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The Deep End
Moving out was probably the easiest thing he'd done in ages.  Ana was right.  And he'd told her he'd sign whatever he needed to.  His father had Cruz.  He would be happy and maybe he'd disown Dorian.  

And in those lost thoughts Dorian removed his assets for any account his father knew about.  It wasn't hidden from Ana, but his father wasn't going to take what he'd given him already.  It was his money now, it had been for some time.  Jivana did not add to his riches.  He had long since given all shares to Cruz.  Along with the house in Madrid, and now this one.  

A humble apartment - though it was hardly humble if he were to look at it through Nox's eyes.  He knew that.  And no matter how many times Dorian thought about his decisions he would not change a single one of them.  His family came first - always.  Ana and Christian were family - Cruz was his son.  Nox was nothing but a man he hired, though he felt for the boy.  But even the look on his face didn't mean anything in comparison to his family's life.  It was worth the risk.  He'd gambled on more without knowing and lost it all.

Dorian didn't think he'd ever get any of it back.  How their loyalty had shifted to the boy so quickly was not something Dorian thought possible.  He was just a kid.  And he still needed that kid.

Nox refused to answer the texts.  He'd received them, he was sure of that.  But there was no answer.  The final text lead him to tell Nox why he needed to talk to him.  If anything the boy was Atharim to the core.  He'd come now, and he'd answered.

So with Nox coming, Dorian met at a coffee shop just a few blocks from Domovoi, and he invited Ivan and Lih as well.  Nox wouldn't work with him.  But he might with these two.  And he desperately needed Nox in the tunnels.  

[[ @"Ivan Sarkozy" and @"Lih" - this is for when Lih gets back so Ivan can finish what he's doing and when Lih gets back we can move this along - no rush at all here - just setting up ]]
A face: pale, white-haired, pale-eyed, resolute. Himself.

For a scant moment it looked far too vulnerable. Lih took up his officer’s cap and turned it into place. What stared back at him was a great deal more reassuring: a cop…

Lih, smiling as ever, headed for their table and asked a waitress who looked familiar to bring him a black coffee. Dorian was waiting for him. He relayed clear, simple instructions as to where to meet up. Lih listened carefully, and then made ready to move.

“Hello, sir!” he called, dropping into the seat beside Dorian.

Lih took a drink from the coffee the waitress offered him before adding, “maybe finally I can do something useful.”

Now please advise me of our situation. He added, suddenly serious.

He didn’t expect much. Truth is he thought he’d been given a secondary role since Boda died. Parted from Dorian briefly, Lih found himself in a confused situation where enemies that had moved with frightening speed, leapt out of the shadows in a frenzied combat that lasted a short time, but which Lih would remember the rest of his life.

Captain’s orders. He had failed. He would pay. He… felt as much. Even as Dorian had him running around, heeding his every order. From the evidence as the reports present to him, Lih’d hazard outside the office was a much better place to start looking.
Viktor Lih
Officer of CCDPD
Ivan seemed to bounce with energy as he headed into work. Fuck, but it had been a good day. He shook his head, stupid grin on his face. It wouldn't go away. Breakfast with Zara, of course. It always made him smile. The surprise was that Danya was finished getting ready earlier than usual. And so, the three of them at the table, fresh faced smiles all around, sat eating.

These early mornings had meant no more late nights. No wasted nights at a bar or club chatting people up or just having a few. Really, what the fuck was that about anyway? People looking for a connection. Fun on occasion, sure. But when you have something real in front of you, it just seemed so empty. Fake.

So waking up wasn't as much of a struggle. Those precious moments when he felt part of the web- even with the irritation and frustration and later self recrimination- was where he found himself. And it was strange. He felt stronger. Bound more tightly, true. But drawing strength from it, too.

So there he was sitting with Danya and Zara, eating and talking and laughing, and a moment of perfect joy hit him. He looked at Danya and their eyes locked. Her smile. Her happiness. She felt the moment. Both of their eyes settled on their daughter, dark curly hair pulled back into a tight pony tail, cheeks still full with baby fat despite the sharp mind behind the eyes. Looked at her and each other again.

And something unspoken passed between them. Ivan helped Zara put her jacket on and held her backpack as Danya grabbed her purse from the couch. And then Ivan was helping her into her coat, his hand brushing her bare neck. And she had frozen for a moment.

