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All movie-related references made in this novel are trademarked by Paramount Pictures, Disney, Universal Pictures, or Marvel. All other characters are completely fictitious and any similarities with actual persons are purely coincidental.
Now that hopefully the confusion from the first three parts has been lifted in Part Four, it’s time to move the story forward.
So, without further ado, Part Five…
Thanks for everyone’s support!
I look at Jillie and the rest of my bandmates in concern as the fire alarm loudly sounds at the same time thick black smoke starts pouring from the kitchen and the sprinklers start spraying the crowd with cold showers of water.
The water hits the sound system and sends sparks flying before the circuit breakers cut the power to the equipment—and the lights. We are suddenly plunged into a frightening, loud, cold, wet, choking darkness
It takes a few seconds for the emergency lights to cut in. When they finally do come on, they reveal a terrifying scene: A full-on panic in the restaurant. People are rushing towards the front entrance to escape the acrid smoke and unending water without a lot of regard for anyone else’s wellbeing.
There are also people storming the stage, since the front entrance is effectively clogged with the fleeing mob and there is an emergency exit behind the stage.
Jillie frantically grabs at my hand, but we are quickly separated as the mob takes over the stage like a huge swarm of ants frantically overtaking some enemy invader in their hill…
What? Do ants ‘swarm’? Are you like seriously asking me that right now?
Anyway, Jillie’s desperate attempt at a hold on my hand is broken as the seething horde pushes its way towards the exit in the back—pushing Jillie out front and with it towards the door and me to the inside and towards the restrooms.
The emergency lights are dimmer in this area of the restaurant because of the thick smoke still pouring from the kitchen. I frantically look around to see if I can see Apollo or Dite—or Momma and Rita. I don’t see anyone that I recognize, at this point.
I’m soaked to the skin and shivering, but I’m not sure if the shivering is because I’m cold…
What? Of course, I am! That’s a stupid question!
What? I hurt your feelings? O!M!G! Like, bite me!
Anyway, I’m not sure if I’m shivering because I’m cold or because of nerves.
What? Of course, it could be both! Are you seriously asking me these stupid-a…, ummm, dumb questions right now?
So, anyway, I don’t see any of my peeps—or Momma or Rita. I decide it’s best to find my way outside and then find the others out there. I’m just worried about going out there in the skimpy dress I have on, soaked as I am, and the temperature certainly below freezing…
I start choking as the thick smoke fills the room enough to make it down to my level. My throat is instantly on fire and I know that frostbite is less of an issue than dying of chemical exposure. So, I turn back towards the exit and start to fight my way towards it. The restaurant is largely empty now, so the crowd shouldn’t be an issue…
I don’t even get the chance to take one step as I feel a strong arm surround me from behind—and a damp cloth cover my face.
I relax, since I assume it’s a fireman putting something over my face to keep the smoke out. I start to give a thumbs-up, but can’t seem to lift my hand.
Then everything goes black…
I whimper… I can’t move and the Klingon is staring me down. Suddenly, it makes a surprise move and starts to take off it’s mask…
Wait! I know this story… It’s like just me, right? I start to relax…
Then, suddenly, the very real Klingon rushes me and starts pounding my head against the floor—over and over and over again. Harder and harder and harder. I know my skull is certainly about to split open!
I feel his hands pushing down on me—gripping my arms…
And…my eyes open…
I have trouble focusing. There are like several reasons for that. One, I have the killer-headache-to-end-all-killer-headaches. Second, something much worse than pink cotton candy has taken over my brain and it’s foggier than it ever has been. Third, it’s like quite dim wherever I am…
Then I hear a familiar voice, full of concern…
What? Ok, ok! Make that where ‘we’ are… Happy? You really need to get your priorities straight! You’re really worried about that, right now?
I groan and try and sit up. I feel a weight push me down and hear Dite say, “Jacie, slow down. You were knocked out with the same stuff I was. I think it was chloroform—or, at least something like it. Maybe ether with the headache I have…”
I groan again. My throat feels like someone poured acid down it and my lungs feel like they’re on fire. I already like mentioned my headache… Like right?
My eyes try and focus and I see a blurry Dite hovering over me—still pressing down on my arms and holding me down.
I croak, “What…? Where…? What happened?! Where are we?”
