John & Jenn of America.

JOHN & JENN

“STRONGER TOGETHER”

John & Jenn of America is a Black American social organization created during the Reconstruction Era following (the legal) end of slavery. It was started by black mothers who wanted to form a bond with other families living in the segregated south. Over time the vision was catered to blacks that owned land and were educated at colleges and universities. Being among the black elite, people could network and benefit from shared interests and social standing.

Membership has historically been extended through legacy member inheritance or sponsorship. Many of the first Black American millionaires in the late 1800s were members of this exclusive organization. John & Jenn counted prominent Civil Rights leaders, blacks who were the first to receive medical and law degrees and entrepreneurs as members.

Throughout early the 20th-century chapters spread through several southern states. Membership was limited to Descendants of Slaves and their offspring. Due to legal segregation and Jim Crow laws, blacks were excluded from many public parks, pools, theaters, and shops. The families of John & Jenn established their own social functions for black children and single people looking to meet others in the same social class.

During the 1960s additional chapters opened in the northeast in cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. By the 1980s there were few chapters in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Over the years the organization has been the target of accusations of being elitist and not embracing “new money blacks.” The leadership of John & Jenn have vehemently denied this and has made an effort to reach out to professionals whose families aren’t legacy members nor products of generational wealth. Southern debutante balls may be a thing of the past in most areas, but John & Jenn has continued to host them each year as young ladies enter into society.

J&J has come a long way since their days of “the paper bag test and good hair requirements,” but there is room for improvement and inclusion to uplift the black community as a whole. However, there are members who are okay with the old way and want to keep membership limited to the upper crust whose been in the group for generations. Among degrees and money, you’ll find cattiness, deception and social climbing as it’s finest. As some potential members will find out that maybe not everything that glitters is gold.

****Please check out the limited biography on one of J&J’s most prominent families The Carters

(The work of this group is entirely fictional and any resemblance to real organizations or persons is coincidental)

Let the Games Commence! Marseille Powers Begins Her Reign

Marseille has the Popularity Aspiration

Marseille’s Traits Are:

Cheerful, Insider, and Outgoing

Let Her Reign Commence!

You know her mother, you know her father, now Marseille Powers daughter of legendary supermodel/fashion designer Reagan Leeds-Powers and nightclub magnate Jaylen Powers climbs out of their shadows to establish her reign.

Many would reduce the existence of a privileged socialite to private schools, parties, and elite vacation destinations, but Marsy never desired the life of a kept rich girl. She excelled in college where she started a successful event planning company due to her wit and business acumen. Her company, City Girls Elite was a mere stepping stone.

Reagan Leeds has long dreamed of her oldest daughter following in her footsteps and taking over her companies, so when Marsy informs her mother of her desire to work for her father, she’s heartbroken. However, anyone who knows Reagan knows that she won’t readily accept defeat nor let a “broken heart” stop her from getting what she wants and what’s best for her heir.

It wasn’t always easy living under the public gaze of an international fashion legend, despite how close Marsy and her mother were. But she was still more like her father, Jaylen; forever on the party scene thus making nightclubs his business that’s earned hundreds of millions of dollars for Powers Enterprises.

Co-founder and co-CEO, Amarre Powers has tasked his niece with operating their newest nightclub expansion in San Myshuno. Tomo is an international nightclub, resort and hotel chain with five hundred locations worldwide. He sees the same intelligence and relentless ambition in Marsy as he does in himself; all she needs is someone to drive it out and mold it. Jaylen was never as power hungry as his brother, and he initially opposed Marsy taking on such massive task until Amarre assured him that she would get all the support and resources needed to make Tomo San Myshuno a success. It took some convincing, but Jaylen eventually signed off on his daughter’s promotion.

There’s one person who’s never welcomed the idea of Amarre molding Marsy, and that’s Reagan. Amarre and Reagan have often found themselves at odds over the years as he always pushed to expand Powers Enterprises with ruthless determination to conquer and remove their competitors and enemies alike at any cost. Reagan is very success driven herself and encourages her children to be the same way, but not to the extreme like her power-hungry brother-in-law. Soon enough she and Amarre ensue in a battle over Marsy’s career path.

Marsy is loyal to her family and will do anything to protect their interest. When enemies from the past and present begin to emerge determined to dismantle the Powers reign, she’s unequipped with the arsenal required to fight them. Fearing failure and disappointing her father and uncle, Marsy turns to Amarre who tells her she must be relentless to silence all enemies.

For the protection and advancement of her family legacy, Marsy must become a skilled and merciless player of the game. Amarre instructs her in no uncertain terms to start treating the game like the bloodsport it truly is.

Not everyone is equipped to pay the price for winning the many games of power. Long live her reign.

****Marseille Powers is a legacy member of my most important dynasty; the Leeds and Powers dynasty. Through the Leeds and Powers family branches, all my stories and several characters were created. Her mother, Reagan Leeds-Powers has been the center of my Sims Universe for several years. She’s the protagonist of my first full epic Sims story, Reagan Leeds: Run The World. It’s because of that story I’ve been able to create so many complex characters and storylines. It’s a great pleasure for me to continue Reagan’s legacy through her oldest daughter. 

****Check out Marseille’s featured layout and interview with S.H.E magazine and her December 2017 cover.

****Read about the beginning of Tomo Nightclub in chapter 20 Steelo Part I. This is when Reagan and Jaylen meet for the first time. You can also read about Marsy’s birth in chapter 38 And Baby Makes Three. Be sure to check out Amarre’s POVs as part of the Expanded Universe of Reagan Leeds: Run The World. 

 

Thank you,

Camille

 

Quarterback Colin Stone Takes on the Upper Echelon of Power in the NFL

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Colin has the Fortune Aspiration

Colin’s traits are: Active, Materialistic, and Bro

Colin Stone is the star quarterback for the San Myshuno Panthers. Being a star athlete gave Colin and his family access to a life they could only dream about when he was growing up. His father, Aubrey made good money from his tattoo chain and online business, but he did the bare minimum when it came to being in Colin’s life. Malika, his mother, received a substantial amount of child support from Colin’s father but often had to use it to care for her other kids.

Colin always felt like he got the short end of the stick in comparison to his father’s other children and some ways his siblings he grew up with as well; until his family saw he had a natural gift with a football. From the time he was a freshman in high school, picking which college he would play for, and until the NFL draft, Malika relentlessly pushed her son to become a highly paid athlete. She knew her son was their ticket to get out from a life of struggle and scorn she faced at the hands of her family. Now the entire weight of the world is on Colin as he takes care of his mother and younger siblings.

He languishes in the party lifestyle befitting a famous athlete. Colin works hard in the NFL and likes to indulge in the many pleasures and luxuries only a certain amount of income can afford. His primary concern has always been about his money and caring for his family, as he refuses to bend over backward to help extended family members who shunned him, his mother, and siblings.

As someone who never cared for school or much else besides games and girls, Colin never had to think about life outside of having a successful career in football. He faces a battle as he renegotiates his contract and endorsement deals as the NFL landscape begins to mix entertainment and politics for many players.

Colin is thrust into the national spotlight, and everyone has an opinion on what choice he should make. He’s at a delicate point in his career when making the “wrong” move could anger TPTB (The powers that be) and cost him millions of dollars in the years to come. He seeks the advice from a powerful associate who tells him that sometimes one must “play by the rules until he’s in a position to change the rules.” Colin would love to own an NFL franchise one day affording him not only status and money, but power and influence over a game he dearly loves.

Colin must consider if the opportunity to grow wealth, influence, and power is more important than appeasing the faceless people on social media who wouldn’t choose what they’re demanding of him if the shoe were on the other foot. The lesson in learning how to play a game of power could be knowing when to pass, throw, or change the play altogether when you’re the one holding the ball.

****If you want to read about Colin’s parents, Malika and Aubrey, you can check out his auntie Briah’s story in the Expanded Universe of Reagan Leeds: Run The World.

Chapter 6 All Harm, All Foul

Marquez “Meech” Flex POV

(Sexual situations, language, no nudity)

“Where you been? You think I got all day to sit around waiting on your ass?” I had just walked into Lamar McQueen’s office in the Spice District. These days, he kept his headquarters at a number of locations to either ward off the police or the other cartels he’s been fighting over territory with for months. Currently, Lamar chose to meet with his crew in an old textile factory near the docks downtown. The area didn’t get a lot of traffic. Forty years ago, there were all sorts of manufacturing jobs in this area, now it was desolate.