Just a moment. And then she turned and kissed him softly on the lips, hands at the sides of his face. It wasn't that long, and yet for Ivan, heart rate spiking, butterflies fluttering, it was glorious. She looked at him and he saw the girl he used to know. Or rather, the woman she was looking up at him like the girl she had been used to. When she had loved him. He smiled at her, eyes beaming, and pulled her close, enveloping her in his arms, feeling her against him.

The logjam had broken, it seemed. He breathed, contentedly.

Zara's insistant tugging on their sleeves took them back to the moment. Locking the door, the three of them went, Zara holding both of their hands. Ivan tried to get a peek at Danya's as they walked, catching a smile on her face that thrilled him.

Somehow, the goodbye felt longer. This unspoken thing between them had taken on its own life. And he would not let it go. Never again.

At the school, he hugged Zara, felt her tiny arms around his neck, the sweet butterfly kisses of her eyelashes tickling against his cheek. He held her and then let her go, watching as she bounded up the stairs to the waiting teachers and monitors near the doors.

He turned slowly and made his way to his car and headed in. Work was always on. He tried to focus on it. A man with yellow eyes savaging a few homeless people woke him up. Brutal. Bloody. There was the rapist in the park who everyone seemed to forget raped them. There was a an adandoned building where an bunch of men- the older ones almost zombie like, the youngest barely adolescents- had been put down with multiple gun shot wounds. Preliminaries indicated a lot more people had died down there, though he only had the barest details about what that meant, exactly.

A message from Yun fired his blood. He knew she'd have her people watch. They knew of his family. The moment he'd met with Danya, she was on their radar too. He went to the training room and beaten a punching bag until his knuckles felt bruised. Mom and Pops. His brothers and sisters. His neices and nephews. Already in their crosshairs. Now Zara and Danya.

And he realized something. Or rather, let himself express something. He would kill anyone who'd hurt his family. But especially his daughter. End of story. No trial. No prison. Just dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. And he was just fine with that. He remembered the rage in the club, the ripping down of the light fixtures. He had been unhinged, then.

Now, he had purpose. The Syndicate's days of control over him were numbered. God help anyone who threatened them. His stomach boiled, enough that when he returned to work, his face was different. People asked if he felt ok, which he blew off. His mind churned. DuBois. He wanted to talk to him. The man owed him. Fucking owed him! So did that dick Brandon.

As if someone had heard his thoughts, his wallet dinged with a message. Not DuBois, of course. But a small smile formed anyway. Vega. Now that man understood. His eyes were cold, the shape of his lips a mockery of relief. Vega might be very helpful.

The smell of the coffee hit him as he stepped into the warmth of the shop. He saw Vega sitting at a table. Ivan's brows furrowed. He'd thought this would be a private meeting. He'd met Lih. Nice guy, if a bit too...hesitant. Not that he hadn't jumped into danger of his own accord. That whole thing with Boda proved that. Just that...well, it was hard for Ivan to put his finger on it. He always seemed like he was mooning around, enamored with whoever was in charge at the moment. His old partner. Vega. The Cap. Ivan'd almost thought of it as a man-crush. The guy- and they were close in age- needed to get his legs under him and be confident. A few wins would hopefully help with that.

He ordered a coffee, black, and walked to the table, nodding to both men, "Vega. Lih," and sat down. Forearms on the table, he sat back, studying them. "So what's up"
Dorian nodded at the young pale officer. He'd gone off alone and come back with a very tall tale. And if Dorian still had access to the Atharim he was certain something would have needed cleaning up. But that wasn't his job anymore. The Atharim had cut him off, and he'd gone elsewhere. It was his fault. Choosing family over the organization. It had been the first time Dorian had done it because he had loved his family more than the Atharim. That turned out well in the long run. Cruz hated him, Ana finally filing for divorce. He was pretty sure his father was going to cut him off, but they'd yet to speak.

"Good to see you. Sit have a drink. I expect we might be waiting a while." Dorian knew Nox hated being late and the fact that he wasn't here already meant it was likely he wasn't coming at all. But he'd hold out hope. He had some filling in to do with Ivan and Lih anyway. It was good Nox would be late.

Ivan arrived later with his own coffee and sat down. Dorian gave the young cop a smile and nodded. "You know Officer Lih, then. Excellent. One less thing to do."

