Chapter Seventeen

Film hits the screens, an-duh, well, let one of the reviews speak for it.
"There are bad girls, then there are ultra-bad girls. When Chloe Moretz played Hit Girl, she was a bad girl, but it was cartoon violence, cartoon music and foul language. Uma Thurman played a bad girl in the Kill Bill films, it was violent, martial arts films tend to be, but she was on a mission, pushed by strong emotions of hate and revenge. The closest thing to Twice as Dead I can recall was Angela Jolie in Salt, ruthless efficiency.
Dasha and Daria Kazakova raised the bar on ruthless efficiency in the Ultra Violet series and now they have raised it again.
Dasha plays Katya, Daria plays Kira in the film. We're never given last names. Twice as Dead is a prequel to their appearance in Ultra Violet III and tells us how they got to be the adorably conscienceless assassins they are today. Young Katya and Kira are played by Nadia and Natasha Aleyeva, who had a small role in the family drama Confessions.
I won't spoil the plot with their development, suffice it to say it wasn't a happy childhood. An explanation of how they get into the assassination business would entail more plot spoilers, but it was one of many great action sequences.
The hook for me is the way the twins use their identical selves to baffle and confuse targets. And while it's may seem hard to make sociopathic twins sympathetic, Amaya, noted author and screenwriter, pulls it off by making the girls hilarious. Don't be misled, not slapstick funny, this film is by no means a cartoon. It's great verbal humor, all the funnier because of the serious as death demeanor of the lead characters. The lines work because the twins aren't trying for a joke, Kira is caustically sarcastic and Katya carries on a running dialogue with herself that comments on the absurdity of people, places and situations around her. When one poor sap is facing imminent death, he pleads for an explanation of why, Katya deadpans, 'Urban Outfitter,' his jaw drops, bullet hole in the orange t-shirt turns crimson and she walks off mumbling, 'Orange shirt and cheap cargo pants, better to be dead.'
Katya and Kira are hit, what? not men, hit women, teenage hit women. Just typical teens, cleaning their weapons while downing shots of Russian Standard. Amaya crafted the story so that the girls seldom talk to each other, rather exchange glances, as if they can read the other's mind. I'm told twins can give that impression.
Of the many best parts, one best part is that the action is believable, an Amaya trademark. Nobody flies through the air and triple flips, when people get the crap beat out of them, they don't show up in the next scene with only a band-aid. Even better, there is zero screen time with endless chase scenes. Dialogue is the strongest of Amaya's strong points and there is no better writer at it either side of Elmore Leonard. We can argue about who is best.
Matt Damon plays a bemused detective whose cop radar pings about the girls, but likes bantering with Katya more than he wants to catch them at anything. His cop radar also tells him he will live longer if he doesn't get too curious.
He has a different role here than his character in Ultra Violet, it's the same actor, but you wouldn't confuse the two roles. His Twice as Dead character is much older, world weary, cranky, near retirement. His one bright spot is the twins. The role gave Mr. Damon a chance to display his range, he's much more than a hard body with a chiseled face.
Make sure you hit the restroom before taking your seat, miss five minutes of this movie and you'll miss three punch lines and a death or two. You pull for them to shoot somebody just hear the accompanying dialogue. I thought it would be impossible to match the excellent Ultra Violet series, Amaya managed to pull it off with Twice as Dead."
"Dang, Amaya, now that's a glowing review."
Amaya, "I squeezed my brain cells dry coming up with that stuff."
"Looks like you're getting rewarded for it, congratulations."
Chloe reads other critiques, 'Edgy, intelligent action, thought it was gone forever,' then, 'Can you make a great action movie without bashing up cars, explosions and machine guns? Amaya can,' another, 'I laughed my way through so many pummelings, murders and tough guys, I lost count,' also, "Don't tell the theater, I sat through the movie twice.'
Nikko, "Looks like we're going to make a buck."
Matt and Claudia call, we put them on speaker, Matt says, "Great job Dasha and Daria, we're so happy for you Amaya, people have been calling us all morning, have you talked to Childers?"
Amaya, "Not yet," her phone rings, "Spoke too soon, he is on my line."
Claudia, "Are the girls up for a sequel?"
