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Blood and Diamonds.


Galahinda

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    L'Avenue was a warzone. Flashes of light erupting every second, and the screams of civilians could be heard clearly in the surrounding blocks. The constant drone of helicopters was just barely overpowered by the pulsing electronic music pouring from speakers dispersed throughout the crowds. Fashion week had invaded the island, bringing the Diamant district to a standstill. For months the elite had been planning parties, drafting invitations, securing performers, and renting out spaces within Cascadia's urban core. The city's skyscrapers were in their full glory, lit up from all sides by floodlights and LED displays. No other night was as important as tonight, and every pair of eyes not staffing an event or working to keep the city running was on an electronic display. The annual MYNE gala red carpet had begun. 

    This year's theme was "Opulence: You Own Everything." and across the nation, those lucky and wealthy enough to attend the party were looking to one-up their competitors. Chairman Amistacia had announced that the best outfit worn to the event would be added to the national cultural archives, with the owner receiving a place on POSE magazine's cover. Tensions were high among the members of the Corporate Board, with the reappointment of Yiu Amistacia as chairman the necessity of winning their favor could dictate the company's success for the year to come. Already an influential member of Galahindan nightlife, Yiu's appointment marked the begging of a new era of Galahindan culture, and the country had progressed into a state of hedonism never before seen on the island. Nowhere was this more obvious than the parties thrown almost weekly by the current chairman. 

    The public adored these parties. Despite only the wealthiest and most influential members of Galahindan society being invited, years of work as a socialite and creative director of the largest fashion house on the island, if not on eurth, had left Yiu a master of public relations. The public's favor was not reflected by the Corporate Board, however, with tensions between the members and the chairman becoming increasingly hostile. Just last week, the chairman had publicly rescinded the MYNE gala invitations of Richard Spai and Spencer Klynne. Accusing the two Corporate Board members of homophobia, after they had voted against the reappointment of Amistacia as chairman. The move led to public outcry against the two, with stock prices falling four percent after the accusation was made. The implications were clear, Amistacia wielded significant power over public opinion, and was not afraid to use it. 

    With the release of a new collection of MYNE clothing Amistacia could do no wrong in the eyes of the elite, with the members of high society vying for praise from the fashion magnate. The rich knew that even a small gesture of favor from the leader would catapult them higher in the hierarchy of the island's movers and shakers, and any sign of displeasure could lead to them dropping off the social map. Nowhere was this as evident than with the fall of William Piner. Once a close friend and trusted colleague of Amistacia, the man was overheard making remarks about the promiscuous nature of the nation's leader and immediately was pushed out of high society. Piner was blacklisted from every official MYNE event for the next five years, and being close to him was considered social suicide as he continued to criticize Yiu. After two years of social ostracization, Piner was found dead from apparent opioid overdose in his home. Rumors began circulating that a member of Yiu's inner circle had ordered the man killed for his remarks. Still, no conclusive proof had ever been found, and the death ruled a suicide. 

    Tonight was exactly the kind of night that would make or break someone's entire life. All eyes would be on the chairman, and they knew it. 

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  • 2 months later...

"Up next on the Engelsen Angle, we have an interview with someone I'm sure you're all familiar with... Yiu Amistacia!" Cheers rang out throughout the studio as Marie Englesen, host of one of Galahinda's most popular morning talk shows, introduced her next guest. Making their way onto the set, the chairman stopped to let the audience truly appreciate the outfit being worn. The chairman's sheer champagne blazer with MYNE logo embroidery, champagne corset, slacks, and pumps, gave the illusion that the fashion mogul was naked save for the MYNE logo. Stopping to exchange a brief kiss on each cheek with their friend Marie, as custom amongst Galahindans, the chairman gracefully lowered themself into the armchair waiting for them. After returning to her seat and waiting for the applause to subside, Marie began her interview with the question on everyone's lips, "Yiu, darling, what happened last night?" Eliciting laughs from audience members and a smile from the chairman. 

 "Well, as I'm sure you all have heard by now, I hosted a small get together with some friends, the MYNE Gala? You might have seen it on TV." teased Yiu, drawing cheers from the crowd. 

 Without missing a beat, Marie continued, "Yes, yes, we know it happened, but can't you tell us what happened behind those gilded walls?" 

 "You were there, Cheri, don't you remember?" Yiu retorted, "Or did you have too much to drink?"

 Joking back and forth for the next few minutes, the pair walked the audience through a night of revelry and extravagance before beginning to talk about some of the outfits worn for the event. "Let's talk about your outfit last night," Marie said, directing the audience's attention to the large screen behind the two where photos of Yiu from the previous night were on display. The chairman was wearing a dress made up entirely of what appeared to be broken mirror shards, reflecting their surroundings and the viewers. 

 "Tell us a little bit about this dress," asked Marie.

 "Well, this dress is a unique piece that I designed in collaboration with my long time friend Yves Naïlo. The reflective elements were actually manufactured by our friends in the Sunset Sea Islands. There are actually over five hundred shards of sharp glass on this dress," replied Yiu, drawing gasps and applause from the audience. 

 "Give Yves my regards, this is certainly amazing, were there any outfits that stood out to you beside your own?" questioned Marie.

 "Yes, of course, my fellow corporate board members were certainly impressive, particularly my longtime friend Fatima Galvan," commented Yiu. Prompting the screen to shift to photos of their fellow corporate board member, where her ebony skin was perfectly contrasted with an oversized white sunhat, and white floor-length skirt, leaving her breasts exposed. 

 "I love this look, it's so simple but says a lot about Fatima, she's always been a massive supporter of mine, and she's not afraid to make a statement like this. Even small details didn't escape her, her nails and hair are the same color as the pearls on the hat. She's got a serious eye for detail, and I live for it!" explained the chairman, beaming, and gesturing to the elements of the dress. 

