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PostSubject: Proculvisus   Tue Jan 21, 2014 1:41 am

[1] - Prologue

The lights went dark.

That was the easiest way to explain what had happened. It was the only way to explain what had happened, since nobody really had a proper idea.
It was expected to be another century before the ever-expanding jigsaw of this global dilemma was completed, despite the best efforts of the world’s civilized nations.
The worlds remaining nations.

What had once been a planet of close to eleven billion people throughout over two hundred countries was gone.
After The Collapse, civilization itself teetered on the brink of destruction with less than a dozen nations of megacities facing a vengeful nature. The global population was estimated to be less than six billion.

This is what remained. The rest was Preservation land. Around the world, cities crumbled to ruin, forests and jungles retook continents.

All because the lights went dark.


----------------------------------]
[2] - The Meersburg Incident
----------------------------------]


14th of March, ~2100 CE

Wilhelm Kutznetz watched the screen attentively, making careful note of the red dot blipping across the screen, getting farther and farther away.
His gloved hand was beginning to dig into the seated technician’s shoulder. Both men were very uncomfortable, but one was starting to be in physical pain.

The V-22 Osprey had been stolen from the compound less than twenty minutes ago, and the authorities had been alerted as soon as it lifted off. One guard, Philip Reímos, had been shot; he was expected to pull through, albeit in critical condition.

The fact that the compound had been broken into in the first place was a disturbing breach of security. Kutznetz intended for heads to roll, preferably excluding his own. The boss did not enjoy seeing company failures—of which there were few—on the news, and as such his regional head-of-security had taken steps to ensure Alert was not on site or snooping nearby; the pesky watchdogs would be oblivious.

Further measures might be necessary, so that Geso Arrhakas was, as well.

Kutznetz brought his free hand up to his face, speaking sternly into the wrist mic.

“Where are we with the missile, Emmanuel?”

There was a hiss of static as his man on the other end of the communication line scrambled to answer.

“We’ll be online and ready to fire in forty seconds,” was the frantic response from the Silo Building.

Wilhelm nodded, and then reminded his man that within the next five minutes the Osprey would have traveled out of range and the both of them would have traveled to unemployment.

Thirty-two and a half seconds later, the light on the console flicked on, a reassuring neon-green. The missile, however, did not launch.

“Is there something wrong, Emmanuel?”

The security-chief was beginning to lose patience. Once again, he was met with a hiss of static. Emmanuel, who must have been mustering courage, took a second before replying.

“Sir, it’s just that… whoever is on board is probably going to die.”

Wilhelm sighed and activated the manual override controls from the security booth. Letting go of the perspiring technician he had been standing over, the Russian rapidly typed in a series of commands, locked them in, and prepared a retort.

In the distance, the missile launched out of an unassuming silo and raced north, following in the wispy trail of the Osprey.

“There is an early-detection system and a parachute. It’ll be shot down over Lake Constance. I hope you can rest easy.”

With the threat neutralized, Kutznetz turned on his heels and headed back to his office, brushing past the usual wave of scientists, chemists, and interns.

The sore-shouldered technician turned off communication with the Silo Building, but stayed at his desk until the radar made a low whine, and the red dot flickered before disappearing. A muffled rumble echoed throughout the room, and he had no doubt smoke was rising over the Bodensee several miles away.

He then took of his headset and ran to a bathroom to throw up.
As he left the room, the lights automatically went dark.


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PostSubject: Re: Proculvisus   Tue Jan 21, 2014 8:52 pm

[3] - Countdown

It was an eerie but beautiful sight to see the flames melt into the sunset over the English Channel. Were one to clear the sidelines of toppled offices and crater-torn roads from their mind, the embers leaping into the horizon would have been awe-inspiring.

The diplomat found it awfully hard to concentrate with a pillar crushing his leg.

He did have to consider himself lucky, considering that everyone else in the building had been killed in the crash or had bled out hours after.

The injury he had sustained was not fatal alone, but the diplomat knew he would either starve or be put out of his misery by the already-at-work "Rescue" Team.

He smirked, finding the name particularly amusing. He knew that those already breaking down the walls below were not intending to rescue him, but something they deemed more valuable.

Surely enough, light began to pour into his collapsed office as the rubble came raining down. He was lucky not be crushed by any stray sound-proofing tiles or girders. When a splintered door hinge landed next to him, the diplomat realized his office was actually on its side.

Heavily accented voices echoed inside the mostly lifeless building. The diplomat recognized them as Celterran, a mixture of the old dialects known as Scottish and Irish.

He shuddered, and the pillar shifted ever so slightly, sending waves of pain up his numbing leg. If the Islefolk were already in London, the situation was as dire as ever.

It was less than an hour before the "Rescue" Team found him, whooping and shouting with glee. Finally, they had got a bloody right 'sell-er-bah-tee', finally, someone important.

Two very muscular men with bright orange hair watched over him for the rest of the morning, as their comrades cleared away portions of rubble and debris inside the spacey office.

The diplomat believed this was the furthest they had gotten, but noticed a good portion of the lower floors was not fully deconstructed. Suddenly, the clamoring and banging stopped. Now that the group was not running around the room, the diplomat noticed it was not just Islefolk, but main-landers... even several from the Asian continent.

"This, my friends, is a global effort."

The clear, well-enunciated voice echoed in the decaying floor. The diplomat knew that it was not Celterran... maybe German, or American?

It was then, past the toppled pillar, past the assembled group, the diplomat saw him. A dark green tunic, camouflage fatigues, and a mess of golden hair atop a tanned noggin'. This was a man who wanted to blend in with nature, but couldn't help but to stand out. Quite a sight.

The diplomat also knew the man was on half the world's terror-watchlists.

Morgan Dionen had arrived, and was tearing London to the ground. The city had stood for more than a thousand years, but could be ruined by a madman wearing a poncho.

"What has the world come to...?"

The diplomat was bewildered, and his response was half out of disbelief and half out of his generally sarcastic personality. The burly ginger to his left walked over and brought a meaty fist crashing into his cheek. The diplomat coughed up blood and shifted, unable to completely fall over due to the pillar.

"To its senses, I'd say."

Dionen strolled over to the trapped man, grinning through yellow teeth. He had gotten close enough for the diplomat to smell his breath. Honey, peculiarly enough.

The terrorist looked around, amazed.

"I have to hand it to these guys, they can raze a block faster than any of you 'blokes' could raise one."

He chuckled over his emphasized accent and clever joke. Dionen then paused, raised both hands for dramatic effect, then waited.

Suddenly, the entire place vibrated violently, a deafening chime reverberating off the walls. Several of the crew seemed slightly taken aback, but Dionen held his composure.

"Right on time. 250 years, and it still doesn't miss a tock. God bless."

The diplomat frowned, and noticed as the eccentric terrorist revealed some kind of holster. It was a relatively simple leather combination between a holster and a sheath; the light glinted off of what clearly was a ceremonial dagger handle of some kind.

Dionen followed the diplomat's eyes to his dagger, and nodded slowly.

"We both know what I'm here for."

The diplomats only reply was to spit in the terrorist's direction. Neither found it particularly amusing, and out came the dagger.

And one minute--on the spot--after the clock struck twelve, Matthew Fiere III was dead. Britain had lost its last politician, for better or worse.

---

As Dionen and his men exited the deceased diplomats office, the eccentric leader turned for one last look. At the far end, a large clockface stared back at him, ticking towards two. As he backed away, the clock let out another thunderous chime, and the face exploded. Glass shattered, brick disintegrated, and the Big Ben was finally destroyed.

The Preservation would retake London ahead of schedule.



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PostSubject: Re: Proculvisus   Sun Mar 30, 2014 4:30 pm


-----------------------]
Earth Day
-----------------------]


22nd of April, 2104

The leave rustled as the snake slithered along the branch. Although the light shining down on it was artificial, the serpent was content to be living in such luxurious captivity. Growing fat on mice, protected from predators by two inches of glass, and being the center of attention for hundreds each day; the snake had a nice arrangement going, even if it was unaware of his location.

The snake probably did not actually fully understand that it was a celebrity either, but the thought helped the socially-awkward reptile handler sleep--the zoo's manager didn't have the heart to say otherwise.

Genetically engineered somewhere in the Middle East, the one-of-a-kind rainbow-scaled Boa had been on display for 3 years, and probably would be moved from the zoo before the next winter came around. Tourists had flocked, but the snake wouldn't live much longer and interest in it was waning. Shiny scales only got one so far.

One last 'feature attraction' event had been issued, and the masses had crowded to view their reptilian superstar one last time.

On this particular day, a record audience had turned up to view the gorgeous serpent. Record security had been provided. Even now, a dozen men in matching russet suits circled the perimeter, clear spirals bouncing from their ears to their lapels as they walked.

The owner of the zoo--and ultimately the snake--was not going to let any tree-hugging lunatics destroy a perhaps inappropriately named 'cash-cow'.

As the manager watched the families and fans of fauna below view the snake slither in its habitat, one of those 'tree-hugging lunatics' stared right back.


The towers, Harvey decided, made the zoo look even more like a prison.

Constructed half a century earlier, the multitude of towers and walkways had been erected so the patrons could see over the entirety of the facility, as well as visit some of the avian exhibits within the towers.

Now they were no longer open to the public, and the space had been remodeled, mostly serving as the management offices.

Harvey lamented that they had not kept the cages for the real animals.

The slender figure finally averted his gaze, then sweeping the crowd for the security agents. He then checked his watch--2:00 PM--without much notice from the patrons. In the beige outfit of the janitorial staff, Harvey Kecke was invisible. The course of humanity had decided that civil service was not enviable, and thus shunned. That being said, Harvey Kecke was not a janitor, nor did he work for the zoo at all. The real janitor was actually in his megaplex apartment across the city.

Inside that colossal housing space--a crowded room with a view of even more crowded rooms--a limp figure swayed from the rafters, next to a note dated at 4:00 PM that most certainly was not written by the real janitor.


The large bell-tower on the north side of the habitat chimed loudly, and as the tiring morning crowd left, eager newcomers funneled in.

It was just as the chimes stopped that a muffled thud erupted from across the exhibits. What had once been an abandoned janitorial cart was now a smoking crater; the explosion had also removed a bench, pavement, and whole sections of the Feline cages.

Harvey waited patiently for the security to push past the crowd, clutching hands to earpieces and frantically fumbling with holsters.

As the crowd began murmuring, Harvey stood unfazed. When the first gunshots rang out, he remained unfazed. Only when the outermost edge of the zoo-patrons were screaming and running that the imposter janitor began to move.

Purposefully striding towards the tower entrance, Harvey swiped a thin rectangle of plastic through the scanner, and the door popped open with a hiss.

