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<small>((Continued from Honored Guest))</small>

The next few days were a whirlwind for Marcus. There were a lot of orientations with precedures to learn, protocols and requirements to conform to. The CCD was a well oiled machine and he needed to be 'oiled' in order to fit into it. But he was fine with that. Beaurocracy was a necessary part of government, an apparatus of state, and made the order of the world possible- as long as it was efficient, departments working together, people knowing their place and responsibilities, redundancies reduced. And the CCD was just such a government, Marcus was learning from the inside.

He was soon to begin his internship in Communications. What better way to understand the role of the government than by helping shaping its public perception. He would assist in crafting and disseminating that perception, making sure that people's confidence and hope in the government was strong. It was a good motivation for the remaining Consulates he would rotate in to, always being aware how their actions and decisions factored into the public view. Obviously, much of what went on would be unseen and unknown by the people. But to do even that properly, one had to craft an image that would mask what was being really done.

But in the interim, Marcus met many functionaries, aides, and low level employees, people whom he'd be working with closely over the next year- and he hoped, long after that. His compelling of Tamm had had a curious effect. Tamm seemed to think that his talkativeness was an indicator of friendship. Malik didn't see the point in correcting him. Tamm could continue to be useful. He'd taken him to some high end clothiers and Marcus very quickly looked the part of a young and up-and-coming government employee. Through him, too, he met many young members of the bureaucracy and found himself cautiously accepted by that small cadre that viewed itself as the future of the CCD. And why not, he thought pragmatically? He himself knew he was the future. It would be to his advantage to have cultivated a core group of young individuals who could one day be useful tools in his ascent. Of course, his position as a Sigma gave him the proper preeminence in that group, which was on fitting.

So his evenings, in addition to his meditations and Force studies- which he had resumed with renewed vigor after his discovery of the eaves-dropping method- also consisted of socializing. He found that his exoticness proved to be a very charming lure, once he had expressed his honest opinions about America and the CCD and allayed any suspicions. Elena, an aide who worked in the Economic Cabinet in particular, seemed to find him alluring, though of course it was far to soon for him to be making those kinds of connections. He fully expected that his actions were being scrutinized and watched for any unorthodox behavior.

And that led him to a dilemma. He had a tool to eavesdrop, but from his experience in practicing with Andre, he knew that his weaves could be seen by another man who could use the Force. It wouldn't due to have his abilities noted so easily. It would give him away. There had to be a way for him to use the Force without other knowing. Last night he'd thought he might have hit on a clue. He was studying his knot equations describing the weaves of the Force and he noted that one term he was using- the one describing the twisting aspect of the power- was very similar to how the imaginary term i, or j in engineering equations, was used to describe the flow of electricity. It was interesting because being an imaginary number, the square root of -1 - which formed the basis for the complex number system- one would not naturally expect it to show up in something like electrical engineering. As he thought about it and played with those terms, in the back of his mind, the idea of complex numbers sat. In particular, the concept of complex conjugates, terms that mirrored exactly those of another complex number so that the imaginary components cancelled each other out, leaving just the real portion. There's something there, he thought, if I can just tease it out.

Of course, even if he solved it, there would be no other way to test it than by having another Force user try to see what he had done. He couldn't very well send for Andre. They had parted on amicable, though strained terms. Andre had never learned the lessons their childhood had taught them. He remained naive and hopeful about the system, willing to accept the dribbles of attempts at order. He didn't realize that the true solution lay in taking charge yourself. wouldn't due for Andre to know what he was up too. Though he had been careful in what he taught him, Andre was the one most capable of at least exposing Malik and his plans.

So I need to make my weaves invisible. And I need a Force user to practice them with. But one I will have the upper hand with. What would be good would be to identify any Force-user in the government, whether a potential tool or not. Those he could not use, he would be aware of, watching carefully. So he began crafting a method of outing those users, at least to himself. He needed a display that only a Force user could see. That left out fire and earth and water. Wind and spirit then. But wind could be felt. So it would have to be spirit. One of the things Andre and he had practiced were ways to immobilize or confuse your opponent. Andre, surprisingly, had come up with a Force-based flashbang- a flash of light and sound and wind that momentarily surprised him. Malik had almost killed him the first time he'd done it, so stunned was he. But it might work if it was just made of spirit. The weave was fast and simple and almost instantaneous to form. It also dissipated rapidly, so he wouldn't have to hold onto it, giving himself away. Yes. That will do the trick.

