Just Another Manic MondayMature

Chapter One: Just Another Manic Monday

 September 2nd, 2086

 “Ike,”

Auggie rapped on her brother’s bedroom door, which was tightly-closed.

“Ike, it’s ten-past six. You’ve got to get ready for school…..”

A faint, inarticulate moan from behind the door was her only response. Such sulky, irritable behavior from Ike was fast becoming the norm now that he was thirteen. At the end of August, Ike had begun eighth grade at Harborview Academy- despite its somewhat pretentious name, it was actually a public middle school that served grades six through eight.

Both homeschooling and charter schools had been outlawed for some time now under the Standards of Education Act, but some historic private boarding schools were still allowed to exist, hypocritically. Suffice to say, though, the only reason these expensive and prestigious schools remained open was the fact they still received many generous donations from the old-money bluebloods who had once been pupils there. Whether or not the curriculum was any better than the public schools, though, was anyone’s guess.

Auggie’s patience was rewarded when, a few seconds later, Ike’s bedroom door swung open and he stumbled groggily into the morning sunlight. He was dazed-looking and still in his pajamas, and there were dark circles under his eyes. The younger fox trudged into the kitchen and hastily made himself a breakfast of bacon, eggs, and a piece of toast. Then, he sat down at the antique, rustic wooden table and tore ravenously into his meal.

Auggie, however, would forego breakfast for now but allowed herself two and half cups of coffee- she could always pick something up at work, and unfortunately, it wasn’t like she had the time to savor and enjoy a nice, nutritious breakfast.

“School is so damn boring,”

Ike muttered through a mouth full of bacon and toast, though any further curse words were halted by Auggie’s frosty glare.

“What was it like when you went to school?”

Auggie took a swig of her coffee, sweetened with milk and sugar.

“Not much different, really. Sometimes it feels like it’ll last forever, and then you blink and it’s your last day of senior year.”

She shook her head, amazed at how rapidly time went by.

“Weren’t you going to school before……before….?”

Ike did not elaborate, but Auggie knew exactly what he meant. Before the Legion had taken over the government.

“I did, remember? I was only in preschool at the time- fingerpainting, toys, sing-along time, that sort of thing. Nothing too exciting. Or too threatening.”

At least, when she’d been a child; four-year-olds hadn’t been expected to memorize thinly-veiled propaganda about how great the Legion was- that was all school boiled down to these days, memorizing and regurgitating this vile rhetoric.

Auggie could still remember the day so clearly, when everything had come crashing down. She was four years old and strapped into a padded carseat, hugging her stuffed dove. Mommy and Daddy were there, and they were driving home from Show-and-Tell day at preschool…..

“….That’s wonderful, sweetie, what did the other kids bring to school?”

Mommy’s voice had been too-cheerful, strained, as though she were only half-listening.

“…..And Eric brought in his toy racecars, and Sara had a tea set, and Rose had this guitar that looked really real! It even played music!”

Suddenly, the car went completely silent save for the live newscast coming from the radio. Abruptly, her parents stopped talking. Then, when they spoke again, they whispered to each other in hushed, nervous tones:

“Isaac, I’m scared…. What did they say those…..those crazy bastards are doing?”

“I don’t know, but we should get out of here as soon as we can. This whole place is going to hell….”

 The four-year-old blinked back the tears that pooled in her eyes. They stung and made her eyes feel sore.

“Mommy, what’s happening?”

Auggie whimpered, hugging her dove doll ever closer to her chest. Mrs. Starrett sighed and reluctantly lowered the radio volume.

“Nothing, sweetheart. Some really bad men overthrew the president and now they say we have to listen to them.” 

“Why are they bad?”

“Well,”

Auggie’s father began.

“They’re very narrow-minded and only want to see things their way, and this means they’ll want to get rid of people they don’t like.”

Auggie swallowed hard. There were goosebumps all along her arms, and she was beginning to tremble uncontrollably.

“Like…. Like us?”

“Yes, princess, like us.”

Mr. Starrett replied, looking and sounding quite grim.

“Daddy, am I going back to school tomorrow?”

Auggie asked, sniffling a bit. Though the school year was still young, she’d never even been out sick before. She knew her friends would miss her when she didn’t show up to class, and they would be so sad if she stopped going to school…..

“No, honey, you aren’t. We don’t know when you’ll be able to go back. Tomorrow we’re going to go on a very special trip with Aunt Elaine and Uncle Tristan, and you can’t tell anyone about it.”

Auggie nodded. She was very good at keeping secrets.

“Okay. Where are we going?”

“To the country, where it’s safe.”

Tristan Starrett was Isaac’s brother and Auggie’s uncle. Her cousin, Sterling, was eight years old and Auggie liked him a lot- In some ways, he was just like her big brother since he didn’t have any siblings of his own. Uncle Tristan and Aunt Elaine had a summer home in the country, and though Auggie was excited to see her relatives again, she was still very dejected about missing school.

