The Maximilian Emancipation

This is Book #1 of 3 in the World/Time Diaspora trilogy.

In the not-too-distant future, three African slave ships slip through space and time to arrive off the shores of New York and New Jersey, severely shaking an already politically and socially unstable United States. Popular opinion is split on the cause of their arrival-- is it a scientific miracle, an act of God, a hoax perpetrated by foreign governments...or something else?  

Part satire, part historical drama, and spanning over thousands of years, this is a story that asks the question... “If you could go back in time, could you prevent African slavery?


It’s “Roots” meets “Back to the Future.”

Scroll down to read the 1st Chapter.

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Paperback back, spine, and front cover.

 

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Read Chapter 1 of
The Maximilian Emancipation



Hi, folks—

This is a work of science fiction. While there are elements of the story based on fact, the characters and situations are merely speculative.

I would also like to point out that some of the language used in this book may be objectionable to some. While I tend to use naughty words from time to time, there is some language and a few conversations presented here that some may find difficult or offensive. Frankly, the entire book deals with triggerable issues that cause distress, anger, frustration, and anxiousness in some. All I ask is that you power through it and give the story a chance.

The worse thing that could happen is that you experience something new.

N-Joy,

Charles

**********

PART I: MAAFA

**********

1

August 8th, 2041
10:13 am
Jersey Shore

Jake Townsend has absolutely no idea where he is. He had his suspicions about that turn he took a few miles back. That was when the GPS app froze. Should have done what he thought was right, instead of listening to "her," otherwise known as his wife, Candice Townsend.

Candice is not speaking to Jake at the moment, not after he used that tone of his. Nasty, she thinks to herself, and now we're lost in this shitty neighborhood- we'll probably get car jacked.

The car slows to a stop at the red light. Jake reaches out and pokes the NAVICOM screen on the dashboard. He cycles through a series of windows, hoping that he can find some option he hasn't noticed before that will finally get this thing to work right. Of course, he could just read the instruction manual; he never reads the manuals. Candice sucks her teeth and rolls her eyes.

The kids slump in the backseat isolated in their self-imposed techno bubbles of portable entertainment. Jolene, 14 years-old, is 'glyphing' with her 'boo'. In English, that means she and her best friend are exchanging picture messages with her NAVI. For a brief moment, she manages to look up and 'peep' her 'area.'

They are at an intersection in a dilapidated urban neighborhood. Jolene watches five hard-looking black boys standing outside a bodega on the corner. They look to be about her age, engaged in an animated conversation that at first appears to be heated until they all burst into laughter. She smiles.

"Where are we?" Jolene asks.

"Ask your father," spits Candice.

The 11-year-old, Brett, looks up from the video game on his NAVI, and out the window. He also notices the boys at the bodega wearing basketball jerseys and expensive sneakers. That's the kind of gear that he keeps bugging the 'rents for, but they refuse to buy. "You'd look like a thug," is what his mother says. It didn't matter to her that most of his friends had the same stuff.

"I told you not to by that cheap piece of crap," Candice sneers. "There are so many new ones on sale, and you had to buy it used? It makes no sense."

Jake shrugs. "It's not used, it's pre-owned. I saved $200, plus I got a deal on the installation. So really, I saved $300. I just need to reboot the system."

He taps the screen a few more time, and the travel map pops up. "Calculating route, Jake," announces his NAVI's silky female voice.

Jake clenches his fist in victory. "Got it!"

"Great, let's go," sneers Candice.

"Can I wait for the light to change?"

Candice rolls her eyes. Jake grips the wheel with his sweaty hands, releasing a great big sigh. He notices a black family of five-and-a-half using the crosswalk in front of him. The woman is pregnant, slightly overweight, with tired, faded bitterness and frustration etched in her eyes. She turns to her three screeching kids.

"Hey! Stop fuckin' around and let's go!"

Trailing behind is the daddy, skinny, beaten and worn down.

"Would you hurry the fuck up? You look like a beaten dog!"

As the man crosses in front of the car, he looks up at Jake. The two make eye-contact. Awkwardness and discomfort spray through Jake's body like acid. He hates that. It's that involuntary rush of embarrassment and shame that he feels when he enters a neighborhood like this. Intellectually, he knows this is foolish. His liberal sensibilities tend to trump good old-fashioned common sense. At what point, he wonders, do they just give up on trying? What is their end game in their life's pursuit? Do they know there is more than this? Are they raised believing that this is it?

"Go!" barks Candice.

