“Es smooth like porcelain, or a baby’s nalgas,” says Frederico from his side of the bed. Like an intrusive eye in the night sky, the moon lords over Kimberly’s romantic evening through an open bedroom window.
She wonders how her Latin Lover managed to have such silky hands. Was this all that he did with them, rub women’s rear ends?
“Thank you,” she chuckles. “It’s the Aloe Vera. Have to massage it in for about ten, fifteen minutes every night.”
“Aw, this you should not be doing all by you-self,” he says, pulling her body closer.
A slender snake-like hand strikes her cheek, snapping Kimberly out of her catnap. The assault transports her back to her LunarCom workstation in Beijing. She’s one of over 500 other desk/monitor/high chair stations in a 5,000 square foot auditorium. Each one is packaged tightly in rows of twenty. The monstrous LunarCom banner–a plain red globe with circular frequency waves shooting from its north pole–is hanging high on the front wall like a textile headmaster.
The emblem is powerful, a symbolic reminder to all, of Communism’s successful rise and reign in the four corners of the globe. The Chinese Yuan is the standard by which all currencies are valued. The United States’ commitment to Capitalism was no deterrent from its borrowing and defaulting on trillions of dollars in loans from Communist China. The Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing caused an unmanageable interest rate hike, and mass emigrations to other nations for life’s basic necessities. The dollar was of little value, meaning another currency had to take its place.
After two hundred years of global domination, many Chinese still get a kick out of venting aggression upon the dregs of the People’s Republic-the Americans, who were smuggled in, indentured in, or the descendants of either.
The snake-like hand belongs to Kimberly’s female floor leader, Chowyun. She reminds her of the world’s first pitbull to learn to walk upright. Chowyun usually hovered in the wings waiting for Kimberly to doze, especially during one of her marathon triple overtime shifts. Kimberly only blames herself for agreeing to take on the extra shift. Where was LeAnn anyway? It’s not like her to miss three days in a row.
“Sorry Chowyun,” Kimberly apologizes, gripping her cheek. “I was just resting my eyes.”
“You rest eye after no work!” Chowyun commands. “Five more hour.”
“Yes sir–, ma’am.”
Kimberly’s quick apology diminishes Chowyun’s zeal for tyranny. That’s been her trained response for several months now. Ever since she and Chowyun had a “moment”, when she urged Kimberly to “do better”, “stay focus”, and the shocking “I know you can do it”. Kimberly was unsure whether it was a chink in Chowyun’s armor or part of a psychological chess move.
Chowyun holds her tongue, but lets her disappointed stare resonate as she moves on to another target.
“You okay?” asks Josh, Kimberly’s best friend seated at the station next to her.
BLEEP. BLEEP. BLEEP. Kimberly’s headset alerts her.
“I’m fine,” Kimberly admits, dismissing her red cheek. “She’s not wearing her rings. Let me get this–. LunarCom, how can I connect you?”
Kimberly and Josh met after sneaking on a Lower Manhattan skywalk, the above ground moving sidewalk for “qualified” pedestrians. The toxic streets were reserved for the unemployed, impoverished, handicapped, and homeless. Both were recently graduated Journalism students, hoping to join the ranks of Social Media Enterprises International. Before it was silenced.
It was Josh who first recognized 2225 was regressing 100 years, when the voice of the international community first became unwieldy, too organized. All Cyberspace communications were controlled and monitored by a powerful triumvirate of corporations. They taxed e-commerce, and controlled all news and information in support of a global network of puppet regimes. LunarCom became the third arm of this triumvirate.
It was Kimberly, however, who was first recruited by LunarCom for seven years of indentured servitude. The thought of a roof and steady employment was too good to pass up, for either of them. It was a no-brainer, once you got past the language and the ocean barrier. After completing the grueling selection process, LunarCom paid their way on an ocean liner to China.
“Wow, your English is pretty good. You almost sound like one of us.” says the anonymous caller. Her voice has a muffled vibration, as if calling from inside a plastic bubble.
“Yeah, I am one of you. I’m an American,” replies Kimberly for the thousandth time. She’d grown tired of explaining that she had to sail all the way to China for employment as a LunarCom operator. Especially since America’s epic depression of the ages, and its 43% unemployment rate is the blueprint for apocalyptic economic collapse. The steady decline began in 2011 after Standard & Poor’s historical downgrade of America’s credit rating . The running joke ever since has been that America is the lioness who’s lost her dentures.
