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

Alexandrova Lesya Vladislavovna sat at her desk and stared through the screens floating before her. The hum of the air circulating in the room was whisper quiet, a white background upon which to frame her thoughts.

The Ascendancy's directive lay in her mind, made all the more sharp by the revelation earlier in the week. Both she and Leonid had known of course. Knowledge was the currency of the world and between the two of them, there was little across the empire and world they didn't catch at least some whisper of.

In this, though, they knew for the most simple of reasons. Because Nikolai had told them. They were his to the core, part of his inner circle. Not the Sphere and its Privileges. That was politics. That was show. That was reward for those who needed to be bought. No. They were in the true Sphere. And they made his will known, shaped the people he ruled- or would one day rule.

And now there was a new need. The revelation had been...controversial. Privately she wondered if it had been necessary. Leonid had seen it as opportunity. It could be. If it could be shaped, controlled.

Awe would wear off. Awe would give way to familiarity. And the saying was true regarding familiarity. It was what those unknown gospel writers, in perhaps the greatest work of propaganda ever written, has shown so clearly. Miracles were miracles...until they were common place. And they became common place very quickly.

This needed to keep its vitality, its importance. It needed to be nurtured and fed, but not openly, not obviously. The appearance needed to be of comfort and acceptance of the newly strange. The truth was more subtle. Nikolai needed to be viewed as a god by all. Anything overt would be rejected outright. They needed a deft hand.

And so Alexandrova pored over the internet, combing through journals and posts and articles and threads, seeking voices, fresh voices, young voices. Voices that could speak the truth they needed to hear.

A few were promising. It could not be a sycophant, not a gushing man or woman with a childish crush. It needed to be powerful and emotion filled but logical and forceful and undeniable.

She read until the words ran together. But it was enough. She had to make a choice. She singled out three prospects, three that seemed to be what she wanted. She would look for more. This wasn't the job of one person. But it was a beginning.

She forwarded the samples to Leonid along with her thoughts.

"Supersition. Myth. Supernatural. Powers."
Author presents an interesting perspective. The connection to mythology is a tantalizing one, not simply for history's sake. Connecting Asc's power to past myths satisfies the need to make him appear comfortable. The god who abides by law, by elections. The god that can live with man, as may have happened in the past. But the implication, perhaps not realized by Ms. Alohkin, is that connecting him to the ancient gods bathes him in their light, in their power. Even subconsciously, this sense of worship and awe can be kindled. I recommend an invitation for further interview.

Leonid soon responded. She had waited only for a second set of eyes and his thoughts, though in truth she knew what he'd say. Their partnership went back decades, each of them coming to know and trust each other. And it was a partnership, an alien thing in this place of insatiable lust for power.

His responses, when they came, were expected.

Invitations were extended. Travel arrangements were made. Now came the interesting part.

Edited by Marcus DuBois, Aug 3 2016, 11:41 PM.

As the last light faded from beyond the buildings of Moscow to the west, Katya Alokhin hurried to her apartments, trying to ignore the pulsing at the back of her mind. She was flushed, her hair, typically held in a bun or loose, was disheveled, and worst of all, she was trembling. “I hate you, Elise,” she mumbled to herself out of habit, recklessly climbing her way up the set of stairs that ran to her apartments. Thankfully, at this time of night, few were wandering the halls, so none could see how flushed she was. “I hate you so, so very much,” she continued, breathless. She had been running for some time, trying to get home before she surrendered herself to the hidden power in the back of her head. Elise had forced her to it! She had no other choice! It had been Elise, damn that woman!

She was thankful she was almost home. Running down the last stretch of carpet to Apartment #221, she gritted her teeth, and took upon herself the task of retrieving her keys, hidden underneath various day-to-day items in the satchel that clung to her side. Wrestling inside of there was rough, and painful as well – not in the physical sense, but mentally. The Power begged for her to touch it. It pulsed and throbbed and made her want it more and more. It wouldn’t go away until she fell into it. It wouldn’t go away. Biting down on her tongue, shaking, trying to retrieve her keys, she was at least thankful for the years she had spent resisting the Power, elsewise she might’ve already surrendered to this ethereal globe of light. It was like the sun, almost. Warm, welcoming, dangerous.

Finally she retrieved her keys. Pulling them out with a stiff yank, she sighed in relief and fit it into the keyhole. Once her door was unlocked, she scurried in, slammed the door behind her, and dropped her satchel.

Then she allowed herself to touch it.

She let out a groan of pleasure as radiance unending washed over her. She stumbled back, mouth opening wide as it filled her. There was not a single place on her body that did not feel alive right then. Not a single part of her that didn’t feel better or see better or hear better. She could make out the fine hairs on her arms standing up from the sensation. She could feel the intense ache in her feet. She could hear the sounds of distant sirens, of the dangers that commonly permeated Moscow’s nightlife. This Power, from what she could tell of it, was addictive in many ways, much like the addiction of nicotine or alcohol. Once you had one taste of it, you wanted more, and the more you wanted, the more you drank in it until it consumed you whole.

