Paradise Foundation Canadian Branch, Vancouver, Canada
Six years prior to Clockwork Paradise
Scott Dawson, wearing a gray suit with a striped red tie, sat in a comfortable lounger across from a massive glass desk where his possible new boss was reading over his file. Scott had begun his career in private security before having a brief stint with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), after which he acted as head of security for a couple of pharmaceutical companies. It wasn't bad for a man who wasn't even thirty, though every company he'd worked for had been non-international. The Paradise Foundation was clearly a step up.
Before being able to apply for the job, Scott had needed to do some research. According to online sources Paradise was founded in 1964 by a group of millionaires who'd supposedly wanted to make the rich really feel that way. Overnight, the company had become a status symbol as it had initially offered talented bodyguards as well as discounts with expensive car companies, hotel chains and the like as well as experienced stockbrokers. By 1975 the company had moved to include other help including maids, gardeners and chefs as well as experts to help with charitable donations and public image. It wasn't until 1990 that Paradise had achieved a public stock listing that made it one of the biggest companies in the world, but now it offered every sort of service to their clients that one could think of. In 1999 the name was officially changed to the Paradise Foundation, originally going by another that Scott didn't recall, but many mistook it for being the year it was founded. By 2000 Paradise had private airports, trains, and boats all over the world and more employees than any other company in existence. Scott would be coming into the firm late, but the job offer that had been extended to him was a bit unusual.
"The Black Department is no ordinary job, my boy," declared Ronald Fisher, an older man in his early sixties, who was the head of the special section of Paradise. "We work in a morally gray area, the same color as your suit I might point out, but it’s all for the sake of human advancement. Our customers expect discreet service from Paradise that surpasses anything else and our department constantly researches new ways to make that possible."
"I'm not a family man, sir, so I don't think I'll have a problem with questions of morality," smiled Scott, getting a half-smile from his potential employer. Ron Fisher was currently the head of the Black Department and rumoured to be joining the Foundation's board of directors soon. He was somewhat of a cold looking man who looked like it was easier for him to be angry than happy.
"I think you should understand something else then," continued Ron, scratching the stubble under his chin. "The Paradise Foundation represents hundreds of clients who make enough money to have an impact on politics, in particular, elections. It is possible that our department may, at times, be asked by one client to help influence another to see a particular political view. Does that trouble you?"
"I don't vote," was Scott's immediate reply, and Ron once again offered a weak smile.
"I must say, I could go either way on you, normally," mused Ron, looking at Scott's file once again. "You hold the rank of 'expert' with several firearms, you're a ninth degree in Dragon Style Kung-Fu, you've been recorded as being able to bench-press nearly three hundred pounds in peak form and you even won second place twice in the provincial decathlon. Says here your specialty was the pole vault. Quite the list of talents, but your former employers all say you showed natural leadership abilities as well. As such, I'm going to hire you, but not as standard security. I want you to be our Operations Manager within the department, my old position."
"Well... I don't know what to say!" confessed Scott, his face beaming with pride.
"Say you'll take the job and you'll agree to meet me on Sunday for a round of golf," laughed Ron, standing up with his hand extended. Scott stood and met Ron's hand with his own, the two shaking to seal the agreement.
Drunken Dragon, Tokyo, Japan
One Year Later
Ryoshi Tenzo had been nursing a second glass of wine for the past half-hour as she sat at the bar in a nice evening dress, fairly depressed. An agent with the Public Security Intelligence Agency (PSIA), Ryoshi had spent the last two weeks looking for leads on the Aum Shinrikyo, a fanatical religious group responsible for sarin gas attacks back in 1995, and was getting a little worn out by it. Even worse was that her boyfriend had dumped her for spending too much time at work, but Ryoshi had been eager to bring the group to justice as her aunt had died because of them. Now she sat drowning her sorrows at a lousy bar in the cheaper area of Tokyo in a dress that made any potential comforters think she was too rich for them. The bar's patrons were a mix of locals and foreigners, it being a popular destination for young adults backpacking across the world and older burnouts. The average male customer only wore a T-shirt and jeans while the average woman was the same, leaving Ryoshi figuring she'd have to make due with a nice book when she finally got home that night.
"Refill?" asked the barman, a forty-something with an eye-patch and a tattoo of a spade on his right cheek. The music had gone from a nice slow song to what Ryoshi thought was bad J-Pop.