The next evening, Malik was in one of the dining halls. It was too bad there wasn't a balcony for this to work better. But he stood in the back where there less people- primarily wait-staff, since most were seated- for him to see over. He seized the force. He felt his stomach writhe with anticipation. He was taking a risk here. He could expose himself if he wasn't careful. But one did not get ahead without taking risks. He thought of the weave he wanted and then in his mind divided the room into quadrants. Quickly he struck, setting off the spirit flashbang. Immediately, he let he weave go and watched the occupants of that quadrant. Nothing. No one stirred. Well, you didn't expect the first time did you? Second quadrant had the same affect. Then, the third- and he heard a glass break. He focused. One of the waiters had dropped his tray but instead of apologetically picking it up he was looking around. Malik smiled broadly, watching the man. Perfect. Just perfect. Just the kind of person he could use. And the bonus was that the man would never be a threat to him.

"You seem happy,"
said Elena smiling as he returned to the table. For once, he couldn't keep his true emotions from showing. She had no idea how right she was.

"I am just very very glad to be here."
And then, to her. "And, of course, to be with you."
To the group. "With all of you."
Inside, Malik laughed and laughed.

Edited by Marcus DuBois, Jul 16 2014, 01:20 PM.
Malik watched the waiter- Pyotr Grigory- surreptitiously. He'd thought long and hard about how to approach the man. A Sigma wouldn't just start chatting up a waiter. He knew he was still being watched and judged. Instead, he would have to be more circumspect. He'd been thinking about the eaves-dropping weave he created. It really was just about transmitting sound from a source to a destination. Therefore it was bidirectional. A little experimentation in his room had shown the weave of air was also a great insulator of sound. He'd set up a conduit between the door and his spot on the floor. There was activity outside the door he could clearly hear. But when he moved away from that end, he couldn't hear any of it. He could use it to speak freely to Pyotr and, if no one else was a Force user, no one would ever know. He would have to be sure.

Once again, Marcus looked around the dining hall, dividing it into quadrants again. A quick flash-bang in each quadrant revealed only Pyotr's ability. Good. No one else could see. Pyotr was at an empty table setting down silverware. Malik wove his conduit very small and wound it around the room in a random pattern so that Pyotr wouldn't be able to follow it to him quickly.

“I know what you can do.”
Pyotr jumped at the voice and looked around, eyes widening at seeing the conduit. “STOP! Turn around. Pretend to work!”
He turned back to the table and seemed to fumble with the silverware. Malik looked around. He was speaking softly and his table was empty for now, but he still couldn't carry this on too much longer without seeming strange to anyone watching. “Tomorrow evening in the park at 7pm I will contact you, just like this." He paused. This would be the thing that got him. "I can teach you about the power you have.”
He let the hook sink in. He couldn't have been using the Force long or be very strong, not and still remain a waiter. He released the weave. Pyotr cautiously turned around and he could see the surprise on the man's eyes when he saw the weave was gone. Soon Marcus' companions joined him and he passed the time chatting with them and learning more of the inside goings on of the palace that these junior level workers saw. He filed it all away. You never knew what could be useful. And he continued to watch Pyotr.

That evening in his room, he again started working on his knot equations. As he did so, he held onto the Force, letting it flow in him, allowing him to feel the power ebb and wane. He found it helped him concentrate. Lately, in his rooms, he'd been doing everything with the Force. He found that the more he used it, the more dexterous with it he became. It irked him that he could only lift one thing at a time. But even the Force had limitations it seemed. Focusing, he transcribed the listening weave into the appropriate knot equations. It wasn't much good if people could see it. If Pyotr had wanted to- or if there had been another Force user present- they could have followed the weave and it eventually would have led to Malik. That wouldn't do.

His mind kept circling the issue. He'd been thinking about those complex conjugates again. It seemed so elegant a solution- If there was a way to come up with something similar in his equations. But after what seemed like hours, he still found nothing. The equations were just too dissimilar. If he had a way to re-express his equations in a form that resembled complex numbers though, then, maybe he could play with the terms and see what happened. He looked at the clock. It was getting late and he had a big day tomorrow. Fresh assignments were going to be coming from the Consular head Bykov. And his meeting with Pyotr. Malik smiled at the thought. Pyotr would be an interesting new tool. He could be very useful indeed.
Malik sat on a bench in the Alexander Gardens adjacent to the palace, its spires peeking over the now winter-bare trees. It was cold, but he didn’t mind. He was wearing brown soft woolen corduroy pants, an olive green shirt and gold striped tie, maroon and green scarf wound around his neck, a cream sweater, and a heavy tan jacket. The icy air invigorated his lungs, the sharp sting on his cheeks refreshing after being inside all day. The impotent sun cast its weak light in the sky. Snow covered the grass but the walkways were cleared. People walked occasionally through the garden, but for the most part Marcus had the area to himself.