The U.S. Government’s manifest destiny quickly detoured northbound, straight to the moon. Scientists and economists foreshadowed their inability to compete with the industrial domination of China, and the rest of Asia. They placed the highest premium on the completion of an artificial atmosphere and ecosystem. An enclosed dome protects the moon’s inhabitants from radiation, solar flares, a space vacuum, and houses the artificial atmosphere. The atmosphere is powered by harnessing energy from the sun’s reflection off the earth.
Those who can afford the relocation to an orbiting space station, or the mainland moon properties, commenced life and business as they did on Earth. The Lower Classes were left to fight over America’s desolate scraps. In the U.S.’s haste to establish a new civilization around the moon, they failed to adequately upgrade the old NASA radio wave system.
As soon as China got wind of plans to claim the moon as a U.S. territory, their scientists began working just as fervently. Chinese telecom giant Huawei’s advanced technologies forced the U.S. to use China indefinitely, as its global switchboard. Without them, all operations would be severely hampered. But Americans are still on the hunt to uncover these technologies.
“Yes, nice to meet you too Alexa? So where can I connect you, please?” Kimberly asks with a rehearsed politeness.
“Yeah hon, you can–,” the caller is interrupted. “Hey, I’m in here! What do you want?”
Kimberly pauses to listen more intently. She turns up the volume in her headset, catching some mumbling in the background.
“No. I don’t know . . . I don’t know!” says Alexa, sounding more desperate, panicked. “Stop it!”
“Alexa?” investigates Kimberly. Josh turns to her, intrigued. Until his own headset BLEEPS, taking back his attention.
“Aaahhh!!”screams Alexa, indicating more struggle than fright.
“Ah! What the–?!” shouts Kimberly yanking off her headset.
“Connecting you now sir–” says Josh, turning his attention back to Kimberly. “What happened?”
“She just freakin’ screamed in my ear,” she explains, readjusting her headset and turning the volume down. Just in time to hear-
“Aaahhh. No please no,” pleads Alexa, to someone. “Aaahhh.”
“Alexa . . . Alexa?!” pleads Kimberly. “Are you still there?!”
Silence, as she listens. The phone is still off the hook.
“What’s going–,” starts Josh.
Kimberly shushes him, and listens. It’s quiet, but she can tell there’s movement in the room. Something, someone is handling the receiver. She likes to think her trained ear can tell when someone’s breathing in the receiver. Another sound further peaks her interest. Is a third person in the room?
“She’s dea-” the deep voice is interrupted, by the disconnecting of the phone.
Kimberly is stunned, and unable to verbalize what she just heard. Josh is anxious as ever.
“Who was that?” he inquires. “What happened?”
Kimberly’s mouth closes, signaling she’s ready to speak.
“I think they killed Alexa,” she confesses in a cold whisper.
“They killed her,” she labors over each word. “Somebody. Killed her.
BLEEP. BLEEP. BLEEP.
Kimberly turns to her station monitor, unsure of the protocol for overhearing a murder. She doesn’t want to answer, so the phone continues to BLEEP.
It’s not long before Chowyun is aware of the noise continuing from Kimberly’s station. She marches over with a scowl.
“Uh-oh.” Josh warns. “You better answer that.”
Kimberly can only shake her head. She realized any threat was 200,000 miles into space, but also realized murder had a way of canceling all bets. The rules have changed.
“You answer call!” commands Chowyun, as her fist connects with the back of Kimberly’s head.
“Ow!” she grunts.
Kimberly freezes, imagining her reconnecting with the moon, will somehow identify her to a murderer. As if they were at her front door. BLEEP.
“She’s feeling sick, Chowyun,” intervenes Josh. “I think she just threw up in her mouth a little bit. Can you give her a minute?”
Chowyun backs away, Kimberly takes the cue, turning toward her like she might vomit on her feet at any second.
“Restroom, please,” Kimberly requests.
“You go bathroom!” Chowyun demands, instead of granting permission. “Go now!”
Kimberly swivels out of her station, and steps down off of her elevated seating. Chowyun points, like Kimberly doesn’t know where the bathroom is. Kimberly starts to feel the nausea for real, as she marches down the long aisle, past the rows of twenty.
