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There was a flash, and I appeared in front of the mirror. I was breathing hard, and carrying two large garbage bags. As soon as I let them go, they fell to either side with loud thumps. I heard running steps, and Kiera popped her head into the small storage room.

“Master! You’ve come early!” The pure happiness on her face was something that absolutely couldn’t be denied.

“There’s blood on you,” Katarina added.

She had appeared in the doorway a few moments later, but I hadn’t heard her run over. Kiera only then noticed the blood, although it should have been impossible not to see.

“Master! Do you need me to clean it?” Kiera asked excitedly.

“No…” I refused, but then I thought about it. “But take it, burn it.”

The less evidence I had in my world the better. Kiera nodded without question. She didn’t care to ask where the blood came from, and she didn’t even look at the body-sized bags on the ground.

“I take it you need these burned as well?” Katarina asked, neither repulsed nor judging me in the slightest.

If my mother or my sister saw me like this, they would completely freak. However, Katarina and Kiera just looked at me like this was rather standard. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry.

“Get rid of them however you see fit,” I responded before adding. “I just never want to see them again.

“Okay.” She nodded and then took a step to grab the first bag.

I held up my hand, stopping her. “Something else. Do you have any spare slave collars from the supplies ransacked from the Syndicate at the hospital?”

My time in that world was short. I returned a few minutes later, wearing nothing but my underwear. I had already scrubbed myself in that world, but I still ended up in the bathroom washing myself a second time. Then, I put on fresh clothing and returned to the ally. There was no indicator that anyone had been there in the last ten minutes. These men had picked this particular alley exactly because it was hidden from prying eyes.

Thankfully, the unconscious man, Caleb, had yet to wake up. His eyes were fluttering through like he was about to get up. I snapped the collar onto him. Too late. I finished registering all of the information just as his eyes opened up. Of course, with full programmer rights, there were numerous things I could program the slave collars to do. They weren’t just dependent on a person pressing a button. They had various automatic triggers as well.

“Wh-wh-what? You!” He let out a cry as I pulled the dongle from his collar.

He started to back away.

“Stop.” I held up my hand, but what stopped him was the sudden shock of pain shooting through his body.

“Gegegegah… ahhhhh! Wh-what?” He grabbed at his neck. “What is this?”

“It’s this.” I pressed the button again, longer this time.

“Gegegegegege… stop, stop!” He yelled tearfully.

“I hope you understand your situation now,” I responded coldly.

“Y-you… who the hell do you think you are?”

“Your master.”

“Master? Fuc…gegegegegegegege…. Ahhhhh!”

“I programmed it to hurt you if you swear, so try not to swear from now on,” I explained.

He grabbed his neck again, breathing hard, but more aware now. “What… what did you do?”

“The device on your neck is called a slave collar. It works exactly how you imagine. With a button, you feel pain. With another, you die. You will do as I ask, or, I will kill you.”

“You… you… you bastard! Have you no decency?”

“You tried to take my mother and put her in some kind of sex trafficking ring. You’ve lost all rights to talk about decency!” I snapped back, pressing the button again.

“Gegegege… I get it! Please… shi- gegegege! Da-gegegege- ahhhhhh!”

“You might want to be a little quieter, or I’ll make you permanently quiet. I left you alive for a reason, but if you’re too much of a problem, you can join those other two.”

His eyes danced around the alley, but he couldn’t see his friends anywhere. He also noticed I was no longer wearing bloody clothing.

“Wha… wha… what do you want?” He got out, still panting.

“You’re working for me now,” I responded. “You’re here… to do my dirty work. If you do well, you’ll see the money. If you don’t, I’ll find someone else. The only difference between now and how you lived before, is now you have your life on the line.”

He gulped but slowly nodded. “I’m listening.”

“First off, there are rules. This collar, it’s not easy to hide, but you’ll do what you can so no one sees it. If you try to tell someone about it, or me, you’ll die instantly. You’ll have to take my word for it because you won’t have a second chance to test it like with swearing. Similarly, if you try to cause harm to others, it’ll hurt you.”

“You don’t want me hurting people.” He repeated, licking his lips.

“No, what I need are connections. I’ll be getting an influx of things. Strange things. I need buyers. I have since realized I’m not going to be able to sell everything I get on a traditional market. That’s where I need you.”

“Strange things? Like drugs?”

