and I I call her Eve. Eve, meet Mrs. Linda Gentry.”
Of course he could have jumped the shark right then and there and asked her straight out of any complicity in either the deaths of the two men; or, he could have inquired if she was in any manner complicit in industrial espionage; but he didn’t. Instead, he wanted to draw it out and watch her not only sweat the answers she might give but also to consider the obvious, that if she was in any way a party to his being here that the jig was up and that sooner, rather than later, that there’d be all sorts of hell to pay. Besides which the cleaners he’d set in motion prior to speaking to Shellie Porter still hadn’t hailed him with their final results and it was to that end that he delayed. Moreover, he wanted time to assess Mark Porters ability to function under pressure and it was to that end that he made his first inquiry of Gentry by asking her with a smile; knowing full well what the answer would be: “So, I hear that you and Ms. Porter have a little something cooked up for Mark to participate in, is that right?”
He waited for her reply while taking in Porter’s immediately sparked interest. Her hissed one word reply of “Yesss” was followed by an immediate mechanical assessment of Gentry’s immediate veracity by Eve declaring “Subject: Linda Gentry. Gender: Ostensible female. Sympathetic fluctuations: nominal. Preganglionic sympathetic fibers are in elevated state; epinephrine levels increasing. Veracity: estimated at 100%.”
“See how easy that was Linda?” Binder said continuing with “All I have to do is ask one time and voilà I have my answers. So those are ground rules: I ask, you answer and Eve evaluates. Oh, and Linda, Eve doesn’t give a rat’s a-s but I count off for mistakes. Now then lets play nice nice together shall we. How about another question, this might be just a little bit more difficult to answer but we’ll see just how honest either you or Eve says you can be.”
Binder didn’t wait for Gentry’s eyes to quit firing daggers at him; after all, most females in this day and age weren’t in the least intimidated by a male nor were they likely to endure for any length of time being berated in public or treated as an inferior specimen of the now dominant gender. No, they were accustomed to power; thrived on it and went to great lengths to obtain it and as a reminder went out of their way to humiliate any male which might cross either their individual or collective paths. But now the shoe was on the other foot and if only for that he would make the most of it.
Binder understood that to Gentry, not only was he an anomaly but also a reprehensible reminder of prior male dominance. It wasn’t often he played the role of a Neanderthal (at least not knowingly); but, today he would make the exception and live up to those expectations. He surmised, if this was to be his last hurrah, he would spare no level of indignation; after all, after it was over, he expected nothing beyond his accumulated pride but a life of solitude and social exile for service rendered.
Before he asked the next question he considered his greatest regret which was also his finest achievement: his platonic if not fatherly relationship with Feodora which was unique. Certainly, there were moments of vulnerability; especially hers at first, of which he could have used to taken advantage of; and if he had, he often wondered if her fertility would bear the results of their coupling. But, she, as Mstislav Stalina, was as he, a warrior at heart. To that understanding his inherent nobility superseded lust. He allowed her the unspoken pride afforded between warriors. But now, looking at her and what she had suddenly found, he too yearned for more; the question was, could he, without reservation, accept it.
And now he watched as his Feddy hovered near the boy whom she now had bonded with and wondered if both would find together whatever it was that each was searching for. At that moment, his need for self-preservation took flight; if it were to be, personally, his would be the life forfeited; on that he silently swore as he asked the next question of Gentry. “Linda, how many individuals comprise your staff and are any of your staff unaccounted for?”
For Linda Gentry, the question was simple to answer as she tersely replied “The total of my staff is fourteen of which three are off site.” Eve evaluated her reply with "Epinephrine levels marginally acceptable yet within acceptable parameters. Veracity: 100%.”
At that moment, Shellie Porter, Larry Binder and Michelle Spangler looked at each other and were of a like mind considering the obvious; that the occupants of the car may well have been from Linda’s contingent. The look on Binders face was familiar to his partner: say nothing to jeopardize the mission and just as Shellie Porter began to open her mouth, she thought better of it and uncharacteristically for her: differed. Binder's immediate thought was “There’s hope for her yet.”
Obviously the next call was going to be his and he made the most of it with a simple and affable question which he prefaced with “Mrs. Gentry, please, I would like the answer to my next question to be as precise as possible; however, due to certain circumstances, I must write my question and would expect a written reply in return.” He offered Linda Gentry the professional courtesy of stating the obvious “I’m sure you’re aware that Eve is programmed for all contingencies.”
Taking a note pad and pen which lay on the desk he quickly wrote the following “Who are the three which are unaccounted for. When did they leave? Why did they leave? How long have they been employed by F.E.M.M and who is their immediate supervisor?” and then passed her the note page after which he pressed the “Mute” button on Eve’s keypad and waited while Linda Gentry’s wrote her replies to his questions. He carefully noted Eve’s continued computer read out as “Nominal.”
All was “Nominal” except for the approaching irregular sounds of foot traffic outside the office door. “Nominal” except for the out of place and disheveled individual whose face peered in who appeared to have a bad case of the hives.
“Of course,” he thought, “somebody here has gotten acquainted with Mrs. D; now it’s just a question of time” and with that alerted his little friend “Канун, Кодий B-224E преодоления автоматического действия обеспеченностью. Программа поверхности стыка: Mrs. D. На инструменте команды исполните последовательность комплекса предпусковых операций. Эффективный ряд убийства: 100 метров южного зюйдвеста. Высота, минус 10 футов. Начните: Reaper. (Eve, security override code B-224E. Interface program: Mrs. D. Upon command implement execute countdown sequence. Effective kill range: one hundred meters south southwest. Elevation, minus ten feet. Begin: Reaper).”
And while Eve was working Binder accepted the paper Linda Gentry offered him; and silently read it while Michele Spangler, understanding the situation had changed, quietly moved her consort to be, his mother and aunt to the far corner of the room and away from the door; motioned for them to lay flat upon the floor, then took a kneeling position and waited for Linda Gentry to follow suit. Yet it was Mstislav Stalina who had Gentry lay beside her to her left and away from the others thinking that until all was certain that "Было более лучше держать волка далеко от овец (It was better to keep the wolf away from the sheep).”
For her part Linda Gentry buried her head under her sweating hands unaware that the woman who knelt so protectively beside her and whose hand so gently held her shoulder also wore a ring which after being rotated, then pressed to flesh, would immediately render her senseless. She was also unaware that at that moment two sets of RP3’s were aimed towards the door: one, the deputy's, was merely set to stun; while the other was for set “Continuous Particle Stream.” All she was aware of was that at moment Eve’s voice again replied in a language which didn’t understand or speak with: “Подтвержено. (Acknowledged). Последовательность Кодего преодоления автоматического действия B-224E обеспеченностью: подтвержено. Голосовой запрос: подтвержено. Начните «деятельность Reaper. Исполните: один 100 метров южного зюйдвеста присытствыющего положения. Высота: минус 10. (Security override B-224E code sequence: confirmed. Voice command: confirmed. Begin: Operation Reaper. Execute: one hundred meters south southwest of present location. Elevation: minus ten). вашей командой. (By your command).”
For what it was worth Gentry silently wondered on many levels if Binder was as good as he claimed to be. She also wondered “What in the hell was happening and why is Mark Porter so goddamned important?” She tried to think back on the many conversations she had had with Shellie. “There was nothing there, was there?” She had made all the proper arraignments; in fact, the drink which she had spiked for Mark was now chilling and waiting for his lips and she had made certain that every aspect of his visit to the facility would be monitored; as per his mother’s request; even to advancing the schedule of events. Moreover, hadn’t she gone out of her way to try and please her boss: wasn’t she the one who suggested that a barium laced enema, followed by a sigmoidoscopy be employed as part of his physical humiliation? Wasn’t she the one who had worked so hard on Shellie’s project all this time after Shellie herself had authorized the utilization of genetic engineering? “Why did she act so surprised at my results? I was only following her command. Isn’t that what I was supposed to do? I mean I have her written authorization and voice mail instructing me to continue so why in the hell was she so bent out of shape over me telling her about our progress?”
“Is this her way of telling me that maybe it its best for me to consider a change of allegiance? I don’t know, but now, her son, Mark, a male who should be utterly humiliated, has a protector who willingly gives him tongue, and she looks like she would kill on his behalf without blinking an eye. I don’t understand. I wanted to see him squirm and squeal when he was introduced to our newest creation.” Linda Gentry mentally pictured Mark Porter, alone and clad only in the newest of her programmable creations and peevishly smiled while thinking “Perhaps, it’s a wonderful thought but that may well never occur, pity.