Kimberly confronts her reflection before one of the mirror/hand wash combinations. She stands in a brightly lit, remarkably sterile women’s restroom. The walls and floor are pristine white linoleum that one might rest their cheek on, if so inclined. Additional light is triggered for personal inspection. Kimberly isn’t used to looking at herself, so she takes inventory of how many years older she looks since the last time.
Her middle finger taps the mirror. The reflection zooms in, making her face larger. She taps again, and it increases larger. Kimberly repeats until the whole mirror is a reflection of her cornea. This makes her chuckle, and she taps twice to zoom out. Her pair of eyes blink back at her.
Aaaahh. Her mind replays the soundtrack of her last call. She sucks in air though her nose.
“You have to tell the police,” she reasons with herself. “But you don’t know. That coulda been a joke.”
A toilet flushes, and a Chinese female exits that stall. Kimberly immediately reaches for the nearest stall door. She enters, and sits on top of the lid. The inside of every stall door is equipped with a video screen. Kimberly turns it on, and a talking head appears as a traditional anchorman. He spouts off news and information in Mandarin. Kimberly taps the screen, and the anchorman continues in English.
” . . . another 1,000 birds have fallen dead from the sky. Authorities believe the third incident this year in a Beijing province is the natural result of non-regulated factory emissions. No cause for alarm. Police have raided secret evangelical groups spreading propaganda concerning the end of the world–“
The strange woman stands at one of the mirrors. She wears thin, black eyeglasses, with her hair up in a bun. Her hands are clasped together, slid into the hollow compartment. As the compartment whirrs and spins, it emits sanitary chemicals, water, and dries all inside that hole. She pulls her clean hands out, and presses a blue button that shoots a light mist of cool water from the mirror. A red button lets a hot air blower warm her face. She takes her hair down, forcing her locks to flow out like wings.
Kimberly sits on the toilet lid, listening to the air blow. She scrolls down the touch-screen options before her. Past ‘Maintenance’, ‘Company Directory’, ‘Local News’, and finally to ‘Emergency’. She taps it, exiting from the anchorman. A numeric keypad appears on the screen with a key for the specific helps one might seek. Fire is 554432. Ambulance is 699325. Police is 733446. Kimberly dials in the Police, and waits as the screen indicates the connection is ringing.
“C’mon, pick up the phone, geez.” Kimberly mumbles impatiently.
The strange woman is done warming her face and cuts it off. As she turns to leave the restroom, she notices a buzz coming from her belt. She clicks on its speakerphone.
“Waverly Chan,” she answers to the air. No reply.
The voice outside the stall is the same one inside the stall. Kimberly realizes she isn’t reaching the Chinese police, but the LunarCom security. She freezes, expecting to make this call anonymously.
“LunarCom security,” Waverly insists. “Anybody there?”
Kimberly chooses to remain anonymous and call back later, but Waverly heard her own echo coming from the stall.
“Hello?” she asks, while approaching the stall. “Somebody in there calling me?”
“No, I’m sorry.” Kimberly confesses. “That was a mistake.”
“A mistake. Oh,” says Waverly, leaning her cheek right next to the stall door. “Because I thought it was somebody who might have a lead on this uh, LunarCom Killer.”
Kimberly sits up straight, searching for the correct words, “What? Who–“
“So, it is you?” she asks, hinting at Kimberly’s sudden infamy.
“What do you mean?”
Suddenly a siren rings throughout the whole facility. Red lights start flashing. Kimberly flinches, thinking it’s another drill.
“They’re looking for you.”
“Who?!” she asks, her body turning cold. “Why?!”
“LunarCom brass.” she informs, slightly arrogant. “You might be able to Google the phrase LunarCom Killer, before they put a stop to it.”
“But I haven’t told anyone yet,” Kimberly answers, more confused. “I’m not even sure what I heard.”
“It must’ve been your friend, the cripple,” Waverly says, as if “the cripple” is a name or a nationality.
“Josh,” Kimberly mutters to herself. Her thoughts go to poor, innocent little Josh in his wheelchair, caught up in the middle of her mess. A mess that at least she can run from. She can’t, despite his many protests, stop herself from pitying him. Ever since their first day in Beijing, when it all-
“They will probably kill him,” Waverly states calmly, as an FYI.