Dorian didn't want to go into full blown details in a coffee shop but he needed to tell them all something. "We are waiting for a former Atharim hunter to join us. I can only hope he will. If not Ivan knows Nox well enough I'm sure he'll help you out in this situation." Dorian sighed at his own failings. "Ivan is much like Nox, except Nox has more experience in the tunnels, he's been hunting there for several months clearing out sections. I have his old maps, he can provide more if he's willing. And he's the origination of these creatures. I would go with you myself, but Nox and I aren't on speaking terms at the moment."

Dorian rubbed his jaw in memory. There was two folders on the table for them both. "This is the data Nox has collected. And in there are some places I need you to investigate." Dorian looked at both of them sternly, the father in him, the same look you gave your unruly children. "Do not under any circumstances go into those tunnels without Nox. You do not know what lies in wait. He ate least knows how to kill 80% of them."
Here it comes.

A figure approached them across the cafe. Lih knew at once it was the so far unseen Ivan Sarkozy. He was a well-made man in his twenties, tall, his eyes glittering blue.

As far as he could tell, Ivan was the only one who seemed remotely okay. Lih was sure that was because Ivan was along for the right reason, not just doing his job. He looked all clean-cut and stalwart, the very model of a young, capable officer. Under the surface ticked the heart of a hero. Lih knew his type. He liked Ivan since the moment they’d met in the office. And he looked… different… ready.

Lih wasn’t ready. His first taste of combat hadn’t gone down well. Shock trauma. He might get past it naturally, but some don’t. He was the one who worried people the most. He was a psych case, Lih knew. The timid behavior, the faraway stare. Not to mention his own, aching bruises. Hardly the most able and fit recruit in the history of police actions. He had an officer’s gun on him, but given its performance so far, Lih wasn’t sure how much use it would be.

In truth, he shouldn’t be here. But Dorian took what he could get, and even somebody useless like Lih was needed. Point taken, Lih will be watching Ivan for now. A minute later, Dorian drew the briefing to order.

Lih clutched his cup of fresh brewed coffee.

Tunnels, said Dorian. Lih moaned. Was there another way? He wanted to ask, but didn’t voice his opinion. He imagined Dorian’s cold answer, as if it was so obvious Lih must be a fool to miss it. He consulted the marked spots on the map. If the ex-atharim hunter was joining them later, that means they’re looking at noon at least to get their bearings, and turn around since they’ve investigated. That’s… half a day chopped off their schedules just like that. But, according to Dorian, by no means were they to rush ahead and hit them up without the ex-atharim hunter. Nox. He’s the very best, probably.

For the n-th time that day, Lih wondered what he’d got himself into. Sometimes it felt so decisively right, but the rest of the time the doubts plagued him. He’d broken an order— a pledge to protect Boda, and now he was heading into a situation in the tunnels. He wondered what would happen in enemy territory. Every time he thought he knew the horrors of fighting, it gleefully exposed new ones. He wondered how men like Dorian, or this ex-atharim hunter, could be remotely sane after a life of this.

Right then, he missed Costa. Costa should be here, he thought. He wondered what Costa would do in his situation. He was pretty sure he knew. This was a prime opportunity to discharge a mission—however Dorian and the Captain wanted to play this—for the CCDPD as expediently and as efficiently as they could. What it’s not was an opportunity to permit Lih his heroics. It wasn’t an opportunity to let Lih heap up glory by forcing an all out fight to make up for his failure…
Viktor Lih
Officer of CCDPD
Ivan didn't look at the paperwork right away. He sipped his coffee thinking, eyes flicking to Lih. His smile was lopsided, shaking his head. "You've heard of baptism by fire, Lih? Yeah. This is it. I suppose all of Domovoi should experience it, though. Give them an idea of what we're up against." He shuddered at the thought of those things coming to the surface, roaming the streets. Flowing through the streets, more like, attacking everyone. He stomach turned with a spike of fear and he took a sip to quell it. As if his leash wasn't bad enough. Where the fuck was Brandon anyway? Yeah, definitely he needed to talk to DuBois.

He favored Vega with a look. "Yeah, I've been down there. First time was with Cap'n Drayson. Few other people showed up too, taking on this massive leathery creature with tiny eyes. Some goth chick who disappeared early. Green eyed girl with a sword. And a hot little number who fancied herself a snake. She and I later went down into the tunnels and found a shitload of creatures." He looked at Lih. "He's not kidding when he says it's dangerous."