And then Marcus noticed two people walking together coming towards him. He was surprised to see they were both Consular heads: Dr. Bykov, of Communications and Dr. Alexandrova of Propaganda. It was odd to see them together walking in the gardens. It didn’t look like a romantic pairing. But even a...friendship seemed odd. He’d have thought Communications and Propaganda would have been natural enemies, garding each-other’s little fiefdoms jealously.

“Mr. DuBois, we thought that was you,”
said Alexandrova. She was dressed warmly, her long coat not hiding the fact that she had a very attractive form. Statuesque was the word that came to mind. Malik wouldn’t have been surprised to find that many men found her intimidating with her stature, fiery red hair, and fierce green eyes. She was a hawk that missed nothing. Himself included. “It’s a bit cold to just be sitting in the gardens, isn’t it? Would you care to walk with us for a moment?”
Marcus’ curiosity was peaked. What was this about? Consular heads didn’t just casually associate with interns did they? What was their game?

He checked his watch surreptitiously- he still had some time before Pyotr was supposed to be there. “I would love that Madame Consul.”
He nodded to her and Bykov.

Both said nothing for a moment and then Bykov asked, “How are you enjoying Moscow and your new job? Do you miss your home and family?”

Malik was on guard. He wasn’t sure what this was about, but being careful seemed the best course. And honesty. He didn’t believe in honesty for its own sake, as if it mattered if he deceived others or not. But honesty could be a powerful tool against those who had a knack for picking up on it. All kinds of assumptions went with the person who seemed honest, often without the realization that you could manipulate with that honesty.

“Working here has been amazing. It’s only been a few days, but I honestly feel like this has always been home.”
He looked at Alexandrova and then said, “I’ve never really had a home, so there’s nothing to miss, really.”
They knew his details, of course, so he knew to mention Andre. “My brother and I grew up in foster care. But we’ve grown apart over the years.”
He let some of his feeling about Andre’s choices, as well as his…dismissal of his homeland seep through. “He’s a police officer now, back in the US, thinking he's doing good.”
He shrugged. “This is home, now.”

They said nothing for a moment and then Alexandrova asked, “You do not like the United States?”
There was part of it, he thought. They were feeling him out. For what, he did not know.

Again, he let himself be honest. “It’s not that I dislike it. It’s just that it’s become irrelevant. It was a center nation for most of its history. But it’s let itself become an edge nation.”
Their footsteps echoed for a moment.

Bykov said, “You may not know this, Mr DuBois, but I was on the selection committee that considered you for this position. So I am familiar with your writings using the terms ‘edge’ and ‘center’. But Dr. Alexandrova may not be. Would you care to explain what you mean by them?”

It seemed a safe enough subject. Still, he carefully chose his words. “A center nation is a powerful nation whose culture is at a pinnacle. It is the seat of all of that is desired and coveted- power, wealth, knowledge, influence. Even its entertainment dominates all others. It is so convinced of its superiority and is so arrogant that this leads it to largely ignore the outside world. It assumes everyone wants to be like them so it doesn’t really try to conquer them. The outside doesn’t really matter. So they pacify their borders and then go about their business.”

“Can you give me an example?”
asked Alexandrova.

“Sure, Madame Consul. China is one. Rome is another. The Romans developed a system of government that eschewed the rule of one person or even a small group. In general, especially in politics, one did not eliminate one’s rival. Especially during the rise of the Republic, the highest aspiration a person could have was to be primus inter pares, first among equals, preeminent by reason of sheer superior intelligence, acumen and skill. It was a title that had to be held on to because at any moment, another could supplant you with a superior form of it. Their republican government, limited in its representation though it might be, was revolutionary for the time. The result was that all Romans looked down on non-Romans. They found the idea of kings and potentates, with all their regalia and sycophants, amusingly childish. They had no interest in being like anyone else.”

said Alexandrova. “And yet they became an empire. Does that not contradict your definition.”

