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18+ Language Violence Mature Content

The Lie that Saved the World Chapter 13: The Presidential Address

by VengefulReaper


Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language, violence, and mature content.

Ethan and Amber, dressed in kevlar and black overalls, ascended the senate house in the elevator. The building had five floors. Each one supposedly held a set of offices and council rooms, though Ethan had never been inside it before.

Amber scratched her chin. “This level of security must mean he’s expecting some reaction.”

Ethan’s brow wrinkled. “That’s a first for him.”

The elevator doors opened and the two were greeted by the elegant interior of the top floor of the senate house. “First time for everything, right?”

As they walked down the hallway towards their stationed outpost, Ethan attempted not to make any eye contact with the passing workers. Well, that was until he, a 6’3’’ man, bumped into a figure in a brown tuxedo carrying a glass of water.

The glass of water dropped and shattered on the ground and the man fell backward to the floor with a thud as if he had just walked into a pillar.

“Sorry about that, sir,” Ethan said as he extended a hand.

“Oh, not to worry officer. I’m quite clumsy,” the man said standing up.

Ethan froze. The president just ran into me…

Noticing the stone-still expression on Ethan’s face, a mix of awe, fear, and embarrassment, Duncan extended his hand. “Pleased to meet you. I assume you’ll be taking good care of me today, um…”

“Ethan, sir. Ethan Rider,” Ethan replied.

Duncan’s smile widened. “Ah… Ethan Rider,” he said as if he’d been expecting this meeting. He turned, his smile just as rigid as Ethan’s expression. “Good to see you again, Amber. I heard your Damian is leaving the country soon,” he grinned.

Amber’s fists clenched, but she averted her gaze. “Yes, he has plans.”

His eyes glared with authority. A disguise so flawless, it was no surprise he could fool millions. He placed a weighty hand on Amber’s shoulder that made her wince. “Why didn’t you tell me? I have plenty of contacts overseas. I could have certainly put in a good word for him in one of the institutions I personally know.”

"Uh... Yes... Of course, sir," stammered Amber trying to wriggle her shoulder loose from Duncan's grip.

Duncan grinned. "Well, I should go. I have a nation to address. Keep your eyes sharp out there, would you?"

“Yes sir,” Ethan uttered almost in a whisper. 

Amber fell silent. The kind of silence that was unsettling. Her eyes transfixed to the path ahead of her. Her jaw stiffened and her fists remained clenched as her footsteps became heavier on the tiled floor in the hallway.

“What’s wrong?” Ethan asked, raising an eyebrow. “Amber?”

"How? How did he know?" she whispered more to herself than to Ethan.

“Amber… What do you mean? What happened?” Ethan asked warily. “Why would he ever do anything to your son?”

Amber sighed. “A few years back, John’s only daughter, and the last tether to his previous life, was killed in front of him by Duncan for double-crossing him and attempting to expose his crimes.”

Ethan’s face drained of its color. He could never imagine Duncan actually doing that himself.

“It was the worst day of his life. Duncan made it particularly excruciating for her knowing John was blind so at the very least he could hear her struggle for air. Steve and I were the only ones there that night to witness it. It was at that moment that we realized who we were really working for and how vile this man could be. 

"After that night, we knew none of us would be safe. Rico built a panic room for his family, a bunker that was hidden somewhere in his house, Breach’s wife couldn’t find the courage to leave her house for two months after hearing the news, the paranoia nearly driving her insane, and Damian had to constantly look over his shoulder whenever he went anywhere.

“One day Damian came home and out of nowhere, he began to cry. I hadn't seen him cry like that in years. He said he was sick of living like this. He couldn't take it anymore. So we made a plan to secretly move overseas beyond Duncan’s reach."

Amber paused and took a deep breath. "But I knew I could never leave. So my best shot was to send him overseas... Without me."

Sure, I might never see my little boy again, but at least he’d be alive. He’d move on… Start a life for himself… and be content with it…” Her voice quivered as she spoke. “That’s all a mother can wish for.”

Maybe that's what Mom wished for me, Ethan thought.  

“Surely you can’t just leave him stranded?” Ethan asked in disbelief. “You’re the single most important figure in his life… in any son’s life.”

