Station: The Leisure Group Development Studio
Clouds twisted and rolled over the surface of the blue, oceanic planet outside the wide view port of the station. Energy from the system’s star heated the atmosphere and continued the unending cycle of storm building and release. Lightning danced among the swirling mists wrapped around the central low pressure of a powerful hurricane in view. A maelstrom that would find no land to hinder its way, wreaking havoc among the various types of colonies floating down on the surface that failed to prepare. Industrial or otherwise, none would be spared from the violence.
Light from the star flashed off a long, metallic blade as Jun ran a sharpening stone along its edge. The slow, rhythmic work focused his mind as the sound of the stone on the forged, folded metal filled his ears. His nostrils flared, breathing in the heavy scent of the applied oil. His dark colored eyes focused on the stone as he guided it. Strong, agile fingers manipulated the work with precision.
“I know. I know,” Jun said. His voice was low and rich in tone, unhurried in cadence, even sounded friendly to the listeners. Turning from the wide view port, he focused his eyes on the man sitting in a very comfortable recliner in the posh quarters. Placing the sharpening stone on a table to his left, he picked up a thick cloth and wiped his blade several times.
“Manty, you are wondering why you are getting a visit from my associates and I on this fine afternoon. Right?” Jun prompted.
The man with Gallentean features in the chair nodded with nervous uncertainty showing on his face, squeezing his hands together. He looked pale in his naked vulnerability and contrasted with the dark cloth of the furniture beneath him.
“Yes. Absolutely, sir. I, uh, normally only deal with Karlena.”
“I see,” Jun said in his relaxed manner glancing around the large living area. His two associates stood on either side of the room, their hands resting on the grips of their holstered side arms.
“This looks appetizing.” Jun slipped his sword in its sheath connected to his wide leather belt as he walked over to the side table next to Manty.
“Yes. It is,” Manty affirmed.
“Some kind of salad?” Jun asked. His eyes roamed over the half eaten entree with curiosity, then he picked up the fork laying half off the plate and moved the contents around a little.
“Yes. It’s the special today down at Vamarnie’s,” Manty said.
“Just one meal?” Jun asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I only see one meal,” Jun said looking back and forth from the plate to the woman in the room.
“Oh. She wasn’t hungry,” Many explained.
Jun ran his fingers along the hilt of his weapon before tapping his tattooed chin in thought, his other hand resting on his hip holding his long, brown coat open. “So you and Va’nel here got some lunch. Oh, I mean, you got some lunch, but in the midst of your meal your passion became overwhelming. So you decided to enjoy some fleshly pleasures instead?” Jun gestured with his hand pointing between the two and smiled. His bright white teeth stood out in his dark skinned face and long, black braids. His Brutor tatoos communicated exactly where he belonged.
Manty nodded quickly, moving to the edge of his seat. Resting his elbows on his knees he looked down at the floor. “Yes. That’s right. The meal could wait.”
Jun nodded and knelt down in the middle of the floor next to a woman and gently caressed her golden hair. She was hog tied, laying on her stomach, naked, and gagged. Her eyes tried to look up at the man, craning her neck slightly. Utter fear showed in her face and eyes, breathing heavily through her nostrils.
“So, this attractive lady here,” Jun paused considering. “She your girlfriend, Manty?”
Manty glanced over at Va’nel. His hands quivered slightly when he shook his head. “No. Nope. Not at all.”
“You normally tie up women you know like this?” Jun asked looking at him with a bit of disapproval.
Manty looked uncertain for a few moments, rubbing his knees, his deflated penis, visibly dormant. “I, uh, not normally. But, Va’nel, she likes-”
“Oh!” Jun interrupted gleefully. “Va’nel,” he playfully said her name like he discovered one of her dirty secrets. Looking down at her, his eyes roamed over her Amarrian body as he chuckled. “Damn girl! The news is out, Seltaria!” He sounded approving. “And Manty here isn’t as dominate as I thought.”
Standing back up, Jun pointed down at her. “Now, Manty, if I remove Va’nel’s gag is she going to confirm everything you just told me? I mean, I think it is important that we are telling each other the truth.” He nudged one of the buttons on his black shirt with its open collar.