She shakes her head. At least I think she does—I still can’t see her clearly. She says, “I don’t know. I was standing at the door taking tickets. There was a lull in the line and the next thing I know, someone is pressing a cloth over my face. I woke up here—with you beside me. I just assumed that whoever took me did the same to you…”
I feel a panic attack coming on and struggle to sit up and croak, “Let me sit up, Dite. I like need to sit up!”
She gently helps me sit up and I pay for it with another nauseating round of migraine pain. I wait for the world—well, what I can see of it—to quit spinning and look at the blur that I’m pretty sure is Dite. “Then you don’t know anything about the fire?”
My vision must be clearing up, because Dite is becoming a little clearer—and, along with that, the obvious confusion and concern on her face as she asks, “Fire? What fire?”
I sigh and try and look around the gloomy surroundings. It seems we are like in some sort of long, narrow padded room and there are crates tightly stacked at one end. It’s neither hot, nor cold. There is a small light on the opposite end of the room from where the crates are stacked—it’s barely giving off any light and is flickering, like it’s running on a battery that is slowly going dead. There is no door visible—I assume it’s on the other side of the crates.
My brain is like still not capable of fully processing all of this and I shrug as I look back at Dite and try and focus on what had happened. “Apollo was like frantically looking around the restaurant. I assume it was for you—only I like had no idea at the time that you were missing. Then, all of the sudden, this black smoke started like pouring out of the kitchen and the fire alarm went off. There was like a mad rush of people like trying to get out and the smoke and sprinklers were like making a mess. I…I…I…somehow like got separated from Jillie and like pushed back to the restrooms where the smoke was like thicker. Then I like felt a strong arm like holding me. I like thought it was a fireman, but…the next thing I know is you’re like holding me down in this…wherever we are.”
I move my leg and notice the metal shackle around my ankle for the first time. There is like a short metal chain that goes through a thick metal ring in the floor and then to a shackle around Dite’s ankle.
Suddenly, the chill like really settles into my bones.
What? No, not from the ambient air temperature—like, from the reality that we have been kidnapped and are being held prisoner in some sort of padded room!
I look at Dite with the fear obvious in my eyes. She bites her lower lip and shrugs—obviously terrified, herself.
I crawl over to the side of the room—I can barely reach it with the chain holding me back—and try and pound on wall, but the padding is strong and thick. Dite says, “I’ve already tried calling for help. These pads must soundproof this room very well. I doubt people would hear us even if they were just outside these walls.”
I feel the now familiar signs of a panic attack coming on as my still cotton candy-stuffed brain like goes into overdrive with absurd thoughts.
What? What kind? Well, like that we’re being held on a Klingon ship in the cargo hold and it’s air-tight and we’re going to…
“Air! Dite—is this thing air-tight? I mean I like don’t see any light coming in! Is there any air?”
She visibly pales—even in the dim light—and shakes her head, “I don’t know. I hadn’t thought about that. But, if they were going to kill us, why do it that way?”
I feel the darkness start to descend on me as I float out the hatch without a space suit. My tether just broke.
What? I hadn’t even thought about someone wanting to kill us! I mean aside from the Klingon in my dreams, of course.
I feel Dite’s hand clamp down on mine—hard. Her long nails dig into my skin and the pain pulls me back into the ship—err, stops my descent into passing out. She says, “Stay with me, Jacie! We’re going to be alright. Like I said, if they wanted to hurt us, they would have by now. I just have no idea what it is they do want. I think it must have something to do with the threats Uncle Apollo has been receiving.”
I look at her in alarm as I rub the deep indentions her nails like made in my hands.
What? No. They aren’t bleeding!
Anyway, I blurt out, “Threats?”
She nods, “Mmmm-hmmm. About us, actually.”
I blink. I blink again. I blink, once more. “Us? What do you mean ‘us’?”
She shakes her head, “He wouldn’t say much. What I know is that he—well, the restaurant—was getting threats about supporting LGBT rights and having me work there—and contracting with PS2K, since you are in the band.”
I feel faint again.
What? No, this time I’m like pissed!
“And he didn’t think that was important enough to let us know about? Well, I guess I should say ‘me’, since you obviously did!” I don’t mean to take it out on Dite, but her uncle is not there for me to scream at, at the moment.