 Marie took a moment to let them finish before chiming in, "I agree, she looks stunning, but where there are ups there must be downs. Who do we think was the worst of the night in terms of taste, execution, or following the theme?" 

 Without a moment's hesitation, Yiu was able to reply, " The men, nearly across the board. Nearly every single one of them wore the same black suit and tie." Rolling their eyes, the chairman continued, " I don't expect them to go as extreme as me, I get that the trends this year can be seen as too feminine, but c'mon you guys. I mean, three reporters were wearing the exact same suit jacket!" The comments drew applause from the crowd, with a few even shouting their support. The two continued to rate the looks from the night, joking back and forth.

 It wasn't until the topic of the red carpet's theme was broached that the two became more serious. "Starting us off, why don't we talk about the theme of this year's MYNE Gala, why did you select it?" asked Marie.

 "This year's theme of 'Opulence, You Own Everything.' was actually a reference to one of my favorite films, Cascadia Is Burning, you remember it?" Responded Yiu, referencing a documentary about the nightlife of the island's queer community during and immediately after the market crash of 1983 and agglomeration. Taking a sip of water, Yiu continued by saying, "We've come so far since the crash, hell, we've come so far since I was appointed. As a community, we're finally able to be unapologetically ourselves, and I wanted this year to reflect that."

 After waiting a moment for the words to sink in, Englesen continued, "That's really powerful, especially considering your recent denunciations of a few of your fellow corporate board members. Do you think you made the right choice by removing their invites?" 

 With an air of indignance, Yiu responded, saying, "Absolutely, Richard Spai and Spencer Klynne made it absolutely clear that they have no respect for me or this islands queer community, and they have no place at any MYNE events." This again drew applause from the audience in the studio, with Marie joining in.

 As the applause subsided, Marie noted the limited time remaining for the segment and began to wrap up the interview. "Unfortunately that is all the time we have for today, thank you so much for joining us Yiu it's always fantastic to see you." said the host, shaking hands with her guest, "After the break, we'll be talking about all the ways you can prepare a healthy and tasty charcuterie board for your next party, coming right up." Concluded Marie, waiting for the cue that meant the cameras were off. 

 After being given the all-clear, she walked with Yiu backstage, thanking them for being there and touch up her makeup before the commercial break ended, and her next segment began.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Stepping out of the air-conditioned studio and into the humid July air, Yiu made their way to the car waiting outside. Opening the door, Yiu was surprised to see their friend and closest advisor Lynne Androni, sitting in the back seat. Sliding in beside her, Yiu wasted no time in starting a conversation. 

 "Lynne darling, what a lovely surprise, to what do I owe the pleasure?" mused the chairman, injecting as much exhaustion as they could muster before collapsing dramatically into the plush seat as the car began moving. 

 "You did well in there Yiu, you managed to stick to the script this time." replied the woman, punctuating her statement with a drag from an electronic cigarette fashioned to look like a vintage cigarette holder. 

 The chairman failed to respond, opting instead to stare out the window at the passing crowds, identifying their influences on the pedestrians. Yiu's latest designs were out in full force in the wake of the MYNE Gala; long glittering strips of fabric covering the bare essentials kept the citizens cool in the rapidly escalating summer heat.  As the car rolled to a slow stop at a red light, Yiu finally responded, "You know what I want right now? Coffee." Abruptly unbuckling their seat belt and stepping out of the car and into the busy street, Lynne's protests were silenced by a quick slam of the car door. Ignoring the buzzing in their pocket that was certain to be Androni berating them for stepping out so suddenly. Crossing in front of the mass of cars waiting for the tram to finish passing, Yiu made a beeline for the nearest cafe. 

 "Iced chai, double shot of espresso, large." Muttered the chairman, absentmindedly scrolling through their phone. Lynne had texted her order, a small dark roast, and Yiu was more than happy to provide to make up for their abrupt departure. "Can I get a name for that?" asked the disinterested barista, typing the order into the computer in front of her. 

 "Yiu, can I add one of those little scones?" replied the individual, seemingly oblivious to the stares that the answer drew.

 "A-anything else?" asked the barista, immediately flustered by the realization that they were talking to arguably the most powerful person on the island. 

 "No, that'll be it, you take ElePay?" 

 "Uh, yeah, can you sign here, please?"

 "Yeah, thanks." muttered Yiu, absentmindedly selecting a tip amount.

 Going to sit down in one of the corners, Yiu hardly noticed how the people previously occupying that booth immediately relocated themselves. Less than a minute later, the chairman's coffee was delivered to their table. Pausing to take a selfie with their drink and slip in headphones, the chairman stepped into the humid afternoon air and made a beeline for the nearest tram station. Arriving just in time to slip between the closing doors and into the plush first-class compartment. Texting Lynne to meet them at the Androni Commercial Center, Yiu met with an immediate reply confirming that their advisor was already there. 

 The tram ride was pleasant, with the fashion mogul alternating between taking sips of their drink and scrolling through their social media feed. 15 minutes later, the tram came to a stop at the newly completed business park, the sleek black glass body of the train complementing the towers surrounding the station. Walking across the plaza and into the lobby, the chairman was met by an argument being held between Lynne Androni, and fellow corporate board member, Richard Spai. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

"I know you put Amistacia up to saying that, we've never had an issue with MYNE until you managed to convince them that we're the ones that leaked those designs!" shouted Spai Computing CEO Richard Spai, red in the face. "The Chairman's opinion is entirely their own, in fact, why don't you ask them yourself?" Replied the woman coolly, a slight smirk betraying the immense satisfaction she felt. Slinking up next to Lynne, Yiu handed their friend the coffee that by that point had gone cold. Sparing a sideways glance at the man in the middle of a breakdown, Yiu began speaking, their voice full of venom. "Richard, what a surprise to see you up so early, how are you?"