Amber’s tone softened. “I know. He’s just as important to me. Without him, I don't have much. But what choice do I have? He’s got a whole life ahead of him. He can’t waste it living in fear here.”

“What…” Ethan began, swallowing hard to gather his emotions. “What makes you believe so fiercely that your son will move on? What if he risks everything, even his own happiness, just to get you back?”

“He's young. He'll move on. I'm the one who's struggling to let go of him. My only hope is that when all this is over, I can get to see him one more time."

“When all what is over?” Ethan asked.

Amber rubbed her eyes and blinked twice in quick succession. “Duncan promised that the Alliance would be disbanded once the threat of SEKT had been averted. With the emergence of this bioweapon, it seemed that there was no hope of preventing such a large-scale attack while keeping it a secret. That was until you came along…”

“What do you mean? Why me?”

“When I did a radiation scan on you while you were unconscious, I picked up two types of it. One of which was Secronium. I didn’t know if it was just poison or if you could actually harness its power like some Beltians can. I took a risk and implanted a military-grade Secronium-enhanced eye and experienced some anomalies during the operation which I couldn’t make sense of until today’s meeting.”

“Why are you telling me all this?” Ethan asked.

Amber turned around to look at him. A glint of hope buried deep within a sea of defeat. “You’re our ticket to freedom. You’re my ticket to freedom. I know you lost your mother and all this is to you is revenge, but... I'm asking you to save us from this man.”

Ethan was speechless. There was more to this than just revenge. This meant so much to everyone in the Alliance and now they all looked to him to break their chains. He was given great power, but what he chose to do with it would determine more than just his fate. It would determine the fate of everyone he knew.

"I can’t promise anything. But I’ll certainly try,” Ethan comforted.

The two reached their outpost on the concrete balcony of the senate building. Amber smiled for the first time since their encounter with Duncan. "That’s more than anyone else has done for us.”

“Amber. Ethan. Report,” Steve said over the communication channel.

“Almost in place, sir,” Amber replied. “Give us a few minutes.”

There was a prolonged silence on Steve’s end. “Okay. Five at max, understood?”

“Understood,” Ethan replied firmly. “We’ll let you know when we’re set.”

The com channel cut, and Ethan and Amber glanced at one another. “You know how to do this right?”

Ethan shrugged. “More or less.”

Amber nodded, adjusting her scout equipment and mounting it on the edge of the balcony. 

The president walked out to thunderous applause as his chilling smile greeted his loyal followers. Only moments ago, Ethan would’ve clapped along with them, but after what Amber had told him he had a different outlook on Duncan.

Ethan activated his cyber eye, the rush of energy pulsing through the front of his head and into his eye socket. Here we go…

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began. A minute or two of political jargon ensued as the formalities of almost every presidential address played out. Ethan scanned the crowds pulling up as many bios as he could.

"Anything so far?" Steve asked.

"Nothing on our side. Everything seems in order."

"Good. Let's keep it that way."

A flurry of irrelevant statistics and intermittent interruptions by the roaring crowd continued. Ethan rolled his eyes at the passionate voice of Duncan knowing all of it to be an act. Something regarding education was mentioned and the lingering problem of over-taxation was dismissed by some hand-wavy generic statement that didn't address it in any way. 

The language of politics, Ethan mulled. Can't imagine what it must be like to lie to millions with such a wide fucking smile.

“This country does not feel safe with these extremists lingering in the shadows. As such, the FSP has deemed that emergency powers be handed over to myself and the country be placed in a national state of disaster under which I will have full authority to make swift decisions to ensure and expedite the safety of this nation.”

Amber and Ethan glanced at each other. They both knew exactly what that meant. “Steve…”

“…Fucking hell…” Steve muttered. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck…”

“I accept this responsibility with a heavy heart,” Duncan continued in a more sympathetic tone. “But I assure you your trust in me will be rewarded. In fact, my first order will be to usher in a new age of security helmed by the elite force known as the Infiltrators. Under my command, they will ensure that the safety of South Africa is restored. Over the past three months, we’ve witnessed a series of terrorist attacks on hospitals, teleporting stations, and other public areas.”

The crowd roared in anger, raising their various posters in protest like an angry mob.