She takes my hand and shakes her head, “He went to the police and they told him that it’s not uncommon to get threats like that, but that there have never been any hate-related crimes—at least not LGBT-related ones—in our area. It was their advice to keep it quiet while they investigate. I’m sorry, Jacie—neither one of us meant for this to happen.”
I sigh as reason like sets in—well, maybe more reason—I’m still pissed. But, obviously Dite is in the same mess as me and I doubt that like either she or Apollo wanted that.
I sigh again, “OK, so what have they like found out? Do you think maybe enough to get us out of this mess?”
Dite shrugs and says, “I am not going to lie to you, anymore, Jacie—not that I really intended to lie to you before. I don’t know. They dealt with my uncle. He knows people from old Greece…and if anyone can get us out of this, it is him. Well, them…”
We move around and try to get comfortable. The best way we find is to like sit back to back and lean back on each other. The chain doesn’t allow much more than that—or lying down.
We sit brooding in silence for a bit, then I like can’t take the gloomy atmosphere, anymore. I need to like do something—or I know I will go crazy. Well, crazier than I already am.
What? I like already need two shrinks!
Anyway, I lean my head back on hers and ask, “So, Dite, what was it like being TG in Greece? I don’t know much about your country, but like conventional wisdom here in the States is that the country is pretty conservative.”
I feel her head shake and her shoulders shrug against mine. “I was lucky—I was in a very progressive area. I think it is like anywhere—there are areas that are enlightened in Greece and areas that are not. I don’t think that my experience would have been any different than yours if you had started your journey at age five, like I did. I actually knew as far back as I can remember—I just got up the courage to act on that knowledge when I was five. I had had enough of people treating me like a boy.”
I nod my head as thoughts like fly through the cotton candy fibers in my brain.
What? You know—like all sorts of ‘what-if’ scenarios.
Before they can take off and explode my brain, Dite breaks into the thoughts, “So, Jacie, I never got your full story. You knew early on, too—but then were bullied?”
I sigh and nod. I know she can feel it, since our heads are still supporting each other’s.
I take a deep breath and give her the Cliff Notes version of my ‘panty’ story.
Somewhere in the middle of the story, she like twists around and gives me a big hug. I can feel her tears drip on me as I finish my story.
She had like remained completely silent during my recounting of the story—something that I am becoming well practiced in, by now. When I’m like done, though, she exclaims, “Oh, Jacie! I am so sorry! I knew you had faced difficulties, but I had no idea. Kids can be so mean!”
She squeezes me again and we settle back into our back-to-back lounging position.
She sighs, “Like I said, I was lucky. I grew up in an area that was more tolerant of my condition. We still took a lot of precautions. When my parents figured out what my problem was when I was five, we moved to that area and ‘Aleksy’ ceased to exist—‘Aphrodite’ emerged and has never been forced back into Aleksy’s false existence, since.”
I sigh—those what-ifs start playing in part of the cotton candy fibers in my head again, while the other part like continues to pay attention to Dite’s story.
She swallows—trying to draw moisture into her mouth. When she continues, it’s like clear that she is as thirsty as I am. A cup of coffee sure would be great right now! That like starts a third concurrent thought pattern tracking down the pink fibers in my head.
Dite takes control of the dominant thought thread, “My parents never treated me like a boy again after that. No one else knew that I was born a biological boy, so everyone treated me like the girl that I am. Well, except for some family members. Even Uncle Apollo was distant, at first. But, after he figured out that this was the real me, he warmed up to me and became a staunch advocate of LGBT rights.”
She tries to draw more moisture into her mouth and continues on with a cracked voice, “I got on blockers and hormones as soon as my doctor would allow them and had my surgery at eighteen. I have never once regretted it—I have never had even one second thought.”
I sigh. I wish I could like say that. “That’s awesome how it worked out for you, Dite. I can’t say that I’m not having second thoughts! My shr…err, psychiatrists are telling me that’s likely mostly due to my bullying at my ‘awakening’, so to speak. But, there are no guarantees that’s like what is causing my doubts—nor that even if that is the cause and the bullying hadn’t happened, if I wouldn’t have grown out of it.”
