TRIGGER WARNING: Each character in Project Element has their own struggles. Travis struggles with alcoholism, Meena faced extreme racism and sexism. Today, the next part of this story tackles sexual assault and rape. It contains graphic language and may trigger certain people when reading. My heart is with anyone, man or woman, who has been a victim of sexual assault and I don’t take these issues lightly. But please, read at your own risk. Enjoy the story.
Amanda Allen was the best journalist in the world. Or at least, that’s what she told herself every morning. When she was a kid, some motivational speaker came to her school and preached the importance of positive affirmations. Five minutes, every morning of nothing but positive thoughts and sayings about yourself. She thought it was stupid back then. Now though. Well, now she wasted time in front of the mirror talking herself up. And being the best damn journalist in Chicago came about halfway down the list.
The best part about being a journalist to Amanda was travelling. Every time she was in the air, she felt alive. Yeah, it sounded cliché, but it was true. It was something she couldn’t explain. She could endure the cheap food, the crying babies, and burps that smelled like cheese, if she was in the air. She was free in the air. Nothing, no one, controlled her. When she traveled, she felt at the mercy of the air. And it hadn’t let her down her entire life. Not like other things. Not like other people.
When Amanda wasn’t screaming positive things in the mirror, and when she wasn’t travelling, she sat a desk, doing research. She had one hell of a view. Amanda grew up just like everyone else in the suburbs. Good family and all that. The truth was something that always fascinated her. And it didn’t matter what side was right, she just wanted to know what was right. Didn’t make her the most popular around the office.
Ruthless. Heartless. Cold.
She had heard it all. But it didn’t matter. Their feelings didn’t get the job done and they weren’t helping Amanda save up for a house. No, that was her determination, her grit, and her hustle. It was all her.
But today, she was in the office. And she hated it. Yeah, sure it was one of the nicest buildings in the city. And the view, man, the view couldn’t be beat. But being back in this office always made Amanda a bit sick. And she could never quite put her finger on it. Every so often she’d be in here, she’d look out at the city, and that same, dreadful feeling would overcome her. And she hadn’t the slightest clue why. And then when she saw him, she remembered. Every time.
She saw all two hundred and seventy pounds of his fat ass.
Clarence. Her editor-in-chief. Smug asshole was a black republican. Not too many of those in Chicago. He smelled too. Always like something greasy like pizza or French fries. Amanda would joke in her head that he bathed in grease.
But not too his face. They didn’t cross paths often, but when they did, Amanda felt like dying. She felt like flinging herself from the window, and maybe taking Clarence with her.
He was getting closer. He stopped by her desk and gave the fakest smile he could. Then, knowing she wouldn’t move a muscle, he put his greasy hand on her shoulder. Then he spoke.
“My office. Five minutes.”
Amanda hardly heard him. She knew exactly what he said, but she hardly heard him. She let the normalcy of the office overcome her. Phones were ringing, people were talking, there was even a passionate debate about climate change being had not too far from her.
Stupid Tyler, she thought. Don’t know why he argues against science.
That normalcy faded though. And Amanda Allen, badass reporter, master of the skies, found herself in Clarence’s office, with her pants down around her ankles. And he was thrusting as hard as he could. Amanda wished that she couldn’t feel him. That she would fade out and think of something else. She didn’t.
The first time it happened, a few years ago, she cried. It was nighttime, and Clarence had caught her off guard while she was working late. The irony of that situation made her laugh for a millisecond before the thought of after came up. She cried the entire time, and for days after. Now though, she just let the cold desk comfort her. Every time Clarence was done, he’d say the same thing.
“Clean yourself up. And remember to meet your deadlines.”
The first part was simple enough. Men craved the type of shit Clarence put her through. In his eyes, it was passionate, primal, and more importantly, he was in control. The epitome of nature in action. The second part, about her deadlines, was nonsense. Amanda had never even come close to missing a deadline before. He just wanted to remind her of her place. That no matter how she spun it, no matter how much she flew, she could never escape him.
THE NEXT DAY:
Today’s the day, Amanda thought. He won’t touch me ever again.
