The Great Trial: A "Fall Of Women" Story

Chapter 1 - The Axis Of The World

by alectashadow

Tags: #cw:noncon #cw:sexual_assault #D/s #dom:male #f/m #humiliation #pov:bottom #sub:female #awful_politics #clothing #cw:misogyny #fall_of_women #feminism #misogyny #patriarchy #political_changes #politics #scifi #sub:feminism

Once again, given the peculiar nature of the subject matter, this story warrants a special disclaimer. This is a fantasy, not a manifesto. As famous erotica author All These Roadworks usually puts it, “my kinks are not my politics”. Do not use this story to promote a political worldview. Practice your relational life consensually, or not at all.

This story is set in the Fall Of Women narrative universe. In this world, a diabolical conspiracy has unleashed a mind control virus that compels women to submit to men. These stories are anthological, so you can read this one even if you haven’t read the others and the original. Having said that, reading at least the original first will naturally net you the best reading experience. This is especially true here, since this story advances the main narrative of the setting.

As always, all characters are over the age of 18.

Now, without further ado… enjoy the read!

The axis of the world lies broken. It spins on a new, alien alignment, and everywhere: unbridled predation. This new world system seeks to end our independence. It logically follows, therefore, that for any unaffected woman, participation in said system is no longer an option.


I can sum up everything there is to know about my life, in two short, truthful, cruel sentences.

I am Helena Garcia, the country’s first-ever female prime minister.

I fear I will also be its last.

There. I’ve openly admitted it to myself, after so long trying to delay the inevitable, to rationalise, to cling to wishful thinking. Now that I’ve acknowledged the fear, it looks real, more than it used to.

How much emotional turmoil, how much pain, how much failure can be contained in two so trivial sentences…

I was never one for idleness. I’m the type of person that always has a plan, a contingency for everything. But now, I stare listlessly at my desk, and at the unsigned letter sitting there, mocking me.

A prime minister rarely gets dull moments, but today, with my events and public appearances cancelled, all I can do is sit here in-between appointments, and stare at the letter. I do so with a flat, dead look, but the apparent calm hides my desperation underneath.

My composure is slipping.

The walls are closing in on me, pressing every day, nearer and nearer to finally crushing me. Ever since the event, I’ve tried my best to keep a firm hand, to steer the ship of state through a tumultuous section of the stream of time… but I’m failing.

I marvel at it again: such power, in so few words. It’s like coaxing out all the poison, all the blackness inside me, the terrible and unadulterated truth.

I’m… failing.

The face that looks back at me from the mirror every morning is one I barely recognise. I look as alien as the world around me, something straight out of a nightmare. I look gaunt, pale, sleep-deprived. My lips seem to tremble on their own, and there are dark, heavy bags under my eyes. My dark hair is constantly unkempt, out of place, not cared for.

I’m falling apart. I’m barely getting enough sleep to go by, and my fingers twitch, and every stimulus makes me think of…

I shudder. No one who fights a war, day and night, without stop, is going to look their best. But when I look at myself, the words that swim in my poisoned mind all make me shiver. Spent, worn down, eroded, undermined, broken.


My carefree smirk, my quiet confidence, my cool demeanour have been replaced by…. Frankly, the look of prey, being stalked by an unseen predator in the woods. I’m twitchy, on edge, ever alert.


I shut my eyelids hard, trying to repress the thought I can feel is about to bubble up. That I shouldn’t look like this, because then how can men draw enjoyment from looking at me?

I snarl. I’ve been trying, really, I have. I’ve been fighting with every ounce of strength against this… thing in my head for so long, but now, my hands grip the edge of my desk as I sit back down. My muscles quiver, threatening to fail me, and when I finally do sit down, it’s with a defeated sigh.

I cradle my face in my hands. I’m the prime minister, a female prime minister, and now more than ever, the women of this body politic need me. But I’m infected, just like them. I can feel my strength flagging, just like them. Day after day, I’m bombarded by triggers, just like them…

No. Worse.

