“Great Vengeance and Furious Anger”

I remember in art class we once talked about color as it pertained to emotion. Warm colors, for instance, represent energy or anger while cool blues and greens are much more reserved. Looking back on it now, I wondered to myself what white represented as all it seemed to do was make my eyes hurt. The room I was shoved into was nothing but white from floor to ceiling. I gathered that it had to be some kind of synthetic wool, a material which also covered the bed anchored to the far wall.

This was a standard holding cell, but it felt more akin to a twentieth century asylum. The comparison was further carried when I was required to be escorted to and from the other parts of the jail, whether it was the restroom or the small dining area. Occasionally I would be grouped with other inmates, but we were instructed not to talk to one another while moving from location to location. This went on for nearly twenty-four hours.

I had been split off from Bradley and my father shortly after arriving. Officers fingerprinted me, took my information, and then stuck me in here. I knew Bradley was going to be questioned first – he was the primary suspect – so I did my best to be patient. I had a gut feeling that with things as they were, he would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Not even his parents would be able to bail him out of this one.

My father did come for me eventually, personally escorting me to the interrogation room. This area contained a collapsible desk, three chairs, and a monitor along the far wall. There were microphones and video cameras set into the ceiling, all rather standard fare. My father sat down across from me. “You were notified that the presence of an attorney is allowable during questioning. By proceeding unaided, you willfully acknowledge forfeiture of this right, is that correct?”

“Yes.”

“Very well.” A manila folder was spread open across the table, which he began to read aloud. “On February eleventh at 1508 Hours, a call was placed to the Hemlock Police Department for shots fired north of the city. Officers arrived by air to the scene of a brawl spurred on by a dispute between two rival gangs. Witnesses testified that the suspect and victim knew each other, and had both been searching for a third party who was rumored to have been abducted prior to the altercation. That third party was Jade Cassia, age seventeen.

“Cassia’s geolocation placed her at the crime scene from 1341 to the time she was taken into custody. There was no immediate evidence that Cassia had been abducted or subjected to any struggle, and the individual alleged to have precipitated the claim was not located during the investigation. This casts suspicion on Cassia’s whereabouts, hinting that the claim may have been constructed by Cassia herself. The District Navaro shall seek charges against Cassia for conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm, of which the maximum is a two year sentencing.”

I raised my hand at this. “When you say that, is that to mean that Raiden is still alive?”

“You realize you have more important matters at hand, right?”

“Father, please.” I glared across the table, hell-bent on hearing the truth from his mouth. The lieutenant slumped forward against the table.

“Your boyfriend is alive but in critical condition. Not only did he lose a lot of blood; that building was also a breeding ground for all sorts of pathogens. I’m no doctor, but I don’t see that boy waking up again.”

Hearing it brought down so matter-of-factly was a punch to the gut. Tears streamed down my face, and I could feel myself starting to choke up. “I… I understand. Continue with your assessment.”

“Jade,” he sighed, “right now you need to have perspective. I can tell… I can tell that you genuinely want to become the Megaera heiress.” He may have struggled with the words, but my father now had my undivided attention. “To that end, you absolutely must clear your name and avenge the one you love, no matter what anyone else thinks on the matter.”

“Father…”

“Not a single person in this precinct can believe that you would have the intent to stage a scenario in which Raiden’s life would have been endangered. Additionally, traffic camera footage caught you running a red light, creating a time discrepancy for your geolocation data. It paints your case as circumstantial, but there isn’t enough to guarantee that you won’t go to prison for this. It is of the utmost importance that you tell us everything that happened until the point where Raiden was shot, even if there are other things that might incriminate you.”

Things that might incriminate me, eh? I thought about what Carmella said to me in her office that day, how nobody could believe a story of this magnitude. Maybe she was just trying to scare me into submission, but it wasn’t like I had anything to lose at this point. “On February 11th, I broke into the office of Carmella Albury.”

“Is this an open admission of guilt, Miss Cassia?”

“Yes.”

“Please describe in as much detail as possible the conditions surrounding the break-in.”

It took a bit of getting my thoughts in order, but I began to recount how I used a Reset Key to open the outer door of the office; and once in the dark, how I scanned the bookcases for a book which doubled as a storage box. I explained how gems which had been stored in the book were hollow, containing small vials which held cryovenom in forty milliliter increments. I concluded my testimony with my being discovered, the altercation which followed, and the drugging. I left out Carmella’s name.

Once I had finished, my father motioned for me to stand up. He used a special kit to test my blood for the drug, and the results were positive. Bruises from Carmella’s desk, which had yet to color at the time of my detainment, were now clearly visible. He made sure to document these as well. I sat down again, adjusting my blouse. “That is everything I know about what happened to me.”