"Turn right at Martin Luther King Boulevard," instructs his NAVI.

**********

10:45am

Jake is losing his grip on the beach umbrella as his folded beach chair begins slipping through his sweaty arm. His other hand grips the fully-packed cooler he is dragging through a maze of people.

"I see a spot!" shouts Brett. He bounds through the slim aisles of blankets and flops down onto an unoccupied patch a beach.

As Candice struggles with her packed tote bags towards Brett, she notices another family moving in. She doesn't like the looks of the situation. The woman leading the other family, that other mother looks like the combative type, with her cornrows and her long Freddy Kruger fingernails. No way are you going to squat your fat ass in this spot, 'sista,' Candice yells in her mind.

Brett also notices the other family approaching, so he lies back, spreading his arms and legs, and makes a sand angel.

Candice reaches the spot and drops her bags down before the other family moves in.

"Let's get the blanket set up," she says to Jolene. Candice never looks up at the woman. The sound of ol' 'cornrows' sucking her teeth as she leads her family away is satisfaction enough.

Jolene drops her bag and strips down to her bikini. As she pulls off her t-shirt, she notices ‘cornrows’ 15-year-old son looking at her. She likes it. He smiles.

"Come on, Jolene," demands Candice, fully aware of the way Jolene is looking at that boy; she knew that bikini was going to be trouble.

As soon as Jake reaches the spot, he gets to work. He unpacks and plants the wind proof beach umbrella. He sets up his beach chair, digs through the cooler and pulls out a beer, and finally plants his ass down for what he hopes to be a very, very long time.

"What are you doing?” Candice complains. “You should put the umbrella over here. Why are you drinking a beer before noon?"

Jake pops off the cap and takes a nice, long swig. Mmmmm, cold, sharp and bitter...just like her, he says in his mind, followed by a comedy drum fill and a laugh track. He sets his beer in the beach chair's cup holder and reaches into his backpack. He pulls out a pair of noise-canceling headphones. Jake puts them on and taps a few buttons on the side.

"Don't just sit there, help us with this bla-"...silence.

Jake taps another button, and now the only sound he hears is the ocean. Candice is still talking, but he only sees her lips moving. He wishes those lips were doing something else instead of berating him. For now, he'll take mute. He lays back in his chair and continues drinking.

Candice stops talking and looks around. "Wait, where is Brett?"

No sooner do those words leave her mouth does Brett appear, carrying a bucket of water. When he pours the water down Jolene's back, she lets out an ear-splitting screech that could break glass. Brett laughs and runs away.

Jolene darts after him. "You little shit!"

"Hey, mouth!" Candice calls out to Jolene as she chases Brett to the water. At least now she can get some peace. With no nagging kids and a temporarily incapacitated husband, she is finally going to relax. She only wishes that the fat baldy on the blanket next to them would turn down his NAVI streaming a vidcast from who she calls "that annoying asshat," Gerry Baines; the self-proclaimed "Dark Fury" of Neo-Progressive thought.

"God, to me, is love," Baines begins. "She can also be harsh and cruel, seemingly unjust and unkind. But She is not without Her reasons--Her will. Even with all we face in our country today: corruption, recession, socialism, racism, atheism, the death of our values as a nation--as a people! America has lost its way, my friends. It's these pro-Anglo, pro-European, anti-American attitudes that take us further and further away from being one nation...under God! We cannot be under God when we are constantly running away from Her."

If he was white, he wouldn't have that show. He'd be driving a bus or cleaning shitters, is what Candice thinks. At that moment she notices that there aren't that many white faces on the beach at all. She hadn't been to this beach in a while. It wasn't like this when she was a kid. It was better back then.

Baines continues. "We are constantly getting interrupted and disrupted by know-nothings and malcontents who want everyone to feel and think the way they do. The racists, the bigots, the anti-government socialist fascists-- proud, uneducated, and they say they believe in God. But do they? Anti-intellectualism is the gateway to Hell, people-- and from the looks of things, there's a waiting list! Do you think God wants you to be stupid? Do you think God expects you to have absolutely no curiosity about the world around you? God gives you a brain and, what...you don't want to use it? While you're wrapped up in huffing your own flatulence, She's got plans for you- for all of us, in fact!

"We are about to be tested, America. And it will happen soon-- hell, it could happen today! What if today was the day? What would have to happen, what would it take? What's that wake-up call sound like? Will you even notice it? Many of you won't. I've got news for you sunshine...you're in for a rude awakening."

