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In The Midst Of Any Rise To Fame, Infamy May Ensue...

One of my parents' favourite sayings is that you have your whole life to create your defining work, the one thing that pushes you over all the initial hurdles and onwards to fame and success (and the hurdles that you'll encounter from there).  That one work you created or of which you were a part is what gets you there. You have your whole life to achieve it up until that point. From there, you only have twenty minutes to achieve your next, and so on and so on... Consider that during the time you're building yourself. Your life and career up to that achievement whatever it may be. Graduation. Your dream career. A successful business. Your marriage. Your first child. Your family. Your directorial debut. Your first book to sell a million. Your first starring role in a major blockbuster motion picture. For everyone its different. Pursuing a life dream means something different to each and every one of us. However, for some, it does put you in the public eye and under scrutiny

Prelude To Butterfly Dragon III: The Rise And Fall Of Delaine Husha (Finished, more artwork to be added)

Important: If you read the Epilogue of this story on September 1, 2021 and before 12 PM EST (GMT+5), please reread it as there have been significant edits and additions.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead or super-powered or actual events is purely coincidental though certainly worth consideration and even criminal investigation.


Warning: This story deals with mature situations involving violence. Reader discretion is advised.


Author's Note: The story itself is finished (its second draft) but the artwork is still being added. I will be adding it over the course of then next week.


This is a short story that takes place after the events of The Butterfly Dragon II: What Different Eyes See. Consider this the bridge between What Different Eyes See and The Butterfly Dragon III: The Two Dragons. The account and methods employed in this story by the antagonists is inspired by activities that occur in real life. Something which certainly needs official investigation and something against which I often fight to retain my ownership of Shhhh! Digital Media as Brian Joseph Johns.


You should be warned that this is one of the darkest stories from the Butterfly Dragon that I've ever written and that it really sets up aspects of what is to come in Butterfly Dragon III.


If you like this story, please consider donating even a modest sum to The Cancer Research Institute or The Princess Margaret Foundation in support of their efforts for Cancer Research.


The COVID-19 crisis has weighed heavily on charities that offer a wide variety of community based services.  Please consider donating to the United Way, which operates in many countries throughout the world supporting communities in need and during times of crisis.


Emerge Into The Night


Heylyn stood, perched atop a small tower overlooking Dundas Square in the packed late evening core of downtown Toronto. She balanced herself on the ledge of the tower, watching the night crowd below as they gathered for one of the city's food festivals during mid July.


Temporary stalls had been setup, each harbouring a different food venue, highlighting the city's diversity and reminding Heylyn of the delegation's trip to Hanoi and the food markets they'd seen there. On a stage nearby, a local band performed one of their recent hits as some of the attendees danced. The sound echoed through several buildings in the downtown core, each echo reaching Heylyn's vantage point at off beat timing.


"I'm sure it sounds much better down there..." she thought aloud lifting up her mask.


She turned her attention to the numerous bill boards spanning the intersection of what could be reasonably called Toronto's own version of Time's Square. There upon giant LED displays, she spied numerous advertisements including a plug for West Meet East International, her own fashion company. In the ad, a model wearing one of her spring outfits strode down a street, the men she passed during her walk turned to take her in. The model turned to them, winked and blew them a kiss. Heylyn had seen the ad numerous times weeks earlier as the agency presented it pending her approval. She eventually signed off on it on the grounds that it represented what she wanted to promote about her company. It was fun. It was cheeky. It took itself seriously enough to represent confidence, but not so much so as to be overbearing.


Heylyn's attention turned to another one of the huge LED displays to take in a news report. In the absense of audio, a scrolling line of text accompanied the live news report indicating that an intense stand-off between Police and an armed assailant was under way outside of a residence on Wolseley Street near Queen Street West and Bathurst Street.


Heylyn pulled her mask down to cover her face as wings erupted from her back. She was once again in the air as the Butterfly Dragon and speeding towards the site of the incident in progress.


The city sprawled beneath her as the lights blurred with her increasing speed. Her flight arced at the halfway point as she speed west towards Bathurst Street, turning south ever so slightly to coincide with Wolseley Street where it ran parallel to Queen Street West.


She spied the lights of the first responders, the Police being at the front lines had blocked Wolseley Street from Bathurst Street westward to Markham Street. A crowd had gathered and spanned the barricade with several video journalists and reporters being at the front of their numbers. Heylyn quickly found a perch atop a nearby lowrise building from where she could keep an eye on the situation. She landed atop of the building using her wings to cover and camouflage her descent, maintaining her stealth.


She pulled her smartphone from a pouch on her belt and opened one of the apps for a local news network. She quickly found the live feed and listened in to the report.


"... Dan Ashton reporting, we're on Bathurst Street just outside of a barricade as Police have cordoned off Wolseley Street on reports of an armed assailant in possession of a firearm in one of the houses where hostages are reported to have been taken. I've got Police Constable Daniel Alain here, Constable, what can you tell us about the situation?" asked the journalist.


"We responded earlier to reports of an assailant brandishing a firearm, who is alleged to have threatened several people shortly before entering into a residence here where hostages have been taken," Constable Alain answered.


"What can you tell us about the assailant?" asked the reporter.


"We've heard several reports and we can't discuss the details. We can only say that there are hostages and that there is a firearm involved," Constable Alain responded.


"Thank you Constable Alain. We'll be keeping you informed as this story develops. I'm Dan Ashton..." the reporter finished his report as Heylyn closed the app and pocketed her phone.


Heylyn quietly moved towards the ledge of the roof of the lowrise building, stepping over a railing and finding a safe perch for her to surveil the site of the hostage taking. She looked down upon the street, to the house which the Police had focused their attention. With her heightened senses she could easily see that two teams of the Police Tactical Unit, were in position covering two alternate exits from the house in question. Within the house her heat sensitivity picked out the forms of four adults, three huddled in one corner of a second floor room with a fourth person tight against a wall out of direct line of sight from any window. That person Heylyn could see was brandishing a weapon at arm's length and keeping it aimed at the other three.


She quickly assessed that the house was made of brick and that a window in that same room would be her best bet for entry. She'd have to do it quick, spreading her wings fully across the entire room to cover any shots fired against the hostages by the assailant. She leapt off of the building, landing atop a nearby house maintaining her stealth as she did. Across the street she could clearly see the window through which she'd need to make her entry. She craned her head to the left to see that on the other side of the roof of the same house upon which she'd just landed was a member of the Tactical Unit, a sniper laying belly down on the roof.

 

He was clearly covering the window and likely with their thermal vision optics, he could see the hostage taker through the wall and even upon the order, have taken a shot right through the brick.


Heylyn reassessed her options, considering all scenarios that could unfold should she make the attempt to enter the room. She calculated the worst case to be that she'd take a round from the sniper as she entered through the window and that his shot might riccochet from her dragon skin, hitting one of the hostages. She considered incapacitaging the sniper but then decided that she might be better off reconsidering her strategy from another vantage point. She once again leapt into the air, using her wings for stealth more so than flight and returned to her position atop the lowrise building. As she landed, she was greeted by a familiar voice.


"Butterfly, butterfly. In the night, in the sky. There you land, not a sound. Watching those 'pon the ground..." Weltherwithsp's voice shook the foundations of the building upon which she'd landed.


"Are you trying purposely to trigger a shooting?" Heylyn turned confronting the dragon careful to keep her voice in check.


"They can't hear what they can't see, only you but nye me," Weltherwithsp responded landing beside Heylyn on the same lowrise building.


"Given your behaviour the last time we met, you're on probation with me dragon..." Heylyn stood defiantly before the dragon.


[Editor's Note: Heylyn is referring to the events that occurred during the book The Butterfly Dragon II: What Different Eyes See and specifically the chapter Special Addition - From Hanoi Through To The Ho Chi Minh Trail.]


"Ohhhhh why Butterfly, you do so tickle my cold and primordial heart... which as you might now suspect is far older than you can possibly know or understand... I've seen trillions of millennia of time from a vantage point you could never possibly know let alone comprehend. Yet in the end did I befriend you in a field of flowers and under your powers... Butterfly? By the way, how is that young woman from Hanoi? You know the one, far older than yourself but yet an infant to me?" Weltherwithsp's head led a long serpentine neck down to come face to face with her eyes.



"Ms. Hue Van? She's fine, now. So are all those passengers from that flight no thanks to you," Heylyn stood her ground.


"They were as fine as they were before I altered your path and whatever befell them before from your perspective is not my concern. For that you will have to deal with another of my kind. One whose path you'll cross sooner or later. I can tell you that they all, except for one went on to lead happy and full lives," Weltherwithsp assured her as she defied the dragon.


"What about the one exception?" Heylyn asked.


"Oh, Mr. Taglano? Giuseppe Taglano? He'll be making his exit within the next three hours, when he'll have a stroke induced by his obviously high cholesterol diet, not to mention the risk factor for a man of his age of seventy eight years. He was bound to make his exit sooner or later. I'm sorry to say that it had nothing to do with how I detoured your flight, that night," Weltherwithsp quipped.


"I'll never get used to you referring to the future in the past tense. So why are you here tonight if not to interfere based upon your unique perspective of whats to come?" Heylyn asked the dragon.


"Because dear Butterfly, you were about to make a grave mistake as you cannot tell the truth from the fake for in that house lies what's at stake and one whose time will have its take, from your point of view..." Weltherwithsp posed to her.


"I'll take that under consideration but until I figure it out, what are you on about?" Heylyn challenged the dragon.


"There is tell and there is show, when what I say is not so much as what I know... Allow me please to show you how so..." the dragon's wings covered them both and Heylyn was whisked away from the roof, disappearing from herself entirely and seeing everything from a much different perspective. 


The perspective of another's experiences and from behind her eyes.


From a time several years ago she watched the life of another play out.


The girl was in a bathroom. A large one, with many sinks, her eyes focused on her purse in front of her. She pulled some mascara from it and turned to the mirror in front of her, allowing Heylyn to see her face for the first time.


As the girl leaned forward to apply her mascara, Heylyn observed that she was was a younger girl, in her early twenties. Perhaps twenty three or twenty four. Her large blue eyes peered back at Heylyn from the mirror, as she swathed her lashes with the mascara brush. Her lips were full bodied, the top one arced inward towards the center sharply with deep curves. They were fully red, glossed with lipstick. Her cheeks were somewhat high on her face, with her lower face slightly gaunt. Her jawline was somewhat higher than Heylyn's own, and her chin much pointier.


The girl turned her face slightly leaning towards the mirror to get a better look at her eyes as she withdrew her eyeliner pencil from the depths of her purse without digging for it. Heylyn from inside the girl laughed to herself, realizing that most every woman seems to intuitively know the contents and location of everything in her purse.


As the girl applied the eye liner, Heylyn saw that the girl's hair was orange-red at the top and graduated towards a deep yellowy blonde at the tips.


"Colourful. I've seen this girl before. I'm sure of it. Like deja vu," Heylyn thought to herself, the girl absent of any awareness of Heylyn's presence within her for she was there only as an observer.


As the one true Butterfly Dragon, she'd known that by this ability, she was bound to an oath she'd sworn at the Temple with Jinn Hua that she never divulge the secrets or experiences of which she'd learned through the otherworldly visions to which she was privileged as The Butterfly Dragon. She could only act upon that knowledge in accordance with her principles and her conscience and without the revelation thereof.


The girl turned to line her other eye, revealing a colourful tattoo on her shoulder. That of a butterfly, shaped similarly to Heylyn's own crest, though multi-coloured and much more vivid.


"Hey Delaine, are you coming or are you going to stay in here all night?" another girl walked towards the door addressing her as she passed.


"Just finishing up, Jill," Delaine responded as she lined her bottom lid.


"Don't be a wall flower, we got stuff to do, girl," Jill opened the washroom door, the pounding drum and bass beats pushing themselves into the room, quickly replacing the silence until the door closed behind her, then receding to a muffled grind.


Delaine placed her eyeliner pencil in her purse, grabbed a piece of paper towel from the dispenser to clean one corner of her eye. She then threw it in the bin and walked out the door into the bright lights and pounding bass.


As she got out of the washroom area she pulled her smartphone from her purse and opened the camera app, pointing it at herself as she strode the dance floor. She began moving to the steady beat of Deadmau5's Ghosts 'n' Stuff and as she got into it, she panned the camera, rolling it three sixty to take in the other dancers. She focused on several of them, keeping the camera on them each for a few moments before moving on to the next.


She then bopped her way over to the bar and ordered herself a glass of orange brandy, bringing it with her back to the table.


"Delaine, meet Maz. He's applying for the position of camera man," Jill introduced their table guest.


"Pleased to meet you Delaine. How are you tonight?" Maz stood and shook Delaine's hand as she admired the two trimmed sideburns stemming down from the sides of his ears.


"Nice cap. Have you worked there?" Delaine observed the crest on his baseball cap, which bore the logo of a popular clubbing web site.


"One and the same. For two years. I even shot Armin Van Buuren, Tiesto, Deadmau5 and Daft Punk when they played there," Maz replied to Delaine with a modestly boyish charm.


"What about voice work? Dialogue? You ever shoot any of that?" Delaine asked him.


"Yep. Sure thing. We did an interview series there as well. We talked with a lot of people. We took it all recently and rolled it into a doc. Might go places. Might not," Maz smiled and took a drink of his whiskey on the rocks.


"So if you've got all this going, why are you looking for work?" Jill asked Maz.


"I like to keep busy. Before torclubzene.com I was a jobber. Got a lot of experience that way not to mention I could do as much as I could handle. I'm still in film school and I've got bills, so I think your gig would be perfect. Good location for me too," Maz explained to Jill.


"Well we're looking to do something a bit different. You've heard of YouTube haven't you?" Delaine asked Maz.


"That's that video site right? I've heard a bit. Why, are you planning on setting up there?" asked Maz.