“LunarCom doesn’t care about murdered Americans on the moon,” she explains. “They are a brand that cannot be connected to any adverse imagery. Quick, LunarCom! What comes to your mind?”
“That is no accident. Hundred years of brand reinforcement. You lose the public perception you lose the public reality. You only buy new slippers when the old pair does not seem as comfortable as you thought.”
“What the hell are you talking about?!”
“Why not come out of that stall and find out?” Waverly snaps back, jiggling the locked door handle. Kimberly slides back, hearing a click of some sort. Was the woman cocking a gun?
“Hey, what’s that?”
Waverly steps away from the door. “It is a gun. They are coming soon. You will need this.”
Kimberly’s mouth drops again. BANG, BANG, BANG. Someone bangs on the restroom door.
“Come in!” Waverly yells.
A male manager sheepishly peeks his head into the restroom, amplifying the red alert siren ringing through the corridor. The manager sees Waverly and starts apologizing in Mandarin. Waverly responds in Mandarin, assuring him she’s alone. With her pistol drawn, she tells him she’s already checked the restroom. The manager shares a final message, then slips back into the corridor. Waverly walks back to Kimberly’s stall.
“What did you tell him?” asks Kimberly.
“You should go now,” Waverly rushes. “They move American girls to isolation room in west wing.”
“But they know where I am. I told Chowyun I was going to the restroom. She’s expecting me back.”
“They do not know where you are,” she urges. “Your friend must have helped you, but you must go now.”
Kimberly pauses to consider the consequences of opening the stall door, and also of not opening it. She looks up at the ceiling tiles. They’re too tall to reach, even if she could balance herself on the sturdy stall walls. Besides she’s only seen that done in movies when people knew where they’re going. If LunarCom brass is really after her, then she has to get out of the building. Her mind quickly traces a path-down the marble-floored east end corridor, down one of the freight elevators, into the shipping and receiving annex, into the back of one of its mobile satellite provider trucks–.
Like a naked monsoon, she realizes the impossibility.
Kimberly slowly opens the stall door, face-to-face with Waverly. Kimberly looks over her long straight black hair, metallic gray power suit, three-inch heels, and a 9mm Beretta in her hand. She’s offers it to a hesitant Kimberly.
“Why?” she asks, like a reluctant child.
“The American was murdered,” she begins. “She was not the first.”
“LeAnn?” Kimberly asks, the first word that popped in her head. “I don’t even know–“
“Yes you do.” she interjects. “They may not care. But I was a detective before I sold out to LunarCom. I want you alive, because I want this case.”
“You want me to shoot my way out of here?”
“Only if you have to.”
“Oh great, that’s encouraging.”
“You can do this. You have an advantage.”
“What’s that?” Kimberly asks, feeling nausea coming back.
“You are white, an American.”
“You’re kidding right now?” Kimberly doesn’t find it funny. “They hate–“
“No. You’re white, and you are not the only one. There are approximately 50 of you employed at this facility. And all American girls look alike. Trust me.”
Kimberly accepts the gun. It’s heavier than she thought, but feels like an extension of her fist.
“Here. Take off your shirt,” commands Waverly, stripping off her suit jacket.
Kimberly stands shoulder-to-shoulder with 50 American female operators inside a white-walled holding cell. She squints through Waverly’s reading glasses, realizing they all really do look alike. All stringy-haired brunettes, half of which are wearing eyeglasses. She has successfully blended in with the anonymous Americans being herded into a holding cell.
“They want one of you bitches,” shouts Gina, a stocky and aggressive one. She speaks with a reminiscent authority, of a time when she was a Houston Assistant District Attorney. “Just go with them, so we can all get out of here!”
Agreement is shared throughout the room. Kimberly takes careful note.
“Wait, they might want to hurt her,” Roxanne, an older operator reasons. “Who knows? I hope she can get out of the building.”
“I heard one of them say something about a murder,” Jessie, a young operator adds.
The room falls quiet. No one wants to respond, or acknowledge the statement.
Gina maneuvers through the crowd to Jessie. She steps to her like she wants to drive her fist through your forehead.
“You keep your mouth shut about what you heard,” Gina commands, in a gritty monotone whisper. “No. You didn’t hear anything. Did you?”
Jessie’s scared straight.
A loudspeaker clicks on. Everyone looks up and around. They’re watching, listening.