"Yeah, why not?" shrugged Ryoshi, being a fan of cheap red wine. The bartender obliged, refilling Ryoshi's glass before heading down to refill a drunk American's beer. Not a single man or woman in the place had been worth a second glance in Ryoshi's eyes, so she soon returned to her drink after scanning the room once again.
"You know, you kind of stand out, a truly beautiful woman like yourself in a tawdry place like this," came a comment from Ryoshi's right a few minutes later, and the Japanese local turned to see whom had spoken. A brown-haired man who looked like he had about five years, maybe six, on her was sitting next to her, clearly not a local but had spoken in perfect Japanese. He had a smile on his face and was dressed in black pants with a dark blue shirt, an expensive-looking silver watch on his wrist and a bottle of Canadian beer in his hand.
"So does a handsome foreigner who drinks by the bottle," pointed out Ryoshi with a smile, everyone else in the place going with tap ale, which wasn't that good. "You speak excellent Japanese, by the way."
"My job forces me to travel around Tokyo quite a bit," explained the stranger. "My name's Scott."
"Ryoshi," replied the woman, her smile growing. She'd always liked foreigners, and Scott certainly looked like her type.
"Pardon me for saying so, but I would imagine you're a bit down on your luck, seeing as you look like you can afford a better place than this?" remarked Scott, loud enough for the one-eyed bartender to flash him the evil eye.
"Perhaps, but what about you?" shot back Ryoshi, her smile now having a hint of intrigue.
"Closest place I knew that carried Alexander Keith's, plus I just had to call it quits with my ex," grinned Scott, raising his bottle. "I have an idea: why don't we stop drowning our sorrows and go for dinner someplace? Share stories about how we hate our ex’s?"
"Why not, its beats staying here," laughed Ryoshi. Scott placed a sizeable tip on the table and left the bar, arm in arm with his new date.
412 4159 Shinohara Ave, Tokyo, Japan
Roughly Four Years Later
In apartment Ryoshi steamed the potatoes and worked on the wonton soup while Scott sat at the table watching the woman work. She wore a blue silk dress that revealed a bit of everything and stopped just below the knees but was split at the sides to show more leg. She'd discarded her shoes however and was now barefoot, her hair having gone from being done up with senbon needles to flowing down behind her ears. Scott had unbuttoned the top two buttons of his shirt, revealing an undershirt, and both his shoes and socks were by the door. The apartment was cozy, having a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom and a small sitting room but Scott liked it. The walls were a nice wooden brown and the carpet was a soft beige. The table had chairs for two and there was a lit candle in the middle while he sat at one end with a cup of sake.
After first meeting four years ago, Scott and Ryoshi had randomly met every now and again while he was in Tokyo, sometimes meeting for dinner or just chatting over coffee. They'd become friends but never really moved beyond that; Scott certain that the main reason being Ryoshi had spent the last four years mainly chasing women, plus he was constantly out of the country. He'd learned she was with the SPIA and he in turn had told her a bit about his job, but left out the morally gray parts. In spite of all he had to say Ryoshi had never asked if he could recommend her to the Foundation, which had surprised him. During their dinners and other meetings Ryoshi often complained about how she hated her job.
"Soup's ready!" announced Ryoshi, stepping away from the stove with two bowls of soup that consisted of thick noodles and pork wonton dumplings. Ryoshi slid one in front of Scott and then sat across from him with her own bowl. She was sexy, thought Scott, and she was also the perfect test subject.
"Delicious," declared Scott after tasting the soup. "Definitely better than any we could have gotten at a restaurant."
"Tricked you though, it's Chinese," laughed Ryoshi, and Scott realized she was right.
"You're a clever one, proving I'm not good enough to notice subtle differences between cultures," grinned Scott, raising one eyebrow. "Okay, now I'll test you: what's the leader of Canada called?"
"The Prime Minister," scoffed Ryoshi, surprised Scott would try such an easy question.
"Actually, wrong; the Governor General is technically the most powerful leader we have, though its mostly a figurehead position," replied Scott, leaving Ryoshi the one embarrassed. "They can delegate which party will form the government under unusual circumstances, like a tie."
