The Bull and the Hyena, Part 5

It had never occurred to Vor Shen that it was possible to be ecstatic and enraged at the same time. He had always been someone who kept a tight rein on his emotions, and did his very best to avoid emotional extremes of any sort. But the rapidly approaching commencement of the Kingdom of Midigal combined with the increasingly petty treatment that he was suffering at the hands of his king and erstwhile protege meant that his emotions were starting to become as erratic as those of a teenager. Which only made him more frustrated.

The end was coming soon, though. He needed Ventelin until the Kingdom was revealed, and the subsequent battles, but then he would be dispensed with. Every time Ventelin set him on a demeaning task, he just had to keep reminding himself of his plans. It was getting harder and harder to set aside his feelings, though. Just yesterday, Ventelin had ordered him to scrub the toilet in his quarters! Just thinking about it made his cheeks hot and caused him to clench his fists in anger and embarrassment.

Suddenly, Shen’s communicator chirped. His heart sunk as he realized that it was Ventelin, and then he clenched his fists tighter and ground his teeth. Somehow, he just knew that this was going to be bad.

“Yes, Your Majesty?” he said. He was a little shocked at how calm he sounded.

“My back hurts!” bellowed Ventelin, “I need you to come up and give me a backrub!” Shen was silent. He could almost feel his blood pressure rising as he worked through what he had just been ordered to do. “Shen!” Ventelin bellowed again, “Are you there? Come on! Don’t leave me hanging!”

“I’m here,” Shen said quietly, “Your Majesty. I…will be right up.”

“Bwa ha ha ha! Good!” Ventelin yelled, “I’ll be waiting!”

Shen stood up slowly and walked toward the door of his office. He was somewhat surprised to realize that he suddenly felt cold, emotionless. All of the anger and frustration and rage and euphoria and excitement that he’d been feeling over the past few weeks had suddenly drained away, leaving a black void in his soul. He was the Supreme Commander of the Midgalan Armed Forces. The architect and founder of the Kingdom of Midigal. One of the most gifted military strategists and politicians in the galaxy. And now he was reduced to being a masseuse. It was just too much.

As his office door slid open, he stood there and took a long, deep breath. He needed to keep his focus. Ventelin was necessary for right now, but he had plans. Ventelin would soon be removed, and Shen would be back to his rightful place as the true power in Midigal. He just needed to keep reminding himself of that. This situation, the embarrassment, the harassment, the demeaning orders…it was all temporary. He took another deep breath, nodded to himself, and then made his way up to Ventelin’s quarters.

He still felt empty, but the coldness he’d felt was gone as quickly as it had appeared. Instead, he felt calm, like nothing could touch him, either good or bad. He seized that, and clung to it like a drowning man with a piece of driftwood. He would need to be calm if he was going to make it through this ordeal.

He reached the door to Ventelin’s quarters, and the two soldiers standing guard in front of it saluted sharply as soon as they saw him. At least there were some who still respected him. He returned their salutes, and entered the room as the door slid open. For a second, he could have sworn that the guards gave him sympathetic looks. That didn’t do much to make him feel better.

Sure enough, the sight that awaited him as he entered the room was much worse than he’d ever imagined. Ventelin was naked, sprawled face down on his gigantic bed. A quick stab of revulsion bubbled up in his gut, and he ruthlessly shoved it down. He needed to be empty.

“Strip,” said Ventelin suddenly in a commanding voice. Shen stared at him with shocked and angry eyes.

“Excuse me?” he blurted out. Ventelin turned his head and gave Shen a flat look. “Your Majesty?” Shen added belatedly.

“You heard me,” Ventelin said, turning his head back away from Shen. Shen’s mouth worked wordlessly for a few moments, and then he sighed. Empty. He needed to be empty. He started undressing.

“Boy!” Ventelin bellowed suddenly, and Shen jumped. He was about to unleash his rage on Ventelin for this final insult, and emptiness be damned, but then he realized that Ventelin was talking to someone else. Then his face flushed deep red as he realized that there was someone else in the room.

A small figure stepped out of the corner. Short, slight and pale, it was a boy who looked like he was about seven or eight years old, but Shen knew that he was really twelve. This was Granfilon Ventelin, Haasadis Ventelin’s son.

“Get some lotion for General Shen!” Ventelin yelled at him. Granfilon bowed silently and rushed into the bathroom.