"We're looking to develop an entertainment brand, and we think that this YouTube thing is really going to take off," Delaine told Maz.


"Smart girl. An eye for opportunity and an innovator. I like her already," Heylyn thought to herself from inside of Delaine.


"Tight space, a lot of competition all in one place. Sounds like a bit of a risk to me. Just my opinion," Maz shrugged, still maintaining his charm despite his skepticism.


"We don't think so. Lots of fish in the ocean," Jill added.


"Not that one. At least not yet. You're better off promoting your stuff on your own and going web. Maybe get a third party media server for your content. Again, just my opinion," Maz offered, taking another drink of his whiskey.


"Well we've committed ourselves to this plan and we're going ahead with it," Delaine assured him.


"What about the rights to your content? You ever think about that? Licensing issues?" asked Maz professionally.


"Our lawyers have checked that out and we're safe for what we're doing. Our content will be fine. So are you interested?" Delaine asked him.


"I have my good name to think about too. I don't just jump into any project you know," Maz maintained his stance, perhaps strategically.


"This one will be a winner. We're sure of it but if you're really skeptical of this and want out, we've got nine other people we're considering. All pros too. So are you in or not?" Delaine asked him.


"Can we negotiate pay right now?" asked Maz.


"We sure can..." Delaine began and six minutes later, Maz was hired as director of photography for Eclectic Entertainment Online.


Heylyn noted that both Delaine and Jill were confident and well organized. She began to wonder how all of this connected to the current crisis on Wolseley Street when she suddenly remembered when and where she'd seen Delaine before.


Heylyn was suddenly in the arms of the dragon once again, as it pulled her through space and time where she once again found herself seeing things from another's perspective. 


This time, it was her own and from a much earlier time.


Rising Stars


Heylyn found herself once again in a somewhat unfamiliar setting. A time long ago when West Meet East had just broken through to achieve notoriety throughout the fashion world. 


She was inside of herself this time, much as she had been inside of Delaine. A spectator in a secret show of time and space to which only Weltherwithsp, the dragon of what was to come and the Butterfly Dragon herself were privvy. She remembered the day that she was re-experiencing for it was the first formal party she'd held after she'd signed the deal that procured the distribution of her yearly line throughout North America, Europe and Asia. It was the day exactly three months after the bomb that had detonated aboard flight 9361 had taken the life of her first and only love. A time when she was still fighting the turmoil she'd felt after losing him. A time years before the East or West delegations. A time before the Treadwater Island incident. A time before she'd ever reunited with Alicia.


She'd woken up at five in the morning and jogged to the park where she did an hour of Tai Chi to center herself before her workout.


She returned to her town home, going down the stairs into her basement where she'd had one of the guest bedrooms renovated into her own Temple/Dojang/Dojo. She began her workout with fifteen minutes of stretches, between which she'd only duck walk in order to strengthen her thighs and core. She did three sets of one hundred and eighty pushups on her fists, wearing gloves to keep her hands and knuckles from callousing.


After she'd finished stretches, she'd immediately move on to her kata work. She'd commonly pick three katas upon which she'd focus in each workout. Rotating them between different workouts. In this particular workout, she focused upon Heian, Sanchin and a non-traditional kata she'd developed herself with the help of Kyoshi.


She then went to work on the bag. First with a series of front kicks, before progressing to round kicks, side kicks and finally her specialty butterfly kick. She then worked on her fists and the form of her punches. Delivering first a battery of front punches, followed by hooks, side strikes, bladed strikes and finally her signature spinning punch.


She'd always started her workouts soft, with a soft style such as Chen Style Tai Chi. After which she'd progress into stretching and then slowly ramp up into hard style, closed fisted waza in order to harden her technique. Deep inside her though it was a brutal therapy, as if she was tearing away at a deep and piercing pain in her soul. Trying to fill a sudden void within, in the absense of her one true love. The one that had been taken from her. She felt her fury rising and peak, as the joist to which the bag was fastened buckled under her force. Despite being nearly three years before she was given her dose of the SY-349, she was still a powerful woman. After her spur of exertion, she gasped, nearly falling into the bag, catching it and holding on in as she breathed heavily. She caught her breath, standing still for a moment before she began winding down for the last part of her workout. First, with her Kung Fu and then her return to softness. Her Wing Chun regime.


She once again started with a series of stretches specific to Kung Fu, required to develop strength and flexibility for the techniques and to maintain as much. She then began practicing her forms, focusing specifically on first the butterfly form and then the dragon. The two forms played out similarly to katas, or a series of successive moves in Tai Chi, much like a performance art as much so as a drill or exercise.


From there it was on to her Wing Chun practice rig, a wooden rig traditionally designed for practicing the variety of techniques unique to the Wing Chun system. Despite the soft nature and style of Wing Chun, she found herself building up her tempo, pace and intensity during her practice on the rig and before long her arms and legs were simply a blur of well timed and deliberate motion.


She then found her way to her mat, stretched once more before taking up her position for a full breath meditation. She sat silently for fifteen minutes, with only the rising and falling of her chest and breath disturbing the stillness. When she felt the intensity within herself contained and fully centered, she stood and resumed her day as anyone else might have.


She showered, pampered and decorated herself before she was out the door and off to the subway, on her way to the loft space from which she'd been running her fashion company, West Meet East. On her way to her business, she made a small donation to a local charity and dropped several dollars for the two buskers she'd passed in the subway on her way to the fashion district. Doing as such was a way to honour the responsibilities she had to Kyoshi and his Dojo. To "Tiger" Hoon Kwang and his dojang and certainly to Jinn Hua and the Temple Of The Butterfly Dragon. No matter the hardships one found in life, the martial arts were part of a bigger responsibility they had to society and one that no matter where she went, was always a part of her.


She left the subway and made her way along Queen Street, stopping at the local cafe for her favourite Chai Latte, and a bag of specialty coffee for the office.


The chimes jangled as she walked in through the front door of the large loft space in which West Meet East was housed.


"How are you today Lynne?" Heylyn asked the receptionist.


"Very well thank you. Mr. Becker called earlier about the catering for tonight. They're a bit short staffed and will be a half hour late. They said they can give us a credit if required, or they'll throw in an extra dish for free," Lynne told her as she walked over to her desk.


"Call him and tell him the extra dish will be fine. Tell him not to worry about it, and just to make sure that the buffet is ready and up to their standards," Heylyn walked over to the kitchen area of the open office space loft placing the specialty coffee on the counter.


"I'll get that," Lynne stood and started preparing the specialty coffee Heylyn had brought.


"What's this?" Heylyn asked about a sticky note on her computer screen.


"Ohhhh, that's a message from Delaine Husha. The video journalist/artist. She'll be here to scout and setup with her cameraman about an hour before the party begins," Lynne informed Heylyn.


"Alright. We've still got Dan for the still photography right?" asked Heylyn.


"Dan. That's correct. And the girls will be here fashionably early," Lynne added.


"By that you mean with enough time to get into their wardrobe?" Heylyn confirmed.


"Yes, yes. of course. I don't think they'll..." Lynne began as Heylyn interrupted.


"They were fashionably early last time, and it was pretty tight. Call them and tell them to be here a half an hour before they were planning to come. And tell them to wait until the party to start getting into the sauce," Heylyn reminded Lynne.


"Right away, M'aam," Lynne turned towards her desk.


"And stop calling me M'aam..." Heylyn scolded her.


"Yes M'aam... I mean Heylyn," Lynne corrected herself.


"Heylyn spent the rest of the morning answering emails and making arrangements for her recent business deal before she headed into the sewing room to retrieve the outfits her three seamsters had finished from the day earlier. She took them to the change rooms, leaving them on hangers nearby for her models' convenience. She then went to her design table and spent the rest of the day sketching outfit designs, some of which she placed on the walls.


At four o'clock, the movers arrived whom she'd hired to rearrange the furniture in preparation for the party. Heylyn gave them their instructions and left them to their work, while Lynne and her began decorating the loft. The movers finished their rearranging of the space, having managed to create a lot of room for both the caterers, the social and the reception area. She paid them and tipped them and they went on their way.


By six fifteen, the catering had arrived and began setting up the buffet and bar along with a games table where the proceeds generated by the players would go directly to a local charity.


Shortly after their arrival, a couple entered the loft, the first being Delaine who was dressed and ready for the gig and the other a tall thin man in his mid twenties, wearing a stylish baseball cap and sporting a pair of cleverly crafted side burns. He wheeled the camera gear in a large roadcase he pulled behind him.


"Heylyn? Delaine Husha. This is my cameraman Maz Mantis," Delaine approached Heylyn who greeted them both.


"Maz Mantis? Nice handle," she commented, causing Maz to blush slightly.


"Got it in film school. We shot a doc outside during the winter, using a fairly big camera rig. So I brought a blanket and threw it over myself and a bit of the camera. I had my head in the camera during one shoot and one of the gaffers took a look at me and the camera and the blanket and said I looked like a mantis. The name stuck I guess," Maz responded.


"Great story. So what do we need to do to get you accomodated?" Heylyn asked.


"First we need to go over our contract and license agreement. Just to make sure we're on the same page with the footage. The final edited cut will be one of the deliveries along with the shots, all in digital format," Delaine confirmed.


"Correct," Heylyn agreed.


"The agreement we came to on the phone was that we'd be able to broadcast and archive the event on YouTube, one of the newer video platforms. Only the final edited cut will be broadcast and will be available via web link. Convenient for your potential customers too," Delaine explained.


"YouTube? Never heard of it..." Heylyn replied honestly.


"We think its going to be the next big thing on the internet. A video streaming platform. So what we're proposing is that your content will join our growing library of content, all of which meets our strict guidelines and the guidelines to protect our clients and to represent their interests, without affecting your brand negatively and most certainly positively," Delaine made her up sell.


"While growing your brand too I'd imagine..." Heylyn observed astutely.


"Yes. As Eclectic Entertainment Online, an emerging freeform video journalism company, we're pioneering a growing movement. Your content will be a part of that, and our work and artform showcased. We both win," Delaine negotiated.


"And if your content format changes, you have arrangements in place to notify your previous clients?" Heylyn once again thinking ahead.


"That I do. Personally," Delaine assured Heylyn.


"An entrepreneur and innovator? I like that. Alright, West Meet East is on board," Heylyn shook hands with Delaine as she pulled an agreement from her purse.


Heylyn signed with her authority as the owner of her company and they were done.


"Alright, we're going to need a charging station. A dedicated area where we can plug in plug in to the AC power. Preferably an area that doesn't have frequent traffic from the guests. Then we're going to go over the layout and I'm going to mark on the floor with coloured tape, all of the best vantage points for shots of specific areas in the office. Then I'm going to do some light meter readings with the light levels you'll be using during the party and we'll be done," Maz explained to Heylyn.


"I'll be periodically moving from guest to guest, asking for short interviews that will be edited into the final cut, between shots of the models from your fashion line," Delaine explained her role.


"Sounds good. I'll let the guests know that someone will be giving short video interviews. I'll be helping the models to get ready if you need me," Heylyn told Delaine and they set about doing their thing.


Aftermath


Heylyn sat at the head of the boardroom table, the rest of the West Meet East employees in neighbouring chairs around her. Delaine sat at the far end of the table as they focused their attention on a large screen LED panel.


The video began with West Meet East's logo, followed by Eclectic Entertainment Online's logo. The opening faded into shots of the caterers getting the buffet and games table ready, then wiped into various shots of the models getting into their outfits, and the bickering and joking between them.


It was followed by a closeup of Heylyn, who introduced herself.


"I'm Heylyn Yates. The daughter of a prominent Chinese construction design engineer who with his family emigrated to Canada a couple decades ago. We moved into a house in the 'burbs of Toronto. My parents were pretty traditional in their values. They wanted their daughter to become a Doctor or Lawyer. Of course I wanted to be an artist, ballerina or performer of some kind. When my parents first saw my biology grades, they agreed that I wouldn't make a good Doctor at all. They should get a medal or something because they probably saved a lot of lives with that decision. That just wasn't happening for me. Ironically, Alicia Westin, my school tutor and my best friend in school, with whom since I've lost contact, apparently became a very successful Doctor and Medical Researcher. It just wasn't in the cards for me. I was really into art and designing outfits. Flamboyant and practical at the same time. So eventually I talked my parents into sending me to fashion design school. After a few lumps and bumps I created West Meet East. A fashion design house mixing Western design elements with Eastern design philosophy. Here I am now and this is our first party after recently signing our biggest distribution deal..." Heylyn's monologue started the video.


"Are you excited?" asked Delaine off camera.


"For sure. This is the big one. So now you can watch us drink wobbly pops, laugh and get all clumsy as we celebrate..." Heylyn laughed.


"...and raise money for charity..." Delaine added.


"Exactly, ...one of my priorities... responsibilities... to make a difference..." Heylyn pondered her role as the Butterfly Dragon despite it having been years since she'd seen either Jinn Hua or the dragon Weltherwithsp from the field.


"Is that reflected in your design philosophy?" Delaine asked Heylyn.


The camera tightened in on Heylyn's face.


"No. It's reflected in everything I do... and having a bit of fun along the way..." she answered honestly.


The video segued into interviews with several of the West Meet East employees, starting with Lynne and proceeding on to the design staff, to the photographer and the seamsters, each speaking of their part in the bigger picture.


Intermixed with each of the interviews were segments showing the party in action. The models, each wearing  an outfit from one of West Meet East's fashion lines.


It then segued into short interviews with some of the guests, with scenes of the party between. A shot of one prominent celebrity from the United States, dancing with another one from Europe.


The video finished with a final interview with Heylyn.


"If you could describe in three words, the kind of experiences you'd want for customers of your designs, what would they be?" Delaine asked.


"Comfort. Confidence. Creativity," Heylyn replied.