Meanwhile, Brett stomps through the water trying to get away from Jolene. Brett can't move as fast in the water, allowing Jolene to grab his arm and pull him towards her.

"Wait, wait! I'm sorry!" he yells.

"Beg me to stop," she demands.

"Please, please, please Super Sis!" That's good enough. She releases him.

"I bet I can hold my breath underwater longer than you," Brett challenges.

"Oh yeah? Go ahead."

Brett takes a deep breath and dunks himself under water.

As Jolene counts out loud, she turns towards the beach and almost immediately spots ‘cornrows’ son walking into the water several feet away from her. She watches him dive into the water, and stand back up. She likes the way the sunlight glistens on his wet, bronze skin. His chest is strong. His hair is knotted and textured. He's hot.

"How long was that? Hey!"

Jolene whips her attention back to Brett, who has resurfaced. "What? Eleven seconds."

"No way, more like 35."

"Okay," she says, looking back at the boy. Brett sees him, too.

"Your turn," he says.

"Maybe later." The boy looks at her now and smiles.

"Are you coal-mining, Sis?"

Jolene smacks him in the arm. "Brett! Where did you hear that from?"

"That's what Bobby calls it when a girl dates a black boy."

Jolene rolls her eyes. "You're getting this from Bobby, no wonder-- he's an idiot."

"You know how Mom feels about that stuff," warns Brett.

"Alright, my turn," she says. Jolene takes a few breaths and drops underwater. She counts out thirty-eight seconds before she resurfaces, wiping water away from her face and back through her hair. She opens her eyes to find Brett moving towards the beach.

"Hey," she yells at him, "where are you going?"

Brett looks back at Jolene. "Getting Dad's goggles," he yells back and points to the horizon. "There's something out there!" She turns and sees it immediately; there are three large dots sitting close to each other on the horizon.

"What is that?" she asks.

Brett bounds from the water and sprints through the sand to Jake.

"Dad," Brett yells, grabbing Jakes arm, and scaring the shit out of him.

"What the shit!" Jake yells, removing the noise-canceling head gear.

"Jesus, Brett," says Candice, looking up from her NAVI. She doesn't read ebooks or any other books often, but she will read anything about the 45th president-- God rest his soul, she believes.

"Dad, I need your binoculars!"

"They're in my bag," Jake says, sliding his equipment back on. "Maniac..."

Brett rummages through Jakes duffle bag, finds the binoculars, and runs back to the water. He runs by Jolene, who's now talking to the boy.

"Hey," she yells after him. "What are you doing now?"

Using the binoculars, Brett looks out at the objects in the distance.

Jolene and her new friend wade out to Brett. "What do you see?"

"They're ships. Three ships."

"What kind of ships?" Jolene asks.

"They're old. Like pirate ships."

Jolene grabs the binoculars and looks out. "It must be a boat show or something. Wanna see, James?" She hands the binoculars to her new friend.

"Only if your brother says it's okay," James says, looking at Brett.

"Brett, do you mind if James looks through the binoculars," she asks her brother with a 'please-do-not-be-a-jerk' look on her face.

"Yeah, sure," says Brett, handing them to James. As he looks out, Brett sticks out his tongue playfully.

"They look like cutter ships," James says.

"What's a cutter ship?" Brett asks.

"They're cargo ships," James answers. "Before airplanes and FedEx, that's how they used to ship things. They could ship all kinds of stuff from one end of the world to the other. Took weeks, sometimes months."

James hands the binoculars back to Brett.

"How do you know about all of that?" asks Jolene.

James smiles at Jolene. "I know some stuff." She smiles back, unconsciously biting her lip.

Brett sees this and rolls his eyes. He looks back out at the ships.

"They're getting closer," he says, and suddenly turns up his nose. "What's that? Do you smell that?"

Jolene slaps Brett in the arm. "Did you freaking fart, you pig?"

"That's not me!"

A woman covering her nose several feet away catches Jolene's eye. She notices others reacting.

"I don't think that's a fart," James says, covering his nose. "It's different."

**********

11:21am
Lower Bay, New York

Eight years ago today, Jim Stockton became a captain in the New York City Harbor Patrol. As a young boy, there were two things that Jim loved: police cars, and boats. Now, as a man of 42 years, he has almost everything he’s ever wanted. Except for kids. It wasn’t for lack of trying. He had been married and divorced twice in fifteen years. At this point, he's so jaded in love that the prospect of having kids was slim to none in his mind. There's a small part of him that's still hopeful, but that part is dry and bitter.