    "You know damn well how I'm doing! My phone's been ringing all f*cking morning!" Responded the man, sweat beading along his receding hairline despite the chilly air of the lobby. "You and your little friends are trying to ruin me!"

    Taking a sip of her coffee only to find it cold, Lynne waved over a receptionist and handed the cup off. Taking a drag from her electronic cigarette, Lynne retorted, "Richard, if we wanted to ruin you, don't you think we'd be a little more methodical?" Taken aback, Spai barely managed an indignant sputter before being silenced by the woman's slender gloved hand. 

    "I mean let's really think about it for a second," continued the woman, a sadistic gleam in her eyes, "There are so many other options we could use that would be more reliable than Yiu, no offense darling." 

    "None taken" shrugged Yiu, more interested in the verbal assault against the man than the smaller insult thrown their way. 

    "We control the largest conglomerate of corporations on this island Richard. We could sue you for every bit you own, publish stories of affairs real and imagined, shut you out of every club- no matter how small- on this island. Really the list goes on and on," continued the woman, barely pausing to take another drag of her e-cig.

    "Now, here's what's about to happen, you're going to walk out that door, get into whatever car brought you here, and go home. You're going to walk in your front door and have to face the fact that You. Don't. Belong. Here. You're going to have to face your wife and watch her face as she realizes she married the wrong man. Now, I'm going to be generous and not bill you for all of my time you've wasted. Do I have to call security?" 

    "You'll pay for thi-" began the man, barely managing to get out the words before a cloud of smoke was blown over him. 

    "Bill it to my account, we're done here," replied Lynne, turning on her heel and walking towards the bank of elevators on the far wall, leaving the chairman and a now defeated Richard Spai alone in the lobby. 

Sighing and fixing his suit, the man looked up as Yiu began talking, "Richard, darling, we really did miss you at the party last night."

    Enraged, the man began taking a step towards the person standing in front of him, but was stopped by the realization that the two mountainous guards flanking the doors would turn a majority of his bones into a fine powder if he even made contact with the chairman. 

    Gesturing the two Variotan men over, "Ron, Sjon, Monsieur Spai seems to have lost his way to the exit, would you be able to help him find his way?" asked Yiu, voice artificially sweet. Taking the hint, Richard simply held up his hands in surrender. He began walking out of the building, one hand held high, spitefully displaying a middle finger. 

    "Oh, and tell your wife, Lauren, I say hello, and ask her if we're still on for tea next Friday?" called out Yiu, relishing the opportunity to twist the knife even deeper into their relationship. Pausing to adjust their hair using their phones front camera, Yiu made their way towards the elevators their advisor had just disappeared into and followed suit. 

The elevator began rapidly ascending through the skyscraper. With the back wall made entirely of glass, the chairman was given a perfect view of the business park laid out below them. Five towers wrapped in LCD displays broadcasted feeds of shifting polygons, news, advertisements, and most prominently, a looping video of the latest MYNE advertisement. The ad was a closeup of Yiu's shoulders, and above on a black background, the chairman would turn to the camera, wink seductively, and blow a kiss before the screen faded into the familiar "MYNE, Be Better™" slogan. Yiu was especially proud of the makeup they had done for it, an abundance of icy highlighter and a lack of eyebrows left the chairman looking inhumanly beautiful. With a soft chime, the elevator announced that they had arrived at their destination, Lynne's personal office.

The office took up the entire top floor of the skyscraper, with a spacious reception area, private bar, and chefs on call, rooftop pool, and master suite, the space felt like it belonged in a luxury apartment complex rather than an office park. Waving to Lynne's assistants clustered around the reception, the chairman made their way outside to the pool, where Lynne was already lying in a sun chair, drink in hand. 

 "Darling have you even used this pool yet?" asked Yiu, recalling that they had yet to see a single person make use of it. 

 "We have a pool?" Retorted Lynne sarcastically, eyes hidden behind MYNE sunglasses. 

 "Yeah, right here!" replied the chairman, jokingly splashing water at the woman, being sure none actually touched her. 

 "Oh, that pool, I think one of the assistants has, take a seat," said Lynne, gesturing to the open chair next to her. 

 Making their way over and sitting, Yiu was immediately handed a glass of champagne by one of the assistants, who returned moments later with a tray covered in various meats, cheeses, and other hors d'œuvres. 

 "Merci," said the chairman, plucking an olive from the tray as the assistant placed the plate on the table between the two. Returning inside to continue gossiping with her coworkers. Yiu took a moment to sip on their champagne and watch the cityscape in front of them go about its daily motions. 

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 80 stories below, Richard Spai threw himself into a car waiting for him at the edge of the plaza. "Take me home," spat the man, fuming from the interaction he had moments ago. Spai began drafting a strongly worded email to the woman and thing that had insulted him, recklessly typing regardless of any errors he made. Insults were made against appearance, personal history, intelligence, and fatally, gender identity. Disregarding any potential consequences, the man sent the email. 

 Yiu's conversation was interrupted by a phone call from their assistant Quora, apologizing profusely to Lynne, Yiu walked over to the building's balcony before answering. "Quora, darling, I love you, but I'm talking to Lynne, can it wait?" asked Yiu, worried that Lynne would get annoyed with the interruption

 "Well, Richard Spai emailed," replied Quora from the other end of the line in her soft Lysian accent. 

 "So what? You know we delete those," said Yiu, exasperated.

 "You're going to want to read this one. I'm sending it to you now." finished the woman, hanging up.