He wondered how Akantha was. Xena was probably kicking ass and taking names. He hoped. She had never called him with the equipment he'd left her. Silently he toasted her and wished her a long life.

Back to Vega. "And then Nox and I went down another time. The ones we saw might have been the same, but he freaked the fuck out. Like they were seriously off, though from what, I don't know. We barely got out of there."

He leaned forward. "You're of them. What's going on down there?"
Dorian knew Nox and Ivan had met before. They all had met Aria together, it appeared Ivan had also met her if green eyes and a sword were an indication - very few Atharim actually used the archaic devices. Aria had been one of the few in modern Europe. And the little song was dead now - killed by her own friend. That seemed to be their life now. Running from their friends. All choices they had made.

He was glad Ivan understood it was dangerous, but the fact that he'd faced down those very beasts left Dorian concerned and cautious. Ivan could play the hero and go it alone talking the impressionalbe Lih with him. And then where would Domovoi be - without two officers and without their mostly useful channeler. Dorian didn't know Ivan's skill level, but he wasn't dead so that was more than he could say for many.

"If the Atharim knew what was going on down there, we'd be cleaning up their mess not trying to figure it out. If it's not bothering the people at present the Atharim probably don't care. Nox and Aria, your green-eyed girl with a sword, hunted for the sake of the hunt, not for the protection of people." It was a gross exaggeration to what Dorian thought Nox felt, but it was the generalization of all Atharim. Dorian had not met a single Atharim who did it for the express purpose of saving mankind. It was the hunt, the thrill of death, the fight with the improbable. It was living like there was no other life, and why Nox was always going to be Atharim even when they stopped hunting him - if they ever did that.

"But Nox knows more. What I know is, we've found men in white coats dragging chupas away. I've confronted a man with a VaiaPlus badge and was turned into one of these monsters. That body has since disappeared. The tunnel mission is two fold. Find Alistair Pavlo's body, or remains or some proof that the man is dead, and to find out how VaiaPlus is involved, there is a lab or something down in those tunnels, for all we know VaiaPlus isn't at fault and they just unleashed a new sort of predator into our world wihile digging. That is what I need you for. Work with Nox, go as deep as you can find the answers we need. It might not be a one time deal it might be several. But I cannot express that you do not go without Nox. You don't know what other monsters live down there, and some like the Oni aren't easily killed, some take very specific means - such as the Oni."
Ivan's eyebrows drew down as he listened, fear lacing through him, mixing with anger. Mother fuckers! His rational side tried to argue that if it was merely accidental, they weren't really at fault. But that was bullshit. Accident or not, something had been unleashed. From what he had seen, the things swarmed, all teeth and claws. He could see them flowing through the streets, a flood, streaming into apartments and homes, schools and offices, the cries and screams of women and children and men as they were savaged by the endless horde.

He looked at Lih, considering. The guy and Costa- and older, solid man- had found a nest of creatures, things that looked like men but feral and had done alright against them. "Hmm...Nox and I will have the power. But....last time we got tired. I did at least." He laughed half-heartedly. "Course I wasn't fighting very smart. Lots of wasted shots. Still, we need to bring a shitload of ammo."

He looked back at Dorian. "With Nox."

He pulled his wallet and punched in Pavlo's name for a search. Of course most of it was foreign to Ivan. His knowledge of science was from school and even then, it had not been his main interest. What his degrees meant, he didn't know. Research, probably. Especially if he was cooking up monsters in the tunnels. "Pavlo, huh? Ok. So, is Nox coming to this meeting?"
OOC: TLDR: Lih ran to the bathroom, came back, had some questions for Dorian about Nox. Purple highlighted the relevant bits Smile  skip the rest

 Lih said nothing as he took it in, as there was nothing left to say. He was training as a junior detective and must learn the protocols of question and proper address. Besides, he knows nothing of Dorian’s plans and his head was swimming with fatigue, as the low voices of the others two ebbed through the cafe. Ivan’s eyes, more alive than anything Lih had ever seen, found his. 