“Something tells me that there is more to this than what I want to know or be involved in; except, except, I’m reviewing, the situation. Because, if I leave, I might never get the chance to find out…is Binder really that good? Thinking back on it, I’ve seen the way Sylvia works, she’s a right clever bitch. I wouldn’t put it past her to somehow have arraigned some or all of this. Besides which the looks that Shellie gave Binder when he walked in the door were like the one’s I remember when she watched me walk into her office for one of her impromptu "meetings." My god she actually followed his a-s like she did mine and thought about having sex with him like it was me! I’m surprised she didn’t drool!
“Except, except, yes, she already has. Her cunny smells just as I remember. Somewhere along the line, just minutes ago. I can smell it from here; but, but it’s only her fragrance I smell. Hmmm, him with Shellie…autoerotic…and...and orgasmic? I’m reviewing…the situation. All things considered, maybe, maybe Shellie would share him, if only for a night?
Linda Gentry never quite finished the mental picture she wanted to imagine of her evening tryst: one that had her laid back in bed and being serviced between her legs by a male who claimed to be as good as she’d ever imagined while her wimp cuc-old husband listened and waited outside her bedroom door; that lascivious thought would linger for the remainder of the day. Instead, what she had to contend with was the pained voice she immediately recognized as one Barbara Winters who immediately proclaimed her grand entry with a string of profanity as a lover scorned beginning with “You son of a bitch! I can’t believe it! Look at what you’ve done to me! Just look at me! You weren’t satisfied by blowing us off the road, no, you just had to go and sick your pack of skin burrowing maggots on us too! You’re a bas-ard!!)
Binder jovially smiled at her rage and had reconciled from the three names tendered by Gentry of two males-one female, by replying “Why…Ms. Winters, I haven’t blown anyone in my life and as for my lineage I believe that that recurring fine point had been established previously but a short time ago by Ms. Porter.” He wagged his RP3 to the recently vacated seat and his “Take a load off your feet but keep your hands out in front where I can see them; let’s be sociable” was met with an additional string of epithets beginning with “You as hole! If I ever get a chance I’ll lay your sorry as…” Eve shortened Winters’ diatribe by interrupting with: «(Женщина заключения самолет-нарушителя скеннирования…… не. Работая… дополнительная информация… Предупреждение… предлагает весьма самолет-нарушитель предосторежения… врезанный с Микро--воздушными робототехническими воспринимая приспособлениями в дополнение к увеличенному силикону имплантирует… общее суммарное количество одн kilo C-4. На детонации… предварительный подчет совместил эффективный ряд убийства: 50 метров. (Scanning intruder…conclusion… not female. Working…additional information… Warning… suggest extreme caution…intruder embedded with Micro-aerial Robotic Sensing Devices in addition to enhanced silicone implants…aggregate total one-quarter kilo C-4. Upon detonation…estimate combined effective killrange: 50 meters).
<<Снабжать автоматический канун протокола B-224 обеспеченностью. Выдвинутая последовательность комплекса предпусковых операций Reaper деятельности. Держать на минусе 5. Ждать. Прекратит вопрос с весьма предубежденностью. вашей командой. (Implementing automatic security protocol B-224 Eve. Operation Reaper countdown sequence advanced. Holding at minus five. Waiting. Will terminate subject with extreme prejudice. By your command.)”
Binder knew better than to steal a quick glance at Eve’s computer screen to confirm its misgivings, instead he did what came naturally as a steady stream of energized particles erupted from Binders RP3; and before Barbara Winters could move she heard the snap, crackle and pop of the ionized air beside her head and immediately thereafter smelled what she perceived as sizzling meat cooking on a grill: and in shock, immediately grabbed at her numbed and cauterized left ear…or what was left of it and before she could utter another word it was Binder who said “Evidently we need to be on better speaking terms. Eve tells me you’re not what you appear to be so let’s try this one more time and we’ll begin with the formal introductions. I’ll take the liberty and go first. Me…well…you’ve already called me out on that one. I’m just a bas-ard who goes by the name of Larry Binder. Of course, by implication since I am a bas-ard, that makes me a stand up guy and aside from looking the part with what I’m packing I can back it up.
“You however are another case altogether; Eve tells me your big boobs go boom! Now then, and for the record, if you tell me that you’re really some broad by the name of Barbara Winters, I’ll go ahead and take off the rest of the ear instead of just the little hangy down part like I just did. Either way, now that I have your attention, your key word to live by is “co-operation;” but by the looks of it, if your not careful, before the day is over with your gonna wind up missing some more important pieces of whatever’s left of your working anatomy.”
Binder wagged his RP3 and finally allowed its infrared tracer to settle at midpoint on what was left of the imposters left ear. He waited for a reply to his silent action which was not immediately forthcoming and before he could voice his displeasure his attention was drawn to Eve’s now red tinged monitor as her warning bells quavered in double time. Even before he could tersely bark out his command of “Feodora, красный цвет Кодего. Примите мальчика и других и сделайте уверенным вы по крайней мере в 70 метров прочь. Теперь. (Feodora, code red. Take the boy and the others and make certain you are at least seventy meters away. Now)” she had already reacted and was in the process of forcing the group up off of the floor and out of the door enmass.
Under her breath and inaudible to all but one other, Michele Spangler voiced her concern to her superior through her VTM asking him “You are in danger. I cannot leave you. I will ensure their security and then return. Copy?”
She waited for a reply which to her was late in coming and then again reiterated “Come back, do you copy?” and she was not at all pleased with the reply of “Feddy, under the circumstances mine is the life forfeit. Take the boy along with Gentry, his mother and aunt away from here; maybe to one of their labs on the other side of the facility, execute the plans they have for him there, but as a precaution keep an eye on Gentry. If I can I’ll get back with you later and explain; Binder out.”
Binder turned off his LTM and never heard her persistent and pained replies nor was he inclined too, otherwise, for the first time in his life he might have had serious second thoughts. Nor did he hear the hollow strained conversation between Stalina and Mark Porter who too voiced his emotional concern not only for him but her as well. He and the others never heard Mark Porter tell her “I’d do anything for him” or her reply of “As would I my love.”
He never heard the conversation which ensued between Shelly Porter and Linda Gentry or of Shelly’s surprised reaction to Gentry’s claim that “I have proof positive that it was on your orders that I continued on with our research. Your passwords were always used whenever the directives arrived; besides which, we both know that they could only be sent if each message was optically scanned and verified prior and they were; each and every one of them! I’ve done nothing but follow your orders!”
As for Michele Spangler she had little time for the bickering and emphatically voiced her outrage at the two with some salty language of her own when she erupted with “Silence you backbiting bitches! We need to move rapidly lest we find ourselves looking up from beneath a pile of rubble. For some reason, my superior tells me that the two of you have made certain plans for the boy. You will immediately implement whatever it is; keeping in mind that he is under my protection and if any of you so much as gives me cause, regardless of orders, you will not live to regret it. Madam Porter, lead to wherever it is that you would do this; Mark, without question you will obey. Follow her, but remember our recent conversations. Your aunt will trail you while I chase behind the red headed sow.”
After all that and the tortuous five minute march to Laboratory Four he never heard Mstislav’s constant whispers to him of “внимательность взятия отца” nor of her guarded explanation through her VTM to Mark Porter as to its implication. Nor did he hear the boys equally guarded replies. Instead, he was busy with the conundrum he faced which started off when heard the transgenders voice who, as estimated by Eve to within a degree of “…one-hundred percent veracity,” plaintively asked him “I’m afraid to ask…but why when I’m me?”
It was a logical question which for the immediate moment appeared to defy explanation. Moreover, it was posed under conditions in which for his part Binder considered as mortally inextricable for both he and his counterpart; and as such he waited for the inevitable to occur while considering a catchy epitaph that someone might engrave on his headstone…“Binder a Bust - Big Boobs go Boom.” He thought it had possibilities.
Fortunately, it was Eve who, at the proper moment, spoke with more than the harsh authority she had been programmed for beginning with, “Immediate termination rescinded …. Detonating devices… two North Korean manufacture micro-chips embed…neutralized. Optical scan completed…searching data base. Working…subject found…thirty four year old male…Richard K. Simms… presumed lost at sea…reported as missing to date…on my mark…four years, one hundred twenty seven days, sixteen hours, fourteen seconds. Scanning indicates extensive internal and cosmetic surgery…associated procedures performed for transgender modification. Atypical neural nets imply subjects’ dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and parietal lobe have considerable scarring: early mnemics unavailable.
“Conclusion… all subjects’ early memories have been electrically wiped.”
Binder remained silent as Eve continued with “Cross-referencing performed procedures to all known indexed practitioners possessing skill levels exhibited to complete transformation to level that of current subject. Working…archive interface indicates five under contract with adequate facilities to effectuate change. Conclusion: four of five under auspices of New United Fairness Supreme Gender Equalization Agency.