"So we both are ignorant of each other's cultures," gave in Ryoshi, the pair smiling after a moment's hesitation. "So how about we start breaking down the barriers? How's work"
"The same," revealed Scott in between bites of wonton. "I'm in charge of a lot more now. Remember how I was originally in charge of organizing security for clients here and in Vancouver? Los Angeles, Mexico City and Beijing were recently added to my list of cities where I need to be."
"You poor man, constantly having to travel," sighed Ryoshi, a bit envious at Scott's lifestyle. "Meanwhile at the PSIA all we do is try to track down criminals no one can ever seem to find. It's quite frustrating, really."
"I know that feeling, I used to be with CSIS before I realized how much of a joke that organization really was," mused Scott. "I hear its the same with several other organizations around the world, like the SIS or the CIA. You imagine doing grand things when it fact its pretty dull."
"Well, here's to two people who know the truth about Intelligence organizations," offered Ryoshi, filling her sake cup and raising it. Scott did the same with a smile and downed his drink, Ryoshi doing the same.
"Ah, nothing like..." began Ryoshi, suddenly trailing off in mid-sentence as she leaned on the table, her right arm at her side while her left elbow rested on the edge with the sake cup held in front of her, her mouth open and her eyes somewhat glazed over.
"Wow, it acts fast," noted Scott, standing up and waving a hand in front of his date's face. Ryoshi remained immobile as she was, even when Scott furthered the test by touching her shoulder. "Unbelievable; that bitch's stuff really can do what she claimed!" exclaimed Scott, promptly touching Ryoshi's frozen face.
Not wanting to waste any time, Scott carefully dragged Ryoshi's chair backwards and removed the sake cup from her hand, placing it on the table. Certain the woman was completely out of it, he stood in front of her and leaned in, kissing her full on the lips, then sticking his tongue in and having at it. "Much better than kissing a poster or cardboard cut-out," laughed Scott, reaching his hands in and feeling Ryoshi's breasts. They were soft but firm and proportionate to her figure, just the way he liked them, plus her nipples didn't bulge out and were the proper size, being like the core of the Earth. "Sorry to be so forward, but I simply have to have you," whispered Scott, leaning down and carefully picking Ryoshi up into his arms; her frozen pose remained the same. Humming an old Elvis Costello song, Scott carried Ryoshi into the living room and placed her on her feet, bending her legs so she was standing and raising her arms over her head. After another kiss, Scott lifted up Ryoshi's dress and confirmed that she wasn't wearing any bra, only sporting a black thong which he removed with his teeth while feeling up her body. Moments later she was on the couch while Scott lay on top of her, his pants and underwear off and his was now touching hers. "Not a mover, just the way I like it," laughed Scott, feeling like he was having sex with a realistic mannequin rather than a real woman. All the same it was fantastic, at least to him.
A few hours passed, Scott going at it a total of four times with Ryoshi, including once from behind, but he knew he didn't have much time left before it wore off. He'd only put a small amount in her sake bottle, having taken a pill that made him immune, and the food she'd prepared was long spoiled. The experiment was a success, though he did secretly wish she wasn't an intelligence agent, since that could complicate things. After giving her a quick cleaning with water from the sink, Scott redressed Ryoshi and was in the middle of moving her back to the kitchen table when, much to his dismay, the drug wore off.
"... some sake with, huh?!" exclaimed Ryoshi, finishing her sentence and promptly noticing that Scott had her arms around her waist, and that she was in the living room. "What's going on?!" she exclaimed, quickly pushing Scott away as he stood there in shock.
"Uh, well..." muttered Scott, trying to think of how the hell he could get out of it.
"... Did you just... date rape me?!" accused Ryoshi, her hands touching her womanhood from outside her dress. "I feel... fantastic!"
"You do?!" exclaimed Scott, stunned.
"I feel like I just had hours of sex in two seconds, and it feels good," moaned Ryoshi, then looking at Scott seriously. "What the heck did you give me?"
"A new kind of tranquilizer, it stiffens the muscles as well as knocking you out," revealed Scott, glancing at the clock and seeing that five hours had passed. "It ah, also pretty much turns the person into a living mannequin."
"Wow, that's quite the drug..." mused Ryoshi glancing at the clock after seeing Scott do so. "Five hours and you managed this much? Unbelievable..."
"Look, uh, I can... you know, make it worth your while if you don't report me," muttered Scott, not really sure what to do next. He did have more with him, but Ryoshi disappearing could cause problems.
