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Disturbing Content: Some of the content in this work describes incidents that could be shocking, or graphic. The content is recommended only for mature audience.

Disclaimer: The characters introduced in this work bear no resemblance to any person dead or alive, past or present. This work under no circumstances is to be considered an authentic representation of events, historical or otherwise.

Mishiida Alexander

Stalking Shadows

“The best competitor to best is self!”

Chapter Eight: Me against me

Even though it appears to be the case, and has been the most oft drawn conclusion, but Charles Darwin’s theory of ‘survival of the fittest’ does not inherently refer to an inter-organismic competition. The theory only emphasis a condition, not defines the situation! One has to be the fittest to survive, not the only fittest to survive. The door is open for everyone who satisfies the condition amongst the herd. It is not about a solitary torch bearer, rather a pack of torch bearers. If however there were to be a restriction on the numbers that could survive, the situation would indeed become a competition. When the avenues are unlimited but the suitors limited, the only competition to beat is self. The question is not who is the best, but rather how many can best the situation that is!

Things indeed heat up when the ‘survival of the fittest’ becomes ‘survival of the best amongst the fittest’. But is besting the competition same as being the best? Perhaps not, for when one tries to be better than the competition, all they end up is being better than the rest. To be the best, one has to master the self. As long as one can better their own performance, they cannot be the best, for best is flawless, best is being at one’s finest. The quest to better your previous mark improves your level of expertise, ultimately giving you a comfortable lead above the competition. The question to answer is not if you are the best, but rather how better can be your best.

However, living in an advanced society, it is hard not to encounter competition. And competition can be unsettling, for everyone is striving to be better than the rest, and everybody have their own unique talents and own set of tricks. The real trick however is not to look at the competition’s expertise but rather your own failings, then fixing them up one after the other. The real talent is in mastering your weaknesses, and evolving your strengths. And this is where experience comes into play, for experience provides readymade solutions to problems, thus giving the edge in time, as well as helps avoid the wastage of efforts. Intelligence lies in learning from the experiences of others. Alex, Corbett and Monty, they all posses the right aptitude, and in Rick they have the relevant experience to look up to.

“Can’t you talk to Colonel on my behalf?” Monty requests Corbett as he reluctantly throws his baggage in the back of the jeep assigned to dropping him at the airport.

“There’s nothing I can do for you my dear friend,” Corbett shakes his head in negative as Monty climbs into the passenger seat. Corbett then looks at the junior commissioned officer who is driving Monty to the airport, “Is it just me or is the rear wheel on my side really low on air pressure?”

“I’ll have a look,” the JCO says and hops out of the jeep.

As soon as JCO walks away, Corbett opens the glove box and place the parcel Colonel had received earlier, in there. He makes sure to open the parcel and flash the contents to Monty, who is sitting right in front of the glove box. And we notice them too, for the first time.

“It seems alright Sir,” JCO replies.

“Really,” Corbett quips as if surprised, “I still want you to stop at the service station on the way, and top up the air pressure.”

“Ok sir, I will,” the JCO replies. And as he walks back towards the driver side, Corbett pulls out his wireless handset, puts his hand on the frequency knob, as if fine tuning it to a particular frequency, and then leaves it in the glove box, along with the parcel.

“Have a nice time!” Corbett quips with a pat on Monty’s shoulder. He then orders JCO, “While you are at the service station, make sure to buy some patties for the Lieutenant. He hasn’t eaten anything today. Are you clear?”

“Yes Sir, I will,” the JCO replies.

Monty who is a bit surprised at the turn of events stares blankly at Corbett’s face as Corbett offers him a hand for shake.

“If you need anything, you know where to call,” Corbett almost whispers to Monty as he grabs Monty’s hand for an almost involuntary handshake.

“Thank you my friend,” Monty meekly replies as he takes Corbett’s hand in both his hands. The jeep drives off, and we decide its’ time to follow it.