As the lions, lynxes, pumas, and other big-cats still above the extinction line roamed freely outside their enclosures, the admission gates burst from the pressure of so many panicking patrons.

People were crushed under footstep, trampled and stomped in a frenzy. Harvey smiled to himself in the glass-walled elevator. The humans were now the ones trapped in a zoo, while the majestic menagerie of God clawed their way to the top of the food chain once more.

Now, to clear that spot for them, Harvey thought. Holding out his janitorial prop, a broom, he broke it over a knee, dropping splintered shards onto the floor but left holding two deadly sharp stakes.

The elevator chimed open, and seven minutes later the Zoo Manager had his left lung punctured.

Harvey dropped the blood-splattered stake on the office floor next to the body. Although his hands were stained, Harvey took the time to write a short note on the desk's legal pad.

The authorities would find it later in the afternoon, as well as three mauled zoo-goers, two dead security staff, and a stake drifting in a pool of blood next to the manager.


The note read, in a neat scrawl, "Happy Earth Day."

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PostSubject: Re: Proculvisus   Mon Apr 21, 2014 2:20 pm


-----------------------]
Palácio dos Azulejos
-----------------------]


Lisbon


Dust.

Dust coated everything in La Palácio dos Azulejos. It hung like mist in the the air, it clung like a wispy wallpaper to each tile, and carpeted the ancient Juniper floorboards.

Doors that had been shut for decades crept open, the whole room stretching and groaning. As the heavy cloud shook away from the entrance, it was like a deep cough, an old man awakening to a rather rude start.

The three men who entered did not seem to mind the dust; aside from the shortest of the three coughing into a gloved hand, they hardly noticed it.

The colossal wooden doors slammed shut, behind them, and the grey coating slowly reapplied itself, drifting from where the men stood and swirling around the foyer.

In those brief minutes when the morose molecules shifted, a startling blue and white pattern taunted the visitors with glimpses of its beauty. The shortest of the three paused to wipe off his glasses on an already greying coat, but hiss colleagues stumbled around the room, clumsy and curious.

Frowning, the short man cleaned his throat dramatically and scolded the others.

"If you continue to move about so, we shall need to get my inhaler out of the car."

"We can always wait outside, Amorim."

Expensive suits, predominant self-interest, and voices full of disdain; a stranger walking by would have had no trouble identifying the three men as politicians.

The bespectacled Mr. Amorim was decidedly un-amused, and crossed his arms to pout while the third man traced the edges of an immaculate tile, unearthing the work of art from a dusty wall.

"Millgram, what are these called again?"

The second man, Millgram, butchered the pronunciation in his nasally and clearly British accent.

"Azulejos," corrected an exasperated Amorim.

The inquiring man attempted to pronounce it even less successfully than Millgram. He was American.

Although extremely miffed, Amorim took off his gloves to knead his fleshy temples with clammy hands, and made an effort once more.

"Azulejos," and there was a pause, as he squinted through foggy spectacles.

"It comes from Arabic."

The American shrugged. Neither he nor Millgram truly cared about the history as much as they did for hearing themselves speak. Amorim rolled his eyes and decided to let the integrity of a centuries old craft be disregarded.

While the native Portuguese man had a natural inclination to the tile art, neither the brit nor the American had what Amorim would argue what was refined cultural taste.

The building--once a palace, now more of a mausoleum--they were in had been a center of prayer, then later a refuge for nobility, and finally a reclusive and reluctant local attraction. Apparently, the lack of a vending machine shadowing priceless artisan relics was blasphemy to the fervently capitalist tourists; few tickets sold, and the doors locked out of necessity, barriers to the encroaching neglect that covered every surface like a somber primer.

No longer distracted by their initial bewilderment, Millgram and the American pushed past the eternal grey cloud to enter the next room.

Amorim paused paused at the archway his colleagues had just passed through, mumbling to himself in Portuguese.

The American tilted his head to Millgram, annoyed for taking French in high school all those years ago. Of course, he assumed that the small man was speaking spanish. The Brit listened for a second, then gave a rough translation.

"He didn't remember the palace being so large."

Running a finger against the tiled wall as they walked, the American hazarded a guess that Amorim had not been by recently, showing the thick grey smudge on his index.

The men laughed, then coughed as they inhaled the stale air.

In the next hallway, they waited for Amorim to catch up, sneaking only the briefest look at the artwork surrounding as to avoid a history lesson. When the bespectacled portuguese man reached them, he wavered for a moment before pointing down a smaller corridor to their right.

This path, although not as grandeur as the room the politicians had just exited, had intricacy and vibrancy in its tiles that more than made up for the size. Somehow, the grey plague of neglect had not infiltrated the majority of this section. The corridor was defined by a trail of arches overhead, like a magnificent spine looming above them. Lining either side were ancient electric lamps in traditional candle-holders. Although the building itself predated electricity by hundreds of years, the attempt to attract tourists in the 1900's had led to some innovations.

Unfortunately, the lights went dark years ago.

Unaccustomed to being in the shadow, Millgram slid a cellphone out of his suit jacket pocket, and hit redial. It picked up on the first ring, and he fired off a command in heavily accented portuguese. The line hung up, and a minute later of standing around awkwardly, a dim glow emitted from the archaic bulbs. Yellow illumination spilled onto the floor and penetrated the grey particle undergrowth. Through the dust, the tiled floor was now visible--equally beautiful as the walls.

The foreigners passed by without a second glance.

Amorim was crushed, but carried on out of duty. Once this whole debacle was done with, he decided, a big vacation to his villa in Sao Paulo would be necessary.

They approached the antique podium in the center of the grand room, and retrieved their treasure without further delay.

---

The politicians emerged from the ashen mausoleum, shaking like dogs to rid themselves of the cobwebs and the particles of neglect.

Millgram looked to the American and nodded a concise farewell. With the small box in his hand, he headed back into the streets of Lisbon.

And inside La Palacia dos Azulejos, the dust settled and piled up once more.


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PostSubject: mergery   Sat Apr 26, 2014 6:35 pm

[-----------------------
Blueshift
[-----------------------

It was a sweltering night.

The almost-assassin rested his palm against the glass, feeling a bit of a chill off it. The blasting air-conditioning in the luxury apartment certainly warded off the heat, but he couldn’t help feeling a little too chilled indoors. It was like being a cut-off lettuce in a refrigerator, and though he ought to be able to deal with it like anyone else, the chill on his skin made him feel a little old.

Not that he would get any older than 31.

“So you came up to talk?”

He turned around to face the woman sitting on the bed. His mark, a billionaire girl with too much trust. “Yes, Nyx. I need to apologize to you.”

Nyx Maderan frowned faintly and crossed her arms. “Wells, I–”

“Do you have to call me Wells?”

“Alright, okay, Atin.” She raised her hands defensively, her face softening just a bit. “But what for?”

The only thing Wells felt on the inside was boredom. Playing the part of a regular 30-year-old, apparently making up with his rich girlfriend. It was annoying how easily he had played Nyx Maderan, the shut-in girl, but now he was just buying precious time. At least things wouldn’t end boringly.

He glanced at his watch, then pretended to stop himself. “Sorry. I’m always doing that, too. It’s just…” Of course, he had made a habit of checking his watch throughout their years-long mock relationship. Everything was planned in Wells’s actions, all leading up to now, the one time when he had to check his watch.

“You just?”

It was 11:44 PM, plus 2 seconds. Quarter to midnight – no need even to say anything too clever, just to delay. “I just think that, given another chance, I would’ve been more honest with you. I know you trust me, but…”

Nyx looked at him with a mixed expression, mostly abject bewilderment. “Atin, I know we’ve fought, but what could you not have been honest about?”

Staring back, Wells found himself feeling a little sorry for her. It was the first time he could remember caring. His three years’ worth of courtship had been a plateau of apathy. “Nyx, I’ve lied more than you think, but there’s only one big thing… I don’t want you to worry – I think you’ll understand when I’ve gotten it out there.”

11:44:40 PM.

“You see,” said Wells, turning away from Nyx’s confusion, “for the past five years I’ve been working for a… well, a labor group that sometimes supplies… terror groups.”

“You can’t mean…?” Nyx whispered.

“For Vice Versa. Yes.” He leaned against the glass door onto the balcony. “To be fair, it’s a legitimate labor market, but then I learned they assist Vice Versa…”

“But why?” Nyx sounded upset. “I hired you before we got together, Atin, am I not paying you enough? I can’t have – I don’t want you working somewhere dangerous like that! Just tell me if I’m not doing enough for you.”

“No, no, no.” Wells stared out into the night, the lights of Hong Kong’s skyscrapers aglow. “It’s because I had a contract with them, from when I… had financial problems. It was a 5-year contract, and it’s actually just ended. It’s not your fault. Trust me.”

11:46:00 PM.

“Tell me you haven’t done anything else for Vice Versa. Please tell me.”

“My specialty is people.” Wells squinted at an apartment across the way… the signal apartment. The light was on, and there was a blank sign in the window. A waiting signal. “I did one job, once, for Vice Versa. I was a liaison… just an intermediary. I never did anything for them again. I don’t have any skills they need, all they do is destroy. They’re not much good at–”

Nyx’s old-type phone rang, and he turned around to look.

She was checking the call. “It’s Medyne. Must be an emergency…”

“Hm.” Wells frowned, the expression partly genuine. It was troublesome, but he had expected the call from the security chief to come. That was really why he had to be present, to keep Nyx from answering. “I’m sure it can wait. You originally hired me as a bodyguard, after all.”

Nyx laughed slightly. “Yes, I guess. Medyne’s used to taking care of the company emergencies anyway…”

Wells smiled faintly at her, thinking just how much of a fool she was to ignore the early warning. With any luck, Medyne had only learned the information he’d been fed, too late to help, but the real finisher was Nyx’s old-fashioned nature. If she had up-to-date room security, she might survive this night. But that wasn’t the case, because it wasn’t in her nature to wire her personal rooms for security.

The only wiring in the room now was for explosives.

11:47:34 PM.

“But how do I know you didn’t do more for them, Atin?” Nyx slipped the buzzing phone into her pocket and stood up, approaching him. “Sometimes we’ve been apart for pretty long times, and… I trust you, but how could you do anything for terrorists in the first place?”

“I didn’t know when I started. I swear on my presence in front of you that I didn’t work for them ever again, Nyx,” said Wells – quite truthfully. Vice Versa had the wrong ideas entirely. He had never intended to work for them.

“Your presence in front of me, huh?” Nyx padded over to him, barefoot on the carpet, and placed both hands on his chest. “I guess that’s pretty certain.”