"Well now, can you really?" asked Ryoshi, glancing him up and down. "You just had me for five hours, but now its time for round two and I get to play also!" Before Scott could react Ryoshi grabbed him by the head and pulled him in, giving him a long and passionate kiss. Before long the pair had dropped to the floor and discarded their clothes, making love right then and there.
Paradise HQ, Vancouver, Canada
Two Days Later
"I just got the paperwork today; your friend is taken care of," declared Ron Fisher as Scott came into his office, sitting down across from him. "It'll be nice having an ex-PSIA agent around. But tell me, are you two... intimate?"
"Sir?" asked Scott, surprised Ron would ask him such a question after being friends for so many years.
"Are you sleeping with Miss Tenzo?" asked Ron, repeating his question.
"Does that matter?" replied Scott, shrugging and then realizing he'd given Ron an answer.
"It does, as our new project doesn't allow for our employees to fraternize," declared Ron, tapping his fingers on his desk. "Come on, Scott, you should know better. If you're going to be my replacement as manager of the department you need to be aware of the dangers of office romances."
"Replace you?!" exclaimed Scott, not expecting that. "What's going to happen with you?"
"I've finally been made a director, specifically the one for North America," revealed Ron with a smile. "Poor Gerald died last week of cancer, and I'm his replacement. I would have had his job years ago but he decided not to retire when he was first diagnosed. I'm surprised he lived this long, really."
"Head of the department..." breathed Scott, excited at the new opportunity.
"Yes, and your first venture will be quite the ambitious one," continued Ron, clicking his executive balls together as he spoke. "That Type-7 sedative you tested on your new hire, we have big plans for it. It seems Erika Stone, who'd received some of the prototype, had been using it to kidnap women and keep them as sex slaves."
"Kidnap... women?" repeated Scott, amusement forming on his face.
"Yes, though that has all been classified by Interpol, though that never stopped us," nodded Ron, his own expression not changing. "This has inspired me for this new idea I've had. The scientist who invented it is currently contacting us about possibly having Type-7 be used as a sex drug by our clients. I have a bolder plan. It's very hard for some of clients to find women who aren't gold diggers, but what if they were made to not think that way?"
"You mean programmed to just be there for sex or something, like the Stepford Wives?" asked Scott, trying to figure out where Ron was going with this conversation.
"Similar, I suppose, but they are not turned into actual robots, just sort of controlled," explained Ron. "The Type-7 drug can go deep into a person's psyche, as it freezes their very bio-electrical signals. In effect whoever takes it is in suspended animation, as their body maybe ages a few minutes per week. The scientist, I believe you two have met...?"
"Yes, and I can't believe what her name is," chuckled Scott.
"Right, well, Miss Tisdale says that with our resources we might be able to develop a special device, a sort of chip, that could allow us to control people under the influence of the drug," continued Ron. "I want you to help her with the experiments and form a team whose job will be to identify and retrieve possible test subjects."
"I'm comfortable with that," nodded Scott, then having an idea of his own. "Still, if we're bringing in an outsider like Tisdale, we should be ready for a double-cross. I'll keep your own involvement hidden, pretend to be the brains behind all this. I also want Ryoshi on the team, but I'll have her pretend she doesn't know me."
"You seem to have a great deal of faith in her," noted Ron. "I hope you are speaking as an employee of this company and not as a man speaking of his lover."
"You've seen her records, they're similar to mine," Scott pointed out, and Ron nodded approvingly.
"Alright then, I have a list of possible candidates for you, and you should meet with Ms. Tisdale tomorrow," insisted Ron, sliding Scott a file folder which he took, promptly standing and turning to go. "Scott?" called Ron before the other man could leave.
"Good luck with your new job, it's yours to lose," warned Ron, getting a weak smile from Scott in return.
Paradise Manor, 20 minutes east of Vancouver, Canada
One Week Later
Scott had found Ashley to be passable company at best, but she was useful enough and certainly good looking. The dark-haired scientist had her own chair next to his desk, which had a nice view of the manor's yard, including the pool. So far the pair had interviewed sixteen candidates and chosen three, one of them Ryoshi, who'd appeared for a mock interview. As per his plan Scott had told Ashley little, convincing her that he was the brains behind the new project they were embarking on and that Ryoshi was just a random hire like the other two, Leslie Schulz and Veronica Estes. Scott swirled his glass of water, a pitcher having been brought in with glasses for the two interviewers and the guests. Scott was grateful as after sixteen interviews he was getting parched.