The video faded to darkness, displaying a few copyright and trademark messages before ending, rousing a round of applause from the employees.


"And there you have it," Delaine said modestly.


"Great job Delaine. I'm very happy with your work. I'll definitely be sharing your card with others in my industry and I'll recommend you when and where I can. Lynne, could you do a bank transfer for Delaine and the amount on her invoice. Throw in a extra fifty dollars each for her and Maz as well. Everyone else, we've got a ship to run. Let's get back to work," Heylyn stood and shook hands with Maz and Delaine.


Within several months, Delaine's phone began ringing off the hook with request after request for an estimate of her services. She eventually talked Maz into taking a month off of school to handle these extra jobs, citing that he could make it up over the summer break. Maz spoke with his guidance counselor and they managed to come to an agreement where Maz could do classes twice a week for two hours at night and as long as he turned in his assignments on time, he'd be eligible for his exams before the summer.


Between the two of them, and with Jill's help, they managed to take on numerous gigs, while Eclectic Entertainment Online began to grow nearly exponentially. At one point, they were so busy that Jill and Maz both managed to convince Delaine to hire more staff to accomodate the extra work.


Their sudden success had attracted attention for them, both positive and encouraging as well as attention of another kind. Much more predatory and criminal in nature.


Bad Attention


Although far from Heylyn's awareness and long before she'd even been aware of anything of that nature, the world and time progressed exactly as it did when these events occurred. One path leads to another and then another and so on. Eclectic Entertainment Online was attracting a large customer base and as much so, a large audience online.


"I'm thinkin' this is going to be big. Way big. And its just the right size to get in early and do our thing," Lazlo assured his boss.


"Our thing? Yeah, this might be our thing. Looks kind of small to me. Probably won't be too filling if you know what I mean," Grier Torman responded.


"Oh, it will be. Believe me, this will be profitable. Like taking candy from a baby..." Lazlo looked over the site, checking out the views generated by each video.


"Have we got data on their web site?" Torman asked.


"We're currently trying to get that info from an insider. An admin that works for the hosting company who just happens to be friendly to our interests. He's assured us he'll feed us their stats if we fill his pockets," Lazlo assured Torman.


"How many employees?" asked Torman.


"Just two. Maybe three. They're young. One of them's still in school," Lazlo told his boss.


"What kind of ins do they have? Family ties? Any connections to law enforcement?" asked Torman.


"Nope. Not from what I can see. Delaine's father is the manager for a large retail store. Her mother works part time for a vetrinary clinic. The rest of the family have no ties to law enforcement or politics. They're virtually unprotected. Like sheep in an open pen," Lazlo remarked.


"What about the other employee?" Torman asked.


"What? The school boy? His parents sell health food supplies. They're real peace nuts. Tree huggers," Lazlo returned.


"So I take it that means he doesn't have any contacts that might interfere with our taking candy from a baby?" asked Torman.


"Precisely," Lazlo responded.


"Well then. I'd say we have an opportunity here. Lets get word out on the street to keep an eye on those two. Delaine and Maz. Keep an eye on their progress and the audience statistics as well. We've got some candy to take from a baby..." Torman rubbed his hands together.


Hostage Peril


Heylyn tumbled through the air flying faster and faster until her momentum suddenly ceased, as if she'd been thrown at the place she was currently standing.


When she opened her eyes, she was atop of the building on Wolseley Street, the great dragon Weltherwithsp beside her.


"Are you beginning to see? What came before yields what is to be..." the dragon spoke in its thundrous voice though the only person who could hear the beast was Heylyn.


"You showed me Delaine and the start of her business with Maz. I also relived the moments following our greatest success in the early life of West Meet East. Weltherwithsp, I honestly don't know or see how that connects to what is going on down there," Heylyn interrogated the dragon, pointing at the hostage situation unfolding below.


"Time is ticking on two folds butterfly... Then and now... Like two candles burning in the night or a fuse whose fire burns too bright... in this case we have two fuses... one then and one now... which one will reach the blasting powder first?" the dragon posed.


As Heylyn was about to respond, a series of gunshots erupted from inside of the house.


Heylyn quickly panned her view to take in the house, using her special vision to peer inside. The hostage taker was ranting something at the three hostages, though she could make out none of the words much less hear the voice. They then pulled a clip from their belt and reloaded their handgun, leveling it at the hostages.


Outside of the house was a flurry of activity as the Tactical Operations Team moved in towards the entry points.


"Aye Chief, changing targets. Delegating cover of the window to your team. I'm taking aim at the tango through the wall, copy," The sniper on the roof of the house beside the building upon which Heylyn was perched switched his optics and changed his position enough to center on a piece of wall, on the other side of which was his target: the hostage taker.


"Hold your fire. Wait for our signal. We're going to try negotiations again, copy," a voice came back over his headset.


"Recieved that, copy," the sniper responded.


Heylyn watched intensely as the scene unfolded, readying herself for a quick entry if need be.


"You worry so much about events that have already happened from my perspective... Yet the key to their solution lies in your past, something which I can only see through you... so trust me enough to give you that grasp..." Weltherwithsp closed in on Heylyn and she was once again thrust into the perception and cognition of another person at another time, years ago.


Before the Treadwater Island incident and before her reunion with Alicia.


This time Heylyn was seated before a large LCD screen, a keyboard and mouse in front of her. She was working with an editor of some form, most likely for graphics or even markup (about which Heylyn simply knew little).


She observed that she was seated at a desk in a brightly and colourfully lit office space and that there was another cubicle across from hers at which someone else was working.


"I posted the latest images from the Kensington event and Maz is just finishing up the final cut," Delaine approached from behind and Heylyn's chair spun to meet her.


"Great! I'm just working on the Kensington page now. It should be ready in another twenty minutes," Jill's voice answered, revealing to Heylyn whose body she'd occupied.


Delaine leaned in closer to Jill and whispered something.


"How are those two new guys working out?" Delaine asked Jill.


"So far so good. Alan is a bit quicker than the Nesker, but Nesker has some pretty spiffy tech chops if you know what I mean," Jill responded.


"Alright. Keep an eye on them for now and be sure to keep them busy," Delaine finished.


"Don't worry about that. I've got lots for them to do," Jill assured Delaine.


Delaine left Jill to her work, heading to the editing room to help Maz on the final copy of their Kensington gig.


Nesker, a plump fellow of five feet nine inches stood from the chair at his cubicle. He quickly preened his moustache and grabbed his baseball cap from beside the computer keyboard and donned it, mostly to cover his thinning hair.


"Hey Jill, I'm just steppin' out for a quick break..." Nesker told Jill as he stood from his desk.


"Alright. Don't be too long, we've got a lot to do. Do you want to pickup a round of latte's for the crew?" asked Jill.


"Sure. Got some dough re mi?" Nesker responded.


"This should cover it," Jill stood and handed Nesker a twenty dollar bill.


"I'll be right back," Nesker replied as he left their first floor office space.


He walked out of the lowrise building from whom Delaine was renting the office space, out onto Wolseley Street and on towards Bathurst to their favourite cafe. When he was sure that he was out of sight from the office, he pulled his smartphone and made a call.


"Lazlo Pitoli speaking..." a voice answered.


"Laz buddy its Nesker. Look, I'm at their office working right now," he told Lazlo.


"Way to go bro. Have you got access to stuff?" asked Lazlo.


"Have I got access? Bro, their network is completely open. During the morning I was going through their accounting books, their schedule of upcoming jobs. Their contacts. Their content and stock footage library. You name it, I've got access to it all." Nesker assured Lazlo.


"That's my boy. Alright. Don't do anything that will raise their suspicion, but you could copy their accounting files, their schedule and their contacts for me. The more we know, the better. I'm workin' on getting an insider with their bandwidth host. Once we got that, we can coordinate and do some wicked stuff. They'll never see it coming. When their business is ours, you and Alan will be at the top and running the show. Get me that stuff and we'll get ready for the next step," Lazlo told Nesker.


"Got it chief. I'll send it to you by the end of the day," Nesker assured Lazlo.


"Alright. Ciao," Laz hung up.


Nesker then proceeded to the cafe and ordered five Lattes.


Meanwhile, Heylyn found that by concentrating, she could actually leave Jill's body and walk around as any of them in the office could. She stepped out of Jill's body, standing up and looking around the office. 


As Heylyn left her body, she shivered slightly.


"Oooh! Major chills..." Jill said aloud making Heylyn think about what had just happened.


These events she was seeing had happened in the past. Jill had indicated that she'd felt Heylyn leaving her body by her statement about chills. This would mean that Heylyn's being here to witness this was a part of the past, otherwise Heylyn would have been able to alter it. What if she'd left Jill's body, and Jill became so startled that she fell over in her chair and broke her back. That would have direct and lasting consequences upon how the future from that point unfolded. Therefore Heylyn assumed, she must be a part of this past and at this location, even though the Heylyn from this time was at another place, working at West Meet East. When these events initially unfolded, Jill had the same reaction, because the future Heylyn was the one taking part in this past at this location. 


"This is so confusing..." she said aloud.


She made a mental note to be careful when entering and leaving someone's body.


She then walked about the office, going around the cubicle to Alan's station and checking him out. He was a thin stylishly dressed young man with a well trimmed beard and moustache. He seemed to be busy at work, retouching images and prepping them for publishing, something that she'd seen often in her industry.


She then walked through the office, to the editing room where she simply passed through the door, much like a ghost might. There inside and behind a multimonitor workstation were Delaine and Maz, the young woman directing Maz as he used his expertise to finalize their edits in a video timeline.


"That should do it," Delaine announced.


"Alright. Should take about forty minutes to render before we can audition it," Maz said, seeming a little nervous about something.


If they could have seen Heylyn, she'd have been blushing for them for she knew exactly what was on Maz's mind.


"Hey look... uhhh Delaine? Are you doing anything tonight?" Maz asked Delaine.


"Besides organizing our schedule for the next two months, no," Delaine responded.


"Would you like to grab a bite to eat and maybe see a movie or something?" asked Maz, apparently having spent the last hour working up the courage.


"Are you asking your boss on a date?" Delaine asked the clearly nervous man.


"Well errr, maybe not a date. I just thought you'd like to have dinner with me and watch a movie," Maz struggled with her confidence.


"Not a date? Well I guess that would take some of the pressure off, wouldn't it?" asked Delaine who looked at him very intensely.


"We could call it a date... I mean... I'd like that... but no pressure..." Maz assured Delaine.


"But I like pressure though I have to admit that its not half as fun as seeing you squirm..." Delaine flirted.


"So is that a yes...?" Maz asked.


"Yes. It is a yes. I'd like that very much," Delaine agreed.


"Alright, we could leave from here or I could come meet you? Just casual. There's a great pizza place around here... Amato Nuevo I think its called..." Maz asked her.


"That sounds very good. We can leave from here, just promise me one thing?" asked Delaine.


"What's that?" Maz asked her.


"Don't treat me like your boss. Treat me like a friend, or even a girl your interested in," Delaine asked him.


"I'll work on that. It might take some time, but I'll work on it," Maz assured her.


"This is just too cute... and voyeurish..." a tear emerged from Heylyn's left eye as she quickly left the two by themselves.


When she returned to the office cubicles, Nesker had come back with the lattes, which he handed out to each of the employees one at a time, finishing with Delaine and Maz.


He then returned to his desk and Heylyn followed him. Her instincts told her something wasn't quite right about him. He was hiding something important that might be related to the hostage situation in her own time and she watched him carefully.


He sat behind the computer and opened up the web editing interface where he was assisting Jill with the work on the Kensington site. He then looked around to make sure nobody was looking, and then minimized the window and began looking through the network drives and folders, browsing to Delaine's computer.


He then plugged a tiny pen drive into his computer's USB port. From there, he opened several folders on her computer, and began copying them to the pen drive.


"This can't be right..." Heylyn said in disbelief.


She watched as he copied Delaine's accounting folder. Her contacts. Her scheduling as well. He even copied  the personal contacts from her phone, including her family and friends. He then closed the folders and pulled the tiny drive from the computer and put it in his pocket and took a sip of his latte.


"What is he some kind of hacker or something?" asked Heylyn aloud though nobody could hear her.


She decided that at the end of their day, she'd follow Nesker in order to learn what she could about his motives for copying Delaines files.

...


When the end of the day arrived, Heylyn was fairly bored but she'd managed to remain attentive. During that time they'd managed to finish the Kensington job and had even uploaded the video to YouTube for their client, and had created a dedicated page on their site, covering the Kensington show.


"I'm taking off for the day," Nesker told Jill.


"Shouldn't you ask first?" asked Jill.


"Its six already, unless you'd like me to stay longer?" he asked sarcastically.


"No. Be here at eight thirty tomorrow morning. We're going to help prep Maz's equipment for their next shoot," Jill told Nesker.


"Alright...Have a good night..." he told her as he walked for the exit.


Heylyn immediately got up and followed Nesker out the door but found that she could go no further as soon as the door had closed behind her, as if some invisible force field was holding her back. She struggled with all of her might against the invisible barrier, until Jill came running out the door. The barrier immediately disappeared and Heylyn, stumbled rolling onto the ground and back up quickly onto her feet.


"Nesker! You forgot your pen drive! It was sitting on the floor by your desk..." Jill yelled to him.


Nesker checked his pockets. When he couldn't find the pen drive he panicked. Should he accept the pen drive? What if she'd already looked at the contents and was just testing him?


"Pen drive?" he simply replied.


"Yes, its your isn't it?" she asked him.


"Did you see the files on it?" he asked her, his stressed heart thumping a thousand beats per minute.


"No. It was right by your chair beside your desk," Jill told him.


"Ohhh... I remember. Yes, that is mine. I'll take it thank you," Nesker accepted the pen drive.


"Remember, eight thirty. Don't be late," Jill turned around and walked back into the building.