In the middle of these unpleasant thoughts, a voice squawks over his radio from dispatch.

“5-13, Dispatch,” Jim answers.

“5-13, we have calls of possible unauthorized traffic in your vicinity.”

Unauthorized, he thinks. Probably some asshole rappers on a rented yacht.

“Finally," cheers Officer Scott Bolicki, fumbling forward from the back of the boat. "We finally get some action!"

“Yeah, right,” says Jim. “Taking shit from some overpaid, talentless cunt is not my idea of action.”

“Hey, man. Maybe they’ll hook us up. A couple of beers, maybe a bottle of Dom— you know, whatever those guys drink. Maybe it's one of those Gen-Z billionaires- they drink craft beers and organic wine and shit.”

Jim shakes his head. “Don’t get your hopes up. It’s probably some retired couple that took a wrong turn. Maybe they’ll give us a few of their multivitamins.”

"Three o'clock." Officer Bolicki looks out at the black dots on the horizon with his binoculars.

Jim sees them, too. He steers the boat in their direction and picks up speed. He looks over at Bolicki, wondering why he's not reporting what he sees.

“What, are there naked girls out there or something?” Jim asks.

“They’re like pirate ships,” says Bolicki.

“What?”

“They’re old-looking ships, with sails. Three of ‘em.”

The wind gets stronger as Jim accelerates.

"Is there a boat show?" Bolicki has to shout a bit over the wind noise. "They look like 18th or early 19th century? Have to be replicas."

Jim picks up the radio. "Dispatch, we have a visual. Looks like we've got three sailing ships, historical replicas, possibly from a nearby boat show?"

"There are no a boat shows going on today, 5-13," says the dispatch voice.

"Wait, I see something!" Bolicki adjusts the zoom on the binoculars. "Looks like two men..." Bolicki lowers the binoculars. "Whoa!" He turns up his nose and covers it with his hand.

Jim smells it, too. The wind reeks of it. "What the hell is that?"

Bolicki shakes his head, pinching his nose hard. "Jesus! It's like fifty homeless guys takin' a dump on sixty homeless guys!"

They are close enough to the ships that Jim can read the back of the vessel closest to them: Leusden.

Bolicki tilts his head. “Loose-den?”

Jim slows the patrol boat. Aside from its engine, things are very quiet. And that smell…Bolicki’s gag reflex flares up.

"Tell me about it," says Jim, trying to muscle through it. "You said you saw two men?" Jim asks, squinting and turning up his nose. It's a putrid, sour, earthen stench that touches the back of their throats. "This is almost too much to-"

"Shit!" Bolicki raises the binoculars, looking out at the ships. "Men overboard!"

At least ten dark-skinned bodies leap from one of the ships and splash down flailing into the water. As Jim picks up the radio to call dispatch, he hears motor sounds coming from behind their boat. He turns to see a group of three kids on jet skis heading for them.

“Mayday Mayday, we have about twenty men overboard—require immediate assistance.”

Bolicki grabs a lifesaver as the jet skiers get closer. A boy and two girls, no older than 15. One of the girls is holding a video camera.

“Hey!” the boy shouts, “ Did you see that light?”

“What?” Bolicki shouts back.

“That flash!” the boy opens his arms mimicking an explosion. “They came out after that flash!”

“You kids get out of here,” Jim commands over

the loudspeaker.

As Jim moves the boat towards the jumpers in the water, more people-- men and women-- jump from the ships. This time, it’s hard to tell how many there are—could be twenty, could be forty.

“What the fuck is going on,” shouts Bolicki. “These people are naked!”

Jim throws the boat into reverse to slow down and stop near a cluster of the jumpers who look as if they are drowning. Bolicki throws out a few of the life preservers they have on board, but the jumpers are yelling and freaking out, and trying to move away from the boat.

“Come this way!” Bolicki yells. “What are you doing? We’re trying to save you! This way!”

BANG! POP!

A shot is fired into the hull of the patrol boat. Jim and Bolicki hit the deck.

“Who’s shooting at us?” yells Bolicki.

Jim draws his weapon. “It came from one of the ships!" Jim grabs the radio handset. "Dispatch we have shots fired, shots fired from one of the vessels and about 30 people overboard-- request immediate assistance!"

Bolicki takes cover behind the cabin of the patrol boat with his gun drawn and ready as he peers up at the ships, looking for the shooter. He looks down at the flailing people in the water, three to five to each one of the six life preservers Bolicki threw into the water.

"They look life refugees, are they refugees?" he asks.

