ParaVice: Chapter 8
The following is a work of fiction. Though some elements presented in this story are inspired by actual events that affect us all in the real world, the names, characters, places, and conflicts are all figments of the author's imagination and should not be mistaken for anything else otherwise. The views and opinions expressed in this story are also just made up for dramatic effect, to bridge fantasy and allegory with reality as a way to paint a more visceral canvas for our readers to engage in. Thank you so much for taking the time to experience this world with me.
This story features mature and disturbing content not suitable for all ages. Read at your own risk!
What’s in the box: Evil has a way of rooting in the soil of broken hearts.
The President of a small island nation is forced to face his sins as his countrymen are banging at his Palace gates, calling for his resignation. A journalist from Neuterra has a chance to seize the story of a life time, taking it from the lips of a president turned dictator Himself. His empire is crumbling, and his secrets are spilling over into the light. Now is his chance to explain himself to the world... Now is his chance to pull the trigger.
Cane: a fractured republic 330 miles south from the beaches of ParaVice. Her capital district, Cielo, is splayed out on an incongruous map of sprawling slums and lavish walled palaces, libraries, museums, and municipal buildings. A world of opulence enveloped by its war-torn subjects. Marble pillars, and weaponized watch towers stood on their exhausted backs. The military police that governed the moldering city ate well and lived quite extravagantly, where their counterparts and the majority of the populace slaved to keep them rich and full. There were only three options to them: work to feed the needs of their rapacious government, fight and climb the ranks of police/martial occupations, or join in the notorious Canian crime organization known as The Company. They were the long reaching arm of their corrupt government, and to enter into the family one must give their lives. There wasn’t a fourth option, for any other path could be viewed as a course toward treason and death. It was a fact made well known to the public through callously engineered state propaganda, though the government tried to dress up their oppressive rule for the watching eye of the world as an electoral democracy. They would argue that what is chosen by the people in a fair and honest referendum cannot be labeled as a dictatorship. Every four years there was indeed an election, professed as a fair process in which the people get to select their next diplomatic representative. But the leader was always the same. The government silenced all those who would dare try their luck running against the established House of Order. Those that did were only pons set forth for show, they would never win. Four brave kids tried to expose the regime’s monstrous perfidy. The cost of their brave actions would be paid in blood.
Trapped in the throat of a golden serpent, famed reporter Carla Gleason maintained a composure forged from the hardest background a correspondent could possibly live to know. She was world renown for travailing across perilous territories in pursuit of a good story. She was there at the core of the Middle Eastern conflict in Suna, as they were vying against the imperialistic intrigues of western indulgence encroaching into their lands. She had been interviewing a rebel captain when Suna government officials raided his camp. And now, it was all happening again in Cane. As an adventurer, and aspiring free climber, she faced this latest leviathan rising before her with alacrity. She saw herself as a warrior woman, her pen was her sword. She wanted to strike down the devils of the world with it. But like all romantic dreams, sooner or later it was time to wake up to a cold and cruel reality.
Her hair was flawlessly prepared, not a single strand rebelled on her scalp. Even under the tremendous stress and time restraint she somehow managed to keep those solemn waves and austere curls in place with the immovable grace of a gothic statue, poised and ready to brave whatever storm, or earthquake, or war could try to test her marble skin. Her cameraman Mason Wright, however, was a mess. His black hair stuck together in dense spirals that exploded every which way. Carla loved his natural hair though; she liked to play with it against his emphatic objections. It was strange how someone of such high repute could still so easily trip over their own ego and blindly stumble into the forbidden pit of micro transgressions that she has tried so passionately to eradicate. But Mason still loved that woman, even with all of her faults. Her heart was always in the right place. He just wished it would stay the fuck off his damn hair.
His clothes were untidy, and the heavy bags under his chocolate eyes were enough to make him appear twenty years older than he rightfully should. Waiting beneath a glimmering, icy chandelier, and enshrined by an ornate menagerie of gilded monsters snarling and gnashing, a disturbing primal instinct of dread slithered into his heart as he adjusted his camera for the historic interview.