“Why is your son here? Your Majesty?” Shen asked, curious yet disgusted and embarrassed.

“Why not?” Ventelin said, “He doesn’t have anything better to do right now. Do you, boy?”

“No, Father,” Granfilon said in a quiet voice as he brought the lotion to Shen. His face was blank, but Shen thought he could detect a glimmer of hatred as he glanced at his father. He quickly retreated to his corner and sat quietly.

“See?” Ventelin said, and laughed raucously. “Now get on with it, Shen. My back is killing me!”

“Are you sure you want me to this, Your Majesty?” Shen asked quietly, desperate to find some way out of this situation, “I’ve never given a back massage before. I’m probably not very good at it.”

“Oh, you’ll do fine,” Ventelin said, “You’ll get better with practice.” Shen fought down another wave of revulsion and climbed up on the bed.

This would all be over soon. He just had to remember that. He had a plan. As soon as the Kingdom was proclaimed and the Empire fought off, Vor Shen would never have to worry about Haasadis Ventelin ever again.

To be continued…

The Bull and the Hyena, Part 4

They met their contact, who went by the name “Verdek”, in a typical location, a seedy bar about a half a mile from the starport. They had walked all the way there, as Grendemar’s tram system didn’t service this sector, and Kyla’s feet were killing her. She wasn’t used to walking, and the shoes she was wearing were designed for fashion, not function. As soon as she and Treben sat down in a booth, she took her shoes off and started rubbing her feet, ignoring the disgusted look that Treben gave her.

“You know,” he said with a sneer, “not everyone in this bar wants to smell your gross feet.”

“Get over it,” she said, rolling her eyes, “My feet are probably the best smelling thing in this bar. I mean, seriously. Could you have picked a nastier place to have this meeting?” Kyla was used to the seamy underbelly of the galaxy, but this was probably the most disgusting place she’d ever been in. It was dark, not to set a mood, but because half the lights were burnt out. The windows were so grimy that it was impossible to see through them, except in the many spots were they were broken. The floor looked and felt like it hadn’t been cleaned in Kyla’s lifetime, and the table where they sat was so stained from years of spilled beer and food that it was impossible to tell what color it had been originally. It was, to put it mildly, a dump.

“Okay, so,” he said with a grin, “I didn’t pick this place, Verdek did. But who cares? This is the sort of place where legends are born!” Kyla rolled her eyes again.

“What sort of legends?” she scoffed, “‘Most disgusting fungal growth in the galaxy’? ‘All-time record for the most exotic cancers found in a single human body’? I’m telling you, Treb, this place is a serious health hazard.”

“Oh, you’re fine,” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand, “Just don’t eat or drink anything here. And make sure you put your shoes back on before you walk on this floor.”

“Don’t worry,” she said, “I’m actually starting to wish I’d brought a floatpack with me, so I could get out of here without making physical contact with anything.”

Treben opened his mouth to reply, but at that moment a woman sat down in the booth next to him. She was older than Kyla, probably early 40s, and had shoulder-length dark hair and dark eyes. She was wearing a considerable amount of makeup, but it looked tasteful, not gaudy. She looked more like a successful businesswoman than anything, not at all the type of woman one would expect to find in a bar like this.

“Welcome to Midigal,” she said briskly, “I trust that your trip was pleasant?” Treben looked at her with a quizzical expression, one eyebrow raised.

“You’re Verdek?” he said in an amused voice.

“Why, yes, I am,” she said, equally amused, “Were you expecting a greasy thug, perhaps?”

“Actually, yes,” Treben responded, “But now that I’ve met you, I can see that you are neither greasy nor a thug.” He winked, and she arched an eyebrow.

“I wouldn’t be too quick to judge,” she said, “Do you really think anyone frequents an establishment like this who isn’t a thug?”

“Well, I would have said that before I met you,” he said with a broad smile, “But now I’m going to have to rethink that assessment.”

“Don’t be so sure,” she said with a smirk, “Thugs come in all shapes and sizes.” Treben opened his mouth to reply, but Kyla cut him off.

“Sorry to interrupt the flirt fest here,” she said testily, “but don’t we have a job to do? I’d kinda like to know more about it.” Treben shot her an annoyed look, and Verdek gave her a look that was coolly appraising. Kyla felt her cheeks redden, but she didn’t look away.