Wells wrapped his arms around her waist as she leaned into him, uninterested and objective, considering her now. She was old-fashioned. Perhaps she was the kind of woman that would have been attractive to any indoors-sort of young man, especially from previous generations – practically a shut-in, wealthy, very well-groomed, pretty enough. To Atin Wells, she was just a mark who had taken too much of his short time on earth. He wondered if it was a shame that she was going to die so soon, too.

Nyx rested her head against his neck, the top grazing his chin, sleek hair brushing his arm.

Yes, it was probably a shame she would die. But of course Wells had no reason to feel guilt, because he wouldn’t outlast her… He looked at his watch over her shoulder.

11:48:10 PM.

“Let’s go out on the balcony for a little bit,” said Wells softly.

“Mm.” Nyx raised her head and reached behind him, pulling open the glass door.

Wells backed out and she followed, disentangling herself from him. It really was a blazing night outside, mostly the humidity’s fault. Again he remembered all of his years, and rubbed his cheek with a bit of sadness. Oh, he only really felt and missed life now, so late to feel like this…

11:48:19 PM.

The balcony was glass underfoot, a proper luxury in a megacity, without even planters around the edge of its span. Wells glanced down through the floor at the streets far, far below, tiny lights shining up at him from shops hundreds of meters down. It was a wonder to see.

“So,” said Nyx, interrupting his stare by waving her foot through his line of sight. He looked up at her – short casual skirt, legs and feet bare, tight armless shirt blank black against the city lights, slender frame propped against the railing. Yes, it was a shame that she would be gone soon. She belonged in an art gallery, or else a museum.

But she was still talking, unaware of his thoughts, dark eyes lively and shining. “I don’t want your past job to come between us. I can’t blame you for that kind of contract, even if it shouldn’t exist these days. We can’t all be moneyed hightower wankers like me. I know I don’t deserve what I’ve got, and wouldn’t give it to my kids even if I had any.”

“Aren’t you too young for kids anyway?” Wells smiled, finally letting his emotions bubble up. It wasn’t all a foul charade with Nyx. She was a great person to waste time with. Self-aware, at the very least.

She shrugged playfully. “I feel like it, but biology says otherwise. Not that biology’s my field.”

“Haha, you have a field?”

“Oh come on now, I know my fashion and literature.” Her smile faded. “But really, Atin, I care about you whatever you had to do. Vice Versa isn’t even a problem in Hong Kong these days, with people like Medyne and our police force on them…”

11:48:56 PM.

Right, Medyne… Wells had the urge to remind Nyx to check the phone whining in her pocket. She’d just brought up Medyne, after all. It would make his endgame complete and elegant. But he knew it was too early for that… not planned well enough.

He kept his eyes on Nyx, saying “I just wanted you to know,” but his attention was focused in his peripheral vision. In the apartment window he’d checked on before, across from Nyx’s bedroom balcony… the light had gone dark, and the once-blank “sign” flashed a color around its edge: violet.

It meant the timetable had shifted up all the way, all the way back from midnight. For the first time in the night, fear and excitement rose in the back of Atin Wells’s mind.

11:49:06 PM.

“And I know now, and you don’t need my forgiveness.” Nyx waves a hand. “You know better than thinking my forgiveness is important. I’ve always trusted you to do what you think is right.”

Wells nodded, acceptingly, calming down. “Thanks, Nyx… Do you remember when we first met?”

“Duh, the interview.” She laughed, crossing her arms and legs and leaning even more casually against the balcony railing. “I was insufferable, I know that. Funny to think of you as a bodyguard now… But you seemed reliable, I guess.”

11:49:20 PM.

“I tried for the sake of the interview.” He glances up at the night sky and skyglow. “Like that old-time actor who interviewed in character, stiff and stern the whole time.”

“Yes,” said Nyx dreamily, apparently half-listening. “Oh, well, yes. But that’s what you’re like. I can’t judge character worth a damn but I do know you always plan everything out. You Machiavelli.”

“Well, there’s your literature degree coming out.”

“Ha ha. Who doesn’t know Machiavelli, honestly.”

11:49:37 PM.

The phone in Nyx’s pocket buzzed again. Wells turned his gaze back down to her, knowing it was nearly time. “Why don’t you just see what Medyne has to say, Nyx.”

“Oh all right.” She yanked out the obsolete phone and hit the broadcast reply. “Yo Med, give it.”

Quick and sharp, the distressed voice of Haoru Medyne. “Nyx and whoever’s there, GET OUT! We have word someone’s laid and timed your room and towertop, probably Vice Versa, set for midnight exact.”

11:49:51 PM.

“Laid and time-…?” Nyx started to speak.

“Shut up and get out of the building,” ordered Medyne through the phone. “A bomb, only way’d be company treason. We’re coming, but Nyx, RUN.”

11:49:56 PM.

Nyx Maderan stammered and fumbled, jamming the phone into her pocket and running for the door leading back off the balcony. “Atin–”

“Vice Versa lets people go, Nyx.” Wells caught her in his arms before she could reach the door, her skin still cool. “The Preservation doesn’t.”

11:50:00 PM. Medyne hadn’t been quick enough for the Preservation’s change in plans.

In the simmering Hong Kong night, the top of the Maderanic Tower detonated in a fireball, rubble and bright flames exploding into the dark sky.

--------

At the south end of Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, a lone man in a grey flannel-print t-shirt watched the orange light erupt at the top of the skyscraper across the harbor, listening to the fuzzy transmission through his headset.

Needlepoint, this… Atin Mellifer Wells… Maderanic Objective complete, good luck… final report, falling off building… death by impact…

Soon enough, the few passersby near the grey-flannel man’s hiding spot began to realize what was happening to the Maderanic Tower, as the light of the flames on its peak silhouetted the exploded husk of the top floors. Someone screamed, and the grey-flannel man finally removed his headset and ran away from the waterfront through the shadow of a building, his body language appearing just as distressed as the other onlookers’.

He knew perfectly well that the smile on his face was invisible in the night.


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PostSubject: Re: Proculvisus   Sun Apr 27, 2014 10:00 pm


-----------------------]
Operation Henry
-----------------------]


Caracas, Venezuela

The two gentlemen in charcoal suits did not appear to be enjoying the party.

To be fair, perhaps it was because the event they were attending was not necessarily invited.

The man on the left held his hands up to his partner in the shape of a triangle; a tent. This ensemble was more akin to a circus. They both shook in what should have been laughter, but neglect of practice had resulted in becoming the image of feverish twitching.

If one still upheld the notion that the swirling, manic, sweaty tangle of people was indeed a party, it should also be assumed that the overdressed gentlemen were not invited.

The two men they came to find at the party would have preferred they did not crash, and even better stay out of the country.


As the euphoric assembly continued the merry festival, the two men lurched forward through the throng of the excited. Although their tan complexion mirrored that of the native Venezuelans, neither spoke their language and kept their mouths shut to avoid suspicion.

Not that anyone at this convergence of flesh would be able to tell Hebrew apart from Arabic, or Arabic from Turkish. Those that were not yet lucid and inebriated from the rising smoke from the floors of the mansion might argue that all languages would be irrelevant, but they would say this all in Spanish and have to concede--embarrassingly--should the suited gentlemen stare back at them blankly.

That hypothetical confrontation aside, neither of the two Middle-Eastern men were talking to any of the mundane party-goers, and instead approached two locked doors made of two different--and now extinct--tree logs.

There they held their gaze until a repetition of popping emerged behind them. Either Champagne was being opened or sparklers were being lit; the additional noise to the clamor of the party was all the men were waiting for, and four gunshots were neatly concealed in the commotion.

It helped that the men's guns were silenced.

In the room on the left, the agent who went by the code-name "Prince" found a makeshift dorm, where many party-goers had found themselves passed out and snoring. One older man with scraggly hair and wicked eyes was slinking through the darkened bunks, attempting to take advantage of a drooling girl. A quick flash of light illuminated the room, with "fwip" echoing like thunder immediately after. The would-be assailant fell to a bloody knee, crippled for life; the Prince turned towards the door he came in through, unable to hide is disgust and wondering if a more northern bound injury would have better suited the crime. The priceless door swung shut after him, the hinge squeaking and then falling off completely.

The agent who entered to the right--known for this mission as Navigator--had somewhat more goal-oriented success rather than moral victory.

Ignoring the discharge next door, the Navigator arched his feet so as to avoid creaking floorboards and alarming the three men on the open balcony a few meters away.

The three men were in a very relaxed state, one of them leaning over a glass-paneled railing and one slouching while gnawing a contraband metal tube--the last remnants
of electronic tobacco products. The last man was actually reclined in an antique patio chair, ready to doze off in the middle of his conversation. The leaning man had a green poncho draped over him and khakis, a stark contrast to the military fatigues of the smoker and the unbuttoned silk shirt of the napper.

Leaning a muscular frame against a wooden support in the middle of the room (made of the same timber as the door), a hand slipping down to flick a small switch on a waist-held pager. An inaudible ping was received by the drone flying hundreds of feet above them, which promptly turned direction and headed back north.

The smoking man interrupted the silence.

"Europe?"

The question hung in the air like his artificial smoke, until the poncho'd man shrugged.

"I was in Scotland last month, and I'm due back in a week to clean up Wales."

The drowsy man used one hand to clutch his forehead and used the other to steady himself up in the chair.

"London was a masterpiece, by the way," he slurred, eyelids fluttering with inebriation.

The poncho-wearing individual pressed off against the balcony to straighten up, then dramatically bowed, strikingly blond hair flipping over his celebrity face.

The military man raised hands like he was going to clap, but then decided to scratch his beret and straighten his pencil-thin mustache instead. When the beret fell to the ground with a soft thud, the man in the poncho bent back down to pick it up.

Handing over the hat with carefully manicured hands, he found that the mustachioed colonel was staring ahead blankly. One eye twitched shut, arms fell limply to his sides, and a thin trickle of blood-red.... well, it was blood-red because it was blood. The line slid down the bridge of his nose and flowed with the thin arch of hair upon his lip. Drip, drip, drip, onto the floor.

The man in the poncho shot an angry glare to the beret that was now clenched tightly in his polished grip.

Indeed, the fabric had been penetrated, leaving a minuscule hole, a mere ripple in the scrunched cloth.

Looking back up to the colonel, the blond man saw an identical indent, the source of the bloodstream. It was then finally that the two--the disgruntled Prince had joined the Navigator in the suite--men in suits, wearing grim expressions and holsters under Ar&Am jackets, walked forward.

The beret dropped to the floor.

The man lying on the chair coughed out a swear in Italian, and tried to get up.

He never made it to his feet. As soon as the silk shirt parted further to reveal a holster of his own, the men turned on him; silencers stared him down and spit out a curse of their own.

