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Trigger point
Nikolai was not in the best of moods when he returned to Moscow. He hated the clandestine nature of the past day. He understood the need for it. The Ascendancy was not an executioner and he certainly didn't jet around Europe acting as one. He'd contemplated the situation even as he ducked beneath the whirling blades of his helicopter. After everything he'd accomplished, he could not yet be who he was in the open. Perhaps that was the wrongness crimping the corners of his mind. The world deserved to know who he really was. He deserved to show them. It had been a long time since his patience had thinned so.

He'd returned to one of his private residences outside Moscow. This particular estate was once the home to the famous presidents of Russia - himself included - until his official address was exchanged for the towers of the Kremlin. Living souls that were not of his government were so much as permitted to breathe within a mile of the gates. Yet the privacy he often yearned for was not as comforting as he'd hoped.

He felt little better the next day despite the night of good sleep. Power danced on his fingertips while he prepared for the day. Every little gesture he carried out with it as he had not done in twenty years. Before inauguration into the presidency, he'd tied his own tie with not but the will of sheer thought alone and smiled smug into the mirror when it was perfectly set. He'd gone on to carry out far greater tasks since, but the symbolism in its simplicity remained.

The memory led him to believe that the trigger for his mood was Valdir himself. Not the man's death. That wasn't so much as regrettable. But the presence of the power itself wielded through another vessel. And Valdir had been a massive conduit.

Such, from midair on his way to the Kremlin, Nikolai sent the order to his staff to call for Marcus DuBois. it was time to deal with yet another notable tool at his disposal. Hopefully, the meeting would end better for Marcus than it had for Valdir.
Marcus sat on the floor meditating. It had taken some time for his mind to clear. The work at the Consulate had been interesting but long and he wanted to relax. It had been a busy past week, including his dinner with Elouera and then the next day with Spectra. He couldn't but smile at her name. An interesting one, she was. Ruthless, arrogant, hungry. He had enjoyed his time with her. She had turned out to be refreshingly honest in her ambitions, even if she didn't say as much with her words. He liked that.

The stillness of the room finally made its way inside his mind, the dark shadows of the room friends that seemed to reach out to him and envelop him. The longer he stared into the darkness, the easier it was to see shapes, familiar ones, shapes that had been with him in closets and boxes, in cages and locked bathrooms. They were nebulous and yet somehow, in some way, he perceived an order about them, a symmetry. On a logical level, he knew they were merely artifacts of his eyes, random firing of rods and cones sending information to his visual processing. But they had been with him far longer than that knowledge. Unreal as they were, they were a comfort to him, a quiet eye in the hurricane.

Light intruded on his darkness though. Not a literal light. The perception of the possibility of light. He could focus on it and would see it if he chose to. At one time, refusing that call would have been difficult. He could refuse to call to it, of course. But to refuse to see it, to acknowledge it? He had only learned that over the last week. It called to him, begged for him to to see it and take it. A lover he had been forbidden. A lover he had scorned for making him weak with need. He smiled and dismissed it from his mind, the peace of the shadows returning to him.

His time would come. Until then he was content.

A light intruded on the shadows and he snapped his eyes over to the source. His wallet was lit up, bathing the room in soft whites and blues. He picked it up and read the message. He couldn't help the smile on his face. He responded in affirmative and then placed the wallet down and returned to his meditations. His heart grew to stillness after a few minutes. He would quietly savor the anticipation.

Tomorrow would bring a new day.

When he awoke, the stillness from the night before was still there. Mostly. A worm of excitement tried to make its way but he pushed it way, trying to keep his feelings in check. Very deliberately and carefully he performed his morning ablutions. He'd grown a goatee and van-dyke over the last few days and made sure they were trimmed to symmetric perfection.

His eyes wandered over his warddrobe. Very deliberately, he chose an onyx black wool suit- the cut emphasizing his athletic build- and a dried blood red shirt. A gold checked tie, dark reddish black leather shoes and belt completed the ensemble. That and his Sigma pin.

He exited his room and made his way to the Executive Office of the Ascendancy, a slight smile on his face. The anticipation and excitement wanted to build but he clamped tight on it, compressed it, smothered it until it became a black hole. He fed all remaining emotion into that singularity and felt that sense of peace again.