 Returning back to the chair, Yiu apologized profusely for the interruption, "I'm so sorry. Apparently, Richard sent me something interesting enough for Quora to deem it necessary for me to read it." 

 "If Quora says it's important, it is, she's the best I've seen." Soothed Lynne, unbothered by the interruption.

 "You're just saying that because she used to work with you." quipped Yiu, well aware that Quora was likely the only reason that things went smoothly for them in the first place. 

 "My point stands. Now, let's see this email," said Lynne, placing her sunglasses on top of her head and taking Yiu's phone from their hand. Reading through, Lynne's eyebrows slowly migrated up her forehead, finally coming to rest in an expression of shock rarely displayed by the businesswoman. 

 "you're going to want to read this, now," ordered Lynne, practically shoving the chairman's phone back into their hand. Rolling their eyes at what they thought was just another desperate attempt to win back favor with the fashion mogul, Yiu began reading.

 

From: RSpai@Gh.Gov

To: YAmista@Gh.Gov

Subject: [no subject]

 

Your threats against me are unfounded, improper, and will be the downfall of you and lynne. you arent fit to be a leader of a f*cking coffee shop mich less the leader of Halahidna. you should take Your shitty clothes and ugly makeup back to whroing in clubs for a few bits. You never deserbed to be a membre of the corporate board and you;; never be as good as Bittman. you parade arund on your sbitty f*cking glitter pants and thinl your hot shit becaus you managed to fukc spmeone with avtual talent. youre jsut a n ayyention grabving trsny, just admit yire a man and stip bring a snowflkae. resign and let the aults get bacl to runnig the coungry.

I have the honor to be your obedient servant, 

R. Spai

 

 Yiu read the email twice over, noting the irony of the automatically generated signature in contrast with the general unhinged sounding email. Taking a deep breath, Yiu responded, "Holy shit, he's actually lost it." Turning to their companion, Yiu was shocked to see Lynne grinning.  

 "You're way too happy about this," commented Yiu, failing to see what Lynne had seen within the manic text.   

 "He sent this from his government email, any statements in there are officially his, and can be accessed by anyone with a government login." Began the woman, speaking as if explaining the significance to a child.

 "Okay, but what does that mean?" asked the chairman, oblivious to the opportunity that had presented itself.

 "We can release this, and he can't deny anything he said in it." Explained Lynne, watching the dots connect in the chairman's head.

  "He's on record, insulting your company, and more importantly, you." continued Lynne, already plotting the man's downfall. "We send this to every news station, gossip magazine, and social media influencer on the island, anonymously, of course. Pose as a government aide who was filtering through the correspondence records for the day. He's f*cked!" Finished Lynne, gleefully typing on her phone.

  "He's not going to survive this, holy shit, we can ruin him!" exclaimed the chairman, finally realizing the golden opportunity that had presented itself to them. "I'll have Quora get to work on it right away."

 "No need, I've already messaged Cynthia," said Lynne, referring to fellow corporate board member Cynthia Ferroe, owner of the islands media conglomerate, Orpheum Media Group.

 "The devil works hard, but Lynne Androni works harder." quipped Yiu, holding their glass of champagne out. Lynne brought her glass to Yiu's, resulting in a satisfying clink as the two celebrated their plan.

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  • 3 weeks later...

    Cynthia Ferroe was a busy woman, a nationwide media monopoly doesn't exactly run itself after all. However, when Lynne Androni says jump, the smartest thing to do would be to ask how high. When Lynne Androni calls you and asks to meet you later that night at Anvie, the island's most exclusive club, you find a good outfit. Anvie was a nightclub known for its extravagance and exclusivity, access was limited to those with standing invitations, and even then the line was usually out the doors. Picking out a sensible oversized blazer and matching dress shirt, Cynthia opted to follow trends by forgoing slacks altogether, letting the extra fabric of the dress shirt drape down over her legs. Stepping out of her doors and into her car, she set off towards the club.

    Driving through the urban core of Cascadia, Cynthia was surprised to see that despite the looming clouds, the citizenry was out in full force, seemingly oblivious to the imminent rain. Stepping out of the car and handing her keys to the valet, the woman cursed herself for not having an umbrella. Flashing her red VIP invitation at the bouncer to skip the line and ignoring the jealous stares that the move garnered, she stepped out of the street and into the club. Immediately Cynthia was assaulted by the various sights and sounds of Galahindan nightlife. To her left was the club's main bar, stocked with every kind of liquor available- and unavailable conventionally- to Galahinda. Hanging above the bar was the club's motto, "Be whatever you want, just don't be boring." in neon lights. To her right was a seating area filled with patrons in varying stages of intoxication and undress, as well as a glass staircase leading upwards towards private rooms. In front of her was the main floor of the club, filled with patrons dancing to the frantic electronic music being pumped through the speakers above the floor. On the furthest wall, the DJ sat in front of a massive LCD screen that flashed various patterns, and occasionally a video of Yiu Amistacia. Cynthia chucked to herself, noting that even in their absence, the chairman's influence was inescapable on Galahinda.  Above the throng sat the office of Fatima Galvan, floor to ceiling windows providing a panoramic view of the nightly chaos below. 