There was another round of fwips, and the Italian-speaking man was forced backwards, his loose shirt flapping as he stumbled and broke through the glass barrier. He plummeted to the rocks below... thud, thud, thud, crack, splash.

The man in the poncho had the good common sense to get to his knees and join the lifeless colonel on the floor. The Navigator muttered something in his native language to the Prince, who merely smiled.

"¿Qué?" yelped the blond man in a nearly fluent accent.

"¿Qué quieres?"

The Prince shot off a query in German, French, and then in English when he saw the blank expression of an otherwise terrified face.

"We merely find it humorous that the man who stormed London is wetting himself on the floor of his own bedroom."

The two agents shared another shaking fit, but kept their guns trained on the man.

"Y-y-you killed Enrico! And Floren!" stuttered out the bewildered host.

"When signore Fanzetti wishes to pull his gun on us, courtesy goes out the door. As for the colonel, he was a nuisance and a bonus."

"He was turning to see who was there!"

"Mr. Dionen, do you see an officer of the law here to take your statement?"

The Preservation celebrity began sobbing. Another twenty seconds of begging for his life passed, and the Prince lumbered forward to smack Dionen across the face with the handle of his gun.

"Mr. Dionen, we are going to take your life, despite your requests."

Dionen, although indignant about being physically assaulted, found it in him to faint then and there.

The Prince picked up the limp figure and tossed him over a thick shoulder.

"We are going to take your life," the other agent repeated.

"But we are not going to kill you."

A second switch was flicked on the pager. Three minutes later, after a guided missile rained down from an altitude above the clouds, obliterating a luxury electric car outside the mansion (formerly Dionen's expensive transport) and the party began emptying out into a frenzy within the driveway, the two suited gentlemen calmly brought their captive outside. Fanzetti was dead, Dionen captured, and maximum property damage was ensued.

The Prince was quickly lost in the crowd despite the notably large duffel bag held tightly, and the Navigator waited several minutes before unchaining a bike and pedaling away from the mansion at great haste.

By nightfall, Dionen would be in a freighter headed across the Atlantic, and around the cape of Africa, while neither agent would be seen in the Americas ever again.

Operation Henry was concluded.

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Last edited by Arty on Sun Nov 30, 2014 1:51 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: mergerism   Tue Apr 29, 2014 3:27 pm


[-----------------------
Devil Mask
[-----------------------

When he walked into the kitchen, the 6 AM broadcast was on, with dire news. In the corner by the sink, Leah was watching the news from the wallset intensely, only half-paying attention to the eggs frying on the stove.

“… the top of the Maderanic Tower was destroyed in a fiery explosion last night that killed at least 20 people, including Nyx Maderan herself along with former bodyguard Atin Wells. The terrorist alliance Vice Versa is suspected in orchestrating this attack, but a statement has already been released by its leader Iro Apodiem, denying responsibility.

“Despite this, MaderanCo’s security chief Haoru Medyne says that the attack was consistent with Vice Versa’s methods, reporting that the attack was known about only three minutes beforehand, too late to reach the famously reclusive Ms. Maderan. As of this morning, fire crews have stemmed the blaze and are searching for survivors…”

The one-anchor local monocast way of news got things across, though it was a quaint way of doing things. Jeravis collapsed into a chair, sprawling like a puppet. “What I wanna know is, why target Nyx Maderan out of all the people in Hong Kong if you’re not going to get the money?”

“Well, the money should be locked up safe.” Leah didn’t even glance at him.

Code talk between them, very simple. The collateral benefit from the Maderanic Objective had been secured long before.

Now that the incident was all over the news, today was the day for the real benefit.

But it was only 6 in the morning, and they hadn’t even had breakfast yet. Jeravis glanced at the stove. “Anyway, Leah, aren’t those done already?”

“Oh sh-” She pushed the pan over and punched off the heat. “Thanks, just distracted. Yeah, they’re done.”

Some people might call the pair of them fanatics based on their organizational affiliation, but if he were ever told so, Jeravis figured he would have to ask them if fanaticism was really a 7-4 weekly job that two working-class roommates would share.

“Have you gotten a shower then, Leah?” He yawned, stretching awkwardly in the kitchen chair, nearly hitting his shin on the table pedestal.

“Yeah. So we’ve got plenty of time.”

Leah Ratigan was, to be frank, the less feminine of the two. Short bleached-bark-colored hair, sandy eyes, a sandy tan. She stood out a bit in Hong Kong, even in the age of cultural homogeny, but she was easily disguised.

And then him, Jeravis Akkadera. He smirked at his faint reflection in the table, an effeminate and rangy fop with complete simple heterochromia, turquoise and orange-brown in one eye each. He and Leah were most effective together, a dynamic duo. They looked as if they could be complementary ascetics, or partners in crime, or waiting superheroes.

They were, of course, only expendable faces for the Preservation.

“Where’re we supposed to go today?”

Leah finished preparing the breakfast plates, sliding Jeravis’s eggs and salad in front of him. “Heading out to try recording something, hopefully to get it out there.”

“That’s right… sounds good to me.” Jeravis picked up his fork and speared some amaranth. “At this rate we’ll be there by 7 sharp.”

Today was the day.


--------


The multitudes of people on Hong Kong’s pedestrian walking streets always impressed Leah, even on a day like this. No, wait, especially on this day.

She scratched her head absently, canvas handbag in her other hand, wending through the crowd beside Jeravis. Making a difference was really what the day would be about. Yes, her role was only as a face, or a soon-to-be voice. But she was helping something beyond.

“Sure you’ve got the address right?” she said, glancing at Jeravis.

“Of course I do.” He squinted his mismatched eyes, looking for landmarks along the elevated walkway. “Or of course I’m sure, whatever. It’s right up there.”

“Does that address our problem?”

Jeravis punched her in the shoulder. “Come on, that one was awful. We’re here anyway.”

He veered right and Leah followed, taking a side-branch of the walkway over to the glass second-story entrance of a tower. It appeared to be one of the old-style towers, refurbished but distinctive. Presumably that was why they were going there, because of its age.

The interior rooms were too old to be properly bugged.

“I assume you aren’t residents,” said the voice of a doorman as they approached. No one was in sight, the sound coming from one of the speakers in the outer wall. “Have an appointment?”

“Yes, uh… Meeting and studio time from 7 AM onward.” Jeravis nodded.

“Got a name of your approver?”

“Yes, Sauryn Ulkiban.” Leah stepped up closer to the door.

“Mhm, that all checks out.” There was a scratching sound. “Right, mister Ulkiban’s on his way down to see you. Thanks.”

The doors folded open, and the two of them walked in, passing through the localized cold wave of the space between the outer and inner doors. Once inside, it was warmer again, much like the morning outside, for the sake of the dwarf fruit trees that took up much of the space in the atrium.

Leah looked around for the elevator, ignoring Jeravis’s interest in the starfruit trees nearby, but only found it when a beep sounded. Sauryn Ulkiban emerged from the opening doors soon after the tone, brushing past foliage as he strode over. “Mr. Akkadera, Ms. Ratigan, nice to see you here in good time. Shall I bring you over to the studio and we’ll talk there?”

Ulkiban was not the kind of man Leah had expected, bulkier and more businesslike than he had seemed over a Multiweb conversation. But he was without a doubt the one they were looking for. She inclined her head. “Lead on, Mr. Ulkiban.”

It was a short ways to the building’s center, and it seemed Ulkiban intended for them to use a second-level studio, the floor they were already on. It was hardly any distance to the room, number 212, where he ushered them in towards the set-up armchairs.

Once they were seated and the door onto the corridor well-shut, the studio manager leaned heavily against the wall. “Alright, you two. The studio’s insulated. This is about as safe an open conversation as we’re going to get. You know your lines and what you’ll have to do?”

Jeravis and Leah exchanged glances before the former spoke. “Well, you’ll be helping us with the backlighting, but we’re on our own for the broadcast. After that, we’ll see what happens.”

“All good.” Ulkiban nodded. “That’s the most you can hope for. I won’t ask what you know… Good luck.”

Leah smiled wanly at the studio operator as he headed out into the recording control room. She wasn’t afraid. Not yet.

“Let’s do this thing, Jeravis.”

He nodded, and they moved their seats as close together as they would go, their arms and the chairs’ arms touching. The camera had a narrow field, and it was best to send out a minimal broadcast anyway.

The wall behind them shone white, and the warning light of the camera in front of them flashed red, orange, yellow…

As the light approached violet and they prepared to speak, the overhead lights went dark.


--------


Moscow, Russia: the Kremlin

The man jabbed out instructions on his wristpad, his decidedly eastern-European brow furrowed in concentration.

Operations well-planned were not his style. Nothing was his “style”. He was the embodiment of contained unpredictability – or at least he tried to be. He had to set an example, even for chaos, and even if it was the hardest task he could imagine.

For the moment he, Iro Apodiem, was concerned with the way things were taking shape in former Tajikistan. An Otherwise research preserve had managed to fight off a surprise attack by Vice Versa forces, apparently quite easily. He was determined that things would go differently the next time. It did not do to lose simple battles like that.

Moreover, it was a spiritual defeat. Otherwise was Vice Versa’s natural enemy; a corporation of that power was antithetical to chaos, stifling the fires that would give birth to a new civilization.

But there was no group stronger than Otherwise. So now Apodiem was giving orders to take a different approach in attacking them, perhaps a strike that would hit closer to the heart-

“Shai Apodiem, chē nenyu jōs vefal!”

“Dēv chrōd?” Apodiem turned, alarmed. One of the young Vice Versa guards at the Kremlin – Ally, was that his name? – was rushing in, agitatedly pointing at the powered-down screen wall.

“Australochina-”

By the time Ally finished the word, Apodiem had powered up the screen wall and flicked to the broadcast announcement from southern China, in which two figures in two chairs were speaking, silhouetted black against a brilliant white background.

“Hello, Hong Kong. We are sure you know who we are. Just as with all things, panic and chaos will give way.

“We are speaking out to claim responsibility for the attack on the Maderanic Tower in the night. Nyx Maderan and her company were symbols of old and stale ways, impediments to the growth of civilization. Our gesture with the Maderanic Tower is merely a symbol of our resolve.

“But Vice Versa can do more for civilization than one tower’s worth.”

The figures onscreen spoke in alternation, female and male, but Apodiem barely noticed as he seethed. He had released a statement denying responsibility for that Maderanic Tower incident already. Vice Versa had broken off operations in Hong Kong – HE had broken off operations in Hong Kong years ago, and this was not the time he was about to return there. Who had the audacity to mimic Vice Versa? Who had the authority to conduct something like this?

And yet the figures continued talking. “We have not been idle. The Maderanic Tower serves as both a symbol and a test. We have wired all of Hong Kong just like it, with help from on high, within the city.”