He was quietly amazed. Though the two of them were both recently raised to the squad, the other officer spoke of fighting monsters casually. Such was the desperate nature of their war. Missions, especially those aimed to eradicate monsters, were regularly suicide. Most citizens of the CCD go their whole life without seeing one of the monsters in the flesh. They presume oni’s to be myths, yet fear the tunnels all the same… Ivan mentioned not one, but two previous missions in the tunnels. And came away alive. This is a remarkable thing, Lih thought. A remarkable thing.

He looked back at Ivan, a smiling expression on his face but without any light or laughter. He could tell Ivan had been through hell in the last thirty-odd days. Courage and determination seemed to ooze out of him like sweat. He was not a man Lih wanted to be on the wrong side of. 

"Sure thing, Officer Sarkozy, I’m honored to work with you," he said, taking Ivan’s gaze, still anxious but calming a little by the other’s smile. Lih softened and nodded back. Ivan’s smile seemed honest, despite his penetrating, serious eyes. He thought it would not be impossible to trust Ivan, who’d worked for his status and position as hard as any other officer. 

“I’m sure you guys can handle anything. But I yearned to baptize and test myself in the fire of the tunnels!” 

He replied cheerfully, dropping into a soft conspiratorial whisper “my last case there were a lot of questions, Officer Sarkozy, a lot of questions. The paperwork. You know how dull that is? I’m positively itching for the tunnels. It takes me away from my office work. Interviews to do; calls to make; reports to file; training and exercises to observe; all manner of inventory for approval. Our accountants, by the light! They’d drive a person mad with their fussing and their lists. I can’t bear them. I’ve killed two or three of them already.” He half smiled, to show he was joking. “It’s alright. I’ve hidden the bodies well.”

Lih turned and looked across at Dorian. It seems this was no commonplace undertaking. He and the other officer were more than ready to see action. Dorian explained to both of them what he wanted them to do, how they would be used, what objectives they were to achieve. His briefing turned into a warning, a cautious warning of the tunnels and oni’s. At the end of Dorian’s serious replies to Ivan, Lih’s face lost its smile and its color.

Lih put down his coffee and stared at Dorian as if he had just insulted Lih’s own mother. He rose to his feet, dabbing at his mouth with a napkin. 

“Sir, please excuse me,” he said hurriedly, failing to disguise the wobble in his voice, “toilet.”

He had heard Dorian’s remarks and he ran inside the bathroom stall, trying to slow his anxious breathing. 
He didn’t dare voice his thoughts. He doubted even the experienced detective remembered what it was like to claw and scrape for survival.

He shook his head in disbelief. The first time he’d even come to this cafe with Dorian, he’d just been fighting for his life against two Rougs. Lih was changed, of course. Such an ordeal would change anyone. 

This conversation seemed somehow far darker and more dangerous. Like all the leaders Viktor Lih had ever known, Dorian was frustratingly ambiguous. Commanding, authoritative, appealing in his great intelligence and learning, yet treacherous and untrustworthy in that nothing was too precious to be sacrificed if it served his ends. Captain had been like that. So was Nox, a former atharim hunter? And what was the extent of Ivan’s humanity?

He didn’t like where Dorian was going, and he guessed Ivan probably didn’t either. Dorian didn’t just give them orders because he wanted them to know the situation and understand its terrain. How could they clear an area effectively otherwise?

Lih was just a man with a badge. But it’s time he did something more useful than paperwork. That was why he came along. To do real good. And it’s been a long time since he did any real good. 

He set his glasses down next to him and sighed deeply. He was too tired. He sat there in the tiny stall, removed his cap and gloves and buried his face in his calloused hands. Sunlight from a window behind him created a halo around his slim form. 

Viktor Lih exhaled deeply, shaking his head. He stared at his hands for a moment more. They were… shaking.

The word “Oni” echoed uncomfortably in his mind. He felt his skin crawl, and imagined powerful, inhuman eyes glaring at him, glaring at them all, and seeing inside them. He wondered how the oni’s perceived the world. Were they looking into his mind? Where they seeing through his flesh to his bones? Did they even notice him? He wondered in horrid fascination.

Could they see into his head and read how scared he was of them? 

Shaking the thoughts off, Lih shifted uncomfortably, unwilling to be drawn in. He took his duties and this case seriously—too seriously— probably because, like Ivan said, he’d never been in the tunnels before. 

He thought of Boda, Costa and his father, the men who had molded his life and brought him to this, equipping him, each in their own way, with the skills he now used. He missed them all, missed their confidences and strength. Costa had trained him, and Lih had been at the great officer’s side since their academy days. Lih’s father had died far away when Lih was still a trainee at the police academy. And Boda — bad, old Boda; Lih had killed him because he was too weak.