You need a tough skin to make your way in politics. No matter how pure your ideals, you need to be willing to cut corners, to play fast and loose with the rules, to get your hands dirty on occasion. Doubly so if you’re a woman, because it’s not enough to be as good as the men… no, you have to be exceptional, at the very minimum, to be taken seriously.

A woman in her thirties? Well, that’s just fair game. To the men in suits, “a woman in her thirties” is the description they associate with a personal assistant, or worse. Definitely not a threat, or someone that should concern them.

An amusement, at most.

God, the men…

Even under normal circumstances, men in politics tend to be full of themselves. Confident, boisterous, overwhelming. That used to be what I relied on. They always underestimated me, and so they had to pretend they weren’t bothered by it, when I bested them. When I went for the jugular.

They never saw me coming.

I killed many a leadership aspirations with kindness, so that all they could do was nod and smile, make vague congratulatory noises, and make way. But I could always see it, in their eyes. That flicker of doubt. That feeling that I was a usurper, that I shouldn’t be here.

Now… things are so much worse. For literal months, each of these men has seen women all over the world start to break down, becoming unwound.

The payload is a temporary threat, of course, it has to be. A cure will be found. But the damage it’s wreaking, that’ll take much longer to heal, because right now, men are getting used to no longer being challenged by us.

And powerful men are the worst of all.

It’s becoming impossible to do my job. Every meeting with a cigar-smoking industrialist has me blush like a school girl. Every request by men in my own coalition—let alone the opposition—always carries that unspoken threat. Will the Bitch crumble, this time?

I’m sure that’s how they think of me. The Bitch, with a capital B. Because I dared run for office, I dared win, worst of all I dared rule. And that’s just what the payload is designed to do to women like me, right? Muzzle the outspoken feminist, until she’s whimpering like a doggie. Tame the shrew. Put the Bitch back in her place.

They don’t need to say it. My ministers, the members of parliament, trade union representatives, captains of industry, foreign leaders… so many of them men. Unashamedly and quintessentially so. Through the mere radiation of their presence, they cast their shadow over my payload-tainted mind. Over the Bitch.

They don’t need to say it, because I can see them thinking it. It’s all they think about, now, when meeting me. Will the Bitch finally yield to the voice in her head, like so many women do every day, and drop to her knees, where she belongs? Will she finally accept that she shouldn’t be sitting at her desk, but kneeling under it, providing soft and welcome relief for her betters, who…

God DAMN it.

I punch the table in frustration. The pain shoots through my arm, grounding me in reality again. This isn’t just difficult, agonising, torturous, no: it’s fucking humiliating! There’s an international summit next month, how the hell am I supposed to attend? How can I stand in front of all these presidents and prime ministers, in their high-powered suits, with their piercing gazes exposing my fatal weakness?

How can I get them to take me seriously, let alone negotiate with them, if my lips tremble and my shoulders hunch and my knees quiver, when I’m in their presence?

They know, that’s what my brain keeps telling me. All it takes is one good look, and they’ll know that I don’t belong. That I could be so easily displaced, or talked over, or…

I should let them wear the suits. I’d look much better in a waitress’ uniform. I’d simper and bow, fetching drinks in the magnificent halls of ancient fortresses and 17th Century palaces, serving the men who lead the world. At such a lofty summit, I’d be the entertainment, and of course when a sticking point comes up in negotiations, and there is a need to smooth this over, well…

A hand gently placed on my shoulders, and the faintest of pushes, and I’d be tumbling down to my knees, lips parting like a blooming flower, eyes big and vacant, expectant and stupid, and then…


I cradle my face in my hands, trying not to sink into the depths of despair, or worse, arousal. The alien arousal that shouldn’t be there, that’s slowly subverting every belief I care about.

Women need me. Right now, because of the evil that lurks in their minds, they can’t vote, or sign contracts, or… they just can’t. Of course I couldn’t deny the reason behind it, of course it’s to shelter them from liability, but I’m not stupid. Every further day they spend in this state, is a day where danger increases. Where “temporary” could become the norm.