Manty pressed his lips together and continued looking down at the floor. “Yes. Absolutely,” he replied to the question.
Jun nodded and hummed a flat tone as he wiped his hands with the rag he used to clean the oil off his sword, careful to use the clean side. Then he tossed it on a long couch on one side of the room. A tiny frown touched his lips. Putting both hands on his hips he stared at Manty, a piercing glare passing over his features. The handle of his holstered gun now visible.
“I think we should ask Karlena about all of this. Don’t you think, Manty?” Jun asked in a friendly tone. “I think she could provide us some insight into this situation.”
Manty began to rise from his seat with sudden panic gripping him by the throat gurgling some noises.
Jun took a step toward him with his hand out. “No,” he ordered looking disgusted by the man’s nakedness. “Have a seat. We’re just having a friendly conversation. And for the sake of my damn purity, please cover yourself with that pillow!”
Manty froze for a couple of seconds, nodded his head slightly as he slowly lowered himself back into his chair. “Sure,” he managed to squeeze out from his constricted esophagus. Grabbing the pillow next to him, he covered his groin.
“Thank you!” Jun said in relief. “I like you Manty, but not that much, my friend. I can’t take you waving your junk around all up in here.” He snapped his fingers and waved to one of his colleagues.
The Caldari male, about equal in size and similar style to Jun minus the tattoos and hair cut, walked over to the wide living area table in front of the couch with a metal box. Placing it down by the handle, he accessed a small control panel on top and keyed in a code.
“I don’t know if Karlena will be available for a conversation,” Manty mumbled. “As an agent, she normally has meetings this time of day.”
Jun looked surprised a few seconds, peering at the man who managed to inform them about their own agent’s schedule. “Well, thank you for that important information, Manty. But, don’t worry, I know for a fact Karlena will provide all the information we need to clear up this matter.”
Tiny servo motors activated on the box, and the small red lights at the top turned green when the sound stopped. Jun stepped over as his colleague moved away. Taking the handle, Jun lifted the top off that included all four sides. All that was left on the table was the base.
As soon as the box cracked open, white freezing fog billowed out, drifting across the table and down to the floor as it dissipated. At first Manty’s face looked confused, but then terror overwhelmed him. He jumped up as Va’nel cried out through her gag. Jun drew his gun with a polished, quick reflex and pointed it right at Manty’s face. The other two with Jun did the same.
Manty looked to his left and right, a trapped, desperate man.
“Sit!” Jun yelled at him, looking down his barrel ready to pull the trigger. The indignant, intense stare echoed his command. Manty froze, looking back at him, yet still managed to hang on to his pillow. Jun’s voice lowered in volume slightly, speaking slowly. “Sit the fuck down, Manty, or according to my estimation, you will have a very bad day.”
Manty nodded after considering his chances and swallowed heavily. “I will,” he wheezed holding up on hand as if to ward off a blow. Taking a seat, he sat right on the edge of the chair and looked toward the opposite wall away from the box. Va’nel sobbed heavily, tears streaming from her eyes.
Jun took out a pair of green, protective, nitrile gloves from his black pants pocket and lazily pulled them on to his hands. Allowing the group in the room time to quietly take in and gaze upon Karlena’s severed head. It was held upright by the spiked base of the box.
Her face was beaten, bruised and bloody, and her mouth hung open in a disgusting manner due to her broken jaw. A crooked nose and broken teeth made the head even more grotesque, but the glazed, sagging eyes spoke of death. Portions of her skull lacked hair having been torn out.
Jun sighed softly looking at the female Brutor’s tatoos. “I can assure you, Manty, that I was not involved in Karlena’s punishment and interrogation. And, I am told that she was strong of mind and spirit up until the end. Honorable.” Jun paused and looked at the terrified Gallente before continuing in a serious, grave voice. “She did not have a lot to say before she gave her last shrieking breath, but her communication records filled her silence none-the-less.”
Holding the back of her head with one hand, Jun reached into Karlena’s open mouth with the other, inserting his strong fingers deep, appearing to search for something as her cold lips stretched around his hand. The sight and sounds made one of Jun’s men gag and turn away. He coughed loudly, trying not to vomit. Manty and Va’nel would not watch.
