It had begun small; a few late shipments, minorly damaged produce, offhanded comments mumbled under breaths, nothing new for an island built on market competition. But as incidents piled up and resentment grew, what had started small had irreparably grown larger. Verbal spats in the corporate board room became common, mutual contracts began going up in flames, and the divide became noticeable outside of the board rooms of the island's ruling class. Soon, entire orders arrived destroyed if they arrived at all, Richard Spai began outright rejecting MYNE and DAUFA contracts, and now this.
Spencer Klynne was awakened by the ringing of a phone that hadn't rung since he was a little boy. Spencer sat up, rubbing the last vestiges of that night's sleep from his eyes as he yanked the phone from its receiver. Although he was an older man by Galahindan nightlife standards, an ancient 50, the minuscule fuse on his rage that marked his career, both economic and political, had only worsened. Being roused from sleep by a phone that was only supposed to be used if Cascadia was literally burning was more than enough to light that fuse. "WHO THE HELL IS THIS, AND WHY THE HELL ARE YOU CALLING ME ON THIS PHONE?" demanded Spencer, screaming directly into the receiver, momentarily deafening the night operations lead in KSC headquarters.
"Th-there was an incident in the core, sir," began the man on the other end, voice shaking as he tried to save himself from termination.
"WHO THE HELL CARES WHAT HAPPENS IN THE CORE! DIRECTIVE SAYS THAT THIS PHONE IS ONLY TO BE USED IF OUR FORCES ARE DIRECTLY UNDER ATTACK!" interrupted Spencer, anger rapidly worsening.
"That's the thing, sir," began the voice on the phone, clearing his throat, "there was an incident between KSC contractors and DAUFA forces on the intersection of 83rd street and Vyno boulevard."
"WELL, WHAT THE f*ck HAPPENED?" demanded Spencer, face reddening.
"There was a firefight sir, contractors are saying that there was an argument, and one of ours shot a DAUFA soldier. The current report says at least one contractor critical and two others injured."
"ANY OF THOSE DAUFA f*ckERS DEAD?"
"Report says one DAUFA soldier dead and two critical sir."
"f*ck! TELL ALL CONTRACTORS THAT IF A SINGLE BULLET LEAVES THEIR GUNS FOR THE REST OF THE NIGHT, I'LL PERSONALLY SEND IT THROUGH THEIR SKULLS!" Screamed Klynne, spit flying from his mouth.
The voice at the other end didn't have time to finish his reply before Spencer slammed the receiver down, shattering the plastic assembly.
On the other side of the island, Chairman Yiu Amistacia was hard at work, preparing for the upcoming MYNE FY35 spring/summer collection. Despite being arguably the most powerful person on the island, the nightlife icon still demanded that they look over the pieces for any flaws personally. At the forefront of their attention was the dress that they would wear for the upcoming event. Constructed out of a transparent iridescent foil gathered at the bodice before forming a long train behind the model, the dress would perfectly highlight every curve and contour of Yiu's body. Engrossed in their work and with their perception dampened by the upcoming show's soundtrack by Cascadian nightlife DJ addyr being blasted through the wireless headphones in their ears, Yiu didn't notice the presence of another person in their workshop until they felt a tap on their shoulder. Pausing to remove one of the headphones, "I'm a little busy, Quora, can it wait a few? This seam is f*cking me up." said Yiu, tucking a piece of hair behind their ear, not bothering to look up. "It can't actually." came the reply, the voice of Lynne Androni ripping Yiu from their creative headspace. "Lynne! it's late; what the hell are you doing here?" asked Yiu, whipping around to face their unexpected visitor, before hastily adding, "not that I'm not happy to see you."
"We're leaving," began Lynne, holding up a finger to silence the incoming protest, "I don't care if you're busy."
Evidently, Lynne's idea of leaving was taking a helicopter directly from the MYNE workshop to DAUFA's newly constructed headquarters. The helicopter ride was particularly tense. Despite the pleading from Yiu, no time was given to apply foundation or draw on eyebrows, leaving the chairman's face utterly devoid of makeup. A fate worse than complete nudity in the chairman's mind. Upon arriving at the newly constructed compound, the pair was taken directly into the underground command room for the PMC. Awaiting their arrival was DAUFA commander Alexis Cannmore, who saluted the pair before beckoning them towards a display feed. On-screen was an aerial shot of the intersection of 83rd and Vyno, where police had cordoned off onlookers and begun the process of removing the injured and dead from the scene. "What am I looking at, Alexis?" Asked Yiu, unclear as to why their presence was needed.
