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The Way I Am
The room was hot and sweat slicked Marcus' naked chest and head. He was only peripherally aware of it, though, as the dream seemed to pull his physical sensations into his mind, to add them to the experience.

The tunnels were stifling, overhead pipes running the lengths radiating heat like an oven. The walls kept flickering. Dank dark rock and brick lined tunnels- black liquid gleaming from a light that came from everywhere and nowhere- that might be sewers in some movie, the overwhelming smell of detritus and decay and filth filling his mouth, roiling his stomach.

And suddenly the walls were clean cinder block, narrow spaced with lights hanging from the ceilings in between the pipes, the floor only slightly dusty, security cameras hanging at junctions.

The smell is...different. Not clean. Not filthy. But something dark is down here. Evil.

And he knows this place, looks up, can imagine looking past the ceiling to the farmhouse above, isolated and alone. The Butcher.

Malik pulls on the Force until his skin prickles, heightening his senses, sends out webs of compressed air and spirit to bring every whisper, every scrape, every prayer for mercy to him.

And the slow burn of the righteous fire in his heart grows, the hunger for judgement, the craving. Oh how he longs to hear the screams, deep throated and lusty with despair and with hope. And his heart begins to race and a slow tight smile spreads across his face, bearing his sharpened teeth, shadows of dark flame wreathing his face, a mist of black smoke emanating around him.

He is hungry. He feels that carnal desire, that burning need in him, in his heart and in his groin, his deft fingers on a lover's body, teasing her and hinting at pleasure divine, building the anticipation, stoking the fire, log by log, each erogenous zone gently touched and caressed, fingers and lips and tongue.

He is hungry. He feels the carnal desire, that burning need in him, in his heart and in his hands, the deft and careful teasing of this butcher, this evil incarnate, this emptiness walking in human flesh. Judgement has come to him, the very face of God. Darth Malik. Before the day ends, he will know....the man will know everything from the inside out. Every victim of his will have their say.

He stalks the halls- only they have changed. A door appears and he carefully opens it....

To find Ms. Swerlin's living room, filled with stuffed flowery couches they were never to sit on, the cloyingly sweet smell of body spray and perfume a cloud hovering over the cheap porcelain nicknacks covering the white doilies, the massive wooden framed television on the floor, ugly light blue wall paper mercifully hidden by ugly paints in ornamented frames or with cheap thick garish curtains.

And there, standing in the corner weeping silently- quietly because Jesus is on TV- while Andre's choking cries can be heard from upstairs, is little Marcus. I'm sorry Andre. It's my fault, my fault, Marcus is blubbering, sniffing and wiping away the snot running down his nose, the stain of juice on the ugly pink carpets suddenly appearing.

Darth Malik freezes, all control dripping away. Darth Malik...when he had just been an imaginary friend, the one Marcus spoke to when he was scared, whispered to in his head when he needed to go away. The friend who only listened. Who couldn't help him.

"I am here," Malik whispers to Marcus. Marcus doesn't turn and Malik walks closer, eyeing the stairs, waiting. "I am here, Marcus." Marcus turns and his eyes widen in fear at the terrifying image. Malik sees a child. He hears a child. He lays a hand of black flame on his shoulder. "She will pay."

The look of hopelessness fires Malik's heart and the fires surround him and he turns. The hunger of before is back again, stronger than it has ever been. The smile on his face is feral, his eyes furnaces ready to burn the universe to the ground.

At his first step, he is on Ms. Swerlin's porch and she is bringing him milk and cookies, just as she had when he was little, when he and Andre first came to them. Just before she taught them the rules of her house. "Oh Marcus, we are so proud of you," she is saying. He remembers this, now, remembers this and his friendly smile widens. This happened. Oh yes but it did.

She did like the bathroom, the tub in particular. His lungs would burn as they choked down water. Andre had tried to tell him, that first night, his eyes filled with terror and tears. But there's no way you can know without experiencing it for yourself. It was the next day seven year old Marcus had learned.

And now here she was, fawning over his attending University. It had been years since he'd seen her. Farian had been the catalyst, showing him what he could do with his power, with the gift of the Force.

Marcus embraced the memory, every gurgle, every scream, every cough and puke. During those times, the panic and terror covering her face, he was gentle, almost loving with his hands and a towel, soothing her, helping her to calm down, to ease her fear. His voice was soft and comforting. "There there, Ms. Swerlin. It's ok," until finally he saw the blossom of hope. It was over. This boy had had his revenge and now it's over. And she'd try to say sorry...

And Malik would smile and start over again.

Marcus awoke as he orgasmed, feeling the cold on his sweat covered body. Carefully he rose, heedless, and went to the balcony door and slid it open, walked out into the cool night air, let it wash him clean. The rage clouding his mind seemed to drift off him, dissipating with the cool until it was finally gone.

He looked at the clock. Only 2 am. He had been asleep for just a few hours. It had seemed like days. Looking down, he grimaced. This had never happened before. He had dreamed of his hunts before. But they had never been like this. Had never been this real. It was unsettling. His mind swirled and he reached out to Malik. Nothing. He looked up into the black vault overhead, felt the full expanse of the universe on top of him. He very nearly seized the Force He was feeling too much. He didn't want more.

Anger and betrayal. Fear and humiliation. Rage and peace. Emptiness. Quiet. All of them swirling through him.

It was unsettling.

He left the balcony door open as he went back inside. The security system would keep out any intruders. Cleaning himself up and changing, he took a drink of cool water and then sat cross-legged on his floor to meditate. It had been a long time since he had meditated for peace. For a quiet mind as an escape.