I didn’t need to check my cell for the time, nor was I surprised by Lamar accusing me of being “late.” He wanted to show his lapdogs who was boss around here; trying to act like I’d wasted his time and him reprimanding me for it was his way of doing that. “Yesterday, you said to meet you at four; it’s four.” I sat down in a chair across from Lamar’s desk. I kept my eyes locked on his. I had no shame nor reason to be sorry. The man who is guilty or afraid will never look at you in the eye. Lamar stretched his torso upright so he could appear taller than me even when sitting down. His insecurity was open for all to see, but if he were smart, he would dead that shit. Lamar waited for an apology from me, but once he could see he wasn’t about to get one, he moved onto the reason I was called in for this meeting, although I could guess.

“It was three. Next time, don’t make me wait on you, nigga. I got more important things to do with my time,” replied Lama. His two lapdog bitches, CJ and Step or as I refer to them: Stepin Fetchit clapped their hands; doling out fake laughs. I guess you could call them his bodyguards or errand boys; either way, I didn’t give two shits about how they front.  If they didn’t keep they mouth shut, I would muzzle it.

“Our product ain’t movin’. Ever since the Latin gangs started to post up in Spice Lane, deals ain’t working out; muthafuckas is going elsewhere.  We can’t have that. It’s that Noriega bitch not watching her step and coming into areas that ain’t hers.” It took a while, but Lamar finally got around to telling me the reason he called me down here, but I knew this is what he would say. The Noriegas aren’t the reason our numbers are low.  While it was true, a number of smaller gang factions have been rising ever since our old boss, DM Sanders was executed less than two years ago, but Spice Lane has been under the control of Noriega’s street affiliates for years now. Lamar knew all of this in reality, but if he were to own that his bad decisions in the last eighteen months are the real reason our money flow has declined, he would have to admit that his rule was weak and ineffectual. I wasn’t worth it to me to point all of this out right now.

“So what are your plans?” I asked as if I didn’t know what Lamar’s move was going to be; he’s predictable. The expression on his face grew very dark; he knew that I would not agree with whatever plan he was about to present. Every day, I was starting to care less and less about giving a damn whether or not Lamar believed I was here to prop up his rule with my loyalty. He knew I wasn’t. All the same, Lamar expected loyalty from me because he “brought” me into the business and showed me the ropes. That would only get one so far with me, but I refuse to pledge complete allegiance to anyone I didn’t view as a strong leader, I didn’t care who the nigga was.

“The bitch has a shipment coming in soon. I got the goods on when and where. We’re gonna take it from her.” Lupita Noriega or “the bitch” as Lamar calls her was just as ruthless her father, Carmine Noriega. Their cartel controlled New Crest, one of the largest cities in the region. Ever since Carmine has been locked up awaiting trial, Lupita has been running his operations.

I contemplated what I would say to convey to Lamar that jacking anything of Noriega’s wasn’t the best idea right now. “Why would we need to make a move on the Noriegas? If Carmine gets out on bail, you can count on retaliation, even if he isn’t released out on bail you can count on Lupita’s revenge.”

Lamar ’s brow furrowed and lip curled up in agitation. He tried to give an air of confidence, but I knew him too well. His bad nerves made him sweat; it was taking a concerted effort on his part to keep control. Lamar rhythmically knocked his ring against the desk as his beady eyes seared into me. His countenance told me everything I already knew.

“They ain’t gonna let Carmine out, ever. He’s a flight risk; got too many connects that can get him out the country,” argued Lamar. “You can’t be sure. I heard they tryin’ to get him house arrest until trial. It’s a good possibility he will get it,” I replied.


“Well ain’t you the nigga with all the answers, huh? You got connects in the D.A. office. You need to make sure that fucker stays in jail!”

“Lamar, you’re asking me to call in a pretty big favor when my connection could be much more useful on something more significant than trying to keep Carmine Noriega in jail. Like I said, whether he’s in or out; you move on them, you can expect major heat from Lupita if you try them.  The product you talking about it ain’t even worth all that.” I reasoned.

“And how would you know exactly? It ain’t like I gave you any details. Unless you know something you ain’t telling me,” said Lamar. He was trying to insinuate that I was playing both sides. “I know nothing more than you. I just know if there is product that Lupita is allowing the little weak ass Spice Lane homies to handle, it ain’t worth that much. She would never allow some little ain’t shit bangers to be responsible for product that’s worth enough to go to war over.”

Whether or not I made sense to Lamar, he would not admit it. He wanted to show his weight to the bosses in the surrounding cities and the smaller factions in the four boroughs that have begun to rise against him. McQueen’s reign wasn’t secure, and when DM Sanders was killed, a lot of his loyal men left to start their own operations. Even if he got away with stealing one little insignificant shipment and was somehow able to get away with it, no one would give him respect because anyone in their right mind knows it’s a dumb ass move.

Lamar was determined to make a move against Lupita anyway; there wasn’t anything I could say that would change his mind. He laid down the specifics of the shipment to a warehouse not far from here and how he wanted me to go about stealing it and “cleaning up the mess” afterward. I’m not afraid of bloodshed, but it wasn’t necessary for this instance. If your way was to always move in violence, you get what you give in return, and sometimes the means didn’t justify the ends.

“Fine. We can have it your way, but expect a war,” I said after Lamar finished giving me the details. He had ordered my crew, The Thetas and me to put his plan into action. He couldn’t be bothered with getting his hands dirty even though this was his stupid scheme.


“You act like you so scared of those bastards, Meech. Fuck that hoe and her daddy! Just get it done!” Lamar raised himself up on the desk, simultaneously slamming his hands down. It took a lot for me to hold my breath and not sock him straight dead in his mouth. But I maintained my chill; my poker face and agreed to steal the shipment.

“Maybe you ain’t good for the job though. Ever since 5-0 ran up in your spot, nigga they watching you.” Lamar knew good and well the search conducted in my apartment a while ago wasn’t significant. The police wanted information on him, but more than that I knew agents on the task force were looking for more significant people than Lamar. “Nothing came out of that, which I told you it wouldn’t. I’m not dumb enough to get caught up by 5-0,” I replied. Lamar gave me a skeptical look. I’d given him the details after the popos left my house, but I don’t think he trusted I told him everything, and he was right because I didn’t.

There were all kinds of ways this operation could turn out bad, and I had to think about plan b, so neither I or any of my boys ended up dead over some shit that wasn’t even worth it. There’s a balance I had to maintain. No, Lamar isn’t a good leader, and my respect for him is all but gone. But I couldn’t openly defy him on orders he’s directed. He wasn’t entirely without power; not yet. Lamar, whether I liked it or not, was still the boss; a boss I faked allegiance to.  For now, that was my position, until I could make better moves, I would play by the rules.

*****************

I lit my blunt, the lighter briefly illuminated my otherwise darkened living room. My conversation earlier with Lamar had been on my mind ever since I left his office. Everything in me said going after a Noriega shipment wasn’t a smart move. What you have to understand about me is, I’m not the type of nigga that makes a play based on some stupid shit. Lamar wanted to flex so to speak and let the Ivanovs who ran Windenburg, The Noriegas, The Costas of Willow Creek, and Bobby Wilds who ran Oasis Springs that he had balls and was willing to challenge them if they made any attempts to take over the four boroughs which consisted of Uptown, Fashion Row, The Spice District, and Art of the City.

Lamar hadn’t cemented his reign as genuinely legitimate yet, and the other outfits were going to try him. But what he didn’t need to do was make any first moves; it wasn’t the time. I can count the number of occasions Lamar has taken me aside with some half-ass plan to either push our product or retain the territories left by DM. He had a lot of bold ideas; unfortunately, most of them were dumb as fuck. He’s gonna play around and get people killed unnecessarily.

I took a long hit of my blunt and walked over to the window. I had some of the best views of the city from my apartment. San Myshuno is expansive. Millions of people lived here. I thought about all the neighborhoods I used to slang in when DM was still the boss. I was pretty much solo at the time as far as pushing weight. I’d known Lamar from the block for years, and he brought me into the Sanders outfit. I quickly rose through the ranks because I was no dummy. I negotiated the best deals for the product and made our organization a lot of money in the process. DM could see that, and soon enough I was nearly at Lamar’s level, which I felt he resented. If DM hadn’t been shot before he could name a successor, I believe he would have chosen me over Lamar.