Today would be what it would be. The universe, fate, God, the Force- whatever you wanted to call it- had brought them to this moment. But what happened would depend solely on Ascendancy and Marcus.
His staff filtered a world's worth of information on a minute by minute basis. By the time Nikolai walked the halls of the Kremlin, he was presented with only the most important sliver updates. At present, those updates were being given by his deputy consul, Viktor Stepanovich. The man was sharp, as usual. Nikolai expected nothing less.

"There was a small change to your schedule today, Ascendancy."
Viktor offered up a viewing of two Chinese Brigadier generals. "Consul Klimeš will be arriving at 30-after the hour to update you on overnight intel regarding change in Chinese military staff. Two nuclear commanders from Pingquan air force base were terminated last night, and a research scientist at micro-nuclear propulsion was found dead this morning. Consul Klimeš believes it is related to yesterday's leak out of Pingquan."

Nikolai frowned. Yesterday he had been dealing with Valdir, fielding updates on this potential situation from the air there and back again. Yesterday, leaks from Pingquan Air Base hinted at a complex subterranean military system thought only to be myth. Today two high-ranking officers were terminated. Which, to the Chinese, meant the Generals and every member of their immediately family were going to disappear.

"Very well. Thank you, Viktor. Anything else?"

"Tazmine tells me the Sigma is waiiting on you,"
Viktor replied, almost after-the-fact.

Nikolai hadn't forgotten the summons. Ten minutes to deal with Marcus was not going to be enough. Then again, he knew within minutes how to handle Valdir.

As soon as Nikolai entered the main hub of the Executive Offices, staffers came to their feet. He shared good-mornings and Happy New Year's greetings with those he passed most closely. Tazmine, the staffer that Viktor mentioned, seemed ready to burst with child. Although Marcus was nearby, whose eye Nik briefly caught, he paused to speak with her instead. "Good morning, Tazmine. I hope you and Colson are well."

The staffer laid a hand on her bulging belly and smiled fondly. "Of course we are Ascendancy. I half hoped he would come yesterday, but it seems he is holding out for '46."
Nikolai chuckled and wished her well before continuing on.

Viktor caught sight of Marcus and split away for the time being, but the two Barrier agents remained in Nikolai's shadow as he headed for his office.

Nik did not miss a step as they passed Marcus. He waved that he should follow. "Come in, Marcus. We will chat."

He led them into the office of fame and power. This was the room that served as backdrop to Nikolai's many addresses to the world.

He seated himself behind the desk, flicking apart the button of his suit-coat as he did. The two Agents positioned themselves outside the door. Which left Marcus to seal them inside, seemingly alone. The Ascendancy's presence, like his attire, was formal rather than rigid, his bearing regal. The points of the Arcus band touched the sides of his temples and a hawk-like gaze settled itself onto Marcus.

"Lets hear your story, Marcus. Not the one on your application. Your other one."
Nik did not need to demonstrate to communicate what he meant.

The Ascendancy whisked him into his office and sat down. His guards remained at the door. A look from the man was enough. Marcus shut the doors on the guards. If he was presumptuous, he would know. At this point, though, he didn't care. As he turned, Malik took over.

Ascendancy sat down at the desk and seemed in repose. An act, but he understood. His eyes flicked to the chair but he decided that standing directness was appropriate.

"Lets hear your story, Marcus. Not the one on your application. Your other one."

Marcus couldn't help but smile. Direct and to the point. He would have done the same thing. He inclined his head a fraction. "Of course, Ascendancy."
His head returned to full position. "As I'm sure you've had your people confirm, everything in my applications, transcripts, history, essays, and recommendations have been checked. And they have all been verified. With the obvious exception of the power we share in common. Obviously, that is not something that one puts on a form."
A slight smile.

"But to your question. I was 21 years old and in my fifth year at university. I had dropped my major in mathematics to focus on political science and philosophy a few years before. I was on my way out of the dead nation I lived in and headed for one that still had a chance, an opportunity to bring order to the world."

Marcus repressed Malik and let the truth show. His words became clipped and sentences short. "I was at a grocery store. A woman was with her child. I saw them. I saw her anger as they walked to her van. The way she moved. The way she looked around."
His eyes focused again on Ascendancy. "You know of my past, the foster homes and abuse I endured."