The Palace Hall was not a friendly place, but Mason had stood by his boss’s side with hostile company before. He would never forget the time he accompanied her to an oversight hearing on a controversial matter dealing with the mental fitness of an incoming director to head the FBI. On that day they found themselves entrenched in an emotional battleground spearheaded by powerful senators that were mostly disgusted by the situation, and therefore hated Carla as well for her highly affective contribution to the trial. But they were at least Neuterrian, and harmless, fat, old paper pushers. These were seasoned killers.
It was a place designed to intimidate more than to impress. Those who were not acclimated to her austere, golden floral pillars and numinous, high vaulted ceilings were swallowed whole by its sheer architectural magnificence. Gorgeous, sprawling frescos depicting some sort of bloody peasant’s rebellion against unready foreign adversaries (they looked quite reminiscent to the ones that founded the islands) were hanging over their heads. All of it was a sort of flex of power to frighten guests and to embolden the ego of its owner. Red and Gold were the imperial colors of the royal kingdom that had come to proselytize the Kaia islands many long centuries ago. It was such a vain and ironic thing to embrace for a government who loved to hold their founders with such implacable contempt. They often boasted brazenly that they have transcended those that had come to rape their culture, wresting back their independence with spirit and bloody hands.
The Canian Regime had long last transformed into the very monster they bled so deep to liberate their people from. There is even a beloved tale of a warrior woman. Carla’s mother used to sing her the old songs about her. When the first settlers from Dios Madre landed, waging an ethnic genocide against their people, she was the one to stand up and say unto them, “NO, this is our place, not yours to have.” She was the one that organized the tribes, who were before their arrival, sworn enemies. They put aside their feud, and they joined their spears to drive out the callous invaders. With primitive weapons and skookum bravery, they fought together and they won back their land. A woman did that. And they set a statue of her likeness in a place of honor at the center of their royal plaza. In time, it would be riddled with bullets and surrounded by civil bloodshed. Rust ran from her proud stone eyes like tears of blood. But before too long, irony will one day strike cruel again for the ancestors of Cane and the Kaia Islands.
A clangor rose when the great chamber gates slammed opened down in the vestibule. The sound echoed across the dizzying vaulted ceiling and poured into the Palace Hall, grabbing both Carla Gleason and her cagey cameraman with a startled jolt. Excitement returned to her when she saw the very tall, very handsome President of Cane approaching with his staunch retinue. They marched in before him like a cavalcade of toy soldiers. He came up behind and halted. A lean, war-hardened man instructed them to line up along the wall, and so they did. They hung their assault rifles to their sides and saluted their president as he continued his way. Before leaving them to meet with his guests he approached the lean soldier, placed gentle hands upon his shoulders and whispered into his ear. The soldier nodded, and the president squeezed the back of his head affectionately; it was almost fatherly how he did it. He spun on his heel and walked briskly to greet his guests with a stolid disposition. There was no pleasure here and it was nothing but business as usual for Cane. The towering man frowned ugly at Carla, which only seemed to entice the reporter even more. She straightened the unruly folds out of her skirt and winked at Mason. He swallowed the lump in his throat, not at all sharing her enthusiasm.
Why are you smiling, woman, he thought miserably, the man is accused of murdering hundreds of his own people… including reporters who liked to ask too many prickling questions. Carla was notorious for asking a good too many prickling questions. Mason just wanted his hazard pay.
The soldiers genuflected as he passed them. They were armed with dusty, hard-used military grade automatic rifles, garbed in dazzling armor, and wearing the perfume of death heavy on their ambience. Carla stood there sneering at them with her arms folded over her chest, like an unimpressed child at a magic show. The lean fellow, with dusky skin, and a muscular but lissome frame, flashed her a brief knowing grin as he too bowed deep, dropping to a knee to honor his President.