As per his instructions, the JCO stops at the service station on the way to check up the air pressure in the tyres, and then proceeds into the shop to buy some patties for the Lieutenant. As soon as he steps away from the vehicle, Monty opens up the glove box, pulls out the wireless, hops into the driver’s seat, and drives off.

Unaware of the events outside, the JCO is still inside the shop paying for the foodstuff when a special news flash plays on the television screen inside.

“And now on to some breaking news; things seem to be really going downhill for our men in baggy green at the moment. Close on the heels of three blind murders, including two serving officers and a former marine, comes another shocker; two more men have just been reported missing by the army. Both men are said to be visiting off-duty marines, with one of them reported to have been seriously injured in an assault by the suspected murders from the previous incidents. The other one, his friend, gave a slip to the Junior Commissioned officer as he was being escorted to the airport just minutes ago. The army is requesting the public to exercise vigilance, and come forward with any relevant information about the two as soon as it can. The army has provided the following numbers to contact it.”

And as the news anchor proceeds to give the telephone numbers, we turn around and have a look at our friend whose jaw has now dropped down to his stomach. Speechless, he jumps out of the queue and rushes for the exit, the stuff he’s picked up from the aisles still in his hand.

“Hey, you need to pay for that,” the kid at the counter yells from behind, but when the JCO fails to stop, the kid jumps over the counter and rushes behind him. “Hey, wait,” the kid shouts again.

The JCO however is not listening, for he rushes outside, only to stop in his stride as he finds out his company has already left.

“Where you think you going man?” the kid catches up with him and grabs the stuff from his hand, “I’m going to call the cops now.”

“Here, take this money and bring me the change and a receipt,” the JCO finally comes out of his trance.

“Of-course you will pay for it even with your life now,” the kid comments as he takes the money from JCO’s hand, “God save Australia! What will happen of the poor people when our own army will start stealing from us?”

“Aye, just cut the crap, will you?” the JCO exclaims out of frustration as he pulls out his mobile and dials a number. “Sir, you could have at least told me,” he laments as soon as his call is answered.

“Pratt, my boy, you’ve done well,” Rick’s voice shoots from the other end, “Catch a cab back. I’ll pay for it. I am leaving some beers for you in the fridge. Will a dozen be enough?”

And Pratt lets out a sigh!

“Here’s your money and your stuff you thug in green,” the kid at the station rubs it in as he thrusts the stuff in Pratt’s extended hand.

“Get out of here,” Pratt loses his cool as he kicks the kid in his bum as the kid turns around. And it’s time for us to catch up with an absconding jeep, don’t you think so?

“Alpha one calling Alpha two ‘A’, are you receiving, over,” Colonel Rick Roxon calls out from the wireless set Monty is holding on to for dear life, just as we jump in the passenger seat.

Monty hesitatingly asks, “Is that me?”

“Of course it’s you,” Colonel Rick fires back, “You’ve got a package in your glove box. Have you inspected its contents, over?”

“Yes sir, I have,” Monty replies, “But why two, over?”

“The second one is for Alpha two ‘B’,” Rick replies, “You can talk to him by adjusting your set’s frequency a hundred kilo hertz upwards, and with me or Corbett at this frequency. Talk to alpha two ‘B’ now, over and out!”

It’s really scary sitting here in the passenger seat, being driven by a man used to driving on the wrong side of the road, and that too with one hand, while he fixes the frequency on his wireless set with the other. Does talking on mobile laws not apply to the wireless sets?

“Alpha two ‘A’ calling Alpha two ‘B’, are you receiving, over?” Monty asks as soon as he is able to get the frequency correct.

“Loud and clear sweetheart, how are you? Over,” a voice from the other end replies.

“Sandeep! You idiot, where the hell are you? I’m going to kill you, you douche bag,” Monty yells in excitement on recognizing his friend’s voice.