I had considered selling drugs, but I didn’t want to commit crimes. What I was doing at that moment was hardly a crime in my mind. It was justice. However, that didn’t mean I’d degenerate into a scam artist or a drug dealer. The things I sold would be legitimate, but things I didn’t want to lead back to me. I hoped to leak some of the medicine and technology into this world through these contacts.

“I can… do that.”

I nodded. “You can keep a cut of what you sell. Let’s say 20%. Take more… and you die.”

He nodded. “I get it… I get it.”

“Your first job… get some burner phones. Leave one at my door so we can get in touch. I’ll call you when I have stuff to sell. Line up your contacts, otherwise, you’re free to do whatever you want.”

“That’s it?” He asked, looking at me hesitantly.

“That’s it…” I nodded, but then glanced his way. “That technology wrapped around your neck isn’t something you can take off. If you try, you die. I’m not going to ask more of you than I already have, but if you press me, you will die.”

“I get it! I get it!”

“Then, get lost!”

He got up, turned, and ran. He didn’t even bother with the van. I wasn’t sure if it was his or one of his friends. After he disappeared from my sight, I decided it was best to move it. I got in, started the car, and drove it to a bad neighborhood, and then left it there. It’d be on blocks in a few hours. When I got back, I could see Gabriella’s car in the parking lot. It stood out because it was a lot nicer than any of the other cars there. She was a doctor, after all, and she could afford nice things. As for why we didn’t just live with her, my mother vehemently refused to depend on her.

“Daniel! I want answers this instant!” Gabriella had her hands on her hips and shouted as soon as I walked in the door, not even offering me a moment of respite.

“Underground… fighting?”

A few minutes passed since I had entered the room to the angry Gabriella, and so I had begun to tell them my story. That story, of course, was a lie that had been developing since I had started this thing. It was the only lie I could come up with that explained everything that happened.

“I saw an advertisement a few weeks ago in the paper,” I explained. “They were offering money, and we were desperate. So, I went to the event and I ended up somehow winning. I guess, given my size, I was able to catch some people off guard. That’s where I came up with the money I had to give the loan shark. That was my winnings. Every weekend I’ve been going there. That’s where I’ve been getting beaten up. The good thing is that they pay me whether I win or not, so I can always bring home something.

“Brother…” Hazel looked nearly in tears as she stroked my arm.

I couldn’t meet her expression of sympathy. I’m sorry, sister. Everything I’m telling you is a lie. It did explain where the money was coming from, where I was on weekends, and why I had bruises all over my body. It was the best I could come up with.

Crack! Hazel gasped as the glass in mother’s hand shattered. It was rare that my mother ever lost her composure and pleasant attitude, but she looked genuinely angry at me.

“Mother?” I glanced up at her.

“How dare you put your life at risk like that!” She said, tears in her eyes. “Don’t you realize how important you are to us?”

“Don’t you realize how important you are to me?” I stood up and shouted back, causing mom to blink in surprise.

“This isn’t the same thing…”

“Isn’t it?” I asked, tears running down my cheeks. “You’re willing to throw your life away for a cheap buck, so why can’t the rest of us?”

“Bree, Daniel…” Gabriella got between us as if she was afraid we’d start fighting right there.

“Daniel… I didn’t know you thought that way…” mom said in a quivering voice.

“I love you… Hazel loves you. We can’t live without you. Don’t do this to us again. Don’t leave us.”

“I don’t want to leave… I was just scared… baby, I’m scared.” She broke into open crying.

“Mom, I love you.”

“I love you too baby!”

“Ahhh! I’m still between you!”

The pair of us embraced, although there was a woman sandwiched in between us.

“Okay, which one of you is groping me! You’re mother and son, right? Hugs shouldn’t be this enthusiastic!” Gabriella complained the whole time, but she was in tears and crying as well.

Another person joined the hug at that point, as Hazel couldn’t stand it anymore. All three of us hugged with Gabriella trapped in the middle.

“Okay… that’s enough love…” Gabriella’s muffled voice came out from the middle. “Wait… Bree… is this your tit in my hand.”

“Gabriella, will you stop squeezing it, it’s not like when we were younger.” Bree blushed.

“No! I mean… where is your lump?”

“Hmm?”

“Your cancer! I don’t feel the tumor anymore!”

Ah, there was that issue too.

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