“How many of us have lost our loved ones to these murderers? What did they do to deserve such a fate? I swore to this nation...” He let his statement hang in the air clenching his jaw and lowering his head, feigning emotion. He breathed out slowly and blinked twice, clearing his throat. “I swore to this beautiful nation that they would be brought to justice and executed before your very eyes.

“And today I have gathered you here to deliver that justice!” He bellowed which was followed by silence from the crowd.

Ethan’s eyes grew wide as a group of twenty people dressed in orange overalls walked onto the stage. Each one was accompanied by an executioner with a gun in hand. His face turned pale. The ever so slightly pregnant woman from the refugee camp stood in the back row of the stage, holding her stomach.

Ethan scanned every one of their bios. Nothing remotely indicating criminal activity came up. No case was filed against them for the recent bombings nor had any due process been documented. As of right now, they were innocent until proven guilty.

“Steve, these aren’t the prisoners!” Ethan yelled. "Steve, we have to stop this! I saw them this morning! These aren't the killers!"

"What?" asked Steve in disbelief. "Why would Duncan just execute people? He's smarter than that."

"They're all Beltians, Steve. They're being framed since the treaty with the Belt is no longer valid after the King's assassination."

"And after being given emergency powers..." Amber added.

"Shit..." Steve whispered. 

"We have to stop this right now!"

“I can’t fucking move! My exo-suit just shut down and it doesn’t want to open! John? Breach?”

"Mine is frozen too. My reset command is being overwritten," Breach replied. "Ethan and Amber have to handle this one."

Ethan turned. “Amber… I know we can’t disobey hi—”

Amber picked up her gun and pulled a black mask over her face. "Let's go."

The two scrambled to their feet, dashed to the door, and sprinted down the hallway to the elevator. This is insane, he thought. The elevator took far too long to reach their level, so they darted for the emergency staircase.

He tripped. He tumbled down the staircase until he hit a flat platform. There was no time to nurse his wounds. He pulled himself up and descended as quickly as he could. In the background, he could hear the president’s speech ring through the spiraling stairs.

“Let this act of justice be a warning to anyone who threatens the security of this sovereign nation!”

They had at most a minute to reach the stage. They needed a distraction. Ethan pulled out his gun. If he fired a few random shots close enough, he’d throw the crowd into chaos and maybe stop the execution.

He burst through the side doors of the building and into the crowd of people.

“The criminal underworld will know our strength. They will know our justice. They will know what it means to wage war against us.”

Shut up! Shut up! Ethan cursed. There was no proof of their guilt other than Duncan’s word. But his word was enough for anyone in this country. He chambered his gun and pointed it to the sky. 

The gun jammed. Fuck, fuck, fuck! Not now!

“Do you know what pains me?" Duncan asked rhetorically. "These terrorists are all Beltian! Their crimes are that of hate for us. We have offered them our hand by legalizing this refugee camp and they... They bomb our hospitals?"

Frantically trying to dislodge the blank cartridge stuck in it, he cursed himself for not bringing his energy gun. 

Duncan's eyes flared with anger. "This is how we punish hate. Hate that costed us the lives of the injured… the sick… the kind… the poor… the innocent!”

The bullet dislodged and the gun clicked into place. He placed his hand on the trigger and pointed it at the sky. 

"Fire!"

BANG!

The crowd fell so silent that Ethan could hear the echoing thud of twenty bodies dropping to the wooden stage. A shockwave from the gun's recoil ran up his arm. 

Amber rushed out of the building seconds after the execution. A trickle of blood ran from her forehead. 

“Steve?” Ethan shouted. “John? Breach? Anyone?”

Nothing but static and the muffled struggling of the rest of the infiltrators in their exo-suits.

“Steve!”

“I… Can’t… Fucking… move!” he muttered through gritted teeth. He screamed with all the might in his lungs, but it sounded nothing more than a whisper to Ethan over the channel.

BANG!

The crowd dispersed. Ethan braced his head as another shot was fired. The screams of the people echoed, and a path to the front cleared up for the two. Amber dashed forward. Ethan followed.

The exo-suits were as still as statues. Even the moving metal around their chests seized and crystallized like frost. In front of them lay a man struggling while being pinned by four Alliance security agents.