"At 23:43, DAUFA soldiers on-site called in that they were under attack by Klynne Security Group contractors. What you see on screen is the aftermath." Answered Alexis before switching from a live feed to CCTV. "From what we can see, there was an argument between our soldiers and Klynne contractors." continued Alexis, pressing a button causing the feed to fast forward a few seconds. "At 23:42:13, we see the Klynne contractor pull a gun and fire three rounds into our soldier. Immediately after both parties dive for cover and a firefight breaks out," explained Alexis, allowing the scene to play out behind her. "After two minutes of fighting, DAUFA forces retreat into the building, one is dead, and two are in critical condition."
"And Klynne's contractors?" asked Yiu, arms folded.
"Immediately after DAUFA forces retreat, they scatter." Answered Alexis.
"They knew they f*cked up," Interrupted Lynne, speaking louder than she had intended.
"So what the hell are we going to do?" responded Yiu, a hint of panic creeping into their voice.
"Well, my professional suggestion is to postpone any MYNE events, recall all DAUFA soldiers, and wait for a response by KSC." Said Alexis.
"We're not canceling this MYNE event. Princess Margaret is going to be here, and we need to make sure our reputation with Seylos isn't damaged by some tragic misunderstanding." Interjected Lynne, taking a drag from her electronic cigarette before continuing, "We're going to call for Spencer's resignation, demand a full investigation, and cancel all remaining corporate board contracts with KSC."
"That's going to require a full vote. What are the chances of a majority?" queried Yiu, rubbing their temples in a doomed attempt to ward off a stress headache.
Taking a moment to pull up a complicated web of icons, Alexis began speaking, "Based on current contract values, interpersonal opinions, and personal values, we can expect Bittman Financial, Spai Computing, GalFreight, Atelier, and Telegram to side with KSC."
"And who's with us?" asked Lynne, leaning forward to view the web.
"Obviously, we've got MYNE and Androni, but we can expect Orpheum, ASC, Laxcomme, Neurve, and Anvie," responded Alexis.
"What about the rest, there in the middle?" Yiu asked, gesturing towards the cluster of icons in the middle of the web.
"They're tossups, we expect a few to abstain, especially Veridi, but as far as we can tell, we've set ourselves up for a deadlock unless we can convince the rest of them that there's merit to our arguments," answered Alexis.
"Alright, I'll call an emergency session for Saturday, let the others collect themselves before the vote." said Lynne, "In the meantime, we'll get Yiu prepped for an official response in the morning."
"Welcome back to the Engelsen Angle! Today I have a guest who has been making waves in the already choppy waters of Cascadia's nightlife, Yvee Bloom!" Speaking directly to her audience, Marie Engelsen was in her element. She knew that behind the lenses of the cameras that panned across the edge of her stage were millions of Galahindans who were starving for the latest in pop culture, style, and celebrity gossip. Joining her today was someone she hoped would provide all three. Yvee Bloom, oldest (and only) daughter of Veridi CEO Constance Bloom, was a scoop Marie couldn't miss. Constance and, by extension, Veridi had garnered a reputation for neutrality in the age of increasing corporate tension, hearing both sides of any policy argument before even beginning to make a decision. She was the final member of the corporate board to release a statement regarding the email sent by Richard Spai. She had made it known that her position on the diplomatic incident regarding Tagmatium was entirely neutral. While looking for professional protection for her daughter, as was typical for corporate board members and their families, Constance had brushed aside both the PMC heavyweight Klynne Security Group and the newly formed DAUFA in favor of the foreign organization, Monarch. Marie was looking for answers, and when Constance had declined an interview, she set her sights on the next best option.
Yvee Bloom was a rarity amongst the children of the corporate board leaders; she hadn't been crushed under the weight of expectations to lead a business empire as her mother was young enough to avoid the existential dread that could only be solved by grooming an heir. Unlike some of her peers, her mother was loving and attentive, taking care of Yvee herself for the most part once her father had died. Save for the occasional long business trips, the pair were inseparable. During these trips, Yvee had found herself under the watchful eye of Auntie Lynne and in the glittery embrace of Yiu Amistacia. As a result of these visits, Yvee had learned from the best how to style herself, carry herself, draw attention to herself, and how to command a room. These defacto tutoring lessons had equipped her with everything she needed to make a name for herself within galahindan nightlife, and at the age of 18 had become the youngest person ever to attend the MYNE Gala on an individual invitation. Now, at 20, she had firmly cemented herself as one of the city's "it girls," commanding a small army of loyal followers online. She knew the game, and she knew how to play it, so when Marie Engelsen had reached out to have her as a guest, how could she say no?