"Call in the next one, she's the last right?" Scott said to Ashley, who was sitting near the intercom control.
"Yes, English is her first language too," confirmed Ashley, then pressing the intercom button. "Alexis Sutherland, please enter." Right on cue a few moments later one of the doors to the office opened and in walked the blonde Brit, a smile on her face as Scott pulled out her file from his desk.
"Take a seat," insisted Scott, having the woman sit in a lounger across from his desk.
"So you wish to leave Scotland Yard?" began Ashley, jumping right into things.
"Yes, my work hasn't been quite as... satisfying, as of late," confirmed the blond. She was wearing a red blazer with a black skirt and pantyhose as well as black heels, her hair combed with her left side behind her ear and her lips a dark and sophisticated red. Scott had immediately decided she was sexy, and a quick gesture from Ashley confirmed she agreed. It had taken all of two days for him to figure out that Ashley was a lesbian as she'd rebuffed his somewhat flirtatious manner in a way that made it clear she not only wasn't interested in him sexually, but pretty much all men. The Interpol story also claimed she'd been found naked in Erika Stone's house, seemingly a victim of kidnapping and rape, but Scott had already deduced that was false, given her actions. Ashley was sneaky, but far too confident in herself.
"Well then, we just need to know how you feel about certain things that could occur," Scott declared, looking at her seriously. "This venture is not one that's exactly... legal. We know you were in law enforcement but your record indicates that legality isn't something you were fighting for."
"I was after power and fame, not justice and the defence of the country," laughed Alexis, happily revealing her true colors. "Love was in there as well, but that was one of the problems that made me unhappy at work. Power isn't likely to happen either, not for another few years. I'm looking for happiness now, and I don't care what it takes to get it."
"Would wealth make you happy?" asked Ashley, a flash of interest in her eyes, which Scott noted.
"Probably," admitted Alexis, shrugging.
"We can give you a contract that starts at one hundred thousand dollars US a year with possible raises, but success in this first project could offer you a bonus check potentially higher than that," explained Scott. "If you agree to commit to us, we can reveal more. However, I will say we offer you command, since your record with the Yard was quite impressive in terms of leadership, and a certain level of freedom. At the very least you'll have a chance to see the world as a fair bit of travel is involved."
"What about messy situations, because I'm not big on those," asked Alexis. "I only ever had to use my gun three times in a real situation and I never liked it."
"You will be using force, but not of the deadly variety," revealed Scott. "Miss Tisdale here plays a large role in that."
"Tisdale... you know you have the same name as-" began Alexis.
"Yes, I've gotten that, it's a pure coincidence," hissed Ashley, interrupting. "Now, are you interested in signing with us or not? You get a one-year contract, guaranteed, plus room and board as well as meals. The only catch is we can't officially have you on record, so we aren't good reference material should you move on." Ashley didn't add that it was unlikely that Alexis would ever move on.
"Alright, I don't think there's a problem here," declared Alexis, clapping her hands together. "Where do I sign?" she asked.
"Nowhere here, first we have a little toast," declared Scott, pouring Alexis a glass of water and sliding it towards her. "To the Paradise Foundation!" he exclaimed, raising a glass and standing. Ashley did the same and after some hesitation Alexis did too. The three drank at the same time. Alexis lowered her glass, which she held in her right hand, and then stood silently rigid as the Type-7 Scott had subtly added to her glass took immediate effect. Moving quickly, Ashley put down her own glass and produced a needle, injecting Alexis in the arm and filling her system with a full dose of full strength Type-7. Their new recruit wasn’t going to be moving on her own for a long time.
"Well, I think we have our team," decided Scott, nodding with pleasure. The bookcase to his right on the left side of the room then turned ninety degrees, revealing it to be a fake, and inside was a secret passage that led down to the underground laboratory below the manor. Standing there woodenly were the three other recruits for the team, all with their hands at their sides and their faces blank, Scott having posed them that way. Leslie, who's blond hair reached a fair way down her back, was first in line, dressed only in a white tube top and a blue mini-skirt, her hair in a ponytail. The woman was an ex-bounty hunter, perfect for combat and other grunt work. Next to her was Veronica whose dark hair was slightly curled, spilling around her soft face as she stood there in a serious business dress, gray jacket with a white blouse and black skirt, even pantyhose. Veronica had been Spanish Intelligence but had no clear special skills so Scott was considering her for the position of driver. Finally there was Ryoshi, whose hair was even darker than Veronica's and who was dressed a bit more erotically. For the interview she'd worn a leather jacket over the top of a yellow bra with tan pants and army boots, looking like a woman who wanted to have both sex appeal and attitude. Her hair was done-up in a looped ponytail, and Scott was eager to kiss her lips again. She was familiar with many forms of weaponry thus she would specialize in that. Ashley walked by Scott, dragging Alexis by the waist while walking backwards, and stood the immobilized Brit next to Ryoshi.