I giggle, suddenly giddy, “If only I could take the Enterprise and slingshot around the sun to go back in time and stop that from happening…”
Dite giggles, too, “Well, you know what happened when McCoy messed with time…”
I am about to like blurt out something profound about her even knowing about that, when there is a sudden lurch that throws us off balance and…we’re moving!
We both let out a shriek as the world moves under us. It takes a second to like realize it’s not an earthquake, but that we’re in some sort of container—likely hooked onto the back of a truck.
We help each other sit up, only to be thrown over again as the vehicle makes a turn and then goes over several huge bumps—like throwing us around again. After several minutes of gathering a huge collection of bruises, it like smooths out-with only the vibration of the floor a clear indication that we’re moving.
We realize that we’re moving at what seems to be at a fast pace, if the initial acceleration that slid us back towards the crates is any indication. We also know that we’re moving on a smooth, fairly straight surface—like a highway or interstate.
That’s like bad enough that we’re being hauled off somewhere unknown. But we also realize that the air is getting thin. The giddiness from a few minutes ago is turning into our small, labored gasps for air!
I look at Dite and it’s clear she knows it, too. Neither of us says anything in the desperate, but clearly vain attempt to save what little oxygen is left in the container that’s clearly air-tight. I shake my head at the fact that like my weird Klingon thoughts from earlier were spot-on when it came to the crux of our problem.
What? No, there isn’t a Klingon! Really?
What? No! We’re not in a cargo hold on a Klingon ship! But we are in an air-tight container.
And we’re like running out of air.
Suddenly, we start choking as exhaust fumes come in through a vent that opens in the ceiling—followed by fresh air!
We take in gulps of the cold, brisk air that floods in and give each other a huge hug. The vent also lets daylight in—it seems to be like morning light. So, it’s been like at least six or more hours since the fire.
The vent closes and shuts out the fresh airflow—as well as the sunlight. We’re left with a new, but self-contained supply of air and the flickering little light in what is now clearly the front of the container.
Suddenly, I feel myself shaking—just craving that little view of freedom the open vent offered. Closing it off like just seemed to send the message that our situation is hopeless.
Dite like seems to sense my despair and says, “At least we know they don’t intend to kill us. As long as we are alive, there is hope, right?”
I shake my head and twist around to give her a hug. I fight back tears that seem to want to form—but it seems like even that little act is too much effort.
I realize like just how thirsty I am—and hungry.
I croak, my throat becoming more parched, “I thought that light coming through the vent was morning light, but I think it may have been evening light. We may have been knocked out longer than we like thought. I’m really hungry—but, worse, I’m thirsty. I wonder if whatever they used to knock us out with just like made that worse?”
Dite shrugs and nods, “I think you may be right. If so, we’ve been gone for around eighteen hours, give or take, now. If they were laying low during the day, then they would have had about six hours to get wherever it is they got to. If they drive all night, tonight, we would be hundreds of kilometers—maybe over a thousand—away from home!”
I feel a shiver run through my body and realize it’s not only because of the terror that statement like caused me…
What? You wouldn’t be terrified at being dragged hundreds of miles away from home, against your will, and with no idea where—or why? Really?
Anyway, I realize the temperature is like quickly dropping. Dite and I are both still dressed in our disco outfits—and they are not designed for warmth!
What? Our makeup? Like, O!M!G! Did you like really ask me that? Of course, it’s ruined! Like, really?
Anyway, I blurt out, “Like O!M!G!!! First they like try to suffocate us. They’re trying to starve us. Now, they’re like trying to freeze us!”
A crackly voice comes over an intercom that I hadn’t noticed before and I jump. It seems that Dite like hadn’t noticed it either judging by her equally high jump—and her shriek.
“Shut up youze two perverts. If it werz up to me, I would let you suffocate, starve and freeze—as long as it ended yourze miserable existence. Unfortunately, thatz not what I’m being paid to dooz.”
The front of one of the crates drops and reveals several bottles of water, a package of jerky, and a single blanket.
“Youze two perverts can get naked too-gedder and share the blanket. Itz going to getz a lot colder!”
The intercom shuts off and the maniacal laughter cuts out with it as we each grab a bottle of water and greedily drain it of its life-giving contents.
I look at the intercom, shudder again, and give Dite a scared look—which she like returns in spades.