And even that is just the tip of the iceberg. There is just nowhere to hide. Friends and coworkers, spurned suitors, random men from any walk of life, anyone of them could be a predator, stalking you, ready to pounce… knowing that you can’t defend yourself.

How many collars snap around how many women’s throats, all over the world, day after day?

And then there’s the scams. Purported miracle cures that cost a fortune, supposed “safe havens”, online paid motivational courses to overcome the payload’s conditioning with willpower and sponsored dietary supplements…

Women are at their very weakest, right now. At the direst hour of their plight, it’s not helping hands that reach out for them from every corner, but grubby hands instead, clutching and grasping with claws, eager to claim, entrap, possess. Wherever they turn, women just find a different force to shove them right back. Slowly but surely hemmed in, like cattle.

Good thing that my female compatriot at least have a feminist woman as the sitting prime minister, right?

If only I wasn’t such a fucking failure.

That’s what I feel like, in spite of myself. What a cruel inversion of the grand narrative of my life. I used to be the woman who could. No rich parents to guide me, no corporate lobbyist to back me. All I had was my grit, my determination, the burning fire of my ideology.

I succeeded, in spite of the constraints placed on my gender. And yet now I am failing, because of that very gender. Because I’m a woman, born to comply, to be quiet while they talk, to not protest while they take liberties and fumble and explore, stake claims and cup and fondle and…

I groan in frustration. That damned voice. That voice that sounds like my own but is definitely not me, that whispers that if only I were a man… no wonder I’m not up to the task, right? How could I ever think myself capable of leadership?

I’m usurping a man’s chair, the voice tells me. I don’t belong here. I should be lower, meek and compliant, driven to my knees…

I snap myself out of it. It takes all my willpower, and even so, I find myself panting, my forehead pearled with sweat. It’s such an undignified image for a prime minister… it matches the extent of my failure to protect my own kind.

To protect myself.

And that’s when, at last, my eyes go back to the letter.

That’s where they always seem to land, as if pulled by a mysterious gravity. I’ve been doing my best to delay the inevitable, but in truth, I’ve always known this day was coming. How could I not? The writing’s been on the wall for a damn long time.

I can no longer work. Every idle moment is spent in battle with my own subconscious; sleep deprivation hampers my judgement; mere physical proximity to a man makes me squirm and writhe like a worm. And even if all of that weren’t true…

I breathe a heavy sigh. I’ve read all the intelligence briefings, but in truth, even that’s not strictly required. Even a child could see that their argument is correct. Every day I spend in office is a day I endanger the country, because any hostile actor, any spy, ambassador, politician from a rival nation, could… turn me. And all the patriotism in the world wouldn’t save me… because he’d be a man.

If the payload makes it impossible for women to vote, or enter legally binding agreements, how then can I expect to lead a country?

It’s time to stop being silly. It’s time to read the writing on the wall, and take the most politically sound of actions: take responsibility. It’s not what I wanted, or how I imagined my political career would go… much less end. But one thing I’ve always known to be true… we make our own history. But we don’t get to choose under what conditions.

Well, these are mine. The payload will disappear, eventually, and when it does, maybe… I will return. But for now, I… I must simply acknowledge that I’m unfit for office.

I allow myself to linger for one more moment, thinking of earlier times. All that activism, online and in the streets. The months spent in the veritable zoo of parliament, with everyone shouting down everybody else, and the quiet deals over which amendment to which law would be rewritten a certain way…

And then, the rise. All the way to the top, to here, to this moment. To this desk, and to this unsigned letter of resignations, to be delivered to the president tomorrow, allowing him to entrust someone else to try and form a government.

A man.

All the sleepless nights, the sweat, the tears, hopes and dreams and fears… I feel a profound mourning for it all. Because the moment I sign this letter, I won’t just be tendering my resignations: I will be signing my instrument of surrender, and moving on to the next chapter of my life. Whatever that may turn out to be.