One of DM’s sons, Kao could’ve been a consideration too, but he fell out with his dad years ago and rarely came around. I didn’t know Kao’s whereabouts. The last time I saw him was at his dad’s funeral. He seemed to have disappeared after that. If Kao came back right now, I think he could quickly get support from Sanders loyalists and get the business back from Lamar, but who’s to say he was about this life anymore.

My doorbell rang, snapping me back to the present. It was after midnight. Vistors coming and going at all hours of the night wasn’t unusual for me.  I clicked a remote; turning on the lights. “Who is it?” I asked. “It’s me. Open up,” said Ekko, from the hallway. I unlocked the door; letting her inside. I  held onto the doorknob; taking a breath. I’d forgotten she told me she was coming back in town tonight from New York. Ekko was always doing the most, and I wasn’t in the mood to deal with her.

Ekko is my “girlfriend.” Actually, what she had was the privilege of being my main chick. She knew what was up and that I saw other women. Ekko is a bad as fuck Blasian model, so I claim her and the other girls I deal with know they place.

Ekko was wearing no less than four-inch heels, stepped up, reaching her lips to mine. Her kiss was warm and her lips soft, but I didn’t return the favor.  “I missed you,” she said. I feigned like I had missed her too when in reality I’ve been too busy to notice she hasn’t been in town for the last week.

“How was New York?” I asked. Ekko was originally born and raised in Manhattan, and that’s where her parents currently live. “Good. I saw my parents, and just about everyone else. I met up with Marseille at Tomo. Her uncle is actually bringing her out here with him and my dad to review the new club building inspections. I still can’t believe Amarre Powers is entrusting his niece with running the most anticipated new club in San Myshuno. Not to mention Marsy’s dad is on board as well. She’s so fucking spoiled.” Ekko accusing someone else of being spoiled was the pot calling the kettle black.

Ekko had followed me over to the couch and went on about her trip and bored me with the details of her escapades with the rest of the bougie ass socialites and models she grew up with. I hadn’t met most of her friends. She preferred to not take me around them or her parents if they were in town from New York because of my lifestyle. That was fine with me because the last thing I felt like doing was sitting up with a bunch of silver spoon bitches that spent their summer weekends in the Hamptons and Martha’s Vineyard.

As beautiful as she is, Ekko can be extremely jealous of other females. The more she talked about her so-called “oldest friend” Marseille moving to San Myshuno, the more I could see the jealousy stirring inside her. She had managed to briefly distract me from work and what Lamar wanted me to do in a few days. But what I needed was to stay focused so I could get the job done without getting a bullet in the heads of my crew and me.

I had to distract Ekko for the rest of the night. What she needed was a good dickin’ down so she could shut the fuck up about shit I couldn’t care less about. After smoking this blunt, the last thing I wanted to hear was her yapping in my ear. I wasn’t with the shit, not tonight.

 

****Author’s Note: The title of this chapter “All Harm, All Foul” is supposed to convey the opposite of the common phrase “No Harm, No Foul”. Basically, the meaning is that when one commits a mistake, transgression or engaged in misconduct, they would be forgiven/excused because it didn’t harm anyone. The opposite is true of the McQueen situation. His plans for action against the Noriegas will cause harm to people, especially because it’s unnecessary. This isn’t the first time McQueen has stepped out of bounds since forming his cartel and it won’t be the last.

****If you want to read about Marquez’s background, check out his bio here. I edited some information out of his original bio because I felt like it gave maybe too much of his future storyline away.  You can also read about Lupita Noriega, another main character coming into the story in the near future here.

Thanks for reading.

Happy Simming, Camille. 

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Chapter 5 Death to The Instagram “Model”

Ayana Dinha’s POV

 

I peered through the lens of my camera at the two models engaged in multiple poses; working every angle of their faces and bodies. I quickly glanced out the window, hoping I would finish before losing natural light. Miko and Klaudia were here in my home studio participating in a shoot for a new feature in S.H.E, my online magazine. Ekko and Sade, the other models, were sitting along the wall whispering in a hushed tone among each other. Occasionally, I heard a small snicker escape from Ekko’s mouth. Whatever little negative jabs they were shared between the both of them, seemed to bolster Sade’s amusement.

I’d worked with them before during my own days in front of the camera. Each girl had a different skin tone, so I had to be careful about the light and colors that bounced off their skin from my blue background. Ekko had a light caramel skin with warm undertones. Sade’s skin was a creamy dark coffee complexion. Miko whose Korean skin was more yellowish, but she was slightly lighter than Klaudia with her inherited dark Eastern European features. The ladies each had a unique look about them that stood out; they were perfect for the vision I had.

I’m a perfectionist by nature, and I worried that if I didn’t have every single detail perfect, not only would this project fail, but my entire magazine would cease to exist. “How did the fabric feel?” I called over to Miko. “Good. It’s wearable; nice structure,” she replied. “Some of these designers have come a long way since their early collections. Charo and Parazzo are finally spending the money on better quality fabrics,” snarked Klaudia.

Today we were shooting a nude clothing look with an array of pieces from multiple designers. I had to struggle for months to set up this feature with Taylor Wheland, the executive director of the San Myshuno Nu Model Management branch. She didn’t take my calls for over a month until Ekko asked her mother, former supermodel Aoki Takashi for a personal favor. Taylor worked with Aoki over two decades ago and was mostly responsible for catapulting her career and cementing her as the most successful Asian American supermodel. She considered my magazine small-time compared to the major players she dealt with on a regular basis. Taylor worked with the best, not to mention supermodel legend, Reagan Leeds-Powers.

The nude feature probably wouldn’t have taken so long to organize if I’d gone with Parminder’s suggestion of hiring popular Instagram models. I didn’t want to go in that direction because my brand is traditional classic modeling. So many formerly respectable publications have been bowing to these fake social media models instead of keeping fashion modeling what it should be: authentic real supermodels that are household names. Not your everyday round-the-way girl with ass shots, lip fillers, and fifty pounds of weave. That’s just on the more urban side of IG fashion girls; I can’t say most high-end magazines are turning to, but reality stars who are only famous for being famous are front and center in Vogue, Elle and walking for some of the most prominent fashion houses during fashion week.

Sade and Miko were industry friends of mine. I’ve known them for years. We walked some of the same runways at fashion week all over the world. Ekko is my friend outside of the industry, and we see each other with some frequency outside of work. After a break in shooting, I was busy trying to change the lighting for Ekko and Sade when Sade stormed over to Parminder Patel and complained that the pieces she chose weren’t flattering on her skin tone.

“Why would give me something this fucking drab?” snapped Sade. I looked at Parminder, who looked like she wanted to slap Sade across her face. Sade’s diva-like attitude was nothing new.

“We’re doing a nude colors shoot. The tone varies from shade to shade. I wanted to try out different swatches on you. I believe the pieces I gave you, work well,” answered Parminder through gritted teeth. Sade scoffed. “You’re obviously wrong, sweetie. When it comes to knowing your job, you are a novice. Ayana, what the hell am I supposed to do with this shit?”

Parminder’s face grew more distorted as Sade continued to berate her. I signaled with my head for Parminder to take a breather. While I considered Sade to be a friend, she was also an unbelievably demanding and domineering diva. “What is the problem, Sade?” I asked, trying to hide the exasperation in my voice.

“Your assistant is the problem! Why is she styling your shoot if she’s just an assistant? Can I get my fucking Starbucks I asked for over an hour ago?” demanded Sade. Ekko and Klaudia snickered. I rolled my eyes. “For one, we all wear many hats around here. Parminder is another editor and helps with most of the functions for my magazine. Fetching coffee isn’t her job, Sade, but a courtesy. Can we just get back to this? I think we can do away with the lighter nude shades and choose one that with more browns in it. The truth is, all the shades go nicely with your skin tone, Sade because it contrasts so well.”

Sade knew Parminder was no “assistant”  in the traditional sense. Not only was she my best friend and roommate, but Parminder was the Editor-at-Large of S.H.E magazine.

“Fine,” said Sade; angrily grabbing the garments from me to try on. Ekko, Miko, and Klaudia remained mostly quiet throughout Sade’s latest outburst, except for a few shady giggles directed at Parminder. I breathed a sigh of relief when Sade went to go and change into her jumpsuit. All I wanted to do was finish the shoot.

One thing I have noticed since conducting my shoots is that it’s much different when you are behind the camera as opposed to in front of it. I photographed most of my shoots for S.H.E myself, which saved me money when I could. That meant no camera assistant and many times it was just me styling the models. Parminder helped out when she could, but she had several other magazine responsibilities. I worked with other photographers and used stock images, but for specific features, I preferred to use my personal shots.