Isaac Starrett then looked to his wife and whispered to her, almost inaudibly:

“At least, where I hope it’s safe…”

Addressing his daughter once again, Mr. Starrett addressed her in a guarded, cautious tone:

“Auggie, when we get home, I want you to go to your room and pack up all your things in your suitcase.”

“Can I bring my toys?”

“Only a few. Bring all your clothes, and anything else you can fit.”

“Can I bring my books?”

Despite having only just started preschool, Auggie’s parents had taught her to read a year before when she was three. There was a variety of board and children’s picture books she loved.

“Yes, but only the ones you like the best.”

“Okay.”

Auggie did not say anything else and simply stared out the car window- if Mommy and Daddy would let her bring her books and toys, perhaps having to leave school and the city wouldn’t be so bad after all. It’d be just like vacation…..

 

 After spending the rest of fall and all winter at Elaine and Tristan’s summer house, the Starretts finally returned to Elizabeth City in spring 2067. Auggie’s parents had given the school some convoluted message about a ‘family emergency’ that required them to leave town for an undetermined period of time, and by the time she finally went back to school, the school year was nearly over.

And even when Auggie started attending school again, class did not quite feel the same as it once had. The students seemed subdued, sadder somehow. Recess was shortened, and there was dramatically less playtime and singing. Most jarringly of all, Auggie’s beloved teacher, Miss Albertson, was gone- Miss Albertson had resigned and was no longer teaching, Auggie later learned, due to ‘unforeseen disagreements’ with the new heads of the school board.

There was still recess on the playground, and painting and drawing and naptime, but it was never quite the same as it once was. On top of all this, time was set aside for learning all about the new regime- The Legion- and its leader, the High Commander- and how wonderful it was, rescuing the nation from debt, widespread poverty, and disease. Auggie- and most of the other students, for that matter- found these lessons incredibly boring and did not enjoy them, but they tried not to complain too much so as not to provoke their new teacher’s wrath.

Overall, something about the school seemed colder, and slightly frightening. It was not the warm and welcoming place it had been in the fall, and Auggie was always relieved when Mommy or Daddy would come to take her home. All in all, Auggie was incredibly glad when the school year wrapped in June. She could hardly wait to start going to kindergarten in the fall- maybe that would be better…..

 

Surprised at having gotten so engrossed in her distant memories, Auggie checked the wall clock. 6:22. She drained the rest of her coffee and continued going about her morning- after dressing and gathering up his school supplies, Ike was already out the door and headed to the bus stop. Auggie accompanied him, as she always did, just to make sure the bus got there and everything went smoothly- and as usual, nothing seemed amiss. Then, Auggie got into the car and drove off to work.

Auggie’s day job was not a particularly exciting one. She worked in the Customer Service division of Whitesummer Technologies, Inc., the corporation that was responsible for most holographic technology these days. Whitesummer had gotten its start fifty-two years ago in the middle of the economic boom, when virtual reality had only just gone mainstream.

They’d gotten their start financing and developing effects for RealLife I, an overwhelmingly popular VR simulation. The RealLife series allowed users to live out the fantasies they’d always wanted while only hours passed in the real world. RealLife featured realistic, highly-customizable avatars, stellar voice work, and a seemingly endless array of choices and possible storylines to pick from. It was a hit from the beginning, and the series was currently all the way up to RealLife VIII. In addition, there was RealLife Junior for those fourteen and under, which was also in high demand.

With the astonishing success of RealLife, Whitesummer began to branch out and expand their horizons as time went by. They began producing interactive holographic technology for everything from films and photographs to online chatrooms. Suddenly everything had become a new and immersive experience.

In short, the entrepreneurs behind Whitesummer were now outrageously rich, and all of their products and services remained in high demand. But like all technology, the holographic software Whitesummer produced was hardly perfect; there were often software glitches, viruses, and disgruntled customers to be addressed. The job of dealing with such matters fell to lowly, overlooked people like Auggie who worked in customer services. 

Her job was by no means a glamorous one, and it was rarely ever acknowledged; but the vixen did not particularly mind, really- she viewed her relationship with Whitesummer as a short-term one only, a temporary stopover in her career until she figured out what, exactly, she wanted to do with her life. The vixen found herself mulling this over as she drove to the office on the mild, breezy September day; having to stop abruptly at a red light.  She was twenty-four now. Even though it was two years since she’d graduated college, she still had her whole adult life ahead of her to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. And yet, the more time went by; the more Auggie- albeit begrudgingly- acknowledged the fact that this was a dead-end job.

Before she could continue to muse about this, however, the light turned to green, and Auggie was free. She continued her weekday drive to the office, and nothing out of the ordinary occurred. The city streets; once bustling with the constant noise and hubbub of urban everyday life, were now practically-empty save people walking to work or school, as well as the occasional car or cab. There were no prostitutes, drunks or drug dealers milling about the streets as in years past. Such quiet and orderly streets, as unnatural as they were, had been the norm for the past twenty years and showed no sign of changing. This was due to the creeping shadows of the Commander’s Guard, the sinister and seemingly omnipresent state police that had replaced the now-obsolete regular law enforcement system.