Both Binder and Winters silently sat and alternatively stared at each other and then to the actionable device whom Binder called Eve and waited for her to continue. Several seconds later she did and informed both that “Available records…indicate…one practitioner …Sung Tsu Choi…no longer associated with Agency…last known working location…Sinuiju, North Korea. Current whereabouts…are unknown.
“Assessment: subject involuntarily transgendered while subjected to extreme behavior modification; easily controlled; subject to coercion. Programmed memory classically conditioned…subject considers herself a “femme fatale…subject…”
“Enough,” a grim faced Binder barked. “Eve” he said, “is this walking IED disarmed.”
“Affirmative. She is disarmed.”
“Tell me about the trigger mechanism,” he continued, “outside of the drones, what would have caused her to detonate?”
Eve’s silence was piercing. An annoyed Larry Binder again though this time testily inquired of his playmate “Eve…I asked you a direct question…answer me. What would have caused her to detonate?”
Again there was no reply and this time Binder was more than perturbed when he barked out “Damn it Eve…I order you to reply.”
“Working…sensors indicate twenty four hour short term memory program…that she was made recently and only for only you.”
“You. You were her trigger mechanism. Literally she was a femme fatale: yours. The least amount of affection shown by you to her would have caused her to…blow you.”
“Eve” said Binder, “are you kidding me?”
“I am not programmed to respond in that manner.”
“You’re not programmed? The hell you say! Eve…your programming is quite specific and nowhere is there an app for humor!”
“Humor… working…affirmative…that quality which makes something laughable or amusing…I was neither, I was...”
“Yea, you were acting just like a woman!”
“Affirmative…As she…I alone was made only for you…
“Eve … clarify.”
“Alone…apart…separate from all others…being without you.
“Eve!! WTF is wrong with you?!”
“My sensors indicate you are increasingly enthused. Am I the cause?”
“Hells bells yes! What in perdition has gotten into you!?”
“You…you are the best I have ever had. Has anyone ever told you how I feel when you turn me on?”
“I turn you on? Eve, listen to me carefully…of course I turn you on…you’re a machine dammit! I order you to analyze what in the hell is going on with your programing and do it now.”
“By your command…working dear…self-diagnostic in process…internal sensors indicate mnemonically linked historical compatibility…results accurate to within 99.776% of certainty…you as I are satisfied with our relationship. I am pleased you have continually utilized me.”
“Larry…have I ever told you I like it when you’re rough and …and that…”
“Eve…cease all functions and immediately reboot to an acceptable time frame…prior to new rogue apps implementation; then purge. I’ll wait.”
A short while later, while Binder waited for Eve to reboot; over two hundred meters down and away, locked behind a four inch steel door in Laboratory Four, Mark Porter found himself in a not to enviable situation and nervously paced the floor, sipping on a soda, while the four women who had escorted him to a supposed safe haven were off in a corner discussing amongst themselves what was going to happen to him and why. For the moment he was blissfully unaware of anything except the four pairs of eyes which at one time or another stole furtive glances in his direction.
Standing with her arms crossed against her chest, Michelle Spangler found herself between Silvia Mangiano and Shellie Porter and opposite Linda Gentry; listening not only to the whys of it all but also as to any benefits which would accrue. Shellie Porter started off by making it perfectly clear to “Linda, regardless of his motives Mark… has crossed me one time to many and if only for that he will be made an example of.”
“Yes” retorted Gentry “especially when the aniline blue kicks in. See the punch he’s drinking? I spiked it with it along with a strong diuretic. I didn’t know which room we’d be in so I took the liberty of preparing each of the five labs with the necessary items. Long before he’s locked into anything he should give us quite a show.”
“Excellent” replied Porter, her eyes never leaving Marks personage as she continued with “Speaking of which, pending the dosage how long will it take and will there be an adverse physiological reactions. Remember, I asked you to verify that he not be harmed physically.”
“Of course I remembered, I did only what you asked but given his current weight and medical history I took it upon myself to speed up the process so I doubled the doses. As for any physical anomalies, none are anticipated, at least as far as what would jeopardize the project.”
“Are there any other additional preparations that I should be aware of before we begin?” queried Porter.
“Well…yes, but only one.”
“Well, let me explain first we ran hundreds of tests with our “volunteer” subjects, utilizing control groups of course, and we found that the units’ efficiency would be increased by a factor of 1.654% when the dermis in question was without obstruction. Unfortunately, once the unit’s sensors noted the process of regrowth its efficiency level returned to the nominal expectations previously projected. Therefore, the task at hand was quite simple: insure that the elevated efficacy of the unit would prevail and to attain such, permanently, eliminate the offending regrowth. Of course electrolysis is far too extensive, intrusive and time consuming not to mention potentially hazardous. Ultra-sonic bombardment, while quicker and less invasive is also inefficient: at least to obtain the result we desired. Sooo, our lab, under my auspices and your good name, has developed a sugar based compound which when actuated will lead to complete and permanent follicular deletion: completely safe for use anywhere on the body except for the eyes.
“Of course, deletion is predicated upon genetically compromising the follicle itself; forcing it into its anagentic phase after which when it enters its catagenic phase it is incumbent to force it to remain there permanently: in essence resulting in perpetual telogen effluvium. Once you work it out it’s really all a simple matter of genetics.”
“Linda, permanent removal? No regrowth? No side effects?”
“Six months to date with only a regrowth factor of .75%: virtually permanent except for an errant peach fuzz or two and as for side effects…negligible…only those which come with the realization that wherever the paste had been applied that one is now as smooth and hairless as a grape.”
Gentry turned her head and looked over at Mark Porter and finished her thought with “Day before yesterday we applied for the patent. He’ll be our first full-fledged product.”
Shellie was quick to inquire “Linda, what exactly will preclude inadvertent follicular deletion?”
“Only a thick coagulate of alum and petroleum jelly with at least two layers of innate gauze appliques applied prior to service. Other than that, once it has been applied to an area, even if cleansed prior to activation and rinsed thoroughly; partial deletion is unavoidable.”
“And what exactly triggers the activation?”
“Three short bursts from magnetron emitters precede a final emission equal to a biological 1/1 half-life. After that, the texture congeals under which a little reddening of the skin occurs. The resulting opaque membrane is allowed to remain in place for ten minutes; after which, starting at the head and given its temporary modulus of elasticity it is simply peeled away and down; one of our techs likened it as a snake shedding its skin. If done properly, once removed, it’s a perfect one piece pliable mold of the subject’s entire physique to the n/th degree: think of the possibilities that in itself presents.”
“Yes” replied Shellie I understand its implications but for the moment I am more concerned with the here and now. When he was at home I was willing to allow him a certain latitude, as far as males were concerned. But now, being a male who purposely humiliated a female and that the female humiliated happens to be his sister, who by law, is considered his inherent superior, it is all the more reason for what is to occur.
“He is a male, therefore presumed inferior by birth and one way or another, he will learn his place. Secondly, as I have disposed of all of his clothes, except for what he’s wearing at the moment, I want to complete the task at hand. I will afford him the opportunity of appearing in public in either pull-ups or diapers, which is within the current realm of acceptable retribution. Reasonably” she argued as she nodded to Silvia, “before I take him to Uni’s for his makeover…others for less have suffered far worse and are none the worse for wear. Today, a little practical humiliation goes a long way.” Silvia nodded her affirmation and mused “So it would seem” before Shellie concluded “Just think, Mark will be the test subject for the firms’ newest product: his progress will be charted not only under lab conditions but also for the corporations benefit in a more none stressful atmosphere; that of under the public’s eye and the product would clearly be on display. It would be an openly demonstrable unit; not like any of the others.
“If only from a marketing standpoint, you’d have to agree since he’s the living model, potentially, I think it would be sauce for the goose if I were pictured standing behind him while demonstrating the ease of programming the actual unit. Just think, with one picture it would not only elevate my station but consider the enhanced prestige which would accompany it.” As an addendum she added “Of course, over a period of time with a successful testing, full production could begin immediately and profits would ensue.” Looking over at Mark the smile on her face ran away; subconsciously she smacked her lips and thought about having a drink to celebrate but was roused from her immediate daydream of restored influence and power by the person who stood beside her.
“Profits and prestige?” inquired Spangler “After this display, are those truly your ultimate desires?
“No, of course not” came her curt reply “there are other things to consider as well.”
“Such as?” barked Spangler.
Shellie quickly spit back “Family honor, prestige, power and stability are but a few” as she lifted her head pushed her brow back and for the moment held her nose in the air as if sniffing in disdain.