Apodiem froze. Under his leadership, Vice Versa had made threats before, killed crowds before, even blown up parts of cities before, but this was on another order. This was oxymoronic, planned chaos. And he had no idea what these figures wanted.

“We are giving the citizens of this zone a chance to evacuate. There is no need to panic; all of you in Hong Kong proper have 40 hours to get off the island. We will be merciful. But we are watching the skies and seas, and will allow boats and planes to depart only in the final two hours of the deadline. We do not guarantee your safety. That is the nature of chaos.

“Please do not rely on the police force to catch us. Stubbornness will get no reward from us. Evacuate or else.

“Civilization breeds chaos, and Vice Versa. Make the right choice, Hong Kong.”

As the broadcast cut out, Iro Apodiem cried out in wrath, rising and kicking over his unsteady chair. Vice Versa was not behind this conspiracy. It was an outright framing, a black mark on his agenda.

But now, maybe Vice Versa could stop this conspiracy.


--------


On the way out of the studio tower, Jeravis checked his wristscreen only briefly. 8:05 AM.

“Have a good day,” said the doorman’s voice, though there was a faintly audible change in his tone from earlier.

“Yep.” Leah tossed up her hand in a sideways thumbs-up, a boyish and out-of-touch gesture, but only half-paying attention.

Out on the pedestrian walkway, everyone was panicked or confused, some people watching a replay of the ultimatum supposedly from Vice Versa, others running to get back to their homes. Jeravis and Leah stopped short, showing as much surprise as anyone who had yet to hear of the warning, and looked at their wristscreens almost in unison, going to load local announcements.

As the warning played on both of their screens, Jeravis leaned toward Leah, murmuring “Now we’ll see.”

“Now we’ll wait,” came her reply.

It was time to go home and pack up.

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PostSubject: Re: Proculvisus   Fri May 02, 2014 10:48 pm

[-----------------------
Nexus Sinicus
[-----------------------

Hong Kong International Airport

Arran Vesara was perfectly happy to get off the flying wing, even as comfortable a ride as it was. He had an appointment, and he lived for business – though not business as usual.

As he hoisted his lone luggage out of the path of an aggrieved-looking attendant, moving smoothly out of her way and into the rush of the crowd, he wondered where his Vice Versa allies were. Certainly he was not the only one the organization had sent. But with the threat hanging over Hong Kong, there were not a lot of people arriving to the area now. He would end up finding his partner, if he could make his way through the mobs of hysterical city-dwellers waiting to depart.

Speaking of hysteria…

As he reached the middle of the throng, he extracted a little sheet of plastic-like material from his pocket, crumpling it in his hand and dropping it before he pushed through to the other side.

Vesara turned a corner, heading into the entrance of the men’s bathroom, as the dropped sheet of lastinicn exploded in the middle of the crowd.

Chaos could not be planned.


--------


In the headquarters of the Hong Kong Police Department, up in the Commissioner’s Office, the commissioner herself was barely keeping still, impatiently reading off the recent reports from one of the wallscreens in the room.

Of course the terrorists’ deadline loomed over the city, and on top of that, small-time crime as usual went on – for the moment. There were small incidents everywhere – a spate of attempted car robberies, apartment damage, domestic violence, stress and panic.

But there were more serious things going on: police boats and a small plane destroyed in remote attacks, apparently to emphasize the recent ultimatum, and a deadly lastinicn explosion at one of Hong Kong Airport’s terminals.

Commissioner Coldwater frowned. That last one didn’t seem to be related to the main current terror threat to Hong Kong Island, given its remoteness and different target, but lastinicn was seldom found outside terrorists’ arsenals in the present day. An investigation had already been set out on it, though, and she hoped it would find the culprit. One set of terrorists was quite enough. She didn’t want to have to seal off the city from incoming traffic, even if outgoing traffic was halted.

In reality, though she would never say so, the one set of terrorists was already too much for the Hong Kong Police to handle.

Hong Kong was far away from the war going on in the other parts of the world – full-scale battle with Vice Versa raging in western Russia and eastern Europe, as well as parts of Mexico. At the moment, the threat from the chaotic terrorists was actually staving off an entirely different international war – that incipient war, of course, being against Otherwise. But as the huge corporation had virtually no presence in the area of Hong Kong, shut out long ago by MaderanCo, Coldwater did not concern herself with its doings in the rest of the world.

What she did concern herself with was the state of Hong Kong’s police. In her five-year tenure as Police Commissioner, she had trimmed the force immensely, making sure that the remaining officers were more loyal and perceptive than their forbears, at least to her standards. The Marine Region force and vehicle fleet had especially been downsized. As such, not everyone personally liked her, but that would never change. What mattered was that her force trusted her, and everyone trusted her force, and that way was enough.

It was quite enough.

But now with the terrorists…

Given their attack on the Maderanic Tower and their random destruction of boats and planes, they already had the advantage. They had planned this, and Hong Kong would pay for not noticing.

Commissioner Neville Coldwater ran a hand over her buzz-cut hair and checked her watch. 9:10 AM. 14 hours for her force to find a solution to the ultimatum the terrorists had sent out. 14 hours for everyone on Hong Kong Island to prepare for the worst, to prepare to board boats or planes in the last hours, in case the police could not find a way to stop the terrorists.

Already, Coldwater could imagine the city’s reaction to a failure by the police. Everyone was counting on them, counting on the terrorists being proved wrong. Surely Hong Kong would not and could not fall to Vice Versa the way that Russia did.

The commissioner was absolutely determined it would not fall to Vice Versa.

She smiled a tiny smile.

Oh, and that was right. The ultimatum announcement said that the terrorists had help from “on high”. And who was higher in Hong Kong than the Chief Executive? That would be-

“Commissioner?”

Coldwater turned, surprised. Someone at the door. “Yes, come in.”

The door opened, and Detective Tsang emerged into the room. “We’ve just brought in two suspected of making the Vice Versa video. Ops Commissioner Sung sent us to retrieve them after we were tipped off by a doorman about a man and woman using a studio at the exact time the Message was being broadcast. Thought you should know. Did you want to deal with them yourself? I’ve got to get out to the apartment sweep.”

“Thanks for thinking of me.” Neville Coldwater rose from her chair and headed for the door. “It’s good to get off the desk side. I’ll see them in interro.”


--------


“Do we have everything?” yelled Jeravis into the corridor, stuffing the last of his shirts into his backpack.

There was a muffled “just getting the shower curtain” from Leah, in the bathroom.

“Alright, we need to get going! I don’t think we want to be stragglers huffing and puffing down to the docks-” Jeravis stopped short, suddenly hearing something – knocking?

He zipped up the backpack and set it down, running for the main door. “Coming, one second…”

When he opened the door, he was greeted by the sight of two officers present outside, one staring in at him, the other away. “This is the Hong Kong Police. Are you Jeravis Akkadera?”

“Y-yes, speaking…” Jeravis sputtered slightly. “Do you need me to let you in?”

“That would be preferable,” said the officer dryly. “You are wanted for questioning at the police headquarters. I hope I do not need to read you your rights in full before we arrive.”

Jeravis opened the door cautiously, and the officers entered, glancing around at the stripped furnishings. Of course he and Leah had been preparing to leave the city after the announcement went out, and everything removable had been packed up in haste. The officers did not look surprised.

“Leah Ratigan! You are wanted for questioning.”

In a few seconds, she emerged from the storage room, dragging two of the luggages and looking flustered. “Sorry, sorry! I didn’t hear you come in. I know my rights and I’ll come quietly.”

“Thank you.” Despite holding a shock pistol at the ready, the first officer seemed quite calm. “These are extra-ordinary circumstances, so if you wish, we will have your luggage brought to police storage for the time being. It is best that you not have to come back to here if you are done packing.”

“So do you not expect to stop the terrorists?” asked Jeravis, knowing what the answer would be.

“We are not at liberty to say.” The second officer finally spoke up. “However, if you are done packing, there is no point in leaving your belongings here, wherever you may end up. Now, let’s go.”

As the police ushered him and Leah out the door, Jeravis glanced back at the luggages lying in the dining room. Even the table and cabinets were dismantled and packed.

No matter, the police promised to bring things along, and worrying about possessions wouldn’t get him anywhere anyway. It was time to talk to the commissioner…


--------


Commissioner Neville Coldwater looked in through the old-fashioned one-way mirror thoughtfully. There they were, the likely suspects, looking a little bored and a little anxious on their separate sides of the interrogation divider. A pale girlish boy with mismatched eyes, a boyish girl with sandy eyes and skin and hair.

“They’re probably just decoys or throwaways, given our luck so far.” Coldwater sighed and glanced at the Ops Commissioner, Sung. “But I’ll see what I can get out of them. I’ll record things, so don’t worry about it.”

“Understood, Neville.” Sung nodded and withdrew. “I need to get back to the analysis. More heads on that, the better.”

As Sung departed down the hallway, Coldwater slipped into the interrogation room, taking her place in the main seat. The two suspects stared back at her, from their separate cones of silence – the setup of the fans and mirrored walls ensured they could neither see nor hear each other, only Coldwater.

Not that it was necessary this time.

“Let’s get this over with,” said Coldwater.


--------


Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon

Mesko Kalimesko leaned out the window, staring over top of the herbs in the planter sill outside, searching for someone in the road who looked right.

Worry and confusion were beginning to spread in the narrow apartment streets of the area north of Hong Kong’s harbor, but not to the level of the panic taking place on Hong Kong Island. At least not the panic she had heard about – Kalimesko hadn’t been there at all, as Arran Vesara and another Vice Versa agent had already been sent to that side of the harbor. Iro Apodiem was betting on someone helping to pull the strings of the copycat terrorist conspiracy from Kowloon instead, and he had sent Kalimesko there to find that person.

If she did say so herself, Kalimesko was the very best for that job.

Her talent was reading people. She was not very good at interacting, nor manipulating – she had long ago made the decision to specialize only in finding their weak points. It wouldn’t have mattered in the past, before Vice Versa, when she had always worked as part of a team… but now she would just have to do her best alone.

She was tasked with finding and destroying anyone in Kowloon associated with the Vice Versa copycats. Where to begin?

Kalimesko watched the street below, assessing the passersby and the few stall owners she could see. Of course none of them were her target. The chances were so low of finding an unknown quarry that way. Perhaps she needed to think the other way around?

Though she didn’t want to think about it, she knew that the copycats were surely already waiting for Vice Versa to arrive.

Resigned, she turned away from the window and dug through the pile of clothes on the bed, looking for a good shirt and some underwear. Maybe she was not as good a fit for the job as she thought. There were only so many hours left on the terrorists’ timetable, and if she couldn’t get her job done…

Best not to think too hard about it.