Dasha, "Up to Eemaya. She worked hard on this one."
Matt, "Yeah, but what he critics don't know is a lot of your lines were improvised. I mean, not to take away from the excellent script, but there are scenes in every movie where the actor tried out a line on the spur of the moment. Yours worked."
Amaya returns, "Harry is ecstatic, wants to know when we do Twice as Dead II."
Matt, "Got the perfect title for the sequel."
Amaya, "It has to be post Ultra Violet, I have been thinking of ways to include Ultra Violet footage, you have a decision to make."
Matt, "What's that?"
"Do I write you in for a part? I'm using Chloe's Ultra Violet character, be good to have you in your former role."
Claudia, "He says yes, absolutely. We are making the synesthesia movie though, don't write too fast. Nikko, you were spot on, I got the director and the graphics star I wanted. We will take a piece of production, Matt's going to need the tax relief and I have no intention of him doing a Snipes."
She's referring to Wesley Snipes, who got three years for tax fraud, not his slickest career move.
Nikko, "Give me a number."
Claudia, "Three million, I think the ten total is good."
Nikko, "I'll have the contacts drawn and send them to you. When your lawyer and tax people are done, they can send us the signed originals. Tell them to call our attorney if they have questions, and they might. We do bare bones understandable agreements, lawyers charge by the word, I don't let mine use many."
Claudia, "I'll send them a copy out of courtesy, they don't get to make changes. We understand the agreement, that's good enough for us."
Matt's smiling, "I am so pumped about this, Twice as Dead, the synesthesia film, and Amaya's going to bring us all together again.”
Claudia, “Talk to you soon Nikko, bye everybody."
Janah, "They make work a pleasure."
Nikko, "They trust us, with good reason, we over-delivered on every commitment."
Amaya, "And Matt gave us his best in every scene. Childers may have a heart attack. He said he knew the work was good, but critics generally find something to grouse about, which is why it is called criticism. He scoured the internet, found one nobody woman who decried the use of 'children' to portray such violence. Harry said she got in a huff about Chloe Moretz in several of her movies and as far back as Natalie Portman in The Professional. Apparently she is on a perpetual crusade to protect the children."
"That's a laugh, children can be some of the most violent creatures on the planet."
Amaya, "It does not matter, it will encourage people to see the film. Harry was amazed at the reception of the mainstream. I have to wait a few days to tell him we are doing a reunion. He is excessively stimulated already."
Sis calls, "I couldn't find a bad review, except the tut-tut woman about child violence, made me want to go see it again."
"You have a violent daughter and violent grandchildren, it's genetic, my moms are 5th degree black belts."
Susan, "Genetics implies biology, you weren't biologically related to Chris, not are Dasha and Daria to either of us. It's primarily a product of environment, not a hostile environment. Can there be a non-hostile violent environment?"
"I think it's a Buddhist thing. We do violence without anger, although we aren't sure about the twins."
Sis, "You can be in their minds, can't you tell?"
"Good point. Daria has a flame, primarily for them it's just something that needs to be done, like heating the oven before putting in the biscuits. They're Russian with Belarusian flavoring, their world is black and white."
"Congratulate everyone for me, and Sloane is due in an hour for programming."
"I'll bring her over in a bit, or is it byte?"
"Very funny, see you later."

Chapter Eighteen

Life casts a Shadow on our celebration of the film's success, or maybe Shadows, we aren't certain yet. The good news is that the film grossed two hundred million the first month and is just going international. We net a little under half, put in twenty five million, take out eighty five million a year later, not bad. Generally speaking, the gross doubles overseas, but we won't know for at least a month. Murakami Sylk Productions, which belongs to all of us, takes half of the current sixty million profit, fifteen million to Amaya, fifteen to the twins. Eloise was paid handsomely for her drone work. She also has a share of Murakami Sylk Enterprises, the holding company for all our businesses, as does everyone in the family. We reek money. At the last family confab on finances, we hover in the two billion plus neighborhood. Not bad considering none of us went to college, maybe Sloane will and figure out how to bankrupt us.
Janah, "Our network is reporting Shadow-ish activity in Seattle."
"Like?"
