B2 — 7. Royal Flush

Rachel looked down at the folders in front of Tom.  “So, does this mean we’re finally going to get to the purpose of your visit?”

“You could say that,” Tom unfolded his legs and straightened.  “What do you know about The Oscillation and the current state of the world?”

“Hmm,” she folded her arms across her stomach.  The purpose of that question is likely directed at The System, but I’d like to get what information he can share first.

“The Oscillation happened at night, in Miami, two days ago, but occurred at the same time all around the worlddang, I just thought about how it’d be if Scarlet changed during daylight hours.  Wait, if I remember correctly, the president said that The Oscillation happened at nine-thirteen P.M.  I believe the time-zone of Miami and Washington DC are the same.”

Tom nodded, his fingers starting to tap the folders again.  “Yes, Seattle is PDT; so, The Oscillation happened at six-thirteen P.M for them.  However, there was a thunderstorm at that time.”

“I see,” Rachel whispered.  So, it was storming when he started controlling people to kill each other.  However, the light should still be shining through the clouds; I wonder how dampened sunlight affects him.

Glancing back up at Tom, Rachel continued.  “Lights cracked the sky; I remember seeing colors of every shade … it was kind of like a stained glass window had enveloped the earth.  That was when the feeling happened, and everyone instantly changed. My roommate told me that I switched between normal and Lunar Hare dozens of times as The Oscillation occurred.

“As to your second question, I don’t know much.  I’ve heard that Russia and South America have a lot of issues right now.  South Korea and Japan seem to be taking the Oscillation well. There’s some information circulating the building, but almost everything is centered locally.

“Miami and Miami Beach were hit pretty hard by the chaos with all the tourists, but Key Biscayne, Virginia Key, and Hialeah were also hotspots for violent activity; like Virginia Gardens and Medley.  The Military and State Authorities are working together to stop looting and violence; it’s working in most areas so far, and everything’s dying down.”

“Right,” Tom sucked in a long breath.  “In short, yes, the U.S. did go through a rough start, and I’m not trying to downplay the chaos that occurred with the initial mobbings, looting, Alt-Right, Antifa, gangs, religious zealots, mentally ill, prison breaks, and general violent crimes; they were tiny and confined to more populated areas, though, compared to the rest of the world.

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“You mentioned Japan and South Korea taking The Oscillation well, and to an extent that’s true, but it’s no different than some U.S. areas.  Kabukicho, Tokyo blew up with gangs and criminal activity, much like South Beach. You might have dealt with Terrell and the main group, but many other gangs rallied to his example across the general Florida area.  There are gangs and other criminals as far as Orlando and Tampa that are using him as an inspiration but having much less success.

“Osaka, Japan took a massive hit that the Japanese government is trying to keep quiet right now; the JSDF is currently dealing with it.  However, we have thousands of troops in Okinawa that are presently working with the Japanese government to keep the area safe so they can focus on other areas; also, consider this, the U.S. has roughly one-hundred and sixty-five thousand active troops serving outside the U.S., and fifty-four thousand are focused in Japan.

“We have a major presence in the Asia-Pacific region, and that is proving a great help to those governments.  South Korea has our support against its surrounding neighbors so it can focus on internal affairs; we have roughly twenty-four thousand troops stationed in South Korea to help with that, and I’ve made sure that the Military is utilizing their soldiers that were affected by The Oscillation, bolstering our forces with their abilities.”

Rachel hummed softly as she sat back and drank a bit of vitamin water.  She played with the bottle, shifting her tail to a more comfortable position.  “Okay—so you’re pro-change, at least if it can benefit the U.S. forces, which is something I’d expect from the Military.  It wouldn’t be wise to put what—three million changed people in prison camps when they could be incorporated into defensive power.  That might be more of a harsh observation, and you likely do care for the people themselves, but it’s also a factor; am I right?”

Tom shrugged, crossing his legs again, he shifted his weight to the opposite side of the chair.  “It definitely is a factor. It’s unrealistic to cage so many people because of fear; there have been noted changes with many people’s behaviors, but that’s natural in a state of crisis—when society starts to break down, that’s when you discover the true nature that social fabric constricts.

“The president was being briefed on a potential mass ISIS threat in the Situation Room when this happened.  We were able to react so quickly because of that; most of the House and Senate are in safe locations, and able to communicate.  I expect Martial Law to drop within the next few days and businesses to start returning to normal as the country moves forward with political discussions on how this will change society.

“Frankly, we need the economy to restart soon if we’re to recover; the rest of the world needs the U.S. economy to start back up.  That’s why I’ve been so busy; I’m sure you heard my discussion with Beth, correct?”

Rachel crossed her own legs, tapping the front rods of the armrest; her blood was turning hot again with the direction the conversation was heading.  Should I answer him?  I think we can cut past a lot of the pointless banter if I do, and it doesn’t look like he currently wants to move toward The System discussion.