As far as state and government office went, the Commander’s Guard were by far the crème de la crème; surpassed only by those who worked in the Department of Capital Punishment. They were the lauded and much-indulged servants at the beck and call of the High Commander himself. Much like their fellow servants of the Legion, they wore uniforms, but most agents were plainclothes. This was to further the impression that they could be everywhere and anywhere at any time- so you really never knew whether that talkative coworker or friendly face you met on the street was secretly monitoring and recording your every move; and would more than happily turn you over to the authorities should you step the slightest bit out of line.

Street arrests were now chillingly commonplace. It had long ago become the norm for some poor citizen in handcuffs to be led off, screaming and pleading for mercy, into an ominous unmarked black van; the windows so heavily-tinted it was impossible to see inside. If the victims refused to cooperate, they were either paralyzed with a taser gun or injected with a drug that would make them compliant. Either way, once you disappeared into those long, stretched black vans, you never returned; giving the Commander’s Guard the apt, terrifying nickname of the Grim Reapers.

 People had long stopped noticing such things and becoming alarmed because, for better or worse, such madness had become part of everyday life, however deeply disturbing.

 Auggie was relieved that today was just an ordinary, uneventful drive to work with no chilling cameo appearances by the Commander’s Guard. Such incidents frightened her so deeply, she would turn away and tightly shut her eyes until it was all over and the van had roared off down the street. Even if everyone else in Elizabeth City had seamlessly adjusted to the random arrests by those Grim Reapers, Auggie never had, strongly doubted she ever would. The very idea was something that both repulsed her and chilled her to the bone. The remainder of the vixen’s drive passed by in uneasy silence.

After pulling into the garage and parking, Auggie headed off to the main Whitesummer corporate offices and walked inside. The Whitesummer lobby was generic if pleasant enough as far as corporate office interiors went. It was atrium-style, with white walls, polished white-tiled floors, and shafts of sunlight poured in from a rather impressive skylight. By this point in the morning, the lobby was already full of people thronging by as they hurried to get from place to place. For this reason, Auggie had to tread carefully so as not to accidentally collide with anyone, muttering

“Excuse me, sorry…..Very sorry…. Excuse me, sir, just passing by…..”

As she made her way to the nearest elevator and entered, miraculously finding it empty. As the heavy automatic doors slid shut behind her, Auggie gave a brief sigh of relief that she could have some momentary privacy. She pressed the buttons for Floor 21, where her particular corner of the office was, and the doors opened after what felt like an eternity. The vixen stepped out of the elevator and made her way to the office; anticipating yet another wearisome daily grind.

The office Auggie had been working at for the past two years now was a bland, lifeless, and distinctly corporate environment. It was a labyrinth of cubicles, illuminated by rectangular ceiling lights. Tan walls and drab gray carpeting. It did not have any particular smell save the aroma of coffee and a heavy haze of cigarette smoke, surprisingly- cigarettes were technically legal, yes, but they were heavily-taxed and cost a small fortune to purchase.

Auggie walked silently through the office and made her way to her cubicle, the whole background filled with constant noise: Beeping pagers, the low hum of the computers, and the typical babbling dialogue of the female’s fellow cubicle drones. Auggie, though, had been working here for so long now that all these conversations had blurred together into gibberish. Every day here was the same, really, and not particularly exciting either way. There was no change here, everything was a constant- when time seemed to move at all, it crawled very slowly by.

It was little disappointments like these that one had to get used to. The vixen knew she would be here for another year at the least; so why not make the best of it while she could, dull as it all was? She knew she was lucky to have a job at all.

Auggie’s desk and cubicle were utilitarian, haphazardly-decorated, yet not too messy. A few movie posters from her parent’s teens were attached to the cubicle walls, for whatever the reason, and a current calendar was taped just above her desk. There were various odd little knickknacks sitting beside her computer: a sad little fake plant, a paperback of crossword puzzles, a pale blue antique vase. And then there were the usual miscellaneous office items such as a black swing-arm lamp and a coffee cup full of pencils. It wasn’t much, but it was her own little personal space, at least.

Sinking into the hard plastic of her swivel chair, Auggie put on her headset and logged into her computer. She quickly skimmed through her video messages to see if she had any assistance requests….. Sure enough, someone had just sent in a complaint five minutes ago. Well, the ball was in her court now. Auggie clicked on the complaint, and within seconds; she found herself staring into the face of an extremely annoyed-looking stranger.

Auggie’s whole screen had been filled with the image of a middle-aged woman- some female wolf with graying hair and a ratty bathrobe- glaring irritably at her, and when she spoke, she sounded quite indignant:

“I sent in my complaint FIVE MINUTES AGO and it takes you people this long to respond?! This is a fucking joke, I thought I could expect quality customer service from Whitesummer….”

