“Good evening, Gregson.”

“Who am I talking to?”

“I’ll be asking the questions. Go to the bunker and wait.” Inside was a perfect room; it was so white; it was impossible to see where the walls began and ended. Gregson and Domino were lost in space, until a black hole emerged and a man entered.

He was not a tall man, nor a short man. Gregson scrutinized his features and deduced there was nothing exceptional about him. He looked like a young man who became old too quickly.

“You have penetrated my stronghold, Gregson—though not really. All of your movements were seen.

Domino looked at him distastefully, but he didn’t seem to notice. He was like a human clone that had not fully regenerated. There were things about him that were missing, like a light behind his eyes or shampoo in his slimy hair.

“Soon, the world will be owned by this island—an empire, ruled by magic.”

“Magic rubs off on people foolish enough to practice it,” Gregson said.

“Oh, I assume you’re referring to the South American Shop in Chessfield. Blew a mile high, didn’t it? Well, one must cover their tracks. All magic is deception and the only way to control people is to lie to them. The News does a poor job. Everyone knows they’re being lied to. The most brilliant deception is one that lies in wait; and the people who find it think they have stumbled onto the truth. A brilliant mind, like yours, will appreciate this…”

The incomplete man led Gregson and Domino through the black hole he entered. This room was playing soft music. “They’re all here for one thing, pleasure and relaxation. They want their worries to leave their minds, and I provide them with that.”

“Is that…?”

“Yes. The world’s greatest leaders are resting here. They deserve it.”

“And they’re being hypnotized?” Gregson asked.

“Yes. You see, few of them really want to be leaders; they don’t know what they want, and they are the easiest to control. None want responsibility, though it’s been thrust upon them. Most, don’t even think they had a choice. Competition is the biggest deception; they don’t know what they want, but they do know they want to be better than the rest.”

“Where do they go?”

“Back to their positions, once their minds have become mine.”

“What’s in the next room?” Gregson asked.

“Paradise. It’s what you’ve always wanted, Gregson.” The door opened and a light took them to blue skies and crystal blue water. A boat, fully decked with beer and scuba gear was waiting. “You know who you are, Gregson. It would be impossible to fool you.”

“You know… you’re wrong.” Gregson rarely said “no” to his desire. He believed in it, like a compass that always pointed to adventure, but a storm was brewing above him, and he said the most powerful words in the English language, “No.” “No” is the journey to sovereignty. It’s a cutting off of pleasure and all things dependent. When you have it all, “no” acknowledges what’s important.

“No? Nobody says no to me.”

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