She licked her lips with anticipation, and a soft smile moved them.  “Yes, I did. I’m very interested in that first file that you teased, I assume on purpose.  I’m sure you’ll get to it in time, and what information you’ve extracted so far about The Oscillation has me intrigued.”

Tom rubbed his chin for a moment, studying her.  “You’re a lot more eager than I anticipated; I thought you’d be more collected, but perhaps I’m reading into it too much.  Your poker face was on point earlier, but maybe this is another mask.”

He grinned when her expression didn’t falter.  “Well—in any case, then you know about the U.S. offering Mythickin and Legendkin citizenship if they’ll move to the U.S.”

Rachel nodded, not interrupting as he continued.  “There’s plenty of reasons for this; for one, it’s clear that Mythickin and Legendkin have a higher chance of being more powerful than others that were turned.  That’s not to downplay the other ability users, as I’m sure your group can attest to, but there’s something special about Mythickin and Legendkin. I’m wondering if you could shed some light on that, given your first-hand experience.”

She was silent for a moment as she folded her arms to keep them from twitching; she wanted to get up, and pace to just work her muscles but did her best to resist.  Her smile grew slightly as she cocked her head and took a deep breath to calm her pumping heart, but she wasn’t sweating as she’d expected .

“You’re offering Mythickin citizenship for coming to the U.S., but I already have citizenship, and from what I’m aware, so does Scarlet, Fiona, and Maria.  What can you offer us to make our cooperation worth our while? This is the U.S., and Maria would be barking over what kind of deals you can offer us as a mutually beneficial trade—the American way.  You want something I have, what are you willing to give for it?”

Tom’s smile grew, and a sparkle danced in his eyes as his muscles tightened with anticipation, losing his fear.  “I like that—a mutually beneficial trade. Okay, let me spell out the details.”

He licked his lips, popping his tongue before taking out the third file from the top and opening it.  He began reading off a set of information as he flipped between pages. As he continued with the report, Rachel’s innards twisted with trepidation.

“Why don’t we start with Maria; she’s convicted of two Third-degree felonies already; Resisting Arrest with Violence and Selling Counterfeit Registration License Plates.  She’s currently being investigated with a doctor for giving out false medical reasons to obtain Marijuana, which is illegal in Florida.  If that were upgraded to Intent to Sell, that’d be bad.

“Then let’s add on her crimes during The Oscillation; from the report and testimonials with video evidence from the areas, we can account for much of her activity.

“One, there’s the issue of her requesting payment for a service she is not licensed for or documented to be taxed.

“Two, ditching her Military escort under Martial Law.

“Three, possibly being involved with Cruel Treatment and Torture methods associated with her abilities, which is currently under investigation.

“Four, there are testimonies of her being at least a witness and possible accessory to eleven Homicides, depending on her own testimony and evidence gathered from the scenes; it could be charged to the first-degree with the planned execution you demonstrated and the SEAL team report with video evidence from the lobby.

“However, that could be pleaded to duress if she decided to throw one of you under the bus; I’m sure a court would take Scarlet into account and lessen Maria’s charges with Scarlet’s reputation, and adding the good works she did healing many injured for character witnesses.

“Let’s move to Fiona,” he shifted the first page to the back.

“First, through investigation, it is clear that she was not present during the first two murders of Pete Summers and Tony Connelly, or the teenage incident in Miami, but was, in fact, present for Harris Weppler’s torture, and could be charged with Conspiracy to Murder, even bumped up to the first-degree with her future acts.

“Second, she assisted with eight accounts of Homicide inside the surrounding buildings of what CID has termed The Tank Massacre, and could be held responsible in the first-degree to the eight accounted Homicides you committed below during that time.

“Third, she was involved in the deaths of three women and two teens; four of which she froze in a block of ice, almost certainly killing them.  I have received a report that there might be a chance Maria can heal them, and that could shine a brighter light on Maria, but not for Fiona.

“Forth, she personally killed nine individuals after this incident, racking up her body count to possibly thirty-three cases of First-Degree Homicide with the evidence of Cruel Treatment and Torture before taking the lives of at least nine; the possible Attempted Murder of a woman named Relica and Harris added onto those charges.

“Fifth, the mass property damage she caused … that’s costly.

“All of that shows she had the planned intent for Mass Murder, making Fiona White a serial killer, and marked for Capital Punishment given a trial.  It’s hard to argue the sentence since she had the chance as a citizen to run from the situation instead of engaging.

He flipped the page without skipping a beat.  “Let’s move on to Scarlet.

“Scarlet could be charged with the same crime of ditching her Military escort under Martial Law, but that’s nothing.