“I see you!” a Chinese male Voice shouts over the loudspeaker. “I see your face! You cannot hide.”
The caged women wonder where The Voice is coming from.
“Who the hell are they talking about?” Gina asks to her fellow clueless captors. She realizes, and asks The Voice, “Who the hell are you talking about?! Tell us!”
“Oh, she knows who she is,” The Voice continues.
Gina knifes her way through the crowd, searching the face of every woman. Her American life was reading a lie in the face of any suspect, and she’s still confident in her skills. Kimberly sees the momentum of Gina’s truth seeking wave rolling towards her. She renews her gaze to one resembling Gina’s, and starts sharing it with the women around her. Those women, in turn, form their own futile searches.
“Where are you?” Gina asks, growing more frustrated.
“Americans, stop!” The Voice demands. “You are foolish to think that we are not aware? I am looking at her right now.”
Again, the women look around the room.
“All of you with glasses! Separate to one side of the room,” he continues. “All of you without glasses, separate to the other side.”
The women look at each other, and start finding their appropriate match. They gradually divide themselves to the two sides of the room.
“Now what?!” barks Gina.
“Now you be quiet!!” The Voice barks back. A silenced bullet drills into the top of Gina’s head. She drops to the floor dead. All the women scream, and separate from the lifeless body. Kimberly stands numb, fearful that she will be recognized, and next.
“Quiet!” The Voice demands. “The next American I hear will follow their leader to the floor! Silence.”
Women try their best to stop their tears, and muffle their whimpers.
“If the one we are searching for does not raise her hand. We will keep shooting one of you every minute.”
The women cry harder, looking around desperately for the person to be decent enough to reveal their identity.
“Whoever you are, raise your hand, please,” begs Jessie from behind her glasses.
“Remember, we already know who you are,” The Voice reminds Kimberly. “We already have you anyway. No one else will die. You will all go back to work, and you will all receive more money for your cooperation.”
The women groan for someone to release them.
“This is the American way,” he continues with a heightened sense of amusement. “The needs of the few, always overpower the needs of the many. Your nation was birthed with a selfish spirit, and look at you. Even your pathetic slave life is worth more to you than 50 others.”
The Voice lets the indictment hang in the air.
POW! A bullet strikes the ground, right next to Jessie. The women scream and scatter throughout the glorified matchbox.
The door to the holding cell opens, and Chowyun steps through. She makes eye contact with every woman she passes.
“Do you see still see her?” asks The Voice over the loudspeaker.
Chowyun doesn’t answer, but keeps walking and searching. Her stare is determined to find the guilty party, but her hesitancy proves she’s not as confident. Kimberly makes no sudden moves.
“I know she is here.” Chowyun attempts to convince whoever’s listening. “I saw her.”
“Pull her out then!” commands The Voice.
Chowyun doesn’t even get around to Kimberly. She stops at Kelly, a close resemblance to what Kimberly would look like, were she not wearing glasses. Chowyun leans into Kelly’s face to take a closer look.
“This is her!” Chowyun proclaims. “I found her, here!”
“No! What did I do?!” Kelly shrieks.
“The rest of you go back to work,” The Voice orders.
Chowyun grips Kelly by the arm so she can run away. Her tears only strengthen Chowyun’s surety that she chose correctly.
“Move out!” order a male manager. “Go back to work!”
The women stagger out of the room, barely making eye contact with Kelly, who’s sobbing uncontrollably.
“What did I do?!” she screams.
Kimberly is one of the last few to get out of the room. She can’t help but look to Kelly long enough to contemplate telling the truth. Her heart isn’t strong enough to take Kelly’s fate for her. Chowyun catches the stare from Kimberly, and Kimberly allows herself to meet her stare. She holds it long enough to suspect that Chowyun realizes that she’s got the wrong one.
“Bring her to me!” The Voice says. “I will make sure she can tell nothing.”
Kimberly steps into the hallway, following the herd back to the workstations. As they pass a large office, she sees Josh being interrogated through a window. A muscle bound security guard strikes him across the face. She gasps, and stops suddenly. As the herd keeps moving, she steps in another direction, toward the interrogation room.
The security guard exits the room, sweaty through his LunarCom cotton uniform. He runs directly into Kimberly, trying to look past him through the window.
“Keep moving!” yells the security guard.
