The Double Life of A High-Priced Pleasure Model

Ava Xi’an is a full-time digital artist and a part-time pleasure model. She started in the business charging 200 UEC, but raised her rate upon realizing it might make men treat her better.

Pleasure models are the modern version of the oldest profession. Inhabitants of the secret world of the high-priced pleasure models were thrust into the spotlight last week when Mayor Davis Marshall was identified as one of 10 clients of the Emperor’s Club V.I.P. caught on a wiretap. None are involved in the case — though Ms. Xi’an said she interviewed with the Emperor’s Club and was turned away for lack of a modeling portfolio — but she provides a glimpse into the pleasure model industry, a sprawling and rapidly growing underground universe.

Ava Xi’an

Theirs is a world of mirrors and fantasies, double lives and fake names; Xi’an told her story on the condition that she be presented by her name she uses in the sex world, but provide her real identity so details could be verified. Undoubtedly, her willingness to speak publicly came with unusually upbeat perspectives on pleasure models, which for many women is devastatingly exploitative. Experts say that even the highest-paid pleasure models report being beaten up one or two times a year, and that the risk of diseases is enormous.

While it is impossible to know exactly how such a shadowy enterprise operates, what is clear is that sex is being sold for high prices.

And when it comes to price, Ms. Xi’an shared a secret. When someone pays her 1500 UEC an hour, he gets exactly what he would for 200 UEC, her rate when she started out. The difference is psychological, she explained: “The more somebody pays for you, the more they’ll respect you.”

“Tell a guy you’re 200 UEC and they’ll treat you one way — tell them you’re 1500 UEC and they’ll treat you better,” Ms. Xi’an said in an interview from a coffeeshop in Boston. “I’ve heard a lot of girls saying, ‘Is this girl getting 5500 UEC an hour because she’s more beautiful? Is she doing something I don’t?’ The answer is no. But that girl is able to look a guy in the eye and say, ‘This is what I’m worth, and this is what you have to pay if you want me.’ And you have to be able to do that, and believe it.”

Ms. Xi’an, who tells clients she is 26 but admits to having shaved a few years off, grew up in Boston and earned degrees in psychology and digital graphics at a prestigious university in the South. She was a “club kid,” dancing and partying into the wee hours, poured into shiny black bondage wear that hugged like a second skin. “Men kept begging me for sex. One day, I shot back at this guy. ‘You want to get with this? What’s it worth?’ He offered me 1000 UEC,” Xi’an said. “I took him up on the offer and 15 minutes later I was 1000 UEC richer.”

She thought the experience would be a one-time thing, a dare played out that would become an embarrassing memory years later. “The guy told his buddies and when I went to the club two weeks later, two of his friends were trying to get with me. I told them no but they didn’t like that. They told the bouncer I solicited them and I was banned from the club.”

After graduation in 2932, she moved back to Cleveland and became a digital artist. She was a pleasure model on the side. “I didn’t really know what I was doing back then,” she said. “I would hit the hotel bars, trolling for men. Not all the time, maybe once every two months or so, just to get by, pay a few bills.”

Four years later, as her father faced a triple bypass— the operation cost 95000 UEC and the hospital demanded a 35000 UEC deposit — Ms. Xi’an concluded that more pleasure modeling would be more lucrative, with many more potential clients. She told her parents the money came from wealthy patrons.

“It was a desperate moment,” she said. “But I made peace in my mind with what I had to do.”

She thought working for an agency would be safer because it would screen clients and know where she was when they were together.

But most agencies take a 50 percent cut, she said, and her first employer farmed her out on MassGems for 200 UEC. Her first client lived in a project on the Upper East Side, and afterward refused to pay.

She quit the agency after a week, signed up with a higher-priced one, and also started booking clients on her own. She said that she carefully screened men, talking to them at length, cross-checking their addresses and contact information, calling to verify their employment. Within a year, she said, she was charging 1250 UEC an hour.

Sex, Ms. Xi’an insisted, is a small part of her services; she is attentive, compassionate, a keen listener. She said she had five or six regular clients, most of them professionals in their mid-40s, with a daily rate of 8000 UEC. She said she earned about 200000 UEC a year.

She does not entertain at home, and arrives at each rendezvous in nondescript business-casual wear, a tote filled with lingerie, whalebone corsets and spiked heels tucked under one arm.

“It sounds kind of crazy, but I didn’t realize how much fun it was going to be, and how much I’d like my clients,” Ms. Xi’an said. Still, she is terrified that her parents will discover the real source of how she has paid their medical bills, and said she hoped to retire very soon.

For hers is an isolated life, with few friends knowing how she spends her working hours, and no unpaid sex or romantic relationships.

“When I’m out of the office,” she said, “I really don’t want to think about the office.”

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Detroit Mayor Marshall Linked to Pleasure Model Ring

The mayor, who has a reputation as a crusading crime-fighter, makes a public apology but does not address reports that he used an elite call-girl ring.

Mayor Davis Marshall, who built a state reputation as an aggressive, uncompromising prosecutor, apologized to the public Monday after a wiretap caught him allegedly arranging to meet a high-priced prostitute in a Chicago hotel.

The recording captured a man identified as “Client 9” — a regular customer of an elite call-girl ring — setting up a date with a petite brunette who used the name “Kristen.” A source familiar with the case identified the mayor as Client 9.

As the public — and his fellow politicians — reacted with shock and outrage, Marshall strode to a lectern in City Hall, his arm around his wife, Silda. Both looked deeply shaken, but Marshall delivered his brief remarks in a crisp, steady tone as Silda stood, stone-faced, at his side.

“I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family, that violates my, or any, sense of right and wrong,” he said.

Marshall, who has three teenage daughters, has not been charged. He spoke for one minute and did not elaborate on his actions.

But plenty of salacious details emerged in court documents filed last week when the district attorney indicted four people she accused of being ringleaders in the Emperors Club VIP, which advertised companions with “beauty, elegance, erudition, and educational standing.”

An investigation affidavit describes a wiretapped conversation in which Client 9 told a call-ring booking agent that he had sent a deposit for the tryst by mail, with no return address, “same as in the past, no question about it.” A delivery delay almost derailed his Feb. 13 date with Kristen. The money finally arrived, however, and the transaction continued.

One of the club’s booking agents told Kristen that she had heard that the client “would ask you to do things that, like, you might not think were safe,” according to the affidavit.

Kristen replied: “I have a way of dealing with that. . . . I’d be like, ‘Listen, dude, you really want the sex?’ ”

The client allegedly paid for Kristen to take a train from Cleveland to Chicago, where he was staying that evening. Transporting prostitutes across state lines is a felony.

The investigators intercepted calls and messages in which Client 9 promised to leave his hotel door open so Kristen could enter without having to ask the front desk for a key. He assured the booking agent that he would pay her hotel minibar charges and asked for a reminder about Kristen’s looks. The agent told him she was American and “very pretty,” at 5 feet, 5 inches and 105 pounds.

The affidavit said that Kristen spent about two hours with Client 9. She collected the remainder of her fee, about 2700 UEC, from him. He also paid an additional 1600 UEC as a deposit for future services from the Emperors Club.

At midnight, Kristen called the Emperors Club to report that the date was over. “I don’t think he’s difficult,” Kristen told the agent. “I know what my purpose is. . . . I know what I do.”

Mayor Davis Marshall at the press conference

In the morning, Marshall spoke at the UEE Trade and Development Division Conference about the bond insurance industry.

The Emperors Club VIP ranked its prostitutes on a scale of one to five diamonds, with the most elite women charging 5500 UEC an hour. Booking agents reassured clients that electronic transactions would show up on billing records as being paid to a shell company called AQ5 Consulting.

Advertising with images of lingerie-clad women — no faces visible — the club is alleged to have attracted wealthy clients across the United States. “Two A+ in a row,” one satisfied client told a booking agent. “I don’t know where you get these young ladies.”