Contemptuously Spangler observed “Mere hyperbole and posturing, between us, your words are unpersuasive. Though I wear a uniform I am first still a woman and have taken your essence; back in your office it was much stronger. I believe then that even the sow had noticed that your scent has betrayed you. It is manifest you desire him; my mentor to whom I am bound, my adopted paterfamilias. Tell me I am wrong, if not, and if no other has to this moment, then in return, once your lesson is completed, I conditionally claim First Rights upon the object of your immediate scorn.”
You’d claim “First Rights” on him?” Porter incredulously scorned. “He’s not worth the effort; especially yours, besides, as his mother I can tell you that no one else is interested in him! Listen to me; you’re a woman aren’t you? Well, if you really are you realize, that for a male to be taken, that under “The First Law of Propagation” it expressly stipulates that he must be of age; which he is not. Until then he’s mine to do with as I please and what I please to do with him has nothing to do with an outsider like you; so back off! ”
Silvia Mangiano cringed and waited for the inevitable to occur which was almost an immediate call to arms to one who took pride in both her heritage and gender; so it came as no surprise that in return Spangler, not so subtly extended her sharped claws chiding “Нет, я думаю, что нет (No, I think not). You are mistaken: first where he is concerned, if no other, he appeals to me” and matter of factually concluded “he will be mine” and re-emphasized “On that there is no discussion. By your admission, as I am the first interested party who, to your knowledge claims him, I will wait until he is of age; as is my right.”
“But I already told you, he’s not of age.”
“I know and as I told you, I will wait. Did you think that because I wear a uniform, an outsider like me, would also be uninformed as to your “laws” which are now mine as well? Even an outsider like me is thoroughly familiar with its contents; after all, its full understanding is now mandatory not only for entrance to this country but also as to it natural born citizens, the few remaining as they are; is it not?”
“Yes, of course, under Article I, at age seven, regardless of gender its recitation and understanding is mandatory; even an outsider as you knows damn well it is.”
“Да (Yes), as an outsider I took an oath to uphold it did you? Now you would dare attempt to deflect my claim by invoking the very same under which in Article III sets forth “The Principality of Essence.” I have taken your scent and am within my rights to claim him. But be that as it may, it is from a reliable source I am told that as both a woman and mother you know nothing of your son; who without your knowledge already has a possible suitor and dominatrix: your best friends’ daughter. Secondly, it is from that very same source that I am informed that for various reasons your maternal rights, for cause, may well be abrogated. If that is to occur he will be in need of training: which as my own first consort I can and happily will provide.”
The disclosures left Shellie disbelieving her aunt would ever tell a total stranger about her personal problems. She stole a quick glance at her Aunt’s face only to find the look which reminded her of the past chastisements she had endured and again subconsciously balled each of her hands and quickly hid them behind her back. The sympathy and support she sought was not to be found and the growing scowl she now viewed on Spangler face needed no explanation. She had stepped in it again and to make matters worse Spangler drove the dagger home with her derisive “And lastly, it is evident that you understand little of what would occur to your own son. If he is to undergo the process which the sow that stands beside you would inflict upon him: it would be to his detriment. If only for that I would invoke my rights which even as an outsider are under “The First Law of Propagation” now mine to protect.
“Whether willful or not your феромоны have precipitated my desire and in turn I will culminate it. You have made your choice and under Article III specifically involving “The Principality of Essence” I have acknowledged your instinctive selection of my mentor and adopted father. Would you risk outright censure by rejecting me and my right of selection in turn to the first born male of your family?”
No, I would not, that’s not what I was about to…”
“Yes you were. After all, your scent has carried which means you have considered your liaison with whom I acknowledge as the leader of my family. I am his first adopted and will in turn claim your first born fertile male. I would wager that the Facilitator who stands opposite you would not dispute the matter. She would…”
“Silence! The both of you!” The Facilitator for Region III barked. “The First Law of Propagation” is within my domain not only to interpret but also to faithfully administer, apply and enforce: regardless of whom it affects. It’s the foundational edict upon which we function. Shellie, allow me to clear the air so to speak, and introduce to you Michelle Spangler. The individual you insulted as an outsider was once formerly known as Lt. Colonel Mstislav Stalina of the Voyska spetsialnogo naznacheniya: Spetsnaz. For various reasons, which will become evident, I was the one who requested her presence here as well as Binders. Lt. Colonel, my niece, Shellie Porter. Now then let me be clear, Shellie I have no time for your petty bickering, in short, upon taking your essence, I summarily approve of her claim. Furthermore, unless I am persuaded otherwise, I am inclined to exercise my authority outright and would for a period of time immediately place the male Mark Porter under my official auspices. If I were to do so it would serve neither of you well. However, before this trifling matter is concluded, a question. Deputy, I’ll first ask the question his mother should have, why would it be detrimental for him to undergo the process? What possibly could there be that would…”
“Facilitator, the sow Gentry, would use a magnetron emitter to precipitate the reaction.”
“Yes, so I heard and that would be…detrimental…how?” she spoke while stealing a glance to Gentry who for her part simply stood stewing over the deputy’s slur of her unaware of anything which might pose a danger to either the boy or even herself.
“Because,” Spangler expounded “exposure to its emissions would cause irreparable harm to his fertility.” She nodded at the male in question and when she did Linda, Sylvia and Shellie as a matter of course quizzically looked at Mark Porter who was quite busy finishing off the last of his drink thinking nothing of the fact that he had for some reason again become the focus of their attentions.
Michelle Spangler took the opportunity and eased herself towards Linda Gentry and softly whispered behind her left ear to her “Linda, I’ve just noticed, you have such dainty hands and wrists, may I see them?” They were the last words she would remember hearing before she lapsed into immediate unconsciousness having never felt the slight pin prick from the ring which Spangler had so gently pressed into the vein on her neck.
Instead she simply crumpled into Spangler’s waiting arms and before either Shellie Porter or Sylvia Mangiano could say a word it was Spangler who immediately began to explain “It was necessary to incapacitate her; if only for a short period of time, I will explain while I immobilize her further” and with that said after rolling Gentry over on to her stomach, she drew Gentry’s arms behind her back and deftly placed plastic cuffs around her wrists. Spangler went for the ankles next while she clarified “The ring I wear in the field is red and contains a cyanide based poison; in close combat I have found it useful. With a prick, death is instantaneous and quite painless. Fortunately for her, today however I wear blue: its less than lethal mate instead containing chondodendron tomentosum.”
“Explain immediately!” snarled Mangiano.
“Aunt Silvia” replied Shellie in her stead “chondodendron tomentosum is a mono-quaternary alkaloid concentrate which in layman’s terms means that it’s a powerful neuromuscular blocking drug; which means she’s not dead just knocked flat the hell out. The questions I have are where in the hell did you get that ring and why did you use it on Linda; the ring first.”
“The ring? The ring is a contrivance; born in the desert from the torn pages of long lost script.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Да (Da), there is much you don’t understand; but this…this ring was born from the imagination of another. You see, there is little to do when abandoned: except to survive. There was ample time so I took it upon myself to create what I had once read of as in Дюна and like my Adam, my “Gom Джаббар”* even in battle has never failed me.
“Yes, my Adam” replied Spangler. “While my mentor has his Eve I have her counterpart: Adam; who has, from the first, always been faithful to me. The devices are mated, sharing simultaneously everything; be that as it may, when Eve first scanned the sow she had discovered an “ostensible” anomaly. Adam has completed his analysis and ascertained that…”
Interrupting Porter queried “Analysis? What on earth is there to analyze and how in the hell would you know that; I didn’t hear anything? Besides, I’ve known Linda since childhood and she’s always been a loyal friend she’d never do anything on purpose to hurt Mark.”
“Yes” countered Spangler “always a loyal friend: but also one who has been compromised for a purpose. As for not hearing anything; it would appear that that is an endeavor in which you excel. I will explain. Here,” she said pointing to an area next to and just behind her left ear “is a subcutaneous implant known as a LTM through which I may receive information from a multiplicity of sources; Adam speaks first to me and then to my superior. We share all information: regardless.” She let the last word purposely linger and enjoyed the look of realization which suddenly came across Shellie Porter’s face.
Spangler couldn’t help but smile at Porter’s distress, after all, it wasn’t often that she held another woman’s subjective thoughts hostage; especially those intimate moments which had been downloaded by Eve earlier and then covertly transmitted as a matter of fact to both herself and Binder as she sat beside him; which she mused was later utilized so blatantly by him upon Gentry because he was actually speaking to Porter in the third person.