I pick up the pen with trembling hands. Just one fast scribble, and it’ll be over. I will still have to fight the payload, of course, until a cure is found… but I will no longer have to do so in the public eye. Scrutinised by friends and enemies alike, while I fail again, and again, and again.

But the pen drops from my fingers, cluttering against the desk. I sink my face in my hands, stifling the sobs that bubble up from inside me. So undignified, for a prime minister to be crying like this. So girly, the voice that is not-quite-me supplies. So weak.

I dry my tears, bottling up my grief and shoving it far back down, as far as it will go. There will be time for it, eventually, but not now. I’m signing this damn letter today. I’m done.

Maybe after my next meeting, I tell myself. It’s the last for the day, anyway. I’ll just wait until then, sign it, and go see the president myself.

I’m giving up potentially decades of fruitful career ahead of me. I think I’m entitled to experience a few more minutes in power, even if it’s like this; even if it must end.

I compose myself. It just wouldn’t do to show weakness to the person I’m about to meet, after all. Both because of who he is, and because he is… a man.

And, in this mad world spinning around this broken axis, that’s just acquired an entirely different meaning than ever before…

* * *

Rafael De La Rosa is a charismatic man.

To a degree, I suppose that is a trivial observation. You don’t make it to the height of politics without at least a little of presence. But even by the standards of this environment, he exudes a degree of… magnetism.

At a time when most of his conservative brethren willingly espouse antics and buffoonery, in an effort to appear “in touch,” you can clearly tell that Rafael is of a different breed. He’s composed, refined, and there’s no mistaking his intelligence. Many progressives have underestimated him before, and failed.

That’s what made it feel so fucking good, when I beat him.

Animated by the fire of my righteousness, I always scoffed at the concept of respected adversaries. It felt so quaint, such a leftover from a time of feudal nobility and autocracy, when two opponents with divergent objectives nonetheless knew they belonged to the same class, ethnicity, and gender. There was no place for such affectations in the fight for equal rights.

Rafael made me reconsider.

Our rivalry was as politically fierce, as it was blissfully clear of any personal nastiness. I don’t know for sure, and asking out loud would have ruined the mystique, but I always felt that he acknowledged my talents, and I returned the favour.

I don’t know if it smarted for him, the day of the elections, being resoundingly beaten by a woman, but he was the epytome of correctness about it, and among the first to call me to express his congratulations.

Oh, his party’s parliamentary delegations is a noisy band of misogynistic buffoons, as are most of the party leadership. But I doubt many prime ministers could have asked a more polite and reasonable leader of the opposition to interact with, while in office.

I’ve always considered my victory over him to be the greatest achievement of my career so far. So, I suppose it is only fitting for him to be the last to meet me, prior to my resignation, and to the end of said career.

It’s a good thing I’ve already made peace with the idea of tendering my resignation, because if I hadn’t, I’d probably be crumbling right now. The presence and self-assuredness projected by Rafael seem magnified, under the distorting lens of the payload. I find myself instinctually lowering my gaze, avoiding his eyes.

This is what a real prime minister looks like, says the voice that is not-quite-mine. Hell, he looks like a king. He must have been extremely fit in his youth, because even the years in politics have failed to soften him. There’s always a flicker of something in his eyes… analysis, scrutiny, inspection. I look at those strong, wiry hands, and find myself envisioning how they would look, cupping around a girl’s throat…

Maybe the other would clamp down on her lips, instead. A dual grip, smothering her ambitions, suffocating her protests, muzzling her, subduing her…

“Madam Prime Minister,” he says in a quiet, polite tone that betrays no emotions. “Thank you for seeing me on such a short notice. I know it isn’t the best of times.”

“It hasn’t been the best of times in months,” I say, in spite of myself. A mistake, a show of weakness… but I’m starting to wonder why I should care. In a few hours, I’ll be a private citizen, and I won’t need to be strong for anyone, then… except myself. Until a cure is found.

For as long as it takes.

“I doubt there’s much we could concretely talk about, anyway. You’ll be sitting in this chair by tomorrow, I expect,” I say, trying to keep the tremulous petulance away from my voice. It’s creeping in, and why wouldn’t it? I’m the victim of a terrible injustice.