"An under the radar church-like something. Usually churches want visibility, more members more money. This one doesn't have a sign on the building, no symbols, no cross, no crescent, no menorah, no nothing. Appears to be gatherings a couple nights a week, whatever happens inside isn't visible outside, no windows downstairs, stained glass or otherwise."
Nikko, "How does that translate to Shadows, or even a church?"
"Think wealth, at least in the parking lot, nothing but luxury cars, high end of luxury. The attendees are all attractive, well dressed, relatively young, forties appears to be old, emphasis on teen to thirty. No children, no infants. All white all the time."
"Aryan Cult?"
Nikko, "You must have hacked the place, cameras, listening devices."
Janah, "Yes, not cameras yet, listening devices.
Daphne's sarcasm is close, it's cult like, but doesn't appear to be a single leader. Three voices do the talking, there is no deference to one or the other, nor is there any ranking mentioned."
"No Cardinal, or Pope, or high priest even?"
"No, and no brother this or sister that."
Nikko, "You have a list of stuff it isn't, do you have a clue what it is?"
Janah giggles, "Sort of. The talks, I wouldn't call them sermons, revolve around superiority, future man, potential and possibility. You are more than you know and you will be greater than you can imagine."
"Sounds like the Gospel of Amaya."
Nikko, "So far, nothing sounds like Shadows. They don't attract crowds, they do their damage one victim at a time. And people are driving up and walking in. Three Shadows couldn't control all that."
Janah, "Not in our experience, that's why I said Shadow-ish. There is an element of control. Group meetings are all about self glorification, telling rich people they deserve it, they're special, not common rabble, near super human. Listen to the recordings."
The speakers are assuring the participants they are truly special, a unique species, an advance in human evolution. Unlike a Tony Robbins rave, this is done as if it's a matter of fact. The speakers could be professors, not motivation pimps. One of them even adopts a bit of British accent, Americans are suckers for the Queen's English, makes the speaker sound more intelligent even if he's one of the dumber royals. The subject segues to the new world order, guess who's going to be in charge?
Normally we'd walk away from this kind of Nietzsche narcissism, but the wind down leads to a reminder to confirm next week's appointment for their 'unique personal power education review,' or UPPER.
Nikko, "Oh please, people still fall for that?"
"Nikko, dear one, a significant majority of Americans believe they die then move into mansions on streets paved with gold, other people, men anyway, think they get a gaggle of virgins, and others think they'll be reborn endlessly until they get it right. Delusion is the cornerstone of....being human. The same people who believe God directs everything they do also believe they have free will. That one cancels the other never enters their mind."
Janah, "What we don't know is, first, is this a Shadow gig, and second, if it isn't do we get involved anyway?"
Nikko, "Zi and I need to go to San Francisco. We'll go to Seattle first, Zi can determine if there are Shadows. If not, and nothing else is going on except some kind of nouveau Scientology, we drop it and go on to something productive."
Janah, "Good. The speakers live in the same building where the meetings take place, the UPPER business happens there as well."
Nikko, "Who’s in charge?"
Janah, "Two men, one woman, photos on the website. Other than what goes on inside they do normal stuff, go to the grocery, bank, gas station, eat out. It should be simple to get close enough for Zi to make a determination."
"If they're Shadows, we have to off them anyway, shouldn't we take a drone?"
Janah, "Yes, and Daria. If they're Shadows and sense your lack of goodwill, you'll need her qi."
The next morning they Blue Sky off to Seattle, SUV is waiting, Daria drives them to the Hampton Inn downtown. They don't plan to hang in town long and Nikko doesn't share our penchant for luxury hotels.
Nikko, "Where is the not church?"
Daria, "Six miles from here, Hawthorne Hills, meeting tonight."
"Let's take a look."
It looks almost bleak, cinder block. Front and rear doors are metal, there's one side exit, also metal. Whatever they do, they aren't much on transparency.
Zi, "Amazed the listening devices got what they did."
Daria, "Four cars, the Infiniti and the Lexus belong to whoever lives here."
Nikko, "Maybe they're having whatever UPPER is. A top of the line BMW and Amaya's favorite, an Escalade."
Zi, "The building is prison ugly, but the cars are new and top shelf. Maybe the inside is luxurious."
