Remember the rules if you want to participate:
- Leave a comment expressing direct interest in writing chapter four. If you’re the first to ask, the writing baton is bestowed upon you. Clock’s ticking, though! You have three days from the point you’ve asked to participate to write the chapter and send it back to me as well. However, if I don’t hear back past three days, I will be looking for another participant to write the chapter.
- Please do not submit to the form without commenting your interest in writing the next chapter. As well, only one author per submission, meaning if you submitted a chapter and it is accepted, you cannot submit again for a different chapter.
- The minimum word count is 500. The maximum word count I will accept is 5,500. After commenting your interest in writing the next chapter, submit your continuation here where I will then review and edit it. The day after you submit your continuation and it is accepted, the chapter will be posted and the process starts all over again.
- I will not accept anything religious, outwardly political, hateful, pornographic, slurs, or anything that is demeaning, threatening or harmful in its content. Please nothing that is against a particular group, or anything that demeans a certain group of people that would be considered racist, homophobic, sexist, religious discrimination or prejudice. I will not accept your piece if that is such the case.
No clue what’s going on in the story so far? We got you.
Chapter One by Lucy
Chapter Three by James Strummer
What the actual fuck, I thought.
I am not sanctioned to commit murder or organize assassination. Why would my boss even consider I had the means or appetite to end someone’s life? On the organizational chart, I was seriously ensconced in the mid-levels. My boss, yeah, maybe he could get permission from the higher-ups to get physical. He had the means to reach the government, the ones who actually commit black-ops in the real world. On the whole, that was not our modus operandi. We work with numbers, data, info. When we want to make a person disappear, we do it by other means. I tap away on my keyboard. Occasionally, I travel out to meet a target, but it was a rare occurrence. I bring the target in and give him to the others, the real interrogators. It’s what I did with Stephen Richards.
I listened to the air exchanger hum beneath the barely discernible sound of ska on the office sound system. Ska? Maybe Cracker had hacked into the sound system. The techs did it all the time. Turned the volume up at such slow increments, until the music was practically blasting by the workday’s end. I had subconsciously grown to appreciate the sitar through such means. Maybe I would grow to love ska as well given time. Cracker liked their ska from Jamaica, no English second-wave or California third wave ska for them. They also had a nasty habit of sending some really filthy porn around the office. It really was demeaning to all sexes.
“Well,” Z asked, “What have you to zay? I like the initiative, but perhaps we should’ve discussed it first?” Z short for Zeransky, but it lent itself well to his trouble with sibilants. Franz Zeransky, born in eastern Europe just before the fall of the Soviet bloc, had adapted well as technology separated the haves from the have-nots.
While so many of his comrades became service workers, he dove into the computer sciences. He did code in his head. He had been known to produce innovative programs in moments, while everyone else was just settling in behind their screens. He was once a goddamn Mozart of programming. He saw and heard it all in his head. He simply had to transfer it to his computer. And then about when he turned 45, it all just faded away. He lost the magic that once danced from his fingertips. Maybe it was just age creeping up. Most masterpieces are created in the younger years of the artist. The Organization bounced him up the ladder. After all, the thinking went, Z may not be able to create, but he could still lead from behind a big desk.
All this I thought in just a moment as I weighed taking credit for Richards’s death or admitting I had no idea what was going on. Z seemed happy with the night’s work. On the other hand, ignorance of case details was often considered a terrible shortcoming, worthy of demerits in your file.
“Z, I didn’t off him,” I admitted, hoping I had decided correctly. “I was just as surprised as anyone when I woke up this morning to the news.”
“That’s a houze of a different color,” Z observed.
“Horse too,” I replied lowly.
“What’s that?” he asked. “Never mind. We have other fish to filet. If it wasn’t you, we have off-grid competition. They’re playing the game old school. What could they have gotten before tossing him off the roof? The zame things we got last night? We must assume he told them about us. This is not good.”