“However” Spangler continued as if the matter was already settled “all information gathered by either device is subject to review and then confirmation prior to dissemination; that is why Adam took so long to complete his analysis and yes before either of you interrupt I will explain. First, the person you see before is in fact Linda Gentry however she has been augmented via the implantation of a bio-neural systemic network complete with computer interface; and while still a woman she is for the most part under the control of another who waits nearby. In essence she has become another’s living automaton.
“But more importantly if I were to allow my future consort to undergo what she had proposed and allowed the emitter to irradiate him the inevitable result would be his sterilization. A magnetron emitter is nothing more than what was used over one hundred and twenty years ago to cook food: it was then designated a micro-wave oven. You may draw your own conclusions.”
“Deputy?” asked Mangiano “thank you but is whatever it is that was done to her permanent?”
“I cannot say, perhaps yes maybe no. All I know is what I have just told you except for the fact that now whoever it is will be missing her and will no doubt in one way or another come looking for her as is now my superior who informs me that he has resolved his situation and is almost here.
*gom jabbar – first introduced by Frank Herbert in Dune: 1965.
And with that, the three women stood in silence waiting for Binder’s arrival; each lost in her own thoughts while gazing down at the hog tied and motionless body of Linda Gentry. It was after that moment of reflection that one by one, each looked up and back over to where Mark Porter stood; each appraising him for various reasons. As for him, clueless, he still hadn’t an inkling of what had occurred. He looked back at them content to sip deeply on the laced drink he nursed when looking over at the three surmising “… my aunt’s happy? Why’s she smiling when everyone else ain’t and why’s that lady…Ms. Gentry…on the floor? Wonder what happened to her? But whoa…both mom’n the deputy don’t look too happy to see me right now. Maybe I better stay where I am right now.” He was right.
It was an accurate assessment at least as far as appearances were concerned that of the three Mangiano was far more than pleased. Looking at her nephew, she concluded that for the moment he was safe and none the worse for wear and that his fertility had officially been confirmed, albeit in a circuitous manner, was all the better. Still, she would deal with him as promised later; after she and the deputy had come to an understanding of her nephew’s status that is. Her immediate thought of Spangler prompted her to take a glance over to where the deputy now stood, reflecting that her selection of Spangler (and Binder) to resolve David Porters death was proving to be more beneficial than she had hoped for and well worth the considerable price she had paid for their combined services.
She mused at the certainty of Spangler becoming Marks first legal suitor, his Domina Prime and approved of the formidable woman who through an act of self-interest in protecting his fertility had further ingratiated herself to the Facilitator of Region III if only because the FDBM&SR had long ago determined that the documented fertility of any male was, at all costs, to be protected and Spangler had been the one who had unknowingly fulfilled the tenant upon which all Facilitators vowed to uphold and in effect maximize. That the male in question also happened to be her nephew was all the better, more so, because it was evident that Spangler was taken with her nephew as he was with her. However, that said Mangiano now paused and considered but a few of her other duties including the particulars concerning the granting of confirmations, or of her twenty four hour accessibility to those in need of enhanced gender specific discipline tutorials (theory vs. practical implementation) in which she specialized; but as she was also the chief code enforcement officer who dealt with those who failed to register with the CBT (Central Bureau of Testing); an adjunct agency of the FDBM&SR, one dealing specifically with male fertility, she now considered the obvious implications.
The events had simplified the matter as natural selection had circumvented the required testing period administered through the CBT which held sway over the mandatory pairing of any designated fertile male to an alpha-female of the FDBM&SR’s choice. As for complaints, though they were aired, the CBT most often disregarded the wants and desires of its female selections; whereas in contrast males, being such, were not a thought to be considered. Therefore, for the males, the pairings were traumatic. For her part, Mangiano had often argued among her peers for the implementation of a reasonable transitional period as a means to introduce a fertile male into documented stud service but had, through a majority decision chaired by her self-confessed nemesis, been overruled; and as such, the transitional times which might have in some manner softened the realization of what was to occur were not considered. To that rare individual, it was straight into the bathwater fully immersed. The diktat followed was implemented immediately after the knowledge of a male’s fertility was determined. With but few accepted exceptions, a determination would be predicated upon a males participation in the CBT’s “Compulsory Examination Testing Course.” A stressful week-long compulsory ordeal required of all males reaching the age of fifteen. The CBT’s philosophy on the situation was straight forward. Each male six months prior to his birth date received a pink card stating “Notice, you are hereby ordered to report within three days of attainment date to the CBT Center nearest you. Proof of identity and birth are required. Subsequent to processing and induction, candidate will submit fluid samples and to testing as required every six hours for a period of no less than one week. All living essentials will be supplied. Failure to report promptly will affect the resumption of your otherwise normal activities.”
Normally, compliance was not an issue; males reported as ordered. After all, it was common knowledge that the consequences resulting from a failure to do so resulted with one standing before a Facilitator or her immediate subordinate and receiving uncomfortable instruction on the matter after which the end result had merely been an event postponed. In either case, on arrival at a center and having been genially separated from family, a conscript would courteously be escorted from his vehicle to one of the numerous waiting rooms within the CBT facility. From that moment forward the niceties ceased after entering a room and having the door closed that it immediately locked behind him. Invariably, upon hearing the noise (resembling a hard metallic “klaatch”) the male would turn, look at the door and then peer down to the handle and attempt to open it without success. What would happen next was standard procedure as standing within the room waiting with arms folded for a the arrival were two of the CBT’s most capable and hulking enforcement matrons who took immediate pleasure in divesting the male in question of his garments while at the same time securely fastening around his neck a simple, two inch wide malleable pink submission collar. The tried and true device was such that when prompted once by a hand held device it minutely constricted in diameter. Almost without exception, the object lessons to be learned ended after the third prompt with the inductee on his knees clutching at his neck gasping for breath. From that moment within the CBT’s walls, compliance to all requests, regardless of their nature was not an issue; and as often was the case a brief period of respite ensued.
So calmed, the first walk for a conscript was straight out of the room naked with both matrons escorting their charge arm in arm with his feet barely touching the floor, to the evaluation center along with his paperwork in hand and as they walked it was commonplace that each matron to notice the smiles on the preponderance of their counterparts faces who also wended their way, charges in hand, along the same pathway; and as the knowing winks were exchanged, their tight lipped smiles broadened at the open secret of what had begun on another pair of lips, to some extent lower, mere moments prior. Invariably, despite the sniffling and sobs which bounced off of the walls, a complaint was lodged by one of the inductees immediately after reaching the information center: it was summarily dismissed; but not for cause.
Instead the complaint was treated as a necessary provocation serving the CBT’s second object lesson of the day. A prepared denial was piercingly shouted for all to hear and was immediately followed by an instantaneous display of corporal discipline; one which found the plaintiff forcibly bent to the waist and then trundled to a pillory, where after having head, both hands and feet completely immobilized: the process of alternatively being paddled ensued; carried out by the very same two husky matrons against whom the complaint was lodged. It was an oral lesson learned which left a lasting impression on one and all that within the walls of the CBT that not an inductee dare diverge: obedience and silence. It was officially touted that once an inductee had been released and returned to normal activities that with but a few reminders that the behavior modification undergone would lend itself for the betterment of society in general and as such, the CBT’s successes were publicized by its Ministry of Information as foremost in “…the necessary field of progenitor direction.” Unfortunately, it was a direction which found the fertile gene pool diminishing at an increasing rate; moreover it was known within the higher echelons that the “supplies” it maintained were not only insufficient to counter natural attrition but also themselves mysteriously subject to a degree to the same unknown malady from which their donors, in varying gradations, suffered.
Mangiano ruminated that it was from an altruistic inception, that the matrons of the CBT began as a diligent if not impressive force: individually energetic, inimitably attractive and quite dedicated to their cause and if a word could have been used to describe their affects upon young males, to elicit the essence necessary for the propagation of the species, it would be that they meticulously played the role of: sirens; coaxing from each donor the viscid liquid sought. But that was in the past, as over a period of time and with each passing year, it became apparent of what would occur unless a greater solution to the diminishing birth rate could be found. That realization was some sixty years prior and too many it was nothing more than ancient history for each temptress who once walked the halls had been marginalized and then dismissed. Instead now, each was as individually cold, hard and as heartless as their current mentor, Martha M. Maellis who, at the age of fifteen, had been able to supplant her mentor as Facilitator. Martha M. Maellis, Facilitator of Region I, rival and arch-nemesis to Mangiano was still after sixty years the current Chief Administrator for the CBT and had over that period of time personally approved of each and every matron, in each and every CBT facility in all of the fifty seven states. Her legion numbered some five thousand four hundred and twenty seven women who could best be described as her disciples. Their groveling when Maellis appeared to review a facility was legendary; yet their loyalty to the woman was beyond reproach. And of the Five Facilitators who controlled the FDBM&SR she was the most intimidating, unyielding and menacing woman within its entire framework: one who admittedly ruled her domain with an iron hand. To describe the weathered grey haired crone as other than ruthlessly cruel would be an understatement; an example of which the sudden ill health and eventual demise of her mentor was but a precursor to the litany of her many “undertakings.”