“Do you assert that the person who discovered you in that office is also the person who staged the altercation between Bradley Petersen and Raiden Megaera?”

“Yes.”

“Do you believe this person to be Carmella Albury, principal of Hemlock Secondary Academy?”

“No.” At this, my father raised an eyebrow. He couldn’t contradict it, for it was now on official record. I was certain he desired to question it personally, but there would be a time and place for that.

“I have a few more questions. Did you know of the gems’ existence prior to the break-in?”

“Yes.”

“Please explain your familiarity with these items.”

“During the Seven Stars Competition – a team territories event we put on at the school, mind you – we used a wine ledger to store the night’s revenues, leaving only enough liquid assets for immediate payouts. The attack by anonymous group Marabunta was a diversion. We attempted to stave off even those immediate payouts so that money could have further time to appreciate in value. Some of it did, but some of it did not.

“We then used the fallout of this diversion to collect more money from the general public. Eventually there were too many names attached to the ledger that it surpassed the physical growth limitations of the asset. To balance this, Carmella Albury suggested moving to a new ledger, one tied to the value of these gems. I was not told the appreciation value of these gems, only that they would appreciate equally and that they were an industry standard backed by Xandria Holdings.”

“When you broke into Carmella Albury’s office, why were these gems the primary target of your search?”

This is it, the moment where everything comes together. Inhaling deeply, I gripped the edges of my seat tightly. “I heard that the Megaera family was being blackmailed and began to suspect that Xandria Holdings was trafficking drugs into the Navaro District.” Please forgive me, Raiden, but this is the only way I can help you now.

Upon hearing this, my father instinctively moved to stop the recording, but managed to stave off his personal feelings enough to motion for me to continue. So I did, knowing that whatever happened now, there was going back. “Originally, I entered that office to get more information about the organization. I knew the gems would have some form of serial on them, if we were using them as assets in the new ledger.”

“Did the gems have a serial as you predicted they would?”

“Yes; approximately twenty characters were stamped in sequence on each gem. I didn’t understand all of it, just that each one had a date and a notation for volume. It wasn’t until I noticed they were hollow that the volume thing clicked in my head.”

“Do you believe Carmella Albury knew the connection between the gems and the vials you allege were contained within them?”

“At this time, I cannot say for sure.” Yet another raised eyebrow from my father. “The vials were never used until I was attacked, so it is probable that under normal circumstances they would have transferred ownership without ever being opened. Plus, if she did know, I don’t think she would have recommended their use as a financial asset.”

My father took a few notes and then leaned back in his chair. “The masking of contraband is a practice that goes back a few centuries now. The contradiction here is that if you were to remove the contraband item from its mask, the overall value should go down and not up.”

“How is that possible?” I asked slightly puzzled. “I checked the standings every week, and as Carmella said, the values only continued to go up.”

“While I’m no economist either, let me try presenting a hypothetical to you. It is possible that the value of what was inside was deducted from the actual value of the container itself. That value is restored when whatever is inside is sold at a profit. The influx can then be restored gradually, making it appear like a stable asset. Given cryovenom’s shelf life, there is some serious viability to this strategy.”

“So… What are these gems, anyway? Do you know, father?”

“I can’t say for sure, but if they have an arbitrarily high value before being filled with contraband, then there has to be far more to this scheme than even you are involved with. That will conclude our interrogation for now.” My father stopped the recording and turned off the video cameras. “Alright, that should be enough for now.”

“Um, father?”

“I’m going to tell you some things and give you some instructions that you must not utter to anyone under any circumstances. Do you follow me, Jade?”

“I… Yes, father.”

He stood up. “And for the record, I am not doing this to protect you. The reason I am doing this is because my years of working within the system have revealed unto me that there inevitably comes a time where the law is no longer appropriate. This happens to be one such time; therefore, I am going to have to make a rather dire request.

“Given what you just told me, there is a lot of suspicion cast on the Xandria group, but we’re talking one of most illustrious and revered groups in Ganymede history. Some would go as far as to say that they are above the law. Even if we were to investigate and find something, they would find a way to avoid prosecution because they have already done so countless times in the past.

“Not only that, but they could eliminate all doubts surrounding Carmella Albury as well. You and Bradley would be left to bear the responsibility, and both of you would go to prison for a long time. I cannot stomach the thought of two kids who only had good intentions losing their futures while the adults who coerced them walk free.”

“W-What can I… do then…?”

“You are going to have to infiltrate the site of their manufacturing processes. You are going to have to show everyone the truth. As much as I hate that it has come to this, there is no other way for you to have a chance at the future now.” I could see my father balling his hands into fists, fighting the emotions to scream or cry. In that moment, I knew he was truly my father after all.