Katya promised herself she was not addicted. She hadn’t touched the Power in over a week. But still; it was so blissful, so pleasurable, like being touched by a fine cool mist on a hot summer day. Like nothing else she had ever experienced before. The more she brooded on it, the more she wanted it. For one last, lingering taste, Katya drew deeper, though she was unsure how she did it. Soon, it would become painful, she knew. And once it became painful…

She dropped it. Let the Power flood out of her. It left her exhausted, weak, and fragile. She slumped to the ground, and let herself breathe. The cold wood floors beneath her offered little comfort for her, so once she let the dull colors of the world come back to her, she stood, wiped off her skirts, and made her way into her apartment. It wasn’t large by comparison to Elise’s, she noted with dissatisfaction, but it was home. The living room held a small television and a sofa off to the side, and beside it were two nightstands, each holding stacks of papers important to her writings. She had a balcony as well, though it went unfurnished at the moment. She had left it open over the day to make sure that it wasn’t too hot when she got home, and now that the need to touch the Power had vanished, she was thankful for the slight tingle of cold evening air against her skin.

Katya quickly threw the satchel she had at her side on a table nearby, resting near the kitchen, and then slumped on the chair in the corner of the room. It was quiet, eerily so, compared to a moment earlier where it seemed she could hear everything in the world. She let herself relax for a moment, to catch her breath and think on the events of the day. It had started normal, but Elise’s careful prodding had gotten worse throughout the day. As one of her teachers, Katya could hardly avoid her, and most of the time she didn’t, but today she had been simply insufferable. Since she arrived in the morning she had dangerously thrown herself out there by holding to her Power, making Katya watch her glow for however long she wanted. Katya knew enough of this strange Power that whenever you used it for too long, you grew exhausted and fatigued, but Elise had simply held to it, making Katya watch and grow more irritable by the minute.

She could barely hold herself together on the ride home. There was something about watching someone hold the Power that made her want to drink in it herself, and she was certain Elise knew that just as much as she did. *She’s taunting me,* she told herself. *She wants to make me surrender. I won’t, by God! I won’t!* She hated this Power. She hated it!

In a sudden burst of anger, Katya flung herself upright and made her way to her Wallet, a small device sitting on the corner of her table. Pressing the large button on the screen that started it up, Katya started typing rapidly on it. Then she pressed another button, and she was calling someone. Elise.

The line beeped, and she was on. “I knew you would call me,” the middle-aged woman said, sounding amused. “What is wrong, Katya?”

“Don’t do that again,” she warned, her voice tense. “You know what it does. And you know I don’t like it.”

She snorted from the other end. “Do you not like to drink in it too, Katya? You must learn to embrace your fears, elsewise they will always control you.” Her fears had originally come from nearly searing Elise’s arm off, and furthermore, the horror she could cause with the invisible lines she had flung around herself on that one fateful night.

“It is addicting,” Katya said stalwartly. “You are addicted to it, Elise. If you won’t stop, I will be forced to take measures. I think you threaten me and yourself with what you do.”

The other end was silent. “It has no drawbacks, unlike alcohol or what not.”

“You yourself said the dangers of touching such an incredible source of power, Elise. They would… come for us.” There were men and women who would dedicate their entire lives to ending her and Elise, and what if they had some way to hunt them down? What if they were more than a hidden mercenary band? What if they were right within earshot?

She swallowed. Hard.

“I don’t think,” Katya continued, “that I should like to take lessons from you so long as you continue to do this. Please do not do it again. Your carelessness threatens us all.” Her voice was stone cold, and she made sure it was that way before she clicked the button that signified an end to their conversation. If Elise called back, she wouldn’t answer. If Elise tried to do that again, Katya would show her her fury. She would, damn that woman!

The moment she turned away, she heard a ring. She swallowed again, turning to her Wallet. Elise…

It wasn’t Elise. For a moment, relief ran through her, before panic settled in. Who was calling her at such a late hour? Curious as she was, she couldn’t withhold herself from touching the button that started the call. “Hello?” Cam her voice, weary to the bone. “Who is this?”

Often enough, Katya had callers who shared their opinions on her work. Some good, some bad, but never impolite. Sometimes, there were fans as well, though those calls were few and far between. Who would call her now? Who?
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Office of the Consul on Public Engagement, Propaganda, and Interdominance Relations

Alexandrova messaged her secretary to admit Ms. Alokhin. She watched as the girl came in and sat down. She must have felt nervous to be here at the Consulate in the heart of the CCD, but she had an air of professionalism about her, a cool detached demeanor.

