Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Healing Process

“There is no such thing as ‘ethics’ in war, and anyone who believes there is has never won one.”- Author Unknown

December 6, 2016,
19:02 local time,
The Loveboat Original Location,
Manhattan, New York

It finally was here- Election Night, where Juan Castro would learn if his massive lead in the polls would translate into a coronation as the North American Union’s next President.

Tonight he was hosting a party at the first ever location of his famous series of nightclubs, The Loveboat, where every TV was tuned in to the election coverage being provided by the only channel all of North America seemed to think was believable, the Cable News Network, or CNN.

The mood was light and festive, as the news all through the day was about Castro’s commanding lead in the polls, which, according to the polling averages done by the Roman Free Press, put Castro’s poll number at 49%, compared to his opponents, Haylie Modine at 22% and Thomas Bighill at 20%. There wasn’t a prognosticator who didn’t predict a landslide Castro victory- which is why the next guest on CNN caught the eyes of the viewing party.

“Joining me now is Nate Silver, the chief writer and editor for the popular political blog, 251.com,” said Megyn Kelly, introducing her next guest, “and he says that Juan Castro may not have this election in the bag, despite his seemingly big lead in the polls.”
“Thank you, Megyn,” said Silver. “Yes, you are correct in that assessment. What a lot of people do not understand in this situation is that, as it’s always been in North America, the popular vote does not elect the next President, the Electoral College does, and the Electoral College assigns its electors based on the winner of the state, regardless of whether or not the winner wins by twenty points or just one.”
“OK,” said Kelly, “where do you see the problem spots for Castro?”
“First,” said Silver, “what’s fuelling Castro’s huge rise in the polls are what are pointing to some rather historic and unprecedented results in New York, Carolina and Virginia, where Castro is predicted to win by 85 points…I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before. However, that’s a large reason why Castro is polling near 50% and is in Electoral trouble- yeah, he could gain something like 35 million votes, but he’d only get 55 Electoral College votes.”
“Which is still a lot,” said Kelly, “but, obviously, not enough for the victory.”
“Yes,” said Silver. “I’m seeing very tight races in places like Ontario, like Quebec, like Cascadia where, if Castro doesn’t flip them, he’ll lose.”
“So where does Castro stand right now?” said Kelly.
“Right now, he’s sitting at 56 votes- the three states I said he was leading by a large margin,” said Silver, “and Maine, where he’s also predicted to win big but not by a historic margin. The rest…they’re all way too close to call. Well, okay, Coahuila and its 14 votes are probably Castro’s, because he’s up by eight points there…still close but I’m comfortable making that call there.”
“So he’s at 70 Electoral College votes,” said Kelly. “All told.”
“Yeah,” said Silver. “Way more than his opponents…but not enough to say ‘he’s going to win tonight’.”
“Which contradicts everything he’s been saying,” said Kelly. “I mean, he hasn’t even campaigned once in Quebec or Cascadia and only visited Toronto early in the campaign…he’s spent most of his time in New York.”
“Exactly,” said Silver. “He’s taking this result for granted and it could cost him.”
“Who, then, is in a better situation for the upset?” said Kelly. “Modine or Bighill?”
“Hayley,” said Silver without hesitation. “She’s managed to be neck and neck with Castro in way more polls…Bighill just looks like he’s going to play spoiler and steal votes in many states. He might win a few but he doesn’t look like he’ll be a factor in many states…the only swing states where he’s even a factor is in the Arctic and in Arizona.”
“Looks like he was a poor choice to ‘save’ the Federalist Party,” said Kelly.
“He’s doing better than the Feds’ first pick,” said Silver, “Rodney Dickens was getting hammered…Thomas Bighill at least is giving them a chance.”

“One more thing before we go here,” said Kelly. “I think we need to ask- how did we get to this point and is this reason to change things?”
“Very good question, Megyn,” said Silver. “We need to remember that the Electoral College assigns its votes on a per state basis, and in each state, the winner of that state’s vote gets the entire slate of Electors, regardless of whether or not the winner wins by one point or 90…and let’s not forget, the winner only needs a plurality of the vote, not a majority. So if the winner scores 25%, 2nd place gets 24% and 3rd gets 20%…the winner gets the Electoral votes, no questions asked.