God, I’ve always hated losing.

A flicker passes through Rafael’s eyes. “It’s true, then? You’re resigning?”

I hunch my shoulders, spreading my arms in a plaintive gesture, while I fumble for the right words. And what are those? The right words. For this sense of violation, pain, loss, failure…

I hate that twitch in my facial muscles. I rein it in immediately. I will NOT cry in front of this man. I will not break down into a sobbing, silly girl, while he sits there in the fullness of his mental faculties, his manly confidence, his look of…


I was a rival to this man, once. Now, he visibly pities me. The disgust I feel at my weakness crawls all over me, like a swarm of bugs.

“I understand,” he says, tentatively. “Still, I should think the president will ask someone from your party to form a government, first.”

“Let’s not play games, Rafael,” I tell him, mustering what sternness I can. “You know as well as I do that effort will come to naught.”

When female lawmakers were first made to resign, my party’s parliamentary majority suffered a nearly-crippling blow. That treasonous image comes to mind, no matter how hard I try to push it back… how many had already dropped to their knees?

I still remember the sound so vividly, sloppy, wet, worshipful. The sound of feminist mouths, demurely servicing dicks of their biggest and most misogynistic political rivals, necks bared and available for the yoke… for the collar…

I snap myself out of the reverie. Unfortunately, the downfall of our women in parliament isn’t the totality of our problems. I’m not so naïve that I can’t see what will happen, once I resign. I stepped over many bruised male egos on my way to the top, but their internal rivalries have been simmering under the surface.

Once my position becomes available, the knives are going to come out. Precisely when they are needed the most as protectors of the disenfranchised, my party will busy itself with a power struggle instead. One more failure to add to the list. One more test I couldn’t pass.

Rafael nods, silently acknowledging what we both know to be the truth. “Be that as it may, you have my sympathies. What do you plan to do, after…?”

I shake my head, unable to match his gaze, unable to stand my ground. He’s not even trying to appear overwhelming or intimidating, and yet that voice inside me keeps telling me that I should bow before him, let his hands cradle and guide me, humbly kiss his shoes while he sits in the chair that used to be mine…

“I’m not sure,” I say in a whisper. It’s an admission, yet another failure, because I really should be giving it a lot more thought. Standing fast against the payload so far has taken a herculean effort. I’m fortunate enough to be able to afford unorthodox solutions… maybe a secluded residence somewhere in the countryside, no men in sight…

“Well, since you don’t have any plans,” Rafael continues, “I thought you might want to hear my proposal. I want to offer you a position.”

I immediately sit straighter in the chair, eyes narrowing and my focus snapping as he says that. “A position?” I ask, slowly, deliberately. “I’m afraid that the same… security concerns that are forcing my resignation now, would apply to any other government position. And, I’m sure you won’t take offense if I say that it’ll be a cold day in hell, before I betray my party and my movement, and serve in government with your fellow travellers…”

Rafael laughs amicably at that, which is good, because it distracts him from the twitch that courses through my body, when I utter the word serve. It seems to go straight to my sex, and I find myself surreptitiously rubbing my thighs together under the desk…

“That’s not what I had in mind, Madam Prime Minister. You might be uneligible for office right now… but that doesn’t nullify your expertise. How would you feel about an advisory position?”

I sit back, blinking, confused. “Advisor? What could you possibly want my advice on?”

“Well…” he says, looking a little uncomfortable. “Women, what else? Madam Prime Minister, we don’t know how long it’ll take before the current, huh, situation is undone. The hasty, temporary measures put in place to protect women from their new vulnerability might be insufficient in the long run, or they might have unintended side effects. I would like to appoint you as an advisor on the protection of women, until a cure for the payload is found.”

“What you want is legitimacy,” I say, before the concept has even fully formed in my mind. I’m proud of my reaction. I might be sleep-deprived and at war with a misogynistic mind control virus, but my instincts are still there. “You want the prominent feminist, your old rival, the former PM, to rubber-stamp your decrees on women. Is that it, Rafael? Do you intend to entrench gender inequality in law, and sell it as protection for women? Well, you can try, but it won’t be with my endorsement, and you should know better than to ask that of me.”