"From where, Newark?" Jim says this just as he can hear the so-called refugees shouting and yelling amongst themselves. Whatever they're speaking, it's not English.

"Jim!" Bolicki shouts. Bolicki points out at about 2 o'clock. Jim spots the shooter. At first, they see a head of messy blonde hair peek up, followed by the barrel of what looks like a rifle. Then, the shooter jumps into position to shoot. Bolicki and Jim fire multiple shots. The shooter falls out of sight.

"Did we get him?" Jim shouts.

"There's no way I missed," says Bolicki, just as the shooter pops up and fires a shot, shattering the windshield of the harbor boat cabin. They both duck down.

Jim watches the glass rain onto the deck. "Fuckers!"

***********

12:08 pm

Detective Chris Stellman stares at the three wooden ships as his boarding party approaches. Two additional harbor patrol boats and three ships from the United States Coast Guard have formed a perimeter around the wooden ships.

Stellman hates the water and always has. He’s a very tall, strong-looking dark-skinned man whose presence induces intimidation and demands respect. When it comes to being on boats or flying over large bodies of water, he’d rather do something far less stressful, like getting a bikini wax.

He is a bit more at ease once he boards the first of the three ships; The Fredensborg. The ship is big and sturdy and doesn’t move around as much as the schooners. Once he is on board and feeling somewhat secure, his attention shifts from the ocean to the scene on board this ship.

The deck is full of activity. Personnel from the NYPD and Homeland Security are on board, some milling around, a few examining the ship. A few of the officers were wearing face masks, for the smell.

As Stellman walks, the boards in the deck creak. The ship is worn and weathered- like it had been used for hard work over several years and many journeys.

Sergeant Walker steps up, also wearing a face mask. He hands one to Stellman. "Detective," he says.

"Sergeant," Stellman answers, waving away the mask. The smell was bad but didn't bother him that much. He was a first responder years ago on 9/11, helping sort through "the pile" as it burned with fuel, chemicals, bodies...he's smelled worse. "What's the story?"

"We're working our way around the ship," Walker explains and points to the cargo hatch in the middle of the deck. "We're about to bust this lock-- look at this thing. It's old as fuck."

Stellman looks down at what appears to be an antique metal padlock.

"Anyone on board?" asks Stellman.

Walker points to a ragged-looking group of men lined up against the rail of the deck, cuffed and seated, and flanked by a pair of police officers. They look like extras from a pirate movie, sunburned, dirty, and unshaven. All except for one of them, who is tanned, clean-shaven and healthy-looking. He's also smiling, leaning over to a stoic crewman next to him and whispering something in his ear.

“Almost none of these guys speaks English,” Walker says.

Stellman looks at Walker. “What do they speak?”

“I dunno,” shrugs Walker. “It sounds like Dutch or German or something.”

“Which one speaks English?” he asks. Walker points to the tanned smiler, who looks up at the Sergeant, then to Stellman, then back to the Sergeant. His smile disappears.

“He says his name is Jacob Morgan," says Walker, consulting his notebook. “Gimme that piece,” he calls off to an officer.

The officer hands Walker a pistol that looks like another antique. Walker hands it to Stellman. "He was armed with this."

Stellman takes the pistol, and examines it. “What the hell is this?” he asks.

“Looks like a musket or something,” says Walker. “There’s black powder all over it; I’m assuming it’s gun powder. I guess that means it works.”

Holding the gun, Stellman steps up to the Jacob. “Do you speak English?”

"Yes," Jacob answers, with a bit of a quiver in his voice.

“Good,” Stellman says. “Well, Jacob, is it? Quite a boat show you have goin’ on here.” He holds up the pistol. “This is yours, right?”

“It’s for protection,” says Jacob.

“Protection from what? Dinosaurs?” asks Stellman. He looks at the handle and sees a small brass panel with an inscription:

Jonathan Morgan
1735

“Who is Jonathan?” asks Stellman.

“My father,” says Jacob. “I’m sorry, who are you?”

“I’m Detective Stellman.”

Jacob looks confused. “Detective?”

“That’s right,” Stellman answers. “You’re telling me that this is your father’s gun?”

“Yes,” answers Jacob. “He gave it to me on my sixteenth birthday.”

Stellman looks at the date on the gun; 1735. “I’m no good at math, Jacob,” he says, “But I’m having a hard time believing that story. So, do you want to tell me what you and your friends are doing here?”

“I don’t know,” says Jacob. “I don’t know where we are. We were on route back to Virginia, and we met with a lightning storm. All of a sudden, we were here.”