As Mesko Kalimesko dressed in the semidarkness, she wondered where in Kowloon she could go to make herself more conspicuous. Her prey would just have to come to her.


--------


Vice Versa did not do nearly as well as it should when pitted against an adversary with a plan. In Hong Kong, the situation was worse for them – they had had no presence for years. Plenty of time for another entity to make itself comfortable.

The man in the grey flannel was down at the harbor waterfront, looking over the water with a worried look on his face and no trace of worry in his mind. Vice Versa was so far behind that he had been able to gamble in advance on who they would send to stop his organization. His gamble was right, of course, and they had sent the obvious choice to root him out: Mesko Kalimesko, the Holmesian monomaniac with an eye for unidentifiables. He had just gotten word of her arrival in Kowloon.

His talent was a perfect foil for Kalimesko: blankness. Other than perhaps his attire, it was hard to say anything in particular about him, mainly due to his cultivation of blandness. He was mixed-race and of medium age, an unaccented speaker of at least English and Cantonese, without much outward personality. It was all very fortuitous for his business.

Needlepoint looked up at the sky, wondering how long it would be until the deluge came. He had no watch on him. He didn’t really belong with the time-checkers, the obsessive lackeys - Preservation or Vice Versa - who scurried about their mapped-out lives until it was their turn to die. The way Wells had been. Unlike them, he was overseeing the operation in Hong Kong for the long run.

So he wouldn’t waste his time with Kalimesko, at least not enough time for her to harm him. It was a shame he would have to find a way of disposing of her, but everything done by the Preservation carried that guilt. It was simply too late to think of any other solution.

There were three objectives in Hong Kong. One completed, one in line, one pending.

Needlepoint leaned against the railing, casually turning his back on Hong Kong Island, only waiting for the absent Kalimesko to figure things out and walk into the trap.

As long as all went well on the island side…


--------


Detective Tsang Reisun threw down the piece of lining wall and crushed it under his foot.

“Dammit.”

The surface layers of the wall inside the apartment had been cut away, and there was an explosive-tripping wire inside. He had needed to see for himself, but with the reports coming in from the random sampling of apartments across Hong Kong Island’s built-up areas, there was no denying it: the terrorists were not bluffing. Despite the different setups of the wiring in different buildings, every apartment they searched was well-set for annihilation.

Evacuation was looking inevitable.

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PostSubject: Re: Proculvisus   Sat May 10, 2014 4:08 pm

[-----------------------
Blowout
[-----------------------

Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon

The haze above the harbor sieved the white sunlight over Hong Kong, the net effect bright but somehow overcast, a sullen kind of cheer.

It was not a cool day by any measure, but there was a man sitting on a bench that overlooked the empty waters of Hong Kong harbor, wearing a grey flannel t-shirt despite his seat in the sun. Were the other details important? The weather, likely not; the waters, yes – no ships dared traverse the harbor, with the threat of terrorists fresh in everyone’s mind.

Reading the atmosphere wasn’t her objective. Were there other details about the man?

Mesko Kalimesko glanced at his back, approaching the waterfront tangentially.

The man on the bench was one of the only people out along the southern edge of Kowloon. There were other passersby, but few were willing to spend much time in view of the threatened island side. Boat explosions had already been reported from that opposite shore – why would anyone want to stick around for more of that, even if it was all the way across the harbor?

And given the man’s pure ordinariness otherwise, Kalimesko was certain he was one of the copycat terrorists, perhaps even a higher-up. He was one of those rare people that even she would not normally notice, let alone be able to read. Slippery and unidentifiable. Valuable, for that reason.

By being there in plain sight, he was just taunting her and Vice Versa. Though he had no expression, his body language neutral, Kalimesko was sure of it.

His gaze followed a passing jogger for a second, then he turned around and looked expectantly at Kalimesko, many meters away. “Mesko, there you are! Come and sit.”

She narrowed her eyes at him, realizing his entire… self had just changed. Everything about him read positive towards her, indistinguishable from a close friend, hoping she would chat with him. The feathers of his soul had shifted. He was…

He was making up for her lack of acting skill. Any passersby would think she was just annoyed with him, because he was going far beyond pretending his role: he’d taken on someone else’s emotions for the moment. And now if she were rude to him, passersby would only think she was mad at him.

All based on the personality he read off the jogger?

“Aren’t you a sly one,” she said, and turned to approach him.

“It’s for your sake.” The grey-flannel man smiled, genuinely. “Thank you for coming. Now what would you like to talk about?”


--------


“In the aftermath of the ultimatum against Hong Kong allegedly by Vice Versa, with less than 12 hours left on the terrorists’ deadline, the populace of Hong Kong Island is emptying. Everyone is departing for the docks and airport, waiting for the signal for safe passage to be given…”

While passing through the shadows of the overhead walkways, Arran Vesara watched the news playing on his wristscreen. The copycats were seeing no opposition thus far, and though he had arrived with a plan, he was far behind them. Iro Apodiem had wagered that the imitator terrorists were well-established in Hong Kong, given Vice Versa’s abandonment of the region years earlier – so the instructions Apodiem had given the three agents were to undermine where possible, but not to be discouraged if they could not stop the evacuation of Hong Kong Island.

Either three agents would stop the plot, or no one would.

One of the major problems for Vesara was that he was unable to contact the other agent on Hong Kong Island. An hour earlier, he had checked in with Kalimesko in Kowloon, the second agent, and she confirmed that the third agent was radio-silent. So much for coordination of efforts – Vesara was missing the information that the third agent was carrying, and he would have to go on his own.

His current destination was the Hong Kong Police Headquarters, where he had business with the commissioner. Not everything was unfamiliar to Vice Versa in Hong Kong, and especially not the police.

After all, Commissioner Neville Coldwater had driven Iro Apodiem out of South China.


--------


“Someone in to see you, Commissioner, say they have information on Vice Versa.”

“Let them in, then!” Coldwater looked up at Sung, immediately alert and rising from her chair.

The Ops Commissioner gave her a fleeting meaningful look before withdrawing to usher in a dark-skinned man with pale eyes, unmistakably a foreigner. Coldwater indicated the seat in front of her multi-parted desk, and the man sat down, impassive.

“Hello, Commissioner Neville. Interesting to meet you now.”

She pushed her chair back and sat down as well. “I take it you have more experience with Vice Versa than just information. You are one of them, aren’t you?”

The dark-skinned man shrugged. “Let’s say yes.”

“Finally I can ask one of you people – why are you coming back now, and how? Do you know how pathetic Apodiem was when I chased him out of Hong Kong like a hawk chases a sparrow?”

“Given your line of work, I think only honesty would surprise you,” said the man. “So let me surprise you. Vice Versa is not behind this plot, and really you should have guessed that by the level of planning involved. Are you going to ask what my name is?”

“No, I am not.” Coldwater clasped her hands and leaned on the center desk. “You are Arran Vesara, a Western European agent of Vice Versa traveling under an alias, probably chosen to come here because you can speak English. Ever since you were identified on the way out of Hong Kong airport this morning, I have known that this plot is not Apodiem’s direct doing, and that you are here to communicate with me. I allowed you to come here even after your stunt with the lastinicn was realized because we can contain you in this building; I have not announced that the terrorists are non-Vice Versa because Vice Versa deserves to be reviled.”

“We don’t-” Vesara began to speak, but the commissioner slammed her hands on the table, cutting him off.

“Do not speak down to me, Little Arran. We know who arrives in this city. This is not your base in the backwaters of Europe. Even your friend Kalimesko in Kowloon is being tracked by our branches on that side.”

“Then why don’t you find the real terrorists?”

Coldwater stared into the eyes of the foreign terrorist. “Hong Kong is teetering on the brink of a fatal allergy, Vesara. We expelled Vice Versa because they were a foreign body, but the new terrorists are part of our own body, a cancer that we might not be able to destroy without losing innocents.”

“I thought only doctors did no harm, Commissioner Neville.” Vesara smirked and relaxed, his pale eyes contemptuous. “But does it really matter? What I’m here to ask you is to send out that announcement you haven’t gotten to. Tell the people that this isn’t us. Vice Versa isn’t here.”

“Give me a reason.”

“We don’t want the credit for this because we are honest terrorists, Commissioner Neville. Chaos doesn’t have to make liars out of us all.” Arran Vesara suddenly jerked forward in his chair, putting his hands on Coldwater’s. “But you should do it because you care about this place, don’t you? You don’t want the people of Hong Kong to have to live in fear of Vice Versa, like I see every day across Europe. You can stop that terror from descending here.”

Coldwater looked at his hands on hers for a moment, then stood up and abruptly kicked him under the desk, upending his chair. “I guess you don’t know me that well, Vesara. If Iro wanted me to broadcast his message, he should’ve come himself. I would’ve done him that favor.” She raised her voice. “Someone, take this idiot away.”

Vesara had barely risen from his fallen chair when the door guard entered to cuff him. Coldwater turned her back on both of them, searching for something on the wallscreen, before the guard asked “Where’ll I be putting him, Commissioner?”

“Keep him shackled. If we evacuate, send him out with the leading police escort.”

“Understood,” said the guard, but as he and Vesara left the room, Coldwater heard a quiet laugh from the terrorist.

Her jaw tightened. If even Vice Versa had no idea how to stop things…

Then the evacuation would proceed.


--------


On the rooftop for a rare break, Tsang Reisun glanced at his switched-off wristscreen. His eyes were bloodshot in the reflection, and he snorted, looking away at the forest of skyscrapers that lined the north end of Hong Kong Island. Of course he was tired. Everyone was tired.

All leads were going nowhere and nothing else was forthcoming. The terrorists were good, even better than Vice Versa normally was. This had been planned for a long time, worked into the system somehow. How could every apartment building be wired, with the perpetrators untrackable? The electricians who’d worked on the buildings were either as confused as anyone or, in most cases, dead – since most of the skyscrapers were retrofitted and looked efficient from the outside, but were quite old.

What disturbed Detective Tsang and his colleagues the most was that everything was clearly an inside job, one that could never have been undone in 40 hours.

The police were taking what precautions they could. All the residents of Hong Kong Island were being advised to evacuate to the harbor or airport, or anywhere a proper escape vehicle was available. The security of evacuation was unclear: though the terrorists had destroyed several boats and two planes to emphasize their point, there seemed to be no explosives in any other transwater vehicles examined. Tsang hated the idea of sending anyone out in vehicles of uncertain safety, but what other options were left?

If it truly was a Vice Versa plot, then retreating to Hong Kong Island’s mountainous slopes would only provoke a lethal ground attack.