His footfalls knocked along the mahogany floor ever closer like a doomsday clock running fast out of time. When they at last found the portion that was carpeted, the sound came softer, but no less foreboding. The lean soldier that was groveling for him then lifted his dark eyes, and his baleful gaze once more found Carla. He had a scar parting his dark and thick left brow; it was far too gruesome a mark on such an attractive man to miss. Even with the ugliest intentions in his heart, there was something inherently beautiful about the Canian people that was just so hard to deny. The stranger grinned snidely at her. Might have struck a blow of trepidation into her gut, but nobody would ever know for certain with her unwavering coolness in the face of danger. That woman was bulletproof, or so Mason Wright would let himself believe. In truth, she was more aroused by his menacing smile than afraid.
The President of the Canian Nation wore an unconventional mustache for a ruler of his stature and one that was more expected of a brigand or a biker to wear. It came down to a strong, naked, dimpled chin, accentuating the disgusted frown he always seemed to have carved into his face. His hair was greased back and his clothes were all black: his vest, his shirt, his tie, his slacks, even his leather shoes, though there were silver little skulls smirking at the tips of his toes.
He wore his Big Boy suit for me today, Carla Mused. I should be so honored. That dangerous, condescending way she liked to smile at men of power was still trying to sneak past her lips. Masson was getting cottonmouth just thinking about it.
Sinewy, and with a deadly serious austere disposition President Julio Riel was of a build that could have carried him well through a lofty career of professional sport, perhaps even football. But alas he was royal blood, and as such he was never permitted the luxury to dream a poor-man’s dream. He would have killed on the field with his ravenous hunger for competition, besides. He was a philanthropist of various sports, believing that the true spirit of the human soul was hemmed in the DNA of athletic competition. He often attended the games, and was a generous patron for the art of wrestling where Canians excelled worldwide. The thirst for sport was very much in his blood. But so was war. So was vengeance.
He was ruthless by nature, but not without his charm. Get on his bad side, and one could just as well be in a pit with a screaming boar. But on diplomatic review, with the entire world watching at a most crucial hour, he put on his mask, which was solemn and charismatic as a young maiden’s dream.
The President stepped up, shook Mason’s hand, and then Carla’s. It was a firm shake, a respectful one, though it always came from right to left, and the man was always acknowledged before the woman. Carla was not so dull to miss it. She shrugged the casually subtle slight off her back, though, it fell from her ego with the grace sandpaper.
President Riel recognized the power of the media. Journalists were soldiers in the world as well, but their battle was fought differently, as a battle of wits.
President Julio Riel does not shy away from a war. This one was important. A surge was thrashing at the floodgates, and on the eve of a potentially devastating storm nigh on the horizon. There was no placating the people. They had made up their mind about his regime. Perhaps however there might be a chance to steal momentum from his critics, watching safe behind their borders in their cozy homes. He needed them to see his strife the way he wanted it to be seen, but how? Blood has been spilt; an uprising has bloomed. The only option left to him was to resign. That he would never do, come hell or high water, and high water was coming fast. Now it was a game of psychological warfare.
Carla could not wait to play.
He offered them bread and wine, a dutiful servant brought it over on a rich, silver platter, groveling to The President all the while. Carla gave the poor girl a pitiful glance. She could see dark bruises blossoming out over the collar of her exquisite, glittery black dress. Her garb was sure to cover most of the reach in her arms and legs, but the furtive posture of a whipped dog wasn’t so easy to hide. Carla thanked her as she accepted this time-honored tradition to assure their safety while guests under her master’s roof. They ate, and they drank. Mason gulped the offering down eagerly. Then they sat before the camera. They made their pleasant introductions. It was affable, and it was quick. Before long, the preamble was done, and the guns were drawn. Carla fired the first shot.
“President Julio Riel.” The famed Neuterian reporter said his name succinctly and sharply, and there was something meant to sting in the way she placed it.
“Miss Gleason,” he answered gruffly, but he prettied it up with a friendly smile. It was a frightening thing to behold, shrouded by that pirate’s goatee he was known to wear. He spoke her language perfectly, flavoring every word of it with only a hint of his native accent. He learned as a young man that a little was nice, but too much was likely to inflame antipathy from such privileged subjects as the Neuterrians. Theirs was a spoiled rotten culture. Mistaking their own self-gratifying conceit as evidence for enlightened altruism, the affluent academics of Neuterra unapologetically raised their bullhorns of unbridled opinion to try and lecture the world. After all the great harm their forefathers have done to it, it was a difficult test to endure over and over again. It served only as fodder for descent, prompting the ruling class to slip ever deeper into totalitarian territory so to reclaim order.