Auggie cringed and turned down the volume a little. This wasn’t the first time she’d been screamed at this early in the morning, but it was still something she hadn’t quite adjusted to. It was hardly the most pleasant way to start one’s day off. She took a deep breath and spoke in calm, placating tones in an attempt to calm the woman down- this was something she had to do more often than she liked.

“Ma’am, I’m sorry to hear you were inconvenienced, but our helpline is often busy—“

“Busy my ass,”

She spat, eyes blazing.

“This is the twenty-first century, young lady, I expected better service than this!”

Auggie shook her head. Sometimes there was just no dealing with these people; but the customer was always right, unfortunately……

“Again, I’m sorry, but I don’t have control over any of these things….. Now, let’s start from the beginning, ma’am. What, exactly is your problem?”

The wolf went silent for a moment as she gathered her thoughts, brow furrowing. She finally seemed to calm down slightly, much to Auggie’s relief.

“My son’s copy of RealLife is extremely buggy, he can barely play it. He’s very disappointed about it, he was so excited about finally getting RealLife Jr. for his birthday,”

Auggie nodded, prompting her to continue. So far so good.

“And what version of RealLife is this?”

“The fourth one, I think.”

That explains it…. Auggie thought to herself.

The newer editions of RealLife, despite having so many more features and content, were outrageously expensive. Many parents simply purchased older versions of the program for their children to cut costs; and the average ten-year-old would be happy regardless. The only problem with purchasing older versions of the sim, however, was that they were prone to software bugs and glitches that had since been worked out of the newer ones. Most of these bugs were relatively minor and didn’t effect the gameplay too badly, but every once in a while; there would be angry customers like this woman to prove this wasn’t always the case.

“Can you tell me what exactly these glitches are?”

“He can’t unlock any story features after the tutorial stage…..”

For the most part, the RealLife Jr. version of the simgame was not too different from the adult version of the game; but age-inappropriate content like violence, nudity and harsh language were removed. The children’s version focused heavily on the more lighthearted and whimsical elements of the game, but also tried to incorporate the odd educational aspect as well. After completing a rather dull tutorial stage in which the avatar had to attend school lessons, the player could unlock different story paths such as field trip, adventure, summer camp, vacation, etc. For whatever reason this woman’s son was unable to progress past the tutorial phase of the game.

“You’re absolutely sure he finished the tutorial?”

“Of course I’m sure, I know my own son!”

The wolf scowled, looking both offended and insulted that Auggie had suggested otherwise.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean any offense,”

Auggie muttered, clearing her throat slightly.

“But yes, he finished the tutorial. Completely. He can’t access any of the events. I’ll have you know I paid good money for this game, and I am not about to bring it back to the store after my son hasn’t even owned it one day!”

“All right, all right…..”

Auggie panted.

“Let me do a quick playthrough of the tutorial and I’ll see if I can fix this for you….”

“Hmph, it’s about time!”



 Auggie spent the next hour controlling the woman’s son’s RealLife avatar and playing through the school tutorial. It took some work, but she was able to resolve the bug; and even unlocked the first four events for him as well and got him more in-game credit- Whoever this kid was, he was just a kid, and he couldn’t possibly be half as bad as his screeching harpy of a mother. At least, she hoped so…..

Before the boy’s mother signed off, she had one last thing to say to Auggie. She was all smiles; wearing a toothy grin that was stretched so broad it only made her look more than a little threatening.

“Thank you so much!”

She gushed.

“He can play the first four events now, and apparently he has a lot more credit now, too…..”

Auggie smiled wearily.

“Glad to be of service, ma’am. Hope the rest of your day goes well.”

And with that, the monitor went black for a moment; but then Auggie’s computer screen returned and all was normal again. She checked the time. 7:59. Well, so much for her first hour at work; now she only had the rest of the day to get through! Auggie startled and gave a loud gasp of surprise, however, as moments later; the lights cut out and an alarm began to blare- and it was the security alarm rather than the fire alarm. 

Something in the atmosphere had changed, and for the worse. Instead of the usual background dialogue and workplace chatter, people spoke in worried murmurs if they dared to speak at all. Apart from that, the entire office had gone as silent as a tomb. Everyone seemed to be waiting, terrified and with bated breath, to be told what to do next.

“This had better be a drill….”

“I think someone would have told us if it were.”

“Did someone breach the security?!”

Suddenly, the PA system loudly crackled to life. An infuriatingly calm, vaguely-female voice began to issue instructions, only adding to the already-surreal situation: “Attention, attention, all Whitesummer employees. Please remain calm. This is not a drill or standard procedure, and there has been no security breach. I repeat; there has been no security breach.”

The room seemed to let out a collective sigh of relief, but it did not end there:

“An employee of this office was found with illicit recreational substances on his person. All personnel will be subjected to mandatory testing and cavity searches to ensure this is an isolated incident. Local authorities will be waiting in designated areas to search you. You will be called down by department, not by name…..”