“You are supposed to say over, my dear,” Sandeep however sounds to be in a playful mood, “Anyway, if you look in your rear-view mirror now, you’ll see my sparkle in it, over.”

“Oh yes, I see you now, over,” Monty exclaims excitedly.

“Then pull over son, for we need to leave the jeep for the boys,” Sandeep quips, “We spinning around in this under-cover ride for now, over and out.”

And with a big smile on his face now, Monty pulls over to the side and hops out of the jeep as Sandeep pulls over right next to him. Sandeep lowers the passenger side window and yells, “Don’t forget our stuff!”

“Oh I almost forgot in excitement,” Monty slaps his forehead and rushes around to the other side of the jeep to pull the package out of the glove box. And to our astonishment, one after the other, he pulls out two alien weapons from the parcel, which must be from the lot confiscated by Rick and his men at the end of the invasion. He leaves the empty parcel in the glove box, and rushes back to Sandeep’s car.

“Here’s the one for you,” Monty exclaims as he thrusts forward one of the weapons to Sandeep, who grabs it and tucks it under his shirt and into his waist belt. Monty jumps into the car and then exclaims in excitement, “Man, give me a hug first.”

“Hey, no man to man touching,” Sandeep jokingly rebukes him, but the two old pals hug each other, their joy visible on their faces.

“Where are we off to now?” Monty asks Sandeep.

“Safe house,” Sandeep replies.

“And where would that be?” Monty asks.

“It is the farm house of the friends who saved me the other night,” Sandeep replies, “Rick has asked me to stay put over there and wait for further instructions.” And the two drive off, leaving us behind with the abandoned jeep. But what are we doing here? We might as well get on our way. Perhaps check up on our friends’ Downtown Paringa? Well, why not?

“The weights are not going to lift themselves up,” Mr Rai exclaims to Alex, having watched him sitting on the bench meant for bench presses for the last five minutes, just like us. Alex turns around and looks at him, then turns his face away. Mr Rai walks up to him, pulls another bench close to his, sits down and asks, “What’s bothering you my son?”

“Nothing dad,” Alex replies with a shrug.

“Who’s the father, you or me?” Mr Rai asks him.

Alex’s shoulders drop, and so does his head. Mr Rai puts his hand on his shoulder and asks him, “Why are you so insecure about Mishiida?”

Alex’s jaw drops as he looks up in his father’s face, and after a bit of blabber, finally asks, “How do you know it’s her?”

“Firstly as I said, I am your father,” Mr Rai replies, “And secondly, we all men are same! And I’ve been a man for much longer than you. I’ve seen it all, and done it all.”

“But what am I supposed to do,” Alex finally starts speaking out.

“About what,” Mr Rai asks, “She loves you, you love her! Where’s the problem that you need to do something about? I don’t see any trouble in Paradise!”

“That is the thing father,” Alex confronts his father’s assertion, “Nobody realizes what my problem is! I tell you what my problem is. My problem is that I am in love with a Super-heroine who needs no help, while I am like the proverbial damsel in distress. I’ve never felt more useless in my life than this day. And as if that weren’t enough, not just better men, but every Tom, Dick and Harry is interested in her.”

“I don’t understand! So your problem is not the girl you love, but the people who don’t even matter in your lives!” Mr Rai exclaims shaking his head in disbelief, “Or should I say; your problem is your own mindset, your insecurity, the ugly jealous man that resides in your heart just like the rest of us all men.”

“What do you mean?” Alex asks frustrated.

“Son, this girl loves you. What more as a man do you need?” Mr Rai puts it as simple words, “All other men exist in your head, not hers! There will always be someone better than you in this and someone else better in that, but that’s immaterial. You are not a resultant of this or that, but rather a sum of everything. You may never be the best in anything in your life, but as long as you are good at heart and better than average in everything else in this world, you will be the best man overall. But if you think every Tom, Dick and Harry is better than you, then they deserve her as well, and not you.”