We don’t say anything else, since it’s clear that the pervert driving us is listening in. It’s like clear, he’s a maniac and we don’t like want to give him any reasons to go off whatever contract it is he has and kill us.
But the cold is rapidly increasing and we realize that a refrigeration unit has been turned on! Dite whispers in my ear, “He was right, we need to get naked and under the blanket together to stay warm. I don’t trust the food or water, but we need something…”
I slowly nod and she quickly starts undressing. She must like notice my hesitation and turns to look at me, “Look Jacie, it is just us two girls. You don’t have anything that I haven’t seen—or had. And even if that were not the case, I am not sensitive about naked bodies. I go to the nude beaches in Greece all of the time!”
I shiver and blow out the air in my lungs, watching it form ‘smoke’, as we used to call it as young kids. I sigh and decide to get over my self-consciousness.
What? Other than my mother, Jillie is the only other girl that has seen me naked. And they’re like both very special cases!
I hesitate another second, then unzip my dress, since Dite is already fully in the nude, except for her panties that she would have to literally rip off because of the shackle on her ankle. She is pulling the blanket over herself and has the remaining bottles of water and the bag of jerky next to her.
I pull the dress over my head and undo my bra and let it drop, displaying my Borg boobs that are getting very cold. Unlike Dite’s nipples that are erect because of the cold, mine are like just in their ‘default’ position, which is oddly-enough erect—permanent ‘headlights’, as Jillie likes to joke about them.
I join Dite under the blanket and we move around so that we are laying side by side, the only way to get the blanket over us, chained as we are. We tuck it in under us, to counter the cold of the floor as best we can and I feel her warm, soft body next to mine.
I force myself to remember that this is not Jillie next to me—and squelch the fact that a real part of me wants to get erect. That, of course, starts a whole new round of self-incriminations. How can my body betray me—betray Jillie—like that?
What? I’m not like interested in Dite that way!
What? I’m not!
I mean…right? Just because she is a wonderfully beautiful and funny woman…
Dite smiles and opens a bottle of water and hands it to me. I greedily drink from it and take a handful of the jerky out of the bag that she has also opened.
We are both quiet for several minutes as we chew on the jerky and drink more water.
Then I suddenly can’t hold onto my bottle.
I drop it and things fade to black again…
The first thing that I like realize is that I’m in a heavenly soft—and warm—bed.
The next thing I realize is that I’m in that bed alone.
The next thing I realize is that I’m like not alone.
My eyes snap open and I see Momma and Jillie sitting in chairs on either side of the bed. Both are asleep.
I’m in a hospital room of some sort. I’m not hooked up to anything except one of those like annoying finger-clip thingies that monitor your pulse.
What? You know the ones I’m talking about, right? They clip onto the end of your finger and just bug the begeebers out of you!
Anyway, once again, I’m completely lost.
The last thing I like remember is laying next to Dite and drinking some water in the back of a big rig…
I gasp. Dite!
I look around—she’s not in this room, anyway.
My gasp wakes both Momma and Jillie, who both rush over and smother me in a huge hug!
After I can breathe again…
What? They were smothering me!
What? No! I didn’t mind!
Anyway, when I can breathe again, I ask the very astute question that is on everyone’s mind, “What the Hell happened? Where am I? How long has it been? Who did this? Oh, and what the HELL?”
What? That’s like more than one question? So, like sue me!
Anyway, Momma and Jillie drag their chairs over and Momma pushes the nurse call button.
The nurse appears almost immediately and sees that I’m awake. She fusses over me, taking my vitals and stuff, then Momma asks, “Jacie, Hon, do you want a Diet, or some water? We can get you some food, too, I’m sure.”
I nod my head and say, “Could I have a cup of coffee to start? It just sounds really good.”
Momma looks perplexed and says, “Well, we can get ice in the Diet Pepsi. I can’t stand hot Pepsi!”
I give her a funny look.
What? I have no idea what she’s babbling on about!
Anyway, I shake my head, “No, I can’t stand it, either, but I would really like a cup of coffee, right now.”
Momma shakes her head, like the world suddenly doesn’t make sense anymore. I like certainly know how she feels!
The nurse says she will get me a cup of coffee and have some food brought up. Then she leaves.