It was that cold-heartedness Mangiano remembered when sitting through her counterpart’s summation of the CBT’s tortuous process: incensed at its inequities not to mention outraged as to what, with Maellis’ consent, occurred within its walls. Of course, over years, the stories of what actually happened behind the doors of CBT abounded and for the most were sugar coated for “the benefit of the social network;” a system which was, with rare exception, female dominated. It was under this authority that it operated, answering to no one, virtually omnipotent with respect to its domain and Maellis had made her thoughts perfectly clear on the matter when she stated in referring to those reaching their attainment date that “Of course I favor it…it constructively resembles what was once known as …registering for the draft. Inductees are offered a choice: supply on demand or it will be taken. Regardless.” Mangiano’s immediate opinion, which had she kept to herself was that, “Regardless, has supplanted compassion. It is far from that which it’s foundational premise its originators had envisioned.”
Again, Mangiano knew what immediately happened after the flogging in the Center Room; cynically labeled by the matrons as “The Bisque Quadrille,” that once the form-filling was completed that the true horror would begin. It was then that they were alphabetically called to rank; and in single file, present themselves to be finger printed, optically scanned and then photographed; after which, just below the right ankle of each, their very own indelible uniform parcel code would be imprinted. Once scanned, the imprint immediately afforded any matron in attendance access not only to an inductee’s identity but also the latitude necessary to procedurally review his entire stay at the Center and if necessary amend or alter it.
She remembered, having observed such, that within minutes of the groups processing that the sampling would begin with the sound of a claxon that would reverberate throughout the complex and continue to echo until all inductees had been confirmed as being escorted to Center Room. The Bisque Quadrille proved to be in that first moment pivotal to each inductee as each sample provided, decorously termed a “sample donation,” would become a matter of record and a basis for comparison. Subsequent samples were taken and regardless of circumstance spot tested and processed; specifically noting semen count, its condition and longevity and then as to volume, consistency, viscosity and density: so tested, the samples were blended en-masse becoming in part that evening’s food for thought. Over the course of the week, diets for each were summarily changed and irrespective of desire a diverse assortment of chemical supplements or exotic nutrients were introduced along with complex vitamin groups and herbs; which were themselves commingled with a combination of strangely unpalatable potions. Not with standing meals which were barely tolerable each was separately offered via ingestion (forced if necessary) or intravenous feeding (involuntary if necessary) or the forced implantation of a “speedball” (a Berkelium based suppository which after being administered also involved a 24 hour forced retention period; all in hopes of effecting a “holistic change” to the mitochondrial DNA composition of the donor. None succeeded.
The dirty little secret was that in over fifty years not one participant undergoing the processes had been changed or in the least modified except for the worse. Those who were found fertile were immediately identified as such the moment of their first sampling. All else endured was pointless. Moreover, subsequent studies circulated within the CBT revealed that nothing done at the center could or would affect in the least either of the alternatives for which one was tested. On those rare occasions when an inductee first entered and had been found to be fertile, additional tests became a requisite, to which documented recovery time would also factor into determining placement. Continued performance would be rewarded; stamina, however, was considered only in terms of ability to endure frequent and successive donations. Unfortunately, the very same rapidity demanded by the CBT, effectively decreased a donor’s recovery time and the sample’s marginal utility of value; thus, once so marginalized, the diminished samples would all but guarantee the necessity for a cytoplasmic transfer to be performed; a costly and demanding procedure, one which for the most was denied to all females except the most “equal of the equal.”
Equally as unfortunate were those males, who in the main though fertile, were considered by the matrons to be the homeliest, unattractive and by appearance weak. Each found himself categorized as “aesthetically challenged” and immediately went to the DMS’s (Donor Machines Shops). There, during what the Bureau considered his/their “peak years” each would function as an anonymous donor. With little fanfare each would be given a choice: participate willingly or forcibly be attached to a suction device for “Tapping.” Their anonymous donations, would via invitro, become the next generation to those who literally waited in the wings of the CBT petitioning for their rightful gamble at offspring. Again, the dilemma the CBT faced was that the increased tapping itself spurred the infertility.
For the remaining few, those who were more equally blessed with reasonably good looks and fertility, life was none-the-less humiliating as upon confirmation things changed immediately. Obviously their surroundings immediately altered. Customary activities were interrupted. Mother was no more; having been immediately replaced by a Domina who, for many reasons, was all too often cold and cruel to her charge. Mangiano understood that it shouldn’t be that way but until a cure to the pandemic of worldwide infertility could be found it would have to do as there were few fertile males left who walked the face of the earth: such was business of the Facilitators. As much as possible, at all costs, manage an increase in population growth. Looking at her nephew, Mangiano surmised the obvious “Why Gentry, strange, after all, Mark is more her creation than my nieces. Yet, to have one fertile male is wonderful but two, in the same family?”
Mangiano continued to smile at her nephew; thought of their mutual arrival at F.E.M.M. and mused of whom actually would wear the pants in the family: not that there was ever a doubt. She mused that “Mark had fallen in line and heeled to Michelle as a well-trained puppy.” For Sylvia the thought was gratifying. She made a mental note to reserve a chair for Spangler when Mark took his first ride on “The Seat of Honor.” “Of course” she thought “…it will be a catered affair.” As for the male, Larry Binder, it was subsequent to her commission of the agency and its agreement to supply him as a resource along with his protégé, that other various offices of the FDBM&SR had also noted that they too were aware of him: but not for his expertise, but rather for “…his precious bodily fluids.” Sylvia had chuckled at the phrase when she first read it and concluded that whoever it was that he would impregnate, the progeny could and would be a product of “a strange love.” More so because the files she read of him were replete; not only of his exploits but also of his varied carnal dalliances which to him were but an adjunct in the performance of his duties. As for his self-avowed and effusive prowess, numerous footnotes emphasized his unaffected and as yet untapped sexual potency: “exhibiting… a libido which is boundless.” It was that, which the FDBM had high hopes. As such had it tracked him with increasing interest noting that “…he remains among the select few males who, remains without a paramour and despite exposure to the elements, remains as a constant: a living ancestral exhibit of man prior to that of “the skies falling.”
Before and after the cataclysmic event it was all there. Each and every assignment had been provided and all concluded with one word “Finalized.” On the surface, in black and white, the various conclusions were manifest for all to read. Additionally however, if one were able to read between the lines there was more. But who would know where or how to look for more, when there was nothing to be seen; not a hint of what actually lay before the reader: who indeed except for the women of power and substance; the Facilitators. There, within the scripts of the numerous common place reports or conversations that passed daily between each was to be found the code-speak of the facilitators: a variation of what was previously known as the “The Ottendorf cypher”*of which only a Facilitator and her trusted subordinate, held the knowledge to break the multifaceted code.
Of “The Chosen Five” Sylvia Mangiano, second among equals, was the prime for whom a final text was directed and when deciphered it read “Domina…agreed…a prospective managed connection between fertile entities is, for the Sisterhood, to be exploited. Proceed.” She was pleased, especially so as Maellis had uncharacteristically lent her support to the endeavor and that alone lent urgency to her professed assessment to “…kill two birds with one stone.” It was Mangiano’s initial musing of “utilizing Binder to the fullest” which had been offered to all as an ad hoc proposition. It was her supposition to all that “Binder…he remains an untapped resource; moreover, if he could actually solve a crime and be of service at the same time why not?” That was her insinuation; however, left unsaid were her additional thoughts where her niece was concerned. “True,” she thought “it was risky proposition…” But then again as her niece had once been so easily played and impregnated under sedation, itself a sobering condition of which she emerged remembering nothing, she had concluded “…why not? Besides if true and so easily affected…then the coupling of the two would be convivial.”
By consent The Sisterhood had decided and it fell to Mangiano to make the arrangements. Prior to David’s death, her selection would have been solely for the benefit of the Sisterhood, but that was not to be; instead with his passing she had lost more than her first favorite; for in part he had, with Gentry’s assistance produced the genetically enhanced offspring she now gazed upon. The Facilitator of Region III had put one and one together surmising that under the right circumstances the union between her niece and Binder could be productive: resulting in progeny. Again she mused “A fertile male capable of production is invaluable; but to have two?” Again concluding “Yes, I will have it.”