“So I want to answer this in two parts- one, the Electoral College in principle…well, you can make 100 arguments to keep it and 100 arguments to abolish it, so I won’t make a stand on that. Second, though, if we do keep it, I think we’ll have to look at changing how states assign their votes…we need to start looking at things like runoffs and preferential balloting instead of ‘winner takes all’. We’ve been pretty lucky that the NAU has always had a ‘two-party system’ rendering the questions concerning ‘winner take all’ moot…but I think, with three viable parties, where this kind of insane vote splitting occurs more often, we’ve got to start asking those questions.”

“Pfft,” said Castro, waving at the TV screens. “What does Nate Silver know?”
“He’s only the leading electoral prognosticator in the continent,” said Castro’s vice-presidential pick, Martha Cadsen, disapproving of Castro’s dismissive attitude, “and he’s only been saying things that I have been telling you for weeks.”
“Martha, Martha, Martha,” said Castro, putting his arm around Cadsen, “and I’m telling you that you’re worrying way too much. We’re polling at near 50%…what could possibly go wrong?”

Cadsen patted his belly and gave him a restrained smile before walking away, as Castro looked on, that smug smile still etched on his face.

As the polls closed at 9PM, Castro had every reason to continue his smile. Initial results went as expected, with New York, Carolina and Virginia all called with incredible victory margins, as preliminary results saw Castro and his American Party win each state by 90% of the vote. Soon, Maine too was called for Castro, where he gained 64% of the vote netting him a 33% victory margin. The next states that was a resounding Federalist victory in Washington, D.C. by 33%, followed by Indiana going to the Americans by a 10% margin.

This meant that, an hour after the polls closed, Castro had picked up 59 Electoral College votes, almost halfway to the needed total of 126, while the Federalists only picked up three Electoral votes and the one predicted to be Castro’s main rival- Modine and the Unionist Party- hadn’t picked up a single Electoral vote.

It would be another hour before Modine finally got on the scoreboard, where Iowa, Illinois and Modine’s home state of Arkansas were called for the Unionists. This still meant Castro’s lead was intact, as the Unionists still only had 15 votes at this stage.

Castro, though, began to wonder why places like Ontario and Quebec, in the same time zone as New York, weren’t yet called, but he didn’t seem troubled by it. Cadsen, however, was, knowing that Modine’s extensive campaigning- and her much better ground game- were making those states closer than she felt they should have been.

The mood in the room soon picked up when it was confirmed that Coahuila was declared for Castro, followed by Kentucky, which Castro won by only 4%. Still, it meant that Castro now had 73 Electoral College votes, more than halfway to victory, with the Unionists still stuck at 15 and the Federalists pulling up the rear at three. This meant his opponents would need the rest of the states to fall their way to have any chance of catching up.

A shot of laughter could be heard around the room when it was announced that the Rockian Northern Council, that band of territory that used to be the Dakotas that turned into Bighill’s “pet project”, was awarded to Bighill, meaning, for the moment, the Federalists were actually in second place. There was even more laughter when it was announced that the Americans had actually cut into Bighill’s victory, with commentators believing a protest of that the state’s decision to deny rights to those of Anglo-Saxon descent prevented Bighill from as resounding a victory as he might have hoped in his home state.

However, after the RNC and a Unionist victory in Utah (netting the POP 12 more votes for a total of 27)…every state that was left was a tight race, and many were way too close to call. Cadsen began to fear the worst, and as the night wore on, she was right.

At 1AM, when the polls on the West Coast began to close, the Unionists picked up steam, eking out victories in Cascadia and Colorado, with the Adirondacks state comfortable enough with its vote count to also award their state to the Unionists. Also at 1AM, the Arctic went to the Federalists, meaning the American Party’s lead shrunk to just twenty Electoral Votes.

The mood in the room became sullen, as shock and disbelief took over. Many in the room- other than Cadsen- wondered how an election that seemed so secure for them was falling from their grasp. Fifteen minutes later, Castro’s supporters found reason to smile as Arizona and Alberta fell their way, giving the Americans 87 Electoral votes.

Hope, however, was fleeting.

At 1:30AM, in a surprise, Montana went to the Unionists, with the crowd learning that it was a close three-way race that the Unionists won with only 34% of the vote. Screams of “that’s not fair!” emanated from the floor, and murmurs began to flow indicating that the election just might have been rigged.

“People’s Official Party?” said one angry supporter, referencing the Unionists’ official nickname for their party, which gets abbreviated as “POP”. “More like the ‘People’s Oppressor’s Party!” he concluded.