Kimberly moves towards the interrogation room door. She peers through the window, and sees an exhausted and defenseless Josh in his wheelchair. His head hangs low, swollen and dripping with sweat
“I said keep moving!” orders the guard nudging her.
“I know the truth about the woman you’re looking for.” Kimberly insists. “Please let me in there, so you can stop her before she gets away.”
The guard looks her over suspiciously. Then looks to the room, as if this could work out well for him too. He punches in a code, and the door unlocks. They enter.
“I told you do not disturb me!” says the man inside the room from behind his desk. Kimberly instantly recognizes him as The Voice. As she follows the manager inside, she scans the room, she sees a large monitor with a bird’s eye view of the holding cell. It shows Kelly on her knees, pleading. Gina’s dead carcass lies a few feet away. Chowyun circles Kelly, in what can only be a tease before the execution. The volume is turned down.
“I am sorry. She says she knows of more danger. She will tell us.”
Kimberly looks down at the half-conscious Josh. He can barely lift his head.
“Kimb–,” he begins to question.
“What did he do? Why are you beating him?” asks Kimberly.
“That is not your concern! But he is close to the woman we were seeking,” says The Voice, gesturing to the woman about to be executed.
“Oh. Well what if I told you something about another woman? What would it be worth to you?”
“How dare you?!” interjects the guard.
“It would be worth your life,” adds The Voice. “Tell me what you know.”
Kimberly leans down into Josh’s ear. “We’re getting out of here,” she whispers.
“Tell me what you know!” he repeats.
She reaches in the small of her back, and pulls out Waverly’s 9mm. Pointing the gun first at the security guard, she fires a bullet into his chest.
The shot rings throughout the nearby holding cell, freezing Chowyun. Her gun at Kelly’s temple, ready to fire. Chowyun looks to the door, then to Kelly again. She squints her eyes, focusing more intently.
In the interrogation room, Josh is alert. Kimberly turns the gun to The Voice.
“You will never get out of here!” he warns.
Kimberly pauses, and hands the gun to Josh. Josh is more alert, as he aims the gun at The Voice’s head. Instinctively The Voice puts his hands up.
“We gotta go Josh,” she says as if not to hurry him.
“You Americans are-” begins The Voice, quickly silenced by a gunshot to the face.
BANG. BANG. BANG.
A frantic, and angry crowd of LunarCom employees are banging on the door.
In Mandarin, they shout to each other for someone who knows the pass code.
After hearing the second shot, the commotion outside the cell, and her careful observation of Kelly, she realizes she had the wrong one. Kelly continues to sob, waiting for death.
“Stay here,” she calmly instructs Kelly, as she exits the cell.
Kimberly grabs the handles of Josh’s wheelchair, and pulls him back to face the door. Josh takes aim at the door.
“Are you ready?” Kimberly asks.
“Ready,” confirms Josh. “Thanks Kim.”
Kimberly hugs Josh, and he wraps him arm around her.
“Just keep shooting. I’ll be standing right here,” she promises. “Until the end.”
They can hear the excitement as someone who knows the security code arrives, and quickly starts pressing in the code. Errngh! It’s wrong.
From inside the cell, Kelly looks up and stops sobbing. She flinches when she hears someone open the cell door. It’s Waverly, who walks curiously over to Kelly.
“Why are they holding you here?” she asks.
“I don’t know. They think I know something, or I’m someone else.” Kelly explains.
Waverly nods slowly. “I didn’t account for that.”
Men flood into the unlocked interrogation room, as if they didn’t know a gun was pointed at the door. The first two men drop, and Kimberly stands behind Josh, just like she promised.
Kelly and Waverly listen to the nearby gunfire and commotion. Suddenly, machine gun fire rings out. Waverly listens harder.
“It’s the Americans,” she declares. “It’s the Americans. They’ve come for the telecom intel.”
Kelly stands to her feet, as the firefight continues, and people are apparently dying.
“There was no murder. There never was.”
“I don’t understand,” says Kelly.
“They knew LunarCom’s attempt to cover up any hint of a murder, they’d have to open their systems up to a viral probe,” says Waverly figuring it out as she speaks. “The Americans probably have access to everything”
“All this just to protect their brand image? Their name?”
“With these technologies the Americans will be back, and stronger than ever,” Waverly concedes. “That is, if they will protect their name.”