Facing Negotiations

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Shard walks into the hostage area. Scowling eyes, wide eyes, and stagnant eyes all greet him. Though hidden behind his mask, his smirk shines through his eyes.

"Greetings, my lovelies!" Shard's voice carries through the two-floor room. With arms spread out, he spins around to ensure he makes contact with every unhappy eye. A few hostages are not in their cells. He can imagine where the missing ones are. "I'm gracing you all with my presence today because your parents are finicky people. They don't want to pay up. So one of you lucky individuals get to have a lovely video chat with Mommy and/or Daddy today."

Some eyes light up, including the eyes of the brat he will take.

"That lucky gal is Lucille Stickler! Come on down, Sweetie!" Shard says.

Her handler enters through the door behind Shard. His feet thunder up the steps all the way to her second-story cell. He barges in. Following Shard's previously given orders to be rough to shake her up, he snatches her from her bunk. Guards from outside rush in to pin her to the wall her as her handler bind her hands and gag her. She struggles against them. Those able to look on watch in fear as one of the quietest hostages is thrashed around. Her handler, backed by guards, drag her out of her cell and down the steps. They stop in front of Shard.

The girl's eyes are wide and wild. Her chest heaves big breaths. She visibly shakes.

Shard holds his chin between his finger and thumb. He tilts his head side to side as he exams her scared features. "Yep! You'll work perfectly." Shard pulls a blindfold from his jacket to tie around her eyes. A silent sigh slips from his lips when her eyes are covered. He yanks her out of her handler's grip. His hand presses her head down as he pushes her along at a brisk pace. She trembles in his hands. Shard tenses up. The guards and handler follow closely behind him.

Shard leads them in some circles in the halls and walks past the conference room several times before going in.

"This her?" Raul says. He wears a filtered surgical mask similar to Shard's except his has a skull-like teeth print on it.

All the Grounders wear their masks.

"Committee's on hold," Hatchette tells Shard.

"Good." Shard passes Lucille to her handler. "Put her in the corner outside the camera over there. Make sure she stays quiet. Plug her ears." He fishes earplugs out of his jacket and hands them to him. "I'll motion when I'm ready for her."

The man nods and takes her to the corner.

Shard sits at the desk. He pulls a glass screen up from the desk. The screen is visible to all the Grounders, albeit the image is backwards to them. The camera in a plastic bar on the top of the screen is set for only Shard's face to be seen. His image sits in the top corner of the glass. In the center of the screen, the word "Holding..." has the letters and ellipses bounce to a silent rhythm. Below the word are a green and red circle.

Shard claps his hands together. "Let's get us some goods." He taps the green circle.

Twenty-four harden faces come on the screen.

"Greetings, everyone! And welcome to another round of..." Shard drums his fingers on the desk. He imitates an announcer. "Chromy Negotiations! Who would like to bid first?"

No one responds.

"Really? No one?"

"Do you have the rest of the pictures?" Prime Minister Rhinehart says. The block with his face in it lights up as he speaks.

"Nope. Because you don't have any bids, any bids you've paid out yet. You asked for pictures of your babies to start trades. We delivered pics. Now you trade."

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