Five minutes later those howls got louder, as California fell to the Unionists, defeating the Americans by a mere .38%, 40.55% to 40.16%. Shock then turned to anger, when Wolf Blitzer boomed from the TV that the close races of Ontario and Quebec would decide the election, with the winning party needing to secure both states to claim an Electoral College victory.

As the polls in those states worked to tabulate and re-tabulate the results- since the votes were too close to call- the CNN commentators discussed the possibility of no one securing an Electoral victory. In this case, the vote would go to the House of Representatives’ 251 members, of which 111 belonged to the Federalist Party, 81 to the Unionists and 59 to the Americans. If the Representatives could not decide it, the decision would then fall to the House of Lieutenants’ 56 members, of whom 25 were Feds, 19 were from the POP and 12 were Americans. Failing that vote, it then fell to the 23 state legislatures, where five were controlled by the Americans, nine were controlled by the Feds and eight were controlled by the POP, with one independent- the Rockian Northern Council- that would be expected to vote for Bighill.

If the state legislatures could not come to an agreement, the final line of defence was the NAU’s “state coalitions”, or the different collective of states that are officially represented by the Treaty of Buffalo. The leaders of these eight coalitions would then gather and decide the next President, and since there are only eight of them, it’d be expected they reach a consensus.

“It’d be one giant mess if we don’t get a winner tonight,” said Blitzer with a wry smile as the others in the CNN studio laughed.

As the hours passed, nerves began to jangle, with adrenaline keeping many of those gathered awake. The vote count was essentially tied, with Castro holding an 87-86 lead over Modine in the Electoral count. All that was left were Ontario’s 14 votes and Quebec’s 30 votes, both of which were needed for one side to win the election.

At 4AM, seven hours after the polls had officially closed, Quebec was finally called, with CNN awarding the state to Modine. Lots of grumbles and howls could be heard, with tears flowing readily in the room as those gathered realized that, now that Ontario’s 14 votes would only be enough for an Electoral College plurality and not give Castro the victory. Cadsen tried to keep the place upbeat by reminding those gathered they still had a chance, as Bighill was not well-liked by his own party, but it was small solace to a room that felt so assured just three hours ago.

Finally, at 4:20AM, the Americans’ fate was sealed. Ontario finally had a result, and it wasn’t a result the room had hoped. Modine was officially declared the winner by a mere 49,000 votes, the Unionists- with support largely from downtown Toronto- securing the victory 42.47% to 42.01%. This meant that Modine and the Unionists were officially the winners of the North American Presidential Election, claiming 130 Electoral College votes- four more than what was needed- to Castro’s 87 and Bighill’s 34, despite securing only 24.27℅ of the vote.

Castro, for his part, secured 50.13℅ of the popular vote- more than any other Presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1984- with Castro’s edge in the tally, 25.86℅ over Modine, was the largest since Warren Harding in 1920.

However, since most of Castro’s votes came in New York, Carolina and Virginia, and since Modine eked out almost every close race, Modine won the Electoral vote and thus the election.

Loud groans of anger emanated across the room, with many a beer bottle being thrown, including by Castro. He then walked to one of the room’s many disco balls and grabbed it, contemplating ripping it from the ceiling before his senses got the better of him. The cleanup bill would be huge and the effort massive, a nuisance he didn’t wish to add when his mood was already at his low point.

He did, however, make a vow to everyone gathered.

“I’m not conceding,” said Castro. “That b*** isn’t getting a call from me. She rigged that election and I’m going to find out how. You have my word.”

December 7, 2016,
08:36 local time,
The Harding Residence Complex,
Chicago, Illinois

“You’ve got it?” Buck said, talking to his friend on the phone. “I’ll pick it up later...yes, a bill and a half is fine.”

The burly redhead with the thick goatee then hung up his phone and set it on the counter so that he could sit down and watch TV.

“Well, it didn’t take long,” said Kelly, doing her best to stay awake for her usual morning anchor shift despite the long night. “Juan Castro- who, like us, doesn’t seem to sleep- announced today he is seeking recounts in several states, including Ontario, Quebec, California and Montana, all states he lost by less than a percentage point. However, because the margin in those states was greater than a quarter of a percentage point, Castro will have to foot the bill himself, and the likelihood of the result being overturned is remote, as no recount has ever recovered that kind of a deficit.”