Marcus smiled at her. “Not really. Rome accidently became an empire. Pacifying its borders from the other Italian peoples like the Marsi or the Samnites eventually meant taking over the entire peninsula. And for many years that’s all they held. But Italy’s geographical location in the Mediterranean made it impossible to be ignored. Carthage held Sicily, right at the toe of the peninsula. Roman shipping was constantly being threatened by Carthage. Finally, Rome was forced to deal with them. In the process, they suddenly found themselves in possession of territories in North Africa and Spain. The wealth and natural resources of these territories, as well as their strategic locations, made it impossible to just walk away from. The same happened with Greece. Rome ended up with a large number of territories throughout the Mediterranean.”

He paused, taking a breath. “Something similar happened in the north, with the barbarian incursion of the Germans. Rome nearly fell. It was terrifying. So Rome moved its borders out further north, feeling it necessary to pacify all the Germanic tribes the bordered them. And finally, many eastern city-states, in a desire to forestall conquest by Rome or any other hungry little kingdoms, would leave their domain as a bequest to Rome. Bithynia, for example did that to protect their little kingdom from the threat of Pontus. Very quickly, Rome found itself in possession of an empire it hadn’t really sought. Much of the reason the Republic fell was over the struggle as to how to govern an empire based on laws and traditions that really only worked on the peninsula.”

He came to his point. “But through it all, Rome was a center nation. It assumed the whole world wanted to be like them and acted accordingly. Rome’s empire lasted hundreds of years. It was an idea, even as it evolved. Then you compare that to Alexander’s empire, which was merely a territorial entity, which lasted only up to his death. It collapsed immediately because it wasn’t an idea.”

Alexandrova looked at him with those sharp eyes and a slight smile, then said, “Alright, I will accept your definition for now. Now tell me what an edge state is.”

Malik grinned. There was no game playing here. He was enjoying himself. More than likely, they knew all of this themselves. But he liked speaking authoritatively. Keeping part of himself secret was sometimes creating a desire within to lift the veil a little, so to speak. To show that he was more than simply Marcus. Of course, he would never do that. But to advance in this government, his competence and intelligence had to be real. He couldn’t just charm his way up the ladder. Ascendancy would see through that. And Bykov and Alexandrova were two avenues to the Ascendancy.

“An ‘edge state’ lives in the shadow of a center nation. It is forever feeling inferior and a need to prove itself superior to the center nation. The center nation’s culture constantly makes inroads, which it resents and rejects. Sometimes, edge nations will even conquer a center nation. But then something happens. They spread too far, as if to prove their superiority, but are only barely able to hold onto their conquests. And, ironically, they adopt the culture of the center nation itself.”

Alexandrova’s smile remained. “And would you give me an example of that?”

“Well, Assyria and Babylon, for one. Babylon of course being the center nation, preeminent in its culture and power and influence. They only conquered enough to secure their borders. Assyria lived in its shadow. When it finally had an opportunity, it conquered Babylon and her territories. It was unnaturally cruel and aggressive, perhaps in response to that cultural pressure from Babylon. It appropriated Babylonian creation myths, but replaced deities like Marduk with their own Asshur. To all intents and purposes, it was absorbed into Babylonian culture and gradually lost influence. Japan and China. Macedon and the rest of Greece. It follows a similar pattern.”

Bykov had been silent throughout the exchange. But now he spoke up. “And so then, how does all this relate to the United States?”

“The United States, though made of up edge peoples- by that I mean immigrants and castoffs- was unique in that it became a center nation purely based on the very idea of America itself. The concept of the nation was enough to unite the peoples into a new identity that transcended their origins. Or perhaps, their origins made them cling to that ideal all the more tightly. It’s why Chinese and Irish and even some black people could be mistreated and still endure. Because what wasn’t reality for them in America could one day become reality for their children. The idea made the US a center nation. And like a center nation, the Us only barely was interested in any sort of colonial empire. They were so busy assuming, sometimes rightly, that the world wanted to be like them, that they had no real interest in conquering. Spreading their influence, sure. Strategic bases and the like, ok. Especially after the rise of the Cold War. But at home, it was always a tough sell, especially when the Cold War ended.”