Another day at the office. It had been at least a year since Amanda had been at the office two days in a row. Clarence knew it. Amanda could feel him hovering over her like a mosquito at a crime. But he was exceptionally gifted when it came to hiding his desires. Most men she met, they couldn’t contain their excitement, or calm their bodies enough around women they wanted. Something would happen. Something would slip out. Not Clarence though. He was calculated. Smooth. No one in the office suspected a thing. And it was normal for Amanda to be in his office all the time. She was the best reporter after all. Her work spoke for itself, so she never heard any rumors around the office. Had the respect of all her colleagues.
I’m losing my mind, she thought. Her breathing became sharp and was hard to control. Amanda thought back to her favorite flight. It was a trip to Syria.
Syria itself, was just as she expected. A hell hole filled with nothing but sand and death. She hated every minute there. But the flight? The best thing she ever experienced. There was an unusual amount of turbulence on the flight. It made everyone lose their minds, but Amanda wished it could’ve lasted forever. And the view, oh the view was beyond explanation. Amanda wanted to drop out of the plane and scale the Syrian mountains. The sight of it all nearly brought to her tears.
Her eyes were closed. She didn’t notice until one of her coworkers, Tyler, the one against climate change, spoke to her.
“Dreaming about me, again?” he asked.
Amanda wasn’t amused. And it showed on her face.
“Sorry,” Tyler said. “Seriously, you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m good. Just thinking about this piece on what’s happening at the border.”
“Don’t know why you took that,” Tyler said. “It’s only going to get you more heat.”
That was his problem. Tyler the Trout people called him. Nothing bad, but nothing special. He was always trying to be liked, always trying to be on the morning talk shows, making stay-at-home moms (and dads) cry with his heroic reporting. Pathetic. That was no way to get ahead, no way to make a real impact as a reporter. Amanda knew you had to challenge who you were, and most of the time, if you were raised right, you’d come out the same. Tyler seemed like the type to always question his morality. So he stuck to pieces and stories that confirmed his own beliefs.
“You’re going to have to challenge yourself one day, Tyler,” Amanda said.
“We can’t all be like you. Blonde, blue eyes, and brains. Don’t know how you do it,” he said.
“And you never will.” Tyler was leaning on her desk, but Amanda could tell he wasn’t well balanced. It took only a nudge on his hand to send him falling on the floor, reeling like a baby deer. Everyone else in the office noticed and laughed as Tyler struggled to regain his balance. He didn’t say anything. He just smiled at Amanda and went back to his desk.
Amanda laughed for a moment, but then she heard the door of Clarence’s office open. And the slimy worm himself walked out with the biggest smile on his face.
“What’s everyone laughing about?” he asked. An intern eager to move up the ranks quickly explained the joke to Clarence. He laughed slightly then looked at Amanda.
“Can I see you in my office, Amanda? That contact at the border got back to me.”
I’m sure he did, asshole.
Amanda gathered her thoughts and straightened up her desk before getting up. She passed Tyler’s desk on the way.
“That rapper who was picked up by the FBI. Take that,” she said.
“Rappers and federal agents. Two things I hate the most,” Tyler said smiling.
Amanda smiled, and she kept walking. When she got into the office, Clarence could hardly contain himself. His pants were off the second she closed the door.
They both just stood there for a second. Amanda Allen, best journalist in the world. Certified flyer. Fully clothed, with no intention of letting this man violate her today. And Clarence. Head editor of one of the most prominent newspapers in all of Chicago. Pants down, and an erect penis. Amanda could smell him from here. He hadn’t showered since yesterday.
“You know,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about you since yesterday.” He grabbed Amanda and put her in her normal position bent over on his desk. His tiny, child-like hand touched her breasts and ran down to her belly button. Clarence was shaking.
Pervert’s really excited, she thought.
“You were so wet yesterday,” he whispered. “I could barely stay inside of you. Slipping in and out.”
“You’re coming around to this,” he said. “I knew you would. Eventually”
Amanda had heard enough. She thrusted her butt back into him and heard him moan in excitement at first. Then, she swung her hand low and grabbed his testicles as hard as she could. Instantly, he screamed and backed up.