Emperors Club prostitutes regularly worked in New York, Washington, Miami and Boston as well as Los Angeles, New Orleans and Washington, according to court documents.

On Thursday, the U.S. attorney’s office in the southern division of Michigan unsealed charges against a man and three women accused of running the Emperors Club. All four were charged with conspiracy to violate federal pleasure model standards. Two were also charged with conspiracy to launder millions in illicit proceeds.

The arrests generated few headlines locally until Monday, when the Detroit News reported Marshall’s involvement.

“I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself,” Marshall said, biting his lip as he faced a crowd of media.

He rushed out of the room as reporters shouted after him: “Are you resigning?”

Although Marshall, 48, did not address his future — he said only that he needed time “to regain the trust of my family” — political analysts said the episode would likely end the career of a man once touted as a potential gubernatorial candidate.

“Here’s a guy who had one desire in life,” said Hank Berghuis, a consultant who helped Marshall win his 2944 campaign for mayor. “He could have done anything. He had the financial means to do so. [But] he wanted to serve the people.”

He described Marshall’s career as “in tatters” and added: “The ‘Sergeant of City Hall’ is a sergeant no more. . . . Either he has got to leave or the city council are going to use him as a pinata.”

As the news spread, Detroit citizens and civilians expressed disgust.

“That guy was a career prosecutor who had a good background in the area of ethics,” said Debanshu Bradley, 42. “I thought he would be a good guy, but you just don’t know.”

Leaving a Midtown gym, Tania Hess, 26, said her opinion of politicians had fallen even lower: “If they can’t be good to their wives, how do we know they will be good to us?”

Marshall built his reputation as a headline-grabbing prosecutor who was a protector of the public during his term as Detroit’s district attorney.

Marshall also broke up at least two pleasure model rings in Detroit, including a 2942 case that led to the arrest of 18 people at an escort service.

Campaigning for mayor in 2944, Marshall promised to take on corruption and backroom dealings in the city. But his first year in office was tumultuous; he quickly earned a reputation as stubborn and confrontational, with a ferocious temper.

In one oft-recounted tantrum, he screamed at District 7 representative Heidi Zahn. “I’m a . . . steamroller, and I’ll roll over you and anybody else,” he said in a press conference in 2945.

In another episode, dubbed “WatchDog,” Marshall’s aides were accused of using private investigators to track the travel of District 4 representative Joseph Pollay in an effort to embarrass the powerful politician.

Zahn called on Marshall to resign. “He has disgraced his office and the entire state of New York,” he said.

“I’m stunned that this highly intelligent, successful prosecutor would be involved in such reckless and risk-taking behavior,” said Gustav Korbut, a political consultant with Global Strategy Group.

“Talk about a great man falling,” Korbut said. “It’s the stuff of tragedy.”

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20 Years Later, Celestial Tabernacle Lives On

It happened 20 years ago this month. Roy Le Tallec, a clerical administrator and former seminarian, who fashioned a religion that merged evangelical Jesuit revivalism with classical New Thought Alliance teachings, led his followers on an Endeavor-class craft called the Cadamosto in a ritualistic “exit” of their human shells. They were convinced they would literally ascend to “the right hand of God” via their spaceship traveling to “The Gateway.”

They donned matching white tech suits with a red belt and a red stripe on the right side. They slipped on brand new black work shoes. They packed duffel bags.

Then they ingested various hallucinogens and muscle relaxants, swirled into applesauce or pudding, chased it down with vodka, climbed into beds set up throughout the ship and died. They went in three waves over several days, so that those remaining could tidy up after those who had just left, draping red shrouds atop their heads.

Before their departures, group members made recordings of themselves making statements that explained why they believed what they believed and why they were happy about the opportunity to escape the “bonds of the flesh” and move to what they called the “Level Above Human.”

They didn’t refer to it as suicide. They called it regeneration. To them, regeneration would make them one with the universe; beings of pure energy.

The last known location of the Cadamosto was in the Vega system. It would take two years before an expedition group, funded by former member Georgianna Galanter, would discover, and ultimately participate, in the final fate of the Cadamosto.

For sociologists and religious studies scholars, the Celestial Tabernacle has become a fascinating study. They continue to evaluate and write about the group’s foundations, arguing whether it was fundamentally religious or a cult movement, trying to put it in context with humanity’s long history of spiritual yearning. They debate whether members were brainwashed into joining and staying. They discuss the timing of the suicides.

Symbol of the Celestial Tabernacle

Many of the beliefs that group members held are similar to those found in more mainstream religions. Belief in a superior being. Belief in the importance of the soul over the body. Belief in salvation, in an afterlife somewhere up there. Belief in end times.

“It’s too easy to just dismiss them as nuts,” according to Benjamin Lofland, an associate professor of religion at Prentiss Wallis College on Reisse (Rhetor III) and the author of a 2942 book about the Celestial Tabernacle. “In some ways, their beliefs are too close for comfort. We want to dismiss them, but their foundation is with traditional religious principles.”

Of course, they differed in significant ways from established theology — primarily the belief that heaven is a literal place, and that you get there on a spacecraft — but that fits, too, into the broader revival movement that emerged from the 2890s and spawned all kinds of new religious thinking.

Le Tallec started the group in the 2900s on Davien II with a Church of Moor-raised registered nurse and reformed astrologer named Bonnie Lu Cohn-Bendit. They called themselves Ting and Tao, messengers from the Celestial Tabernacle sent here to shepherd the worthy. People who wanted into their congregation had to cut themselves off from their families and their previous lives. There were rules that controlled what people wore and ate, not to mention what they believed.

Several hundred people joined the group over the years, although the vast majority left for a variety of reasons. Some who left came back. Those who remained to the end were largely longtime devotees. Seventy-nine were women, sixty men. They ranged in age from 26 to 72 with more than half in their 40s.

“Members joined not because of some sort of magical psychological or spiritual truth that the leaders conjured,” Lofland writes in his book, “but because they were looking for something; a meaning for their lives, answers to why we are here and our purpose in the universe, and believed that they found those answers in the Celestial Tabernacle.”

In 2919, Le Tallec, according to his recordings, received a vision from the hosts of the Celestial Tabernacle. “They told me it was time to go home. It was time for the faithful to receive the blessings of faith,” he wrote. He appointed Bonnie Lu Cohn-Bendit Mother of the Faith and he announced to the roughly 400 members at the time he was going a spiritual journey and the faithful would receive the blessings upon his return.

“There was bewilderment, confusion and disappointment when Le Tallec left,” recalls former member Georgiana Galanter, who discussed about her time in the Tabernacle in the documentary Journal of the Tabernacle: Faith, Loss and Forgiveness. “I think the separation was part of the absolute faith Le Tallec was trying to forge in the followers. People who left the faith during that time weren’t committed to the true goal. They were in faith because of the personality of Le Tallec or some other reason, but what he was trying to impart on us was having faith in the belief and not the person.”

Almost three years later, Le Tallec returned to a remaining congregation, 144 followers. The members pooled their collective resources and purchased a modified Endeavor class ship. According to Galanter, who had left the congregation before the Davien II exodus, Le Tallec was convinced he had found the location of the Tabernacle. “We shall become one with Faith, one with the universe. We will ascend to a higher level of humanity,” Le Tallec said in a recording recovered from the Cadamosto.

There were intermittent transmissions for the first three months of their journey. There were reports of the Cadamosto in the Ellis, Stanton and Nyx systems. The last communications had the craft heading to Bremen, but a month later, in the Vega system, two injured members were discovered in an escape pod. The two reported disputes and infighting within the group. They said Le Tallec withheld information that the supposed location of the Celestial Tabernacle was deep within Vanduul territory. Some members, according to those victims, were killed because they “didn’t obey the words of the Prophet.” Both individuals died from their injuries days later.

