Friday, November 6, 2015

Volume 3 - Chapter 1 - Kass

It's that annoying TBK author making silly posts.
I wanted to touch something,
1st. The guard interaction with Kass is not set in stone.
2nd. Steaks are delicious.
3rd. My wife is the cutest girl in the entire world. This post is late (and expect more late posts) because she delayed me. I forgave her when she brought me a beer and chips, but could you forgive her too?  She made me post over 2700 words (instead of the would be 1900 word post) so, maybe that will get her off the hook?
4th. This is the entire Kass post. Don't need
5th. At the moment, there might be Valerie sections in this books. Forgive this author! They are directly relevant to the story.

Group Contest: So, I have always wanted fanfic for this story, but it has never happened! For this reason, I thought I would tempt the readers. If 10 good (me and the editors will decide) fanfic pics of the story are submitted, then I will release an extra section (even if I have to stay up all night writing it and call up my editor/ overpay him to get it approved), and I'll also release the prologue (Because the entire context of book 3 is heavily dependent on an event revealed in said prologue).

Otherwise, it will be "book only," like other parts.

Anyways. Looking forward to seeing if this bribery attempt works.

Kass fidgeted uncomfortably as she waited in the elevator. She had thought that G.O.R.N. had managed to deliver a long elevator ride, but this one was ridiculous. She had been boxed in between the two oafish-looking black-suited gentlemen for what felt like five minutes already, still unaware of what was going on or why she was being handled in such a manner. Had she committed some crime or something? Was the extended invitation her dad had passed on from his boss just a polite formality, and it was actually a meeting that couldn’t be turned down? Was this connected to her interview with the G.O.R.N.? No matter how many times she ran through the scenarios that could have led her to being forcibly escorted out of an interview, she just couldn’t arrive at a clear answer. She was left with only a sinking feeling of dread.
Am I going to be locked away in some underground basement for potentially opening my mouth about Tiqpa flaws on television? What is with these basements being so large anyway? First G.O.R.N., now Charles’s place? Did every rich guy decide to start competing for best elaborate subterranean office? She gulped and smoothed her black dress for the umpteenth time since they had entered the elevator.
“You really should relax, miss,” one of the men commented as he watched her fidget. “There really isn’t anyone who means you harm. You should just think of this as a very insistent dinner invitation. It’s nothing coercive.”
Right, ‘cause kidnapping isn’t coercive. It’s just very insistent. Kass scowled. Wait, did he say dinner invitation? Wasn’t I offered food on the way over? Why would I be offered food on the way over if this were a dinner event? I’m not the main course in some serial killer’s kitchen, am I?
“Miss, you can take deep breaths if it helps.” The man continued trying to be helpful. “Perhaps even count down from ten to one.”
“Does that really work for you?” Kass had to ask. It seemed more like something you tell a kid than something you actually do yourself.
“I have my own methods.”
“Methods,” the other man snickered. “Before his interview for this job we caught him singing along and dancing to teen pop in the men’s bathroom. He didn’t check the stalls to see if they were occupied, and his soon-to-be supervisor was too embarrassed from the awkward bathroom meeting not to hire him. So, by ‘methods,’ he means he sings like a girl with a fake microphone in front of a mirror while busting out dance moves that even boy bands would feel ashamed to do.”
“What? Really?” Kass found herself laughing. She felt bad about it for half a second when she saw how red the subject of the story’s face was, but she couldn’t help it. Just imagining a giant, muscular man singing like a girl in an office bathroom was too funny.
“Hey, it worked, didn’t it? I got the job, didn’t I?” He didn’t deny it at all.
Kass wanted to facepalm, but the white blazer she had chose to go over her black dress just didn’t give her that sort of mobility with her arms. Though last time they had been pretty calm about the subject. This one guy is about to pop a vein like an amateur surgeon drinking during his first operation. He’s getting more emotional than the lead protagonist in a Jane Austen book.
    Before the two men could go any further into the discussion, the elevator slowly came to a stop.
    “Miss,” the guard who had poked fun at his comrade spoke in a very hushed voice, “please don’t tell Charles that we joked around. He has very strict rules regarding staff.”
    “Umm . . .” She paused, wondering if she could extort something out of him with this information, but before she could come up with a good blackmail tactic, the door made a ding sound and slowly opened.
    “What the heck.” Kass gasped as she saw the room. It was massive--empty, but massive. It was so large that she started to think she could fit all of her favorite starships from every space drama she ever watched in there at the same time. The length and width of the room extended for what felt like an eternity; yet, there in the middle, three people were sitting around a white table. She couldn’t make out what they were drinking or eating, as it was so far off, and she couldn’t make out what it was that was right next to them. It looked like a giant, black sheet or something.
