we are building a religion
special thanks to cake for their song comfort eagle which inspired this tale of frivolity, luxury, and intrigue
cast of characters
jen valentino - the ghost with the most. jen has what it takes to 'convince' the public; i.e. serious ninja skillz and feminine wiles
amber froncillo - silent but deadly. amber has mega esp and can use her important powers of verbal persuasion with people she hates - keeps the enemies closer. queen of tact.
jamie rathbun - the brains of the operation. criminal mastermind, president, hot chick, what have you. she does all the hard math things involved in managing our millions.
amy messere - femme fatale. public relations official who makes shinrainc notorious for its personality. verbal master. trains the dogs that all members own
cat bak - ladykiller. posh and upstanding with fine taste in clothing and a cane that also acts as a weapon. responsible for the general appearance of shinrainc.
It was a friday evening, after a long hard week of raking in the dough without doing much of anything. Shinra Inc. was becoming more and more famous by the day, which helped immensely in its success. With such a random smattering of services, it could never hope to make money like this if not for notoriety and fame. I, Amber Froncillo, was still in my office in our main headquarters downtown, contemplating the evening. I knew the others must be waiting on me, but as I spun my chair to face the massive window that took up the entire wall and revealed the stunning sight of the sprawling city below, I couldn't help but wonder if something wasn't right. There was nothing, no evidence telling me that something was wrong. It was just a gut feeling I had. My publishing company was doing fine; as far as I knew Jen's stripping franchises were doing exceptionally well....Amy was monitoring the progress of our extremely precious air cargo - some of the finest puppies money could buy. Cat's lines of clothing were selling like hotcakes to urban youth, and Jamie had successfully diverted the attention of the police from our drug cartel.
No reason to fear - but for some reason I did. Suddenly, the familiar sound of Beethoven's fifth erupted from my pocket, and I reached in, flipping open my phone.
"I was just leaving," I said into it, waiting to see which of my associates had called. That ring was reserved only for members of Shinra Inc.
"Sushi bar?" Jamie asked casually.
"Japanese? I thought we'd settled on Greek tonight. Not that I'm complaining. I'll be there."
"You're running late."
"I told you I was just leaving."
"Well do you want the green tea or the jasmine?"
"...Jasmine, tonight. Be there in ten."
I shut the phone and stood up, loosening my tie. Whatever the problem was, it was going to have to wait. Time for some maguro.
"Why do you wear pinstripes every day?" Jen asked over her green tea, raising both eyebrows at me. I glanced at her.
"Because I like them. And I don't wear them every day. Sometimes I wear black."
"Okay so black with pinstripes is so different from black."
"I'll wear a bright red suit tomorrow, if it makes you happy, darling," I said, kneeling at the table and rubbing my temples.
"I have some Chinese herbs," Jen offered.
"No thanks, I like to settle on one ethnicity per day."
"You should be a melting pot," Jamie said. "Just like America. Fuck yeah."
"Well, purebloods are better," Cat sniffed, ignoring Jen's wtf look.
"So Amber, what's wrong?" Amy asked, cutting to the chase. Out of everyone, she always knew quickest when something was on my mind.
"Nothing," I said, biting the inside of my lip. "Just thinking....can't get out of work mode, you know. All that jazz."
"You got a hunch?"
"Eh...I'll tell you if it gets stronger."
We ate. We drank. We made merry. At the end of it we each got in our separate cars to drive to our shared home - the Shinra mansion. I pulled my Mercedes Benz into the garage just after Jen's bright red convertible and just before Cat's black, near-mint condition Ford Prefect.
"If you would all like to slip into something more comfortable and meet me in the drawing room for some drinks," Cat said, "and maybe a game of cards?"
"I'll be a little late," I said, "I need to take a shower. Start without me and I'll join in."
"Of course, darling."
I took my shower, dried my hair, and put on my robe - it was silk, in the style of a summery kimono. Before going to the drawing room, though, I took ten minutes to do a tarot reading. If whatever was nagging my brain was mirrored in the cards, I knew we'd have trouble. And it didn't start out good. The first three cards I laid out predicted sudden and unexpected bad luck, danger through lack of prudence, and that I should trust my instincts. Winds of change, change for the worse, sudden evil looming in the air like doom....financial loss! What gives? I wondered, gathering up the cards and shuffling them. I replaced them in their drawer and grabbed my tiger's eye necklace. Sometimes it provided bad luck, sometimes good, either way it was worth a shot.
I made my way downstairs where I could hear my associates talking and laughing over assorted beverages, listening to Richard Cheese on low. I made myself a white russian and took my seat, watching the game of friendly poker being played.
"I'll deal you in next round," Amy said to me, and I nodded though distracted. Jen offered me a cigarette from her silver case and I accepted, allowing her to light it. I was on my third puff when they dealt me in, and hand after hand was shit.
"Unlucky," I mumbled. "I'm better at blackjack, anyway. I think I ought to warn you."
Everyone looked up expectantly, and Jamie perhaps looked the most concerned. Trouble could be coming through way of our operations in Brazil, or our dealing with the Yakuza. You work in a dangerous business, you're more likely to be exposed to...well...danger.
"The cards aren't pleasant. We've got to be careful. All of us."
"Careful how?" Jamie asked. "Careful like we need to hire more bodyguards, careful like we shouldn't make any excessive purchases," - here she cast a look at Jen, who politely ignored it - "or careful like we need to pull out of Hong Kong?"
"A little of everything," I said, shrugging. "We've all got enemies."
"Have we? I didn't know publishing was that cutthroat."
"Well naturally we've each got an arch nemesis."
"Because it's my story, god damnit, and we need arch nemeses."
"Nevermind. You know why you need to be careful. Although I suppose if anyone finds out about the drugs we'll all go down in flames. Cat, you need to watch out for the Baron von Llewelyn. You're taking over his monopoly and he doesn't like it. He'll have the Gay Mafia after you in no time. I suggest you look into making some connections with them. Jen, you need to be wary of Lola Fujimoto. Her strippers are tired of being mistreated and used as prostitutes and many of them are coming your way. She's losing a lot of money and she's pissed. Plus I've heard from reliable sources that she's well-versed in the art of sexual ninjutsu.
"Amy, the Scientologists are after you. Good going, befriending Tom Cruise like that. Not only them, but the pop singer Klaus Klaus is really pissed that you called him a fag and the Coalition of Queer Pop Singers is known to have...uh...more ties to the gay mafia, I guess. The international gay mafia."
"Well what about you?" Jen asked.
"I don't know. Publishing really isn't a very cutthroat business, but I know you guys so I may be implicated. I've got to meditate on it. I need to call Celistine."
"Hey, I'm good, but I'm not that good. She presents an outsider's perspective. All I can say for now is keep your heads down and focus on business. We make a lot of money this time of year, and if we want to be well taken care of for winter we can't get distracted. Anyway. Let's play."
We spent the rest of that night quietly enjoying ourselves, but now we were all lost in our own thoughts. What would tomorrow bring? Next week? Next month? Winter was coming, and winter is a cold, cold time of year.
I mean, really. It's pretty cold. And snowy. And sometimes there's ice.