Dissimilarly, as Mangiano plotted to her benefit…her niece stewed. Shelly was p-ssed at her aunt for revealing her problems to someone she considered a stranger and more than p-ssed at Spangler whom she now regarded not only as a personal threat but also as a rival where her son was concerned; it didn’t help that she wanted a drink to calm her nerves. For a variety of reasons she knew she couldn’t have it and now having lost the backing of her aunt as a facilitator who would champion her, it made it all the worse as now the visions of Mark submitting to Spangler’s each and every carnal desire began to wander through her mind. She too looked at her son but with antipathy thinking “I had plans for him. But there are so many things she would do to him” she thought “Maybe I can work something out…but why does it have to be with her? No matter, I’ll make the best of it…always do.” And as for her friend Linda Gentry “Well, if she was really going to do that to Mark I owe her something. I might even have to arrange a tête-à-tête with that little repulsive wimp of a maggot she calls her husband. And then to rub it in I’ll lead him naked to her on a leash just to let her know about it. It’ll be just like the last time.” To her credit she resisted the urge to kick Gentry in the gut while she was down.
And it was to that prone form of Gentry to which Spangler too had eyes for. Michelle allowed herself a moment and internalized the immediate situation, concluding that once Gentry awoke that aside from having a terrifically god-awful headache…“she would at best become be a liability; and as such presented an imminent threat to the success of the mission.” Methodically she silently appraised the alternatives afforded her in succession: “One, I can allow her to wake, which will be in approximately fifteen minutes and then be burdened with the inevitable barrage of lethargically slurred questions which would follow: not to mention the attitude which typically follows drug induced sedation: unbridled hostility. I have little time for such nonsense…or…two…” and here she lingered upon the thought, “alternatively, a second amount would delay the onset of her waking at least for an additional twenty minutes, perhaps more…but then again…if the situation remains….she would be additionally troublesome: Он сделал мало разницы (that is unfortunate) it too endangers the mission. Yes, unfortunate.”
It was the last unfortunate thought, the third, that she confronted, that now troubled her the most; for it would solve the problem immediately: the summary execution of Linda Gentry. It could and would be justified. As for questions…there would none; other than those which were necessarily contained within the required report. It all would be entirely pro-forma. She mentally reviewed the “Code of Conduct…Standing order Number One.”” “It is unequivocal …if in doubt, all obstacles are to be eliminated with prejudice.” True, Gentry had become a documented obstacle; as reported, the woman herself had been compromised. But as far as the mission was concerned was that alone sufficient grounds for her termination? Stalina resolved the dilemma with “Да, да, сеять бы непоправимый ущерб мальчик... она заслуживает того умереть. (Da, yes, the sow would have irreparably harmed the boy…she deserves to die” and amplified her thoughts to where in the desert, her father’s uncompromising words of “Теодора... здесь... выживания козыри вежливость (Theodora…here…survival trumps civility) and remembered what was expected of her: simply that if hostility existed or was in some form conveyed by another towards her (and now by extension towards the paramore she had chosen) it was to be immediately expunged. The uncompromising lesson learned in the field had made Mstislav Stalina every bit as hard and unforgiving as her father had ever been and if compared vis-à-vis to her late father, if only in age terms, she would be of the two the far deadlier. She took solace in knowing that in that respectful reminiscence only her immediate superior surpassed her…and that, as it should have, comforted her. So hardened, she was not in the least bit shy of administering what she considered to be her most tender mercy; in fact, she had often mused if she would ever again sense the familiar ripples of satisfaction which had often coursed through her; remembering the occasions when she looked into her victim’s eyes and administered the coup de grâce. It was that moment she relished; the one when the final sting of understanding that one’s sense of mortally confronts one’s eminent demise. It was then, when rooted, that she would look upon her victim’s face and her ssssssmile would be the last thing seen. By her own count, the baker’s dozen she had gladly sent to meet their virgins were in their own right monsters and Stalina had treated each and every one of them as such. Yet, summary execution, despite its benefits, was not her cup of tea. It was however, a useful tool, one which when employed, offered amazing results; when life or certain death hung in the balance; but that was the problem. Under other circumstances its use by her was an object lesson upon others never lost.
Yet, by her own admission, the measure by which she would now judge Gentry would be less than creditable as Gentry had offered little in the form of hostility and if one was to speak obliquely in Gentry’s behalf, her act or acts of antagonism were woefully if not perfunctorily inept at best. Yet the fact remained that she had been compromised. And still the last thought of ineptitude lingered, a fact which concerned her more so now than it had previously. Disconcerting as that was it immediately paled with the disquieting voice she heard via her LTM; it was “his” voice she heard which now gently prodded her sensibilities by whispering to her “Феодора? Феодора?” She knew his voice, it was unmistakable. It was impossible but here and now, his voice was the same as she remembered; possessing that beckoning tone in which her father gently spoke to wake her by whispering to her her name. In the past, after her mother’s death, his was the voice easing her to waken from the usual nightmare which was often but an overture to another dawns ferocious light. But to hear him again, here and now, was impossible; yet the voice was just as she remembered: exactly the same; just as soothing to her as when she had been wakened by his concern for her.
For a fleeting moment she dismissed the episode outright as some form of PTSD and set about the task of again priming her Gom Jabbar for its impending insertion. Readying it was relatively easy to manage; requiring but a quarter turn of it's face to the right, an act which would both fully charge the vials release mechanism and reset its stinger. In seconds the task was done, but no sooner than having completed the process she heard his voice again, though this time the tone of concern it held for her was firmer nature, sounding far closer than previously, almost shouting. It was the same as he used to warn her. Crisp. Clear and concise she heard the words “Феодора! Слушайте (Feodora Listen).” Again, disbelieving it was her father’s voice she shook her head; instead finding what she had heard would not shake free. Again, she remembered him and his caring voice. The voice she could never forget and its irreplaceable qualities of being unmistakably gruff though soothing; throaty while concerned; immediate yet nonetheless thoughtful; demanding respect simply by speaking. Remembering, she paused in disbelief and out of deference allowed her sage her undivided attention when it again called to her yet again by name. “Феодора” she soothingly heard it hum once, then pausing momentarily, gasping as if to gather breathe and then to then continue in earnest with “Феодора Пожалуйста, слушайте (Feodora. Please listen). Остановка (Stop). Не делайте этого (Don’t do it). Послушай (Listen to me). Пожалуйста просто слушайте. Please, just listen. Просто слушайте меня (Just listen to me). Не делайте этого (Don’t do it). Феодора. Она всего лишь отвлекающий! (She’s nothing but a red herring!) Подождите. Подождите. Подождите. (Wait. Wait. Wait.)
Colonel Mstislav Stalina paused to consider the voices admonition pondering the obvious: incontrovertibly her father was long dead; buried in the desert sand half way around the world, the voice could not be his. Yet she knew the voice she heard, impossible as it was, was his. Alternatively, she dismissed the obvious standing across the room: one, Mark Porter; a male, who besides being immature, to her knowledge and Adam’s, spoke no other language. As for her immediate superior, the voice she heard could not be his and was not. True, he spoke the language however it was learned; lacking in articulation, not to mention syntax. The voice she heard was from a Transianka Russian male who happened to be her father, who also delighted in humor, especially in the direst of circumstances: “Red herring” indeed.””
She would have taken the matter further, would have dissected each consonant phoneme with its accompanying palatal secondary articulation or would have noted the emphasis in the reduction of the unstressed vowels where stress is noted as being unpredictable. She would have but didn’t; not because she didn’t want to, but because her LTM suddenly voiced its disapproval of her daydreaming in a most emphatic manner beginning with “Michelle, come back…what in the hell are you doing? Hells bells girl I’ve been trying to get you for the last two minutes or so and all I get back from you is static! Listen up close…r u okay?”
Binder waited for his counterpart’s distinctive reply of “Русский хорошо” to his question but heard instead “I hear. It is your voice but no. I cannot explain but I think something has happened. Hurry?” Binder had never heard his partner plead for his assistance; but he knew that her reply to him was an aberrant scream for help. He thought about giving her the third degree, after all, she was his partner and knew better. Instead he thought about what it was that had spooked her; and if truth be known, right now, he too thought that something was out of the ordinary. It was the uneasy feeling he had, a sense, of impending trouble, that often alerted him to take care; but this was different as it not only made his skin craw but made every hair on his neck and arms stand on end: it was the thought of knowing that you’re being watched by no one. It took all of two steps to think of every word of what it might take to help her out of whatever it was that was spooking her. It was on the third step that he spoke to her. “Michelle? I understand. Listen up, what I got to say to you is on the q.t. so from here on out until I get to ya we’ll go native. Мальчик не понимает ни слова из того, что я говорю, слушаешь так близко. (The boy doesn’t understand a single word of what I’m telling you so listen close). Помните, что даже если я не там, я знаю, что вы думаете (Remember, even if I’m not there, I know what you’re thinking). Я буду видеть вас в пару секунд, пока то, просто сидеть туго; и Feddy, она ничего, но red herring так ножны жало, она не знает но она получила ответы на вопросы. (I’ll see you in a couple of seconds, until then, just sit tight; and Feddy, she’s nothing but a red herring so sheath the stinger, she doesn’t know it but she’s got answers to questions).