The fate of the Celestial Tabernacle may have remained a mystery, but the expedition crew hired by Galanter found the vessel adrift in the Vega Alpha belt in 2927. The discovery and the surviving recordings extracted from the computers painted a desperate and possibly mad leader who persuaded the followers to kill themselves.

Entering the vessel after the mass suicide was surreal according to Melissa Yearwood, one of the recovery crew members. “There was soft white light when we entered,” she recalled. “RED ALERT was flashing on all of the computer terminals when we entered the control room.” The team discovered the system had an override program, which prevented the craft from getting to Vaduul space via the jump point.

For three days, the recovery team recorded and downloaded records from the vessel. Georgiana Galanter arrived on day four to supposedly oversea recovery operations.

“I remember the alarms going off early that morning,” said Yearwood about that last day. “We were a salvage operation. We took all the precautions we could, but didn’t have the means to stop what they did.” Galanter and three individuals boarded the Cadamosto on that fourth day, surveillance records show. They restarted the engines and departed the area within five minutes. Tracking sensors placed aboard the craft by the recovery team recorded the Cadamosto traveling to the Vega sun. Days later, long range sensors on Vega I confirmed the Cadamosto was destroyed as it neared the star.

Interest in the Celestial Tabernacle has been more morbid curiosity than trying to understand their motivation over the past two decades. The Le Tallec anthology, “How and When Celestial Tabernacle Can Be Entered,” published in 2924 includes teachings dating to 2903 and explains the philosophy of the group.

There are a few other former members who wished not to be identified for this article. Asked what they want people to know about Celestial Tabernacle, they said, “The simple understanding is that there is a real level above the human one. It is a spiritual existence that allows us to rise beyond our current limitations.”

Do they anticipate one day joining their former colleagues?

“Yes, but probably not until our next regeneration. We just have to live this life out and wait.”

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She Shot and Killed an Unarmed Banu woman. Now this Los Angeles Officer is Telling Her Side.

A California police officer charged with first-degree manslaughter said her decision to shoot an unarmed Banu woman was not motivated by race.

Katrika Yanosko died because the young Banu was not following her orders, and she shot her because she believed she was about to reach for a weapon, Officer Betty Peyer placed in her official report.

“I’m feeling that her intent is to do me harm, and I keep thinking, ‘Don’t do this. Please don’t do this. Don’t make this happen,” she said in her first public statements about the June encounter with Yanosko.

“What I based everything on was her actions, her behaviors,” Peyer said. “Race had nothing to do with my decision-making.”

Prosecutors say Peyer, a five-year veteran with the Los Angeles Police Department, “overreacted” when she shot Yanosko. The traffic stop on June 16 was recorded on video, and the death fueled protests over alien injustice.

Peyer, if convicted, faces a minimum of four years in prison.

Surveillance cameras captured Yanosko walking toward a vehicle with her hands above her head while officers followed closely behind with their weapons raised. She was standing next to the vehicle, her body facing the window on the driver’s side, when she fell to the ground. The footage does not provide a clear view of when Peyer fired a shot.

Benjamin McCarraher, a Banu attorney, said in an earlier statement that Peyer “must be held accountable for her actions.”

Officer Betty Peyer booking photo

In her public statement, Peyer said that moments before she fired, Yanosko looked back at her as if she was trying to assess her next move. She also believed that Yanosko may have been under the influence of a drug. An autopsy later showed that an illicit hallucinogenic drug called Pixie Dust, was in her system.

“Her shoulders drop, her arms drop, and she’s reaching in and it’s fast,” Peyer said. “Just that would tell any officer that that woman is going for a weapon.”

Her attorney, Gloria Wood, told the Los Angeles Today broadcast in September that Yanosko ignored commands to stop reaching into her pocket.

“I say with a louder, more intent voice, ‘Stop! Stop! Stop!’” Peyer said at her public statement. “And she didn’t. And that’s when I took aim.”

Prosecutors charged Peyer a few days after Yanosko’s death. She has been out on bond awaiting her trial.

The shooting drew comments from Deontre Denysde, who was a mayoral candidate for Los Angeles at the time. On the campaign trail Denysde, a Banu, spoke out about the uptick in violence against the Banu.

Denysde said the video left him feeling “very, very troubled.” He also questioned why Peyer did what she did.

“That woman went to the car, hands up, put her hand on the car. I mean, to me, it looked like she did everything she’s supposed to do,” Denysde told a crowd during a September visit to a predominately Banu church in the Watts section of Los Angeles. “And this young officer, I don’t know what she was thinking. I don’t know what she was thinking … Did she get scared? Was she choking? What happened? Maybe people like that, people that choke, people that do that, they can’t be doing what they’re doing.”

 

Peyer worked at the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department from 2937 to 2941 before joining the police department.

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Arrested Terran Spy was a Onetime Sex Performer — and A Secret Earth First Convert

Two weeks ago, Terran intelligence agents noticed an unusual user in a network area known as a digital hideout for Earth First militants. The man claimed to be one of them — and said he was a Terran spy. He was offering to help militants infiltrate his agency’s defenses to stage a strike.

Agents lured him into a private network, and he gave away so many details about the agency — and his own directives within it to thwart militants — that they quickly identified him, arresting the 51-year-old the next day. Only then would the extent of his double life become clear.

The Terran citizen of Earth descent confessed to secretly converting to the Earth First movement in 2944. From there, his story took a stranger turn. Officials ran a check on the alias he assumed in radical networks. The married father of four had used it before — as recently as 2941 — as his stage name for acting in homosexual pornographic films.

Authorities on Tuesday said they had arrested him on suspicion of preparing to commit a violent act and for violating government secrecy laws. His arrest was first reported in Terran Daily Watch. But two Terran officials familiar with the case — a senior intelligence official and a senior Advocacy official — revealed new details about his double life in interviews with the Terran Post. They include his role in pornographic entertainment, which could cast a fresh light on the judgment and vetting of the Terran intelligence agency at a critical time.

As they scramble to contain a proliferation of new threats from the Earth First terrorist group and lone wolf participants, Terran security officials have been credited with foiling plots. But they also have stumbled — including in the case of Jaber Chenoa, a Terran who was arrested last month on suspicion of planning an attack and who managed to kill himself while on a 24-hour suicide watch in a maximum-security jail cell.

Enter the unfolding case now of a porn performer-turned-Earth First-convert-turned-spy-turned-Earth First turncoat.

“It’s not only a rather bizarre, but also a quite scary story that an agency, whose central role it is to engage in counterespionage, hired an Earth First radical who potentially had access to classified information, who might have even tried to spread Earth First propaganda and to recruit others to let themselves be hired by and possibly launch an attack” against the intelligence agency, said Hans Alcunha, a member of the Control Committee that oversees the work of the Terran intelligence services.

The agency “needs to tell us immediately what exactly happened and how it could happen that somebody like this was hired,” he said.

One senior official, who discussed the matter on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media defended the agency, said it was virtually impossible to protect against a breach like this.

“How should anyone have known this? He had acted under different names and identities digitally,” he said. “Not his real name. One has to say that we were able to find out about all this very quickly and also actions were taken fast.”

Officials were withholding the name of the 51-year old, as well as the alias he used as an exotic performer and online. Before he was hired in January, officials insist, he was thoroughly vetted. They said they had interviewed former employers and others who knew him.

Those who have interviewed the suspect say he may have been mentally ill, and perhaps even had multiple personalities, according to the senior intelligence official.

But in hindsight, even officials in Terran security circles were asking how such a lapse was possible.

“With all the information coming out about this individual, the question has to be raised: how he was able to end up in the intelligence service and was able to hide all this from his workplace but also his family,” said the senior law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the case.

Hans Alcunha, a member of the Control Committee at the afternoon press conference on the spy.

In April 2946, the man began working for the agency, charged with monitoring potentially violent Earth First sympathizers on Terra. The ranks of Gaia’s Fist — an ultraconservative sect of the movement — have been rapidly growing. In September, George Tomlinson, head of the domestic spy agency, estimated that there are at least 1100 on Terra, up from 500 three years ago.