And with that, Auggie shut down her computer, rose from her desk, and walked from the cubicle as though all her will had been stripped from her. Her breath was coming out in fast, panicked gasps; and she had to stop and exhale every once in a while to make sure she wouldn’t hyperventilate. Her heart was racing at an impossible speed, and she felt lightheaded and unsteady on her feet. Her vision was blurred around the edges. It hadn’t taken long for the vixen to put two and two together.

Someone had been caught with drugs, and the Commander’s Guard was called in to deal with the situation. The Commander’s Guard. Auggie had to swallow her breakfast back down to make sure it wouldn’t make a second appearance. This all still seemed so surreal, impossible, that her brain still hadn’t quite processed it. She didn’t want to believe this.

The Commander’s Guard was here, they were actually here, and suppose they found out…..? No. They wouldn’t. There was no way they could know that. Auggie forced herself to calm down as she walked through the hallway and joined the throng of people waiting in line for an elevator. Still, even if they didn’t know, she was still scared to death at the prospect of being face-to-face with the High Commander’s handpicked elite.

The Guard was infamous for their ruthlessness, and Auggie had never had to deal with them personally, let alone having them show up at her own workplace. The Commander’s Guard crept through the streets like looming, menacing shadows, and they almost never brought back anyone alive. Perhaps the most chillingly, they almost never left any blood in their wake- if anything, they made a point not to. If you were so unlucky that the Commander’s Guard found you, they shuffled you off into one of their black vans, and after that, it was as though you’d never existed at all. It was never publicly discussed, but the suspects the Commander’s Guard brought in from the streets were almost-universally turned over to the Department of Capital Punishment, and their swift executions would often be broadcast on live TV. Despite having existed for a mere twenty years, the Commander’s Guard had already acquired a chilling reputation- deservedly so. Auggie desperately hoped that during the period she would be face-to-face with the Commander’s Guardsmen, it would be brief, and that she- along with her coworkers- would all be able to walk free without having any accusations leveled against them….

Eventually, the line for the elevator began to thin, slowly and gradually. Auggie continued on to the cafeteria as she and the rest of her department had been instructed, all forty-four of them. Her whole body felt leaden as she forced herself to trudge into the cafeteria, to occupy the very same room as the depraved and merciless Commander’s Guard….. Auggie’s breathing was heavy and gasping and her palms were drenched with sweat as she managed to continue on, disturbed by the bleak scene that confronted her.

The cafeteria was dimly-lit, and the unremarkable plastic tables and chairs were occupied by Auggie’s forty-three fellow office drones. They were subdued, clearly insecure. Some fidgeted and shifted around in their seats out of anxiety, others whispered nervously amongst themselves in speculation, but most simply did not speak at all. Given the current predicament, this was probably the smartest thing to do; considering the Guard’s reputation of being both all-hearing and all-seeing. Six agents of the Commander’s Guard stood at the front of the room, one of them an officer and the other five his lower-ranking subordinates. All of them were dressed in their usual forbidding, all-black regalia.

Auggie swallowed hard and nearly recoiled in fright the second she laid eyes on the officer in charge of this operation- Major Elan Langley, one of the most callous and widely-feared Commander’s Guardsmen in the city. And, rumor had it, the High Commander’s favorite errand boy as well…..

At 6”2, Langley was imposingly tall- much taller than Auggie- and had already attained the rank of Major at the young age of thirty-four. He was a canine, some sort of mongrel dog, to be exact; perhaps with border collie ancestry. His ears were pricked, but trimmed around with a feathery fringe, and his eyes were like hard, black stone. His entire body was solid black, and his fur had a thick, shaggy texture. His tail was curly, plumed. Perhaps the oddest thing about Langley’s appearance was that, rather than a healthy pink, his tongue was a rather unnatural-looking grayish-purple instead.

Langley’s expression was cold, severe, but there was a trace of haughtiness in his stony smile. It was the look of someone who knew they could control whether others lived or died and enjoyed it immensely. Much like his silent and awkward-looking lackeys- the sort who would probably stop breathing if their leader ordered them to- Langley was dressed in the trademark uniform of the Guard.

He wore a black, high-collared tunic with the gold stripes at the wrist and gold buttons down the front. Knee-length trousers perfectly tucked into his boots. On his tunic sleeve, there was the state emblem and designating insignia of the Commander’s Guard: A dark, Tyrian purple armband depicting two laurel branches, a pair of crossed swords, and a fearsome-looking hawk with raised talons. Additionally, the laurel leaves decorated both sides of Langley’s gray collar tab, gleaming dully in the poor lightning. Auggie felt her stomach drop as she took in the hawk and the swords and the laurel leaves, knowing all too well what they represented.

But perhaps what frightened the vixen most of all about Langley was the very first time she heard him speak. His voice was smooth, reassuring, and he had a posh, snobbish accent suggesting an upper-class background:

“I would like to personally thank you all for being so compliant, and for following instructions. The High Commander values obedient citizens, as do I. I want to say that I am terribly, terribly sorry for having inconvenienced you all and for interrupting your workday…..”