He stopped. Listening to the quiet for a moment. “America threw away what it had. It let itself become an edge nation through weakness and disorder.”
Malik laughed for a moment. “And it is ironic that Russia and Russian culture has become the center nation. The CCD is the center. And the US looks in longingly, desperate to be what it once was. It is pathetic,”
, That last said with a slight venom. He looked at Bykov and Alexandrova. Just steps away from Ascendancy himself. How to phrase this without throwing up alarms? “I want to be in a center nation, to be where it matters. I want what I do to matter.”
Inside, he cringed at the weakness it betrayed. Of course he mattered. He was Darth Malik, Dark Lord of the Sith. But one had to play the game.

The Consulars shared a look and something passed between them. Then they looked at him. Then Alexandrova said, “I have enjoyed our chat Mr. DuBois. I think I shall enjoy having you with us in the coming months. You are probably not surprised to know that the Consulate I oversee touches on many of the things you spoke of.”
Her emerald eyes sharpened, but not in a predatory way, not with the way her lip curved. “Perception is the key. Perhaps we can talk on this at some other time.”

After exchanging pleasantries, they left and Marcus was left on the pathway. Very interesting. There was definitely something there. What it was, he wasn’t sure. It could have been simply another test, a way to gauge whether he’d really believed the things he’d written of. Or perhaps more. But, he thought, it seemed like he had made a good impression. Malik smiled tightly to himself. He was enjoying this.

Then Malik looked at his watch. Nearly 7. It was getting colder as the sun had gone down only moments before. But cold meant nothing to him. Seizing the Force, the cold suddenly retreated. His now sharpened senses picked up the scents of the dormant grass and dead leaves under the snow, the rustle of the breeze in the bare branches. And the sound of footsteps of others in the park. Pyotr should be there soon. Soon, Malik would have a tool he could try things one.

Edited by Marcus DuBois, Jun 10 2014, 04:17 PM.
It was a normal day for Pyotr. He kept up with his tables and was thankful that he was a waiter at such a nice establishment. On busy days today, he was likely to make good tips. Of course there were the misers who wouldn't tip at all, but hey you take what you can get.

Suddenly something happened. Pyotr couldn't explain it, but he felt a menacing presence in the room.There were no visible effects to whatever it was, but Pyotr felt a sort of buzzing in the air. It lasted for a second and then was gone, but it made Pyotr feel unsafe.

He was surprised enough that he dropped his tray. He wasn't embarrassed, so his Luck didn't kick in. His tray hit the floor and a glass shattered, the water inside landing on the floor in a small puddle. Pyotr kept his eyes up, looking for the source of the feeling, but unable to find it, he turned his attention to the mess.

Great, I'll never hear the end of it from my boss.

Pyotr picked up the mess, making sure to get all the shards off the floor. Upon arriving in the back his manager approached him. The manager was a big man, but could move fast for his size.

"Grigory, you klutz! You keep dropping my glasses and china and I'll be going broke. You're on bussing duty for the rest of the week and so help me God if you break something else, you'll be on bus duty for the rest of the year...if I let you keep your job! Do you understand me?"
his boss shouted at a volume loud enough that all in the kitchen could hear, but not not loud enough that it was heard in the dining room. The man had perfected his volume over the course of a two decade career.

There was only one correct answer to that question, "Yes, sir."

The next day

Sighing, Pyotr picked up the cart for bussing tables. He went out into the dining room and collected some plates, setting them in rather carefully. No one paid him anymore mind as he continued with bussing duties. According to his boss, bussers should be invisible and Pyotr drew little attention to himself.

As Pyotr was setting a table, he felt the same feeling he had before, except this time, it was accompanied by a voice.

"I know what you can do."

Pyotr jumped, and his eyes darted around the room and rested a type of pipe that was above his head. It was the source of the sound. Before Pyotr could trace the pipe back, the voice spoke again.

"STOP! Turn around. Pretend to work."

Pyotr obeyed, his hands shaking as he set another spoon on the table. Pyotr was able to put the pieces together. He knew about his Luck. Was this man using Luck to talk to him?

The voice continued, “Tomorrow evening in the park at 7pm I will contact you, just like this. I can teach you about the power you have."

There was no longer any doubt in Pyotr's mind that the man was referring to Luck. No one around him had reacted to the voice, although one couple was giving him a strange look because he jumped. He finished that table and went in back to get a drink of water to calm his nerves. It had been quite a night.