Gradually his emotions subsided to a natural ebb and flow, ocean waves gently lapping at the shore. He was tired. He got back into his bed, the sheets cold and soaked with sweat, and drifted off.

Tomorrow would be busy.

@"Spectra Lin"
[Image: Alexandrova.jpg][Image: david-duchovnys-quotes-7.jpg]

Alexandrova Vladislavovna - Leonid Bykov

Office of the Consul on Public Engagement, Propaganda, and Interdominance Relations

Office of the Consulate on Communications

Alex sat back, her green eyes quietly studying Marcus as he and Leonid spoke. The boy had done well for himself. Then again, she would never have brought him to Leonid and Nik's attention if she had thought otherwise.

At the time, it had been her hope he would join her Consulate of Propaganda. While his thesis on Edge verses Center Nations was not exactly revolutionary, his ability to explain it was very impressive. As was his seeing the big picture, people as masses that could generally be expected to react in predictable ways. Which was only a single step removed from causing people to react in those desired ways. He would have done well there. She was always on the lookout for visionaries as opposed to flunkies and plodders.

And if he was perhaps charming and effortless....well, all the better. She and Leonid had been together for decades, ever since they went to school together in Bologna with Nik, Raved, and Valentin. All five of them inseperable. It was true, she had harbored secret feelings for Nik. It had been the five of them, but in many ways, only she truly understood Nik. Only she saw the burden he bore and never shared. So yes, she had had feelings, long ago- feelings he only once reciprocated one night when the drinks had flowed and and he had kissed her. But school girl crushes were always messy and short lived. Their friendship and trust went far deeper.

So it had been Leonid she had partnered with, eventually heading two Consulates that were mirrors- the one private, the other public. Together, they had helped shape public perception both in the ASU and later the CCD. Alex's work had dropped more than a handful of nations into Nik's pocket. Why destabilize a nation militarily when you could win over the minds and hearts of their people. At long last, seeds sown in the US were finally coming to fruition and she had no doubt it too would crack. It was their work.

She and Leonid were mature adults who worked long hours. The jobs were their lives. Both of them had tools at their disposal. Tools far beyond simple intelligence and organization. Leonid's boyish playfulness and wit had broken more than one reporter or editor's will and resolve, had shaped more than a few opinion pieces or sudden reversals of stances in public forums. It masked a dangerous mind.

She did not begrudge her partner his dalliances, anymore than he begrudged her hers. Silk covered steel, she was. Soft and beguiling, manipulating and clouding the minds of men and women fairly easily, only for them to discover too late her claws sunk deep, her poison pumping into them.

Marcus would have been hers. And might still be. Still. It made her smile. It would be amusing to have another Consul on her string.

As if they sensed her presence and thoughts, both sets of eyes turned to her. Leonid smiled in a friendly way though she knew his tone betrayed an annoyance. "She's daydreaming of us Marcus," he said, dryly.

Marcus' blush was hard to see against the darkness of his skin....if it was there at all. She had been watching him for a while, now, both as Sigma and now as a Consul himself. His dalliances with Elouera Galloway, Leonid's youth advisor of the Religious office. His time at the ball with that young mousey doctor. Others.

She suspected some of his reactions were feigned. If so, they were good. One day, in a decade maybe, he might have risen enough to be part of Nik's inner sphere. If he could be trusted. All outward appearances said yes. But there was

She smirked, favoring Leonid with a nod. "And why shouldn't I? I don't see much for me to do here." A slight provocation that Marcus bit at too easily.

In an overly solicituous manner, he interjected, "No, Alexandrova. I need the help of both Consulates for this. The communications and propaganda wing. You were at Patheos! A riot broke out and was only barely contained. The tension between channelers and other gifted people and the rest is growing. And factions are adding to it. We need to release some of that pressure. And the fact is, I don't know how to do it. At least....". He spread his hands helplessly.

He was right, of course. It was hard for normal people to see such extraordinary abilities and not feel scared. She had never feared Nik- but only because she knew him from the beginning. And he was only one man. But it was easy enough to imagine if thirty Niks suddenly showed up at school all those years ago.

She nodded, an idea occurring- though perhaps her predatory side played a role too. "Leonid, I wonder how well Elouera is doing in the DV project. From the latest reports, we have media scripts and projects in development that will last the next few years at least." Her eye flicked to Marcus' innocently. "Perhaps she might be temporarily recalled from DV so as start working on youth religious perspectives regarding Marcus' point. They are the first and best entry vector."

A slight glint in his eye made her smile on the inside. Oh yes. It was something, then. The boy got around. Perhaps she should tell Leonid to give him a warning about visibility.

They continued to talk and plan in the center conference room, surrounded by glass walls. Much of his Consulate's administrative offices could be seen from here, when the glass was not opaque as it was now.

By the end, she was standing, the glass shimmering back to transluscent, people milling about, casually glancing at the three Consuls who suddenly appeared out of nowhere.

It was not without its theatrics.

As they ended their greetings, Alex happened to look over at the receptionist desk where a sultry beauty stood, perhaps looking a bit impatient. Suddenly looking at them.

Marcus looked up and saw her, his face lighting up. Alex couldn't help the slight smile that formed as her eyebrow raised. The boy loved dangerous games it seemed. And prey. He was an ambituous one, that was for sure. And definitely not out of her sights. Not now.

"Leonid, come, please. Let us visit Dr. Korban while we are here." She nodded at Marcus. "You've done well here, Marcus. Keep it up." And then they headed off in another direction.

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