He walked slowly back and forth in front of the tables and then began to stalk his way down the aisles, paws clasped. There was something glinting in his eyes, like the glittering of black ice before you slipped and fell on it. Clearing his throat, Langley continued:

“My comrades and I will be conducting a thorough search just to make sure you aren’t in possession of any illegal substances. We wouldn’t want that, now would we?”

No response. The black dog only gave a humorless laugh and continued on:

“I will try to make this as brief as possible for all of you, and it will only cost you a few minutes of your time. I would also like to thank all of you for your limitless patience,”

Stopping mid-step, Langley surveyed them all with an arrogant, cunning smile as though he could control whether they lived or died with a mere snap of his finger. And being a Major in the Guard, he practically could…… It was at this point in Langley’s little speech that Auggie found an empty table off to the left and sat down, her whole body shaking wildly and knees knocking together.

She gripped the table with both paws and took a few breaths in, then out, in an attempt to calm herself. Her obvious fear and anxiety would doubtlessly attract unwanted attention from Langley and his men….. They thrived on fear, she knew.

Auggie could have sworn her heart stopped, however, when Langley’s black eyes fell on her. He strutted over to her table, grinning icily. She let out a gasp of pain and surprise as he grabbed her shoulder, calling out to his inferiors:

“Go on, do as I said. Search the others, but be quick about it. This one, however…..”

He smiled down at Auggie, a wicked and lecherous grin.

“This one is all mine. I think I’ll deal with her personally.”

“You get your hands off me, you sick fuck!”

Auggie grated, her voice angry and low, looking absolutely furious. But Langley only gave an amused chuckle as though he thought this exchange was the pinnacle of entertainment.

“Hush, now, no more of that. It’ll be all the better for you if you don’t struggle,”

He hissed into her ear, grabbing the unwilling vixen’s arm and jerkily dragging her from her seat.

“I said LET GO OF ME!”

Auggie screamed, flailing in the Major’s steely hold. She struggled and thrashed wildly, but Langley gripped her tight. He pinned the female’s arms behind her back and began to march her from the room.

“What did I say about not struggling?!”

Auggie could hear his infuriatingly arrogant voice rasping in her ear, chiding in disapproval. But there was also an unmistakable and threatening edge as well. The vixen was panting in exhaustion as Langley hauled her from the room, her hair was mussed and wild and falling in front of her eyes. Her restrained arms ached, but it was more of a dull sensation than anything else; and the terrible pricking of pins-and-needles had already begun to set in.

Try as she might, there was no way of escaping Langley’s grasp- for now, at least. But as soon as she got the tiniest opportunity, Auggie would be ever-watchful for a means of escaping, no matter how drastic…. Langley continued to drag his prisoner down the hall, until stopping abruptly just outside the nearest women’s restroom. For just an instant, he released Auggie’s arms, but he only shoved her roughly through the door before she had a chance to flee.

The bathroom was surreally normal, and also utterly deserted. Somewhat-dirtied tile flooring, and a long, rectangular mirror over a granite countertop containing three sunken porcelain sinks. There was a long row of stalls, all of which were empty. The second they were both in the door, Langley none-too-gently yanked at Auggie’s arm and handcuffed her arms behind her back to ensure there would be no getaways.

He dragged the female over beside the mirror and stopped there, standing imposingly over her. Langley shook his head, as though he was unable to understand Auggie’s frantic attempts to get free.

“Now, I want you to be very still as I do this…. And quiet as well. Is that clear?”

His voice was a brutal snarl. Auggie rapidly nodded.

“Yes,”

She whispered, her voice so small and defeated she almost thought she had imagined it. It was then she finally forced herself to accept that resisting would get her nowhere, would only increase the severity of what he would do to her……

“Very good, very good…..”

Langley crooned, patronizing and sickly-sweet. He lifted Auggie’s skirt and yanked down her underwear, causing her to draw in a sharp breath. The vixen felt hot, stinging tears blur her vision as he tugged at her pubic hairs. She was overcome by a sweeping, humiliating shame. He roughly prodded her slit with a finger, once and then again, before removing his paw and slipping the vixen’s panties back onto her.

Auggie hurriedly blinked back the tears before the Major saw her face. It took everything in her not to cry, but she did not. She could not afford to look weak or broken about the things Langley was doing to her. Under no circumstances could she let him win. What he had already made her endure was horrible, but the female was all too aware that the worst was yet to come. And she was right.

A few moments later, Langley clumsily tore open the vixen’s blouse and tugged down her bra. Auggie allowed her eyes to droop to a half-close as she felt him start to touch her right breast, clawing at it and probing it and greedily squeezing it with his paws. She winced upon feeling warm, wet blood trickling down her breast from where his claws had been.

“Do you like that, you little cunt?”

Langley murmured, staring intently at his captive. Auggie froze, hating the fact that she was so lost and didn’t know what to say that might save her, and what would damn her.

“I…. I….”

She whimpered. The male cut her off mid-word, harshly backhanding her on the face. Her face and snout stinging with pain, Auggie gave a high yelp and looked away, the right half of her face aching.