As she left, Heylyn immediately jumped into Nesker's body, plugging into his senses.


He shuddered slightly, as he pocket the pen drive in another pocket.


I must be limited to moving freely within the sensory range of whosever body I last inhabited. Heylyn pondered.


Nesker began walking to the street car stop as he pulled his phone and made a call.


"I've got the files..." Nesker told Lazlo.


"Way to go! Bring 'em to my office. I told the big man about your progress. He's so impressed that he wants to meet you in person..." Lazlo told Nesker.


"Really?!" asked Nesker, astonished at his fortune.


"Yes. Really. You're on your way up the ladder bro. You help us secure this one and you're going to be running that company before long..." Lazlo assured Nesker.


"I'll see you soon," Nesker decided against telling Lazlo how he'd almost lost the pen drive.


"Ciao," Lazlo hung up.


Nesker pocketed his phone and ran for the Eastbound streetcar.


Lazlo? Heylyn thought. Who are these people? What are they up to? She pondered the situation carefully trying to wrap her head around any possibilities. In the end, she decided simply to wait until they arrived at their destination where she'd get to meet Lazlo, and the "Big Guy".


Bitter Reunion


Nesker stepped off the streetcar and found his way to the front gate of a luxury gated community in the downtown core. He was quickly let after identifying himself to the security guard, after which he proceeded along a path of interlocking brick to one of the few detached homes within where he knocked upon the door.


The door opened revealing a large muscular man in a black suit.


"Let him in, Wally. That's Nesker. He's fine," Lazlo's voice could be heard from the background.


Wally stepped back, opening the door for Nesker as he did. After Nesker entered the house, Wally closed the door behind him.


Lazlo was a well groomed fellow, his short hair slicked back to reveal a smooth nearly wrinkle free forehead and a small pony tail at the crown of his head. His eyes were dark, nearly black as midnight in fact, reminding Heylyn (and Nesker) of an attack dog. He sported a fashionable goatee on his well tanned skin, framed beneath a pointy nose. Heylyn guessed the man to be in his early thirties and dressed like he was desperately hanging onto his twenties. Designer blue jeans and a shiny gray silk shirt. His neck and fingers were covered in bling jewelry. Heylyn noted that this was a man who clearly wanted to be seen. He also wanted everyone to know that he had the kind of money that he liked to flex as power.


"Hey Nesker, you met Wally and I'm sure you can guess how he got that name? Come in and make yourself at home," Lazlo walked down the front hall to the kitchen area where he peeked in and spoke.


"Sue? Can you come and make Nesker and I a drink? I'm having my usual martini and Nesker here is having... uhhh what are you having Nesker?" Lazlo addressed his live-in kitchen staff and turned to Nesker.


"I'm having a rum and cola..." Nesker responded.


"Rum and cola? A simple man. Give Nesker a rum and cola. We're headed to the boardroom," Lazlo turned down another hall and continued, passing three doors before opening one from a pair of double doors.


"Hey big man. Look who's here. It's the man of the hour," Lazlo stepped into the boardroom, greeting its one and only resident.


Nesker followed Lazlo through the door. If Heylyn's heart wasn't so strong, it would have stopped upon seeing the man already seated at the head of the table in the boardroom. She immediately recognized him.


It was Grier Torman. A few years younger than he was when she'd initially encountered him, but him nonetheless.


She was flooded with a multitude of emotions and she struggled to contain herself, though in her current state as nothing more than a ghost, she could do little about it.


He wore a black three piece suit of some worth and was otherwise clean shaven. He sported a longer groomed hair style than he'd worn when Heylyn had encountered him, dashes of gray speckling the sides of his head.


"Nesker, I've heard a lot about you. Please, both of you, have a seat," Torman invited them in to Lazlo's boardroom.


Lazlo took a seat on the right side of the table while Nesker initially followed him, perhaps to sit beside him.


"What are you? A puppy dog? Go sit on the other side," Lazlo remarked to Nesker bringing about a chuckle from Torman.


"Don't worry, I've got the dog biscuits right here," Torman added, pushing hard on Nesker who was already nearly at the brink of tears.


Sue, the housekeeper came into the boardroom and walked over to the bar and began making their drinks.


"I'll have a bourbon on the rocks," Torman told Sue.


The room remained eerily silent as Sue made their drinks, with only the sound of the shake and the pour piercing it. She emerged from behind the bar and brought each of them their finished drinks. She then promptly left, closing the the double door behind her.


"Nice girl Sue. She knows how to keep secrets. You should give her a raise, Lazlo," Torman held up his drink.


"Consider it done big man," Lazlo agreed, holding up his drink.


"Nesker, we're the kind of employers that expect loyalty and reward secrecy. Let's face it, this is a dirty world we're in, and we're dirty players in a dirty business. We brought you into our gang for lack of a better term about two years ago..." Torman asked Nesker.


"It was four years ago," Nesker corrected him, picking up his drink and holding it in the air as were they.


"Four years ago. You see, this guy's looking at climbing the ladder. He's already correcting me," Torman smiled but Lazlo's face remained stern and expressionless, making Nesker suddenly frightful.


Heylyn could feel Nesker's heart suddenly pick up pace a thousandfold as if he was anticipating some kind of retribution for his having corrected the big man. Heylyn observed that Torman purposely stated two years, knowing fully well it was four. It was likely a test. If Nesker had agreed, then Torman would immediately have known that Nesker simply didn't like to make trouble with those he was implored to regard as his superiors.


With Nesker having corrected Torman, he'd actually set about a series of circumstances that would allow Torman and Lazlo to manipulate him, for he'd incurred a debt with Torman merely by correcting him and debts in this business were often repaid at a high cost.


"You know, nobody has corrected me for quite some time," Torman continued.


"I'm sorry sir. I didn't know. It won't happen again," Nesker quickly tried to undo his reply, never realizing that he was being played.


"It was a mistake. Right?" Torman turned to Lazlo.


"He disrespected you, boss," Lazlo responded like an attack dog pulling at the leash to get at his prey.


"Really, I'm sorry! I didn't know!" Nesker began to panic and he started to imagine the worst possibilities.


"That's no excuse! I should deal with him big man. Shut him up for good!" Lazlo's face twisted into a vicious snarl.


The room was silent once again as tears began to stream down Nesker's face.


"Leave him alone, Lazlo. The kid's done us some good from what I hear," Torman stepped in to Nesker's defense.


"That's not good enough! He has to pay!" Lazlo remained fierce.


"I said stand down Lazlo. Now!" Torman orded his attack dog.


"Only if you say so big man. You're calling the shots," Lazlo agreed, still holding his drink up.


"Given the fact that you've done something notable that might help us to procure this sudden opportunity of what I like to call a hostile takeover, you get a freebie. I made some mistakes in my early days in the hood. I took a few shots. I gave a few shots. Seeing as what you've procured for us is key to our success, I'm gonna let it slide. Did you hear that Lazlo. I said let it slide," Torman reasoned with the two of them.


"If you say so," Lazlo eased back in his chair.


"Thank you Mr. Torman! Thank you!" Nesker said gratefully, wiping the tears from his face.


"But if that ever happens again. You're going to have to pay the full toll at the bridge. Get the picture?" Torman asked Nesker.


"Yes sir! I do sir! Thank you sir! Thank you!" Nesker was suddenly thrown to the other side of emotion, both invigorated and energized.


"Now let's toast. Here's to our newest prodigy. May he be loyal, observe our strict rules of secrecy and  may he be successful," Torman clanked glasses with the other two.


They all took a drink together.


"Don't wet yourself there, kid," Torman remarked to Nesker, causing both to Lazlo and Nesker to laugh aloud.


Poor kid, Heylyn thought. He's been owned and he doesn't even know it.


"So lets see what you have. Lazlo, where's your screen?" asked Torman.


"Right here," Lazlo grabbed a remote control from the table and clicked a button.


A screen rolled down from the ceiling at one end of the room while a projector emerged from the other end.


"So plug it in kid and give us a presentation," Torman ordered Nesker.


"Right away... Where's the..." Nesker began.


"Built in to the table. There's a USB port and a keyboard and mouse at your place sitting. Just pull it out from under the table," Lazlo told Nesker, the edge on his voice having disappeared.


Nesker quickly found the keyboard and mouse and slid them out on their tray. He then plugged his pen drive into the port and the project came to life.


Nesker used the mouse to navigate through the folder hierarchy to the files he'd procured from Eclectic Entertainment Online.


"Alright. This appears to be their accounting books. They've got one file which is for a popular book keeping software and the other is in a spreadsheet form," Nesker began.


"Go ahead. Open the spreadsheet. I want to see some numbers here," Torman ordered Nesker.


Nesker did as he requested, double clicking on the spreadsheet file. Torman examined the ledger carefully, attempting to calculate the growth rate of their company based upon their accounting books.


"Switch to the accounts receivable," Torman ordered Nesker.


"Yes sir!" Nesker did as Torman instructed.


"Lookin' good. Lookin' real good. Not the kind of thing I'd usually target for the kind of takeovers we do, but good nonetheless," Torman admired the possibilities.


"I was thinkin' once we have control of their property, we can do strict franchising and go global with it. Turn it into a global brand..." Lazlo suggested.


"That's a possibility," Torman agreed.


"So what else have got?" Torman asked.


"We've got Delaine's contact list. Directly from her computer and her phone," Nesker pointed out.


"Any Doctors in there? Is she dealing with health or mental issues we can exploit?" asked Torman.


"No. She's pretty solid and healthy. The other one, Jill, she has a history of mental health issues. Mostly emotional problems growing up. She still sees a Psychatrist from time to time," Lazlo informed Torman from his research.


"So we focus on Jill first. She's the weakest link in the chain," Torman surmised.


"The guy. Maz. We got something on him. His parents actually," Lazlo told Torman.


"What? The hippies?" asked Torman.


"Yeah. They had several run-ins with the law in their twenties. They got busted for growing marijuana in their backyard. Not quite a grow-op, more for their personal use, but still a legal infraction nonetheless," Lazlo shared more of his information.


"Alright. We can use that too. Break this Maz guy down as well. The idea is that we have to have them questioning their own sanity, while destroying their reputation. It should take about a year, maybe two. That way, the more you and Alan become involved in the company, the easier it will be for us to create the impression in court that the two of you were the founding members of the company. Not Delaine, Jill and Maz. That way, we can take ownership of their company after they've built the brand for us. If they get in our way after that, we use our lawyers and our gangs in the hoods to silence them. Either drive them crazy or outright set them up for an early finish. Simple as that. Then Alan and Nesker here will be the new bosses of Eclectic Entertainment Online," Torman laid out their plan.


"I'll get Delaine's contact list out on the internet and the street where they can make us of it. I'll also get the hoods started on their part," Lazlo told Torman.


"That leaves our prodigy here? How are you going to contribute to our plan?" asked Torman of Nesker.


"Uhhhh... I could keep feeding you stuff from their computers?" asked Nesker.


"That's a start Nesker, but I think you should take it a step further. Look for a way to incriminate that Maz guy. I have a feeling the sooner we have him out of the way, the sooner we'll have that company. Laz and I will focus on Jill. We'll rally the troops and they'll push her over the edge," Torman summarized the plan.


"Alright. Finish your drink and get out of here. Leave the pen drive. Oh and Lazlo will give you some cash for your work," Torman addressed Nesker.


Nesker did as he asked and was escorted by Lazlo to the door.


"Here," Lazlo handed Nesker three one hundred dollar bills.


"Now have Wally show you out," Wally greeted Nesker at the double doors of the boardroom and led him to the front door.


When the door had closed and Nesker was gone, Torman and Lazlo had a laugh together.


"Did you see his face? He was terrified! What a wuss," Lazlo slapped his hand on the table.


"Yeah, nice touch there with the anger," Torman smiled as he recalled the look of fear on Nesker's face.


"I was following your lead. That was all rhythm there. A good backhand after your serve to get the sniveling wuss off balance and playing our way," Lazlo became smug.


"Good. I thought we were going to have to make him disappear," Torman nodded.


"We can still make him disappear. Just give the word boss," Lazlo suggested.


"No. We'll keep him. We can still use him for a while. When we procure the company, we'll drop him just like a dirty hat and hire some pros to get it back on its feet," Torman smiled as he finished his bourbon.


As Nesker made his way to the street car, Heylyn was in shock at what she'd seen in Lazlo's boardroom. She was for the first time, seeing Grier Torman's business model in action. A man who made his living crushing the employees of any prospective company he targeted, destroying the company's net worth and then buying the company at a premium. He'd use his army of thugs from the hood, the same hoods in which he grew up. He'd use his corrupt contacts in other institutions and organizations to help him achieve these goals, oblivious to the lives he destroyed in the process. Meanwhile in the background, Torman was merely a subordinate of Alomera Zek. A corrupt global industrialist so amassed of wealth and power, he rivaled the influence over the world of even the most powerful nations. Keeping everyone under his control via puppet strings he procured with his blackmail empire.


Zek was a rationalist when compared to the monster that Torman was. Torman mistook the ability to instill others with fear as being true power. In fact, everyone he'd brought into his circle, he'd manipulated via their sense of fear. The truth was that Torman was terrified of Alomera Zek, despite the fact that Torman was the more dangerous of the two. When Zek ordered someone to be eliminated or made to disappear, it was a rational decision based upon weighed facts and evidence, much like an underground court. With Torman, the power to take a life was one he'd often abused, either directly or the majority of the time, indirectly.


Heylyn was beginning to see a path forming between this situation and the hostage situation of her own time. She was also getting a glimpse of Grier Torman's early psyche, almost six years before she'd meet him to confront him, assisting Alicia in retrieving the SY-349 formula he'd stolen from Tynan And Associates. She considered the danger that he posed in this situation and the fact that it might end up reopening cold cases for law enforcement if missing persons were involved from this particular time.