“Very well,” Verdek said briskly, and handed a tablet to Treben, “Here is all the information you will require.” Treben looked it over quickly and let out a low whistle.

“Wow!” he said with an equal mix of approval and trepidation, “You weren’t joking when you said our target was important. We are definitely gonna earn our pay on this job.” He handed the tablet to Kyla, and her jaw dropped.

“I never joke about business,” Verdek said with a slight frown, “Now, this information is included in what I gave you, but I need to reemphasize it, because if you forget, it will be disastrous and you will forfeit your pay. It is vitally important that you wait at least two weeks to eliminate the target.”

“Why?” Kyla said suspiciously.

“You don’t need to know that now,” Verdek said, fixing Kyla with a steely glare, “Rest assured, when the time comes, you will know. But at this moment it is irrelevant to your mission.” Kyla and Verdek locked eyes for a few moments, but this time Kyla felt compelled to look away. Verdek gave a satisfied nod.

“Any more questions?” she said. Kyla shook her head, still not making eye contact, and Treben just shrugged. “Very good. I have given you instructions for contacting me if needed. But know that I will be highly displeased if you contact me for a frivolous reason. And I get to decide what is frivolous and what is not.” She fixed her steely gaze on Treben, but he just smiled and winked. She scowled, and then got up and walked away.

As soon as she was out the door, Treben let out a relieved sigh. “Holy crap, that’s a tough woman,” he said with a nervous chuckle. “I just about peed my pants at the end there.”

“You didn’t let on at all,” Kyla said, with a scowl that couldn’t quite hide her begrudging admiration.

“Years of practice,” Treben said dismissively, “You never want someone who’s trying to intimidate you to know that they’re succeeding. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way.” Kyla nodded, a thoughtful expression forming on her face.

To be continued…

The Bull and the Hyena, Part 3

Treben Holkas’ ship trembled slightly as it settled down on its landing pad in Grendemar, the capital city of Midigal. The landing pad was located in a grungy old hangar, part of a small and rundown private starport on the outskirts of the city. Kyla didn’t know why Treben had picked this particular starport to land in, but she assumed that the smuggler had some sort of connection to its owner. It wasn’t the worst starport she’d ever seen, but it was close. Not that she minded, of course. Places like this were the bread and butter of a smuggler. Out of the way and mostly ignored by the authorities, they were perfect for exchanging all manner of legally questionable goods and services.

She shut down the ship’s engines while Holkas grabbed his gear from his compartment. She was hopeful that now that they’d finally reached Midigal, she’d be able to figure out exactly what she’d gotten herself into. Holkas still refused to say anything other than that the payoff would be astronomical. She couldn’t imagine what all the secrecy was about. She hoped there was a good reason for it.

“Okay, babe, I’m all set,” Holkas said, popping his head into the cockpit. “How are you doing?”

“Almost done,” she said, “Just need to reset the termalink coils.”

“Don’t bother,” he said, shaking his head, “We won’t be using this ship again.” She looked up at him, confused.

“What do you mean?” she asked, “How are we going to get our cargo off the planet?”

“We’re not,” he said with an enigmatic smile, and then left. She scowled after him for a moment, and then she got up and hurried after him. She caught up with him at the end of the ramp out of the ship and grabbed his arm.

“Okay, buster,” she said in a low, angry voice, “It’s about time you tell me what’s going on here. I know literally nothing about this job, other than that the payoff is apparently enormous. That was enough for me back on Minisca, but now that we’re here, I think I deserve to know what I’ve gotten myself into.” He gave her a bemused look, and she glared back at him. Finally, he sighed wearily and ran his fingers through his hair.

“To be honest, I don’t know much about this job either,” he said in a tired voice, “I got a call about a month ago from a high level official on Midigal. Said he wanted me to knock off a rival of his. I’ve done assassin work in the past, but it’s messy and difficult, so I told him no. Then he told me his fee. I’m telling you Kyla, the money we are gonna get from this hit will be enough that we can both retire and live as kings. It is, well, phenomenal.”

“Wait a second,” she said, stopping, “A hit? That’s not what I signed up for! I’m a smuggler, not an assassin! I don’t have any experience killing people, and I don’t have any desire either!”

“Hey, chill out, babe,” he said in what he apparently thought was a soothing voice, “It’s no big deal. People die all the time, and frankly, this guy probably deserves to die. He’s probably corrupt or a pedophile or something.”