    Making her way up the stairs and past the guards, Cynthia entered the room, surprised at the level of soundproofing that must be present in order to hear the conversation over the blasting music. Sitting on the leather sectional placed in the center of the room was Lynne Androni and Aya Saint-Claire. Making her way over and placing herself opposite the pair, she was surprised to see Fatima Galvan, the owner of Anvie LTD, and thus the club below them, walk into the room after her. Standing up and greeting the woman with the customary cheek kisses, Cynthia was happy to note that she wasn't the only person in the meeting following the latest trends. Fatima was wearing no top save for two black X's across her nipples and a clear trench coat with a black belt at the waist, the other two women seemed dull in comparison. Cynthia was quick to voice her surprise at the appearance of her fellow board member, "Fatima darling, I thought you were off in Variota!" 
    "I was yes until I heard some of my favorite people were going to be at my club tonight," replied Fatima, moving over to greet the other two women. 
    "I told her we were coming; it's been so long since we've seen her, and she has a role to play in all of this," interjected Lynne, pausing to greet the newest arrival.
    "Speaking of, what exactly are we doing here, you just said to meet you, not why," responded Aya, indignant.
    "All in due time, but first, cocktails," said Lynne, calling over a server to take orders. 
    For the next hour, the group caught up on the latest news, gossip, and tales garnered over the past few weeks before Lynne finally began with the reason they had gathered. "Listen, ladies, as much as I love your company, we've got work to do," began the woman, briefly pausing to let the women collect themselves after a particularly lengthy laughing fit. "You all know our recent troubles with Richard Spai," continued Lynne, hoping to finish before the next interruption. "But we've got him this time, look at this." Producing her phone, Lynne passed it around, letting the women read the email from Spai. 
    "And this is real?" asked Aya, handing the phone to her left, ever hesitant, "if this isn't, we'll be laughing stocks of the nation."
    "Don't worry, we've confirmed that it was sent from the official government address, and from Spai's phone," reassured Lynne, garnering a sigh of relief from the lawyer. 
    "He's barely comprehensible, what did you even say to him?" asked Fatima, taking a moment to make sure she understood the message's contents.
    "Oh, nothing out of the ordinary, he was mad about something Yiu said on TV, he thinks we're out to get him." Mused Lynne, watching the phone get passed from Fatima to Cynthia. 
    "This is crazy, but what does this have to do with us?" queried Cynthia, unsure what she could do about an email sent to the chairman.
    "I'm so glad you asked darling," responded Lynne, a sinister smile on her face. "Here's the plan, first, we'll have Cynthia air these in the morning news, claim they were sent anonymously to cover our asses. Make it a big deal, get some analysts to guess what the words could mean." Taking her phone back, Lynne turned to Aya, "You're here to cover our asses, Richard is going to attempt to sue us for defamation, claim we made this up, do anything to stop this from spreading." Nodding, Aya began to connect the dots, "Yeah this is easily in favor of us, it's an official government account, the logs will confirm this is real, but what's Fatima going to do?" 
    "Yeah, what am I going to do?" asked the woman.
    "Your job is to be a good friend to the chairman, say you're absolutely appalled by the words, and in a show of solidarity, deny Richard access to any party on the island, refuse to cater any of his events, make it clear that he's lost your support."
    "And the chairman?"
    "Yiu's going to do what they do best, stay in the public eye. Do interviews, talk about how hurt this message made them, do their best to destroy Richard's reputation. The public loves Yiu; they'll belive anything Yiu tells them." 
    "And then what, what do we do once all this happens?" asked Cynthia, eager to begin.
    "Easy, we wait. Let the public tear him into pieces, watch his company burn to the ground, I give him three weeks before he kills himself," said Lynne, raising her glass to make a toast, "To Richard Spai's stupidity."
The women returned the gesture, cementing their roles in the downfall of a political rival.

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  • 1 month later...

    Across the city, a similar gesture was being shared between Yiu Amistacia and longtime friend Yves Naïlo at Club Ecdysis, an underground cabaret. Burlesque was a shared passion, and the same club was where Yves and Yiu had first met. Sitting in a private box suspended on the periphery of the theater turned cabaret, the pair brought the slender glasses of champagne to their lips as the lights reflecting from the dancer's jeweled costume danced across their faces. The dancer slowly removed stockings and gloves as the contemporary jazz began to take on a more electronic element, before shifting completely to harder EDM. Eventually, the performance ended with the dancer having nearly completely disrobed, save for a thong and pasties emblazoned with the MYNE logo. The appearance of their company brought immense satisfaction to the chairman, knowing that they had invaded nearly every corner of the island with their influence. As the house lights came up, Yves began speaking, "Another wonderful performance, no?" 
    
    "As always, the dancers are fine, nowhere near as good as they used to be, but still nice." Complained the chairman, longing for the days when they would spend days at the club. Sketching the figures undulating on the stage and creating ever more elaborate costumes for the performers, much to the dismay of their parents. Yiu's parents had expected their child to continue their real-estate empire. Instead, they watched in reserved horror as their only child would disappear into the neon haze of Galahindan nightlife before resurfacing days later, hungover and holding a purse full of money. It was during one of these multi-day benders that Yiu had stumbled their way down the steps of Club Ecdysis, directly into the back of Yves Naïlo. The two hit it off right away, exchanging numbers and an invitation to a party later that evening. In the months following, Yiu made a name for themselves as they attended ever more prestigious parties, before being offered a job at MYNE. At that point, MYNE was just a brainchild of Yves, lacking any clear direction or plan, but that quickly changed as Yiu took the position of creative director. MYNE's first collection was released later that year to widespread critical acclaim and commercial success, featuring the designs drawn during late-night visits to the cabaret. The new haute couture brand continually made waves, featuring increasingly extravagant and cutting-edge designs. After five years with the company, Yves left to found POSE, a cultural magazine showcasing the island's best and brightest. Eventually, MYNE grew to the point where it eclipsed the island's fashion outlets, securing a place on the Corporate Board in 2016. Despite the success and diverging life paths, the pair were inseparable, joking that despite their different families, the two were practically siblings. Now, on the anniversary of their chance meeting, the two stepped outside of the club and onto the streets of Cascadia. Thunder boomed as the sky finally burst, drenching the city in a much-needed rain, causing the pair to huddle under the awning of the club. Yiu took a moment to admire their city, lights reflecting on the now slick roads, before opening the umbrella that was handed to them by the doorman of the club. Waving goodbye to Yves and walking into the waiting car, Yiu felt the pleasing embrace of the heated car as it pulled away from the curb, and towards their home. 