“But I feel so incompetent every time I think of the glaring disparities between my talents and abilities, and hers,” Alex has more than one demon inside his small brain we reckon.

“Son, do not squeeze your thinking into a bottleneck made of your own distorted views. It will first ruin your happiness, then your life,” Mr Rai cautions his young son, “Your life partner son, is not your competitor, but rather a teammate. The secret to a successful relationship is in complementing and completing each other, and sometimes supplementing, but never trying to outdo each other in an act of one-upmanship. There’s a reason why you two have different bodies. Nature isn’t an idiot!” Mr Rai then gets up and walks around his son’s side. He puts his hand on his shoulder and says, “Mishiida is a brilliant soldier, but that is her ability. Now you can either compete with her to be a better soldier, or you can be better at something she is not. A family has no use for a soldier other than his or her pay check, but every family needs a husband, a wife, and some kids. Your job in your family will be of a husband, and hers’ a wife. And you don’t need to be a better soldier than her to fill that role. Find something you are really good at, and then let your natural ability shine through for you.”

“But I want to be a strong man too,” Alex still seems to be missing the point, which considering it is him, we are not too surprised about.

“Like Corbett?” Mr Rai asks.

“Yes,” Alex nods his head in agreement.

“You are still competing with other men son,” Mr Rai quips with a smile, “Perhaps you are too young to understand what I am saying, or maybe the realization will come on its’ own.” He takes a heavy breath, then turns around and walks away. He stops in his stride just as he is about to exit the gym, and turns around to his son once more, “Until such time as you are able to grasp the dynamics of a relationship, put your best efforts to be like what you envision yourself to be. If nothing else, it will give you self-confidence. And self-confidence can give a relationship a new lease of life, if it ever is caught in a struggle for survival.” He then continues his march out of the gym.

Alex nods his head with a weird optimistic sparkle in his eyes, then turns around and looks at the weights he has set up for the bench press, about fifty kilograms. With a fire in his eyes, he rolls down on his back and lifts the weight up and out of their notch. And all hell breaks loose!

“Dad, help!” he screams as weight pulls down on his chest.

“What the hell,” Mr Rai rushes back into the gym, and the moment he realizes what has happened, he stops in his stride, folds his arms, and grabs his forehead with one hand. “What, fifty kilograms? Don’t tell me! Even your mother can lift more than that,” he exclaims, and then adds in full measure, “With one hand.”

“Are you just going to stand there and rebuke me, while I suffocate to a painful death?” Alex labours to whisper as he uses all his strength to keep the weight above his chest.

“Go on! Rot in hell!” Mr Rai quips.

“Damn you my enemy!” Alex shrieks as he gathers all his energy to give the weight one massive push, and lift it back onto its’ stand. Panting, he gets up from the bench, looks back at the weight and quips, “I think that’s enough for tonight!” And he walks past his father and out of the gym, stretching his arms as if he just nailed a killer session. Mr Rai shakes his head and follows him out as well.

Well, now that the night is setting itself up nicely for the cosy comfort of a blanket, let us just stretch our weary wings and legs. In few hours we fly off to Japan and catch up on that dude Garcia before he escapes anywhere else. We will quickly check up on him to see what he is up to now, and then before the first light hits Aussie shores, we will be back to catch up with the Colonel and his men back here.

“Where’s Mr Garcia,” a young sassy girl, who appears to be a staff of the tycoon asks another just as we arrive. Looks like the dude’s given us a slip!

The other attendant first looks around, and then whispers in reply, “Don’t tell anyone, but I overheard him telling his bodyguard they are hosting some ‘Club of Gods’ at his private island today morning. I reckon that’s where he flew out a couple of hours ago.”

“Oh my God,” the first attendant whispers in astonishment, “Is it the one where they talk about billions in whole numbers, and millions in fractions?”