I needed capital to hire a proper staff and not have to play makeup artist, stylist, photographer, lighting guru, creative director, and photo editor all at the same time. Until then, it is something with which I must contend. I virtually had no money from the extras and tools I needed to grow S.H.E, so I was stuck with cutting corners where I could and robbing Peter to pay Paul each month. I did what I had to do to keep S.H.E alive. But I could only live on my savings and the money Parminder generously gave me that she had received from her parents.

I don’t think Mr. and Mrs. Patel would approve if they knew a considerable part of the allowance they sent Parminder each month went to paying S.H.Es bills, but what they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them, she claimed. At least Parminder had her parent’s assistance. The last thing I could ever expect from my mother and father was any financial help. They never approved of my career in fashion. Once I decided dropped out of college to pursue modeling, the checks dried up.

For the rest of the afternoon, Sade continued to complain about one thing or another. Either the clothes weren’t fitting right, she wanted a different outfit either one of the other models was wearing, or the shoot was taking too long. Sade was an up-and-coming Naomi with an attitude to match.

I turned on the stereo and raised the volume as high as I could stand; to drown out her whining.

Oooh, baby, baby
Baby, baby
Get up on this!

Salt and Pepa’s here, and we’re in effect
Want you to push it, babe
Coolin’ by day then at night working up a sweat
C’mon girls, let’s go show the guys that we know
How to become number one in a hot party show
Now push it
Ah, push it, push it good
Ah, push it, push it real good…

Yo, yo, yo, yo, baby-pop
Yeah, you come here, gimme a kiss
Better make it fast or else I’m gonna get pissed
Can’t you hear the music’s pumpin’ hard like I wish you would?
Now push it

************************

Once we wrapped, I couldn’t get the models out of my studio fast enough. Now I could look forward to having a bit of quiet while I went over the film. I spoke too soon. “Sade is freaking rude. I don’t see how you can be her friend,” said Parminder, walking into my office. She stubbornly folded her arms across her chest, ready to put up a fight if I were to respond in protest.

I didn’t have the energy to get into an argument with Parminder after what had been a draining day. I had tension in my neck and I could feel the pounding of a migraine coming on. I ran my hands over my face and stood silently for a moment as I tried to piece my words carefully together.

“She just likes things a certain way. Ignore her, and she’ll shut up.”

Parminder gave me a doubtful look. “That will never work with someone like Sade. She thrives on drama and acts like she’s the only one who matters in the room. The next time you choose to work with her, I don’t want to be involved. I won’t deal with her ass anymore.”

I didn’t need this from Parminder right now. She knew damn well I didn’t have a lot of funds to hire outside help for most of my projects. She was only thinking of herself. I swear it was like I had to do everything with zero support.

“Ayana, we need to talk about the expenses for the month. Every time I bring it up, you keep putting me off,” said Parminder, her eyebrow raised, as if she were challenging me. I could feel my stomach turning as a sense of dread swept over my body. I anticipated this conversation with Parminder for weeks, but I continually put it in the back of my head.

Every month it was the same thing. Parminder liked to tell me that S.H.E was barely breaking even through the advertising revenue and bills and other expenses.

“Can’t we talk about this tomorrow? I am editing film right now,” I said, attempting to put off discussing money. “No, Ayana we need to talk about our financial health. I know you’ve been dipping into your savings and paying bills on your credit cards. Getting money from my father, usually isn’t a problem, but he’s starting to question where all the money is going since I have to ask him for it a lot more these days,” said Parminder.

“It’s not like I ever asked you to get money from your dad,” I replied, turning away from her.

“Maybe not, but how else would we have been able to pay for the new camera equipment and the millions of other things we’ve needed? You also won’t take my suggestion and start featuring my social media starts and models. I know you want S.H.E to be a classic fashion and lifestyle magazine, but unless you’re Vogue or another major magazine, that mentality doesn’t work these days. We need to expand our presence on social media. We need to broaden our reader base,” said Parminder.

I finally turned around to face Parminder. I took a breath in an attempt to calm my nerves. Every time we talked about social media; things got heated. “Look, I’m not trying to cheapen my brand by inviting the latest skinny tea pusher to be featured in my mag. I was a real authentic high fashion model. I worked with some of the top designers in San Myshuno, New York, Milan, Paris, and London. These fake build-a-body, waist-trainer sales girls don’t do anything but take selfies and that over-inflated bought asses and pose with the latest rapper they’re screwing. S.H.E will never be that.”

Parminder rolled her eyes. “I am not talking about those IG thots, but a lot of them have huge a follower count. Instagram has a lot more models than the ones you just described. There are several of fashion blogs that got their start on Instagram as well. Right now, S.H.E only has two hundred thousand followers; it should be at a million or more by now. We need to reach out and collaborate with other people, the girls with a million plus followers to push the magazine. We can’t do this all alone, Ayana. I know this is not your vision for S.H.E, but the bigger we get, the more we will be able to do. Sometimes you have to sacrifice things to get ahead.”

I shook my head. Not because I disagreed with everything Parminder was saying. Some of what she said had a lot of truth to it. I just didn’t want to be a hypocrite and turn my magazine into something I hated. I’m all about class, style, taste, elegance. If I started inviting social media models and personalities into the S.H.E fold, I would lose a lot of what made me, me and what made S.H.E the magazine it is. This shit industry of social media famous models needed to die and true models needed to take back their reign.

Trying to create a successful magazine was beginning to take a  toll on my psyche. I’m not usually a snappy person. But I’ve experienced a lot of anxiety due to the stress of running S.H.E practically on my own. I was in dire straits. The bleaker our financial future looked, the more I knew something would have to give, and soon. I couldn’t go on like this.

*********************************

****Author’s Note: If you want to read more about Ayana’s background, check out her character biography here.

****You can check out S.H.E magazine online here. I created it in 2016 as part of another story I was going to write for Ayana at the time. 

My further commentary: Ayana feels the same way real life supermodels, and people in the fashion world do about the rise of “social media modeling.” A lot of people believe it cheapens the institution of high fashion altogether. But others have recognized that many popular blogs got their start on social media, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Ayana will have to realize she needs to get with the times if she wants to see S.H.E become a success.  In other words, this is Ayana’s view. 

***and yes, I have IG Sim model characters who will take issue with Ayana and her stance on what “true modeling” is.  

 ****Lyrics credit to Salt n Pepa

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Officer Colton Johnson Is an Unwilling Player in The Game of Power

 

COLTONGOPBIOSNu.png

Officer Colton Johnson

nature

Colton has the Jungle Explorer/Nature Aspiration

Colton’s traits are: Athletic, Dog Lover, and Loves Outdoors

Colton Johnson has been a patrol officer with the San Myshuno Police Department for the last four years. He previously served in the US Army, completed two tours in Afghanistan and was honorably discharged after six years of service.

As an Army veteran and officer of the law, Colton believes in honor and duty to his country and those he was sworn to protect and serve. His family comprises of several military and law enforcement members.

Coming out of the academy, Colton looked forward to serving communities and ridding neighborhoods of crime. As a patrol officer, he interacts with the community he serves every day and believes he can make a positive impact in the lives of the citizens of San Myshuno. His immediate goal is to obtain the rank of sergeant, but from there Colton doesn’t have a clear idea of where he wants his career to go. His father, Carl is a high ranking member in the department with aspirations for his son and plans to direct him into a leadership position one day, but he’s never shared his father’s ambition and thirst for power.

In the blink of an eye, Colton’s life changes forever, and he’s thrown into a game he’s never had any real ambition to play. How can one compete in a game if they no desire to play? Others have thrust their ambitions onto him either for their desires, agendas, or the wills of others.

Now that Colton is in the lion’s den, not of his choosing, he may have to do others bidding when it’s never been something he’s wanted for himself. Will the game ultimately destroy him or will he find a way to play even it means giving up his dreams?

****Author’s Note: As you can probably tell, this character biography has less information and is shorter than some of my others. Although I believe the detailed biographies of Bash, Bella, Rico, and Ayana were fine, I did edit some of the information on Marquez out because I didn’t want to give too much of his storyline away. I am doing the same with Colton. Depending on the characters and what they all contribute to GOP, some of their biographies may be more or less detailed than others. I know for a fact, some will have more background information on them, but others I plan on keeping condensed to general information.****

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Chapter 3 Greed is Good

Rico’s POV

Grazier Technology retained Thomas Global Strategies for our mergers & acquisitions services. I don’t directly acquire companies through acquisition. Depending on the logistics of a corporate takeover, I may use several different strategies on the target to gain control of the company for my client. For Grazier, I’d consulted with my mentor and activist investor, Harrison Edward. Another term you could use that was more popular in the eighties, is a corporate raider. Harrison makes all the raiding Carl Icahn did in the eighties seem like child’s play.