    The next morning Yiu awoke to a familiar pounding headache and an unfamiliar gift box placed on their bedside table. Taking a moment to consider how much they actually wanted and needed to get out of bed, Yiu finally threw the covers off the bed and stood up with a groan. After pausing to let the room stop spinning, the chairman turned their attention to the box that had mysteriously appeared overnight. The tag read "To Yiu, from Lynne" and was attached to a gold silk ribbon encircling the black box, a signature color combination for the pair. Untying the bow and lifting the box's cover, Yiu was met with a longer note and a second box. Setting the note aside, for now, the chairman opened the second box and was met with a small device they hadn't ever seen before. Inside the box on a layer of black tissue paper was a gold device, similar in size and shape to a USB drive. Turning back to the note, Yiu began skimming the note for answers, "Yiu... gift for you... new product... meet me at the business park... wear something cool." Despite the letter raising more questions than it answered, Yiu, followed the instructions provided, and began selecting something to wear. 

    Walking into their closet, the chairman began selecting different articles of clothing that Lynne would consider "Cool," whatever that meant. Finally, settling on a pastel biker jacket and matching pants, Yiu stuffed the device in the jacket pocket before exiting their room and into the hallway. Intended to mimic the opulence of old Europan aristocracy, the spacious villa located on the very outskirts of the city combined the privacy of countryside living, with the energetic pace of nightlife only a thirty-minute drive away. Inserting wireless Elegy headphones into their ears, Yiu gave a halfhearted wave to Quora before stepping outside towards the estate's private garage. The previous night's rain had left the air humid, and with the sun beating down from overhead, the day promised to be one that lent itself to staying inside. Stepping into the climate-controlled garage, Yiu was tasked with the difficult choice of which car to take. Laid out in front of the chairman was an array of vehicles. Luxury sedans, exotic sports cars, and old classics were lined against the walls, allowing for chauffeurs to drive them out of the garage as needed. Settling on a new KAP EK, Yiu called for one of the drivers currently on staff. Driving was never Yiu's strong suit, after totaling one of their parent's rather expensive cars during a night out, the chairman had resolved to let others drive for them. Besides, that gave Yiu more time to sit back and dominate the nation's social media feeds. Sliding into the back seat of the car, the chairman nodded to the driver walking into the garage and entering the car. After taking a moment to adjust the vehicle's mirrors, the driver asked for a destination. "Androni Commercial Center," responded Yiu, not looking up from the phone in their hand. 

    The drive went smoothly, providing Yiu the time to take a closer look at the device in the jacket's pocket. Upon closer examination, the chairman noted two holes at one end of the object and a seam about a centimeter down the device. Pulling hesitantly on the end, the chairman was surprised when the seam gave way, releasing a small container filled with a clear liquid. Slotting the container back into the seam, Yiu began examining the opposite end. On this end were two metal plates and nothing else. Curiosity, for the most part, sated. The chairman returned the device to their pocket and resumed scrolling through their social media feed. Arriving at the commercial center thirty minutes later, the chairman was met by one of Lynne's assistants, who directed them towards the business park's studio. Housed within one of the complex's squatter buildings, the studio was outfitted with everything a person could need to produce top quality advertisements. Yiu had been numerous times, most recently to film a MYNE advertisement, but was unsure what they'd be doing during this visit. Walking through the entrance, Yiu was met by Lynne, surrounded by assistants and orchestrating the building of a set, presumably the one they'd be filming on today. Yiu called Lynne's name as they crossed the floor, and was immediately waved over.
    "What are we doing here?" asked Yiu, approaching the cluster of people.
    "Did you not read the letter?" replied Lynne, "We're filming a commercial for a new product. You brought it, right?"
    "Yeah, I've got it right here," responded the chairman, fishing the gold object from their pocket. "What is it?"
    Letting out an exasperated sigh, Lynne turned away from the crowd of assistants, handing a clipboard off to one of them. "If you'd actually read the letter, you'd know it's called a YUUL; it's an e-cig." Explained the woman, holding her hand out for the device. "You inhale from this end," she said, pointing to the container at the end of the device. Taking a moment to extract the container from the YUUL, she continued, "this is filled with a mix of chemicals that produce the smoke, terribly boring science, but we can add in flavorings and different stimulants. Right now, we've got 8 flavors, and both nicotine and caffeine variants. It's rechargeable too, the base connects magnetically to a charger. The whole thing retails at ₿50, and a pack of 4 pods is about ₿20."
    "Cool, can I try?" asked the chairman, extending their hand to take the YUUL back. 
    "Go ahead, knock yourself out," replied Lynne, tossing the device back to Yiu. "We're going to start filming the commercial in 45, so head to hair and makeup. Your outfit is fine, but we'll probably have you in a wig," said Lynne, before turning back to the swarm of assistants behind her. Taking a hit from the device, Yiu was met with a mango flavor, and a few seconds later, a buzz of nicotine. Nodding approvingly, Yiu handed the YUUL to an assistant before heading over towards the hair and makeup. Sitting in the chair, Yiu immediately struck up a conversation with the stylist. The two had worked together in the past, with the new MYNE advert being the latest collaboration. The stylist painted Yiu with their signature look and provided the chairman with a yellow wig to match their jacket. Taking a moment to make sure everything was up to their standard, Yiu thanked the man and walked back to Lynne, ready to begin filming. For the next two hours, the chairman filmed non-stop, following directions from Lynne and the director. Told to "do what you do best." Yiu was in their element, turning towards the camera, taking a hit from the YUUL, and blowing the smoke at the camera, before dropping the device to the ground and stepping on it as if it were a used cigarette. The end result was an advertisement that showcased the product. But more importantly, an advertisement that Yiu looked good in.