As she pondered the entirety of the situation, she was once again whisked back to her own time by the dragon Weltherwithsp.


Fame And Infamy


"After your recent behaviour, I never thought I'd be saying this but I'm grateful that you retrieved me before having to spend a night in Nesker's body," Heylyn remarked.


"Ohhhh, how insensitive from one who used to be so pensive. Nesker's plight will come another night, but now you see how we arrived at this junction in time," Weltherwithsp condescended Heylyn.


"Insensitive? Not quite. Being subject to a night of the attitudes of someone with whom I can completely not relate and against whom I have many disagreements. Especially seeing how easily he was corrupted," Heylyn defended her statement.


"Amidst Torman and Lazlo, Nesker was just a puppet of the meat variety, on the strings of the kings of the underworld. They're a pit within which many fall and they tend to trap those who heed their call. Some come seeking bling ascendency instead to be trained to codependency so as not to be independent and escape," Weltherwithsp tried to explain the social class trap of the underworld.


"This isn't a class war or even about rich versus poor or vice versa. There are many people whose income is low that conduct themselves in a just and civil way as there are those who are wealthy. This goes beyond any boundary that we can define to categorize people based upon demographics or rhetoric. There are just some people who are vitriolic to others, who pursue advantage by taking from or crushing others under foot by any (undetectible) means with which they can get away. Delaine and Jill started a business and it somehow found its way into Torman's radar, now he's looking to take it away from her and give everyone the impression that it was his all along. This is something he's done to both women and men. Destroying many lives doing so," Heylyn pushed her point to Weltherwithsp.


"And Nesker is caught in the middle, a captive of his own fear, which he has mistaken for respect of Torman," Weltherwithsp came back.


"But why didn't he just turn tail when he was invited into Torman's circle?" asked Heylyn.


"Why didn't the world leaders and many business giants that Zek played through his puppet strings just defy him? Because they were afraid of what they'd have to face as a consequences for such a choice and society would have been ever so hard on them to the point of their demise. You see, society is actually Alomera Zek's greatest weapon. Without it, his blackmail empire never would have succeeded. When someone commits murder, they're caught, tried and imprisoned and nobody knows or cares. When somebody in power has a mistress or an affair, everybody cares and they'll make it known in a most socially deadly way. However, the murderer will do their time and be released without so much as a word from society. This is how they become the most powerful weapon in Zek's arsenal. Public opinion," Weltherwithsp explained to Heylyn.


"You mean to tell me that Torman will get away with this simply because of how society is?" Heylyn became angered by that possibility.


"No. He will get away with it because by the time he's done with Delaine and Jill, nobody will care about them and they'll believe they stole it from someone else. Some might even think they got what they deserved. His last target was a publishing business started as a sole proprietorship by a somewhat inspired and creative man. Torman's minions stole his publishing business from him simply by making it appear that he was stealing his own works from a young girl's homework assignments that he'd procured by illegal eavesdropping and hacking her computer. He even paid to have criminals spy illegally upon this publisher around the clock, torment him and harass him until all hours of the morning. Day and night. Even some of the man's own family and friends assisted Torman in stealing his business from him. When finally Torman stole the publishing business and all of this man's creative properties, he used the young girl as the justification, claiming that she created everything and that he stole it from her. The public became so enraged by this rumour alone, that the man was even physically attacked several times, before he eventually took his own life," Weltherwithsp explained the corruption behind Torman's schemes.


"Trial by public opinion and based upon lies," Heylyn remarked.


"If you don't like the way things are, then change cannot be that far," Weltherwithsp encouraged her.


"I'll infiltrate them as I have been, from the inside without them even knowing," Heylyn told Weltherwithsp.


"Don't be too sure that they didn't have the same plans to use you in a similar way and a similar method," Weltherwithsp revealed to Heylyn.


"You mean by inhabiting my body? Seeing out through my eyes and hearing through my ears?!" Heylyn became upset.


"It would seem that the reality of the dark grim world gradually reveals itself to an alluring and enchanting butterfly. Who do you think cares when a successful attractive and wealthy woman suddenly experiences a loss of innocence with regard to her beliefs about the nature of the world? Nobody. If anything it will be regarded as your own fault for seeing things so negatively. You'll be told that you create the world you see and it will even become your own fault. Moreso, nothing will get done to change it," Weltherwithsp smiled as if he were somehow happy about that assertion.


"What has gotten into you of late? You're becoming so different from the dragon birthed on that field within my dreams," Heylyn demanded of Weltherwithsp.


"I existed from the end of all things. Born into this universe from the end, to grow and age backwards through time. When I was birthed from the cocoon in your dreams, that was how I chose to appear first to you, and by that time, I'd lived near you and as an influence for your entire life. From your final moments of life, progressively younger thereon into the past. You are upset with me that I'm breaking your delusion about the world you inhabit? So you'd prefer the delusion rather than the truth? You are not ready for the trials ahead and I of all know their outcome already. Do you allow this or do you change it? You know the answer to that question within yourself, as not only the Butterfly Dragon, but especially as Ai Yuanlin Ying. I cannot return you to the past again, for every time I do, it is like a beacon to another of my kind and it will find you. Soon. I depart Butterfly. We will meet again but you will begin to face these challenges alone," Weltherwithsp took flight, winding as a serpent might through the air, guided by enormous butterfly wings.


"So now what? How do I solve this?" Heylyn asked herself.


From the roof of the lowrise building, she turned back to face the house.


"Who is the gunman?" she asked aloud.


Her dragon vision illuminated the interior of the house, as she spied the kidnapper. With one motion, she leapt over the railing of the lowrise building and flew full speed at the roof of the house, centering upon a point between the kidnapper and the three hostages.


As she accelerated, her vision blurred and she was suddenly whisked away from this world and into the body of another.


She looked out through the eyes of another, whose eyes were looking out of a professional HD camera at Delaine.


She was inside of Maz.


The Last Straw


Heylyn examined Delaine closely and noticed that she appeared several years older. Possibly six or even seven at most. That would put them some time after the Treadwater Island fiasco and Alomera Zek's court case.


So they've kept it together this long despite Torman's clandestine effort to break them down and steal their company from under their feet Heylyn thought. Impressive.


Of course, assuming that she was right about her estimate of the current time and date, Torman would be long deceased and his gang infrastructure long since dismantled. However, she'd be getting a look at the situation in ways that nobody else would ever be capable.


She deemed that if Weltherwithsp in his departure gave her one last delve into the motivations for the hostage situation in her time, that there must be a good reason she was here.


The interview Maz was shooting was being conducted at a colourful bar and lounge, with the guest seated on one stool and Delaine seated on the other. In the background Heylyn could hear the driving beats of modern dubstep and drum and bass. In the background of Maz's shot, there were even several people dancing as he kept his focus on the interviewer.


There was a second camera and operator about six feet to his right. That camera remained focused on the guest, while Jill directed an engineer who switched between shots from the two cameras for their final mix, editing on the fly, while still retaining the independent footage from each camera which they might use in post. The audio was cleverly rigged through hi-tech lapel microphone technology that received vocal audio from the back of the neck rather than the front. A processor unit filtered the signal to provide clean and crisp full bodied vocal audio, especially good for narratives or text delivery with the added advantage of remaining hidden from the camera.


Their guests were Eilein amd Philip Decarr, prominent indie film Collaborators, known for their Toronto Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival releases. Essentially they were a couple who wrote and directed their own unique genre of romantic black comedy, thrillers. In fact, Heylyn, Alicia and Monique had even seen one of their recent releases together on a girls night out. Valerie had been working on a corporate analysis project in New York and couldn't make it, but as Alicia had said, she was there in spirit as much as she was in heart.


Jill gave the signal to start the third session of interview questions, she spoke into her wireless headset (with the same hi-tech microphones) to Delaine, Eilein and Philip.


"We're starting session three in six, five, four, three, two, one... mark," Jill sounded off for them and they began.


"How has your marriage contributed or interfered with your work together?" asked Delaine.


Eilein spoke first, as they'd already agreed to such an arrangement before the interview.


"It has actually made things a lot easier in many degrees and considering we're entering into our fifteenth year of marriage, that really says something. We're both intense people who tend to become obsessive about our art. As such, when one is getting in too deep, the other usually pulls us both back into reality. Insofar as interference goes, I'd say we're both pretty familiar with each other and recognize when the other needs a bit of space for their own expression or exploration. So interference would mean getting in the way of each other," Eilein answered and then turned to Philip.


"Exactly as Eilein says. In the beginning, we often struggled with finding that balance between our companionship and our independence to pursue our art on our own. We spent a lot of time doing our own thing apart from one another. I think it was Eilein that had an epiphany, where she demanded that we do something together artistically. A project and that we stick it out with each other, even through the lonely obsessive creative parts until we had something. We did that and when we'd finished, we had our first script and story boards for The Wind Board Falls," Philip finished.


"We've been doing it that way ever since," Eilein added.


At the console just behind the engineer, Jill began to feel dizzy. She observed three or four people in the background, behind the bar/stage, each of whom were randomly lighting LED flashlights at her, as if to confuse her. This was something that had been going on since Torman became interested in their company from seven years earlier. Interested in the sense that he'd wanted to steal it from them. As such, Torman's cronies in the form of gangsters had used malicious means for gas lighting and tormenting Delaine, Jill and Maz. All at different times and using different methods so as to prevent them from sharing information between themselves.


On several occasions over the years, Jill had broken down a number of times, having had severe anxiety attacks or even angry outbursts where she'd rant about people following her everywhere. Tormenting her in secret ways that only she could understand. Each attack had weakened her severely, making her much more vulnerable to future attacks by the onset of resulting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.


Several times, she'd attended cognitive therapy groups and private sessions with a Psychiatrist, which helped her to heal but not overcome future such attacks. She'd tried numerous times to report her experiences to the authorities, most of whom insisted that she seek professional mental help. This often infuriated her even more, being sluffed off simply because her account wasn't believed. Eventually she just gave up reporting the harassment and attempting to cope with it as their business and the pressure grew. 


As the pressure continued to build within her and she'd become addicted to several different brands of painkillers in order to overcome the hidden monster. Since she'd found a gray market source, her purse had no less than seven brands of painkiller containers. When one didn't work to mask the pressure of torment of Torman's soldiers, she'd simply take another, until she found the one that worked. By the next day, that one usually would and she'd begin the whole cycle from that one, moving on to the next. She'd also often experience the shakes, sudden spasms of her chest and arm muscles where she'd have to grasp something as hard as she could to stop them.


Delaine had similar experiences, although hers involved hearing voices, especially those of people who'd walk by or near to her proximity whom she'd claimed would make a short statements targeting an aspect of her personal life or the personal life of someone else similar to her. When she tried to report this to the authorities, they immediately suggested that she get diagnosed for Schizophrenia. She followed the suggestion and after three weeks of tests, she was found to be perfectly mentally healthy, not to mention that she'd been told that she'd had an exceptionally high IQ. 


The Doctors indicated that with such a high intelligence comes the risks of over thinking and analyzing meaningless coincidences.  They called it the Observation Selection Effect, whereby if someone with high awareness of something is given to overthinking it, they'll likely come to conclusions involving conspiracy or other similar delusions, rather than focusing on healthy solutions.


They likened it to the experience of driving, where a driver regards that cars in the neighbouring lanes always progress faster than your own car. The selection effect arises from the fact that the neighbouring lanes actually take up sixty to eighty degrees of your visual field of view, versus your front vision which is typically takes thirty to forty five degrees. Hence, the cars in the neighbouring lanes spend more time visible and in motion than those in your front view, creating the illusion of a conspiracy that your lane is the slowest. Unfortunately, none of the Doctors who gave these diagnoses had any sort of experience or familiarity with criminal racketeering nor the gas lighting techniques used by such forces. Nor was it their vocation to.


Delaine's focus and confidence helped her to overcome the psychological attacks of Torman's soldiers. His hirelings from the hood who'd been coerced into conducting such activity to sabotage Eclectic Entertainment Online. All of this to undervalue it so he could buy it and reconstitute its value, eventually selling the company as a whole for a tremendous profit, often in the millions. 


Some of the other aspects affecting Delaine and Jill were frequent computer and account based attacks, especially upon their identity. With all of the attention Torman and Lazlo had been paying to Eclectic Entertainment Online, several Policing agencies had begun a program of surveillance upon all communications devices in the company. Most people at this point would think that someone like Torman would simply pack up and invest in another criminal opportunity lacking the attention they'd garnered.


Instead, it invigorated Torman and he accepted it as a challenge, having had many years experience with their technics and tactics. For instance, at the beginning of every day, one of his hoods would show up at seven in the morning, delivering a nap sack full of stolen phones, many of which were still active. He'd only use them for communication when making outside calls. When it was deactivated, he'd simply throw it away and grab another. With a fresh pile of stolen phones every morning, he never ran out.


With all of the employee's phones at Eclectic under constant surveillance, you'd think that Delaine, Jill and Maz were somehow afforded some kind of protection by authorities, however they had no idea of who was involved and to what capacity. Therefore, everyone in the company had become a suspect. Of course, as they collected surveillance data, their words, actions and behaviours would clarify their innocence or so one would think. Torman had that aspect figured out too.


He had friendly contacts working in most of the major communications companies and cellular connection providers, many of them at the administrative level. Using these contacts he was able to get them to simulate the phone activity of all of the three main employees in such a way, that any incoming call to one of them would also ring on the phones of their impostors. When the impostors made phone calls, they'd be calling directly from the same account and credentials as the person whose phone they were impostoring. These impostors were heavily involved in other organized criminal rackets, so all of the collected surveillance data was attributed to the activities of the people they were impostoring, including the number list and audio from all of their outgoing calls. Hence, the authorities had become convinced that Delaine, Jill and Maz were in with Torman up to their armpits and possibly even their ears.