“Let me go!” he yelled as he turned his head to where Steve was standing.

Duncan’s face was grazed by the stray bullet, a trickle of blood flowing down his cheek.

Duncan gathered himself and walked up to the man. He had jet-black hair tied up in a bun and a scar on his left face. Ethan nodded his head in Amber's direction. She couldn't be seen disobeying Duncan's orders. 

Ethan raised his gun to the president's forehead. "Why?"

Duncan smirked. "Because I can. Because they're inferior. Because they don't belong here."

Ethan nearly pulled the trigger. This may have been the first man in his entire life he wouldn't hesitate to kill. He was stopped in his tracks when several red dots circled his body.

"You don't want to go down in history as the man who killed the president," Duncan taunted, a sly grin curling up his face.

He tapped a button on his wristwatch and suddenly the infiltrators fell out of their exo-suits and rushed for the president but were stopped by the other Alliance operatives. “Let’s just calm down, take a few deep breaths,” Duncan said jokingly. He picked up the gun used to shoot him from the ground and pointed it at the man in cuffs. “ And deal with one problem at a time.”

The siren of police arriving on the scene made Duncan immediately drop the firearm.

“For fuck’s sake…” Duncan growled, rolling his eyes. He composed himself and slipped right back into character, clearing his throat as if ready to perform. “There has been enough bloodshed today,” he replied with a hint of irritation. “I can't believe someone would want to kill me of all people." He sighed and stared at the man in front of him with an iron gaze. "It is in these times that our character is truly tested. I'm not out for blood, so I will show you some mercy." He motioned for the other security members  to aid him. "Arrest this man for attempted murder.”

The man growled, leaning forward as far as he could in his cuffs. “I’ll kill you if it’s the last thing I do! You’ll pay for every damn life you’ve taken today!”

Every infiltrator froze when they were close enough to catch a close look at the man’s face.

Duncan knelt on the ground with one knee such that he made eye contact with the prisoner. “You're welcome to try, Adrian.”

Questions:

1. Does Amber's conversation with Ethan and his responses to it make sense? Does it help flesh out both characters?

2. Is there tension in the paragraphs leading up to the execution? If not, how can I create that tension?

3. Does Duncan's actions thus far make him feel like a threat to our characters? Does he have more of a presence now than he did before?

4. A lot happens in this chapter. Is the pace too fast? Do some seem choppy/clunky?


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Thu Jun 29, 2023 11:27 am
IcyFlame wrote a review...



Hey Reaper! I was intending to read the previous chapters of this before popping by with a review but I haven't had as much time as I'd like so I've only got the previous chapter as context, but hoping that'll get me far enough!

I'm going to focus on the questions you ask down at the bottom of the chapter because that encompasses pretty much all of the feedback I was planning to give anyway.

1. Does Amber's conversation with Ethan and his responses to it make sense? Does it help flesh out both characters?

This is definitely doing the job of fleshing out Amber's character and it shows her as having a kind of desperate hope that Ethan is going to somehow be the end to this whole thing and she can see her son. It's a clear motivation, and it means I kind of expect her to be more reckless because she has something she worth fighting for and a motivation to keep going. Ethan's quite passive throughout the whole exchange so I don't learn quite as much about him comparatively but I don't think that's a problem.

2. Is there tension in the paragraphs leading up to the execution? If not, how can I create that tension?

I think there is tension, but I didn't really feel it from Ethan. I'm not sure if this was intentional, but it kind of felt like the Alliance members were tense and worried but Ethan wasn't in the same way. Is he just used to situations like this?

3. Does Duncan's actions thus far make him feel like a threat to our characters? Does he have more of a presence now than he did before?

Yes definitely. I'm only comparing this to the previous chapter, but the story from Amber and then the whole action at the end of this chapter gives him a very Thanos like vibe. Before this, I viewed him as creepy but now he's definitely a pretty dark character.

4. A lot happens in this chapter. Is the pace too fast? Do some seem choppy/clunky?

The pace at the beginning of the chapter was good and it was super easy to follow what was happening. I struggled more at the end, but I think a good part of that was my lack of awareness of who is who and that comes from not having read all the other chapters. I found it hard to keep track of who was where because the pacing was faster and it took me a couple of re-reads to work out exactly what had happened.