Nikko, "Any ideas? If we come back tonight, there's no guarantee we learn much more, we already know what the crowd looks like."
Zi, "What if some of the others are Shadows?"
"Hadn't thought of that, guess we do need to be here tonight."
Daria has the drone in the air, "Maybe see something from upstairs windows, need to look at the roof too."
No air conditioner on the ground, which means it's on the roof. No exterior stairs, which means there has to be a roof exit to get to the equipment.
She goes overhead first, "There's a doorway, it doesn't look too formidable, a way in perhaps."
The drone takes off, she flies it out about fifty yards, two windows have curtains drawn. Flies it around the back, window open, zooms the camera, moves to the side to cut glare from the windowpane.
Zi, "Plush from what we can see, wait, there's a man on a couch, a woman seated in a chair next to him, can you get conversation?"
Daria lifts the drone, flies over the window and drops the mic, it's on the end of what looks like an upside down old style retractable car antennae, like a telescope.
Woman, "You have done well, your contributions are significant."
Man, "I have to be careful, I've stolen more than a million dollars from the company, which they think is offshore. If the Board wants to access it, I have a serious problem."
Woman, "Overcoming difficulties is part of your continued growth. Your self discipline has brought you to level three in only two years. Going to level four requires courage. You have it in you, we will guide you, it will emerge."
Man, "What must I do?"
Woman, "You are already insensitive to the pain of others, people who mean nothing to you. Emotions are the barrier to growth. Can you eliminate them, even towards those close to you? Your family?"
"I...I don't know."
"You must. Every attachment is an obstacle, keeping you from ultimate perfection."
We're seeing the show from New York, I muse, "What drivel. What's up with this guy?"
Janah, "Guess we'll find out."
Amaya, "I could explain to him there is only one ultimate perfection, me. He is way back in the pack."
Woman, "Shall we find out now?"
Man, "How?"
"Your daughter has begun session twelve, and may pass to level two today. Let's watch."
What appears to be a curtain on the wall draws back, there's a window into another room. It's well lit, Daria adjusts the camera so the focus is on the second room
Woman, "We can see and hear, but she can't see or hear us."
In the new room, there's a girl in a chair, back to the window. A man is seated on front of her. She appears to be fourteen or fifteen, hard to tell from behind. The man is maybe forty, no older.
He speaks, "Tricia, you are doing wonderfully."
"Thank you, it is important to me, to progress."
"Yes, and to us, we are here to support and guide your growth. Today is a big step. I must ask, have you had sexual relations yet, Tricia?"
Tricia, "Well, no, not really, just kissing. My dad is pretty strict about stuff like that. I can't date or anything."
"So no sex after school, or telling mom and dad you are at a friend's but really meeting a boy?"
"No, no, nothing like that. I wanted to...sometimes, but we started training here, and self discipline is important, isn't it?"
"Yes, which is why you are doing so well, Tricia. Now, however, for your continued growth, you will need to step beyond parental restrictions, to take your own course, be in charge of your life. Do you understand?"
Tricia, "Yes, I must be in control, not anyone else."
"Exactly, dear girl. But talk is not action, is it?"
"No, we are taught otherwise."
"To go beyond what mommy and daddy want, you must defy their restrictions. No one need know, you do not have to do it publicly. It is more important that you do it for yourself."
Tricia, "Daddy says this training will bring us to our perfect self, and that I must persist, no matter what."
The man smiles, "Are you committed?"
Tricia brightens, "Yes."
Nikko, "Christ, this is so obvious, for a master race in training, these dopes have a long way to go."
What happens next is sadly predictable. The man tells Tricia to disrobe, which she does, if not enthusiastically, she doesn't resist. Then she's on her knees giving him a blow job.
Dad, "Is this necessary? Really necessary?"
Woman, "Do you want her to grow, to step away from smarmy emotions? Your daughter has shown her independence, her strength. She is willing to break her bonds, are you?"
Daddy watches the man jerk off into his daughter's mouth, she's smiling, kisses the end of his cock, "That was fun."
Dad is staring, hard to say from a drone shot what he's feeling, or if he's feeling, but he does nothing.