The same thing occurred with nearly all of their online accounts as well and even their internet connection too. For instance, the same phone impostor for Delaine would also have access to her facebook, twitter and cheerify accounts and could even post direct messages to people not on her friend list. Most such messages were usually associated with some form of criminal activity which in the end became attributed to Delaine once again.


With their internet connection, another series of computers off site were patched in on the same host network as was Eclectic Entertainment Online, through which many illegal online activities were conducted which once again were attributed to having originated from one of Eclectic's own computers.


There were times that Delaine would walk to the local cafe to pick up a round of coffee for the employees to have a variety of people in neighbourhood give her dirty looks. As if she was involved in something awful, rather than bringing positive attention to the creativity of her city and community.


During some conversations with members of her community, who were friendly to Torman unbeknownst to her, people would attempt to trick Delaine into contradicting her own work, or some aspect thereof. The motive for this was so that her reputation related to her connection to the company would be disregarded, because she simply wasn't consistent with being the person who ran the company. Their logic being that if she contradicted aspects of her own work, then how could it be her work or her company?


To make matters even worse, much of their positive work was made to appear to originate from a completely different location in the same neighbourhood. This required Torman to hire hackers who'd secretly installed trojan VPN backdoors on three of the most productive computers (with Nesker's help of course). As Delaine, Jill or Maz worked on the company projects, a real-time screen recording was sent out through the trojan VPN, where it was played back on other computers in the same community. This would be one of the key aspects used to steal the company from them. Even the surveillance activity was somewhat fooled by these ploys, leaving the innocent in a precariously dangerous game as two predatorial beasts, each on different sides of the law squared of in their battle.


Torman had even joked to Lazlo how he'd made someone completely disappear using these methods, before he'd taken out a hit on the victim and secretly dumped his body where it lay to this day. Some people, Torman had joked, simply vanish and cease to be. I don't know where he is, did you see him? from which point Torman's laughter would fill the room.


Maz, whose life had become an integral part of Delaine's and Eclectic Entertainment, had experienced random equipment failures, the sudden disappearance or theft of company equipment under his care, or in a momentary absence during a gig, he'd find dials and settings drastically altered upon his return.


Initially he suspected a practical joke by his coworkers and as such he confronted both Delaine and Jill about the situation. They'd both denied even touching the equipment, let alone knowing how to alter the settings. Eventually after it happening so many times, they'd hired a security specialist to keep watch on the equipment (the first of whom was actually one of Torman's soldiers). Despite the presence of security, Maz continued to experience the same thing over and over. Delaine eventually agreed to call the security company and to secretly send a different security guard.


As soon as the second security guard started, the equipment problems disappeared entirely, as they'd unknowingly caught Torman off guard and they'd ended up with an honest and virtuous security guard. Maz was so happy with the situation that he even convince the girls to accompany him for a night out where Eclectic Entertainment paid for all expenses for the security guard. They also sent a heart felt letter to the Managing Dispatcher indicating how pleased they were with the current guard they'd had at their site.


Torman who'd become aware of this breach had pulled his strings, even calling for the help of Mr. Zek and having the Dipatcher fired, then hiring one friendly to Torman's interests. That Dispatcher then only sent Torman friendly security guards.


Eventually, Delaine broke the contract with the security company and hired another competing company. The same game of cat and mouse continued as Torman used Mr. Zek's power to fire anyone who stood in the way of their attempts at acquisition of Eclectic Entertainment. Soon, Torman had control of literally every security dispatcher in the city, and with every company.


Maz gave up and systematically came up with his own solutions for dealing with the situation and their ever hidden enemy. He had the company buy steady cam harnesses and required that all camera operators leave their equipment with another operator when making restroom trips. In the event of working a solo job, they were to take the camera to the restroom with them and always have it in view. If that meant going to the restroom still wearing the steady-cam harness, then so be it.


Eventually Maz was able to eliminate equipment sabotage entirely, and Torman's soldiers moved on to other tactics against him.


Then, as if by some decree of fate, their torment stopped entirely. All three of them from the same point in time forward.


It was as if a great weight had been lifted from their shoulders and they'd been freed from the ravages of an unseen beast of malice.


Had they paid more attention to the news, they'd have seen that a task force had arrested more than seventy civil employees across the city in various positions as part of Project Lame Cheetah. An anti-corruption effort headed up by a secret task force under direct supervision of the CSOC/JSOC Special Operations Group, CSIS, the RCMP and the Chiefs Of Police Of Canada. During one week, more than twenty-nine hundred people had been rounded up as part of Grier Torman's and Alomera Zek's network of local corruption, adding to the nearly sixty-two thousand that had been found and arrested globally in an effort coordinated by INTERPOL.


Delaine's, Jill's and Maz's ignorance of the situation probably spared them of the many failures of justice in the face of such adversaries as Torman and Zek. More than twelve hundred of those arrested had their cases thrown out of court with all charges being dropped. The seven hundred remaining went to trial, some of them climbing the ladder of the court system all the way to the Federal Courts. All but fifty six of them were charged, with an average sentence of fifteen years in prison, with possible parole in five years. Enough to make a dent, but not enough to enough to dismantle Torman's or Mr. Zek's network.


Many of the previously arrested were gainfully employed and had simply misused the resources of their place of employment to assist both Torman and Zek in the protection and administration of their secret empire. With all charges dropped, they simply found work in other Torman and Zek friendly companies and even lacking a leader, there was still someone clearly behind the scenes pulling the strings of this secret empire despite Torman's death and Mr. Zek's one hundred and twenty year prison sentence in South America.


Within three months, the participating agencies in Project Lame Cheetah had become the target of numerous lawsuits. As if some overseeing power was coordinating revenge upon their adversaries. Law enforcement suffered a serious public relations problem and many advocates and social activists who'd not fully understood the degree of criminality and violation practiced by both Torman and Zek, had used the situation to leverage their power on the global stage. More so a battle of public opion and a game of social status than having anything to do with the principles over which such a war was waged. As society lost its compass and bearings, even from within prison, Zek's power over the world continued to grow.


After six months of peace and quiet from these clandestine attacks, Jill began experiencing the same brighting attacks to which she'd been subjected half a year earlier. Delaine similarly experienced hearing voices one again and on a regular basis, while Maz's equipment once again was subjected to theft and sabotage in his absence, forcing him to reenact the measures he'd taken only six months earlier. They'd continued through the hardships, each of them oblivious they were rapidly approaching their breaking point. All a part of Torman's initial plan.


As Maz operated the camera, Heylyn left his body, causing him to shudder ever so slightly as she invisibly stepped out into the club atmosphere. She began her investigation, using her specialized senses, originating from both dragon-kind and their more delicate counterpart, butterflies. Her senses operated slightly differently in her aetherial form, though they still responded to physical quanta, even in a temporally distant world.


For instance, by using her heightened sense of smell, she was able to ascertain rather quickly that someone was under a great deal of stress. Whether it was one of the crew or another club patron remained to be seen. She then focused upon any clues indicating where and what time they were.


She ventured around to the other side of the bar towards a lounging room within Maz's direct line of sight. She anticipated that she'd be able to reach the room given its proximity to Maz's sensory range. She walked through a florescently illuminated archway into the lounge, to find it absent of patrons. In one corner, a n LCD television played one of Toronto's twenty four hour news stations. At this particular time, a call in interview news show was playing, with the interviewees being located in London, England. Heylyn suddenly became interested in the show, realizing that the guests were Alicia Westin and Monique Defleur.


"Oh no. They left for London three days ago for an interview on the ninth. What's the date today?" Heylyn asked herself.


She spied the corner of the screen of the LCD television, suddenly realizing that it was the ninth, today's date. The date of the hostage taking crisis.


Heylyn's senses ignited and she spied the entire night club from her current vantage point. Front. Behind. Her full three sixty vision. Through walls and obstructions. She saw everything.


"I've got to find the assailant," she spoke aloud without audience.


She focused her senses on two of the club patrons, both of which were armed with concealed firearms. She immediately flew for their part of the club only to hit the barrier imposed by her distance from her last host. Maz.


She made the ethical decision that she'd body jump everyone needed to get to her targets, and that she did. She started with a younger looking man who'd anchored himself to the end of the bar, perhaps in social fear of the opposite sex.


From his body, she flew to her second one on her path to her target. A twenty-nine year old secretary who'd been a regular at the club since her early twenties. She leapt from there to her third and final body before her target, an aggressive dancer who'd cleared their own space on the dance floor. With only twelve meters to go, she leapt full force out of that body into a flying kick at her target. She braced for the impact, readying herself for a move she called the cue ball. Where she'd impact with enough force to send her opponent flying, while all of her momentum had been transferred, leaving her perfectly still at the point of impact. Ready and on guard.


As she approached, flying through the air, her foot passed through his body like that of a ghost, for she was not physical nor corporeal. She'd completely forgotten that she could not participate in this time for she wasn't really there. She was only an observer.


From the other end of the bar, she suddenly heard the sound of shots fired. Six in all.


She quickly got up and flew for the location, quickly hitting the limit of her flight proximity as her last host was quickly running for the front door. Realizing that her range was being restrained, she jumped to another body, once again running for the front door of the club.


Out of the corner of her eye, she spied the gunman she'd originally tried to take down running directly for the location of the gunfire. In a desperate attempt, she body jumped from her currently location to the man with the gun and remained in his body, as a spectator for what was about to unfold.


The man, in his early thirties and very fit was running full tilt for the source of the gunfire. Heylyn assumed him to be law enforcement, undercover or possibly security for the bar. She figured that he'd be her best bet to return to the location of the gunfire. 


The music had suddenly stopped and screams and cries could be heard from everywhere. Heylyn looked around for casualties but could see none, even with her immense senses. Her host continued running hard, diving into a roll to take cover behind the bar from which the interview was conducted. He landed upright on his feet, leveling his gun at the assailant.


"They're too bright! They are! All of them! They're in my mind! I tried but they won't stop! I'll stop them! Please stop them! She's a love thief. She took my love. He was supposed to be mine. I had him you know. Even after they were wed. She doesn't know but he's still mine. Maybe he doesn't know. Mine. Bright. Stop it! Arrrrrgh!" Jill held a handgun she'd pulled from beneath the numerous painkiller containers in her purse.


"Look lady! You're under my boss's special protection. For now. Until you hold that piece in my direction. Don't make me take you down," the man Heylyn had inhabited only moments earlier spoke with brash confidence, having fired and killed several times before.


"Are you light?!" she asked him as she aimed in his direction.


"No honey, I'm dark all the way," he said as he fired.


Two blasts illuminated the bar simultaneously.


Jill spun, twisting and falling onto her front, still mumbling something about bright lights, while the dark man's head flew back with the impact of Jill's shot to his forehead. He was dead before he hit the floor.


Heylyn suddenly felt her lifeforce slipping from her, the world around her disappearing as her very existence was sapped from her by her previous host's sudden death. As her demise became inevitable, she made one last attempt to leap to another body, finding herself in Delaine once again.


Delaine lay on the floor, a grazing injury upon her left arm. She held onto her arm in pain and cried aloud. Heylyn could feel Delaine's pain. It was sharp. Stinging. Unyielding. Like a hot knife had pierced her soul.


In all of her encounters, no firearm had ever pierced her in a way which caused her permanent damage. She'd never felt the pain of broken skin as Delaine's injury until now. She shared the experience with Delaine and perhaps even bore most of it for her until Heylyn's vision became a glaze of fog.


She saw through Delaine's eyes as she got to her feet. As she ran for her best friend, who was still lying face down mumbling about bright lights and a love thief. 


Heylyn realized that Delaine wasn't interested in saving her friend, or even her husband, Maz. She was interested in the gun.


As Delaine reached for the gun, Jill became aware of the death precariously close to achieving its purpose. She reached out and struggled with Delaine despite her two broken ribs. Delaine held onto the gun, in a finger fight with Jill to get their fingers into the trigger guard. There was a sudden eruption of fire from the end of the barrel which blew bits of a wooden chair into projectiles, some of which impacted Delaine's face. She released the gun in pain, clawing at the giant slivers as Jill got to her feet.


"Why did you sleep with her?!!!" Delaine looked at Maz, cowering under a table.


"Honey! I swear! It was like... someone drugged me... I swear...!!! It was a long time ago!" Maz panicked.


"Don't steal my love... he's mine. My Mazterpiece," Jill kept her gun on Delaine as she reloaded.


Heylyn looked towards the bar to see that Philip had taken one round to his right thigh and one to his right shoulder. Eilein dragged Philip's body behind the bar, pushing the dark man's body out of the way to protect her husband.


"Get on your feet, meat, or that's where I'll shoot next," Jill demanded of Maz.


He was on his feet quickly and following her direction.


"C'mon, lets go Jill. I don't need that hussie Delaine anymore. I only need you," Maz pleaded with Jill.


She looked into his eyes as if she were mesmerized by the offer. She then became furious firing a round at near his groin, hitting his left inner thigh. Maz screamed in pain.


"We're all going to my home to sleep. Forever. You too Eilein," Jill chambered a round and encouraged Delaine, Eileen and Maz to follow her instructions.


"I'm not leaving you! I'm not leaving you!" Eilein cried to Philip.


"Go! Go! Live! We'll be together again..." Philip said as he passed out from blood loss.


The three of them ran out of the front door of the club, onto Queen Street West and towards Bathurst Street and up to Wolseley Street where Jill had purchased her first home.


As they approached the front door, they heard the Police arrive at the club only around the corner from them.


Jill threw them the keys and ordered them to open the door. The followed her instructions and entered her home.


"It's home. We're going up. Like the friendly giant. Look up. Wayyyyy up. Up the stairs we go. Come on. They can't see us up there. There's only one window," Jill demanded.


"You don't have to do this!" Maz pleaded with Jill as Delaine held him up.