Carla sat back in her chair and said, “There is a furor raging at the gates of this Palace. Your citizens seem…”
“They are disturbers of the peace, not my citizens these ones,” he rebuffed, letting his anger show just a wince. “I would call them terrorists.”
“Titles are decried as you wish, but they have one for you as well, I am told. They call you Rey De Ninguno.” His jaw tensed, and flush burned at the nape of his neck. “They’re chanting it outside. Can you hear them?”
He grinned, and the age lines cut deep in the parts of his face where he had once long ago woven them into his flesh with laughter. Now they were revealed only through contempt, like fossils from a happier time indelibly etched into the stone of his despoiled mug. He could still vaguely remember the contours of her face… and even his own when he could remember how to smile. The boy was fresher… his passing hurt the most. The President closed his eyes, warding off the painful thought from his mind.
Clearing his throat, he took a drink of water. Then he refocused and said firmly, “I understand you are a leftist hound who is free to bark whatever calumny you so desire back where you come from. But please, I will ask but only once, while you are here as my guest, show some respect.”
“Forgive me, Mr. President, I do forget myself sometimes. I am spoiled, as you like to remind us. Women are entitled to a free voice to be heard where I come from.”
“Are they?” President Riel said, unimpressed. “It is true I hear, that women in the Neuterrian Government have made a proud presence on your senate floor, but would they aspire for the next rung in the ladder they are disparaged, demonized, humiliated, and then exiled.” Now Carla was frowning. Very recent examples had proven his observation quite accurate. Like a predator with the rousing taste of blood on his tongue, he hit her again with his venomous words. “There is also the matter of a certain…abomination with quite an interesting level of great power at her disposal. One so beastly its foul influence serves only to seep in and defile your sacrosanct house of Law. She had to be a man first before it was even possible, of course. What an egregious scandal. Might this individual be kin of yours?” A whirlwind of rage turned inside Carla’s head as she glowered at him. “Should I speak more of this creature, or would you rather us return to the situation that is our crisis?”
“Very well,” she relinquished the subject with palpable indignation. “Tell us about Le Gente.”
“I already have. They are terrorists.”
Carla made a show of referring to her notes cradled in her lap, a practiced ritual to information she already knew well at heart, just to prove that she had hard evidence. “According to testimony by many of your own citizens they are merely a peaceful organization that want the right to a free referendum; a demand that you coldly ignore.”
The man with the scar on his left eyebrow—heard that, and he gave the woman yet another contemptuous glance.
The President straightened his posture. Calmly he breathed out a slow sigh, and said, “We had an election.”
“And you are the victor. Congratulations!” Her patronizing grin buried a species of vexation into his temples. She played with her papers again, looking for the part that highlighted this imminent accusation, which was already waiting anxiously on her tongue. “You managed it so flawlessly during a time when your approval rating has fallen well below twenty percent, and all of your left-leaning opponents have been found… dismembered? So conveniently, the dregs left over in the race are all contributors to your administration. Every one of them happily conceded.”
“Your meaning, Miss Gleason?” His aggravation was evident.
With her battle-ready smile set in she answered, “Seems a bit miraculous.”
“Do you not believe in Miracles where you come from?” The president did not give her time to answer. “Ahh, yes… you are a nation of heathens now. You sailed in with your omnipotent God heavy upon your complacent shoulders as you burned down our ancestors’ villages, but now He has abandoned you? If there was anything, I might have supported the fallen Senator Joel Moor for in his squandered contest, its this: at least he was a man of faith. Your country could use a good Holy reawakening.”
“Don’t you mean cleansing?”
“Perchance I do, Miss Gleason.”
A chill ran down Carla’s spine on account of that last bit. She could not show it, though. She retreated back to her notes. This time however, she wasn’t searching for more ammunition. For the moment, her clips were spent. She was behind enemy lines, and she was surrounded by suppressing fire. Far too proud ever to admit it out right truthfully, she needed only a place to hide from his intense gaze. She then said, “Le Gente: The People. They claim that this all began after a group of children…”
“Criminals,” he interjected.