"Well, they certainly look good together," noted Ashley with a huff, removing Alexis's glass from her stiff hand. "Two blonds, two dark brunettes. Cute collection. When do you want to start briefing them?"
"The injection will last a week; lets use this time to make sure the rejected candidates don't remember this meeting with a few drugs and alcohol," decided Scott, turning to his new partner and flashing her a smile. "We should also make sure their profiles are up to date, their letters of resignation are sent in, their belongings are transported... After that we can introduce them to how we want things to run."
"With any luck, these four will be our ticket to millions," breathed Ashley, looking at the four frozen women. "You'd think one of them would of been smart enough to realize that you don't usually have a toast at an interview."
Metrotown Hilton Hotel, Burnaby, Canada
Two Days Later
Loud knocking at the suite door woke Scott from his slumber, causing him to groan as he quickly rolled out of bed, completely naked. In bed next to him had been Ashley, who lay on her back with her arms underneath her pillow, her eyes closed and her lips open, her tongue sticking out. With his lackeys taking care of all the paperwork and Ashley currently not needed for anything major Scott had invited her to take a brief vacation, and in response she'd taken four days' worth of Type-7 while groping some redhead in her room at Paradise Manor. Scott had discovered Ashley and decided his only real chance to nail the lesbian, whom he still suspected might actually be bisexual, was then and had whisked her away to the hotel in nearby Burnaby for a vacation of his own. Ashley was naked and Scott had spent the previous night playing 'Find the Mole.' Whoever had interrupted his morning dreams was going to be sorry, or so he decided as he put on a robe and carefully answered the door.
"Mister Dawson?" asked a man in a bad suit that Scott recognized as the hotel's assistant manager. "This package just came for you with instructions you get it immediately, I'm sorry if I awakened you."
"Oh, well I guess that's alright," shrugged Scott, realizing the package might be what he'd been waiting for. Taking the object from the assistant and promising him a tip at a more reasonable hour, Scott closed the door and opened the letter that had come with the small box.
If you're reading this I'm most likely dead already. The board of directors has betrayed me. When they learned what we were planning some feared I would gain too much influence with our clients when we succeeded. For this reason I'm certain they'll try to kill me tonight. Fortunately you are safe, as they are convinced it was all my idea and that if I'm dead they can all share credit for this and manipulate the company for their own ends. I've learned a chilling truth: the company's original, secret, goal was global domination. The chip, the one in this box, is a prototype that they will most likely eventually use in a larger scheme to take over the planet by using one on every political and religious leader. How this is possible is not yet clear to me, but I know that they are certain that a world under their guidance will be a unified one, one where men are indeed superior and all women are slaves.
I will be killed to ensure that their dream becomes a reality. I now leave it to you, Scott, a man whom I've thought of as a son, to decide if you want them to succeed. Wealth and power beyond your imagination are woven within their grand plan, so I do not blame you if you choose the darker path. I only hope you will consider this: humanity was never meant to live in a true utopia, that's why the ideal of Heaven was born. Their path will lead only to disaster, or so I see it.
Ronald Fisher III
Feeling a chill go down his back, Scott opened the package and found a small electronic device inside, the chip Ron had told him about. "A unified world," muttered Scott, only to then have his cell phone ring. Walking over to the table where he'd left it Scott answered the call.
"Mister Dawson, this is Julio Sanchez, CEO of the Paradise Foundation," said a voice on the line. "I'm sorry to tell you this, but this morning Ronald Fisher was found dead in his apartment, apparently a suicide. I'm sorry."
"Yeah, me too," was Scott's weak reply, his mouth as dry as sand.
The End (of this part of the story, anyhow)! ...continue on to Clockwork Paradise