“First, she could be charged with twenty acts of Homicide, including her own father and an undercover operative in the Brickell Police Department; there’s evidence that she was taken against her will, but the force used wouldn’t account for the level of threat involved, and it could be disputed that they were under her own control given what is known about Vampires.

“Second, given evidence and testimony, she killed a person known as Zack Kennedy that had changed into a Lizard-type Beastkin, but that’s much more disputable.  However, the character testimony of two kids at the scene paints her as erratic, and a harm to herself and others.

“Third, the testimony of four teens that claim that they were almost killed by a Vampire fitting Scarlet’s description as they tried to defend themselves.  There’s video evidence that she very well might have if you had not intervened. That’s another account of Conspiracy to Murder.

“Fourth, Homicide in the First with Cruel Treatment and Torture of Pete Summers and Tony Connelly.  The torture account also includes Harris Weppler and five other individuals with the possibility of their brainwashing.  This means that any possible future crime they commit could be brought back against Scarlet as the perpetrator.

“Fifth, the Homicide of the eight individuals already discussed with Fiona, and the eight that you murdered.

“Sixth, the three women and two teens already mentioned.

“Seventh, the attempted murder of Relica and the five people, that were confirmed mutated humans in your report, that she murdered and drank one’s blood.

“This brings her to an even more severe state of Mass Murder than Fiona; with a total body count of forty-eight, with the attempted murder of one, possible child endangerment of two…”

He scratched his forehead.  “I forgot to mention that every child present could also be added on charges of Child Endangerment and Child Abuse.  Ah, and the torture count of nine with the additional future crimes of those individuals.  I don’t think I need to elaborate on how grim that case is with Vampire’s current image.

“Then we get to you,” he turned the page, rubbing his temple.  “All I need to say is that there’s evidence that you’re the mastermind behind the entire operation.  Therefore, you’d be linked to every single crime attached to your comrades that you are present for or had a hand in planning.  There’s also the extensive property damage caused by you and Conner, but since he’s dead, that charge of Homicide and the property damage would fall on you”

He looked up at her, features grave.  “This because you willfully engaged a situation that you were told not to get involved with by Lieutenant Cameron Farley, who was relaying orders given by the Commanding Officer, Captain Mateo Garcia Herrero.  I’ll tell you right now, the way things are looking, the DA will jump on this full force, and even the Attorney General would likely throw in her bat.”

Rachel had forgotten how to breathe as he listed her situation.  The moment he looked up, she activated Emotional Detachment, causing her fracturing demeanor to vanish; she sat perfectly calm and comfortable as her emotional side screamed inside.  Her mind accelerated rapidly as her thoughts spiraled out of control; even detached from most of her emotions, she was struggling.

This is far worse than I anticipated.  He’s totally right; why didn’t I think of that?  I wasn’t directly involved in this situation; therefore, I engaged and endangered lives.  It does matter that we were successful, but with every one of those charges … at least one will stick.

The heat in her blood had long turned cold.  This isn’t a challenge; it’s a death sentence without any breathing room.  Even if I somehow get out of this; if the press and public opinion turn with the court case, then I’ll be completely cut off from my family … this decision lost me everything.  How could I be so stupid? I thought I had Strategic Mind and other abilities that helped me find the best path?

No … that only came after, and I’m still leveling them up.  This was caused by my short-sighted behavior. I was pissed that Marcus and Daran got away … Lunar Pride screwed me.  Crap. Was I subconsciously trying to counter Lunar Pride by developing Threat Assessment and Strategic Mind? It wasn’t enough, though … it was too late.

I don’t know how deeply Lunar Pride influences my behavior now.  Should I keep Emotional Detachment active? Probably, but at the same time that alters my mind in just as deadly of a direction.  Screw being a Lunar Hare … it’s ruined my entire life. No wonder Scarlet’s so depressed; this is … this is bad.

What can I do to get out of it?  Is the only way to become a slave to the Military?  I assume that’s why he’s here; he gets me out of this situation, and I become his trained hare on a leash.  If I run … what’s the point? I’d lose everything I care about; that doesn’t help the others either.

Scarlet’s already lost everything; no wonder she’s attached to me and the others.  I have no clue how this news might change her psyche; from what I’ve learned so far, The Reaper could be a real threat, and this could set her loose for all I know, adding more horrors to our rap sheet.

Fiona would be alienated from her family, and I know it would destroy her to put her sister, parents, and Erica in that position; to be connected to a mass murderer instead of a hero.  If she heard this just now, she’d die inside.

Maria’s gang would no doubt take her in, but that’d put a lot of heat on them, and she couldn’t handle that … she’d push them away to not get wrapped up in her mess.  Her brother would likely see some bullying, but her gang would take care of him; who knows how he might act out, though … she’d be worried about that.

“Rachel?”  Tom frowned.

