Thjazi Oxram picked up his phone. One look at his screen showed that it would be noon in five minutes.
Two hours, and they still hadn’t arrived. Of course, they hadn’t. When had they ever arrived on time? By Twice, this would be the last time he would do business with terrorists. But what should he do? He couldn’t get rid of the goods without the IBM getting on his tail.
He rubbed the bridge of his nose and pressed a number. His phone rang, and seconds later, someone picked up.
“Ey, Hurenson,” Thjazi said. “Get in contact with the Judas group and tell ’em to shove their hats right up their-“
“Yeah, ‘bout that. I was ’bout to call you. The Judas guys won’t come. Can’t cross the Titanic Sea.”
Thjazi’s eye started to twitch. “But how? Aren’t they state-sponsored? They ought to find a way.”
“Dunno what to tell you, man. They ain’t coming.”
“Fine. I was going to end business with ’em anyway. Dealing with crosses always ruffled my jimmies.”
“So, what are we gonna do with the goods?”
“Get in touch with our core customer base. Locals only. No crosses, no numbers, no tea-bangers, and if I see any sandworms, shoot them right in the face.”
“What should we tell ’em to come?”
“Let’s make it a “Three-for-Two” and give a discount on candies. Yeah, advertise that the goods will be presentable once it’s Yule time. We’ll be making some losses, but we’ll get rid of everything and be able to recover. Tonight at 8 pm will be the sale.”
Thjazi hung up and sighed.
What mess had he gotten himself into? When the Clockwork Coterie disappeared overnight, everyone thought it would be free real estate. Rumors said someone had wiped them out, or at least most members. Anyone with enough balls could pick up their networks and profit. Or that was how it should have worked in theory. As it turned out, when there was profit, sharks would soon follow the trail. And boy, did sharks know how to fight. Every Hans and Jack from the underworld tried to grab as many pieces of cake as possible, and no one was willing to share. Gang wars all over Aes ensued, wiping out countless organizations.
That was about one and a half months ago. In that mess, he had managed to grab some assets. And what did that get him? Even with new vacations open, the barricade over the Titanic Sea disrupted the money flow. It was a logistical nightmare, and after this night, he would go back to drugs, guns, organs, and extortion. The cobble ought to stick to his trade. Why didn’t he follow that saying?
Thjazi turned around and walked along the cages. His hand rattled against the bars, and the children started to whimper and cry.
That was the worst part about child trafficking. They never shut up. No matter how often you beat them or how much you injected in them, some children would start making noises.
Thjazi looked at the children. Most cowered in the corner far away from him. One girl came forward from the darkness and stepped in front of the cages. She looked at him, playing with her cobalt hair, and her eyes reflected the dim light, the lamps outside the cell spent. One eye was red like rust, the other black like pitch.
A goodie with heterochromia was a rare sight indeed. Using something more exotic to destress could help.
“Why are you not in the back with the other children?” Thjazi asked.
The child smiled. “I saw how you looked. Daddy always said to me that I have to help when men look like that.”
The girl nodded. “Daddy taught me many things. Like how I have to be like mommy when mommy isn’t home. And how I should always say yes to his friends. You’re one of daddy’s friends, aren’t you?”
Thjazi rubbed the bridge of his nose.
Oh boy, she was one of those girls. Despite what the media said, he got a good percentage of the children from their parents. Often, external circumstances forced them to sell their children. Many believed they could provide them some future or deluded themselves into thinking that they had to decide between starving to death or selling their children. Ghettos, especially offered opportunities for shopping trips.
But then, there were those parents who had trained their children. Dealing with them always gave him headaches, but he couldn’t deny that those goods earned him tons of cash. His customers were fond of these children as they provided the perfect conditions that one could groom them into dolls. Plus, the chance of them discovering a Fylgja increased. Not enough that it was guaranteed, but good enough to bet on it. Depending on the groundwork, it could take a few months to a few years, and he would be lying if the prospect didn’t excite him. How delicious. To own a doll that would obey his wishes even though she possessed the power to kill him.
Folks would be getting a hard-on once they saw the girl tonight. He could turn her into the grand prize, and with the right words and some negotiation, he could turn the night into a profit. But for now, he would destress.
Thjazi took out a key from his pocket and opened the door. “Come out.”
Some idiots believed that you shouldn’t get high on your own supplies. But those were pansies and glorified bookkeepers. With war looming on the horizon, nothing mattered. And it was coming. The sinking of the Verne was proof enough. Vaix was going to start one, and the other nations would retaliate. The Millennium Peace was over, and the only sensible thing was to ride high until the bomb dropped over their heads.
Thjazi looked at the other children, and his face darkened, roaring at them that they would die if they tried to escape. None of them moved, and the girl walked to him.
After years of practice, keeping children at bay had become a matter of choosing the right triggers. If one asked him, he couldn’t tell the difference between a dog and a girl.
Thjazi locked the cage.
“So, what did your daddy teach you?” He kneeled before the girl and pressed his thumb against her lips.
“Many things.” The girl’s lips twisted to a grin. Revealing her teeth, she bit into his fingernail.
“Like what?” He had to restrain himself. As much as he wanted to push his thumb into her tongue, she should answer first.
“With plea…suureee.” The girl chuckled.
“Wh-” Thjazi’s words halted. Liquid warmed his stomach and glued his shirt to his skin. He looked down with his eyes. Blood dripped from his stomach.
“For example…” The girl pulled out her arm. A black substance covered it and deformed her limb into a blade. “…how to kill scum.” She swung it against the air, wiping off the blood, innards, and bone fragments that stuck on it.
Thjazi dropped on his knees. Only now did his brain recognize that the girl had impaled him. In a reflex, his arms grabbed his stomach in a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding as he pressed his hands against the wound.
More wouldn’t come out of his mouth. His strength waned, and his body started to feel cold. He couldn’t even scream in pain.
Was that it? No. It couldn’t be. He didn’t want to die. No. Please, no.
Tears and snot escaped his orifices, transforming his once elegant appearance into a pathetic figure. The girl started to laugh. What she said, he couldn’t hear. The noises in his head tuned out all other sounds.
Please, Twice, save me. I don’t want to –
The girl swung her blade. Thjazi’s head plopped off. It fell to the ground, and his body dropped a second later.
The girl cracked her neck and massaged her shoulder with her normal hand. She pressed a button on her shirt, turning the edge red.
“Skyfrost-Donnerschlag-Five-Eight-One-Humbert-Has-Fallen,” she spoke into the ring, and the button turned green.
The girl turned around. She swung her blade-arm and dissected the cage bars. The pieces dropped, leaving a hole open, wide enough that the children could get out.
“You’re free.” Rory and looked at the children. “You can leave this prison. I promise you, nothing bad will happen.”
None of the children moved. They all retreated further into the corner of the cage, pressing their bodies against the metal and avoiding eye contact as much as possible.
A few stared at Thjazi’s body, their faces frozen in shock.
“Oh, right...” Rory scratched her temple. “Decapitating people...That traumatizes children.”