Immediately she mirrored what she saw. She stood and reached out her hand, mouth a polite smile, her blue eyes plainly cool and analytic. "Ms. Alokhin, thank you for meeting with me. Please sit down,"
gesturing to a chair.

She dispensed with any pleasantries or fawning and got down to business, knowing this was what would matter to her. She lifted a bundle of printed paper on her desk- archaic, she knew, but she preferred the tactile feeling of something to hold, something to physically write on. The fact it could be done meant it was something she could study, could dissect, could improve upon. "I had the opportunity to read your articles. The work is impressive."
Her eyes took in the girl, studying. "I must say that I was surprised at your in depth analysis given that The Ascendancy's announcement and demonstration are only a few days old."
She paused, looking at the papers as if searching for something specific, a calculated hesitation.

"Almost as if you had this in abeyance."
She raised her eyes and met the girl's, the smile gone. "Did you suspect The Ascendancy to be....special? What made you connect his power and mythology?"

Her eyes remained, probing. She wanted to know how this girl thought on her feet.

Pale faced, Katya looked at the woman she was certain would be the death of her. After the call, after she had been practically summoned to this place, her mind could do nothing but race. What were they going to do with her? Were they upset that she had published so much on the Ascendancy? If they were upset, Katya knew that she could do little for it, so she just sat down and complied, completely silent as this woman – an older woman, certainly, with a professional air about her – asked her questions. They were hard to swallow, and harder to work through with her mind, but eventually, the girl replied – and she sounded very much like a girl.

And what came spilling out was the truth. All of it. Katya had never been put in this situation before.

“I did,” she told the woman, her voice sharp and to the point. “Though I feel that is because I have had other things – stranger things – happen around me.” Could she let her know that she, too, held the power? That she could incinerate this desk with one mere thought? The glowing orb in the distance of her mind beckoned her closer. Thinking on it never helped. It made it worse. Always.

She smoothed down her skirts. She had come in a cotton blouse and black skirts. Simple enough, she supposed. Then she took in a deep breath, and continued. She would have to say it. “I can control the same sort of power the Ascendancy describes, I think. I don’t know the details, but it isn’t the same power. But they share characteristics. It’s very odd, Miss Aexandrova. I think that’s what led me to linking mythology to him. Because I have linked it to myself. Not that I am in any way similar to the Ascendancy. I used my own… powers… as a building block. If that makes sense?”

She was sweating nervously. Lord, help her through this!
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Office of the Consul on Public Engagement, Propaganda, and Interdominance Relations

Alexandrova smiled inwardly. For a number of reasons. First and foremost- if it was true- and she would make sure of that- was the girl's admission of being Ascendant herself. Which meant, she had a personal interest in making what she and Nikolai did seem safe and normal. That people not fear or attack her.

Also as important was the fact that the girl had revealed her ability with no pressure whatsoever. Not weak. Alexandrova did not know that yet. But certainly malleable. Fearful. Trusting.

Which led to her main interest. She put on a sympathetic smile, a motherly one. "You would not know this, but The Ascendancy has been interested in others like him, like you, for a long time. While we cannot know what has caused this...change in humanity, after so many millenia, it is not coincidence. You are marked as special, Katya. The Ascendancy's name for you is Ascendant."
She smiled encouragingly, the uniqueness of the offer clear.

She let that sink in. Inwardly, though, she relaxed. Alexandrova knew Nikolai. Ascendant power did not automatically mean one was inducted into his inner circle, did not mean that he dismissed those who had stood by him and helped him all these decades. She felt no fear of being swept aside. Of all great men in history, Nikolai reminded her of one man most of all. Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix, Dictator of Rome. A complicated man, judged a villain often, later nemesis of the great champion of the populares, the famed Gaius Marius. The man was brutal at times, enacting proscription on the rich equites who had profited at Rome's Social Wars and other entanglements. But the man stood for order, for the mos maiorum, the 'way of the elders', and gave everything for that order, for a Rome that was at peace and strong.

And Sulla had a saying, to be inscribed on his epitaph: "Nullus melior amicus, nullus peior inimicus” "No better friend, no worse enemy"

That was Nikolai, to the core. Her friend. Leonid's friend. The man they were devoted to. The man they expended themselves in service to, because they believed in what he did, in what he stood for, in who he was. A flawed man. An imperfect man. But the only man who could bring peace and order to the entire world.

And this girl had the opportunity to serve. She had the opportunity to contribute to that order. "I have read some of your short stories. They are heart rending. The are piercing. They speak truth. Tell me. How would you feel about writing for The Ascendancy? How would you like to share the experience and feelings of Ascendants like yourself with the rest of the world- behind a wall, of course. With no threat of exposure to yourself, if that concerns you."

Edited by Marcus DuBois, Aug 7 2016, 02:48 AM.

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