Warnings: In later chapters, this fic will contain coarse language, sexual innuendo, and various forms of violence, including nonsexual bondage, torture (including torture of a child), character death, and suicide.

Prologue: A Bad Career Move

By: SilvorMoon

Neo Domino was the city of dreams. Carly, looking through the window of her car at the colorful lights that blazed across the night, thought that this was probably a good thing, because at the moment, dreams were about all she had left.

She had come to the city about a week ago, with noting but her ambitions, the small amount of money she had been able to save working summer jobs, and what personal possessions she could stuff into her car. She had hugged her parents, said goodbye to her grandmother, and promised her little brothers and sisters that she would send back toys when she got the chance, and she'd set out on her own with high hopes. She was going to get a job at a real news agency. She was going to become an ace reporter and interview all the important people and travel the world and be famous. She'd probably win a Pulitzer within her first year. Those were the images that had danced before her mind's eye as she drove the long miles between her small-town home and the bright city of Neo Domino. She still had those dreams, but she was beginning to realize that they were going to take a little longer than she'd hoped they would.

With a sigh, she crumpled up the wrapper of the fast-food sandwich she'd been eating. She had not been able to find a job anywhere. Without a job, she couldn't afford to make a payment for an apartment. She had been living out of her car ever since she'd gotten here, parking wherever she could avoid a ticket and hopefully not be noticed by the ever-watchful eye of Security. Most of those places were of the sort where she felt the need to keep her doors locked and sleep with one eye open. She'd been living on fast food takeouts and whatever she could find that she could eat without having to cook first. It wouldn't be long before she wouldn't be able to do that any longer - she was nearly out of money.

I can't go home, though, she thought. I can't tell them I failed. There's go to be something...

She shoved the sandwich wrapper into a plastic shopping bag that was serving as a trash receptacle, but it was already filled to overflowing. A few paper balls fell out to scatter on her car floor. With a noise of frustration, she gathered them all up and forced them back into the bag, holding it shut with one hand so they couldn't escape again. She was, she decided, going to have to find a real trash can. Was it safe to go out this time of night? Maybe. The street was dark and empty - everyone seemed to have gone to sleep for the night. Moving cautiously, alert for any movement, Carly exited the car and began searching for a garbage can.

She had only taken a few steps when she caught the sound of footsteps. She froze, listening. Someone was moving stealthily up the street ahead of her - not coming her way, but hurrying somewhere else. As she listened, she picked up a few scraps of conversation: "...keep a lookout..." "...in through the window..." "...not to wake anyone..."

A robbery? she wondered. Her first reaction was not fear, but elation: finally, here was something she could report on! She would catch them in the act, snap a few photos, be the first to write it all up. She would present her findings to a good paper, and they would have to accept it from her. She'd finally get a real job, and everything would be all right. Forgetting the garbage, she made a dash to her car and grabbed her camera before racing off in search of the voices.

A short distance up the road, two men were busily occupied with jimmying open a window while another stood watch. Carly pressed herself against a wall and watched them, hoping they hadn't noticed her yet. The watchman, though, didn't seem to be paying close attention. He yawned, took out a lighter, and lit a cigarette. The other two men got the window open and clambered inside. After a moment or two, the guard apparently got bored and went to see what his friends were doing. He called something to them, and apparently got an answer, because he scurried through the open window to join them.

Now is my chance! Carly thought. She scampered up the sidewalk and tiptoed over to the window. She reached for the sill and pulled herself up to peek inside. It was dark, but she could hear people moving around inside. She wondered whether it would be better to try to take a picture now and hope the flash would catch something useable before she had to make a run for it, or if she should wait and try to catch them as they came out...

She waited too long. The next thing she noticed was that someone was standing over her, someone big. She looked up to find a uniformed officer standing over her. He was smiling. It was not a nice smile.

"Well, well, well," he said. "What do we have here?"

To Be Continued...