Chapter 18: Agony

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October 20, 2357

Residence of the Supreme Commander

Geneva, Switzerland

"How many more do we have to go through?" Ris groaned as she slumped over on the couch, colliding with Cai's shoulder.

"At least three hundred," he replied with a tired sigh of his own.

"No use in whining about it. This is our punishment," Val stated, using the household controller to switch the person displayed on the wall. At the same time, he let out a bored exhale of his own before he began reading aloud everything there was to know about the man pictured there.

Cai didn't bother to pay attention. After sitting in front of the screen all day, he was sick and tired of reviewing everyone who would attend his birthday party. That it was a punishment was never in question from the moment his mother told them they needed to review the guest list for security purposes. Once she'd heard about the dates Cai and Ris had been going on, she'd gone into an uproar. Val had gotten sucked in as soon as she realized he'd known about it and hadn't informed her. Now they were all forced to read all of the background checks of every potential guest.

"Cai, we've been here all day. When do you think she'll let us quit for the night?" Ris whimpered.

"Ever hear of 'eternal damnation'? There's your answer."

Amaris made a face and Val chuckled at the two teenagers. "The sooner we get this over with, the sooner we're free to go," he reminded them for the fiftieth time that day.

"Alright," Cai grumbled, "who's next?"

Picking up the control, Val switched it to the image of a young woman with a fuller figure, pale skin, and light brown hair. "Eila Maible. Recently turned eighteen. Wow. She's been in the running for your twelfth seat from the beginning. Says here that her father is the Programming and Coding Director for CompCorp's Genesis office. And her mother is a famous architect that designed many of the structural plans throughout America. Girl must be truly loved by her parents to keep her in the top."

Cai shrugged. It was no different than every other teenager that had appeared on the list. Their parents had money and they were willing to spend it so long as someone in the family was at the famous Cai Balere's birthday party. And when Val announced that Eila's parents were paying the way of someone else, it didn't surprise him. Waving a hand, Cai indicated that his uncle could change to this new person.

Cai had just enough time to lock eyes with the onyx irises of the picture before a piercing agony erupted along his entire left side! His mouth fell open in a silent scream as he doubled over. Hands pressed to his side, panic coated his tongue as he felt the warm liquid seeping through his torn shirt. Prying open his tightly-shut eyes, he looked hesitantly towards the source of the burning pain.

"Cai? What is it?" Ris asked from his other side even as Cai was realizing that there was a bleeding wound in his side.

"Cai? Holy shit! Is that blood?" Val asked, as he finally looked away from the girl in the photo. "Amaris, call Emergency Services! NOW!"

Pulling Cai's bloody hands away from his side, Val pulled up his shirt to see. "This looks like a fucking stab wound!" Val exclaimed before letting the shirt fall back into place. Tearing off his own shirt, Val folded it up and pushed it against his nephew's side, causing him to release an agonized groan. "We've got to keep pressure on it, Cai. It looks like this is deep. We have to stop the bleeding. Ris, run and get the first aid kit. There should be a package of sealant or some clotting formula. Go! Hurry! You're going to be alright, Cai. You're going to be okay."

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