Now, Grazier is preparing itself to be the center of news yet again after their sexual harassment scandal. They were looking to expand their core business and wanted to acquire a smaller firm that had developed new and innovative crypto technology and financial data security applications. Grazier was one of the largest software companies concentrated in data technology. As more consumers conduct business and financial transactions on their thousand dollar smartphones and tablets, they were hard-pressed to tap into the highly lucrative mobile market. The road ahead would be arduous. Grazier was looking at Jupiter Works, a small but highly innovative software firm to get them to where they needed to be in the digital mobile market.

Not only will Grazier make millions, but they will gain a substantial amount of power from the Jupiter acquisition.

As Harrison mentioned in our brief conference call the other day, a takeover, especially a hostile one, is no walk in the park. Grazier approached Jupiter Works board of directors about a merger in the past, as did other firms with similar proposals. Their executives weren’t looking to join with anyone and desired to remain independent. The good news for Grazier and bad news for Jupiter is that their board can be replaced. We can take our fight directly to the shareholders, which is where Harrison would step in. You have not seen an actual artist until you’ve seen him in action. Gird your loins.

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I wanted to spend the evening preparing for my associates meeting tomorrow; I wasn’t expecting my doorman to call letting me know my on and off again lady-friend, Shoshannah Carter was on her way up. We dated throughout graduate school at Harvard. We had broken up for a couple of years but started seeing each other again a few years back. She and I never lost contact, and it was mainly Shoshannah pushing for a commitment. Some of her family members were pressuring her to put the heat on me to propose; that wasn’t going to happen. We were in our thirties, and Shoshannah wanted to settle down as expected of someone with her upbringing, but I won’t be manipulated into proposing or getting married; both were the furthest thing from my mind.

I opened the front door, just as Shoshannah was stepping off the elevator, I saw my neighbor, Panther’s star quarterback, Colin Stone heading toward his penthouse apartment.

There are two penthouses in my building; I owned one and Colin had the other; mine is bigger. He had been playing on the road, and it looked as if he’d just got back into town. He gave me a slight wave as I nodded at him.

She walked up to the door and brushed past me. I held the door open briefly before shutting it and turning the lock. Shoshannah, pushed her hair out of her face, revealing her silk blouse that fell slightly off her shoulders. She wore a tight black pencil skirt, and the twenty thousand dollar Birkin I gifted her some months back. You would rarely find Shoshannah in an ensemble that wouldn’t cost the average person a few paychecks.  “It feels like we haven’t seen each other in forever,” said Shoshannah, getting straight to the point. I sighed. “Been busy. You know this is one of the busiest times of years for me.”

I walked into the living room with Shoshannah close on my heels. “Have you had dinner yet?” I looked at the clock; it was already half past eight. I didn’t like to eat this late, but I couldn’t get out of it. I knew she would badger me about our “relationship” or needing to spend more time together if I didn’t silence her with a distraction.

“Not, yet,” I replied. “Looks like you’ve been working. We can try that new Italian place across the street, and then we could do something else,” said Shoshannah, suggestively.

“The cook left chicken alfredo for me. I’ll heat it up; we can eat that.” Shoshannah rolled her eyes. If she thought I was going to be leaving the house to take her out to a five-star restaurant at this hour, she had another think coming.

Shoshannah was from a well-to-do “John and Jenn” prestigious and prominent black family. My association with The Carters had been good for business over the years. The most important connect I had through Shoshannah was her father, Corliss Carter. He sat on the bench of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the second most powerful court in the country. Her mother, Clara Carter served in the last administration’s cabinet as the president’s Secretary of the Interior. It was good to have friends in high places.

It’s no secret to those closest to me, that I had no intention of marrying anytime soon, neither do I want to continue a relationship for several more years to come. Having one of the most powerful judges in the country one phone call away is always beneficial, and I knew I would need to continue to have favor with the Carters.

After I warmed the chicken Alfredo up, we headed to my upstairs deck overlooking the bay to eat our dinner. I quietly sat at the table, chewing the slightly dried out chicken,  while I half-listened to Shoshannah drone on about an upcoming gala her mother’s charity was hosting. She feigned resentment at her forthcoming duties during the party.

“If I have to meet and mingle with one more board member, alumni, or former White House aide, I’m going to go absolutely insane.” The truth of the matter is that Shoshannah loved the society functions her family was heavily involved in; she was obsessed with class and appearances.

Many of these functions were beneficial as far as networking goes. I used to attend them all the time with Shoshannah, but now not so much. I occasionally hobnob with her father and her mother’s friends and their associates. I choose more carefully which social events I attend as my firm and reputation grow within influential circles.

Networking was vital in my line of work, but I find that needing Shoshannah’s intervention on my behalf with her dad was becoming obsolete. As the judge and I have gotten closer and know more of the same people, he’s more open to taking a phone call to me or helping a client out when it’s needed.

Shoshannah is high strung at times, and her behavior is starting to become more of a liability. She can drink too much at times, and she tends to boast tales of elaborate million dollar weddings that she is currently planning, of which couldn’t be any further from the truth. No one can pressure me in any aspect of my life.

**************************

I had a meeting with my executive associates the following morning for a strategy session for the Grazier acquisition of Jupiter Works.

“As some of you with prior knowledge on this case know, Grazier’s most powerful shareholders implored the board and management that they needed to increase their presence in the mobile market. These days, companies could lose everything and be left behind with no significant digital mobile presence. They have a target, and that is what this meeting is about,” I said, addressing everyone in the conference room. It was after 8 am and my day was already half-over.

“Grazier wants to expand their mobile base, that’s why they want Jupiter. They’re a very innovative firm. What specifically is Grazier after?” asked Sam Watanabe, my college roommate at Harvard, and now one of my associates. “Jupiter has this new data encryption technology that Grazier wants, but even more than that,” I replied.

“Jupiter is working on a new application using crypto-technology that will be integrated into their current product allowing the ease of anonymous financial transactions using internet currency,” said Jefferson Lewis, one of the executive associates that knew of the current situation with Grazier. Jefferson was also an old associate of mine as we went to prep school together. He didn’t go to Harvard, but his MBA was from Yale. He was my second in command when it came to dealing with clients on the financial side of TGS.

Cressida pulled up Jupiter’s quarterly earnings on her tablet. “Jupiter isn’t direct competition right now, but they will be within three to five years. Therefore, not only does our client want to choke out their competition, but owning the design and software at Jupiter would be highly profitable for them in the long run.”

“TGS needs to employ the most cost-effective way to acquire the target. Looking at areas that are solvent, profitable, and any debt that may not be publicly available. We can’t just do that by looking at past performance and future projections,” argued Nixon Keen, one of the most prominent hardliners at the firm. He made valuable contributions to TGS, and his father is a former deputy director of the NSA. Nixon was a no bullshitter and told you exactly what was on his mind. He didn’t like to take on projects if a win wasn’t guaranteed.

“Last year, Grazier’s board voted to make a friendly takeover offer. Jupiter, not wanting to merge, declined. Grazier pushed the issue to meet with the executives at Jupiter, but each meeting grew more and more hostile. It wasn’t a deal Jupiter wanted, and they completely shut down any further talks,” I said.

“What happened with those negotiations?” asked Autumn. I could see the wheels churning in her head, putting together press packages and orchestrating damage control attacks against leaks in what will undoubtedly be an ugly battle in the coming months. She had her tablet nearby but didn’t make any entries, and rarely took physical notes but kept information in her mental rolodex. Autumn was more old-school at first glance, but she is a mastermind.

“Grazier’s terms didn’t interest Jupiter, but they’re not big enough; they don’t have enough capital to ward off these attacks. Grazier’s most influential shareholders and a portion of the board hadn’t changed its mind about acquiring Jupiter even after the talks fell through. We’re beyond negotiations now; we’re going to come up with the best plan of execution for our client,” explained Jefferson.

“Tanner, I will need you take a closer look at the technology. Find out if there are any bugs or issues with the development of their latest applications,” I said to Tanner Young, the firm’s computer genius. If there were anything on the internet or within a company’s internal network, Tanner had unique skills to obtain pertinent information. Some of this tactics may fall into the gray area of legal vs. illegal.