“Do I look like someone who would know?” the other one replied. Now we can either weight for the answer to this one, or catch up with the vanishing fox at his private island in the middle of nowhere the world lovingly calls the great Pacific.

Well, that was an easy choice wasn’t it? Now here we stand in loyal attendance to the Master of all Rascals, as he waits impatiently at the end of the tarmac, for his guests to alight off the flight that just landed on his private island’s very private airstrip.

“Welcome to my humble abode Sir Alfred Whittington, I am honoured to be hosting you today,” Mr Garcia rushes forward to greet the big business Mogul, whose cars dot every street and road in the world, and whose engines fly some of the biggest planes, and not to mention, the latest spacecraft venture he has invested in.

“Good morning son,” Sir Whittington replies to a bowing Mr Garcia, “We are glad to gather her at your place for the first time since your induction into our club last month. Let me introduce you to the remaining members.”

“Sir, with no intention to offend you, but there is no one in your company this mortal doesn’t know,” Mr Garcia humbly replies as he refers to the handful of the club members, the richest of the rich, accompanying Sir Whittington.

“Oh no my son,” Sir Whittington clarifies, “I want to introduce you to them.” And then he proceeds to introduce Mr Garcia as the youngest gun and newest member of their elite club, to the rest of the members that include among a very few more; Sir Richard Aldridge, the biggest Mining Oil and Gas Mogul, Mr Humphrey Jarvis, the biggest Tech and house hold appliance magnate, and the young and gorgeous Miss Shivoni Vienna, the billionaire heiress to a fledgling business empire, who owns the biggest and most versatile fashion line of her own.

“Miss Shivoni Vienna, I am so glad you could make it to my place today,” Mr Garcia bows his head, takes her hand in his, and kisses it.

“Oh I had to,” Miss Vienna replies, “I was so keen to meet you ever since I heard about your induction into the club. In fact papa wanted to come here too, but unfortunately he had some hard pressing business commitments to keep.”

“We are glad to have you here too young lady,” Sir Whittington chips in, “For this year we are going to award you our Hobo award.”

“Oh my, why me?” and the earth seems to slip beneath her feet as the group starts walking towards the waiting limousines.

“Because you young lady, have run the cheapest global publicity campaign this year,” Sir Whittington replies, “I don’t even remember the paltry sum it cost you. You did what our best of publicity teams cannot achieve.”

“Oh, you mean the incident I had when I visited that country of beggars,” Miss Vienna exclaims as she realizes what is being talked about.

“You had your face splashed on the front pages all over the world with that paltry sum that caused a riot amongst a family of low-life filth,” Sir Whittington exclaims, “I think all of them ended up with a piece of what you gave to their woman. I can’t even remember the figure although I remember even a coffee at the hotels I stay in costs five or six times more.”

“I swear that wasn’t intentional,” Miss Vienna exclaims.

“Intentional or not, but you didn’t throw a note at each one of them to stop them from fighting,” Sir Whittington exclaims, “That is why this year’s Club of Gods Hobo Award goes to you.” And the young lady tries to reason, but to no avail. They all climb into separate limos, heading towards the big mansion a few hundred meters from the tarmac. And expectedly, we are following them.

“So what is the first item on the agenda my friend Aldridge,” Sir Whittington asks Sir Richard Aldridge, as soon as they have all gathered and settled down in the big hall with roof higher than the tallest building in a small town.

“The first item my good old friend Whittington, is about our new member Mr Garcia,” Sir Aldridge replies as they all turn towards Mr Garcia.

Mr Garcia is taken aback by this sudden attention he has been accorded, and asks, “What can I do for you respected members of the club?”

“My son, your father and grandfather were both eligible to be the members of this club, but were both very good human beings,” Sir Aldridge replies, “But this is a club for the biggest, and please pardon my language here gentlemen and the lady, bastards in the world, if I may put it this way. However, we are bastards for the rest of the world because it protects our interests. The only thing we value amongst our members, and something that has kept this club going strong for the last seven or eight generations, is our mutual honesty.”