But each, in their own way, had made him. Costa had taught him the selflessness of police service and discipline; Boda: ruthlessness and failure. And his father? What he had gleaned from his father was more difficult to identify. What a father leaves his child is always the most indefinable.

Even now, he could hear his father’s dirty chuckle in his mind, scolding him for becoming attached to anyone or anything. 

“Don’t get involved, Viktor, not with anything. If you don’t care, you won’t care, and that makes the hardest parts of police life that much easier. Do what you must, take what you need and move on. Never look back, never regret.”

He realized, perhaps for the first time, that he had broken with his old man’s advice a long time since. When he had met his partner Costa and his family, he had started to care. He decided he didn’t see it as a weakness. In that one thing, his own father had been wrong. Caring for his partner, for the cause, for the fight, or for anyone, made him what he was. Without those reasons, without an emotional investment, he would have walked away or put a gun in his mouth months ago.

Lih looked up with a start, his mind spinning. It took him a moment to remember where he was. How long had he been lost in thought? 

There was something in his tired, quiet manner that made other cops stay away. This was not the same blushing young man trying to hit on Sage Parker weeks ago. This was a grown man with slumping shoulders. There was weariness in his manner that no amount of sleep could ease. His lined eyes had seen too much.

He’d spent his days at a desk, with a wallet in one hand and files in the other, and yet he felt more or less dead on his feet with exhaustion. This too was work, real police work, wretched with absolutes and limits. 

He’d rather have stepped out to clear his head and have a smoke. The last thing they wanted was to overreach themselves, yet Dorian was determined. Lih was uneasy following the detective, even though Dorian was ranking police officer. 

It would take another Lih and a whole different world for there to be any trust and comradeship between him and former atharim like Dorian. But for now, in the thick of this mystery surrounding Alistair Pavlo, Lih couldn’t help respecting the other detective, for that was what he was: a devoted detective of the CCD, just like Lih. But they would find Alistair Pavlov. For the love of the light. Lih nodded. He would. He swore it.

Dorian…. Lih always liked him. Had an air of worldliness about him, the way he carried himself. Ivan… now he had the mark of a leader on him. Might lead a team of his own, one day. But Costa… he missed his nuances and moves. He was one of the most levelheaded and respected men in the department; furthermore Costa liked Lih, he treated him with affection and concern. Dorian was rather more difficult. Although they all faced death here, this wasn’t Dorian’s hometown though his family lived in Moscow. No love lost there.

Still he felt… justified: justified in Dorian’s plans, justified in his faith in the force, justified in his hope to let it be Lih and Costa, shoulder to shoulder, like the old days.

A good man, Lih thought, rising courageously to his moment in CCD history.

Can the same be said about me, he wondered?

He realized that, when all was said and done, there was precious little difference between being a hero of the people of the CCD and being a ruthless, brutal killing machine. To be the former, one had to accept much of the role of the latter. Sometimes duty is painful and ugly, but it must be done. 

When Lih came back to the table, Ivan bent down and checked his wallet and Lih did likewise at his side. 

He adjusted his glasses and studied the files: greedily accepted the scrap of information thrown to him. He snatched all the maps from the folder before him and read it quickly. What he read arrested his attention, and he went back and re-read slowly, his eyes narrowing. 

Dorian told Lih to collate information relating to this case before they came here but there was so much more here. There were new irregularities that demanded investigation and they had taken statements already from anybody who’d been near the area at the time. 

Lih took the folder in his other hand and pursed his lips as he read the latest report; his gaze stopped here and there. He began to understand the far reaching political dilemma attached to the report in his gloved hand. Alistair Pavlov disappeared. Despite the fact that the area where he was being kept was secure and under guard. His fate and whereabouts since then are unknown. 

Viktor Lih bit back deep unease—the tunnels were big, so big! How in the name of light were three people going to clear a thing that size? The sheer size of the underground was going to take a lot of getting used to. He knew he’d have to beat this awe out of himself as quickly as possible, or he’d be too busy gazing dumbly to do his job.