As soon as her name was called, Yvee began strutting onto the stage, dressed in a white floor-length (faux) fur MYNE coat belted at the waist, black pleather bustier, miniskirt, and pumps. Ignoring the clapping from the studio audience, she made her way towards Marie, stopping only to exchange a kiss on either cheek with the host. Unbelting the coat and sitting down, she crossed her legs to provide the cameras and audience an ample opportunity to gaze enviously at her, just as Yiu had taught her. Marie was the first to break the silence, "So excited to have you here Yvee, the last time we talked was all the way back at your birthday party!"
Without skipping a beat, Yvee responded, "Yeah, totally, that was so fun, thanks again for being there," her voice thick with vocal fry.
"I wouldn't have missed it for the wurld. It's always lovely to see you," replied Marie, warmth emanating from her face. "But a lot has changed since then; we've had two MYNE fashion seasons, a MYNE gala, and quite a few scandals. How are you and your mother holding up?"
"I'm doing well, my mom is stressed, but like, when is she not, and she's totally worried about this DAUFA and Klynne drama."
"I see. Well, tell her I said hello if she isn't watching. And if you are watching Constance, you owe me at least two coffees!" Joked Marie, laughter emanating from the crowd in response. After allowing the laughter to die down, Marie continued, "I'm glad to hear you're doing well, I've been following your feed, and you seem to be at a party every night. What's your secret?"
"I'm like, totally not sponsored or anything, but I've been using the caffeine YUUL pods for a while, and like, they're really fun!" Responded Yvee, smiling internally, knowing that at that moment, a PR intern at Androni Commercial Solutions was putting together a YUUL Gift package for her.
"We've tried the YUUL on the show before, and we really enjoyed it. So I'm glad you're having so much fun with it!" volleyed Marie before shifting into a darker and more conspiratorial tone, "Speaking of the feeds, I've seen a mysterious man by your side quite a bit online recently, are we seeing a new boy toy?" The comment drew a barrage of ooohs from the crowd; those in attendance were always keen to latch on to a bit of gossip.
Yvee gave a short, breathy laugh before answering, "No, not a boyfriend. He's like a bodyguard, I guess. He's a Seylosian from Monarch."
"That's so interesting. Why not go with Klynne Security Group or friends of the program DAUFA?" asked Marie, not willing to let the moment pass.
"I don't know, my mom hired him, but I'm not dead, yet, so like, he's doing his job." Answered Yvee, fully aware of the game being played. "He's here if you wanna meet him." Continued Yvee, willing to give Marie what she was after.
"Is that okay? I wouldn't want to inconvenience him," responded Marie, lying through her perfectly TV white teeth.
"Yeah, totally, it's not like he's doing anything right now, you're not like, trying to kill me, right?" said Yvee, matching the playfully dark tone from earlier.
"Time will tell my dear, as long as I keep getting those birthday invitations, you've got nothing to fear." quipped Marie, adeptly responding to the joke with one of her own. "Why don't we take a quick break to get set up for him to join us on stage, so those at home don't go away! We'll be right back!" As soon as the all-clear for the commercial break was given, a burst of activity consumed the set, with hair and makeup teams coming to refresh the two women while the cameras were off. A second armchair was placed on stage to the right of Yvee's, giving the camera a perfect angle to watch the Monarch hire speak for the first time on Galahindan Television.
"And we're live in five, four, three," Rang out across the studio, with the producer finishing the countdown silently on his fingers and pointing to the two women seated across from each other.
Without missing a beat, program host and media icon Marie Engelsen began speaking, "Welcome back to the Englesen Angle! Today, we're here with breakout star Alyiah Arotica, creator of the song stuck in everyone's minds; Eat It!" Sitting across from her was the latest interview subject and popular musician and performer, Aliyah Arotica. Known for her equal parts vulgar and creative flow, Arotica had become an overnight sensation among the nation's youth. The pair paused for a moment to allow the applause from the studio audience to die down before continuing.
"Thank you so much for having me! I've been a huge fan ever since you were just starting out, so being here is absolutely unreal!" Gushed Aliyah, unable to hide the excitement in her voice.
