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Signals and shards
Nikolai sat at a spacious, historical desk. It was a relic of the Russian regime, one of many pieces the Ascendancy chose to preserve during the capital’s evolution over the last twenty-five years. Centered in the heart of his government, and positioned in the center of this very room, it, along with every inch of the space around him, was designed to dwarf and belittle those who dared approach.

It was from this room he held conferences with equivalent offices around the world; equivalent in name-only. From this exact vantage, heads of state met the eyes of the man who forged the greatest empire in history. And shuddered.

As soon as his current call ended, he leaned back thoughtfully. His posture had been tall and militant before. Now, his state relaxed since he was no longer being broadcast to Washington DC. Theirs was meant to be a private conversation: a secure, live call between himself and the President of the United States.

However, Nikolai immediately flicked his thoughtful gaze to one of the men standing opposite. To one of several who had been off-camera, he signaled with a firm nod. The young man was suited, the Ascendancy maintained a mandatory dress-code for those in his perimeter, but he was clearly uncomfortable in the high-profile company. But as this engineer was one of the best, which was why he was recruited to the greatest office in the world to begin with, the Ascendancy could forgive the idiosyncrasies of a scientist.

The man nodded, scratched at his hair nervously then turned to begin directing line after line of code into a glass projected panel on the wall. At his direction, the security connection in their broadcast system momentarily weakened. Then he confirmed the presence of no less than a dozen hackers within a few seconds. Just long enough for any one of them to download and rebroadcast what should have been a secure video transmission between himself and President Dawson. Another signal, and moments later, the appropriate firewalls were reinstated.

“Done sir.”

The video was leaked.

”Thank you. That will be all, Carl.” Nikolai waved his Press Attendant and Media Privilege to the desk. Carl gathered his things and left.


"Mister President, our intelligence sources the Minutemen as the terrorists responsible for this accident as seeking to blight my arrival to Dayton--undermining the entire Summit." Nikolai had claimed, sitting straight and true, hands folded against the edge of his desk, only a few minutes ago.

"Of course you would say that, Brandon," the President spit, foregoing the honorific use the Ascendancy’s title. By now, both powers were aware the Dayton Disaster was no mere accident. The party responsible was still a matter of debate.

Nikolai opened his palms briefly and in doing so demonstrated his desire to maintain their dialogue, "How many more of these reactors, these untested technologies will you inflict upon your own people before you see reason, Frederick?"

The President narrowed his gaze, offended and disgusted by the logic any common man could abide.

Nikolai continued calmly, "I am submitting my proposal for USA-to-Custody annexation to your House of Representatives once more. The American people deserve the chance to think for themselves, rather than you holding them hostage. As it once was, in the time of the Founding Fathers, New York City will a capital again. This time of the newly established Dominance VIII. To maintain democratic culture, the DVIII Patron will be nominated by popular vote. And--"

The President could take no more of this. He slammed his palms upon his own desk in the Oval Office and stood, leaning into the camera, voice thin and cold. "How dare you speak of our Founding Fathers. I would let the entire nation burn in hell, every child ripped from their mother's arms, and every carcass left to rot in the fields before betraying the noble sacrifice of their great Revolution. This conversation is over." The screen went black. Nikolai remained calm while facing the temper of his greatest enemy.

Then he signaled the uncomfortable engineer...


It was a political move of course. Back and forth on a dangerous chess board they played.

Nikolai anticipated President Dawsons reaction to their conversation, and he anticipated the media’s reaction to the video as soon as hackers generated a sell to the highest bidder. It would soon spread worldwide, if it hadn’t already. That video, of the President of the United States behaving as a schoolboy outraged at the patience of his taskmaster, would undermine the rest of the man’s questionable authority, but it was the cold-blooded admission which would execute his Administration: he would rather see the flesh of his country rot from its bones than give up his power.

Congressional members of the same party up for reelection would distance themselves, financial backers would go dark, and dissent would mildew the White House walls. As an incumbent going into election season, Dawson likely hammered himself into his own coffin behaving as he had. Using the choice words he had; and the media only cared about headlines, not context... You reap what you sow, Nikolai recalled his father’s dying schema with a faint smile.

Which meant it was now time to collect the President’s future competition.

Nikolai turned to his Press Attendant, ”Now. Get Nicholas Trano here.”

“Yes, Ascendancy.”

As the two men departed, Nikolai reluctantly released the fury of life he’d wielded during the taping. He often reached for it when dealing with the public. His senses were sharpest, his mind quickest when centered so. It cast his expression with the edge of an unseen aura and many a man avoided meeting his gaze when he was so clad with power: Mister Trano included -- who turned aside and rubbed his temple. Weak and predictable.

Yet ever since that ill-fated interview, a shard of doubt worked at the edge of Nikolai’s impenetrable consciousness. A splinter which dug in a little more deeply every time he heard his own title. He was an ascendant man; he was the god of prophecy; he was doing what was right. The world needed him.

He rose, buttoning his suit coat. ”Inform the State Office, he announced. I’m going to the Facility.” He left and a team of security agents fell in step alongside him.

He must have been mistaken about Trano; about what he felt.

Soon the man would be in Moscow. Soon he would find out.
Continued in the Facility

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