“What does he expect to gain out of this?” asked co-anchor Don Lemon, who let out a yawn as he too was up late covering the election. “Right now he looks petty...I mean, yeah it’s a shocking loss...but it’s not a tainted one. Hayley won fair and square...he needs to accept that.”
“Especially after a bitter campaign that got personal,” said Kelly, “and not just for him and Modine but I think for all of us.”
“Oh I know,” said Lemon. “I’m not going to even try to pretend to know what you and many women like you are going through right now...and this is just prolonging the hurt.”
“Tell me about it,” said Kelly, who let out a sigh but kept her composure when Lemon gave her a reassuring pat on her shoulder.

Buck, though, decided he had enough and shut off the TV in disgust.

“Those b***es,” he said, sneering at the TV. “They don’t know what I’m going through. I’ll show them...their tyranny will end soon.”

December 22, 2016,
17:09 local time,
CNN Studios,
Manhattan, New York

“Well, Madam President,” said Blitzer, greeting Modine as his guest. “Looks like the recounts are all going in your favour.”
“As I expected,” said Modine, smiling and shifting in her chair. “Let’s not pull any punches Wolf...what Castro is doing is petty and stupid. He’s no better than a petulant child, complaining that he never got his way. Serves him right...he’s never respected anyone that’s told him ‘no’.”
“Even still,” boomed Blitzer, “there are many people that see the size of his popular vote victory and contend you still don’t have legitimacy.”
“Wolf,” said Modine, putting on a brave face, “after all I have been through, I’m choosing not to worry about those who don’t think I won legitimately...I just go back to the facts...everyone says my result is clean, and while the system was strange this year, it’s what we have to work with and I won based on those parameters...parameters we’ve all known for well over a century. So I fall back to that and let the haters be haters...they’ll never change their minds. I’ll focus on governing, and work with those who want to work with me...because this country needs to heal and we’ve got to start doing that.”

December 23, 2016
11:29 local time,
Trump Imperial Tower,
Manhattan, New York

“We have to accept the results,” said New York Emperor Donald Trump to a large cadre of reporters gathered outside of his Imperial Residence. “Personally, I’m flattered that some people think I’d be a great choice for President...but I refuse to participate in the undermining of our democratic system. Yes, it needs changes...but we need to do it the right way.”

Trump then leaned in towards the microphone and broadened his shoulders, gesturing wildly with his hands as he continued his speech.

“I’m going to tell you right now, folks…if anyone…anyone…in the Electoral College selects me for President I will immediately not accept and I will immediately hand over the reins to the rightful winner of the election, Ms. Haylie Modine.”

“Your Highness,” said a reporter as questions started to be taken, “you don’t think it’s unfair that Juan Castro didn’t win the election despite the margins of victory he attained?”
“Oh of course it’s unfair,” said Trump, extending his arms before clasping his hands together strongly and audibly. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen an election where the winning candidate does so poorly in the popular vote…I mean I’m not even sure how you can win an election yet lose the vote by 24 points…I mean, I think Haylie’s loss margin is the worst in almost a hundred years…it’s incredible to think about that. How much of the vote did Haylie get?”
“24.27%, sir,” said another reporter.
“24.27%, eh?” said Trump, who let out a sardonic chuckle and made a face while doing it. “People in England have lost elections with that total…in fact, many times, you finish third with that total…and Haylie won!”
“So isn’t that reason enough for you to go to the Electoral College and tell them they have a duty to elect Juan Castro as President…or a compromise candidate, like yourself?” said another reporter.
“No,” said Trump emphatically. “I said it before…as absurd as Haylie’s victory is, as far as we can tell, she won it fair and square…and if you play a game…and play it according to its rules…which Haylie did…then we have a duty to uphold that result.”
“…but Emperor Trump,” piped in an impatient reporter, “aren’t you worried about what Haylie will do once she has control of Congress?”
“She’s bound by the North American Constitution,” said Trump curtly, “and, regardless, that’s immaterial now. It doesn’t change the fact she won the election.”

As a torrent of reporters howled in a vain attempt to get the next question, Trump superseded them and made a broad announcement from the podium.

“Listen folks, I need to address something,” said the Emperor. “All this stuff about Haylie being unfit for the job, about being a dangerous demagogue, about being a wide-eyed idealist whose vision isn’t realistic…I’m not going to disagree with you, on many parts. However, none of those arguments apply here. Those were great arguments to make on December 6…not now, after the election, when the people have already voted. The core of the matter here is that you are asking the Electoral College to disregard the will of the people and the will of the states who voted and I don’t care who the candidate is, you just don’t do that. You just don’t do that. You just don’t. For our democracy to work, people need to believe in the system and they can’t believe in it if the system decides, arbitrarily, that sometimes they don’t want to pick the person the people voted for. That’s just not right, folks, and I will not stand for it.