“I don’t understand,” Mr Garcia replies, “You can trust me, and my father too. He’s changed!”

“That we know young man,” Sir Whittington puts in, puffing at his cigar, “You’ve changed him.” The words catch Mr Garcia off guard and the shock on his face sums up his story. “Don’t be shocked son,” Sir Whittington adds, “This club is the single most important organisation in the world that secures our interests globally. It has done so since the imperial days. We thoroughly check up on any new member we take in.”

“But,” Mr Garcia tries to say something but a stern Sir Whittington shuts him up with a slight raise of his hand.

“It took us nearly four generations to set in place a structure that would secure our futures,” Sir Whittington replies, “Today we control all the world media, more than ten percent of the people serving in the biggest security agencies are our men, and I don’t even remember the last President who wasn’t one of our men. Doesn’t matter what party they come from, all the tallest leaders in the world are made great and popular by our media, their campaigns are run on our money, and when they win, they only work on our agendas. It’s just that we make people believe they are in charge, using once again, our media.” Sir Whittington then looks at Sir Aldridge, as if passing the ball.

“Our club was established during the imperial days when we businessmen realized, doesn’t matter which imperial administration was in place, we are the ones who make the money, and we are the ones who can fund election campaigns to put our friends in office,” Mr Aldridge adds to the information, “We may not have a control over who joins the political field at the lower levels, but more than twenty percent of the leaders that make it to the top are our men today. They work on our agendas, and when needed, impress upon those who are still not under our tutelage, to support our agendas unwittingly. To make this setup foolproof, we are fast working to install a framework to control the grass-root political field as well.”

“People still remember the First World War, but no one considers the fierce struggles for independence ragging in all the imperial colonies by eighteen nineties, some even violent,” Sir Whittington adds to the conversation, “The American example made it amply clear to us businessmen, the imperial administrations won’t last. But our businesses had spread so far and deep, it would have been an utter disaster to let them fold up. Our interests had to be protected. To give you an idea; what happened after the Second World War, had roots established by around the turn of the twentieth century. It was our great grandfathers who insured our business interests would be safe around the globe by establishing permanent colonies in the Pacific, Africa, Asia and Middle East.”

“While people are busy analysing their current governments and their daily actions and inactions, we are working on the candidates who will be contesting the second elections from now, in ten years time,” Mr Aldridge adds again, “Democracy never meant the transfer of power from the hands of the sovereign into the hands of the peasants. It was always a wrestling of power from the hands of an impotent heir who used to rip us off our hard earned money via taxes, and into our hands.”

“And none of this has been easy or overnight,” Sir Whittington adds, “We had to buyout the biggest politicians, media magnates, and security agency chiefs back in the day. There were some who could be bought, and others who were too honest patriots. But whatever we managed to buy, we ensured they promoted only those people whose mindset was conducive to our line of interests. So even though today we only have about ten percent of our people in all political, media and security organizations, much of these organisations are made up of true patriots who are working their best to secure their nations’ interests, without realizing it is our interests they are protecting, while getting paid out of the tax payers’ account.”

“I am indeed honoured to be a part of such a magnificent family,” Mr Garcia humbly adds to the conversation, “But I don’t understand why this issue of mutual honesty has cropped up?”

“Firstly son, you didn’t inform us about your father on your own, even after joining our club,” Sir Whittington puts it in calmly, “And secondly, our men working on you have informed us of a strange disappearance of a section of your workers frequently and in turns. They haven’t been able to find out where these workers are going to, and what project they are working on. There is something you need to tell us, and in all honesty.”

Mr Garcia realizes the context and takes a big breath as he rocks back in his chair, “I am sorry gentlemen, but that is a business secret.”

“Young man, we keep no secrets in this club,” Sir Whittington leans forward and quips menacingly.