Finding her courage again, she scowled at him and defiantly repeated herself. “Children…” The President’s man tensed and groped for his sidearm. President Riel shot him a look of admonishment, and he let it go. Carla did not notice as she prodded on, “Teenagers. They hacked into government files and uncovered something… something you don’t want out. Something about a weapon. Can you tell us about that?”
“A conspiracy.” He said it a tad bit too eagerly.
“Very well. It was a conspiracy damning enough to prompt your own military police to track these kids down, shut them up in a prison, and to torture them to death, allegedly.”
“Allegedly,” he echoed.
“And the parents?”
He shrugged. “They were arrested, they were executed, and their bodies were hung on display to serve as an example.”
“You admit this,” Carla asked, surprised.
Perspiration was breaking on his brow. Her cameraman was well past that, trying to fight his hands from trembling as he worked the camera on its tripod. He wished he had another one of those drinks. The sudden buzz it provided made him wonder if it was wine or something more. Whatever the case, he could have used another hit to ice his nerves.
President Riel frowned. “No,” he looked down at his hands steepled over his still knees. “I am only finishing it. I have heard the same story. It is a slander, and it is not true. If it were however, these crimes by which they were found guilty of, are in fact crimes punishable by the fiercest penalty provided by the law. We are talking about treason.”
“We are talking about kids, and their parents,” Carla fired back. “We are talking about murder. We are talking about a cover up and one that puts you in the driver seat of a heinous plot to acquire a weapon of mass destruction at the expense of your own people for whatever vile end gain.”
The President did not respond, and so Carla continued. “There is another anomaly: NITA is investigating a supposed link between your government and an enemy nation to Nueterra. These are treacherous revelations.”
“Your xenophobic Intelligence Agency is always working an angle against us. It is paranoia,” the President insisted.
“And now there is the murder of Joel Moor in ParaVice. He rallied against you and your alleged alliance with the notorious Canian Mafia, The Company. His body was discovered at a hotel that has been known to house criminal activity orchestrated by that very same organization. He was disemboweled in a familiar fashion as well…”
“You can draw your conclusions until your pen bleeds sin, Miss Gleason. But you have no true evidence to support any of these claims.”
“We know that a great number of representatives in your cabinet have recently been indicted by the Global Peace Initiative under charges of conspiracy… and every last one of them have flipped, naming you as their ringleader. Something along the lines of taking money from known terrorist organizations operating out of Suna, and other damaging confessions about offshore bank accounts linked directly to Rodinian spies. What did you buy from them with that money, Mr. President?”
That took him by surprise. Gleason was well informed. He paused a moment, swallowing down his frustration. After some time to plot his next move he was calm again, and he said, “You think Nueterra is so innocent in all this? Do you? You collaborate with the Global Peace Initiative to slap sanctions on broken nations as to penalize them for activities some have no other choice left to them but to entertain. When you are pushed in a corner by a gluttonous bully, you fight back, or you get eaten.”
“Is that what you are doing, fighting back?”
“Miss Gleason, I am doing what I have always done. I am being human. I live to survive.” The charismatic President leaned in on his elbows and said, “Why sanctions? Sanctions are wicked maledictions woven by terrible men with terrible power. Do you understand how they work? Sanctions are designed to target the poor, to put strain on them; to give them an incentive to rebel against their own government. They are forged with the sole intention of introducing anarchy. How do you think I am going to respond to such bold action? You do the same to your own people, though you may not interpret it as such. You want to throw numbers in my face? Here are some for you to chew on. Your poverty rate is edging above fifteen percent. Your nation is over twenty-five trillion dollars in debt to its own rapacious greed. You are absolutely divided in your ideology and flirting with a divide so precipitous it might at any moment trigger a civil war. You have corrupt programers in your country with so much power at their disposal they openly undermine their very own government. For the right price they will allow foreign entities to slide their mischievous influences through a fast network of echo chambers disguised as social media platforms. Your crime rate is unfathomable. Your rich are eating the world. You deny access to education, making it as a luxury reserved only for those who already have everything. You demonize the poor. Your healthcare is a scam. Your people are turning to cartels for medicine. These self-inflicted wounds are your global ambitions folding in upon itself. These are your sanctions. Your curses. You strike low and expect not to see retaliation. You are not the police of the world. You are a disease.”