As he understood it, Nox’s in charge in the tunnels. Their work here would take some time. And Nox was the key. His knowledge of the monster’s biology was a vital tool. That’s why they needed him to guide them in the tunnels, of course, and that meant the department was using somebody they could trust. In truth, they could use the help from Nox. Lih couldn’t imagine how long it would have taken to investigate in the tunnels otherwise.

Lih shook his head. It all seemed so unlikely. To cooperate with atharim…

Atharim, Lih thought. Praise be. God-killers, monster hunters, legendary cultists, as great and mythical as any elite squad of to use that name. 

Lih looked at the map. He saw the tunnels. Saw the size of it. This was all they had, but it wasn’t accurate. This was why they needed Nox’s help.

Anyway, he understood cooperation with a former atharim hunter like Nox, forged as an ultimate weapon in battles beyond the remit of a common man like Lih. But he didn’t like it. Such a dangerous monster hunter was a fearful thing, like those gods one hears about.

Still, he understood it. He looked around at Dorian, began to speak, and then just shook his head. Explaining the real nature of his horror to Dorian might take a lifetime.

And that time was all Lih had left to do something far more important than make complaints to a former atharim like the older detective. He kept his thoughts to himself though. The atharim might be bastards, but he felt Dorian reached an understanding with them. Besides, they’ll need atharim expertise and muscle when it comes to it. 

“What we’ll find in the tunnels may assist in the case of Alistair Pavlov.” 

Lih paused. “I hope what has happened there is not too late for him.”

“I wouldn’t dream of going in without Nox, sir,” Lih agreed softly to his ranking officer. “I’m glad you’ve invited him, and gladder still for Officer Sarkozy who has found his way in the tunnels twice before.” 

He blurted, dropping his wallet and then his folder unto the table. “Why has Nox come here to help us? What is his intent? We are sworn to duty, the duty of the law, given to us by the CCD. We undertake each duty as it comes, and we protect our people. This isn’t what he was made for.” 

“Of course sir.” Lih had said hurriedly. He had not intended offense to the former atharim detective. “I do not question your choice. And I have nothing but respect for the atharim’s skills.”
It was a polite and rather awkward appraisal, but he didn’t want to antagonize either Dorian or this outsider Nox. Even as he spat out these words, Lih felt them crossing an almost imperceptible line. The line between a precarious confrontation and total mayhem.

Lih tensed waiting for Dorian’s reply.
Viktor Lih
Officer of CCDPD
Lih got up in the middle of everything and excused himself.  Dorian followed the young detective to the back halls to the restrooms with his gaze before turning it back to Ivan with a shrug.  

"Nox should be here.  This meeting wouldn't be happening if he wasn't coming.  It's not that I want him working on this case with us, but his knowledge is far greater than mine in the tunnels, with monster you will encounter, and with these things you are going to find.  I doubt you can clear the tunnels of them, not with more like you and Nox.  The boy needs to get that courage back, the rougs scared him.  And the failings of the man called Boda have shaken him.  He needs a win."  Dorian confided in Ivan. "Nox and I had a falling out, he may not show even though he asked for the place and time.  But he will do this which is why I'm bringing you in.  The two of you have a common ground and work well together, he will answer your call at the very least."

Lih returned looking slighty better than he had when he left.  Dorian chuckled, "Officer Lih, I shot Alistair Pavlo in the head three times while he was trying to kill me.  He should be dead.  But when the officers went back, the body was not found, no remains, no blood stains - nothing. He either survived or whatever else is down their ATE him."

Lih asked about Nox and Dorian felt unqualified to say why Nox did anything, but he knew the answer anyway "Nox will help you because it's what he does.  He's coming here because I told him it was about the monsters.  Nox lives for the hunt, and he's not hunted at all since he's been helping Cruz.  He is not your conventional warrior.  He is Atharim, Victor, that is why he does this.  He knows nothing else but viloence and monsters."  That was more for Dorian, to remind him Nox only did things for himself, his betrayal just happened to come before the boys.  

Dorian looked to Ivan.  "You'll also want to coordinate the ammo you want to take with Nox.  Some types work better than others.  Nox also finds the simple weird things are useful when your power gets weak.  Or to push it out farther.  The day we met him at the fire, do you remember that?  He was carrying a sling, in that sling were pepples, shattered glass, baby powder.  And that was only thing things I knew what he could use it for.  Nox has been using his power for well over a year to hunt monsters, I'm sure he can show you some useful tricks of his trade."

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