“Virginia? You’re a long way from Virginia. Where were you coming from?”

Jacob looks up at the noise that he hears in the sky. Stellman looks up and sees a police helicopter. The crew members stir, reacting as if they are either confused or frightened or both.

“What is that thing?” asks Jacob, his voice shaking.

“The detective asked you a question, buddy,” says Walker. "Show some respect and answer the question."

Jacob looks back at Stellman, then looks back up at the helicopter.

“I have to tell you Jacob, whatever community theater foolishness you’re pulling right now is getting on my nerves. I want to know where you were coming from and why you are here.”

“We left port three says ago, out of the Bight.”

“The bite?” Stellman asks. “What’s the bite?”

“The Bight,” Jacob says, waiting for a hint of recognition from Stellman. There is none.

“The Bight of Benin,” Jacob tries again. Nothing. He doesn’t understand how this man could not know this. He even sings the limerick: “Beware, beware, the Bight of Benin/Once you go out, you won’t come back in…

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Stellman says. “I don’t know anything about a bite of Beneen. All I know is that you and this boat show are in New York Harbor, and you are not authorized to be here.”

“New York?” Jacob says, confused. “We’re in New York? But that is not possible…!”

“Oh, it’s possible,” Stellman says, as he looks around. Something is bothering the detective. This ship, these men…this is not a boat show. Just then, he gets another whiff of that smell, but this time it's so intense that it makes him cover his nose and mouth.

“What the hell is that smell?!”

THUD!

Everyone looks down. The sound came from underneath them.

“What was that?” Stellman asked Jacob.

“It’s nothing,” Jacob fumbles, “some of the cargo fell…”

“Cargo? What kind of Cargo?”

Jacob’s mouth moves to answer, but no sound comes out.

“Sergeant,” Stellman gestures towards the cargo door, "We need this open right now."

Walker and two other officers lower their weapons to concentrate on breaking the lock. “What the hell kinda lock is this?” one of them says.

“What am I going to find down there, Jacob?” Stellman asks.

“Look," Jacob begins, with panic in his voice, "I don’t know what is going on. I don’t know who you are—“

“I told you who I was, Mr. Morgan,” says Stellman while watching the officers work on the lock. “Now we need to know who you are.”

“You said you were a detective.”

“Very good, you remembered.”

“You are a detective? Or is your master…” Jacob trails off as he sees the way Stellman and Officer Walker are staring at him.

“Did he just say ‘master’?” asks Walker.

“Look, I don’t know what’s going on! I don’t know why we have you people on my ship! I’m just trying to make a living,” pleads Jacob, “we all are!”

Stellman listens to Jacob and looks around at the ship. This ship does not look like something that is brought out for tourists for show; this ship looks like it’s in working condition, and has been that way for a long time. The ragged crew looks terrified; one of them is crying, and another produces a puddle of piss on the deck.

“Consider what would happen to them anyway!” continued Jacob. “If the wars don’t kill them, they'd probably starve! We are giving them a chance at a normal life! We’re helping them!”

Snap! The lock breaks into pieces. Stellman watches Jacob look down frantically at the floor, then back up to him.

Walker and the two officers lift open the cargo door but drop it immediately as the smell surges from below. The men scatter to catch their breath and gag; the masks do nothing to block the smell. The others fan at the air, turning their faces away.

The officers return to the cargo door, hold their breath, count to three, and LIFT! The back of the door slams against the deck. As the heat and smell radiate away, the men step closer to the door but stop suddenly. A cluster of dark-skinned hands reach out.

Detective Stellman steps to the cargo door, his jaw dangling as he peers down into the hole and sees a sea of black faces staring back at him. Women and little girls. Filthy. Naked. Weak. Crying. Pleading. Chained and shackled.

Stellman stares back at them, forgetting to breathe for a few moments. His palms break into a rapid sweat.

“Jesus Christ,” says Walker.

Stellman turns to Jacob, who looks as if he knows what’s coming. The detective steps to him, hovering like a beast about to devour its prey.

“What is this?” asks Stellman through gritting teeth.

Jacob is paralyzed and says nothing.

Stellman reaches down, grabs Jacob by his throat, squeezes it tightly, and picks him up from the ground. Since Jacob’s hands are bound, he has no defense.

As the other officers try to pry the detective’s hands from around Jacob’s neck, Stellman continues to yell over and over again, “WHAT…IS…THIS?!”

**********

End of Chapter 1