“The only way…the only way I could ever consider nullifying an election result is if the candidate somehow cheated…and we know Hayley did not. So, let’s stop the haranguing, please…she won fair and square, and that’s the end of it. Thank you!”

Trump then stepped off the podium as the torrent of questions rained on him, but it was to no avail- Trump left many of the reporters hanging, as he felt there was nothing more he needed to say. It was a fool’s game what Castro’s supporters were after, and Trump preferred not to feed their crazy theories any further.

He went up to his penthouse and fixed himself something to eat, hoping that lunch would help take his mind off the craziness that was the North American election. No wonder we can’t get this Union to work…nobody wants to make it work, he thought.

As he was about to bite down into his sandwich, he was informed he had a guest.

“Send him in,” said the Emperor. He sighed, but his mood brightened when the guest arrived.

“Juan!” said Trump to Castro. “Glad you could make it.” Trump then shook Castro’s hand and patted Castro’s shoulder, pulling Castro’s hand towards his body.
“Me as well,” said Castro with a smile. “I didn’t even try to resist the handshake this time.” Castro then noticed Trump’s sandwich.

“Nice sandwich,” he said.
“Got a little hungry,” said Trump. “Busy day…so I whipped one up.”
“Don’t you have people that can make it for you?” said Castro.
“Yeah,” said Trump, “but sometimes I like doing things myself.”
“Makes sense,” said Castro.
“Do you want anything?” said Trump.
“Some of your ice water would be nice,” said Castro, as Trump dutifully pulled out a bottle of his brand-named ice water for Castro. Castro was really craving alcohol, but since Trump doesn’t drink, Castro didn’t bother to ask.

“So, you wanted to talk to me?” said Castro as he savoured his first sip of his drink.
“I think you need an intervention, Juan,” said Trump as he began eating his sandwich. “All this recount and Electoral College stuff…give it up.”
“…but Donald,” said Castro, “you saw the results…they’re ridiculous. There’s no way they’re fair.”
“Juan,” said Trump. “They uncovered no evidence of election tampering…Haylie’s win was as clean as a whistle.”
“I can’t believe you’d defend someone who hired a known criminal for her campaign,” said Castro, referring to Modine’s hiring of Ingrid Fjallsdottir, the disgraced feminist icon convicted in August for running a human trafficking ring.
“Ingrid’s crime was horrific, and it certainly suggests she could craft a large conspiracy,” said Trump with a restrained smile, “but there’s no proof that Ingrid actually did rig the election in favour of Haylie. Look, you’re not getting an argument from me…Hayley’s a scary individual. I’m not sure how I’ll be able to work with her…I just might have to pull out of the NAU, and I’d rather not do that.

“However,” said Trump, letting out a huge sigh. “My father was a proud American, and raised me the same way. I said I would do everything I could to keep this Union together and keep it functioning…and for me to do that, I have to respect its institutions. I may not like it, but I have to respect them, and one way I do that is by respecting its elections. I know you won the vote by an absurd margin and I would rather have you in power…but, that’s not how our elections work. I’d like to see them changed, but not to invalidate this result…it would create an even bigger issue than even you could imagine.”

“Oh come on,” said Castro, making a face. “What’s the worst that could happen? A few riots, a lawsuit here and there…nothing I couldn’t handle.”
“More than that, Juan,” said Trump. “You’d have no legitimacy once in power. Your American Party will be seen as schemers who don’t have any respect for our institutions and our processes. No one in Congress will work with you. Your Presidency will be challenged all the way to the Supreme Court, and maybe even the Romans would make a decision on it. Guaranteed you’re not surviving the end of the term and you’ll have no career in public office, or even anywhere in the public eye. Trust me, nothing good can come from messing with our democracy…nothing.”