    As she and the two gentlemen walked towards the table, there were a lot of factors behind the self-consciousness which Kass felt, but the greatest contributor was the nearly-comical distance from the elevator door to the room’s center. The group at the table had stopped what they were doing, put down their drinks and dinnerware and turned to watch her walk across the giant, empty space. Taking one echoing step after the other, she started to wonder, was the elevator as long as this walk? Why are they just staring? But even as she reflected upon her situation, it felt like no progress was being made toward the seated trio. This is ridiculous. This walk over there is-- Kass instantly lost her train of thought when she spotted something entirely familiar but equally out of place, something that made this strange rendez-vous infinitely more surreal: horns.
    Long, curved spikes were sticking out of the head of one of the people sitting at the table. Darwin’s horns. She recognized them right away. That’s Darwin, and that’s . . . is that Charles? she started to piece together who the two men were as she came close enough to make out their faces. Kass at least had a vague idea of why she was there too. It was definitely related to Darwin.
    When she finally got close enough to the table for them to greet her, the man she suspected to be Charles stood up, followed by Darwin. The blonde girl, whom Kass didn’t recognize, just stared at her, and then started smacking her lips like she was chewing gum.
    “Good evening, my name is Charles.” The blonde-haired businessman extended one of his hands as Kass walked around the table to the only remaining empty seat. A butler behind her pulled the seat back, letting her know without a doubt that it was meant for her, not that there was any confusion as to who would be sitting there at this point. It’s not like they had brought her this far just to have a guard sit down in her chair and make her watch them eat. Who would do that anyways? “I trust you already know our guests. This young gentleman is Darwin, and this lovely lady is Stephanie.”
    Kass blinked. That’s Stephanie? She gulped. Why is she here? “Yes, I know them. Pleasure to meet you.” She did her best to fake manners. She was still confused and unnerved, and just trying to control her emotions in the situation wasn’t easy.
    “We’ve already met,” Stephanie continued to smack her lips, giving Kass an evil eye that made her feel like spiders were crawling up and down her spine. “And who would forget little miss tattle-tale.”
    Tattle-tale? “I . . . don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kass looked at Darwin, who didn’t seem to be happy with her either. “Who did I tell on?”
    “You don’t know? Psh. Don’t act innocent. I’m just happy the NSA isn’t as big of a bigmouth as you, or else we’d all be in a lot more trouble. On the other hand, if they would just make an app, something that would automatically let me know when I scheduled an appointment by phone or whatnot, that would be great. Have a little pop up reminder like ‘Don’t forget that you told Frank you’d meet him at Joe’s around 4 pm. We have the recording!’” Stephanie smiled, but in a way that expressed a clear desire to bite Kass’s throat out.
    “Uh . . . yeah. I don’t--” Kass was about to protest yet again, but she was cut off before she could begin.
    “Kass, stop,” Stephanie interrupted again. “Are you going to sit right across from me, look me in the eye and lie about being at G.O.R.N. just moments ago doing an interview where The StormGuard Alliance and Darwin were the main topics? Because if you are, I, will, kill, you, she said in a preppy voice, slowly enunciating every word as her head turned toward Kass in a twisted, doll-like fashion, never once losing its pristine grin.
    “I was,” Kass finally admitted. She had had a very strong notion that this was what Stephanie had been talking about from the beginning, but now that she knew clearly and was certain that Stephanie knew too, there wasn’t any point in trying to move away from the accusations. Also, Stephanie scared the Hades out of Kass. It was the type of deep, chilling scare that one might get when turning the corner of a trail at a park and coming face to face with a bunch of bears, all of whom stopped and stared at you. “But”--she figured all she needed to do was explain--“I told them I wouldn’t give any important details about Darwin. I never once mentioned Darwin’s condition where he . . .” she paused. Wait, wasn’t his condition--
    “That he can’t leave the game?” Stephanie finished Kass’s sentence for her then turned to the man in question. “Your eyes aren’t mistaking you, Darwin, go on and say something. You’ve been mute this whole time. Surely you want to ask her why she was snitching on you like those thirty pieces of silver had her name on them.”
    “I do,” Darwin frowned. “I trusted you. Why would you go and blab to someone about me? What if they had decided to remove me as some erroneous code? What if they had wanted to do tests on me? What were you thinking?” His words were angry and his voice muted and somber like a man morosely recalling the past.
    “I . . . I . . .” Kass was trying to find the words to defend herself, but she was coming up short. For some reason, Darwin’s empty red eyes had pierced through her spirit and left her wordless and without a defense.
    “That’s enough, you two. She didn’t understand the ramifications of what she was doing.” Charles held up his right hand, gesturing for Darwin and Kass to be silent. “She isn’t lying. She mentioned several times during her pre-interview that she wouldn’t discuss anything other than her particular involvement in the system. She had no idea that the tiny pieces of information she released would be so damaging.”