Edited by Galahinda (see edit history)
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  • 1 month later...

It had been only a few hours since the advertisement for the YUUL had appeared on social media feeds nationwide, but that hadn't stopped the public from hungrily swarming the product website. Within the first hour, the expected pre-order quantity was met. Within the second, it had nearly doubled, and by the end of the third, Androni Commercial Solutions had no choice but to mark the product as sold out. The stock prices of both Androni Commercial Solutions and MYNE surged, to Lynne's excitement and a marked indifference from Yiu. The chairman had never cared much for the stock market, seeing it as nothing more than a gambling ring for those who thought themselves too important and too dull to go to an actual casino. The central Galahindan stock exchange was a viable career for the wealthy. After paying an initial entry fee of 1000 bits, and a .5% tax on transactions allowed a participant to trade freely to their heart's content. However, they did note that the value of their fellow corporate board members' stocks could be directly correlated to their moods. Which would explain the outburst from competitor Richard Spai after the interview with Marie. This obsession would explain the live feed currently displayed on a glass tablet inlaid on the corner of Richard Spai's desk within his office at Spai Computing. An office that was presently being occupied by Yiu. 

Sitting sideways across the large black armchair at the desk with their legs draped off the side, Yiu felt ready to face the man. Having coordinated with Lynne and her team of women. The hope was that during the confrontation between Spai and Amistacia, news of the emails would break. Yiu had put on their battle armor, selecting a grand sheer chiffon robe with feather edges to be worn on top of a black corset, leotard, and heels. The chairman had gotten their nails done earlier that morning, opting for long stiletto nails, which started black and faded into a rose gold at the sharpened tips. Giving the illusion that Yiu had claws dripping in gold. The final touch was the platinum pin curls framing a harshly contoured face and a small Varinco Sinterklaas pistol in the small of their back. The overall look was one of a viciously beautiful old movie industry starlet. Yiu had arrived at the corporate headquarters and strong-armed their way up into the office, and was waiting patiently for their current foe to arrive. Yiu didn't have to wait long, as only ten minutes after they took their position, Richard Spai barged in. 

"Where is he?" shouted the man, red in the face. 

"Where are they, darling," replied Yiu cooly, drawing the man's attention towards their seated position. 

Whipping his head towards the voice, Yiu was happy to note that the man was forced to reckon with the display in front of him. 

"What the hell are you doing in my office," demanded Richard, marching towards his rightful place at his desk. 

"Have a seat darling, I just want to have a chat with my fellow politician," responded Yiu, voice light and airy as they gestured to the seat across the table from them.

Taking the offered seat begrudgingly, Spai knew that something was up, but was powerless to stop it. Watching as Yiu paused to rifle through the desk to locate any alcohol, ignoring his protests. Opening the bottom right drawer, Yiu was met with two glasses and an unopened whiskey bottle. Which was promptly opened and poured to the horror of the man who had been saving it for a special occasion. Yiu looked around the room for something before turning to Richard and asking, "Do you have any ice? Room temperature whiskey is hardly appropriate for a meeting between colleagues." Richard was taken aback by the audacity of someone who had spent their entire political career insulting and undermining him, to refer to the two as colleagues. "No, I don't. Now can we get this over with?" replied Richard, hoping to minimize what was sure to be a tortuous meeting. 

"Always in such a rush, Richard, it's not like you have anywhere to be," teased Yiu, basking in the man's discomfort. "A toast, to new beginnings at the start of a new day," proclaimed Yiu. Raising their glass and taking a sip of the whiskey before holding it at arm's length, regarding it for a moment, and tossing the glass over their shoulder with a loud shatter. 

"Why you little-" began Richard, jumping to his feet before remembering the two giants that usually accompanied the chairman. Turning around, Spai was surprised at their absence. 

"Looking for Ron and Sjon?" asked the chairman, "They're enjoying a vacation, and besides, I just wanted it to be the two of us today." 

"Whatever, why are you here? Finally come to apologize?" offered the man, expecting a quick reply. 

"Oh nothing of the sort, c'mon let's get a picture" volleyed Yiu, standing up and making their way around the desk before pulling out a phone to snap a quick selfie with the man. Smirking at the clear mixture of fear and resentment displayed in the man's eyes. Returning to their seat, the chairman posted the photo with the caption "With a colleague for business, terribly boring, wish i was at Club Ecdysis #work" signaling Lynne that everything was ready for her to drop the news.

 

Across the city in the heart of the Orpheum Media Group building, a notification sounded out from Lynne's phone, and the studio burst into action. The current newscaster was immediately interrupted by an aide rushing into the frame and handing him a sheet of paper. Apologizing for the interruption and having the producers cut to a carefully selected string of advertisements all centered around businesses and products affiliated with the chairman. Swapping places with the newscaster was Cynthia Ferroe, who was ready to deliver an award-winning monologue to the camera.