“Or maybe he just made the wrong person mad,” she replied heatedly, “I don’t care why one bigwig wants another one dead. I’m not taking part in this.”

“Oh, come on,” Holkas said pleadingly, “It’s really not that hard to kill someone. And you’ll never have to do it again. I’m telling you, the payoff for this hit is massive!” Kyla shook her head.

“I can’t do it, Holkas,” she said in a quiet, intense voice, “I can’t kill another person. It goes against everything I believe in.” He rolled his eyes.

“You’re kidding me,” he scoffed, “You wanna live in the underworld, but you say you can’t kill someone? How do you think that’s gonna work? Even if you never kill somebody for money, you gotta protect your interests. You can’t just say, ‘I’ll never kill someone’, cause your rivals are sure as hell not gonna have any problem killing you.” She closed her eyes and swallowed hard. He watched her for a few moments, and then he put on his best smile and put his arm around her.

“Okay,” he said soothingly, “how about this? Let’s find out more information about this hit, see who this guy is. I’ll let you back out at any time, and I’ll even give you half your fee if you do. Just…don’t back out now. Okay?” She took a long, deep breath with her eyes still closed and slowly let it out.

“Fine,” she said suddenly, opening her eyes as she did, “I won’t back out now.” She shifted her pack on her shoulders and headed for the hangar’s exit.

“Atta girl!” Holkas exclaimed with a big grin as he hustled to keep up with her, “That’s the spirit!”

“So who is the target, anyway?” she said as they left the hangar and emerged on the streets of Grendemar. They were in an old, rundown district on the edge of the city. It was late at night, and the street was dark and deserted. It gave Kyla an eerie feeling.

“I don’t know yet,” Holkas said with a shrug, “We’ll find out when we meet our contact.”

“So who hired us?” she asked. Holkas shrugged again.

“Don’t know that either,” he said.

“You don’t know who hired us?” she asked incredulously, “How do we know he’s gonna pay us then? What do we do if he doesn’t?” Holkas rolled his eyes.

“That’s how this works, Kyla,” he said in a voice like an adult talking to a child, “Whoever hired us is a powerful, respected person. He or she doesn’t want to risk that reputation by letting the news get out that they hired an assassin. Our contact will pay us when the job’s over.”

“And if they don’t?” Kyla asked. Holkas chuckled.

“Oh, then we’ll find ’em,” he said with a grin, “Don’t worry. There are always ways to get information in the underworld.” His chuckle turned nasty as he strolled down the dark streets of Grendemar. Kyla followed after him with a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach.

To be continued…

The Bull and the Hyena, Part 2

General Vor Shen was exhausted, but understandably so. After all, it was a lot of work to carve a kingdom out of an empire. But the first goal of his long labors was in sight. In a few weeks, Haasadis Ventelin would openly proclaim himself King of Midigal, and the provinces that formed this new kingdom would be ready to defend themselves from the inevitable reprisal from the Empire.

General Shen’s plans were simple but brilliant. Shen knew that Empire was severely short of manpower. Many soldiers had died in the battles of the past four years, and many more had defected to Fangalin and Hadramoris. And to Midigal, although the Imperial Fleet didn’t know it yet. On paper, General Shen, General Ventelin, and the men and women who served under them were still members of the Imperial Armed Forces. They just hadn’t followed any of the orders that had been sent to them for over a year.

That the Empire had yet to detect this deception was a consequence both of Shen’s cleverness, and the fact that the Supreme Commander of the IAF and his staff simply didn’t have the resources to verify that their orders were being carried out. Not to mention that there had been anywhere from three to five men who claimed that title in the past four years. The governance of the Empire was a confused mess right now, with verified information hard to come by. This made Shen’s job a lot easier than it would have been in peaceful times.

Once Haasadis Ventelin openly proclaimed himself King of Midigal, the Empire would attempt to respond. One or more of the men who claimed to be the Emperor would launch an attack on the Kingdom, in an attempt to “reclaim” that territory. And Shen would let the attack go forward.