Rachel nodded neutrally.  “Yes, give me a moment; that’s a lot to take in.”

No, running isn’t the answer.  Tom came here with this information in mind; he chose to disclose specific things to Ruth that he knew I could hear.  There’s a method to this strategy. He’s after something involving Mythickin, and it’s not like he can dig up dirt as solid as this on everyone.  No, he’s come to me for a reason; he’s been genuinely excited when talking with me.

It’s not the domination type of tension that I’d expect; this is only a preface to the real negotiations.  He’s shown me his hand, and it’s a full-blown nuke. I only have one other option, and it’s not a solid one.

“Just now,” he leaned forward, studying her face carefully, “something changed.  I saw a few signs of your composure breaking at the news; frankly, it would slam anyone.  However, in an instant, you regained a complete mask; all I see is a perfect poker face as you weigh your options.  How did you do that? This is enough weight to shatter a strong man, but you’re taking it as a summer breeze.”

First, information; he’s brilliant … no wonder he’s a four-star general.  He chose me because of the hand he had. He told Beth that her facility fit all the right criteria; that includes us and the leverage he has.  He wants information on Mythickin and Legendkin, The System, and probably wants us involved with some classified project.

“Well played, General; I’m basically out of options,” Rachel said, adding a smile she didn’t feel as she crossed her legs the opposite way.  “I activated an ability called Emotional Detachment; it separates most of my emotions from my thoughts.  As far as I am aware, I recently obtained this ability.  It doesn’t make me forget my emotions, but puts them in an observable box that I’m aware of, but does not interfere with my decision making.”

“Fascinating,” Tom mused.  He sat back, scratching his forearm.  “Before I dive deeper into that, though, let’s get this out of the way.”

Taking out the fourth folder, he tossed it across the table to her.  Opening it, she quickly scanned the document, and her smile grew. “A federal pardon already signed by the president.”  She lifted the paper to find the same pardon for her other three companions. “You had this planned the whole time.”

“I like to cross all my T’s; now, those won’t work on the state level, but I can pull a lot of strings since almost all of this happened under Military watch, Martial Law, and is being primarily handled under CID jurisdiction.  It helps that the new Division hasn’t been officially formed yet.”

Closing the folder, Rachel folded her fingers comfortably across her lap as she leaned back.  “No wonder you had to move fast, and you obviously have the president’s support. What are the conditions?  I’m sure David would have some of his own plans for us.”

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Tom began tapping the table again, clicking his tongue with a half-smile.  “Yes, bringing up David is an option. It’d be natural for you to think that I’d want to treat you as a pet or under some secret military unit, but that’s fake movie crap.  No, compelled service isn’t that great; this was all just to show you the situation you’re in, and the help that I can offer.

“Yes, David might be able to pull your case away from CID—if I don’t fight back, but is that the best option?  Remember back to one of my previous questions; what do you know about David?”

Rachel was silent a moment as she followed David around.  She hadn’t gathered a lot on him; he seemed dedicated and neutral, which could be even worse for her than Tom.  Tom needed them for something, David didn’t.

“Admittedly, not as much as I’d like.”

“I’m in the same boat,” Tom nodded.  “I likely know a heck of a lot more than you do about him, but still not enough to buy my trust with the situation I’m in; even the president agrees with me on that.  I also don’t trust him to handle your case correctly. No, and the nail in the coffin; I’m offering you complete freedom. Semi-normal civilian life—with special military clearance.  I want some information regarding Mythickin and Legendkin, with the sort of abilities you possess.

“I’d also like to form a sort of relationship with you and your friends; if that’s what you are … I haven’t found any connection that each of you shared before The Oscillation.”

“We’ve recently formed a bond; I suppose you could say.”  Rachel shrugged.

“That works,” Tom puffed out a breath, scratching his scalp.  “I already have the clearance ready to bring you into a lot of the current secrets.  I think your abilities place you close to the mental fortitude of special forces, but importantly, it can evolve further, I assume, which is something I need.

“Now that you understand the situation you’re in, my hand, and what I’m offering, what’s your answer?  Semi-civilian life with just some things I’ll need you to do every-so-often—that is, once you accept my proposal and are granted clearance to be brought into this top-secret situation, and assuming you can convince the other three.  That, or take your chances with David.”

Rachel’s eyes narrowed slightly.  “That’s fairly vague; how else can you phrase it that will convince me to take that deal over gambling on David?”

Tom hummed lowly, looking down at his folded fingers before his eyes lifted.  “It’s nothing you wouldn’t already be comfortable doing based on your actions.”

Rachel felt her separated inner turmoil fading as the situation resolved itself, causing her smile to grow.  “That’s acceptable; if you can guarantee what you propose, and we can return to our normal lives, then I think we have a deal.”

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