Delaine had realized in the bar that Maz really truly loved her. He'd done everything he could to lead Jill away from her and at every moment, had tried to keep Jill's attention. He'd made a mistake early in their marriage which he'd been unable to discuss with her given their pressure. She'd experienced many situations where when she'd reported them, she'd been regarded as a lunatic. Perhaps Maz's explanation wasn't so far flung as it sounded. Perhaps this was something to which each of them were being subjected. All in different ways.


They reached the top of the stairs and Jill forced them into the front room. A barren room of hardwood floors and a single sofa, tucked in the west corner of the room.


"Sit or die. Stay or lay dead," Jill snickered with her own wit as she pulled a pill bottle from her purse and devoured six pills at once.


"Look. Jill, we know that you've been going through some rough times. We all have. Believe me. There are some mean people in this world that intend harm on us by any means. Even by the means of causing us to harm ourselves or each other. Drop the gun. Let's have some fun. Like the old days?" Delaine begged her best friend.


"Are you bright? They lie you know," Jill laughed.


"No. We're just us. We aren't bright. We're not dark. We just are. Like you. Remember that night at...?" Delaine tried desperately to distract her best friend as Heylyn watched, unable to do a thing to help them.


The sirens sounded as the Police cars pulled up on either end of Wolseley Street, cordoning off the street and setting up a perimeter.


"Are they friends or foes?" asked Jill.


"They're friends. They're like you. They're not sure, so they have to be safe and protect themselves," Delaine once again tried to pluck an emotional string with Jill.


"Then why are they bright?" Jill asked.


"No, no honey. They're not bright. They're themselves. They protect us from bright," Delaine responded quickly recognizing that Jill had somehow become sensitized to light.


Heylyn looked out the one window in the room they occupied, spying with her senses as the Tactical operations team quickly surrounded the house in silence. She also observed several sniper positions being setup in various locations across the street.


Suddenly, Delaine's phone began to ring.


She froze in shock, worried that Jill might lose her grasp on reality, especially if she pulled the phone from her sash pocket. She'd set it to six rings before it would go to the answering service, but she knew that while it was ringing, the phone would light up with a bright white screen.


"I can't answer it," she told Jill.


"Why?" Jill asked.


"My phone is bright," she replied.


"You need to destroy your phone. It's gone. Rabid. Like Old yeller," Jill responded.


Delaine's phone stopped ringing as if on cue.


Then, Jill's phone began to ring from inside of her purse.


As she looked to her purse, Maz suddenly leapt at her, trying to get her gun.


She fired it several times just barely missing his head, clipping his left shoulder. He fell unconscious from the injury as his body reached his limit of shock.


Heylyn looked to the top of the low rise building across the street, seeing herself and the dragon Weltherwithsp standing atop of it, in the heat of a debate.


"This is getting out of hand Weltherwithsp!" she screamed at the dragon, who paid her no attention.


Delaine grabbed Maz's lifeless body and pulled him up onto the sofa, attempting to stop his bleeding.


Eileen's phone began to ring and almost immediately, Jill fired another salvo in reaction at her.


She withdrew into the sofa as much as she could, turning to her side to make her profile as small as possible. One of the rounds clipped her scalp, leaving a burned etched line across the top of her head, her strands of hair flying like feathers into the air. Another pierced her right palm, punching a clean hole through as she screamed in pain.


"This is it, time to go. Say goodbye to all the bright and light! Say goodbye to all the life..." Jill cried as she reloaded the gun one last time and aimed at Delaine's head.


Heylyn leapt to intercept the bullet, only to find herself suddenly in her own physical body and speeding downwards towards the roof of the house. She crashed through it, joists and all, splinters flying everywhere. She landed on the floor just as the first round reached her position.


Heylyn's skin immediately became as hard as diamond with the emergence of her dragon skin. The first round shattered, as Heylyn caught the reflected material with her right hand before it hit or even hurt anyone. Her left hand caught the next round flat in her palm, like a baseball mitt as her wings spread to cover the hostages and room behind her.


The third round never left the gun as by that time Heylyn had pulled it from Jill's hand and broken it into several pieces. As fast as her dragon skin had appeared, it was gone. She quickly used Jill's purse strap to make a binding for Jill's hands. She then pushed Jill onto the floor carefully. As the Tactical team burst into the room through the door, their 9mm SMGs leveled and ready for fire, Heylyn leapt up and out of the hole she'd punctured in the roof, flying at high speed into the night.


Butterfly, Butterfly.

In the night, in the sky.

Spread your wings, to see you fly,

Butterfly, Butterfly.


Weltherwithsp's voice echoed through Heylyn's head as she sped upwards, finally arching back down to her  penthouse condominium on Lakeshore East. She landed on the balcony and entered her home without turning on the lights.


Meanwhile, back on Wolseley Street the situation wound down as the house was searched.


"Command, this is bravo team. All tangos down. The house is secured. We've got four injured, one with life threatening injuries. The assailant appears to be incapacitated but healthy, with minor injuries. My team medics are treating the injured. Uh, by the way, did you order a roof based incursion, spec ops style?, copy" asked the bravo team leader.


"Bravo team, this is Command. That's a negative on the roof based incursion, copy" a response came back.


"Well you're not going to believe this but we have one heck of a hole in the roof, broken supports and six by two joists snapped like twigs. Now I don't know who or what could have done that, unless we're equipping  our snipers with M72A2 Light Anti-tank weapons, copy?" the bravo team leader inquired.


"That's also a negative on any team units using disposable light anti-tank weapons, copy" Command quickly responded.


"Then I'd say we had one heck of a big hailstorm here, over" bravo team leader concluded.


Epilogue


Delaine sat in a chair in the hospital room. Maz lay in bed as she desperately clung to his hand.


"I've been here all day and night honey. All fifty hours since I was released. I slept right here because I'm not leaving here without you. Understand? The Doctor says that one of the bullets impacted your shoulder and travelled down through your left lung, through your stomach and liver before stopping just shy of your large intestine. He says its a miracle that you're even still alive. Now if that isn't a sign that you're supposed to be here until the end, I don't know what is. The truth is that I can't make it without you. I know in the heat of the moment I said some cruel things to you when I found out about you and Jill, but all of that is water under the bridge. Jill is doing fine by the way. She's still in bed like you, but she's coherent. She even says hi to you. She even tried to say sorry in her own way. I think she's much better and honestly, I think you are too. So why don't you wake up so we can all leave together and get back to work?" Delaine spoke to Maz, her husband, ever so delicately, as if the very sound of her voice might unsettle the fragile and precariously stacked house of cards upon which his mortality was perched.


When Maz didn't respond in any way shape or form to her oration, she tried another approach as tears pooled across the bottom of her eye lids.


"Uhhhhh... You know honey... I was thinking... Maybe we should pack it up... I mean doing the entertainment scene lifestyle interviews and reviews... I know you're a film-maker at heart... I'm so proud of you that you received an honours degree in the art of film making... Maybe we should try our own thing... like Eilein and Philip? Eilein says she'd help us get into the industry... Maybe we could write our own story... about... everything... anything? Would you like that?" Delaine asked as one of the machines to which Maz was connected suddenly began buzzing.


A single monotone, like the lifeless melody of the grim reaper.


Delaine got up and ran for the ward desk as two Doctors and three Nurses ran past her into Maz's room.


"Uhhhh... I think my husband might be dying... Can you please help him?" Delaine begged the Nurse at the Ward desk.


"There's five very qualified people trying to save him now. Just stay out of their way and stay calm. Would you like a relaxant?" asked the Nurse.


Delaine's eyes glazed as she fell into shock, collapsing to the floor. She suddenly awoke with a start. She got up and ran for Maz's room, where she watched the Doctors and Nurses attempt cardio-pulminary resuscitation on her husband. She cried as they attempted to massage his already dead heart back to life.


...


Delaine stood beside Jill as those attending Maz's funeral dispersed from around them. Everyone slowly cleared, some offering Delaine condolences as they left the cemetery grounds. Delaine remained focused on his casket, as if by some miracle he'd lift the lid of the sarcophagus, still in his favourite baseball cap and ask Delaine what she wanted for dinner.


"Why did this happen to us?" Delaine asked Maz, who remained stiff, dead and cold within the coffin.


Jill began to cry again.


From behind them both, a silent visitor moved forwards toward them.


Jill turned suddenly to see Heylyn.


"Sorry, I didn't see you. Were you a friend?" asked Jill.


"Yes. A close friend. Yet only ever a friend. Nothing less," Heylyn replied as honestly as she could.


Delaine turned and looked at Heylyn for a moment without saying anything and then returned her attention to her deceased husband's casket.


"There are cruel people in this world. They do cruel things. Sometimes unfathomable things to other people," Heylyn spoke.


"My Doctor says that everything I need to regard the world and deal with it is within me. If I see cruel people in the world, that's what I'll get. If I see nice, happy people. Then that's what I'll get. I think I'll see happy people so that the world is that way," Jill responded to Heylyn's statement.


"Your Doctor is right. If you believe in cruelty and mean people, then that is what you'll get. You'll see them for what they are. They'll become visible to you. If on the other hand, you believe in kind and happy people, that's also what you'll get in life. You'll have eyes for them. The problem is that when you believe in one, the other doesn't simply disappear. They just become invisible to you until they decide to help you or hurt you. They aren't gone. They're there all the time, whether you like it or not," Heylyn explained to Delaine and Jill.


"What are you doing here, because you aren't here for Maz?" asked Delaine.


"I'm here for Maz, Jill and you Delaine," Heylyn spoke confidently.


"Why?" asked Delaine skeptically.


"Because I know personally what each of you went through before Maz died. Even Maz. I know all three of you in ways that nobody ever could. I've seen through your eyes. I've heard through your ears. I know what it was to be you, even during the worst of your times. The worst of when everything was taken from you. I simply know," Heylyn explained to them as best she could.


"How could you ever know our pain..." Delaine began to cry.


"I understand it, but I don't know it. I only know how they tried to get to each one of you," Heylyn told them.


"Explain," Delaine told Heylyn.


"I know that you heard voices Delaine. You did hear them. For real and nobody can take that away from you," Heylyn told Delaine.


"Do you know my pain?" asked Jill.


"Yes. Very much so. You were brighted, by cruel people using LED lights and randomness as a weapon to cause you mental grief and anguish. They were trying to make you question your own sanity and to take it away from you," Heylyn explained to Jill.


Jill's face went blank as she recalled her experiences. She took three deep breaths, mumbling words about being in her safe place before she calmed.


"What about Maz? Did he experience pain?" Delaine asked her.


"Yes. They tried to get to Maz too. They played with his camera equipment. They'd alter it or steal it any time Maz left in unguarded. He did everything he could to protect you two from that situation, though none of you knew about what each of you were experiencing. If you tried to explain it to others, you'd likely been written off and insane. Now you know that each of you were played and how," Heylyn told them.


"But why?! Why were we played?" Delaine asked with a resilent spark in her soul.


"Your company. The vision you took and turned into reality. They wanted to sabotage it until it was a lower market price, then buy it or outright steal it from you. With ownership of your company, they'd build it back up to ten times its value or more, then sell it. For many millions of dollars," Heylyn told them, knowing Torman's scheme a little too well.


"How?" asked Delaine again.


"Where do I begin? Illegal surveillance on you. Corrupted employees. Corrupt contacts. Any way they could," Heylyn told them.


"If that's all true, then why are you really here," asked Delaine.


"Because I want to give you another chance to live your dreams and because you can help me to catch the people who did this to you. If Maz was alive, then we'd probably be having this conversation the three of us over lattes at a local cafe. Maybe even lunch. Nothing would be different about the conversation except the number of us," Heylyn explained.


"You? Stop them? I'd like to see that. You're like what, thirty? forty?" asked Delaine.


"Thirty one," Heylyn told them.


"And you're going to stop an army of killer crooks?" asked Delaine.


"Yes," Heylyn spoke without even showing the slightest sense of fear or disillusionment.


Delaine and Jill remained silent for a moment before laughing simultaneously. They suddenly fell silent and looked at Maz's coffin. Then they began to cry when they realized that they were laughing at the only person that would have taken up their side and defense. The only person with whose help Maz may still be alive.


Heylyn remained silent until they calmed.


"Lets just start with the fact that I have financial influence enough that might help you two to rebuild Eclectic Entertainment Online if you so wish. If I do invest in such a thing, I expect you to be professional, disciplined and most of all, if anyone treats you in a way that violates you or your principles, I want you to let me know and I'll deal with it. Legally. If that fails, then I'll deal with it my way. Especially if you're treated any way similar to the means that put the four of us here together and now, in this way," Heylyn insisted.


"I remember you. You're Heylyn Yates. The fashion designer. You're one of the first big interview shoots I had," Delaine revealed to Heylyn.


"One and the same. Call me when you make a decision. Oh and by the way, that's a nice butterfly you have on your left shoulder. I've always admired butterflies, and I'm pretty sure that I can see two right now," Heylyn looked at the two of them one last time.


Heylyn turned and began walking along the grass back to the ashphalt pathway.


Delaine and Jill turned back to Maz's coffin, amazed to see two little butterflies hovering over the flowers atop his casket. They smiled and looked back to Heylyn. By that time, she was gone.


...


Four years previous to Maz's funeral, Nesker had made one last trip to Torman's home. Torman had summoned him, claiming it was of great importance that he show and that he'd be rewarded greatly for doing so. At first, Nesker suspected something was afoot. After all, if something was too good to be true, it usually was.


He'd heard many myths about how such organizations as Torman's operated. About the hits and murders, the disposing of bodies. He considered that he may be in line for such a fate, eventually ruling that out based upon the fact that he'd numerous times helped Torman to gain control over the company network.