"Likewise, I've been a fan since your first single, Galahindan Goddess. There's nobody out there that's creating music like yours." Replied Marie, a similar tone of excitement creeping into her otherwise professional cadence, "What inspired you to cultivate such a strong personality within your music?"
"Well Marie," began Aliyah, "I grew up in an Ecumenical family, and I felt very stifled by the rules and the messages they taught, so after I moved out and felt true freedom, I felt like I should really begin to express how much, for me, religion is less serious and should be critiqued."
"So, are you a religious person?" asked Marie.
"Not traditionally, no. I'm actually a member of the Society of Saint Lucia." Responded Aliyah
"And for our international listeners who may not be familiar with the society, what do you believe in?"
"Our beliefs are rooted in the idea that at the end of the day, we're all going to die, we can't control that. What we can control is the amount of experience we gain over that short lifespan. We're focused on sensation and what it means to truly be alive."
"Do you feel that those values are reflected in your latest song?" Queried Marie, shifting forward in her seat.
"Yes, I do, especially in the imagery and lyrics that we use for our music video, releasing later today."
"I see, do you think we could see a clip from the video?" asked Marie.
"Of course! I brought one along just for you." Fired back Aliyah, turning to watch along with Marie and the audience.
On the large LCD screen behind the two, the clip began to play. Chairman Yiu Amistacia appeared on the screen, much to the audience's enjoyment. The chairman was wearing an extremely tight black latex suit blazer with matching assless chaps. Within the chairman's hand was a rhinestoned chain attached to what appeared to be Tagmatium's leader, Kommodos III. The man was wearing little more than a black loincloth, leather harness and was bound at the wrists and feet by the same chain held in Yiu's hand. Around the man's neck was a black latex collar with the MYNE logo emblazoned in gold. The video's audio began playing from the studio's speakers, with a heavy beat accentuated by a harsh snare every fourth beat. The chairman's voice could be heard over the top, stating, "If there was a god, I would make him eat my pussy." The lyric was accompanied by another crash, as Yiu yanked the chain attached to the man's neck, forcing him onto his knees, roughly at crotch height. "What that mouth do kanga go make it gushy." continued the chairman before the scene switched.
Immediately following a scene of the camera panning into what appeared to be a Tagmatine church was Aliyah wearing an extremely low cut ceremonial robe. The robe was covered in rhinestones and had holes cut, exposing her cleavage. The artist began rapping, draping herself over a ceremonial altar, words building in intensity. "She's got that Apocryphal pussy, Personally condemned by Kommodos Pussy. She's got that Ignus Dei Sexcommunicatorum Pussy. What you waitin for kanga go make it gushy." Following the lyrics, Aliyah tore off the robe, leaving her in nothing but a set of nipple pasties and a pair of panties reading "Eat It!" before the clip ended and the studio's lights returned.
"Wow, I love everything I've just seen, and I cannot wait to watch the whole thing later today." Began Marie, beaming, "Now, I spy with my keen eye, a couple of familiar faces, am I correct in saying that was the Chairman and Kommodos III?"
"You're partially correct, that is actually Chairman Amistacia. However, Kommodos III is actually an excellent look-alike, with some digital trickery to enhance the effect." Said Aliyah, waving her hand to indicate the pair currently on screen.
"I would never have guessed. The recreation is almost spot on! How was it working with the chairman?"
"The chairman was lovely to work with, they're fantastic on camera and took great direction."
Nodding, Marie asked, "Now, I'm no fashion or cultural expert, but am I correct in assuming that the outfit you wear during this scene is not traditionally Galahindan?"
"You are correct, although it was made here in Galahinda by Yiu, it's actually a take on the traditional ceremonial clothing worn by Tagmatine priests," answered Aliyah.
"It's very edgy which I love. Given the video's content, how did you manage to get permission to go into a Tagmatine church to film this?"
"Oh, they didn't give us permission actually," replied Aliyah, laughing nervously, "we went in under the guise of being there for a documentary, and filmed what we needed without me, left, and inserted me in post."
"I can't imagine that'll make them too happy!" Englesen chucked to herself before continuing, "Now, anything else you'd like to tell us before we wrap up?"
"I would like to thank all of my listeners for helping get to this seat, and for everyone involved in the production of the song and video for making something so cool!" responded Aliyah, turning directly to the camera.
"Thanks again for being here, Aliyah, and make sure to watch out for the release of the Eat It! music video later today." Said Marie, turning to the camera before continuing. "Coming up next, we'll be looking at the perfect colors to paint your living rooms for the upcoming fall party season. We'll be right back after the break."