Rafael doesn’t flinch at my tirade. He’s impassible, and unfortunately his coolness gets to me—the evil presence within me seizes upon it immediately. Look at him, it says. So unfazed, so in control. How could you ever dare think yourself his equal?

“I won’t deny that the legitimacy would be a bonus,” Rafael says, with a wry smile. “But no, that’s not what I meant. I’d simply like your opinion on any reforms to the protection regime that we might consider sending parliament’s way. You wouldn’t be near any decision-making process, wouldn’t access classified sources, so there would be no security issue.”

I frown, trying to read between the lines as he continues. “You don’t like what’s written on our legal proposals, you can tell us honestly. Likewise, we’re free to take or disregard your advice. Think of it like a consult.”

I arch my eyebrow. “And you’d do this out of, what, Rafael? The goodness of your heart?”

He chuckles at the patent absurdity of that idea. “I prefer to think of it as doing well by doing good. Think about it, Madam Prime Minister. We both get something out of it, and to be honest… you should have an input in what’s decided next. No matter my fundamental disagreement with your ideals, it is a disgrace that your term is ending this way.”

There it is again. The pity. Can I blame him? I’m no longer an adversary to be respected and feared. I’m a pathetic piece of feminine insecurity, my own mind at war with itself, snivelling and thinking of politely sucking on his fingers while he makes me sign my resignation letter myself, before pushing my head firmly against the desk…

I dig my nails into the palms of my hands, chasing the reverie away. I cling to my rational self as hard as I can, because for the life of me, I can’t fathom why Rafael looks so sincere right now. I just… it’s hard to believe a man, especially one like him, not leveraging his new power in a predatory way.

Maybe he really is being honest. I should say no anyway, though, because this is dangerous. I need to stay away from men for as long as possible, now that I’m about to be phased out of office. I certainly shouldn’t be spending any time around this man, the tables turned, him sitting behind the big desk, and me, hovering in the background, a support figure, a helper…

Fuck. That’s exactly what I mean. My best hope of making it through to the other side of this nightmare unscathed, is to do what most women can’t afford to. Retire to a secluded mansion, avoid men at all costs, and wait.


What if he’s right? What if this is a way to help women, the way I haven’t been able to as a prime minister? What if I can help defend them, for the duration of this crisis?

What if this is how… I can rescue my legacy?

That’s a selfish thought to have. To the alien voice inside me, it’s also a profoundly unwomanly thought. But to the part of me that always burned for this, the part that drove me here… It’s not even a decision, is it?

Suddenly, the prospect of a quiet exile in the countryside no longer seems so appealing. For the first time since the conversation began, I lift my eyes to meet Rafael’s, and that alone tells me that, no matter how much I’m pretending to be thinking about this, the decision has already been made.

He doesn’t need me to say this out loud. He smiles, proffering his hand. “We’ll be in touch, then, Madam Prime Minister.”

As his strong, masculine, domineering hand engulfs mine, a soft tingle courses through every inch of my body. God. Chances are, this is the last time he ever calls me that. I will have to refer to him with the appropriate honorific…

Or maybe just call him Sir, the voice whispers, and just thinking about it makes me bite my lower lip…

No. I need to hold fast. I can’t advise anyone with any degree of competence, and wait out the payload, if I’m not in control of myself.

“We’ll be in touch,” I say, and it takes so much willpower not to tack that Sir at the end. Rafael withdraws his hand, and I breathe a sigh of relief at that, sinking back into the chair.

Damn. I never knew there would come a time when even just shaking a man’s hand could be an exhausting experience.