“I’ll get started on it right away. Jupiter has excellent security, and they’re very secretive so it will take me some time to get any useful information,” replied Tanner. “That’s fine, just keep me updated daily on your progress. I will meet with you privately,” I said.

What I didn’t mention to my associate is that I had a contact at Jupiter that I believed could provide me with some valuable insider information. Jefferson and Tanner were already aware of this. If my contact is as unhappy as I’ve heard he was with his job, he could be looking to make a deal with a much larger company and find favor with Grazier once the takeover was complete.

Jefferson and I laid down the framework of our plan over the next couple of hours with the rest of the associates. By the time our meeting had ended for today, everyone was clear on what I needed them to do. We were all looking at fifteen hour days in the coming weeks, so I told everyone to get comfortable because we were going into battle.

 

****Author’s note: The title of this chapter is a famous line from the movie ‘Wall Street.’

Check out the biography of Rico and other main characters here.

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Marquez “Big Meech” Flex Makes a Power Play to Win the Cartel Wars

 Marquez “Big Meech” Flex

Marquez had the Deviance Aspiration

Marquez’s traits are: Ambitious, Insider, and Romantic

Marquez “Big Meech” Flex is a mid-level underboss in the newly formed McQueen cartel. Ever since the execution of former boss D.M. Sanders by unknown assailants, there’s been a power grab over territory within the four boroughs in San Myshuno: The Spice District, Uptown, Fashion Row, and Art of the City. Not only are smaller factions on the rise and seeking to take over, but the bosses from the surrounding cities know that San Myshuno is ripe for the pickings.

Outside cartels threaten Lamar McQueen’s reign as the new boss. Meech and his crew; The Thetas report directly to McQueen. Pressure is starting to build within the organization as there are many including the Thetas who feel disenfranchised by McQueen’s erratic actions and increasingly ineffective operations.

Lamar was a mentor to Marquez and showed him the ropes of the business when he was a lowly street hustler. But Lamar has made questionable decisions in the last several months that have resulted in the loss of millions of dollars in product across the region, not to mention choices that have cost the lives of loyal members and those Marquez considered family.

 

You have to crawl before you can walk. Marquez is all about his paper and power and will use any and all means to cut down the competition in the cartel wars. They won’t see him coming for Marquez knows all too well how to play the game of power.

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Chapter 1.2 The Games Begin

 

Rico Thomas POV:

“I do understand power, whatever else may be said about me. I know where to look for it, and how to use it.”  It’s one of the many profound things I’ve learned from one of the most successful power brokers in US history, President Lyndon B. Johnson.

What I value in LBJ’s methods for attaining power is the practical means to deal with the obstacles and problems that befall a strong and capable leader. Similarly, when I set about achieving a goal, roadblocks are inevitable; it’s how I choose to deal with those roadblocks that determine the desired outcome. Power is a tool that I use to elevate my position and attain my goals. For some people, power is a drug, and if not used wisely and without self-control, it can overtake you.

Let me start with a bit of commentary on history for you. Say what you want about Johnson’s war record or his pre-Presidency civil rights record that doesn’t concern me, because I am living in the modern world. I could choose to be idealistic and cry about how things should be, or I could make changes that matter. Here’s the lesson: Great men, great leaders, go out and make the changes needed. They don’t wait on others to do it for them. Inertia and weakness never elevated anyone to a real position of power. Some methods used may not be favorable in the eyes of many, but the world runs, civilizations thrive, and we wake up with a false sense of security due to necessary evils. Not everyone will agree with what I do or the methods in which I do them; that doesn’t concern me.

For as long as I can remember, it has always been ingrained in my head to set goals and to achieve them by the best means necessary. Notice I did not say by any means necessary because they’re not all smart and “any” leaves you open to considering some less than smart options. No, complete your goals by the best and most effective means.

**************************************

I was up at a quarter past four this morning, which was typical for me. I kept my mattress extra firm; for not only did it keep my posture long and straight, I felt as if I had one that was too soft and comfortable I would not easily get up in the morning.

I stepped out of my bed and carefully smoothed out the percale sheets and bedspread. I was not a wild sleeper, I rarely moved. My housekeeper would come a little later and make over my bed again, not completely satisfied until everything in the house had her approval and final touch. I walked across the wooden floors, satisfied that I spent the money for custom heat controlled flooring throughout the apartment. For some people, it may seem like a waste of money, when I could just wear slippers. Not to me, this was my home. I was going to have every luxury afforded to me within these walls. I couldn’t be bothered with cold floors in the morning.

I keep late nights and early mornings, but I never feel unrested. All the same, I have my unique daily brew, rare Arabica beans naturally refined by elephants. I won’t get into the details; put it this way: it’s very expensive to drink coffee that has been processed through an elephant’s digestive system.

It’s worth it, however, because I wake up with one of the world’s finest coffees in my cup each morning.

After I’d poured my coffee, I headed to my office to check the market and read emails. As expected, I had just over fifty messages from after ten o’clock last night up until fifteen minutes ago. About half of the emails were from my work associates as well as what some may call an executive assistant, Cressida Castro. Her main role was managing the day to day operations of Thomas Global Strategies, my consultation business; that also meant managing me; as much as anyone can do that. Cressida did everything; therefore she doesn’t have an official title. Some of her duties included: maintaining my schedule, determining what was considered high priority, and which problems were salient.

Most of the firm’s clients except for a distinguished few went to Cressida as their first line of contact and information. Many times, my clients insisted on talking directly to one of my top-level team members or me. It wasn’t always convenient or necessary that they speak to me. And nine times out of ten, Cressida was able to answer their questions or handle whatever specific issue that needs addressing.

*******************************

I founded Thomas Global Strategies while I was in prep school; only it was more informal. I didn’t have any staff, nor did it have a name. We provide services to corporate clients with workforces that number into the thousands, to smaller companies with less than fifty people. We consult on matters such as mergers and acquisitions, valuation and financial preparedness, political and campaign strategy, crisis management, investigative forensics, information technology, analytics, and public relations. That may seem like a long list, but you’d be surprised at how closely related each of these areas are, none are mutually exclusive of the other. We meet our clients’ needs through a system I call SIR: Strategy, Integration, and Resolution.

I arrived at my office building a little bit earlier than usual. I wanted to answer some correspondence before my team arrived. I had been at my desk for roughly an hour when Cressida walk in, looking down at her tablet.

“Did you get the dossier on Grazier I sent?” she asked, not looking up. “Yes,” I replied. I pulled up the file on Grazier Technology’s last quarter performance Cressida sent last night.

“Boss, I know you’ve worked with this company before. I assumed you had me gather all this information for M&A. It couldn’t be for another PR scandal. That was before I joined the firm,” said Cressida, sitting down.

I sat back in my chair and looked across my desk at her. “You know what I say about assuming. Yes, a few of years ago, Grazier retained our crisis management services. The company was going through an ugly public relations crisis due to a sexual harassment suit against two members of their executive team.”

“Autumn handled the case?” asked Cressida, referring to Autumn Ross, our main public relations expert at the firm. I nodded. “What we found during our internal investigation was that human resources had failed at every turn to investigate the allegations against their director of marketing and senior vice president of operations. A female project manager had accused them of an inappropriate sexual relationship.”

“How does an adult accuse another adult of having an inappropriate sexual relationship? Relationship implies there was consent; unless her job was threatened,” said Cressida

“Yes. In this context, it’s a new pc way of saying ‘fucking your way to the top’ The woman alleged the director and VP sexually harassed her and demoted her from senior manager to a position one below. During our inquiry, we found out that the accuser had been in consenting relationships with both of these married men at different times. She pursued both men. While we found inconclusive information on the director’s part, we found enough correspondence from the senior VP that could cause the company a lot embarrassment. The woman claimed once she ended the affair, he demoted her, but there was enough evidence in her previous performance review that her bosses weren’t happy with her. Autumn said she was a piece of work and no one on her team liked her.”

“Did she end up leaving Grazier?” asked Cressida. “Yes, with a much smaller settlement than what she was suing for. The director was allowed to resign, and the senior VP took a leave of absence until the storm was over; he’s still with the company. It’s harder to replace an executive than a low-level project manager. It wasn’t a complete loss to Grazier.” I replied.