That was the true fear the police had, and part of the reason why they were so stymied. It frustrated Tsang. The attack did not seem like Vice Versa’s style at all, so planned and executed in a narrow window. Virtually the entire force agreed, but Commissioner Coldwater had done no more than to urge caution, without taking action or elaborating on her own thoughts. Tsang had thought she would surely have found something out on Vice Versa’s involvement, but… In any case, unsure about the possibility of a ground assault, the Hong Kong Police could do nothing else.

He leaned heavily on the railing.

It was a great relief that he had no family living on Hong Kong Island – nearest were his parents in the New Territories. Of course they would be worried about him, but he didn’t have to worry about them. Tonight it would only be a matter of looking out for himself as the evacuation took place.

It would take place, by air and by sea. There were no more choices. The terrorists were winning.


--------


Ops Commissioner Sung nodded at no one in particular, satisfied with the progress at the harbor.

Many of Hong Kong Island’s residents were already at the docks, waiting in anxious impatience to leave. Sung and his squads were directing boarding and allocation, getting as many people onto the boats as possible. It seemed there would be enough, but…

Sung raised his wrist and spoke to the screen. “Send a notice out directing people to the airport if possible. We’re filling up here. Be sure you send them on the non-cargo planes…”

“Understood, sir,” came the reply from the screen – the airport police director.

At the docks, room was not yet running out. It was really more efficient to use the boats – no skyhopping required. But with so many people…

In any case, all vehicles were grounded or anchored until the terrorists gave the go-ahead, right before the night deadline. At least Sung assumed so. Surely they wouldn’t change their plans again.

Ops Commissioner Sung smiled a tiny smile, satisfied with the evacuation’s progress, and walked down the waterfront to oversee the next set of docks.


--------


Kalimesko walked over to sit down next to the grey-flannel man, settling on the bench close to him, a familiar distance. “I think we should talk about the situation on Hong Kong Island.”

“Yes… Terrifying, isn’t it?” The man furrowed his brow slightly, the corner of his mouth turning. It wasn’t a smile or a frown. “To think they could’ve woven themselves into the fabric of the city to bring it down?”

“How… how long do you think they would’ve had to, to have been there to do something like that?” asked Kalimesko, the gears of her mind spinning and not connecting well. Usually she could find out what she needed, just by looking at someone. But that wasn’t what was needed now, and her questioning skill was so low… It left a bad feeling. Like she couldn’t do anything.

“Oh, I couldn’t say,” said the man, and smiled faintly. “How could anyone know?”

She narrowed her eyes, knowing she was failing. “How indeed. Why are you here?”

“I’m enjoying the view of the Island before things get really dangerous. I guess they’re really going to evacuate, no? Seems like the police notices are leading up to that.”

“They’ll have to if things can’t be stopped.” Kalimesko fidgeted, accidentally bumping the grey-flannel man’s shoulder, and looked out at the harbor. “It’s… Well, you’ve got to wonder if they have help on this side of the water?”

“I’m sure they must,” he said, his expression reverting to the not-quite-frown. “But I’m sure the police have considered that possibility. Might be on it as we speak.”

Did that mean this was a trap for Kalimesko? She flicked her gaze past the man, looking briefly for shapes around the buildings, possible targets.

It took her no time to spot the undercover policeman down the way.

So the grey-flannel man was two kinds of distraction, unless the police presence was a coincidence. Except Mesko Kalimesko did not think much of coincidences when it came to people.

At the end of her split-second search, she said to the man beside her on the bench, “Wouldn’t this kind of terrorist have a backup plan, even if the police got to their leader north of the harbor? What would happen anyway?”

“Oh, it’s hard to say with that, either.”

“I think you’re educated enough to make a guess.”

He chuckled softly and elbowed her. “You don’t know anything about me, Mesko. Please don’t make assumptions. Why not just get to know me?”

“You already know what I am, and Vice Versa.” Kalimesko turned to look at him. “Aren’t you going to explain your evil plan now? What’s happening tonight?”

“If you’re accusing me of being one of those terrorists, then Vice Versa should be thanking me right now.”

“No thank you,” she said, a little annoyed. “Really?”

“I don’t have any evil plans, Mesko.” The grey-flannel man smiled innocently, no deception in his eyes. “I think it’s going to rain tonight, though. I’d ask you to go out with me if there wasn’t going to be a deluge-”

His sentence stopped as Kalimesko pressed the end of her handgun into his chest.

A shudder of surprise passed through the grey-flannel man, and he sat still. “I didn’t think you had a weapon. Well hidden. So what is it now? Instead of denying responsibility, Vice Versa wants to take over?”

“Think individuality, not power play.” She placed her other hand on his chest, partially hiding the weapon’s barrel behind her arm. “Still, I was sent here to hijack things. You’re some important part of this – you’re not quite blank enough to stop me figuring some things. What happens if I take you out, I wonder? Are you important enough?”

“It depends on your sense of scale,” said the man, and blinked, his eyes watering a little. “Are you going to do it, then, Mesko? I’ll tell you a little about myself.”

“I just want your name. I think I’m nearly out of time.” Kalimesko glanced behind the grey-flannel man again. The police officer was closer – no, approaching –

“Mesko Kalimesko, Rutherford Marrakesh, hands in the air!” An entire squad emerged from the shadows of buildings, a semicircle trapping the two opposed terrorists by the waterfront.

“Except I’m really called Needlepoint,” whispered the grey-flannel man, smiling and beginning to rise from the bench.

“Well then, Needlepoint, you’ve had your antediluvian fun,” she said, rising with him, not moving the gun from his chest. “I’ll see you in New Hell.”

As the police shouted and ran closer, realizing what was happening, Mesko Kalimesko raised her right hand and pulled the trigger with her left.

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PostSubject: Re: Proculvisus   Mon May 12, 2014 1:42 am


-----------------------]
Deluge
-----------------------]


Ji'nan, China

swimming. He was swimming; Jin was not entirely sure why, but stopping for a ponder would have resulted in being submerged. The most disorientating thing about the ordeal was the blurry vision and deafened ears of the young man.

Although Jin wore glasses, they were for clarity in reading and their absence did not make the earth shake like it was now.

After paddling out of his kitchenette—where he had been eating Breakfast—into the living room, a leg went dead.

The pain came seconds after the injury itself, and Jin howled. Well, he could hear again.

The agony was like two rocks were being repeatedly smashed against his thigh, a throbbing ache that pumped the life out of him. Daring to look back, a scarlet ribbon diffused into the water behind him; it led directly to a now stained kitchen knife, bobbing. Jin turned his head, pushing the knife and pain into some dark recess, like a squirrel stashing acorns.

Not that there had ever been squirrels in China.

Jin had heard the stories from the Inferiority, with their free coffee but twenty pound water bottles. Jin had never seen a squirrel, but the stories...

All his childhood was kept inside his mind, all his emotions, memories, and—yes--the stories. Now that childhood spilled, the fluid memory draining as the apartment filled. Another window broke, a surge of water eagerly entered, and Jin was swept headfirst into the concrete ceiling. The account hadn't even noticed the water was rising, but now it was too late.

Strange, how a lonesome business-major who had spent years devoted to numbers ended his life with the thought of squirrels on his mind.

- - -

Zhang frantically ran from his car and onto the sidewalk. Nearly tripping on a bloody flip-flop, the horrified man stumbled his way to the curb and knelt down. The woman he hit was crumpled next to a trash bin, covered in blood and barely conscious. Sturdy legs were clearly broken and her whole frame twitched slightly, in pain and out of control.

Zhang didn't know exactly what to do, and simply had his hands out, close to the woman but not touching. She had just been standing in the middle of the road, staring blankly behind him. Zhang tried to stop, but failed to in time before colliding and launching the woman into the curb, where they now both sat, one out of moral obligation and one out of physical necessity.

Faintly, music played behind him. He had left his car in such a rush, the door remained open and the radio remained on. The best of the 90's echoed with remorse, drifting out of the vehicle and into the smoggy sky above.

Tears welled up on Zhang's face, but did not stream. In that instant, he knew he had murdered a young woman. Looking over the battered body, he noticed a multitude of rings on a mangled hand.

Was she a wife? A fiance? This was someone's daughter, sister, mother, lover, best friend.

He turned away and looked back to the abandoned car, the hood dented and the windshield splattered with 'life'. The sky was watery, as if angels were crying. Zhang looked back and wiped the steadfast tears off his now bloody face.

Blood was on his hands.

He had been cradling her in his arms, having gotten over his disbelief and back in touch with his humanity.

He felt a shift as a weak arm wavered in the air, like a snake charmed by anther’s will. Skinned knuckles released their hold on a slender index, which pointed.

Before following its direction, Zhang somberly admired the elegant digit. His own hands were weathered from a childhood in the fields of gold, each day providing sustenance for the megacities that
towered over the horizon, masking sunsets his fathers and grandfathers had relished as children.

Moving to the city two years ago had been the difficult choice of a poor child, who wanted to be able to see a sunrise on his last morning, even if from a rooftop.

For this woman, there would be no such luck. It seemed as though the entire world was darkening, and puddles of blood would spill into the street...

The sandal floated next to Zhang.

Astonished, Zhang picked it up with a free hand, and looked it over. Most of the blood had been washed off?

As the woman died in Zhang's arms, her hand faltered and finally dropped, the extended digit cutting a line through the air and his soul. Hoping whatever the woman had wanted to show him was not yet gone, he set her down and stood up. Turning, he realized why the sky was darkening, and why the angels were crying, and why he held tightly a half-bloody sandal.

He realized this all within one moment, blissfully short enough so that when the wave of water that crashed past buildings, down roads, and straight into Zhang ripped through him, the reinvented farmer did not have time to worry, or scream, or feel fear.

Through the wall of death that tore the city apart, beautiful sunlight illuminated half-a-million pedestrian corpses floating, before sinking under the horizon like an auburn comet, God's fury descending to Earth.


- - -

Winston Tsu-song juggled the vases in his arms, tip-toeing through the cluttered collection of porcelain and ivory. The bespectacled curator expanded his grip and was handed another archaic pot by his contact.

Both men had raven-black hair—cut short, as fashionable—and were about 1.7 meters tall. They were average men, boring men, museum administrative staff-although for two different museums—and aficionados of their near-forgotten history.

Word of the Uffizi incident had panicked curators all over the globe, especially in China and Russia, where instability was second only to Latin America.

There was a sharp crack. Two aisles over, a Ming bowl exploded on the floor. Winston and his contact held back tears.

“We c-couldn't fit them all anyways,” the contact offered as condolence. Winston nodded, and waddled over to the cart to deposit his burden.

The contact rushed over to lift several vases off the man and help neatly place them in the container.

The two men locked up the cart and ran back to the aisles. Once again, their hands were full of the priceless relics.