I think this was a pretty intense chapter and you've really raised the stakes all around! I'm not sure everyone in the Alliance is going to make it, and that feeling alone makes me want to read on and find out!

Hope this was helpful!

Icy

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VengefulReaper says...


Hi Icy! Can't believe that this review slipped through my notifications lol. Thanks for the review!

I'll be sure to tweak Ethan's reactions a bit to make it more tense, and yes... Duncan is a bit of a Thanos-like character lol.

I found it hard to keep track of who was where because the pacing was faster and it took me a couple of re-reads to work out exactly what had happened.

So, my idea with the last part was to have the person who shot be unknown. Ethan's supposed to think he shot, meanwhile, it was actually the execution that happened simultaneously. I kind of achieved that partly, I think. But I think a rewrite of the scene itself would help clear up who's who.

Again, thanks for the review and the feedback!
-Reaper



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Thu Jun 01, 2023 12:52 pm
Liminality wrote a review...



Hi Reaper! I’m finally here with a review!

General Impressions

I like that the Alliance are springing into action even though Duncan has been established as a scary person who could hurt their family. I think it shows that they care and are kind of more ‘heroic’ personalities than the average.

It’s devastating that Duncan killed those refugees and made them scapegoats on top of all that. I thought the way he was putting up an act and pretending to hold back tears during the speech also portrayed his manipulativeness in a pretty realistic and believable way. It kind of makes me wonder if some of the speeches I’ve seen from public figures in general were also faked this way.

Also, I’m kind of eager to see who Adrian is. I have a feeling he’s going to be one of the Beltians or associated with them at least, which possibly makes him our first named Beltian character?

Amber and Ethan’s convo

I think the conversation at the beginning of this chapter does flesh out both characters. I can tell through Amber that she and the Alliance have this sense of being at their ‘wit’s end’, since she’s desperate for Ethan to help them. She also seems to believe her son could just ‘get over’ losing her, which is kind of interesting to note for her character, though I can’t quite make out what exactly it says about her just yet. She does seem to prioritise what’s ‘best’ for him in respect to living his own life. Meanwhile Ethan is clearly considering his own situation with his mother. I thought it was interesting that he reconsidered what *her* wishes might have been for him based on what Amber was saying.
I did find the location of the conversation a bit odd. Couldn’t Duncan have had the place bugged, or be listening in somehow? It kind of feels like it would have been safter to have had this conversation prior to the mission rather than during it.

Tension

I could definitely feel the tension in the few paragraphs immediately before the execution, when Duncan is talking about the extremists. The back-and-forth among the Alliance members was particularly good I think – I could feel their fear and frustration.

I thought the part before that was a little more ‘relaxed’, so to speak, for instance with:

Ethan rolled his eyes at the passionate voice of Duncan knowing all of it to be an act

I think “rolled his eyes” feels like a more casual gesture of annoyance, so I perceived Ethan’s thoughts here as being less tense.

Duncan

Duncan definitely seems like a threat. His brief interaction with Ethan seemed kind of creepy to me, and Amber’s lines confirmed it. I put off reading the chap for a while because I got up to that point about John’s daughter. The hypocrisy of his claims towards the public and his execution of innocent people (just to boost his political standing, even) also makes him stick out as being cruel and Machiavellian.

Pace

I found it a bit hard to tell what was happening when the gunfire went off. I think it’s because multiple characters are meant to be having a firearm at that point? I initially thought it was Ethan’s shot, but it turned out to be the executioners’. I managed to figure out the gist of it by the end of the scene though, so that was generally okay.

I think the pacing was suddenly much faster after Duncan called for the execution. At that point I got a bit confused as to where the characters were, since they were moving in and out of “the building”.

Overall

I thought this was a hard-hitting chapter. I wonder how the Alliance is going to get out of this one. They might have to all run away from the government, or perhaps they won’t make it, which would be pretty tragic.

Let me know if you’d like more feedback on something specific!
-Lim

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"Cowards die many times before their deaths; but the valiant will never taste of death but once."
— Julius Caesar