    “Oh, so because it’s a--” Stephanie began to lay into Kass again, but didn’t make it far. Charles slammed his hand on the table cutting her off mid-sentence.
    “Stephanie, please. For my sake, don’t make this into more than it is. You know exactly how we humans are. Full of errors, yes?” He gave her a stern look.
    How we humans are? Is Stephanie not a human? Is she like Darwin, a demon? Is Darwin a demon in real life, or is it just an effect of in the video game? Questions started racing through Kass’s head as Charles obviously stressed the word ‘human.’
    “She’s never dealt with journalists before,” Charles continued, “so how was she supposed to know that the slightest mention of a few details would lead to Darwin getting late night coverage more detailed and negative than a U.S. presidential candidate’s voice cracking while talking about an affair.”
    “I’m . . .” Kass had initially been feeling very defensive when she got here. She was the one wronged. She was the one who had been carried away in the middle of an interview, forced into a car and driven to an unnamed location against her will. She should be the offended party,  or so she had thought the second she had been ‘politely’ asked to leave. Things seemed a little different now. “I’m sorry . . . I didn’t know,” she said mousily.
    “There. Now let’s move on.” Charles lifted the hand he had slammed on the table and picked up his empty soda as if by that action the subject was officially closed. He took a very deliberate sip of the water left behind by his melting ice. “Anyway, I’m sorry about how we treated you, removing you from the broadcasting station, but you have to understand that you put us in quite the predicament. We’d rather the world know as little as possible about Darwin or his involvement with Tiqpa. Okay?”
    “Okay.” Kass felt like she was five years old and being scolded by her father again.
    “Great. Now, Alfred and Alfred, go fetch us all some drinks. I think everyone is out or hasn’t gotten one to begin with,” Charles waved his hand and two butlers appeared from the sides with fresh drinks.
    “You have two butlers named Alfred?” Kass giggled, finding the whole thing a bit silly.
    “Of course, have you ever met a rich guy who took the time to clear away a giant underground lair who didn’t have at least one butler named Alfred?” Darwin piped up with a laugh from the other side of the table before straightening in his seat momentarily and looking over at Charles. “Wait, you’re not going to name me after a flamboyantly red-breasted bird are you?”
    “No, no, I went through ten orphans before I gave up on that gag,” Charles mused, the other three outright cracking up. “Apparently orphans don’t always make good parkour students.”
    “Ah, right.” Stephanie grinned. “Do you get Eve to wear leather outfits when she tries to sneak into the house at night and steal your goodies?”
    Charles cocked an eye. “I’ve tried to get Eve to wear leather outfits for everything. She’s always in a cocktail dress like she’s about to play the lead actress of a spy thriller though.”
    “Yeah, but the poor kid is terrible at the whole spy thing. She gives away the plot before her part even comes on screen. It’s like she’s trying to play poker with a lie detector strapped to her.” Stephanie leaned back and chugged an entire soda right in front of Kass. She then crushed the empty can on her head. It was a move that would have been right at home for a frat guy around a pool table who had drunk one too many, but it just didn’t suit the petite blonde.
    “Really, sis isn’t that bad at deception, is she?” Darwin’s face was full of curiosity.
That’s right, Kass thought, He never knew his sister. This was all before he found out that there were others like him. She kept watching him, his face lighting up as Stephanie and Charles both talked about his sister, but somewhere in the middle of their conversation, it started to dawn on her. It was something she had noticed from the start, but it’s significance didn’t exactly hit her right away. The past day or two she had been staring at that Darwin’s face set between those sinister horns. Hours of seeing him with the fearsome protrusions had conditioned her to think they were normal.
But this wasn’t Tiqpa. She hadn’t used her dive device to enter a fantasy world this time. Everything was real now. She was staring at a giant man with demonic horns in real life. Darwin’s characteristic red eyes were almost ignorable in Tiqpa, a world where the magical was expected, but here they were frightening and inexplicable. Here, every miniscule imperfection on his horns wasn’t an impressive feat of graphic design, but a terrifying fact that sent chills up and down her spine. As she tried to wrap her head around what she was looking at, it became a little more than she could handle. She had been absconded from an interview and driven into the middle of nowhere, but all of that she could stand. All of that she could process. It kind of made sense. It wasn’t right--she should be angry, not joking around with these people--but it at least was within the realms of reality. Yet here, now, there was something she just couldn’t comprehend. From the piercing red eyes that seemed to eat her soul to the gigantic horns, it all wasn’t right. This wasn’t something that should exist in the real world. This just, this just can’t be real . . .

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