“I’ll do it,” I answered. “I will do it if not for me, then for all of the people my actions have hurt. I’ll risk everything if it means those around me can have a brighter future, and maybe in doing so, my actions will allow the Megaera family to be forgiven as well.”

“Jade… I guess it cannot be helped. Here’s the gist of what’s going to happen. Given the charges against you, there is nothing which says you need to be held. However, the moment you step foot outside the Navaro District you will be elevated to flight risk and subject to search. All I can do is buy you time, maybe a few hours at the most.”

“That will be more than enough, father. I’ll do everything I can to not screw this up.”

“You’re a good girl, honey.” He opened the door for me. “Be sure to collect your things from the front desk before you leave. I do have one more question, though.”

“Yeah? What is it?”

“Are you currently bearing Raiden Megaera’s child?”

I hesitated. “No, father.” As he closed the door behind me, I cringed internally. I hope you’ll forgive me, but there are some things better left unknown. When I received my belongings, I was informed that my geolocation would be actively traced and attempts to dispose of my phone would result in an immediate warrant for detainment. I gave an understanding nod and made my way out to where my motortrike was parked. I guess the first place I should go…

Pulling up to my old house, I found that it hadn’t really changed much since December. I still had my old house key, so I let myself in through the front door and made my way to the room I once called my own. Aside from drapes over the furniture, it hadn’t changed either. The lit-up butterflies continued their dance along the walls even though nobody had been there to observe them.

Closest to my bed was a dresser, but next to this a closet of moderate size. I opened the door and stood across from a safe bolted to the wall. There was a series of beeps as I entered the combination and this too opened up. Once inside, I began to pull out a series of items.

First was a carbon fiber slingbow, given to me when I was eleven. My archery training had begun with a recurve bow, but through practice I discovered the slingbow to be more my style. This one was built with and adjustable slide rail to fire either standard arrows or compact darts, the latter of which I would be relying on for this quest.

Set into a foam insert along the wall of the safe was a compressed air rifle, and I received this when I was fifteen. It was powerful enough to mortally wound a human, and I had to apply for a special permit just to own it. I would need to take plenty of air canisters just in case.

The final item of importance was a complete body armor kit. These kits were technically illegal for civilians to own, but my father insisted I be fitted with one just in case. I hoped in my heart that I wouldn’t have to put its capabilities to the test. Once I was properly equipped, I closed the safe and the closet, returning to my motortrike. It was now seven-fifteen on the evening of February twelfth. The true battle begins here.

“That body armor looks good on you!” That voice… how in the hell!? Turning around, I saw Francesca seated on a motortrike of her own and with similar armaments. Behind her were a few people I recognized, and countless more I didn’t. I saw Felicity and Elena, Dr. Lawrence, Gabriel Snow, a few of the other Seven Stars captains; and further down the hill, I could make out a larger crowd of strangers.

I was absolutely stunned. “Wh-What is all this, Fran?”

“We figured everything out! It was strange how you and Bradley ended up taking the fall, so both Artemis and Marabunta decided to do a bit of digging while you were away. When we heard you were released, we knew the next step would be for you to confront Xandria, and so, well, the cavalry has arrived as they say!” As she stopped to catch her breath, I turned my gaze to Felicity who stepped forward next.

“I couldn’t get a lot of people involved, so I hope this will be enough! If it turns out that Xandria are also the ones responsible for the November sixth incident, then I will do all I can to right the wrongs of that night. I think those feelings are shared by all of us here, since many in Artemis have now seen the conglomerate for what it really is. It’s all thanks to you, Jade.”

“Felicity…” I blushed deeply and looked across to where Dr. Lawrence was sitting. Like Felicity he was unarmed, but the medical supplies he carried trumped hers considerably.

“As a doctor I have sworn to always protect the frail. If your actions can do anything to help get rampant drug use off of these streets, then my colleagues and I will support you one hundred percent.”

As a tear welled up in my right eye, I did my best to brush it away. “You are all just so wonderful! Alright then! As the true leader of Reserve Class, I am going to give you your orders! We are to infiltrate the desert headquarters of Xandria Holdings and discover the truth behind the cryovenom distribution! Many of you may be injured, some perhaps mortally. Though if we work as a seamless unit, we shall most certainly overcome! Long live the people of Navaro!”

“LONG LIVE THE PEOPLE OF NAVARO! LONG LIVE THE PEOPLE OF NAVARO!” The shouts echoed for miles around. Though I outwardly smiled, on the inside I continued to ache. If what my father had said about Raiden ended up being true…

I’ll fight for you, Raiden. Please, hang on for one more day…

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