This was the brilliant part. Once the Empire had attacked the Kingdom, it would be possible for Midigal to claim the moral high ground and attract the sympathy of Hadramoris and, perhaps, even Fangalin. The best part was that no matter where or when the attack came, there was little chance of it doing actual damage to the Midigalan forces. Vor Shen had a very extensive spy network, and once he knew where the attack was coming, he would pull his forces out of there, and launch a counterattack against a vulnerable area of the Empire. Whoever attempted to crush the Kingdom would get crushed in turn.

“Shen!” bellowed the voice of Haasadis Ventelin over Shen’s communicator. Shen jumped to his feet suddenly and looked around wildly. He had dozed off, and Ventelin’s bellowing had jolted him back to consciousness. He slowly settled back into his chair, his heart still pounding.

“Yes, Your Majesty?” he said in a voice that sounded much calmer than he felt.

“I’m hungry!” he said, still bellowing in his obnoxious way, “Go get me a steak or something!” Shen frowned at this, and rubbed his temples to help relieve the stress of being addressed in such a fashion, but he didn’t let his stress or irritation show in his voice.

“Of course, Your Majesty,” he replied calmly, “I’ll have a servant sent up with whatever you desire immediately.”

“No, no, no, no, no,” Ventelin said, “I want you to get it. Not a servant.”

“Um…me?” Shen asked, angry and confused, “Are you sure? Your Majesty?”

“Yeah, you,” Ventelin replied, “Steak tastes better when it’s fetched by a general. Besides, you don’t have anything better to do, right?” Shen was silent for a few minutes, and forced himself to swallow several nasty replies.

“I…will be right there. Your Majesty.”

“Good!” yelled Ventelin, “I knew you’d be a good sport! Hurry now! You wouldn’t want me to faint cause I’m so hungry!” He guffawed heartily at this weak joke, and then ended the call.

Shen sat at his desk for a few minutes, gritting his teeth in anger. He slowly reached out and grabbed something small and breakable that was sitting on his desk, and turned it over and over in his hands. His gaze was unfocused, but menacing. Suddenly, he flung the thing he was holding across the room as hard as he could, and it hit the far wall and shattered.

The sound of the object breaking brought him back to reality. He was still angry, but he knew that he shouldn’t give in to blind rage. He had plans for Haasadis Ventelin to go along with his plans for the Empire. Ventelin was just a figurehead. He just seemed to be forgetting that lately.

Vor Shen had always been the brains behind Ventelin’s plan to carve out a kingdom from the dying husk of the Empire. Ventelin partied and boasted and seduced young women, while Shen planned, worked, thought, and made connections. Ventelin did what Shen told him to do, because he knew that a king would be able to obtain more booze and babes than a general could. And Shen used Ventelin instead of claiming the crown himself for two reasons. One, Ventelin was Midigalan and Shen was not. Midigal was the key to this enterprise, and the Merchant’s Council would not have accepted anyone but a Midigalan as king. And two, Venetelin, barbarian though he was, possessed a sort of crude charisma that Shen sadly lacked.

Ventelin had been amenable to this arrangement at first, but with a crown on his head, he was starting to think that Vor Shen was just another servant. Shen would disabuse him of that notion soon enough, but his other plans were more important. He would go along with this charade for the moment. But once the Empire was taken care of, Haasadis Ventelin would be next to go.

Shen got up and headed for the door to get Ventelin his steak. As he passed the object he had broken, he realized for the first time what it was. Once upon a time, Lt. Colonel Vor Shen had met a young, loud, brash, but pliable 2nd Lieutenant named Haasadis Ventelin. Even at the beginning of their relationship, Shen had sensed that it would someday lead to something big. So when Lt. Ventelin had given his commanding officer a bottle of vodka at the end of their first tour of duty together, Shen had kept it as a memento instead of drinking it. It was now soaking into the carpet of his office.

Fitting, thought Shen, I’ve had that since near the beginning of our relationship. And now, as Ventelin himself exits the stage, so does his gift. He chuckled, and breathed deeply through his nose. As he did so, he couldn’t help notice smelling that it had been a particularly fine bottle of vodka. For some reason, that just made him laugh even harder.

To be continued…

The Bull and the Hyena, Part 1

A lone starship cruised through the great black void of space, silently pressing on toward its goal. It was a small ship, designed for a crew of six, but there were only two people on board at the moment. One of the two was asleep in a small compartment located directly behind the cockpit, while the other sat in the cockpit and watched the instruments to make sure the ship stayed on course.