The next day, Pyotr debated back and forth about going to meet this mystery man. Pyotr had no idea if the man had meant him harm or was serious with his offer. It could have been the man he had spilled spaghetti on a few weeks ago looking for payback.

After much debate, Pyotr decided to meet this man. If for no other reason than he might help him with the sick feeling he got after using his Luck.

At about 6:30, he left for the park. He walked from his own apartment and arrived at 6:50. He sat on a bench to wait for the mystery man.
The light was gone but filled with the Force, Malik saw everything clearly. Every naked branch, every pile of snow, every twisting of wrought iron on the bench backs, every carved white stone of balustrades over bridge walkways. He could smell the cold, the moisture, the wet walkways. He walked slowly, not feeling the cold. No one was out now, no one but him. Lamp posts cast sickly yellow lights onto walkways. The quiet was a blanket, the traffic on the nearby streets dimly heard in the distance.

He heard the crunch of boots on snow and stopped, pinpointing the direction. Carefully he made his way closer- and there he was. Malik smiled tightly, eyes watching hungrily, jaws clenched. He felt a delicious sense of anticipation take hold of him. So many things had begun since he'd come to Moscow. He felt like he was beginning to assemble a set of tools, each one studied and tested, hefted and appreciated; the way a craftsman would lovingly and painstakingly put together a a collection for a job he was about to undertake.

This one, now, this one was critical. The more he'd thought about it, the more he'd realized how very special Pyotr was going to be. He hadn't realized how great a help Andre had been. The ability to practice weaving threads of Force and see what they did, to learn to anticipate or deal with Force attacks from another had been priceless. Marcus almost missed his brother then, but squashed it. He was Malik. And Pyotr was not Andre. There would be no brotherly affection here, no shared horrors of childhood, no remembering his brother comforting him when he cried. Emotion threatened to overwhelm him.

For a moment, Malik thought of resisting the emotion, to surpress it. Instead, he let the grief and loss pass through him, remembered the pain, the beatings, the abuse, the tears, the rage, the fear, the cowering under the bed, the running to Andre for protection, he remembered it all. He let himself feel everything that came to him. He was Sith and the Sith embraced their emotions, embraced the pain of their lives, Took their strength from it. They didn't cower in fear of it. It was the price of power. Only those who could face their pain and accept it could truly understand and use power. His mind played the mantra. A Sith will not shield himself from paying the price for the things he does. If I choose to do a thing the world calls evil, what of it? I do it because it is my right. I do it because it must to be done. And I will not be afraid of the emotional consequences of that action. That was what gave the Sith the right to rule.

Those moments stretched out, the storm passing through him, leaving him cold and dead peace. Malik smiled at what lay before him. Looking around and seeing no one else, he wove his conduit so that it was behind Pyotr. "You will not turn around."
Pyotr jumped, but he was obedient. Good. "You are very fortunate, Pyotr Grigory, that I have found you. Your life is about to change. I sincerely hope it is for the good."
He paused. "You came here because you want to know more about your power. I can teach you things you cannot imagine."

It was time. Malik let the conduit drop. It was a gamble. He prepared a different, more deadly weave in case Pyotr turned out to be a problem. Death by heart-attack would be odd in one so young, but in the absence of any other proof, it would be accepted. He drew himself up and walked slowly through the snow to the bench, wearing a friendly smile on his face. Time seemed to slow. Exposing himself was a terrifying thrill, but to walk this path, one had to take risks. He allowed himself to calm, to think of what he had already done and what was ahead of him. He sat down next to Pyotr and smiled at the man. Not overly friendly. Interested. Hopeful. He hoped his countenance conveyed wisdom and experience.

"I am Marcus. And I will help you if you let me."
His eyes watched Pyotr. He was filled with the power, examining every move and twitch of eye and quirk of mouth. He would be sure about Pyotr, one way or another.
"You will not turn around."

The voice came from behind Pyotr, causing him to jump once more. He wasn't sure he would ever get used to the voice coming out of nowhere, and secretly hoped that the mystery man would quit doing it in the future. Pyotr remained obedient and awaited further instruction.

"You are very fortunate, Pyotr Grigory, that I have found you. Your life is about to change. I sincerely hope it is for the good. "You came here because you want to know more about your power. I can teach you things you cannot imagine."

The man's voice was calm and filled with wisdom, but at the same time, Pyotr had no idea what the man really wanted. He didn't know what the man saw in him. He was just a lowly waiter. One thing was for sure, this man wasn't the spilled spaghetti man.