“I like it,”

She gasped, even though she hated this and she hated him and he knew that all too well. Somehow, Auggie knew in her mind that this agonizing ordeal was almost over. She’d made it this far. As much as she longed to strike him, to make him suffer and bleed for all he’d done to her, she knew Langley expected such defiance. And the punishments and the awful touching would only worsen from there…… And there was also the inevitable, terrifying possibility that he would learn her secret and turn her over to his superiors. And that was something Auggie could not risk and would never allow for. Not as long as she lived.

“You’re such a good girl…..You’re such a very, very good little foxie……”

Langley muttered in that same syrupy tone Auggie despised so much. She deeply wished that her paws were free so she could strike him, no matter the consequences. She felt his paws on her left breast then, sinking his claws deeply into her soft fur, slapping it with his palm. Perhaps the most disgustingly of all, he spat into his palm and rubbed the warm, wet saliva all over her breast. The dog then raked his claws through her soft, light-gray fur one last time before replacing her bra and doing up all the buttons on her blouse. And he was smiling widely as he did so.

“You’re clean, absolutely clean,”

Langley was beaming cheerfully as he spoke.

“Not a trace of illegal substances whatsoever……. There, now…… That wasn’t so bad, was it now?”

Auggie said nothing, but much to her boundless relief; he did not hit her again. Instead, he snapped the handcuffs off but still had her arms restrained as he dragged her back to the cafeteria- by this point they were both so numb Auggie half-wondered if she would ever feel them again at all. By the time they returned to the cafeteria, Langley suddenly let go of Auggie’s numb, pinpricked arms. He pushed the vixen through the doorway, causing her to nearly trip in the process, but acted as though he had not seen her stumble and hurried over to discuss the current situation with his men.

Finally free, Auggie took stock of the scenario, rubbing at her limp and flopping arms in an attempt to get some feeling back into them. She glanced rapidly around the room, doing a mental headcount of everyone there. All forty-three of her fellow customer service personnel were there, and no one seemed to be maimed or grievously harmed in any way. Auggie felt a welcome flood of relief that no one had been arrested. Impossibly, everyone was all right. She could have skipped with joy; but that would have been childish, not to mention highly unprofessional.

In her hurried glance around the room, she could see Langley having some sort of improvised meeting with his flunkeys. He spoke in hushed, excited whispers and was making ridiculous gestures with his paws. The vixen strained to hear what they were talking about, but could not quite make out what Langley was saying; his voice was much too low and he was speaking too rapidly. The only way to get a better audience would be to stand very close to the Major and his men, and she was certainly not about to do that- it would arouse too much suspicion anyway, making the very idea of eavesdropping on them worthless. And Auggie knew all too well she could not afford to garner attention from Elan Langley again after everything he had made her endure…..

After a few minutes of more of this tiresome whispering and secrecy, Langley took several steps forward and turned to face his captive audience, grinning conceitedly.

“I am pleased to report that no further testing is needed. Not a single one of you had any illegal recreational substances on your person; and you have all fared exceptionally well. Once again, I sorely apologize for the inconveniences I caused you upstanding citizens. You are all dismissed. Have a wonderful day, ladies and gentlemen……”

Endlessly relieved at having finally been set free, Auggie’s coworkers got up from their chairs and tables and quietly began to file out of the room. Almost no one talked, and there was certainly no laughing, joking around, or any attempt to lighten the mood. It was one thing to see the Commander’s Guard performing their random arrests as you drove to work, or walked past them on the other side of the street, but to be in their presence, the same room with them, was a surreal and deeply disturbing scenario like no other. Being this close to the Commander’s Guard could best be described as being at death’s door, and it was nothing short of miraculous that all forty-four of them had escaped with their lives.

As they walked back to the lobby, and the cafeteria became farther and farther away, things gradually shifted back to normal. People made tense, tentative jokes about having to get searched, and the group eventually dispersed as the employees made their way back to the office. As she made the journey back, however, Auggie felt a boiling rage slowly building within her; as she thought of the things Langley had done to her.

She deeply hoped that one day, when the proper opportunity arose, she would make him suffer dearly for what he’d done to her. And his pain would be even worse than hers….. He liked to see her suffer, she knew, to overpower her. He may have hurt her, humiliated her, subjected her to overwhelming shame; but Auggie knew she had won. Because he had not broken her. And better still, one day, there would be a day where she would return the favor….. Still, the female pushed these angry thoughts to the back of her mind, where they belonged. She couldn’t allow them to dominate her day, not when there was work to be done. Getting back into the routine and going about the rest of her day in peace, Auggie knew, would do wonders for her emotional state, so she hurried off and continued on her way.

After having safely returned to the office, the rest of Auggie’s day proceeded as normal with no other horrifying interruptions. She spent the rest of her workday troubleshooting, taking calls, and accepting assistance requests as usual. Never before had she been so grateful to have the usual workplace drudgery occupy most of her day; suddenly there was tremendous comfort in such normalcy.