A brief silence ensues when everyone leans forwards in their seats and stares hard at Mr Garcia’s face, expecting an answer. Having been put at unease, Mr Garcia replies, “Give me three months and I will brief each one of you individually about the project I am working on, before anyone else in this world knows about it.”

“What is the project about?” Sir Aldridge asks, “Some special equipment, weapon or ammunition?”

“Something on those lines,” Mr Garcia tries to get away with his weak response, but when everyone glares harder at him, he blurts out, “Ok, you guys have been actively using your political pups to harm my business, getting my guns off the streets. Do you even know how much money I am losing daily? Your gun controls will ruin me! I need to protect my interests.”

“We are here to protect each others’ interest young man,” Sir Whittington fires of, “Your future that you are concerned about, what makes you think it is separate from our future, and that we don’t need you, or won’t protect you?”

“Do you even know what the situation out there on the streets is?” Sir Aldridge asks him, “Mr Humphrey Jarvis, would you please explain this young man what your company has just done.”

“Mr Garcia, my company is one of the latest companies to outsource its’ manufacturing to the third world,” Mr Humphrey Jarvis informs him, “Till last year my business was generating over thirty every quarter, of which nearly ten was spent on the work force and giving it benefits, another ten was the expenses on material and equipment, and of the remaining ten, thanks to the liberal policies of our men in congress, about one used to be lost in tax. But ever since I outsourced my manufacturing, we are still generating the same over thirty every quarter, but only losing a miserly three in salaries and benefits, and by spending one on the third world politicians, we got import export rates that dropped the costs on materials, equipment and transport by about three. And we only pay a miserly two on the twenty we are left behind with.”

“So young man, where do you think the ten that people working in our nations were getting in salaries and benefits, is now going to?” Sir Whittington asks Mr Garcia.

“And above all, how do you think this loss of ten is going to affect the man on our streets?” Sir Aldridge asks.

“Young man, our wealth is like a lush green forest that will turn to golden brown in no time under the sun of public enlightenment,” Sir Whittington adds, “Revolution is a fire that will burn it down in no time, along with us. We need those guns off the streets.”

“But why do you worry when we have tanks,” Mr Garcia asks in reply.

“What use will be your tanks when there will be no one to roll them for you?” Mr Jarvis asks, “The ones who work your tanks belong to the same crop. If anything, your tanks will be turned against you.”

“But do you know how much loss any change in legislation will cost my business?” Mr Garcia asks.

“What did I say earlier, that don’t worry about it?” Sir Whittington replies, “Having one forward colony is not enough in protecting our interests. We need our armies’ continued presence in the most vulnerable regions. Our men in government will keep sure the tax payers money is well spent in your shop. And our enemies, we are actively working to divide them into two groups everywhere, with one of them being our friends. They will be your replacement customers. We have already ensured the destruction of the most potent of our enemies, we have halted or hindered their technological progress by actively training their men against our system of education, and we are actively infiltrating their ranks and misleading their militia into a war of self hatred. They will have no alternative but to buy weapons from outside, wherein come you.”

“Besides it’s not all going to happen overnight,” Sir Aldridge adds, “Most of the men in security agencies are patriots protecting their national interests. We only have a handful of men who control the direction of the policies. So it takes time for things to happen.”

“Our men in agencies release us information about the weak subjects in public, that can be mentally broken down and pushed to act on an impulse,” Sir Whittington replies, “Then thanks to the new technology nowadays, our secret organisation that is secured from the purview of the security agencies by our men in those agencies and in governments, its’ men work on individual subjects by altering the junk mail and advertisement flooding their individual homes or computers. They hack their systems and phones, constantly hindering their daily activities, stopping their progress on personal projects, and thus forcing them into a corner where they have only two options; either kill self if they are too good hearted, or kill others if they are born fighters. And these individuals then either run out on a gun rampage, thus giving impetus to our gun control legislations, or they join militia to fuel the ragging wars across the globe. We help run your business son; it’s just that you never knew about it before this day.”