“Ah,” Jun said. “Here we go.” Twisting his hand, pushing against her lower jaw further, he slowly withdrew, bringing a long data chip into view between his fingers. Walking toward the large screen across from Manty he continued. “Our associates could have made that a little easier to retrieve. But, back to your point. You see Manty, Karlena is available and will clear this all up for us.”
Jun inserted the data chip into a port and the massive screen on the wall immediately powered up. “Log entry two thousand seventy-nine. Play file,” he said to the computer. Turning, he stared at Manty without emotion.
The screen showed a two way communication, split screen. Karlena was on the left and Manty’s face on the right.
“Karlena, I don’t have a lot of time,” Manty sighed, sounding apathetic and bored.
Karlena cut him off. “You will for this. I have another one for you.”
Manty’s eyes turned to the screen appearing to give her his full attention. “Oh? Do tell, my dark treat.”
The woman’s eyes narrowed. “You know that was a one time thing. I told you not to bring it up again.”
Manty grinned, enjoying the revulsion that shadowed her features. “Yes, I remember, but if you change your mind.”
Karlena gritted her teeth and looked away. “Back to business. This one’s name is Va’nel. She is an Amarrian of very high standing, Holder family, fleet master, part of the judiciary. I don’t know how they captured her, but they have already made one holoreel.” She looked back at the the screen. “We have to get her out, or they will kill her when they finish. My team alerted me, and they are bringing her to you. Get her back where she belongs, Manty.”
“You know I will, Kar. I always do. Send me ISK, the vid according to our agreement, and she will provide transport payment as always. Reenacting the reel with me,” Manty said. The cold sound of his voice was unmistakable.
Karlena stared at him with open disgust across the communication link. “You are truly a sick fuck, disgusting pig, almost as bad as the rest. I can’t believe I-” She shook her head.
Manty smiled warmly. “Please say it.” He waited a few seconds, watching her closely, until the awkward silence became quite delicious to him. “In response to your comments, I’m not,” he reminded her. “I nurse them back to health, provide the best medical care, psychological and emotional therapy, and return them to their homes when I am done. They escape their terrible fate. So what if I indulge and taste the fruit of my labor. I don’t take my payments to the extreme.”
“Pause playback,” Jun said staring at Manty who was even more pale than before. “They escape. You return them to their homes.” The Brutor crossed his arms and lightly tapped his chin in thought. “You are the last piece of the puzzle. The exit door as we like to call it. We’ve been searching for you for a very long time.”
Manty glanced at one of the men who stepped near with his weapon leveled at his head. It was the one who did not gag as Jun retrieved the data chip. Looking at Karlena’s defrosting head, Manty figured that was how he would end up. Just a head on someone’s shelf somewhere in the vast cartel network. An example for the others who might decide to step out of line. He closed his eyes expecting the inevitable.
Suddenly, Jun burst out laughing. The other two joined him. “You think we are going to shoot you?” They laughed even harder.
Manty opened his eyes and looked at them in astonishment. Confused about the turn of attitude. “Yes, that is the logical conclusion I am drawing here.”
Jun’s laugh receded until he finally stopped. He shook his head. “No. We are not going to kill you. Why would we? You are the most lucrative distributor of our particular type of holoreels in the entire region. We can’t replace you, Manty, nor do we want to.”
Manty glanced around at the three men with uncertainty, uneasy. His heart pounded in his chest, and he could hear his blood rushing in his ears. “Well, I just thought–”
“Stop thinking!” Jun said in his friendly manner. “We have decided on something far, far better. You will continue as our star distributor like always-”
Manty sighed with relief and managed to smile and nod a couple of times.
“-but, first you and Va’nel here will return to headquarters with us. We are intrigued by how you like to reenact our vids with our female talent whom you help escape. So we have decided that you will get to reenact every single vid that all eight of them made. A total of forty-three! In fact, you will play their exact roles in each one! Isn’t that exciting?”
Jun’s pearly white, wide grin burned itself into Manty’s memory as the sedative and illicit drugs entered his blood stream from the medical device pressed against his neck. The darkness swallowed him with its heavy embrace, throwing him forward, smothering any hope that may have sparked in his thoughts. Laughter and the sharp smell of his own carpet filled his senses for a few seconds as everything else faded.