Nesker had no skills in programming. He couldn't use a word processor or spreadsheet. One thing Nesker could do beyond any measure of skill was hack, as in criminal hacking and for criminal profit and gain. He knew the backdoors of most every operating system and in their absence, could create them any number of different ways. Amongst the criminal underworld, Nesker was a valued commodity. Having come to understand that, he knew he'd gained trust from many involved in the underworld and their protection. However, he was far too much of a kiss ass to jeopardize it by doing anything that would put him at odds with those who employed him.


He once again was greeted at the front gate, this time by a different body guard, who walked him to Torman's house. When they arrived, he led Nesker into the house and led him to the meeting room where Torman was already seated and waiting.


"Eh Nesker... Glad you could make it. Good to see you again. How are you liking working for Eclectic Entertainment?" asked Torman, now behind a pair of dark sunglasses.


"Its great Mr. Torman. Really loving it. I was actually going to ask you if you could help me with something," asked Nesker.


"Nesker, first I want to introduce you to the sunshine of my life. Nesker, meet Valerie Aspen. Business woman extraordinaire," Torman gestured towards the door and Valerie walked into the room as if on cue.


"Valerie honey, thank you so much for the theatrics," Torman smiled at his girlfriend.


"Don't mention it. Now I thought we were going to have dinner together and then go see a play," asked Valerie.


"Honey, I'm sorry. Something serious has come up. You know business. Unpredictable. I promise you that next time we make these plans, we'll go," Torman assured Valerie who came over and sat on his lap.


"Why do I believe you? Every time you've said the same thing, you've renagged on our deal. You are a low quality business man," Valerie pecked his forehead.


"Honey, this is the guy I was telling you about. Nesker. He's a real pro hacker and he's helping us immensely with our latest acquisition. He just needs a bit of a social life," Torman explained to Valerie.


"You mean a woman," Valerie confirmed with both Torman and Nesker, who smiled grimly.


"About that, I was going to ask you if..." Nesker began.


"Honey, could you leave us for a bit. I'm just going to finish this meeting up and we'll do something together later," Torman promised Valerie.


"Alright. I'll be working on my spreadsheet if you need me. Nice to meet you Nesker. I hope you meet someone," Valerie spoke honestly as she left.


"Thank you Miss Valerie," Nesker examined Valerie from head to toe, taking in her every detail.


"Nesker, I'm going to ask you a favour. The biggest favour I've ever asked of anyone," Torman assured Nesker.


"Why me? What about Lazlo?" asked Nesker.


"Lazlo is a complicated situation. Lets just say he got a little too mouthy with someone recently and he pissed off Alomera Zek. So Mr. Zek as you know him, decided to turn Lazlo into an ornament for one of his harbours on Treadwater Island. Kind of like a tourist attraction without the tourists," Torman explained.


Nesker bit his tongue as he envisioned Lazlo, bloated and floating, restrained by a cement bound chain to the bottom of the harbour.


"So the favour I need from you is this. You see, I recently, actually today, came across this formula. Its a special formula that does special things to the body," Torman told Nesker.


"Like vitamins?" asked Nesker.


"Exactly! Just like vitamins, but really, really, really, really powerful vitamins," Torman told Nesker.


"Oh... Like drugs. And...?" asked Nesker.


"Kind of, but not exactly. You don't take this formula and get high from it. So its not that kind of drug. Its more like the kind your Doctor gives you. So I've taken these vitamins and let me say, they've really made me potent in ways that most people would never understand. Except you of course," Torman laid it on thick.


"Me? So how can I help?" asked Nesker once again.


"I need you to be a host. Like a party host. You know, where you have guests, except you're only going to have one guest. A doosie because that guest is me!" Torman admitted.


"You mean like in my home?" asked Nesker.


"No. Not at all," Torman admitted honestly.


"Well I have a favour to ask you and if you grant my favour, I'll grant yours, though I'd probably grant yours anyway..." Nesker admitted out of his fear of Torman.


"Go head. What is it," Torman asked.


"You see, I've been working for years in that office of Eclectic Entertainment Online and..." Nesker looked down.


"And...?" asked Torman.


"And, I'd really like to have Jill as my own girlfriend," asked Nesker.


"Nesker, if you do me this favour, you can have anyone you want," Torman told Nesker.


"I'm in," Nesker agreed.


"No, Nesker. I'm in. You," Torman laughed.

...


Delaine dropped Jill off at home from Maz's funeral as Nesker watched from a nearby corner. He waited until Delaine left before he made his move.


"If I'd have known the hacking skills this kid had, I'd have had him working on hacking crypto coin wallet accounts," Torman said from inside of Nesker.


"The biggest misuse of my resources ever," he remarked from inside of Nesker as he approached Jill's single bedroom bungalo.


He climbed the steps to the front door and the house and knocked on the door. When no answer came, he found a door bell and rang it several times.


Inside, Jill came running down from upstairs, still in her funeral garb and answered the door. She stood in shock when she saw Nesker. There was something very different about him, but she couldn't put her finger on it. Without thinking about it, she opened the door and let him into her house.


"Can we talk in the kitchen?" asked Torman of Jill.


"We'll talk in the kitchen," Jill said, leading Nesker into her kitchen area.


"Look Jill, I know we never were really friends, but I need something from you. Something you hold very dear to yourself," Torman asked her.


"Take it, its yours," Jill responded to Torman's request from inside of Nesker's body.


Torman did just that as he copied his own consciousness into Jill's body. He then pulled a hand gun from Nesker's pocket and put it to Nesker's head.


"I just love immortality," Torman said as he pulled the trigger.


"Now, I think I'll call the Police, and after they collect the body, I'll have a nice hot bath," Torman quipped from inside of Jill's body.


"Hello? My friend just killed himself in front of me..." Torman as Jill spoke to the operator, feigning anxiety and tears.


After Jill had dealt with the nine-one-one call, she pulled her smart phone from her purse, looking up her business contacts and retrieving Heylyn Yates' name and number.


"There's still so much left to do and so little time. I've got four ladies to whom I must pay a visit, and of course there's the matter of Alomera Zek," Torman/Jill returned the phone to her purse.


...


Aboard a ship named the Queen Of The Crest, a man sat in his cabin reading from a tablet screen as he looked up names social media, occasionally adding one of them to his ever growing contact list.


There was a knock on his cabin door.


"Mr. Steadman?" a voice came from the other side.


"Enter," George Steadman permitted entry to his cabin. 


"We're approaching Boston harbour now, sir. We should be in port within the next hour," the first mate notified Steadman.


"I'm guessing that we're about a hundred and fifty years too late for the tea party are we?" Steadman joked, drawing  a smile and a chuckle from the first mate.


"That sounds about right, sir. But I hear they have great fish and chips," the first mate responded.


"A man can't do work, much less do business on an empty stomach, and there's still so much left to do. That will be all," Mr. Steadman ordered the first mate.


"Yes sir," he closed the door and left.


"Then there's the matter of those four women, not to mention that double crossing Alomera Zek. So much to do and so little time," Mr. Steadman smirked as he pondered his revenge.


...


Several thousand kilometres away in Argentina, a fifty kilometres south of Peru, from within a large prison facility Alomera Zek sat behind a desk in his luxury cell, for he had two cells. One of them on the books, and the other off the books.


The one on the books was small, cramped and devoid of all amenities except a clogged toilet and a single bed.  His other cell was off the books and secretly hidden within the prison. It was actually comprised of an addition that had been built in the ninteen seventies, which had been abandoned shortly before opening as a result of the local revolutionary conflict. The officials had kept it off limits, despite having maintained it over the years, having paid tradesmen to keep it in top shape.


When their most high profile client, the one and only Mr. Alomera Zek arrived, they immediately began preparing it for his personal residence, secretly bringing in luxury furnishings and even installing a marble bath and spa. They'd built several rooms to house his many personal servants, including one for his personal masseuse and bar tender.


It was this cell in which he spent most of his time, only ever staying in the other during an inspection. When  Mr. Zek was asked by one of the prison officials as to why he didn't simply buy off the inspectors, he simply responded: If everything and everyone is made to bend to the whims of such a power as ours, that power eventually loses its very meaning. We depend upon the functioning of the other side, as much as they depend upon us as adversaries. Without that boundary, we lose our direction. When the inspectors come, I sleep in a cramped and moldy bed for a night and it reminds me of how vital that distinction is. When they come, they have no idea that when they look into my cell, that they're looking the devil in the eyes and I'd much rather be the devil they know, but not in the flesh when compared to the one they don't know.


"Good Morning Mr. Zek, your morning paper," a voice came over his personal intercom system.


Mr. Zek clicked an app on his tablet that unlocked the inner door to his cell. One of his body guards immediately walked over to the door and intercepted the paper boy, who was in fact another prison doing his work duty. The prisoner handed the newspaper to the body guard, who then handed the prisoner a pack of cigarettes and then directed him back out the door.


"Sir," the body guard handed the newspaper to Mr. Zek who accepted it gracefully.


"Thank you Tony. That will be all," Mr. Zek opened the paper and began reading from the global news section.


His vision immediately found a story centered in the city of Toronto in Canada, involving another sighting of the mysterious giant Butterfly, which had been involved in dismantling a hostage situation according to their local Police.


"It would seem that some old friends are still very active in the world," Mr. Zek pulled a specially crafted mechanical watch from his pocket.


A gift given to him by a friend from Hong Kong many years ago. A friend whom like him, was the overseer of an Eastern empire of the underworld. A role he'd been born into from a long line of family who'd taken up this mantle. 


The gift, the watch Mr. Zek had been given, had an hour hand. A minutes hand and even a seconds hand, all elaborated decorated and crafted from jade and gold. In addition to these common artifacts of any time piece, there upon the face of the watch were two serpents etched in ruby, jade and gold. Each ascending from either side of the circular face towards noon, the point at which they'd converge.


"The true power is neither gods or devils, nor the demon or the angel, for they are each merely the pawns of a much bigger higher power. The real true power in this existence is the one who wields them, gods, devils, demons and angels, each in either hand," Mr. Zek closed both of his hands, keeping the power within them contained and ready for war.


"So much left to do and so little time," he commented aloud to himself, looking at the watch and the advance of the two serpents before pocketing the time piece.


...


In an ancient and secretive temple in Guangzhou, China, a lady sat on the floor, her legs interfolded as she sat atop the hardwood floor. She held her left hand firmly against her lower abdomen, palm facing inward as it harnessed and cycled her Yin energy. On her back, directly across from her left hand, she held her right hand palm down. It too harnessed energy of the Yang form. As she meditated she focused this energy in much the same way a capacitor might accumulate electrical potential. 


Storing it for later application. Storing it for something that was a part of the great fold. As much so as the weather. As the passing of time. Even death.


There was something nearing the world from afar. 


Something natural and without form.


More temporal than substance.


She sat amidst the silence of the temple, her last and only student long gone. 


Out into the garden of the world like a butterfly.


Yet butterflies are delicate. Fragile.


So this butterfly was given a weapon with which to protect.


Others. 


Itself. 


More importantly so, innocence.


For her student was the last Butterfly


The Butterfly Dragon.


And yet, the timeless threat was upon them.


For it walked into the temple of life itself.


It declared its presence known for the time had arrived.


"Jinn Hua," a female voice spoke from behind the woman in meditation.


"I've been anticipating you're arrival," Jinn Hua responded.


"And yet you did not flee," the woman retaliated.


"How can one run from their own breath?" Jinn Hua retorted.


"Simply by ceasing to do so," the woman replied.


"Words of breath are not the real breath," Jinn Hua rose and turned to face the woman.


She took in her adversary visually, observing with the wisdom and expertise of a master. 


The woman was the embodiment perfection. 


Perfection of physique. 


Perfection of philosophy.


Perfection of phenomena.


Her body was covered from neck to foot in tattoos.


Symbols. 


Sigils. 


Talismans each one.


"Clever. But I believe the true saying is: the pleroma is not the real pleroma," the woman responded to Jinn Hua's wisdom.


"And yet the breath is that from which none of us are free. Even you," Jinn Hua reminded the tattooed woman.


"Really? Then please allow me to introduce myself for I am your nemesis. Where you protect the butterflies, I crush them under foot. Where you wield serpents, I sever their lead, line and lineage. For I am the Dragon Butterfly. Jinn Hua, if breath is that from which none of us are free, then please allow me to free you forever..." the woman took up a stance that Jinn Hua had never seen.


Jinn Hua stood in protection of her temple.


Her school.


Her line of the Butterfly Dragon.


One last time.


To be continued in The Butterfly Dragon III: The Two Dragons (coming soon).


Also, coming very soon, a new A Lady's Prerogative/Butterfly Dragon short story...


There are no fools whom you cannot convince of the path to perfection, where it involves aspects they truly feel  within themselves to be unhealthy or wrong.


There are many fools whom you can't convince of the path to perfection where it involves anything for which they'd not risk their lives to defend.


Artwork: Amy Wong, Wendy Pusey, Brian Joseph Johns

Tools: Daz3D, Adobe Photoshop, Lightwave 3D

Reference: Wikipedia, Toronto Shaolin Quanfa Institute, YouTube, Vanity Fair


Written by Brian Joseph Johns


Special thank yous from this story to the Canadian Goju Karate Society, Aikido Tendokai, Eagle Tai Kwon Do, Tapp Brothers, YMCA, The United Way, City Of Toronto, New York City, the international fashion industry, YouTube, Amazon, Google, the film industry, Dini Petty, Mir, Kelly, KimmyASMR, RoseASMR, Bei Bei, Yue ASMR, LauraLemurexASMR, SuoTuo, Oddly Satisfying, the three Davids, the electronic music and DJ community and of course Helen Chen.


To Princess Margaret Foundation and United Way, you're in my sights for my next round of donations. 


Copyright © 2021 Shhhh! Digital Media, Brian Joseph Johns


All trademarks are the rights of their respective owners.