 

Back in Richard Spai's office, Yiu had begun a monologue of their own. "Listen, Richard, I know we aren't the closest, and we've had our share of disagreements, but can't we just sit and talk?" Pausing to feel the phone's vibration in the pocket indicating that the battle had begun, Yiu continued. "I don't need to remind you that your position on the board has been precarious for a while now. We've had a few corporations approach yours in terms of profitability. That doesn't even include the possibility of international corporations like Elegy or KAG from taking a seat." Holding a hand up to silence Richard, who had opened their mouth to reply, "Imagine how embarrassing it'd be for your corporation, a relative newcomer to the board to be replaced? I mean, you've only been here for what, five years? It was you and me. We were the babies of the board, really. The shortest any corporation has lasted was eight years, and that was because of MYNE." Continued Yiu, referencing the previous fashion company, Atelier Group, who had been eclipsed by MYNE just two years after the companies founding. "Imagine having to explain to your wife and kids that a company that made cheap fast-fashion lasted longer than a company built on computing." said the chairman, picking up a photo of the Spai family from the desk, noting that Richard was the only one not smiling. 

 

Back in the newsroom, Cynthia took her place at the desk and was counted in by the cameraman, taking a breath to steady herself. She began speaking, "Once again, apologies for the interruption, but we have a news story that we feel must be shared immediately. We have been informed of an email sent by corporate board member and Spai Computing CEO Richard Spai, pictured here." Pausing to let the graphic appear, she began reading aloud for the audience at home, placing a particular emphasis on the doomed man's insults and slurs. "This has been confirmed by several sources within the central government who wish to remain anonymous, but rest assured that this has been verified." 

"This comes on the heels of worsening relations between the two, with accusations of homophobia, and a revocation of MYNE Gala invites on the part of Chairman Yiu Amistacia, and a refusal to reappoint Amistacia as chairman on the part of Spai. We will continue to update viewers on the situation as more information develops. Still, I would like to take this time to be candid with our viewers. I don't often do this, as it is this station's mission to remain impartial and rely solely on the hard facts provided." Pausing to take a deep breath and let the audience absorb the information already given, Cynthia continued, "However, in this case, I cannot, in good conscience, remain silent. The words of Richard Spai directed towards my longtime friend Yiu Amistacia are nothing short of vile and inexcusable. This email is deeply rooted in homophobia and transphobia, and in the year 2020 cannot be justified. Thank you all for your time, and we will return later with any updates we have." After waiting for the on-air light to dim, Cynthia immediately jumped up. She ran towards the production booth, where Lynne was waiting.

 

The nation's reaction was immediate, with social media feeds exploding with responses. The tag #RichardSpaiIsOverParty began trending with over ten thousand individual posts and rapidly climbing. The public outcry hit the market immediately, providing near-real-time reactions to the news in the form of panic selling, for fear of being associated with the company of the soon to be most hated man in Galahinda. In the scenic hills of the island's northern tip, Lauren Spai sat on a white couch, mouth covered, and eyes welling up with tears as she watched the man she married's reputation disappear in an instant. Back in the producers' booth Lynne Androni, the battle's general, smiled in victory.

 

Atop the Spai Computing building, Richard Spai's phone began to ring. "You might want to take that, it feels important," said Yiu, gesturing to the man. Standing up to answer the phone, Yiu watched as the color drained from their opponent's face, horror filling his eyes. Taking this opportunity to remove the tablet showing the graph of the vertical drop in Spai Computing stock prices, Yiu placed a hand on the butt of the pistol against their back, preparing for the burst of rage coming their way. Sure enough, a deep red faded into Richard Spai's face. He threw the phone against the ground, shattering the screen, before diving across the desk towards the person who had ruined his life, "You piece of shit! I'll kill you!" shouted the man, overcome with rage. Expecting the move, Yiu took an agile step back and watched as Richard missed the attempt to grab the chairman and land squarely on top of his desk, knocking the family photo and remaining glass of whiskey onto the ground. Yiu immediately removed the pistol from it's hiding place and placed it against the crown of Richard's skull.

"That was very stupid of you, Monsieur Spai. It really was, now, if you'll retake your seat, we can have a proper conversation about what happens next." Said Yiu removing the barrel from the man's head, keeping it trained on the man who was now weeping with rage. Giving the man a moment to sit back down, Yiu began a verbal bombardment. 

"As whoever was on the other end of that call has probably informed you, your fantastic little email was leaked to the world. You'll also notice if you take a look at this handy little tablet," began Yiu, sliding the tablet towards the man, "Your stock prices have fallen to next to nothing, any lower and they'd be negative. Currently, the most talked about topic on my nation's social media feed is the fact you are a homophobic, transphobic, shell of a man. They also mention your bald spot quite a bit, which I find quite funny, really. I'm anticipating any moment now your wife is going to call in tears, begging for an explanation, and you're going to have to tell her how royally you've screwed your prospects on my island. I hope you signed a prenup because the divorce papers will hit you so hard they'll leave a hole in your pathetic little torso. That is assuming you'll have anything left to be split in the divorce." Taking the time to place a finger under the man's chin, lifting his face towards theirs, nail digging into the soft skin beneath Richard's jaw, Yiu continued, "I don't hate you, Richard, I really don't, I can't even bring myself to pity you. You didn't belong here in the first place. You might be wondering to yourself, 'me, where did things go wrong?' beside the moment your pathetic life began, I'd say it was the point where you decided that you had any value to bring to this island. Now, I've got to get going, I have a press conference to give, but before I go, let me ask you a very fair question, Richard. What do you do successfully?" concluded the chairman, a malicious smirk on their face. Not even waiting for the answer, Yiu stepped around the desk and began walking towards the office's doors. Stopping once they reached the heavy double doors, Yiu turned one last time to see the form of Richard Spai, hunched over the desk, staring at the tablet that explained more than any words could exactly how bad things were. "And Richard dear, if you're going to have a bottle of whiskey, you really should have some ice." Said the chairman, walking through the doors and leaving the broken man behind.

Edited by Galahinda
Misnamed KAG as KAP (see edit history)
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