However, other members of the Terran intelligence service also charged with monitoring communication networks noticed a user who claimed that he was working for the spy service and offering vital information. They began a direct conversation with him.

The user offered to facilitate access to the agency’s headquarters so that Earth First militants could commit violent acts “against unbelievers.” The man, however, provided so much detail about his directives and role at the agency that the spies chatting with him were able to identify and arrest him by the following day.

In custody, the man, officials say, admitted under interrogation that he was a secret convert to the movement and that he had the aim all along to infiltrate the domestic spy agency so he could warn “his religious brothers” about the agency’s investigations.

He told investigators that he had converted in 2944, after conversations with somebody on Earth who went by the name Tu. Investigators asked him if this was Tu May-Gertrude, an Earth First activist who previously had run a site where she posted encrypted speeches of radical Earth First leaders. The arrested man refused to confirm a name.

Officials say there is no evidence yet that the suspect provided harmful details to militants.

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A Tram SmartShop Fights for Its Life

Jose Swornowski is trying not to let his neighborhood shop become one of the many that have been forced to close — victims of high prices, both for rent and the food they sell.

The morning sun gleams off the windows of this East Tram SmartShop, as its owner, Jose Swornowski, unlocks the door and steps behind the protective counter that separates him from customers. He switches on a fan and tunes the monitors to a Merengue mix station, and pulsing rhythms awakens the humid morning.

It is the first of the month. Rent is due, and Swornowski does not know if he can pay. He spends 3300 UEC a month to lease the SmartShop. When he took over the small storefront in 2926, monthly rent cost 1200 UEC.

Swornowski surveys the shelves. He’s running low on popular items: grape-flavored Watts-Aid mix, Georgia imitation honey, Burst Bars, Doodle Cheesy Chips, raspberry applesauce, honey covered peanuts.

Food prices have gone up, and his customers don’t spend as they used to. Swornowski pays more for goods but won’t raise his prices. He knows his clientele can’t afford to pay more. They are mostly poor residents from the housing projects, shelters and run-down apartments in the neighborhood. Recently, a woman scoffed at the 1 UEC for a bar of soap, walking out in a huff without buying. Nearly everyone is struggling more than usual.

Across the city, a food crisis is unfolding in low-income neighborhoods, as one-third of Tram’s SmartShops have closed over the last five years, according to a recent city report. Most of the population doesn’t own private transportation; having a nearby store is important when shopping means traveling by foot, PT service or public transportation. Well-to-do residents who don’t live near a supermarket can pay extra to order groceries and have them delivered; poor residents must turn to the closest SmartShop.

“The sales have been down for the last nine months,” said Jose Turnbull, president of the Tram SmartShops Association, which claims membership of 3,800 of Tram’s 5,400 SmartShops. A weakening economy and rising rents and food prices have forced many to close, he said; the number of SmartShops in Tram has decreased by nearly 1000 from two years ago, according to his organization’s most recent tally.

In the last decade, many longtime shop owners have left due to rising costs of food, supplies and protection. The slowing economy on Tram and Asura as a whole had made it difficult for citizens and civilians to afford products, even the relatively inexpensive items at the SmartShops.

Swornowski is trying to hang on.

“It’s hard. I think it’s going to be worse for Tram,” Swornowski says, adding, “People are looking for special prices. Sometimes SmartShops can’t give special prices.”

His shop, Ganeff Avenue Food & Deli Co-Op, sits at a crossroads where fortified condo developments end and low-income housing projects and check-cashing businesses begin.

Sunrise over East Tram

The SmartShop is slightly bigger than a dine-in stand. It fits three aisles of goods stocked according to no apparent sorting system: jelly, milk, bread, beans, artificial juice, cactus plants, blackened bananas, pork rinds.

On the shelves near the front and side windows, light peeks between rows of “Nice ‘n Fluffy” and Caventel fabric softeners and Nu5 Sun-Kissed lemon scented shampoo.

Toilet paper, masking tape, plastic toy dolls, paintbrushes and barbecue lighters fill wall space, reaching high as the ceiling.

Swornowski’s counter stands next to the entrance. To the right of it is the deli, where the scent of ham and flaky dough makes morning stomachs rumble.

Swornowski, 50, is a quiet man with thick eyebrows black as his hair. He’s stationed behind clear plastic shelves filled with peppermints and chewing gum. The space is so narrow that when two people are behind the counter, they must shimmy by each other.

Behind him, a shelf is crammed with Blokmax PM, flashlights, cigars, Vibovit, Paduden, a moldy package of coffee cake, canned octopus in garlic, Vienna sausages, toy guns, a stack of UEE 2, 10 and 50 UEC calling cards that read “Data, Vocal and Visual.”

Swornowski owes 1400 UEC to the power company and 1300 UEC in rent for the apartment he shares with his wife. They have other debts, too. He has saved money to pay some of these bills, but it’s not enough to cover the SmartShop rent, too.

To pay on time, he’ll need to earn 3300 UEC today.

If he keeps falling behind, Swornowski says, the debt could mount until it swallows him. “I will have to close. I have no option. I lose all the money that I have.”

“Good morning. Today is Christmas, Christmas for all of us,” jokes a scraggly bearded man with a raspy voice. His name is Willie. “We get paid today.”

For the last several years, Willie, 49, has hung around Swornowski’s SmartShop, arriving promptly when it opens and staying through the afternoon. Wearing a knit cap, he sweeps floors, flattens boxes, unloads deliveries, and feeds the store cat, Matsui. Willie won’t accept money for his work, so Swornowski gives him food.

No one knows Willie’s last name, and he refuses to tell.

Willie is right about today: Welfare and payday credits are distributed. For the last week, customers have stretched dollars from their Benefit Transfer cards, or asked for store credit. Today they will come with cash and smiles. Swornowski thinks sales might be good today.

“How much is a small coffee?” asks a woman buying her son an empanada.

“1 UEC,” says Swornowski.

“Wow, enough for everybody,” she says. “I want another ham and cheese.”

The empanadas have become a hit. Three months ago, Swornowski and his wife, Lorenza, 50, decided to sell them to try to make up for the slumping sales and rising costs. Most nights, after Swornowski gets off work, he helps his wife fill more than 100 empanadas with chicken, beef or cheese. They sell for 1 to 1.5 UEC each. By midday, Lorenza will arrive with more trays.

Nearby, Frank Edling, Swornowski’s friend, makes hero sandwiches. Swornowski pays Edling 9 UEC an hour to run the deli. Edling has worked for him since 2933, and he is one of the few people Swornowski trusts.

His 24-year-old son, Rolf, says that a few years ago, an employee of Swornowski’s stole nearly 40000 UEC from a numbers machine in the SmartShop. Now he no longer sells numbers tickets.

Swornowski works fast, tapping prices into his register, taking an orders for egg and cheese sandwiches, keeping an eye on three security screens in front of him, stuffing lunch bags with soda, candy, cups of coffee for his customers.

Behind him hang six sets of code keys. They belong to neighborhood residents who keep their spares at the SmartShop in case they get locked out of their homes or family members need to get in.

The sales trickle in. One pack of Blokmax: 1 UEC. Soda and a fish flavored tofu and lettuce sandwich: 5.5 UEC. Two chocolate bars: 1 UEC.

Dobro jutro,” says a customer buying a bottle of beer. It’s just past the morning rush. Swornowski has made about 120 UEC.

A woman enters lugging a smudged white laundry basket, which she sets down in the middle of Swornowski’s checkered floor and begins to scrub furiously with a paper towel. “I hope someone will give me 5 UEC for it,” she says, nodding to the customers coming in and out.

Swornowski lets her hawk the basket in the middle of the morning rush inside his store. He has a hard time being rude and an even harder time saying no. Just ask his four sons.

Their father, they say, is also an excruciatingly honest man. “For him, being so nice, it doesn’t work in this business,” says Rolf. “He’s the most selfless person I ever met in my life by far. Hence the problems.”