Woman, "She has achieved level two. You must act as if you know nothing. She will not say anything to you, or to her mother. The ability to keep your own counsel is primary, no feelings, no talking it over. In a month, if you remain stoic, impervious to the petty emotions, you will be level four."
Dad, "She did it, I can do it. I am proud of her accomplishment."
Woman, "She may surpass us all."
Nikko, "Frick all. If these aren't Shadows it doesn't matter, they need to die anyway."
Janah, "Stick around, move Zi in closer, let's see what we're dealing with."
Nikko, "Zi, anything?"
"Not close enough, it's clearly Shadow behavior, screwing with people for amusement. But I can't get a read from here."
"Then we have to hang around until you do."

Chapter Nineteen

If it isn't for power, it's for money or sex, and the three are entwined. Money can buy power and sex, power can demand sex and money, sex can provide money and a more subtle sort of power. There are other motivations, kindness, caring, compassion, other emotions, sorrow, sadness, satisfaction or happiness, all of which revolve around the twin selves of gratification or esteem. It really is all about you.
All stories revolve around the same emotions. Different circumstances, different people, different towns, different scenery, different methods of explication, but in the end emotion emerges from the same hormones. How they blend and in what amount determines intensity.
Daria flies the drone to the other windows, curtains are drawn but we can hear conversation. There were two visitor cars, one for dad and daughter, the other is a woman getting her ego stroked by the second man.
Man Two, "You are seeing changes in your life."
Woman, "Yes, already. I was afraid to take control at work or at home. Your encouragement and the stories of the others made me see I had no reason to be overlooked, a doormat, or even just a trudging middler. I could be on top."
Two, "Middlers are to be scorned. Plod along in insignificant lives, pushed and shoved by spouses, children and bosses. You must come to hate middlers, viscerally despise them. They are only tools to be used for your growth, compost for the perfect garden of you."
"Yes, it seems so obvious now. I got the lesbian cow in accounting to adjust the sales numbers just for letting her stare at my legs while I implied I might be open to having a drink. I got a fat bonus for sales I never made. Then I got her fired for harassment. The best part is they didn't tell her it was me. I let her buy me a drink and commiserated with her about the unfairness of it," she giggles, "I watched her cry, pay for my drinks and tell me I'm a wonderful person."
Two, "Speaking of which, your donation is due today."
"I have it. I took your suggestion, my parents are loaded, I got daddy to give me forty thousand for a new car. I bought one for thirty, I have the ten here, in cash."
"Excellent. You made dad feel good about himself and got what you needed. For a new member, you are making remarkable progress."
"I'm only twenty three, by thirty I plan to run the sales division, and by forty the company, and I don't care who has to die along the way. I have the eye of the CEO, the randy bastard likes what he sees. Next month we're on a company trip to the Caribbean. When he sees me in a bikini, I will own his ass."
Daria flies the drone back, we get the idea. Inflate egos, share stories, it accomplishes two things. First, when a group is engaged, any activity the behavior becomes justifiable because everyone is doing it. Think Stanford Prison Experiment. Second, they see possibility where they didn't before. He got away with it, I can get away with it. Like the four minute mile. Back when, nobody could run a four minute mile, it was thought to be an impossibility. Then someone did and all kinds of people started running four minute miles. Now, no elite runner doesn't run a four minute mile.
Ten minutes later, bikini girl leaves, ten after that dad and daughter.
Nikko, "Daria, get the drone to the windows again, see if the ones inside have anything to say."
At the left back corner where bikini girl was interviewed, she picks up conversation.
Woman, "Thomas is kicking in contributions like crazy and delivering his daughter for our fun. He voiced mild concern, but his eyes said he got off on it."
Man One, "Maybe he’s got eyes for her, or more. If the kid never gave a blow job before, she's been practicing on her dildo."
Woman, "They all watch porn now, plenty of training video out there, you may have a point about dad though."
Two, "Sharon is hot, she's gotten one woman fired, faked a sales report and earned a big bonus, and she got her father to fork over forty thousand, ten of which came to us."
Woman, "What's the take up to?"
Two, "Since we started, five million. It's picking up every month. Our members are learning that high achievers, by which we mean sociopaths, do so much better than the common rabble, and they are loving it."