As I was about to reply, I became aware of the ska getting just a hair louder and then a buzzer sounded. For a moment, I thought I was hallucinating again, but it was a signal to Z that he was about to have a visitor. He looked towards the door just as Venus knocked and walked in. Unlike most of the nicknames in the office, Venus’s wasn’t meant to be insulting or ironic. Someone had noticed she uncannily resembled the Venus in Botticelli’s famous painting, with her flowing red hair and alabaster skin. Most of the time, Venus kept that hair braided and piled atop her head. Her skin too was mostly kept under wraps. She was the picture of professionalism. She spoke her American English without a hint of her northern Italian upbringing. She had her fingers in a lot of different pies, as they say. The mobsters of Delano 618 being just one.
Venus took the empty chair beside me and gave a curt nod my way. Z said as soon as she settled, “Charles, Angelica has been listening into our converzation. I thought she might have some ideas on how we might proceed given this whole caze is blown.” Z didn’t go in for the cute office nicknames and always called us by our proper names. He didn’t mind being called Z, as he wasn’t particularly fond of his given name. “Go ahead, Angelica.”
She was on a supposedly equal footing as Z within the Organization, but it was widely agreed by the office serfdom, she was, in fact, his superior. Z kept projects moving these days. Angelica created the projects. For all I knew, she was the one who began the whole Richards’ case. Her very presence in this office immediately set off my instinct for self-preservation. My tie suddenly seemed a little tight. As if sensing my unease, she smiled my way, put a hand on my forearm, and said, “Relax, Charles. We’re all on the same team here. I’ve had my people going through the MCs you got from the dearly departed. There are thousands of actionable files in there. If we can contain Mr. Richards’s demise and neutralize whoever had him scheduled for early embalming, we’ll be busy chasing down profits for the next decade. Big bonuses for everybody.” She laughed then, but she forgot to tell her eyes.
“I’m nearing retirement,” Z added. “I could use some adioz money. What’s our first move?”
“Containment,” she replied. “Charles here is going to put Mr. Richards on the discard list retroactively.”
Usually, when we wanted to get rid of a nuisance, we put said person on the discard list. In fact, we called the subjects of the procedure Discards. Within these walls, we had the means to root out all coded reference to nearly any person walking on the face of the earth. In a virtual world, a whole lifetime of records could be made to disappear with just a bit of time and the right passwords. The Organization had both. Hell, half the time, they had made the passwords to begin with. Birth certificate, gone. Government benefit records, gone. School grades, poof! Medical files, vanished. Everything that says a person existed disappears.
Except, ironically, the person himself (or herself; the Organization was an equal opportunity destroyer). He becomes a Discard, a non-being to his colleagues, his friends, even his family. Attempts on his part to contact people from his past would result in severe beatings, sometimes death, meted out by quasi-government goon squads. These were people who reveled in the degradation and physical pain of others. The Organization liked a little wriggle room concerning the Discards. Yes, we ruined lives, but there was still life. If the Discard could adjust to the periphery of society, not draw attention to himself, he might just die a natural death in some alleyway, forgotten and alone. We really had no need to kill or assassinate here. We just needed to discard.
Angelica was directing me to discard after the fact. She said, “We will confuse whoever killed Richards. If they aren’t as well equipped as us, some of their leads they managed to get out of him will dry up.”
“Good, and after that, ” Z asked.
Angelica nodded at me and replied, “We keep tabs on our protege here. He’s the only one from the Organization who had contact with Richards on the outside. I’ll personally oversee this operation, Z. I hope you don’t mind.” There was no question, just statement.
“We can name several possible suspects such as the Delano 618, a rival gang of theirs, the Eurasian Central Government, one of our own competitors, or, and I hate to say it, someone within our own beloved Organization.” She got up and moved towards the door. “Shall we Charles?” As she walked me back to my cubicle, she directed me to gather my things and move to her side of the vast floor. She left me to it.
Cracker raised an eyebrow and whispered, “What the hell are you doing with Venus?”
“Nothing, don’t ask questions, Cracker,” I hissed back. “You know the protocol.” I sensed the ska music get louder almost imperceptibly and again felt almost paralyzed except for the feeling of blood seeping from my forehead.