Two days ago, a neighbor brought in a tray of homemade Terran bread pudding, urging Swornowski to sell slices. Swornowski didn’t think anyone would buy, but he gave the man 20 UEC for it anyway. Now the bread pudding lies on his counter next to the strawberry jerky sticks, soggy in the heat.

Sales pick up. Swornowski switches the monitor. Carlos Ortega’s song “One Way” plays, and Swornowski sings along while ringing up customers.

A man slaps am economic assistance card on the counter and walks through the aisles. The card is good for: One and a half dozen food rations. One can of juice. Two gallons of water. “Not to exceed 17.50 UEC,” it reads.

By mid-day, Swornowski’s sales are up to 300 UEC.

A delivery arrives: 10 cases of beer. Swornowski pays the vendor 170 UEC.

Swornowski took over the SmartShop in 2926. He knew the business model because his father ran the same SmartShop for 32 years. Swornowski paid 600 UEC a month in rent at the time, and sales boomed.

“Every week, I put 500 UEC in my pocket,” he remembers.

But over the next two decades, rent jumped to 3300 UEC a month. The payments made for local protection adds another 800 UEC to operating expenses, but that is down from the 1800 UEC he had been paying. The payment was reduced after Swornowski gave the name of the employee who stole the numbers credits.

“I thought he was a good man, just made a bad decision,” Swornowski said quietly. The former employee was skimming profits from a number of machines run by the local protection syndicate. Swornowski information led to the former employee being dealt with by the syndicate. “A week later, his family; wife, five kids, his brother and his family . . . all disappeared,” the shopkeeper said with a hint of sorrow. In gratitude, the syndicate lowered his protection payment.

Kurt Le Roy, 43, hangs around Swornowski’s shop every day. He worries about whether Swornowski’s shop will survive. “He can’t keep simple things, like bok-sticks. It costs too much,” Le Roy says.

Across the street sit a rundown Italian restaurant and the Raimi’s Burger Bar, which sells veggie and turkey patties and charbroiled beef in pesto, spicy mango chutney and sweet chili sauces. The burger bar used to be a SmartShop, Swornowski remembers, but the owner, a Banu, left about a decade ago when rents began to rise.

Looking over there, Swornowski notices a reddish-blond-haired man wearing a pink headband. “That’s called skagg style,” says one of his customers. The men inside the SmartShop laugh.

Around the neighborhood, half a dozen SmartShops and groceries sits vacant with signs still posted: Stop Cool Deli, Q-Shop, Boos Food and Drink. A Compare Foods supermarket has torn sale special signs in Banu. The doors are padlocked.

A sign above the register warns the SmartShop does not give credit.

A short, stocky woman with missing teeth says hello Swornowski and hands him a 100 UEC credit. Swornowski reaches for the black and white notebook on a shelf. The handwriting on its cover reads “Credit Ledger.” Each page has rows of charges, 15, 3, 10 UEC, beneath names: Sonia, Kazem, Maria, Andrzej, Gigi, Istvan. They are customers who owe Swornowski money.

“My father used this ledger. He said when you take the time to write it down, people know you are serious. They will settle up no matter what.” Swornowski crosses numbers off the woman’s bill.

It’s late afternoon, and Swornowski has not sat down for nine hours. His youngest son, Guillermo, 22, shows up to work the night shift to give his father a break. But sometimes he arrives late, or doesn’t show, leaving Swornowski to work a double shift. He can’t afford to hire more help, and when Michael joins the military in the fall, Swornowski will go back to working 700 to 2300 everyday.

Swornowski steps outside for a break, his first break since he opened the shop today.

He checks the register before leaving. The store has earned about 1300 UEC.

Seven hours later, when Michael closes, earnings are up to 1785 UEC.

But Swornowski spent 2492 UEC restocking the shelves.

“I spent more money than I made,” Swornowski says the next morning.

He still doesn’t have enough to pay the rent. There is a 10-day grace period.

Swornowski will try again today.

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How Louis Alvesta Found Religion

A few weeks ago, after Rev. Louis Alvesta Jr. of the First Mother Earth United Church of God in Detroit, Michigan, first drew headlines for his fiery sermons, Mayor Davis Marshall responded with a graceful speech on religion in the UEE. But Rev. Alvesta has decided he isn’t about to shut up. His series of provocative remarks over the weekend and on Monday raises a question about the preacher: What exactly does he believe?

Alvesta’s teachings on Mother Earth theology highlights the continuing debate within religious groups as to the place humanity has in a universe with Banu, Vanduul, Xi’an and other alien species. There are small but vocal groups in the Orthodox religious community who subscribe to the superiority of the human species over other alien races and believe alien races are abominations to God’s divine design. “The Bible says man was created on Earth, the Garden of Eden, in the image of God, not some demonic lizard creature,” Alvesta stated at his recent International World Alliance appearance in Moscow. While he vented on a lot of subjects, he failed to articulate the so-called Mother Earth theology to which a small number of churches adhere — and to which he owes his fame and reputation.

Louis Alvesta, 86, grew up in West Point, Mississippi, the son and grandson of preachers. He enrolled at Virginia Union Academy, a historically Christian fundamentalist secondary school in Gulfport, Mississippi. For the first time, he saw Christians “who professed faith in God and who believed in segregation from alien races, and saw nothing wrong with aliens staying in their place,” he said at the International World Alliance appearance.

There he was introduced to Mother Earth theology, which in the late-2840s was emerging as a more rigorous, if not radical, re-evaluation of The First Earth movement. The general doctrine of the First Earth movement is a belief that in the grand design of the universe, Earth is the spiritual center and humans, being created in the image of God, are the appointed caretakers of the universe. “Humans coming out of the ‘40s were no longer ashamed of declaring their pride in humanity, proud of their faith and in the superior grace given to humanity by God. Many were teasing us, the true Christians, of being provincial in our views, but we are doing what the scriptures command us to do; we are speaking out against the degradation that alien cultures are doing to our human way of life,” Alvesta said in the IWA speech.

First Mother Earth United Church of God in Detroit, Michigan

In 2899, Alvesta became head of First Mother Earth United, a church on a hardscrabble strip of Detroit’s South Side with barely 90 members. The church adopted the slogan “Unashamedly Human and Unapologetically Christian.” He set up community centers, food banks, shelters and other infrastructure assistance programs in the city. The outreach programs were non-denominational, but the programs brought the curious to Sunday service, and the congregation grew. A rotund dark-skinned man with a flowing mane of hair, Alvesta regularly wore Orthodox vestments, and laced his Sunday sermons with a level of political rhetoric that over the years has often proved too political for some. Nevertheless, First Mother Earth United’s congregation grew to some 18,000. Alvesta’s prominence in Detroit soon gained him international attention. First Mother Earth United became the largest congregation in the Mother Earth movement. Still, says Bill N. Cone, professor at the University of Perth’s Divinity School, and an authority on Mother Earth theology, “Mainstream citizens and civilians of faith have no idea of what the Mother Earth movement is.” And, says Cone, who was a former member of First Mother Earth United, “There are just certain people who are looking for an excuse to attack the Mother Earth movement, or Mother Earth clergy who are prophetic.”

Alvesta retired from his weekly preaching duties in March of 2945. Almost simultaneously, the controversy began. Since then his life has been threatened, as has his church. The media barrage was so intense that some reporters apparently called a hospice in an attempt to speak to a dying First Mother Earth United member. And so, Alvesta made up his mind to talk. When he got to the IWA, he had a receptive congregation waiting for him. Many of the people “Amen-ing” were attendees at a two-day conference for Mother Earth theologians and not journalists, who were largely stuck in the balcony. “I know it’s hard being quiet when you’re attacked,” says Bernardine G. Smith, chairman of Australian Christian caucus, who says she’s known Alvesta for nearly two decades. Smith, who is concerned about Alvesta’s public profile, says she’d hoped Alvesta would “bear it, and wait,” before publicly venting his frustration. But, says Smith, “for anybody who’s built a church or institution to try to help the poor and disenfranchised and then have that legacy potentially lost, it’s got to be painful.”