Pyotr tensed as he heard footsteps coming from behind him, preparing to be attacked, although he knew he couldn't likely take a man who could do the things this man had already done. And then the man sat next to him.

It was a test. He wanted to show me that I can trust him.

The man had put Pyotr in a position in which he would have to trust him not to take his life. With his back turned the stranger could do anything to him and Pyotr would have been helpless to stop it.

The man before him was African-American, judging from his American accent. He was smiling and appeared as wise as his voice sounded. Pyotr recognized him as one of the newer interns in the Kremlin.

"I am Marcus. And I will help you if you let me."

Pyotr faced him, still feeling a little of the tension he had felt before and responded, " can help me figure out my Luck? And the can help with that too?"
Pyotr looked at him. " can help me figure out my Luck? And the can help with that too?"
The man's face reeked of wide eyed innocence and trust. He was perfect. Malik put kindness on his face.

"Yes, Pyotr, your....Luck-“
he smiled at the name- “as you call it. And the sickness. And so much more. If you want to learn. If you do what I tell you. So, it's up to you."

Malik still held on to the source, his weave ready should Pyotr make the wrong decision. He watchted him intently.

Pyotr looked down for a bit contemplating his action. He trusted Marcus. He could have hurt him, but didn't. He thought of the things he could do with his Luck. Marcus understood it and could teach him how to control it.
Not to mention that he could make the sickness go away. It was getting worse. His fevers would last longer and the headaches became excruciating. He would sometimes wear blindfolds to keep the light from his eyes. Pyotr's choice was made for him. He didn't even really have a choice.

"I'll do it."
Pyotr responded, offering his hand to shake Marcus's hand. Marcus took it and Pyotr continued, "Although I should probably tell you that I can't use the Luck unless I'm embarrassed."

“I’ll do it,”
Pyotr said after a moment. In fact, the man looked relieved. Malik smiled outwardly. And inside as well, thinking of all the uses he was going to put this man to. But if the man was going to be a tool, he needed to know Pyotr’s strength in the Force. He had been surprised that people had different strengths. But when Andre had begun using it, he’d soon realized that Andre was not able to perform some of the same weaves as him. Or make them as strongly. As Marcus’ ability improved- as well his study of weaving threads- he’d noticed a difference between the two of them. The threads that Marcus made were thicker than those Andre made. They seemed heavier or more dense. The only logical reason was that Marcus was stronger than Andre. Whether that could change, though, now that would be good to know. Necessary even.

Marcus smiled on the inside. Pyotr had no idea how helpful he was going to be to Darth Malik....And then Pyotr mentioned that he couldn’t use his power unless he was embarrassed.

Malik frowned. What?? That irritated him. He knew that George Lucas had invented the Force for his movies, and that his own referring to it as the Force was merely a metaphor he found amusing. But, at the same time Lucas had based the idea on mythologies of many cultures around the world. Clearly, the power he could use was the source of those legends. But in none of those legends he’d heard of was a person limited to something as silly as being embarrassed.

Then a thought clicked. He had had to be calm when using the Force in the beginning. He would have to go through Jedi meditation exercises just to feel that power. Now, though, now he could seize the Force in any mental state. He was free of that ridiculous need. A Sith did not submit, not even to the Force. A Sith mastered it. There was something he was missing here. Or maybe a new fact to take into account. He’d would have to think about this tonight. He would find the answer.

But in the meantime, Pyotr was looking at him expectantly. “I am glad to hear it Pyotr. You will not regret this. The power you touch is vast and unruly. To master it is a difficult. But you will do it, with my help. Your sickness too will go away.”
Marcus saw the hope in the man’s eyes. “Give me your information. I will contact you.”
Then he let his face grow serious. “But….you cannot speak to me when you see me in public.”
Fear would work here. “People with our power become targets. I know you don’t want anyone to find out what you can do. Understood?”

Marcus's secrecy emphasized the truth of his last statement. He was always careful to contact him when he knew no one else would hear. In a way, Marcus trusted him to.

Pyotr was a lonely man. He didn't make friends easily. He was sheltered as a kid and his clumsiness often made him the target of jibes rather than approaches of friendship. Marcus trusted him and he trusted Marcus, and that, to Pyotr, meant that they were friends.