He didn't wait for a nod. "I saw her walk and I felt a cloud of anger come over me. But it felt like it was not from me. I felt like I had ascended. I was above this and could see everything. And I knew what had happened. The child had done something to anger her. I had seen that look too many times."
He looked at the man, returning to the present. "I was right of course. The woman looked around to see if anyone could see her. She didn't see me and started beating the child. The chaos pressed in upon me and I decided it was enough. I can't explain my thoughts except that I had determined this would stop. I walked to her and said something to her. But somehow, the words I said didn't matter. She stopped and her eyes glazed and she then walked into on-coming traffic and killed herself."

He took a breath and paused. "Obviously, I had not meant for that to happen. But it did. I was scared and got away amidst police and witnesses. I went home and hid in my room, skipping the next day's classes. By the 2nd day I was deathly ill but I forced my way through. The sickness weakened soon and I was back on my feet."
He quieted. "From that day forward, I found that I had a power. I could do things with my mind."

Distaste showed on his face. "I dislike randomness, disorder. I refused to believe this was magic. It was deeper than that. The only metaphor I found useful was that of the 'Force'. A fiction, I know. But the author did base the fiction on old mythologies. I suspect the source of my- of our- power is the basis of those old stories. In any case, it was useful enough. I applied my knowledge of mathematics and the scientific method to this power and gradually learned how to use it. I even developed a mathematical way of representing and manipulating weaves that hints at the potential of this power."

His eyes focused on Ascendancy. "Above all, I crave order and harmony. Peace in this world. Not the emotional definition. Real peace and security. Machievelli's definition. Even before I learned I had this power, I was determined to bring it about. But then I read your story, your writings."

He stepped forward, feeling confidence. This was the moment of truth. "If you had not been here, I would have set about creating it. It is that important. A work of a lifetime but someone has to do it. But you are here. So I determined to be here to work with you. A willing ally. This world must have peace."

He spread his hands. "That is my story."
He inclined his head.

Edited by Marcus DuBois, Nov 6 2014, 07:25 AM.
Marcus explained everything Nikolai demanded to hear. The story was indeed a story, but one that Nik could visualize. An emotional charge triggered Marcus's powers. He wanted something with such demand that his soul reached into the void to make it so. In this case, he wanted to punish the woman. A less cynical mind might attribute his desire as one to protect the child. But Marcus has not pulled the child from the clutches of the mother's arms. Rather, the mother was drawn elsewhere.

Half a century analyzing everything around him, Nik recognized other insights into Marcus's identity. In one breath he deferred to the Ascendancy yet in another referenced his own ascension. He craved control and would have sought worldwide authority had it not already been claimed by Nikolai. Perhaps he still would. The world was a large place, but it grew infinitely smaller when filled with men like them. Finally, he testified to be a willing ally yet the voluntary position implied the potential for the opposite. Marcus was deigning to allow himself to be the Ascendancy's ally rather than the other way around. He understood the underlying suggestion but the sharpness to Nikolai's gaze never relented. In fact it came with a thin warning that Marcus judge his path carefully. These first few years of influence were of grave importance. A decade from now, Marcus might be a true threat to Nikolai's authority.

"I hereby lift the ban against you. Use your powers as you deem worthy. However, you are to cease those incessant flashes. As your numbers grow, the risk of discovery is too great. However I do wish you to continue to seek out those whom you can, but you must report them to me. As you can imagine, your powers in the hands of a madman cannot go unwatched. The time will come when I reveal my true self to the world, but not yet. No doubt you're aware of Nicholas Trano's broadcast. It was too soon. He's become a laughing-stock. Meanwhile, men like that Damien Oakland in Mexico are gaining in popularity. Sheep do not come when called; they must be lured."
Marcus smiled at Ascendancy's words. A measure of trust had been earned. He did not miss the hard look in the man's eyes, though. His admission of his own ambitions- a calculated but necessary reveal- made it clear that his trust was probationary.

As if to cement the point, Ascendancy went on to tell him to continue seeking out others like them, but to be sure to tell him of any discoveries. Trano's revelation had fallen on deaf ears and he had become fodder for the media. More than one person had suggested that between the fighting in DV and getting shot, Trano had snapped. Oakland, on the other hand, was a surprise. He would think on him.

But his mind shifted between this tentative new trust and his own plans for Poytr. Clearly, Ascendancy was looking to collect or at least monitor those like them. Inwardly, he frowned, thinking on Pyotr and his....nature. The man was weak and easily prone to manipulation and intimidation. And he could only channel haphazardly when he was embarrassed, which happened fairly easily. Working here in the Kremlin, very likely he was going to reveal his abilities anyway at some point. And should it become known that Marcus had spent any time with the man- for any reason- that little trust he'd earned would evaporate in an instant.