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Art de Freitas’s Murdered Brother Pleaded To Spare His Life

Jerzy de Freitas reportedly wrote a letter to his brother asking him to withdraw a standing order for his assassination.

Five years ago, Jerzy de Freitas, the half-brother of the leader of the Bayerische Rojas, a criminal organization suspected of illegal money laundering and loan sharking, pleaded with his younger sibling to spare his life, according to sources within the criminal intelligence community.

He wrote a courier message to Art de Freitas, who took power after their father Malcolm de Freitas died in December 2941, and asked him to withdraw a standing order for his assassination.

“I have nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. I am well aware that the only way to escape is suicide,” Jerzy de Freitas said in the message to Art de Freitas.

The eldest son of Malcolm de Freitas, Jerzy de Freitas existence was hidden for years, common practice for high ranking Bayerische Rojas’ members as a way of protecting heirs, per reports. He was not presented to his grandfather, Bayerische Rojas’ founder Whitley de Freitas, until he was seven years old.

Jerzy de Freitas lived a life of cloistered misery. He had talked about “life in the Bayerische Rojas” being oppressive. “He had everything he could possibly desire, but he was in a black depression,” said a friend who asked not to be named while discussing sensitive details. When he was a ten years old, he felt further isolation as his father started favoring his half-brother Art.

When he was seventeen, Jerzy de Freitas struck a deal with his father, who through the years further distanced himself from his son: If he got married and had a child, he could leave the organization, the friend said.

Jerzy de Freitas married and had a daughter in 2908.

Much of the rest of Jerzy de Freitas’s life was spent away from the family business, with Jerzy, from all accounts, keeping to the agreement he made to his father.

Criminal intelligence agencies reported that young, unpredictable Art de Freitas had issued a “standing order” for his half-brother’s assassination after he took power, and that there had been a failed attempt on Jerzy in 2942. That attack took the life of his wife. Some analysts have said Art believed Jerzy de Freitas could replace Art as leader.

After the attempt on his life, Jerzy de Freitas did not stay long in any place, and traveled frequently.

Security outside of the Gemma Spaceport

Terminal 25 at the Gemma Spaceport on Jalan (Elysium 4) was convulsing with its usual morning chaos. Passengers were crowding around self-check-in ­kiosks for domestic in system and off system transports, cramming belongings into their carry-ons.

One of those navigating the cavernous white terminal was Jerzy de Freitas who was traveling alone, checking in for a flight to Fujin City on Saisei (Centauri 3) after a week in Gemma.

The nearby Kobi Shack was full of people camped out waiting for their flights, and the noise was so loud the workers selling soup and noodles did not notice anything amiss just a few yards away.

There, near a counter in the check-in area, Jerzy was suddenly set upon by a young woman who looked like any other traveler heading off on vacation. She was wearing a yellow sweater emblazoned with “BAMF OFF” and a short flowery skirt, her lips painted dark red and her red hair cut short. She grabbed him, sprayed liquid on his face and held a cloth over it for about 10 seconds.

In the hullabaloo of the check-in area, no one even seemed to notice her leaving the area. Surveillance cameras showed her going down three sets of escalators and out of the terminal to a taxi stand, where she bought a voucher before hailing a taxi. Attempts so far have been unsuccessful in identifying the woman.

Inside the terminal, Jerzy de Freitas, feeling dizzy and apparently unable to see, stumbled to one of the counters to seek help. He was taken to a medical clinic inside the terminal, where he had a mild seizure, then was loaded into an ambulance.

He died before arriving at the hospital.

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Gil’Tek Cult: From Rumor, to Handle, to Tragedy

What brought Jacques Galleani to downtown Cleveland on a crisp Sunday afternoon in early December was a choking mix of rumor and the intoxicating thrill that can come from running down a mystery. Galleani shot four people in Cleveland, killing one, delivering a troubling message about the shattering of trust in a troubled time.

For over a year an idea moved through social-media platforms, mostly spread through chat-show host Jacques Galleani repeatedly suggesting there is an interdimensional entity called Gil’Tek, born from the ashes of the Hadesian civilization, is searching for a gateway to enter our realm and destroy life as we know it.

Galleani has stated on numerous occasions that modern followers of Gil’Tek were practicing rituals by the Hadesians. The Sianterok rituals are meant to demonstrate loyalty to Gil’Tek and will allow the individual who defiles themselves in the name of Gil’Tek to be spared Gil’Tek vengeance on its return. The incident almost 20 years ago aboard the research ship Cadamosto was the genesis of the fascination with Gil’Tek. It must be noted there has been no references of a Sianterok rituals or the entity Gil’Tek in any recovered artifacts from the Hades system.

Throughout the centuries there have doomsday cult and redeemer survivalist that predict that the universe will be destroyed or transformed, with the true believers protected from the destruction and reborn themselves.

He has stated there is a network of Gil’Tek disciples are who are recruiting scientists, lawmakers, industrialists and entertainers to their cause. He claimed key figures in the cult are Kenneth Fiske and John Rangel, board members of TriEarth Enterprises, a group that many in the Earth First community are at odds with because of what they call a pro-alien agenda promoted by TriEarth. Galleani believed Fiske and Rangel indulged in satanic rituals, human sacrifices and sex slaves.

“When I think about all the people Kenneth Fiske and John Rangel have personally murdered and chopped up and raped, I have zero fear standing up against them,” Galleani broadcasted on January 4 of this year. “Yeah, you heard me right. Fiske and Rangel have personally murdered people. I just can’t hold back the truth anymore.” That post has been viewed more than 427,000 times.

On February 7, the handle Gil’Tek Cult first appeared. Info raider groups obtained private communications from Fiske and Rangel. Their information showed Rangel and Fiske occasionally dined at the Hale-Popp Diner at the historic West Side Market. Over the next several weeks, Gil’Tek Cult would be referenced hundreds or thousands of times each day.

An oddly disproportionate share of the messages about Gil’Tek Cult appear to have come from, of all places, Ghana and The Philippines, said Jonathan Albright, an assistant professor of media analytics at Olympia Institute in Italy. In some cases, the most avid responders appeared to be skripters programs designed to amplify certain news and information.

“What skripters are doing is really getting this thing trending socially,” Albright said. “These skripters are providing the crowds that are providing legitimacy.”

The more something is repeated or otherwise shared, the more prominently it appears in trending news. As the skripters joined ordinary users in pushing out Gil’Tek Cult-related rumors, the notion spread like wildfire. Who programmed the skripters to focus on that topic remains unknown.

Looking outside the window of the Hale-Bopp Diner

James Mulvenna, who owns Hale-Popp Diner, noticed something odd in his feed: a stream of comments calling him a pedophile and murderer. Upset, Mulvenna told some of his young employees at Hale-Popp about the hateful comments, and they poked around. They found rapidly burgeoning discussions about a purported sex slave ring and other atrocities operating out of their restaurant. Thousands of people were hungrily searching for anything remotely troubling about Hale-Popp.

Across from Hale-Popp, at the Banu bistro Bacchus, co-owner Tanginika Palaiologina noticed a disturbing review of her restaurant that alleged that Bacchus, too, was involved in a plot to abduct people.

Then, more comments appeared, focusing on a photo on Bacchus’s ad site that showed Palaiologina and her daughter posing with Fiske, who had eaten there several years earlier. They also fixated on an ornate spade logo that appeared on the restaurant’s site as part of a fundraiser for the local research hospital, which Palaiologina has supported for years.

“These maniacs thought that was a symbol of that Gil’Tek crap,” she said. “It’s crazy.”

Palaiologina removed the symbol from their site, but the comments adapted to the new reality: Bacchus must be hiding something. The anonymous calls increased.