Well, I better get used to it, because I will need to withstand many more of those in the coming future. And the alternative to resistance doesn’t bear thinking about…

I get to my feet, with some difficulty, feeling wobbly and breathless. I’m battered and bruised, but I’m NOT broken yet. I can help women. I can resist, and not succumb. No matter what the payload whispers into my ear, or in the hollow of my throat, or into my sex…

No matter that its voice sounds so scarily close to my own…

* * *

“Collaboration, Madam Prime Minister? What an… interesting choice.”

I bolt upright, tossing the blankets off my bed, eyes wide open, heart hammering against my chest.

The words are a mere whisper, but they’re more than enough to wake me. To strike fear into my heart. To cast me back to that day, when everything changed.

When every electronic device in the world let the monsters in, and poisoned the brains of women with the payload.

I stare at the phone on my nightstand, horrified, as more words pour out of it, in an electronically altered voice that’s impossible to place.

Every woman remembers that first, damnable moment. It’s in all our nightmares, all our greatest fears. The trauma of that first exposure has me shaking and trembling like a leaf. Is this a second wave of misogynistic mind viruses?

Not again. Please, not again.

“Of course, that’s no longer your formal title, is it? What should we call you now? Advisor on women’s protection is a bit of a mouthful, you will agree. Collaborationist… mmmh. That one’s much more poignant, though it carries some unpleasant connotations. We thought you knew your twentieth century history well.”

The words stop me in my tracks. Something isn’t right here. Something doesn’t fit. Would the creators of the payload call me a collaborationist? Why? I look around the room—it’s dark, quiet, and there are no signs of break-ins.

“Since you’re probably wondering,” the voice resumes, “the pigs behind the payload aren’t the only ones with that level of… dissemination ability. Unfortunately for us, what they remain unmatched on is the virus itself… but we’re persistent. We’ll get there, eventually.”

“Get there?” I ask, out loud this time. I very much doubt this is a two-way conversation, but I can’t help myself. “Who are you?”

“It is not safe for us to communicate in a direct fashion,” the voice continues, so yes, I assume this is a recording, or something of the kind. “You carry it, and the risk of exposure through even audio alone is simply too high. This pre-recorded message will leave no trace on your device, and transmission will not be repeated, so pay attention.”

In spite of myself, I lower my guard, inching closer to the nightstand, the bed creaking under my shifting weight.

“Collaboration achieves nothing,” the voice continues. “The road you have chosen is doomed. If you wish to embark upon it nonetheless, simply let this message expire. One day, after the Great Trial, you’ll be among those we’ll have saved… but be warned, because collaborators will be judged. A reckoning will come.”

I shake my head, confused and bewildered. A thousand possibilities race through my head. That this is a prank, or a ploy to get under my skin or discredit me, or that these people are real—and crazy—or hell, maybe I’m crazy. But the voice drones on and on, and I force myself to focus on what it’s saying.

“If you’d rather turn your collaboration into something that can actually help women, well… let’s just say we can find ways to leverage your proximity to Rafael De La Rosa. If you have the guts to go along.”

Gears begin turning in my head. If this is a group, then what they’re looking for is… an informant? But what group could this be, and what would they even need information on?

“If you’re willing to help, this is what you must do. Buy an old phone, and don’t open or unbox it. Buy a prepaid sim. Again, do not unbox it. Both phone and sim need to be in a perfectly virgin state. Drop both on the bench overlooking the taco food truck over in Carnazial, you know the one. Go elsewhere, and wait for a couple hours, before returning to the same bench. You’ll find the phone, unboxed and ready for use. Pick it up, and you’ll find further instructions.”

Oh my god. I sit up on the bed, my mind spinning, as I try to comprehend what sort of mess I could be getting into, and whether any word of this is legit. But can I ignore it, if it is real? Because the stuff this voice is saying… I can barely start wrapping my mind around the implications of…

“Do not wonder who we are. Suffice to say that we are hope. The very last of it. And as for you, you have a choice, Helenia Garcia,” the voice continues, its somber tone audible even under the electronic distortion. “Possibly, the very last you’ll ever get.”

I stare at the phone, short of breath and full of questions, reeling under the weight of confusion, and consequence, and implications.

“Choose well. We… will be waiting.”

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