Momma, still looking like the cat ate her canary, says, “Your Daddy will be here as soon as he can. He was on that business trip in Germany and had problems with the weather getting home.”
I nod and fairly burst out, “Momma! Where is ‘here’?”
Jillie squeezes my hand and says, “We’re in a small town in southwest Texas—not very far from the Mexican border.”
Momma nods, “That is where that bastard was taking you and Aphrodite—to Mexico. I guess you were to become TG porn stars. They would have hooked you on drugs and forced you to do their bidding. And before you ask, we don’t really know why—or who was behind it. The FBI is in on it, since it was a kidnapping across state borders and they are sure that the guy that had you was just a contract hire.”
I nod and say, “He told Dite and me as much. Is she OK? Dite, I mean? We…we…we thought we were going to die!”
Momma hugs me and Jillie squeezes my hand. Momma says, “She is fine. She was just drugged into unconsciousness, like you. The doctors thought it best to just let you sleep it off. You have been here in the hospital for several hours—you’ve likely been out for twenty-four, or more. The doctors said it was a heavy dose. The FBI thinks it was to keep you quiet while you were smuggled across the border. Normally, there isn’t much scrutiny going in to Mexico, but…”
I nod and Jillie picks up the story, “It’s been three days since you were taken and we had all about died of despair, since no one had a clue of what was going on.”
Momma nods, “Apollo let the cat out of the bag that he had been threatened—well, the restaurant. Of course, we were all furious with him—until the police let us know that they were the ones that advised him to keep it quiet. Then we were furious with the police. We’ll deal with all of that later. Anyway, Apollo knows some…people. I’m not sure, but I think they are Greek Mafia, or something. They are the ones that tracked you down and tipped the FBI off, who raided the truck at the border crossing. A few minutes later and it would have become an international incident.”
The nurse comes in with my coffee and I politely refuse the cream or sugar and blow on the steaming cup of stuff from the nurse’s lounge and not the cafeteria. The nurse was clear on that—I’m getting the good stuff; and in a ceramic mug, too.
She leaves us alone as I take a grateful sip and Momma seems like she’s going to explode. I just look at her and ask, “What? It’s like just coffee!”
What? I don’t like get what the big deal is!
Momma sighs and says, “Well, this is a sidetrack, but one we need to go down. I have to really apologize to you, Jacie. When you were hypnotized by Rita and Gina, they set a post-hypnotic trigger in you to crave coffee if the correct phrase was said. They triggered it in your session as proof that the hypnosis was actually effective. At my insistence, they gave me the trigger phrase, because I had to know for myself… I triggered it in you—but then I forgot the reversal phrase! I got it from Rita at the Disco party and was going to free you of the compulsion at your next break… But then all of…this…happened.”
She shakes her head, “Rita was pretty sure that if you heard it—even while unconscious—that it would take effect. But you still wanted coffee when you woke up even though I whispered it to you earlier—so I just repeated it and you still want it!”
Suddenly, a huge block of worry drops from my shoulders as at least one thing makes sense! I grin at Momma and say, “So, that’s what that ‘hot Pepsi’ crap was about? I remember Rita saying that at the end of the session, too. I will have to have a word with them about forcing me to do things, though. That doesn’t give me a huge sense of trust.”
The pointed look I give Momma conveys the same point.
She hangs her head and says, “I know, Love. I’m ashamed of myself—and Rita and Gina were going to tell you. It’s my fault that they postponed that. I have no excuse—other than I was—am—worried about you and wanted incontrovertible proof that the hypnosis was effective.”
What? Yes, I’m like totally irritated—but, I’m not like pissed. I sort of get it.
Anyway, I look at Momma and pointedly take a sip of coffee…
What? I guess all of it I drank while under the post-hypnotic compulsion made me actually develop a taste for it!
Anyway, I say, “OK, we can all have a group session on that one—later. What’s like the next step in finding out who really did this? I mean I like have some ideas…”
Jillie nods emphatically, “Like Greg & Co., or Hailey and her Dad…”
Momma shakes her head and is about to say something, when she’s cut off by a knock on the doorframe and a huge guy in a dark suit comes in. He nods and says, “Good evening, Ms. Alexander, I’m Special Agent Zachary Bender with the FBI. Are you up to talking for a bit while things are still fresh in your mind?”
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