The pilot was a young woman, about 25 years old, with wild, bright pink hair and a mischievous twinkle in her green eyes. Those eyes were barely open at the moment, though. She opened her mouth wide in an epic yawn and rubbed her eyes vigorously to help keep them open. She’d been awake for almost 24 hours, and her duties were exceedingly boring at the moment, but they still needed to be done. It would be her turn to sleep soon.

A buzzer went off suddenly, and she jerked her head up and looked around wildly for a second before she realized where she was. She must have dozed off, but fortunately that buzzer meant her shift was over and it was her partner’s turn to take over. She yawned another tremendous yawn just as he entered the cockpit. He was a tall man, about 15 years older than her, with curly brown hair and a smirk permanently affixed to his ruggedly handsome face.

“Ugh, it’s about time you showed up,” she said, pretending to be disgusted, “Another few minutes on this duty and I’d have set a course for the nearest star, just to have something interesting to do!”

“You know, you could have woken me earlier,” he said, reaching over to ruffle her hair as he sat down in his chair. She slapped his hand away, half playfully, half angrily.

“Yeah,” she said with a smirk, “and listen to you whine about missing out on your precious beauty sleep? Pass.”

“Oh, I do not whine,” he said, affecting a wounded air. She just rolled her eyes in response. “So, what’s our status?”

“Same as its been for the past week,” she replied, “Still on course. No anomalies. No problems. Nothing to report at all, except my butt is lame from sitting in this chair for too long.”

“Deal with it,” he said, “A few more days and you’ll be in such magnificent comfort that your butt’ll never be lame again.”

“I can hardly wait,” she said sarcastically, “After all this hype, you sure better deliver.”

“Me? Deliver?” he said incredulously, “When have you ever known the magnificent Treben Holkas to not deliver?”

“Hmm,” she mused, “I can think of at least a dozen girls off the top of my head who would be happy to tell me all about times that you’ve over-promised and under-delivered.”

“Lies!” he yelled, “Lies and scandal! Those women heard things in my words that I never intended to be there! Treben Holkas always keeps his promises!”

“Is that so?” she replied, raising an eyebrow, “Well I certainly hope my contract doesn’t have things in it that you ‘never intended to be there’.”

“Kyla, trust me,” Holkas said, “when we’re done on Midigal, you will have no cause for complaint ever again.” Kyla eyed him skeptically, but they both knew that she was in too deep to back out now, and he just smiled complacently back at her. Finally, she sighed and stood up.

“I have no idea why I let you talk me into this, but I’m too tired to worry about it now,” she said with another yawn, “I’m going to bed.”

“Sure you don’t want company?” Holkas asked with a wink. Kyla rolled her eyes and made a rude gesture at him. He chuckled and turned to the instrument panel. “I’ll wake you in twelve hours.” She waved dismissively to him and left the cockpit.

Once inside her quarters, she made sure to lock the door so Holkas couldn’t get in. He wasn’t necessarily the sort of man who believed that “no” actually meant “yes”, but it sometimes took a great deal of persuasion to convince him that she really was saying no, and she was too tired to play that game at the moment. Despite her exhaustion, it took her awhile to fall asleep. She was too busy replaying in her mind the events that had brought her to this point.

When she had met Holkas in a seedy bar on Minisca, a few weeks ago, she already knew him by reputation. Even before the war, Treben Holkas had been the most famous smuggler in the outer provinces, and the last four years had only added to his legend. An aspiring smuggler herself, Kyla Vertrane had been instantly smitten by him, and when he proposed partnering up on a job inside the Empire, she couldn’t turn him down.

The problem was, she still didn’t know what the job was. She knew they were going to Midigal, and she also knew there were rumors floating around that a group of provinces were about to secede from the Empire and form a new kingdom centered around Midigal. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that the two were connected. But how, she had no idea.

Holkas was making grandiose promises of untold riches, but those promises seemed a lot more real in the context of dim lighting and loud, pulsing music than they did after a dull week of slowly traveling through space. Kyla wanted to believe that she had gotten into something that would jumpstart her career and push her into the upper echelons of the galaxy’s underworld. She wanted to believe that the legend of Treben Holkas was for real, and not just built on a foundation of smoke and mirrors. But it was hard to keep those dreams alive when Holkas refused to tell her what they were doing. She couldn’t help but think that she was involved in something that would be very bad, both for her, and for everyone connected.

To be continued…