The room shook. Dust fluttered off long-untouched shelves, and protective glass-cases rattled. Like boys sneaking cookies out of a jar, wide-eyed curator and contact spun. Uncertain, Winston stepped back, his bespectacled eyes scanning the room for the source of the disturbance. He heard the contact shout at him, and suddenly the curator lost his footing on the edge of an 8th century Imperial Guardian Lion.

A vase slipped from frantically negligent grip; the more than two-thousand year-old art shattered into two-thousand pieces, lilies cracking in half and lotuses disintegrating. The contact let out a second cry, this one of anguish, and Winston steadied himself.

He hobbled over to an empty cart—careful not to step on the scattered history—and set down his second load.

The building shook again.

The contact whipped out a phone and started texting out a message.

“We need to get the truck out of here.”

A dire reminder for both men, and time was in fact of the essence. Over the last several hours, the two collectors had assembled ten—painstakingly hand-selected—carts of valuable Chinese art. The first carts were packed to the top with thousands of years of a rich history; with so little space available for preservation, these initial crates had no room left. As the clock ticked, the packing was more haphazard and wasteful.

The question was not how much they would be able to save, but if they would be able to save anything at all.

The contact was respectable; his reputation as always correct and always honest preceded him in their social circles. Winston feared this reputation, as that meant this was not a scare—doom was imminent.

The contact had been in communication with Dam officials over the last few years; the curators did not have a great deal of time before the ancient concrete crumbled.

The increasingly hostile climate in southeast Asia also meant—With the short-lived Paramilitary business complex in Siam City setting precedent—terrorism was on the rise.

Winston feared emptying out the derelict gallery had begun too late; he was correct.

As the walls shook with the fury of a repressed river, hellbent to drown a repressed people, cracks started emerging along the faded marble pillars and on the streets outside. The entire city was straining.

The contact was too busy shoving the last cart into the nearly full truck by the loading bay. All Winston could see was the top of his head, a black scalp bobbing as the cart was crammed with the rest. Then, the curator noticed the pillars leaning.

“Ilsu,” he began with a cautious tone.

The black bobbing shape stopped, turned around, and then was crushed under 900 kilograms of solid stone.

The crash uprooted cement and granite floor, erupting in a shockwave of dust and debris. Winston shielded himself as his glasses slid down the bridge of a slender nose.

Another pillar collapsed, denting the back of the truck and launching it down the street.

Through the fallen supports, Winston heard the shriek of metal and caught a glimpse of a fireball.

The crumpling stone and crushed hopes forced Dr. Tsu-song to his knees. He felt the damp soaking his expensive khakis.

Although not a spiritual man, he did entertain a traditional notion.

There are no more Empires in all of Asia.

Massive steel doors burst open with the full weight of the river.

Then the empire of humanity has lost the Mandate.

Winston Tsu-song was carried by the current and the museum buckled, the entire frame violently shaking before caving in.

- - -
Half of China's coast went dark for a week after the Deluge had devastated four cities, two smaller towns, and one of the five Electricity fields in the East.

2,755,800 people were killed in the catastrophe. Another 8,000 would die from their injuries within the month, and 307,312 remained missing.

The property damage, remarked an unfortunately jetlagged Councilman, costed only slightly more than the lives lost.

When the smoke from the fires and explosions subsided, and only the permanent industrial smog remained, nine private aircraft landed in Shanghai. Ten men and six women arrived.

They all ended up—in groups, pairs, or individually—in a heavily guarded chamber, surrounding a quartz table. Four of the twenty seats lining it remained empty: one man had been killed in the event, another had committed suicide two weeks after, and a woman was detained by the government in Damascus. The last seat was not unfilled, and all murmuring stopped when the three-inch thick metal door slid open.

Dressed neatly in a three-piece designer suit, the elderly man with curly white hair found his way to the head of the table. His bronzed skin and wrinkled eyes hinted to his Mediterranean coast residence, and years spent on yachts or in water.

He was Greek, from Rhodes; his heritage and nearly seven feet in height had earned him the nickname 'The Colossus', and he had been in China when the disaster occurred.

“Friends,” his strong voice called out with love.

Several of the attendees shifted in their seats, uncomfortable with the familiarity and compassion from a man who had bankrupted a small African nation—then bought it—last year.

His heavily accented English was for convenience, as only one of his audience spoke Greek and the Colossus did not speak any of their various tongues.

“I have no doubts as to the destruction we,” he began, reaching hands upwards as to imply the world, “have caused. The only thing to debate today...”

He looked each member in the eyes.

“How shall we preserve our planet?”

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PostSubject: Re: Proculvisus   Sat Nov 29, 2014 7:23 pm

[-----------------------
Business Interlude
[-----------------------


It was heavily overcast outside, drizzling and chilly, and he almost wanted to go outside. Seemed like it would be refreshing to be rained on, as if to wash off the sluggish warmth of the indoors… But he was waiting on a call.

Ferrax ne Yerros walked back from the window and dropped into his office chair, looking for the clock at the corner of the wallscreen. Early or late, he didn’t know – for the appointment. The clock itself was on 24-hour time, so he could see it was just past midday… He wondered where his wife and son were now, how many time zones removed by way of an air journey.

His weak points…

He hadn’t seen the sun for a couple of days, and he was sure his boss hadn’t either. The difference for him was that it was only due to rainy weather around his house.

The wallscreen lit abruptly, almost sparking, and a voice rang out in ne Yerros’s home office. “Hello, British Columbia.”

He unfolded from his chair like a spider, rising up to offer a casual salute. “Hello, somewhere-in-Brazil. I hope you and everyone are doing well?”

“Everything is nice locally. There’s a great deal of business left to attend to in the wider world, though, of course. You’ll hear about our side of things soon.” Geso Arrhakas was magnificent, his longcoat trimmed in pearly white and his hair longer than ne Yerros remembered: it seemed the head of Otherwise was dressed to be going somewhere important. But the look in his eyes was both drained and jaded, dismally serious.

“More bad news? I haven’t been keeping up with current events…”

“Nothing important,” said Arrhakas. “I hope you’re keeping up with the real work.”

Ferrax ne Yerros exhaled and shrugged. “As if it were ‘real’… that’s the hard part. What can I say, I’m just the supervisor. But my team has only gone as far as they can. With any luck, Coal will be flying in tomorrow, and we can be done with some compatibility issues after his help.”

“Coal has always been a bit of a liability – or really, that is to say, a loose cannon. If only he were stable enough to have been placed with your division in the first place.” Arrhakas paused to glance down at his arm, presumably checking a shimmerscreen that ne Yerros couldn’t see. “At least he’ll do his best to help you on time, as wormhole compatibility is right in his lane.”

“Yes, of course…” ne Yerros listened to the rain against the windows. “Well, you didn’t call me just to check on that, did you?”

“Aren’t we supposed to be mysterious? You once said to me, ‘All the lines are nearly at a crossroads’…”

ne Yerros blinked, genuinely surprised. “Did I say that? It must have been a while ago… But I need clarity to know what I’m doing.”

“Well, I’ll be clear this once.” Arrhakas leaned forward, looming from his end of the Multiweb connection. “There is always a chance that Coal will fail to figure it out, and if that is so, then we will lack the kind of power needed for a large-scale field implementation. I want you to come down and install a testcase of the original brew in the headquarters here, if you are certain it’s safe enough.”

“We’ve only had a couple of test cases, and then only by accident. I don’t think anyone would ever call that proof of safety.” ne Yerros put his fingers to his temple. “But it worked in the case of IK1, and he would be the closest analogue to you – unless I’m guessing your intention wrong. We’ve taken genetics out of the picture, thankfully, so all I can say is that it’s likely you’d be fine.”

“Then perhaps we should conduct an actual trial?”

ne Yerros was taken aback, having expected the testcase request but nothing further. “Well, I’m confident it would be safe for healthy participants, but… playing through a Fullmod?”

“If that is what it takes. Would it be possible to run a trial of both a Stasis Fullmod and a Venture Fullmod?” Arrhakas seemed unfazed by the implications.

“Of course, we can complete them in practically zero time given the internally mobile endframe. We just… need participants. With this work, we can’t exactly blaze ads in public.”

“If your Maximiliax has no luck, then leave the participant-gathering to me.” The head of Otherwise smiled faintly, the dark look in his eyes remaining. “Just let me know when.”

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PostSubject: Re: Proculvisus   Sun Dec 27, 2015 8:42 pm

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Medium Gears
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What a winter it had been. Enough rain to flood streets, even here in the rainforest.

By the prow window, Maximiliax Althim looked out gloomily. The world was still changing. It had yet to be for the better. Once, he had wanted to be an environmental engineer, but he wasn’t the right kind to help the world he lived in…

He turned back to his monitor, pondering Fieldworks’ progress.

From the back of the frontroom, someone spoke. “Althim. We did have an internal release date?”

“Yes,” he said, and spun in his aging chair, looking for C.N. Shoya in the poorly-lit room. “I thought we’d agreed on lining it up for January 15th?”

“Just checking. Arrhakas sent word down through Ferrax that a real testcase brew is wanted in the Brazil post, and to run a Stasis Fullmod and a Venture Fullmod.” Shoya sounded annoyed at the idea.

“Which Arrhakas?”

“Geso.”

Althim rubbed his eyes, blocking out the dull blue-grey light of the room. “Surely Fabrio or someone told him we’re already bringing in Coal for the express purpose of refining another run at a Venture Fullmod. That was what Ferrax was talking to him about. But a Stasis Fullmod trial is going to be another whole headache on its own.”

“Maybe Coal will be some help with that, too.” Shoya leaned against the doorway, still in shadow. “Either way, the preparation for a Stasis Fullmod is going to take us past mid-January, not having run one before. I’m not sure what Geso thinks we’re doing up here, but it’s not that simple… it doesn’t take zero time to develop one, just to run it.”

“Doesn’t matter to him. I’m sure he has some plan he’s looking to follow.”

Shoya sighed. “It would be nice if the bulk of it weren’t on us. That’s work for you though. Maybe just this generation’s curse.”

“Mm.” Althim blinked, his mind wandering back. “Ah, this generation… Speaking of that, how’s Oberon been?”

“Same as ever. I think he’s working on something with Narija lately, some sort of game…”

He smiled. “Computers. Narija's far too good with them. Maybe this line of work isn’t only our generation’s work, Cassius.”

“I’d like to think it is, Max, but both our sons don’t seem to mind. We’ll see if they end up changing their tune… I showed Obi a previous version of the code scaffold and he seemed nonplussed enough.” Shoya shrugged. “I’d also like to think that he’ll go along and do something more worthwhile, having seen that.”

“I’m sure he’ll do something different, at least.” Althim glanced out at the pale sky again. “Worthwhile is a bit much to ask just yet.”

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