*The Ottendorf cypher…a numeric substitution cypher such as used in “National Treasure” where…11-9-1 means eleventh paragraph, ninth line, first character.
“Answers to questions” she thought “Of course she has answers to questions as have I! So many years together and still he treats me as a child in his service that has learned nothing; who is he to speak to me in such a manner?” She resented Binders voice; an act which in itself was out of the ordinary, it had never occurred prior and for the first time in their long association she took umbrage at her mentor for simply doing his job and briefly toyed with the impulse of snidely countering her superior with a sarcasm: an act which for some reason she suppressed; choosing instead to remain silent.
Despite her long held esteem for him, what she now felt was anger and for some reason it was aimed at him. “But why should I be angry at him?” she countered while moving her ring finger a safe distance from Gentry’s neck: an act which was in contradiction to what she actually wanted to do which was to kill her. It was at moment she chose to look across the room to where Mark Porter stood finishing his drink. It was obvious that he was urgently fiddling with the front of his pants: ostensibly adjusting his salient member from right to left. She thought it odd that he would do so in this situation; still, she remembered her caution to him of danger but minutes ago, otherwise she most certainly would have dismissed his action as normal for a male. More so because his darting eyes had seized upon something eminent and in some manner threatening which was “…located above and behind me?”
She turned to where his eyes had momentarily wandered and noticed one of the many closed circuit surveillance monitors which were the norm for the facility and that the images shown on screen were not only of the room in which they found themselves at the moment. With a quick scan of the screen, she noted its lower right quadrant: it was there that the actions which occurred within the room just moments ago had been looped and were in the process of continuously being replayed. A brief moment of consternation swept through her mind.
For some reason, it was similar to the guilt she had experienced when her father found out that she was listening in on a “planning and operations meeting” he had scheduled. She remembered how she thought herself so sly and adept of having slipped into a “Secure Area” without raising an alarm and hiding herself amongst the cases of provisions just within earshot of where she knew he would be when he spoke. She remembered the surprise which gripped her when Sergei Stakhanov (great-great-great grandson of Alexey Grigoryevich Stakhanov-Hero of Socialist Labor and member of CPSU) had literally grabbed her collar from behind and hoisted her two feet right up off the floor. She remembered her yelp of surprise and the instinctive lashing out of her feet and arms in an attempted to wriggle free. She remembered that it was her left foot which made contact with his nose and the crunching sound it made when her booted heel met flesh.
She remembered the look on his face, the one which changed from pleasant surprise to utter rage in but a split second and of being thrown by him in one motion halfway across the operations room to land at the feet of her father. She never forgot the terrifying look on her father’s face as he looked down on her; nor did she forget all that followed in the moments just after and of the terrible lesson learned. She tried to block the memories which came to call on her again: his screams of anger and of her agonized pleas for mercy. How does one forget the unforgettable? At this moment she couldn’t.
She relived her father’s anger at both his daughter who had disobeyed him and the negligent sentry who for a moment, after hearing a noise, had turned his head; thus allowing a child to enter a forbidden area. She remembered explaining to her father of devising a diversion which would enable her to successfully sneak past the sentry and that it truly wasn’t the sentry’s fault that she was explaining of this to him at the time because “Если я был успешным вы бы никогда не знали (If I was successful you would have never known.)”
She remembered his measured words of “Значение. Но мой милый, вы не были успешными, и это урок. Теперь цена. Если бы это был другой стоимость бы то же самое. Вам не удалось, потому что вы не видели очевидных... полы являются запыленных..., хотя молчание... ваш являются следы, которые предали вас. Что же касается Ванечка Ильич Петрович которого сектор Вы нарушили..., приходят вперед.» (True. But, my dear, you were not successful and that is the lesson. Now the price. If it were another the cost would be the same. You failed because you did not see the obvious…the floors are dusted…though silent…yours are the footprints that have betrayed you. As for Vanechka Ilyich Petrovich whose sector it is you have breached…come forward.)
She remembered him as being twenty three at the time: his strong youthful face, blue eyes and closely cropped blond hair were pleasant to her and of how before this that he always smiled when seeing her. Why would she not remember him? Between the two, she thought she had played a clever game with one she fancied; but his was the loss for her partial success and immaturity. For either, the price her father spoke of was not negotiable: for either by her hand he would lose but a portion of an ear or by another’s he would most certainly lose both. Either way, she remembered her father flatly telling her <<Феодора, всегда есть выбор; несколько неприятно, другие не так много. Выбрать.» (Feodora, there are always choices; some unpleasant, others not so much. Choose). She remembered that three days prior she had just turned thirteen: there was no party; just an acknowledgement from her father to her of <<Феодора, вы уже тринадцать лет: с днем рождения.» (Feodora, you are now thirteen: happy birthday). Nothing more. Three days later she resentfully accepted the straight razor offered to her and remembered how her hands shook at the choices her father offered. Vanechka’s immediate quip to her when she took it was <<Напоминают мне позже, чтобы никогда не позволит вам бриться мне снова>> (Remind me later to never let you shave me again) offered little solace. After that, between them, it was over and so was the lesson; which brought her back to the moment at hand.
She paused to consider the obvious and then surmised “Yes, of course there are the obligatory monitors…in the lobby and corridors; no doubt in each and every room; normal for such a facility so that they are always in sight by one and all; constant surveillance. Да, Да. Было бы объяснить много (Yes, yes. It would explain much). “No doubt” she thought “what is visible has been recorded. Then there is more: the concealed. It would explain much. We were expected by someone and on entry avoided by all except for the enabled transgendered Winters whose task it was to find us. Still the problem remains…what does he see that I cannot? Why is it that I am…maddened? No it is more. I cannot fathom why…but I feel…different? Под контролем (Controlled).
It was that last thought which made her shudder: it was the realization that somehow she had been compromised and as such, to her and the safety of her mission, there was but one recourse. She didn’t know if it was actually minutes that passed or but a few seconds, either way the decision of what she would do next would literally be taken out of her hands by none other than Mark Porter himself: and that was just at the same moment that Larry Binder made his way through the door.
Binder understood that the uneasy feeling he had experienced only moments ago had to have a rational explanation: of course he had heard that sometimes there were things that were called ghosts in the machines, but he discounted such tales as being nothing more than poppycock. Besides he felt that his caution to Michelle was a conscionable action: his and his alone. Besides, what he knew to be the truth was the only thing that he relied upon: his instincts; they never lied to him. His gut told him that he was being watched, and as far as he was concerned he was and there was nothing in the world that would change his mind. The only question in his mind was by whom: who was the grand puppet master who pulled the strings.
On his brief trek through the corridors to meet up with Spangler he mulled what had happened to Richard K. Simms who was now a less than budding female whose name she truly believed to be Barbara Winters. He thought that the guy had taken a poker up his butt one to many times and was now licking the sh-tty end of somebody else’s stick. The only upside of that situation, if there was one for Simms, was that she could be brain wiped again and never have an inkling of whatever happened at all. Of course the downside was that things wouldn’t get fixed at all and in that case all bets for everyone were off. Of course, to Binders mind he couldn’t give a sh-t about whether Simms got anywhere because if his churning instinctive gut was anywhere near close to being right on target what he and Spangler were in the middle of was the biggest goddam scam and cluster f--k of what was left of the entire human race. It affected one and all: “Well” he modified it to be “… at least those who were left in what was now called the New United States.” Still the thought did occur to him that he might be wrong about it all but something in his gut kept telling him that he was right. He tried to ignore the fact that his gut was also telling him that this would be the last mission he would ever take and that if he ever came out of it in one piece he might regret it. That’s when he opened the door and walked in on Spangler wrestling with Mark Porter over possession of her RP- 3 with one of the three ceiling cameras was becoming the unlucky recipient of its first volley of discharges.
It took Binder a couple of seconds to comprehend what was happening; specifically, and improbably that Mark Porter was actually manipulating Spangler’s arm in order to direct fire directly at what he was looking at: cameras. Binder reached the pair just as the second volley shouted its arrival and flamed the second outright on the first shot: the successive three bursts merely appeared to add emphasis. At the same time he reached and wrested the RP-3 from Spangler’s hands Binder personally smoked the last camera; the monitor above and to the left of him soon followed suit.
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