"I'll do my best, Marcus, although when you're in the dining facility, I may have to serve your table, but I can easily keep our friendship anonymous."
Pyotr said, handing Marcus a card with his information written on it.

He hadn't used his Luck for some time, and was excited to get going, "So, when do we start?"

Malik smiled at the word ‘friendship’. It would appear to Pyotr that he considered this the beginning of a friendship. Inside Malik laughed. This is going to be fun. Pyotr was going to be very useful indeed. If we wanted to interpret that as friendship, that was fine. Sith Lords didn’t have friends.

He stood. To Pyotr, he said, "Soon. I promise. My time is limited.”
Malik decided to play up the ‘friendship’. Feigning sincerity and shaking his hand, he said, “But I will make time to help you, my friend. We will do great things together, I think.”
His smile was suddenly not feigned at all.

Marcus took the information Pyotr had given him and walked down one of the walkways back to the Palace. Connections with the Consulates. And now Pyotr. A very productive evening indeed. Now he just had to think on his plans.

((with Gio))

Edited by Marcus DuBois, Jun 18 2014, 12:44 PM.
That evening Marcus sat on the floor in the middle of his room meditating. It had been a very productive day up until now. He had been working on his equations again and needed to think. His eyes were closed, the Force roiling inside him. It was strange, but the constant struggle, the domination of that writhing energy somehow helped him focus. It was almost as if he could see the equations twisting around him like threads of the power.

The difficulty regarding hiding his weaves was frustrating. Until he could do that, he would be limited. If there was one Force user, there would be others. His Force algebra seemed to work properly. He was able to describe a thread using a special three value vector matrix he called ‘tau’. The name was just something he came up with. There were five “flavors” of tau, each with differing values. He’d been inspired by quantum mechanics, specifically the quark. Physicists had discovered 6 different “flavors” of quark that were based on particle spin, charge and mass. These were whimsically named up, down, charm, strange, top, and bottom. What he had found was that tau’s 5 flavors were based on what he called spirality or twistyness, which described how the threads wound in space, fractal dimension, and vibration. Using those tau vectors in his algebra, he could describe a thread perfectly. He could also combine those threads into complex weaves and use that algebra to combine like terms and such to simplify that weave so that it did the same thing, but with fewer threads. It was much like Boolean algebra was used to take complex circuit equations and create simple ones. In some sense, he thought of those weaves as circuits of tau.

But how did it work? How did it allow for the control of elements? He’d thought about it for a while and had an idea. He suspected it had something to do with string theory, the hypothesis that all elementary particles like quarks, leptons and gluons were actually closed strings of energy that had particular shapes and vibrations. Perhaps if he took the combined vibrational value of, say two oxygen atoms and one hydrogen atom, and compared it to the vibrational value of one of the flavors of tau, they might be the same. That would explain it. The water flavor tau would vibrate at the same frequency as an actual water molecule. That energy might then be able to control and direct water. It made a sort of sense. The other tau flavors would then correspond to earth, air, fire, and some sort of….he wasn’t sure what to call it really, so he stole the term ether from old physics’ theories.

Tau algebra worked beautifully for simple things. But when it came to hiding things- obfuscating tau vectors- it all blew up with multiple infinities and divide by zero errors. It wasn’t workable. It didn’t help that he had to create a lot of the mathematical tools himself. There was a massive body of tools available in many different branches of mathematics. If I could just describe tau using the imaginary number i then I’d have the entire tool chest of complex analysis available to me! He drew on the power, let the flow of it go through him, relax his mind. If he could only find a transformation function that would convert tau to i then he’d be set. Something like Riemann’s Zeta function that converted positive numbers into primes.

He opened his eyes and looked at the clock. It was getting late and he needed to be up early. He used the power to pull his sheets back as well as to float his wallet to the charger and plug it in. He was using the power for everything. If it worked like a muscle, then he’d get stronger. He’d already signed up for some strength training and fighting courses, after having seen those soldiers. Getting stronger in every way was going to be important.

As he got in bed, he thought at Alexandrova. An interesting woman. He’d enjoy working in propaganda. It would be interesting to try out some ideas he had. As for Pyotr and his strange limitation, he’d have to think about that. Specifically, how he had overcome his own.

Turning the light off with the power, he let his mind drift off into sleep.

<small>((continued in The Greats))</small>

Edited by Marcus DuBois, Jul 16 2014, 01:21 PM.

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