Carla looked hard at him and asked, “And you are the cure?”
“The cure,” he grinned ruefully, “that is dead too, or dying enough it makes no matter. I—we—the Canian people… we are survivors. We survived your ancestors’ genocide. We will survive your plague.”
Even through the fortress walls of the palace the staccato thumping of a helicopter’s rotors cutting across the sky bled in. Beyond that, there was the faintest hint of thousands speaking in one voice, chanting that name their President hated so much. “Rey De Ninguno! Renunciar!” they cried out together, with assent, with liberation. They were his citizens rallying outside the gates of the Palace.
She listened; enjoying every minute they shared in that transcending silence. Closing her eyes, she took all the implications of it in, remembering the woman’s rights movement that stole the hearts of a nation when she was only a girl. Smiling she said, “King Of Nothing, Give Up… will you listen to your people?” Aggrieved, the Canian President only looked at her with hate in his steamy eyes. “Or do you mean to rule over ash and bones?”
The boy was all he had left to remember her by. The memory was relentless. He loved that boy. But there was nowhere else for him. The world would have killed him as an infant. The political backlash would have ruined his father’s administration. There was nowhere else for him.
“I will do, what need be done.” He said those words directly into the camera filming them. The little hairs on Mason’s neck were suddenly standing on end.
Carla didn’t even flinch or shy away her smile. “Sounds like the declaration of a despot.”
His man with the threatening glare and scar caught their impertinent guest with a sideways glance in answer to that statement. President Julio Riel’s eyebrows furrowed throwing angry lines into the center of his skull. He opened his mouth to respond. The air around them suddenly caught on fire. A heart-stopping blast popped their eardrums, leaving them ringing on a relentless high note. Broken glass, and shattered flakes of gold, exploded in plumes behind them. Mason went tumbling, his camera and tripod summersaulting over the chairs. Carla was thrown back, her red cushioned chair flipped on top of her. The president was down on his face, his own seat hurtled at his scrambling officers. Smoke filled the audience chamber, choking the Palace Hall in soot and blackness.
The last thought on Riel’s mind before he was splayed out on the carpeted floor was this: He was a beautiful boy caught in an ugly game. And then she took him away…
Carla could see sifting ash and stars swimming thickly across her vision. The harsh whine in her head was only starting to wan down when she saw the President’s retinue rushing their commander and chief out from the scene with his head forced down. Then there were boots surrounding her. Hard hands hoisted her up, bruising her underarms, and in a rush of confused shouts, curses, and demands she saw between two broad shoulders what had happened. There, beyond the wall of armored, muscled men hurrying her to safety she caught a glimpse of a jagged, gaping mouth. Its yawning throat looked out into the starry lit city, and the gloomy black night. A veil of liquid smoke obscured it some, but she could see the reach of government owned spires, as well as the sprawl of a dilapidated slum teeming chaotically around the Royal Plaza far beneath them. Twisting iron cried plaintively next to flagging, tattered sheets of charred insulation that flapped frantically in the high altitude winds. There were serrated statues, and blackened stone, and there was fire eating away at the lavish carpeting that had dressed the floors of the rich hall.
“Mortero!” one of the men declared as he opened fire at the breach.
Her hearing was back, and beneath the new clap of gunfire she heard distant cries of terror as the demonstrators on the street received the violent barrage. Three other men followed suit, and the Palace Hall became the vantage point of a vicious slaughter.
Before they were separated, the president directed the man with the earpiece and handsome, but scarred face, to fly his guests away from the palace, and then he had Carla’s arm in a vice-grip squeeze. He shoved her past the others and into a dark corridor away from the roar of bullet fire. The only concern on her mind in that wild moment: Where is Mason?