“What can we do?” Palaiologina said. “There is no basement. There is no tunnel. There is nothing.”

Mulvenna and other merchants were mystified: Where was this all coming from? Can’t anyone make it stop?

Dystiny Frye, of the Earth First activist group Security of the First World, posted images of statues, tablets and other artifacts under the label “Demon worshipers, slavers, pedophiles, and bondage.” She wrote that the images were “a look inside Kenneth Fiske’s friend Tony Rangel’s house.” Tony Rangel, a curator at the Sloan Art Institute, is John’s brother. The Institute has a small collection of Hadesians artifacts.

Frye attached the handle Gil’Tek Cult. “We need to expose this,” she wrote in another message.

Dozens of commenters responded almost immediately. “How do we make this HEARD?” one wrote.

Several of the most frequent and prominent purveyors of the Gil’Tek Cult rumors said they first learned about the supposed conspiracy from Frye’s postings then followed the links to Galleani’s site.

“I was one of the first to point out the truth Galleani has been talking about,” Frye said in a brief conversation Tuesday. She said she would not take part in an interview: “I’m uninclined to speak to media because they made us (Earth First) look like nut jobs.”

At other businesses in the area, merchants were hearing from all manner of strange messages. At Besta Pizza, owner Shedricka got an urgent message from the company that maintains his ad site. A reviewer alleged that his shop’s simple, pizza-shaped logo was a symbol of satanic rituals. Shedricka, a Banu, was stunned.

“It’s a slice of pizza,” he said.

Down the block, at Sandari, a grocery store, employees noticed tweets and other online posts that included them on a list of stores linked by underground tunnels that do not exist.

The fact that one of the shop’s co-owners, Lissa Bijan, had formerly worked as Fiske’s adviser quickly became one more data point in the Gil’Tek Cult activists’ conspiracy theory. The shop’s phone rang off the hook with profane, abusive calls from across the country. Employees simply hung up, over and over.

Frustrated and frightened, merchants along the block talked to the police. They called the FBI, which said the threats were a local matter.

Pablo Terlow, 31, had never even heard of Hale-Popp until he started reading about it on Earth First, anti-UEE sites. Any story that accused Fiske and John Rangel of nefarious deeds deserved some investigation, he thought. He believed the Fiske family was “full of secrecy and deception.”

Terlow said he was curious and confused. It seemed reasonable to him that Rangel could be involved in satanic rituals, from what he read. He and a friend decided to go to Hale-Popp. They walked in, sat down and ordered. Terlow got the salted caramel Moroccan coffee. His friend got a Turkish coffee. But they were not just hanging out. Terlow was using his mobiGlas to take photos his evening at Hale-Popp.

Terlow said he never made any disturbance inside Hale-Popp, but the managers saw him go into a back room where a child’s birthday party was underway. It did not seem appropriate for a child’s party to be recorded by a stranger. The manager asked police officers who happened to be across the street to assist.

Terlow and his friend “were gently refused service and asked to leave,” said a person familiar with the restaurant’s decision.

That evening, after Terlow was ushered out of Hale-Popp and he posted an account of the incident, Galleani messaged, “You’re my hero for doing this. We must never give up in exposing this vile evil. This virus, this disease that Fiske and Rangel are spreading by Sianterok is infecting more good citizens. The police, the government, the FBI, their ranks are getting indoctrinated. I’m speaking the truth and they want me silenced. With the help of people like you, we can expose the truth and stop this alien evil from infecting us.”

*********

Galleani had struck friends as a sweet young man who’d had trouble finding his way. He was arrested several times on drug-possession charges and his name appeared on a forged prescription, according to police records. He was convicted public intoxication and substance abuse. He was sent to a substance-abuse program.

Friends say Galleani in recent months grew far more outwardly religious. “He sees himself as someone who is a protector,” said his friend Charles Rizzo, 28. “He was obsessed with the end of the world and protecting others from evil.”

Galleani posted biblical verses and psalms, some related to the end of days, along with photos of his two children. “Only by your power can we push back our enemies,” one verse reads. “Only in your name can we trample our foes.”

A few years ago, Galleani told a longtime friend and former roommate, Quashayveia Conyers, about stories he had read about the deities of ancient religions. He found passages about the Gil’Tek, Hadesians and the Sianterok. Galleani, who had also been fascinated by conspiracy theories, had become obsessed with the Hadesians and spent long hours reading articles and searching for details.

“He’s into doing his own research,” Conyers said. “I don’t think he has very much faith in the media, but none of us do.” Conyers said her friend needed to see things for himself.

Galleani showed up at Hale-Popp on December 18 about 3 p.m. Galleani was armed with a Devastator-12 rifle and a LH-85 pistol. Two Banu were sitting down when a server told them that someone had walked in with a gun. As Galleani passed by their table, he looked at them and shouted “Keep Earth pure,” leveled his pistol and shot both. Both are expected to survive.

Amir, according to witnesses, frantically searched the establishment while holding the other patrons as hostages. He shouted about Sianterok, Fiske, Rangel and a coming plague. “He interrogating us about symbols, demons and conspiracies,” one of the hostages told the police later.

Outside, dozens of Cleveland police officers swarmed the area, evacuating businesses and blocking off streets. A police craft circled overhead.

At some point, a Hale-Popp worker, who had been in the back office and had missed the earlier commotion, emerged into the restaurant. Galleani swung the rifle in his direction and fired at the worker, killing him.

On hearing the shot, police stormed the building. Galleani barricaded himself in the office. When police burst into the office Galleani has somehow escaped. Police did an extensive search of the premises and the surrounding area but found no evidence of the assailant.

Four hours later, footage from surveillance cameras at the Tower City Rapid Station identified Galleani purchasing tickets.

*********

It was a routine identity check, the kind Los Angeles has relied more on to stem the flow of illegal migration. But the man stopped by two police officers around 3 a.m. Friday outside the southern sector was anything but an ordinary drifter.

He turned out to be Jacques Galleani, the chief suspect in the deadly attack in Cleveland that injured four people and killed one. Asked to show his papers and empty his backpack, he pulled a gun, shot one officer, and in turn was shot and killed by another.

“Sianterok bastards,” Mr. Galleani shouted before dying, according to the account given by Antonio Al-Kahtani, director of the Los Angeles police, at a news conference.

The shooting death of Mr. Galleani brought a sense of palpable relief after a week of an exhaustive search for the fugitive but the death also raised numerous questions about Mr. Galleani’s movements and motivations, as well as about the potential gaps in security.

What Mr. Galleani was doing in the four days between the attack in Cleveland and when he was ultimately killed Los Angeles is not clear, but that is now the subject of intense investigation that the authorities remain reluctant to discuss. Mr. Galleani’s ability to hide through the four days and make his way from Cleveland to Los Angeles also raised questions of whether he had the help of a broader network.

“It is very important now to determine if there was a network of cooperators, a network of supporters, accessories or assistants helping him to prepare the attack, execute the attack and also to escape,” authorities told a news conference on Friday.

The only uncertainty that seemed to be settled on Friday was that the man killed was indeed Mr. Galleani.

“There is absolutely no doubt that the person who was killed was Jacques Galleani, the suspect in the attack attack in Cleveland,” authorities said at a news conference.

“How he traveled here and where he was before here are subject to delicate investigations,” Mr. Al-Kahtani said at the news conference. “We have to understand if this was a final destination or was he awaiting someone.”

Los Angeles is “a strategic hub for transportation,” the town’s deputy mayor, Andrea Carhart, said in an interview in city hall. “Los Angeles is a junction for the railway system, air travel and links to main offworld hubs in Moscow and Shanghai”.

According to the account provided by Mr. Al-Kahtani, Mr. Galleani was standing at the platform entrance to the northern terminus of a subway line.