Pretending as if sex hasn’t been used for centuries in exchange either for money or other goods and services, is a fallacy. Here’s the lesson: It happens all the time, and a lot of people benefit from sexual favors. Not all. It sounds like bullshit, but you’re not living on planet Earth if you don’t think this happens and is accepted every single day. Am I saying that every little bright-eyed bell with perky tits and a fat ass spending years trading her southern accent away, started on her knees underneath the boardroom table to attain a leadership position? No, what I am saying is situations like this happen more often than you think; that’s the world in which we live. Here’s a pro tip: if you’re not playing the game wisely, you will get run out.

Check out the biography of Rico and other main characters here.

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Chapter 1.1 The Games Begin

Sebastian “Bash” Banks POV:
FROM JOHN SCHOENFELD, VICE PRESIDENT
TO: CC DAVID MCKINLEY CEO, ROBERT WAKEFIELD CFO
BCC JUPITER WORKS ASSOCIATES
Good Morning Team,
It is my pleasure to announce that Timothy Reynolds is our new Senior Software Developer. Tim brings a wealth of knowledge in software design and development. As a member of our team for the past two years, we have been more than happy to have his insight and expertise on our internal systems and the new innovative applications we have created here at Jupiter. Let’s all say congratulations to Tim.

I closed the email that sent to us from our company’s vice president announcing that the promotion I had been working my ass off for the past six months had gone to someone else. I opened the email back up and moved it to the trash. It was such bullshit. I don’t know why I’m surprised. I have seen this same thing happen two other times since I have worked here. Somehow guys who haven’t been here longer than me or don’t have as much experience and education as I do, somehow keep getting these promotions. Of course, sometimes it is nepotism, but mostly it’s the fact that they have the complexion for protection and I don’t.

Tim had started at our company, Jupiter Works only two years ago as a junior software developer. He went to fucking Rutgers, which was like number 45 on the top 50 best schools for computer science, undergrad. I went to UPenn, number 15, not to mention I had my masters from MIT, specifically a Master of Science program in Computation for design and optimization. Tim not only just went to Rutgers and didn’t have a post-graduate degree but also waitlisted. Who the hell gets waitlisted for Rutgers? Of course, his daddy who was friends with the dean of admissions made a call, and a small donation and Tim was able to move right in, taking a more deserving person’s spot no doubt. You see, how unfair that is? My black ass got into school on my merits.

I silently sat at my desk for a moment. I could feel my anger rising. I took a deep breath and slowing exhaled through my nose, trying to calm myself. I glanced at the clock; it was barely three, still too far away from five and my escape.
I could hear some of my co-workers laughing and congratulating Tim on his undeserved promotion. Tim and I worked on the same team, and now his ass will have seniority over me.

I was about to get up and head to the bathroom when I sensed Tim making his way over to my desk. It’s not that Tim was a bad guy; he was friendly, not pretentious like some of these other assholes, but he was annoying. He and some of the other guys were always asking me to join them for a beer after work. I accepted their invitations some of the time. Most of the time, however, I declined, making up some excuse for needing to go home and work. Usually, I was lying because it was bad enough working them every day. The last thing I wanted to do was pretend to like their asses outside of work.

“Hey, Bash! How’s it going, Bro?” asked Tim, as he strutted up to my desk with a slight bounce in his step. He grinned from ear to ear. “Eh, man congrats on the new promotion,” I said, trying to keep my voice upbeat and force a smile. “Ah, thanks! I couldn’t have done it without you and some of the other guys. You’ve helped me out so much since I’ve been here.” Yeah, no shit. I practically trained this guy, and hate he gets a sizeable raise and a lead position.

“The guys were going to grab a drink downstairs after work, you should come along,” said Tim. I held in a sigh, the last thing I wanted to do was grab a beer with these frat boys once five o’clock rolled around. I usually work late, sometimes past eight. But it was a Friday; therefore if I tried to get out of it, they would just keep badgering me. “Yeah, sure,” I reluctantly agreed. “Awesome. Try not to work too hard, we only have a couple of hours left!” said Tim and walked off to talk to some of the other ass kissers that were too eager to get in his face and congratulate him.

It’s not that I wanted to stay late on a Friday, but I could think of so many other things I wanted to do once I left this place. I could go to the gym, I could grab something to eat, and there were so many other things way more appealing than heading down to a bar. I would only stay two hours max, and then I was free-free to salvage the rest of my weekend. I had dinner with my family on Sunday, which is something I don’t look forward to doing. My only free day would be Saturday. I needed to make the most of it because Monday would come around again too soon.

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Every Sunday, my parents have dinner at their house in the old neighborhood where I grew up. I hated coming here and did everything I could to avoid it. The old ramblers with spotty yards, patches of dry grass and dirt. The old beat up cars blocking the whole sidewalk. The fences encased small homes that were half bent downward, rusted, and neglected. The weeds and dandelions grew out the cracks of the sidewalk that had long seen its better days. The paint on the homes was worn and weathered, peeling off the siding; rusted storm pipes and leaves stacked in the gutters that no one bothered to climb up and clear out.

You could find the usual suspects sitting around on stoops drinking forties and playing their music much too loud. Any number of half-dressed children who were badly in need of a bath ran around the yard cursing along to the lyrics while their parents and the other adults around them laughed and filmed them with an iPhone they no doubt were financing or received through the homie hookup. They did this, all so they could post videos on Instagram, like the fact that their kids were cursing like full-grown men was something to be proud about.

I’m a black man, but I hate niggas. And nothing but niggas occupied my family’s neighborhood, and if I never got out of here and got an education, all I would ever be is another nigga slanging and hanging out; not doing shit for myself and blaming the white man for my failures and lack of opportunities. If I could make it out, there was no other reason any other black male in America could not make it out.


I pulled up to the curb outside my parents’ house and sat in my car, dreading on opening the door and entering the house to a permeating smell of greens, gumbo, and fried fish. I looked down at the top I chose to wear. Dammit, all that shitty ass grease is going to get into my clothes, and I’ll have to send not only my shirt but my trousers to the cleaners. I don’t know how many times I have implored my mother to cook normal food, not all that salted up, greasy, fatty chitlin’ circuit shit.

I glanced across the street through my car window and could see our neighbors staring at me. I don’t know if these were the same thugs that moved here about a year ago or a whole new crop of Section 8 dwellers. I got out my car, keeping their gaze as the young thugged out guys watched me. They seemed to be salivating seeing my new seventy-five thousand dollar Mercedes-Benz. I shut the door and hit the alarm.

I walked up to the front door and could hear my father’s booming voice coming from inside. I took one last deep breath and knocked on the door. My younger sister, Michelle answered the door. “Hey Bash,” she said, opening the door just wide enough to let me in. “Eh, Baby, why ain’t you come outside?” a shout came from one of the young thugs from across the street. I glanced down at my sister, whose face had gotten red from embarrassment. “You know those thugs?” I asked. “No, not really. One of them goes to my school,” answered Michelle, shrugging.

Michelle was a sophomore in high school and made outstanding grades. She was a good student and usually didn’t my parents any trouble. Michelle is well-liked and attractive. What I never liked was the attention she received from the jailbird types across the street. Whenever I came here I tried to encourage Michelle to stay on track and keep up her grades so she could get into a good school. Other than me, no one in our family encouraged her to go to college. If anything our older sister Cassie and our mother have told her she go to hair school. Why the hell is that black women always want to push the younger girls in their family to doing hair? Or some other meaningless ain’t shit job.They never told her to do nails or own a beauty store because other people had that shit on lock. Black folk always throwing their money on stupid shit. Sending the money away from the community all so they can wear hair that belonged to someone else.


I saw my father glance out the window toward my new car. Orvel Banks was a big man with a tall hovering stature. Most people look at him and would easily be intimidated by his size and presence. As a kid, his presence scared me and I feared him, for knowing if I stepped out of line at any given time he could crush me with one paw. Yes, a paw, because a bear was what my father reminded me of. He wasn’t abusive nor did he barely whoop us; that was left up to my mother. Dad feared that if we did something that truly enraged him, he’d seriously hurt us with a belt or extension cord. Because of that, he allowed our mother to be the main disciplinarian.


Dad had worked in construction for thirty years. Construction workers, the people who put nails through wood, drywall, lay down plaster and poured cement. All he is; is a glorified handyman. Got a plumbing problem? He can fix that, need your car worked on? No problem, call Dad. What about a new fence? My father could do it. If scrubbing toilets and washing dishes was considered women’s domestic work, then plunging, fixing the garbage disposal, and raking leaves were Dad’s domestic duties, which he did so masterfully.