But there was a way to deal with the threat and benefit.

"Thank you, Ascendancy. I am honored to have your trust. As to men like us, in fact I know of two. One is my brother, Andre. He is a police officer in the US. He started using the Force after I did. I taught him what I knew at the time and how to control it. He is not as strong as I am, however."
While a part of him cringed at revealing his brother, Andre was in the US. He was safe in any case. He paused and then plunged in. He hated losing an advantage this early, but the game had changed. And in the long run, it would work to his benefit.

"As to the other, there is a waiter here- he served your table at the Christmas party the other night- Pyotr Grigory."
He smiled, seemingly somewhat embarrassed. "My...ah...little trick brought him to my attention. He too can call upon the power. He's a good and honest man. He's not very strong in the power and can only call on it sporadically though. Those are the only ones I know of so far."

He really did hate doing this. But the situation had changed. His strategy had changed. He was no longer hiding his power, after all. And he'd work around it. In truth, very little would change. Very likely, he'd still be able to continue to use Pyotr.

Edited by Marcus DuBois, Nov 10 2014, 01:49 AM.
Arms crossed, Nikolai leaned back in his chair like a man on the throne. Two known gods; one serving at his very table. It was a subtle shake to his confidence to protect himself. Atharim aside, his enemies would stop nothing to see him assassinated. Foolish enemies, as Nikolai's reign brought only prosperity and peace, but the hate of anarchists, madmen and imbeciles was never rational. Guns, knives and poison could be screened, but the burden of watching waiters with the ability to kill fell entirely on Nikolai's shoulders. Ruling half the world occupied enough of his focus; now, his guard could never lower, not even so much as while eating a meal.

He noted Pyotr's name on his workstation. A brief search revealed the man's photograph, which of course Nikolai recognized. This was the thoughtful young man that researched the wine for the table. Nik swiped the information aside. He'd send it to Michael and Alric later. "Thank you for bringing this to my attention. As to your brother, do you think he would be open to recruitment? You left your country behind, after all. I could use someone like him on our police forces."
He could look Andre up as he had Pyotr, but Marcus' insight into his brother was more valuable than an analytics reveal. Call Nikolai old-fashioned, but he trusted his own intuition over that of technology.
Recruitment....the word hung in the air. So Ascendancy was collecting people like them. That presented new challenges. And opportunities, if he was careful.

"Andre is...naive. Idealistic."
He shook his head, letting his irritation show. "He's far too trusting. He's older than me, but in many ways, I was the one who protected him, who looked out for him. He didn't learn the lessons I did."
Marcus couldn't help but smile sadly at the image of his brother, eyes bright, listening to Ms. Swerlin, cookie and glass of milk still in hand, smiling. Her smile was sweet as she went over the code. The god-damn code! Andre had learned that night, what breaking the code meant. Marcus had seethed with rage at seeing his brother locked in the bathroom.

A long time ago. But Andre always hoped, always believed the promises. It made him sad, the sweet and simple trust and naivete he never lost. The world screwed over people like that. It wasn't fair- but life wasn't fair. He shrugged. "He might be amenable. It all depends on how it's presented. He still believes the American propaganda after all."

A part of him dreaded the thought of contacting Andre. Talking to Andre- or even thinking about him- brought up a lot of....things that Marcus didn't like to dwell on. Another time, when he was weak, when he had no control. But he would do what he had to.
Nikolai once had parents, aunts, uncles and cousins, but he never had the pleasure of dealing with siblings. Most single-children wondered what it would have been like but not him. The idea of brothers left a dull taste in his mouth, though he had little logic onto which to base the emotion.

Marcus spoke of the romantized version shared between close siblings, where blood mixed with childhood friendship. Yet he was not close to his brother now. But the more Nik thought on it, the more he realized he really didn't care.

"Contact him; rekindle that relationship. See if he is open to the idea. We can offer him an attractive package. Our people deserve the best police protection as much as anyone else in the world. He can serve here."
Marcus suppressed a grimace. Having Andre in Moscow would....complicate things. He nodded. "As you wish Ascendancy."

He wasn't sure what else to say. He didn't need to press his luck. A measure of trust had been granted. He'd said enough, revealed enough about his ambitions- and how he viewed himself. "I wish to thank you again for the opportunity to serve the empire. I will learn quickly and be an asset to you."

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