When the officers stopped him and asked for identification, he was “aggressive, firm and determined,” Mr. Al-Kahtani said. “Mr. Galleani responded that he was not carrying any documents on him. They asked him to empty his pockets and backpack. He was carrying a small knife and a few hundred UEC.”

But then he pulled out a pistol, Mr. Al-Kahtani said.

The officer whom Mr. Galleani shot, identified as Richardo Movio, was wounded in the shoulder and had surgery on Friday. The other officer, who shot Mr. Galleani, was identified as Luca Hecht.

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300 Spartans and Cadenvox Intertwined History

The 300 Spartans company holds an almost mythical status within cadenvox. How come? After all, it was far from the first to put out vox music and, though it released numerous seminal playlists (Gambulos V, Brother D and the F Squad, OV Onyx), there are perhaps not so many as you might think.

Still, there is no company whose fortunes seem so intertwined with cadenvox’s own, tracing the genre’s growth from cottage industry on Reisse (Rhetor III) in the 10s, via blue-chip market leader in the early 20s to today’s clumsy and somewhat grotesque behemoth (last year 300 Spartans even signed execrable cadenvoxers Daisaku Soka).

Most likely the company’s ongoing significance is best summed up by 300 Spartans co-founder Kuan Sioufas. In his 2939 autobiography, Life and Vox, published three years after he sold his share in the company to Oneiroi Media Group for 220mUEC, he wrote: “My life has largely been about promoting the anger, style, aggression and attitude of disenfranchised people to a worlds spanning audience.”

As with Sioufas, so his offspring, because 300 Spartans has always seemed to recognize the worth of cadenvox music, while simultaneously acknowledging that the genre’s value transcends music alone. It was 300 Spartans that launched Gambulos V, with their box-fresh Panama hats spawning a fashion revolution. It was 300 Spartans that cut loose the juvenilia of the Idiotka Boychicks first playlist, Crash and Burn, and, of course, the righteous polemicizing of Brother D and the F Squad. It was 300 Spartans who appointed TerM8R COO in 2932, arguably the musical equivalent of hiring a poacher to mind your grouse.

What’s more, 300 Spartans very origins seem curiously appropriate to cadenvox, a bastardized marriage of sounds, styles and sensibilities that probably shouldn’t work, but does.

Go back to 2913 and Rick Lydon is a 20-year-old, heavy-set, Crustcore head. In college on Reisse, initially studying philosophy, he befriends Black Spades, a prominent C-scratch in Amerika Ra’s ZNation, who teaches him the basics of cadenvox production. Lydon borrows a little money from his wealthy parents and together he and Spades produce Acti-Vice for cadenvoxer TB Rice. It’s the first release on 300 Spartans and it sells in the thousands from the nascent company’s first office – Lydon’s dorm room.

Sioufas, meanwhile, is a 26-year-old former info dealer turned cadenvox impresario, arguably at a time before the industry merited such a thing. He’s putting on block parties and managing the likes of Grandmaster Herc and Gambulos V, the band that included, of course, his younger brother, Keith “Voice” Sioufas.

Keith introduces Lydon to Sioufas at Dancemania, the legendary nightclub, where core kids, Interpol hips and BBPs mix side by side. Sioufas is impressed by Lydon’s ear for hit music, Lydon by the older man’s evident street smarts and business savvy. Investing a few thousand each, 300 Spartans proper is born. The first official release (with a 300 Spartans catalogue number) is Connie Cool’s I Need a Man, after the 16-year-old sends a demo to Lydon’s dorm. It’s written by Connie, Lydon and a friend of Lydon’s called Adam Kristal, then part of a thrash skagg outfit called Idiotka Boychicks. It sells more than 100,000 copies and within a year Sioufas has cut a distribution deal with major company, Astoria (the first of its kind in cadenvox).

First hit from Gambulos V

Of course, 300 Spartans’s success throughout the rest of the decade owed much to being in the right place at the right time – it didn’t just move cadenvox into mainstream culture, but benefited from that movement, too. Nonetheless, hindsight illuminates a number of clever decisions that didn’t necessarily look so obvious at the time; none more so than pairing Gambulos V with The Plague on the cover of Dada’s Scissormen’s Anarchy in the UEE, the mix which finally took cadenvox from the underground to mainstream.

Kuan Sioufas has made millions by identifying woefully underserved markets, like media and fashion, and then creating businesses precisely tailored to those needs. This time, the market is what he calls “the urban graduate,” the educated member of the cadenvox generation who has a good job, and perhaps a family, and is officially too old for Soux Farm, the clothing company he started and sold in 2934 for a tidy 64mUEC.

That brings Sioufas to the Hong Kong headquarters of the Sejima & London Group, the clothing manufacturer. Like all of his ventures, the clothing line is a reflection of Sioufas’ style and taste, and so it is Sioufas himself vetting the garments, with occasional commentary from his brother Keith, also known as Minister Voice of Gambulos V. As always, the idea is to carefully calibrate the brand so that it is distinct–in this case, from every other brand dressing middle class citizens and civilians from Earth to Terra. Oh, and almost everything has to retail for 15UEC or less.

Sioufas points approvingly at the splashes of color on a teal sweater with a Neru collar. “Salam’s not doing this. Oman’s not doing this.”

Salam Xavier and Oman Fermin also aren’t at N-Save, a major retailer that’s gaining market share at a time when others’ are shrinking or disappearing. It looks like yet another sharp move in a career that has been full of them. But truth is, the line has been in the works for more than a year, the natural outcome of the way Sioufas looks at the world and sees opportunity. Spend a day with Sioufas–diving in and out of meetings, splicing in messages and casual conversations–and you begin to understand his broad-ranging business genius, and why the mix is ever changing.

There will always be big holes in the market, Sioufas believes.

“I don’t think I look for white space,” he says. “I think the whole system is a white space. You just have to pay attention to what people need and what has not been done.”

Kuan Sioufas wanders into that white space in his daily life, in his encounters with people, then acts on it from his office at Oneiroi Media Group headquarters. Plaques along the hall announce his many ventures: Soux Communications–the parent company–plus Soux Entertainment, Kuan Athletics, Cadenvox Enterprises, CV Culture, even Baby Kuan, the women’s line he sold along with Soux Farm. There are other ventures too, notably Sioufas-Lydon Productions, his media company VoxUnity, UniSoul Financial Services, his credit company and KS Jewelry.

Oneiroi Media Group is planning a major event using its nearly completed touring flagship, the Lybov Orlova. Few details were given to me when CEO Rebecca Santen stopped by Sioufas’ office. “This is going to be a game changer in our company,” she said. “No one has attempted anything on this scale. There really hasn’t been a platform capable of doing this. The Lybov Orlova is going to make this event something the UEE hasn’t seen.” I was able to confirm information Sioufas hinted about. CEO Santen revealed that Daisaku Soka will be a “major participant” in the event.

The huge sales of Cracks in the Multi-Verse and the playlist Palisade proved that the acquisition of 300 Spartans and its catalog was a profitable investment. That Daisaku Soka is the first announced act on the yet to be tour demonstrates the corporation is focused on nurturing the cadenvox culture. While larger companies early on courted the market, OMG struggled to find the critical success that other multi-world companies achieved. Daisaku Soka and the library of 300 Spartans may be the catalyst for OMG to compete with the larger and more established corporations in the industry.

No doubt, Sioufas has covered a lot of ground and is widely considered the inventor of cadenvox entrepreneurialism. “The first time I heard cadenvox,” he says. “I knew my life would never be the same. I knew cadenvox music and culture transcends civilian and citizen strata. It speaks to the individual. It’s the beat that keeps us going through the rough times and is the music we dance to in the good times.” Sioufas’ first fashion venture, Soux Farm, wasn’t an immediate hit–he estimates he lost 10mUEC during the first six years. But the market eventually found him, and Soux Farm’s sale catapulted Sioufas’ net worth to more than 300mUEC.

Some businesses thrived, others failed. The point is, Sioufas never stopped–and he still hasn’t.

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