I can remember being ten years old; I was at a grocery store with my father. He had to pick up a few groceries that day because my mother had gotten injured at work and couldn’t drive. On the conveyer belt were bread, milk, cheese, rice, eggs, apple juice, collard greens, and several packs of cheap hot dogs and lunch meat. Dad gave the cashier his debit card after she ran it, the payment didn’t go through. “Run it again, please,” said Dad. The cashier slid it again, and it was declined once more for insufficient funds. I looked at the total price on the register; the total amount was $23.01.


I glanced back and the line growing behind us, as the people waiting grew more impatient. Dad wasn’t one to be easily stirred, was flurried as he searched through his wallet for any cash. Finally, he pulled out a five and three crumpled one dollar bills. Some of the other people waiting in line started to grumble about us taking too long. “Damn, nigga if you ain’t got the money, get cho’ ass out the line!” a man yelled. Dad turned and glared at the younger man with a wife beater on, cornrows and a toothpick in his mouth. He didn’t respond him, but his stare was enough of a warning to shut anyone up who was thinking of lodging any more complaints at my father. Dad ended up putting back a few of the items, and only kept what his eight dollars could afford; I’d never been so embarrassed in my life. I wasn’t angry that someone had called Dad out. I felt pissed at him for not being able to afford $23.01 on groceries. I vowed then and there, never to be in a position of powerlessness. I promised never to slave away at a dead end job with barely two nickels to rub together. That would never be me.


I watched the expression on his face; the disapproving look in his eye. I knew what he was thinking, but he chose to remain quiet. “That’s my new Mercedes, Dad,” I said. “Yeah, obviously.”

 

I impatiently waited for him to offer more commentary than a two-word answer. After a long silence, I proceeded to tell him about all the special features of the car. The horsepower, handling, system, and about a dozen more exclusive features one could expect in a luxury vehicle. “Does it fly?” asked Dad, sarcastically. Lorenzo, my sister’s live-in boyfriend had been sitting on the couch and began to laugh. I glared at him.

“Is that supposed to be funny?” the question was to my dad, but I looked in Lorenzo’s direction. “A new car was necessary, especially when you barely had the other one for long,” replied Dad.

“Because I wanted a new car and I trade them in every two years. Is that a crime?”
“Bash, do what you want with your money, that’s up to you. I have always told you growing up to save for a rainy day,” said Dad. I scoffed.

“Yeah right. How is it then; that we always had rainy days growing up, but you never had any money saved?”

Before my father could answer, my mother walked into the living room. “Hey, Baby. You made it this time. The last two Sundays, we ain’t seen you.”

“Sorry, Mama. I’ve been busy with work, and I was recently out of town on a business trip,” I answered. It was half true. I was on a business trip two weeks ago but got back on a Saturday night. I didn’t want to deal with my family the next day, so I told my mother I was still out of town. Last week I didn’t come and lied to her that I was sick. I could only stomach coming here once or twice a month, and even then that could be too much.

My mom said she could tell that something was bothering me by the look on my face. I didn’t feel like getting into the details of the problems at work, nor did I want everyone to overhear that I had once again, getting passed over for a promotion. My father would tell me to quit complaining, and my mother would say I should be thankful for having a job. My family was happy with mediocrity and they expected I would I would accept it all the same. I don’t and I never could. “Let me get back in this kitchen so that I can finish up this food,” said Mom, as she turned around and walked out of the room.


I sat on the couch, with my little brother, Usher. He, my father, and Lorenzo were watching Sunday football. The San Myshuno Panthers were playing an away game. You could hear the faint sound of starting quarterback, Colin Stone calling the snap: Blue 82! Blue 82! Hut Hut!”
I glanced back down at my tablet, not interested in watching the game. It’s not that I didn’t like football; I just hated watching with my brother and Lorenzo, who could be quite obnoxious whenever the Panther’s offense was on the field.


“Bash, can’t your job hook us up with some tickets, yo?” asked Usher. “Tickets to what?” I asked, not looking up from my tablet. “Man, to see the Panthers!”  I shook my head, annoyed. “I don’t know, Usher. Usually, you have to sign up long before the season starts. I haven’t gone to any game since last season.”


“Dang, Bash you got a job with all these perks and making bank. You don’t even get nothing from them. You hustling backward,” laughed Usher. “Well, quit skipping school, get a degree and then maybe you can get a nice job with fringe benefits one day too instead of begging me for shit.” “Watch your mouth, Bash,” warned Dad, sternly.


After another hour passed by, dinner was ready, finally. I went over and sat down at the table. The sight of fried catfish, heaps of collard greens smothered over hammocks, mac n cheese, cornbread, and soggy green beans made my stomach turn. Growing up, I enjoyed my mother’s cooking, but I don’t eat like this in my everyday life. I want to keep my arteries clear and unclogged. I watched as my father piled his plate with food; a heart attack waiting to happen. One of these days, he’s going to keel over right here at the table; probably with a chicken wing in his hand.

My sister, Cassie was the oldest child. She brought a plate over to Lorenzo and fixed her kids theirs before she sat down and began eating. Cassie and Lorenzo had been together off and on since high school. They had two kids, lived together, but weren’t married. Up until a few months ago, they’d been living here because for the third time three years they couldn’t afford to pay their rent. Thanks to the US federal government, Cassie was recently approved for Section 8, which allowed her, Lorenzo and their kids to move into a three-bedroom house just five blocks away on the taxpayer’s dime. God bless America. Only here could someone not do shit all day but post to Facebook about “slaying” and showing off some homey hookup Jordans she got her kids so she could “stunt” on her “haters.”

Lorenzo worked; at times. He never graduated high school but went to work with my dad in construction. Work wasn’t always steady for him, and Cassie often had to ask either our parents or me for money to pay the bills. I had long ago put an end to Cassie’s begging me for money and trying to guilt me into paying her rent or other expenses simply because of my income. I couldn’t give two shits whether or not her lights were cut off.


I sat quietly, eating my food as quickly as I could. I didn’t want to give it time for my taste buds to adjust to mounds of grease, salt, and fat that covered every morsel. I zoned out the conversation around me; as it was the same thing week to week. My mom was gossiping about her sisters and their trifling kids, my sister blaming the illegal immigrants for the state cutting the number of food stamps she gets each month, and Dad giving mundane details from the previous week job site he dry-walled. Michelle stayed on her phone talking to her friends over social media, and Usher took a selfie and after selfie, sending off each one to the two or three girlfriends he kept. It was his junior year in high school, and he was going nowhere fast. Usher thought he would be a rapper and his skills would as he claimed: “make more bank than you Bash!”

Usher was cocky and boorish, and unfortunately; not very bright. Whenever I told him to get a college degree, I meant community college; goodness knows he’d never make it a state school let alone a top-tier school like me. My little brother thought he’d be the next Drake. I’ve told him many times, the main reason Drake is so accepted by many is that he’s biracial. That’s why he’s able to get away with having ghostwriters and stealing everyone’s culture for his latest hit. The most Usher could hope to be is a Soundcloud rapper. That’s as far as he’d ever go.


I started to think of an excuse I could give my mother for not coming next week for dinner. There were only so many times I could tell her I had to work or that I was on another business trip. It took everything for me to come here and stomach the mindless chatter, the complacent mindset, and disregard for me and my ambition. I’ve tried countless times over the years to get my family to see that there was life outside of this neighborhood and that they didn’t need to settle for these dead-end jobs that pay pennies. But they all seemed too satisfied with the way things were, and after a while, it would just be me alone in a room talking to myself; no one there to hear me, no one there to care.

Check out the biography of Bash and other main characters here.

Author’s Note: It just should be noted that I am aware, some may not like the representation of Bash’s older sister Cassie (who isn’t a main character) being on gov’t assistance. Often we see these images presented with the face of black women when that is not the case as statistics show others get more gov’t help than blacks. As you can see, while Bash’s family is working class, his parents do own their own home and have jobs. I would never look down on my own people, but I wanted to make a story based on the reality of many people. You will see that there are well to do black people in this story and in my past stories. I have characters from all social classes. The truth of the matter is, when I was very young, my mother had to get assistance for us even though she worked, my father wasn’t around. The fact is a lot of people (White, Black, Latino, Asian) in this country are classified as “working poor” they have jobs, but can’t afford the basic necessities of life.  Some characters and storylines will not sit well with all people who read it, and that is fine. I’ve always said there would be things people may not like, but I wanted to write a story that in some ways reflected some of my past experiences and those around me or people I’ve known and those who I come up with in my head. Thanks for reading and I’m always open to feedback.

 

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