“…and you know,” said Trump, as he walked over to a fridge and picked up an ice water himself before returning to his table, “even if I wanted to influence the Electoral College, I couldn’t. Since your party emerged out of the whole cloth, with so many people defecting, you didn’t have a convention and you never picked electors…in fact, no party did. This time, it’s entirely up to the states, meaning, ostensibly, I’d do it but I’m leaving that up to my Congressmen. Furthermore, we’re supposed to keep the names of the electors secret.”
“They’re a secret this year?” asked Castro, surprised.
“Yeah,” said Trump, “because of your loons.”
“Hey man,” said Castro, “don’t be calling my supporters loons. They’re good people.”
“Oh I know most of them are good people,” said Trump, “but you’ve got a few guys with a screw loose trying to, well, loosen up some unwilling girls and…well, Juan, you haven’t said anything about it. It’s unnerving, really.”
“Why should I say something?” said Castro. “They’re adults, presumably. They’re free to make their own decisions…I have no control over them. In fact, I should shoulder no responsibility for what they do.”
“Not disagreeing with you,” said Trump. “However, they are doing it in your name…you need to at least disavow it and at least say those loons aren’t your ‘real’ supporters. By saying nothing you’re almost implicitly endorsing it.”
“Well, Donald,” said Castro ominously. “Maybe I do. When it comes to Hayley…there’s nothing I wouldn’t support.”

December 23, 2016,
04:15 local time,
Lincoln Park,
Chicago, Illinois

“I’ll call you in the morning,” said Helen Hofstrate on the phone, “If I can find the ornament I’ll bring it...I’ll see you soon. Bye Mom.”

The svelte brunette with the bright eyes and an even brighter smile walked down the street with confidence, ecstatic for the future. The nursing student had one more semester to finish at DePaul after which she had multiple offers for employment to consider. She had a loving boyfriend and a very supportive family, one that helped her stay afloat when she accumulated all that debt.

If only she could get the dog from chewing off the table legs, things would be perfect, she thought. Can’t have it all, I guess, she often thought.

As she walked, she felt the crispness of the cold Chicago air against her skin, which helped soothe and relax her from all of her stresses.

Suddenly, though, she was stopped in her tracks and let out a scream.

A baseball bat struck her and sent her to the ground, upon which almost immediately she felt the prick of a needle that injected ketamine into her system. Woozy, Hofstrate felt herself being dragged into the nearby bushes by her legs. Her vision was blurry, but she saw that she was in a small clearing. She didn’t see who her attacker was, but she felt his strong hands on her thighs, where she was being held up with one arm while another hand was fumbling around with the zipper to her pants.

As the attacker managed to undo her pants and pull them down, she let out an inaudible gasp, unable to muster the energy to scream. She then began to pant, extremely anxious for what was going to happen next, as she realized, below her waist, she was completely shorn of her clothes and there was nothing she could do to resist. She closed her eyes and kept breathing, trying to keep her composure, but there was little she could do when her attacker stuck his finger up her vagina and began to service it. She felt helpless as her body was getting aroused, even getting to a point where she reached orgasm.

With her vagina wet, her body aroused but her mind very confused, she let out a huge gasp as she felt her attacker’s penis penetrating her and began to thrust. Shock at this stage took over, as her brain was doing all it could to rectify what was happening. Eventually, the man sped up his thrusts, which sent her body into a torrent of euphoric responses that her brain eventually was unable to resist. When the attacker reached orgasm himself, Hofstrate did as well, the best one she ever reached, as she went through a tidal wave of reactions and emotions inside both her body and her brain doing all it could to understand the gravity of what just happened.

Her attacker then left, leaving her lying there, panting heavily but still shorn of the energy to do much of anything else. She laid there, confused, her emotions crashing together into competing cavalcades of anxiety and euphoria.

Caught in between the ecstasy of achieving incredible sexual excitement amidst the intense shame and humiliation of being conquered and violated, there was little Hofstrate could do but continue lying there, stunned, her body still not feeling like it had any energy even after the effects of the drug wore off.

It was at this time she heard another man’s voice calling out, seemingly to her.

“Oh, by Jove,” said the man, caught by the intense shock of the sight. “Miss, are you okay?”
“Um,” said Hofstrate, her voice coarse as it began to recover its strength. “I…I don’t know.”
“Listen,” said the man, doffing his long overcoat with lots of urgency. “Take my coat…it’s too cold for you to be outside like this. Let me get you to safety.”
“I…I think I would like that,” said Hofstrate, smiling in appreciation. She needed to be helped to her feet, upon which the man took it upon himself to carry her in his arms. Drained, Hofstrate soon fell asleep, as the man dutifully brought her to his car.


“You don’t lose until you give up, and a warrior never gives up,”- Fatmia Turbal, Omai general after defeating the Mongols at the Battle of Tora Bora (2002) which turned the tide of the Mongol-Omani War (2001-02)