One, "When you proposed creating sociopaths and getting paid for it, I thought you'd lost your mind. How could we train sociopathic behavior? Turns out it's not that hard."
Woman, "We learned to start with the entitled, the me attitude is already in place, we just allow it to express itself. We give them permission and encouragement to be their authentic selves."
Laughter, they think it's hilarious. Come to think of it, it is kind of funny in a deviant way. Authentic self, like you're going to be the same person in every situation. Come to think of it, that's a form of insanity.
"Got to be Shadows, who else thinks like that?"
Janah, "So far they're more like motivational speakers. Motivational speakers exist to encourage self promotion, pump ego. Getting ahead requires somebody else gets left behind, there's limited seating at the top."
"So, motivation pimps are about creating sociopaths."
"Well....yes, actually."
Nikko, "A man and a woman are leaving. We're going to follow until we can get close enough for Zi to take their temperature."
They trail behind a couple of blocks, Zi needs to be within twenty yards, closer is better. The BMW turns into a parking lot, there's a coffee shop in the strip mall. As the two enter the shop, a, Asian woman walks past, two heads snap towards her, they go blank. Half in, half out the door, a couple is waiting to exit.
"Excuse me....hey, you guys okay?"
The two blink back to the present, "Yeah, yeah, thought we spotted someone we used to know, except that person is dead. Gave us a bit of a shock until we figured out it wasn't her."
Daria used Qi to block their ability to read the Shaolin. That kind of Qi takes a pile of energy, particularly since she's blocking two.
Nikko, "You okay?"
Daria's breathing hard, "Yes...now. Like a cross-fit workout, short but intense."
Zi, "Two Shadows, neither is weak, the woman is darkest."
Nikko, "While they're occupied, let's go check out the other one. He's alone. I'll knock on the door, Zi, stay back until he answers. When I have him in conversation, approach, out of his line of sight, you don't need to see him, just sense him. If he's a Shadow, give Daria a thumbs up. It's possible he'll react, maybe anger, maybe step out to look for you, even go for me. Doesn't matter, if it's thumbs up Daria, take him out. And don't stick the dart in me, if it isn't a clean shot we'll do something else."
Daria, "Take the antidote. I won't miss, but take it anyway."
Nikko, "We aren't even sure it works."
Zi, "We know what happens if you don't take it, it doesn't do anything but negate the toxin, there are no side effects."
They park down the block from the building, Daria injects her, gets the drone loaded and aloft. Nikko starts for the building. It has a decent sized parking lot out front, nothing on either side. It's on a public street, cars could pass, a bicycle might come along. Still, better than dealing with three Shadows at once.
Nikko knocks, nothing, it's a big place and One was upstairs when they left. She hits the buzzer, can hear it go off inside. A minute passes, she hears thumping, like someone coming down stairs, the door opens.
One is the blow job guy, "Help you?"
"Maybe. I'm filthy rich, some inherited, some stolen, but I sometimes feel bad about it. I was told if I came here, I could learn to fuck over people and not give it a second thought."
He's barely listening, eyes look past her, he growls, "Get out of my way," he pushes past, this is better, now he's a step outside the door.
His head turns left, right, he stares to the right, there's no one there. His eyes narrow in hate, then surprise, a dart pokes out from the right side of his chest. Nikko catches him as he falls and drags him inside.

Chapter Twenty

Nikko, "I stuck the body in a closet. We need the other two. They park around back and go in that way. Daria, you locked and loaded?"
"Da, six darts on drone, easy."
Nikko, "Nothing to do but wait them out."
The drone hovers above, they watch an empty screen for an hour, then the BMW comes into view.
"Make them count Daria."
Two gets out, steps to the rear door, opens it and grabs a couple of plastic bags. Then he's on the ground. The woman’s still in the car, women never get out of a car right away, they have to check makeup and stick crap back in the purse. She gets as far as opening the door, then she's dead.
"Good job, let's get them moved."
Janah gets online, "Cleaners will be along in a few minutes. Then take a break. Be back in time for tonight's meeting, we need to know there are no more Shadows."
Nikko, "The whole group may not show up tonight."