 

Clocking out at three o’ clock sharp as she always did, Auggie drove straight from work to Harborview to pick up Ike. She’d parked the car outside the school and waiting for him when school let out for the day. Some ten minutes later, Ike came running over to the car, panting and out of breath. He threw his backpack and satchel onto the seat beside him and hastily buckled on his seatbelt.

“How was school?”

Auggie calmly asked as she pulled away from the street and drove them home. Ike only stared disinterestedly out the window, looking bitter.

“Yeah, school was shit…..”

Auggie gave a defeated sigh. At this rate she would never get him to stop cussing. Still, though, his bitter indifference was a feeling she could relate too all too well- she had been much the same way during her middle school and early high school years, embarrassingly enough. The mid and early teen years were a trying time for everyone.

“What happened, exactly?”

She asked, not entirely expecting an answer.

“We had gym and reproductive education today,”

Ike said, grimacing with undisguised disgust. The Legion mandated that a bastardized version of sex ed was allowed to be taught in schools, beginning in the eighth grade. Despite their notorious prudishness on the subjects of sex and sexuality; the regime was aware that it was a better alternative to the unsanctioned illegitimate pregnancies that would be inevitable when hormone-addled teenagers were not given the most minimal education about their bodies. But, being the Legion, the curriculum was extremely nebulous, even with the higher grades. The eighth grade material was the vaguest; focusing almost exclusively on STD prevention, the horrors of drug use, and the otherwise-forbidden topic of homosexuality. This last subject was heavily emphasized, as the Legion firmly believed that in its early stages, homosexuality could be treated with intensive intervention, or in some cases prevented altogether.

“I remember both of those, and neither of them were fun.”

Said Auggie, though she was now much more occupied with watching the streets to make sure Commander’s Guardsmen were not lurking anywhere. After her incredibly close call that day, there was no such thing as being too careful…..

“We had to climb ropes in gym today,”

Ike began, sounding more than a little embarrassed.

“And I was the last one to ring the bell at the top. All the other guys laughed at me on the way to the locker room, it was awful!

Auggie looked extremely saddened at this revelation, and her heart went out to her younger brother. She herself had not had the greatest time either in middle and high school, and it was during these first few turbulent years of adolescence that kids tended to be at their cruelest.

“Assholes….. I just hope your friends didn’t get in on the act….. Did they?”

The young male shook his head.

“No. They stuck up for me and told the other guys to knock it off,”

“Well, so long as there was no physical fighting…..”

Ike rolled his eyes.

“Of course not, you can get detention for hitting somebody!”

He scoffed, then adding, sounding suddenly dispirited:

“Anyway….. Reproductive health was way worse.”

“And what happened there?”

They were five minutes away from home, and still no surprise appearances from the Commander’s Guard. Auggie exhaled in relief. It was clear that they were not going to cross her path again, for now, at least…..

We had to watch this really long video about what sexual deviancy is, it was really awkward. Everyone wanted to laugh, but we weren’t supposed to say anything for the whole presentation. And I mean, at all. And then we, we……”

Ike blushed all over, uncertain of how to continue. This had been, by far, the most awkward scenario he’d ever had to go through in all his thirteen years.

“We had to figure out how to put condoms on a plastic dick.”

Auggie could sympathize. Reproductive education had changed very little since her teen years, and she, too, had been made to do similar activities with her equally-embarrassed classmates. Her teachers, though, had neither been understanding nor sympathetic.

“I know it might seem like everything is crap right now, but it will get better, I promise.”

Auggie assured her brother, gentle and sincere.

“Middle school is definitely the worst, believe me, but things will start looking up when you start high school. They did for me.”

“I hope so…..”

Ike groaned miserably, sounding as though he only half-believed it. Auggie, though, felt truly terrible about the fact that her brother had not had the best day either. She badly wished there was more she could do to cheer him up just the slightest bit. Either way, though, if he wanted to continue discussing the subject; she would be there to listen to him. A few minutes later, they finally arrived home, and Auggie parked on the side of the street. The siblings emerged into a lingering, awkward silence.

As the brother and sister climbed up the steps to the building entrance and made their way inside, Ike suddenly froze just outside the door.

“Auggie?”

He was looking up at his sister and smiling wanly.

“Yeah?”

She finished climbing the last step and stood beside him.

“…..Today was a really, really shitty day.”

The younger fox declared, stuffing his paws into his pockets and sitting back against the iron stoop railing.

“You got that right, kid.”

Auggie wholeheartedly and emphatically agreed. Today had been shit, there was no other way of putting it. As they entered the building and climbed up the elegant, imposing old staircase to their apartment, Auggie tried with everything in her to be optimistic. Given that today had quite possibly been one of the most awful days of her life, it would only have to get better from here. She tried to think hopeful thoughts about the rest of the day, desperately wanting to take them to heart. But every time she closed her eyes, she could see Langley and his cruel black ice gaze in the back of her mind. And she was not sure if it would ever leave her.

The End

0 comments about this story Feed