“How long before the new legislations will be brought in?” Mr Garcia asks.

“That we don’t know, for there are only a limited number of weak subjects that can be worked upon at any given time, due to the limited number of people we can actively employ on each,” Sir Whittington replies, “And even then it cannot be foretold how the subject once broken will react. So you can make merry for still some time now, and we will help you later.” And Mr Garcia nods his head as he takes a quick deep breath. “So what’s the next item on agenda my friend Aldridge,” Sir Whittington asks his man.

“Next up is our betting round,” Sir Aldridge replies.

“What have you got for us today?” Miss Vienna asks excitedly.

“It’s the Boxing Day sales videos from across the globe, where filth is running amok, emptying our lowly stores for the tiniest savings,” Sir Aldridge replies.

“Tell me, is there a body involved?” Miss Vienna almost becomes hysterical in excitement.

“A couple of near half bodies,” Sir Aldridge replies as he pulls out his mobile and asks someone, “You can come in now and run the show for us.”

Sir Aldridge’s secretary walks in and starts the video footage of a shopping rampage from one of the stores somewhere in the world, which shows ordinary people jostling and fighting for cheap discounted stuff. Once it reaches a certain point the video is paused, and the secretary informs the members, “Gentlemen and the Lady, what you see here are two men fighting over the last piece of a fifty cent toothbrush pair. A punch-out ensues from here, and one person in the frame will end up with the pack. You may place your bets now, identifying the person on the screen whom you are betting upon. The minimum bet as you know is, what we call blowing the limit, that is point ‘o’ five. Place your bets whenever you are ready, starting from the lovely lady.”

“Two,” Miss Shivoni Vienna yells out hysterically, “Come on everyone, quick! I want to see the fight. Yes! Yes! Yes! Blood!” And everyone starts placing their bets. But this is all too much for us to take anymore. We need to be in a better place right now. Alex, please save us!

Hayley is dissolving sugar in her milk just as we arrive at their joint in Downtown Paringa. Alex walks in behind us.

“Hayley, good morning!” he exclaims with exuberance, “Where’s boo boo?”

Hayley’s jaw drops as she raises her head and stares blankly at the wall in front. She immediately puts her glass of milk down on the side table, and walks up to Alex who is busy searching the refrigerator for something.

“You, how dare you?” Hayley pulls him from his arm and confronts him.

“How dare I what?” Alex asks surprised.

“Don’t you ever, ever, never use that name again,” Hayley glares in his eyes, “That’s my love name for my boo boo.”

“Says who,” Alex rocks his head back, and then returns to scanning the refrigerator, finally resting his attention on the milk carton, “Besides, its’ a lovely name for such a big man!”

“Yes, but only I can call him that,” Hayley insists.

“You can’t stop me,” Alex quips as he starts pouring milk in a glass, “I will call him boo boo.”

“Do you sleep with him?” and Hayley’s question startles Alex this time as he looks up at the wall in front, jaw dropping.

He turns around and raises his finger to say something, but is left speechless, his mouth agape. Hayley raises her brows as if asking, “Say what!”

“You win!” Alex whispers nodding his head and gets back to his glass of milk.

“Good morning Alex, good morning Hayley,” Colonel walks in, “Where’s boo boo?” And Alex almost chokes on the milk he has in his mouth. Hayley’s jaw drops as she stares blankly at the Colonel who walks past her and grabs the milk carton from Alex’s hand.

“Good morning sir,” and boo boo walks in.

“Here’s boo boo,” Alex quips as he brushes past him.

Corbett puts his hands on his waist and glares at him, but before he can say anything, Colonel interrupts, “Let him go boo boo, I mean Corbett. You come here. We’ve got a ceremony to plan!”

“A ceremony,” Hayley’s eyes lit up as she steps around to the Colonel. But something tells us, Colonel is only going to break her heart.


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