Janah, "Can't be helped, you can't sit in Seattle for another three days. I doubt there are Shadows in the membership, they aren't joiners. This is just three Shadows who found another way to make money and amuse themselves."
"What about the assholes they created?"

"We don't kill assholes, there's not enough time and not enough Oblivion. We deal with corporate sociopaths when they arise in Society work, we don't chase them down. They have to be doing something egregious, not just ruthlessly climbing the ladder. Half the working world is doing that, the other half is getting climbed on."
They take time for a coffee and snack break. The meetings start at seven sharp, come late, find locked doors. For this, Daria simply parks in the lot, she's driving an Escalade, it looks quite normal and the windows are tinted near black. Zi can check out people as they walk to the building. Participants file inside, they watch until seven, the doors shut.
Zi, "Some not so nice people, but no Shadows."
Of course, there won't be any meeting. Amaya created a recording in the voice of the female Shadow. The meeting room will look normal, even to the coffee, sodas and snacks they are accustomed to. When they are seated, the digital recording will play.
"Participants. Thank you for your money and your children. We enjoyed the sex, but the money is more important. Here's what you got, screwed. There are no levels, you aren't special, just as stupid as everyone else. We can't believe how easily you fell for the bullshit, but you did. We're gone and won't be back, fuck you very much."
In the meantime, Susan is showing Sloane how to clean out their accounts, we net four million and change. Cars, building and the upscale furniture inside were all rented. Shadows generally don't hang long in one place, we've had exceptions though. Trying to predict a Shadow is like trying to predict tomorrow’s stock market. Long term it’s easier, the stock market will generally head higher, Shadows will always head lower.
Nikko, "Let's get dinner and to the hotel," she's on the phone with Blue Sky arranging a flight to San Francisco.
Daria finds the Metropolitan Grill, three filets, roasted mushrooms and lobster macaroni and cheese later, they head to the Hampton.
Zi, "That was excellent."
Nikko, "It was, horseradish sauce added a nice kick to the filet. And lobster macaroni and cheese, have to mention it to Dasha."
Daria, "She watched. Said she's going to make it tomorrow, Oceane will like that."
Tomorrow they will be in San Francisco for a few days, maybe the whole week. Our residential property, not only new but with below market rents, is full with a wait list. The city wanted to give us an award, Nikko talked them down to an appearance at the Mayor's office and a few members of the Board of Supervisors. They expressed their appreciation, which was nice. What's better is the appreciation we got from tenants who had given up on the prospect of living close to their jobs. Six of our staff have apartments there paying the same rent as everyone else and happy to do it. Nikko still maintains another place in the city big enough for the three of them. She can do a lot via the web and Skype, but that's not the same as walking property and visiting staff and clients face to face.
Back at the mother ship, Dasha is trying out lobster macaroni and cheese for dinner, which turns out to be delicious. Janah is a vegetarian, she gets hers with vegetables and tofu.
Oceane is discussing swimming with a piece of lobster, "You swim backwards to run away, how do you see where you are going?"
Dasha rolls her eyes.
Janah, "They can't see that well, instead have chemoreceptors that smell food and three sets of antennae to touch things and detect changes in the current around them."
Oceane puts the back of her hands on her forehead and wiggles her index fingers, "I am a lobster."
Dasha, "You are bizarre beautiful girl."
Oceane smiles, takes a bite of her temp pal.
Eloise, "I made a transcranial stimulator. After working with it, I increased my game scores by twenty percent."
Janah, "I read about those. They claim to enhance language and mathematical ability, attention span, problem solving, memory, and coordination."
Eloise, "Yes, it was pretty simple to make. It has to be stimulating the right place. It excites, stimulates, neurons. A cathode model can also slow down overexcited neurons."
"I want to try it, what do I want it to do though?"
Eloise, "You have extraordinary reflexes already. I don't know, would they get ultra-extraordinary?"
"I have gifts from the owl and the eagle, super sight, hearing, plus claw hand grip. I don't want to do anything to interfere with that, it was way too painful to receive to screw it up."
Eloise, "No, and Janah has too much going on in her head already."
Sloane, "I'm trying to learn two languages, Russian and coding. Maybe it would help with that mom."
"Go slowly."
Sloane beams, "Cool."

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