Clarence tried to come at her, but Amanda was too quick. She elbowed him in the stomach and a left hook was right after that. She couldn’t believe how weak he felt. She threw a couple more punches, each landing and she saw that his face was starting to bleed. Amanda grabbed Clarence and dragged him to the window by his desk.
“This is over,” she said. Clarence struggled but Amanda could tell he was still hurting from her first blow. She hit him low again. He yelped.
“I love to fly,” Amanda said. “You want to fly, sir?” She hit his head against the glass. It cracked but didn’t break. She didn’t expect it to. She just wanted him to be afraid.
“I’m done,” she continued. “I don’t even know why, or how I let you take advantage of me the first time. I can’t explain it.”
Clarence was gasping for her air.
“Here’s how it’s going to go. I’m done. I quit. Except you’re going to pay me a year’s salary and say that I quit because I was shot at the border. Leave the story up to me. Then, you’re going to leave me alone for the rest of your life.”
“You’re—a crazy bitch,” Clarence struggled to say.
“Damn right I am,” Amanda said. “You say a word about this and I’ll kill you. Kill your family. And their family. I’ll never stop. Do you understand?”
Clarence didn’t say anything. So Amanda started to bang his head against the window some more. It was getting louder and louder, and there was no guarantee that no one hadn’t heard them already. Amanda didn’t care. She continued to bang until Clarence began pleading.
“Okay, okay!” he yelled. “Please, please just stop. I’ll do whatever you want.”
“That’s more like it,” Amanda said.
She let go of Clarence and when she did, she felt the weight of the past few years leave her body. Of course, there was no guarantee that Clarence would keep his word. He was a Black Republican. They were about as flimsy as they come. And Amanda had no intention on hunting down Clarence’s family. That was just tough talk. And the story about her getting shot at the border? Not her best plan, but she was trained to tell stories with only half the knowledge. She’d figure something out. And there was still the bit about someone hearing them just now. How would she explain that?
It didn’t matter. None of it mattered. Because Amanda Allen had taken her own destiny, decided her own fate. And today, she could leave her job with a sense of fulfillment. She’d never get over what Clarence did, but seeing him in that moment, with his pants on the ground, and blood pouring from his head—it felt good.
“Clean yourself up,” she said. And she left the office. Her coworkers hadn’t moved from where they were when she went in. As she passed Tyler, she smiled. He smiled back.
I need to get on a flight, Amanda thought. I’ve never been to Alaska before.
INTRODUCING AMANDA ALLEN “THE BOUNDLESS”
Amanda Allen is the propaganda and information expert of the team. Travis would disagree with that, but Amanda’s skills aren’t to be argued with. She’s incredibly witty and quick on her feet. And her no-nonsense attitude makes her a strong personality on the team. Using the exoskeleton attached to her skin, Amanda has the capability of flight. She hasn’t tried to clock her fastest speed yet, but the fanciest government planes can’t keep up.
Oh, and don’t worry about Clarence. A detailed story (not written by Amanda) was released about his abuse towards women. There were even a few men involved. Clarence committed suicide by jumping out of his office.
END PART 4
Only one more member to go! Who’s your favorite so far? Who are you looking forward to reading more about? Personally, I’m excited but also a little sad that this story is almost coming to and end. But don’t worry, just like the characters from Sector 43, these characters will be staples in the Mystic Man Universe to come. I hope you come back to read the last part of Project Element!
I don’t take issues like racism, sexism, or sexual abuse lightly. I myself am not a woman but I try my best to tell stories that reflects some of the real struggles women face. I hope I was able to do that today and I hope you continue to read and learn more about Amanda’s journey. To all survivors of sexual abuse or harassment out there, you are not alone. Please reach out to someone if you feel like you were violated in any way.
And to my fellow men. Listen to women and become accountable for your every day behavior with women. Respect is a simple concept, but it isn’t a game. We have a duty to be decent to each other. And listening is an easy part.
Peace, Love, and Comics.