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Hunting had been the only thing Aria had been doing for the past several days. She'd gotten so wrapped up in the hunt, her research into getting near Ascendancy had fallen to the way side. News articles piled up in her queue for reading. So that's what Aria was going to do sift through recent news.

Reading was boring and Aria nodded off several times in the dimly lit room she used to keep her material. The article she had been last reading was about the turmoil in Mecca, a picture accompanied it. At first glance Aria hadn't really paid much attention, but after the small snooze she looked again and saw someone she hadn't expected to see. She'd met him twice before, he was shaking hands with Ascendancy at the annual Christmas Dinner held at the Kremlin. The caption held a place to start - Commander Michael Vellas.

Aria sighed at the knowledge, they had both worked hard at staying anonymous, but it turned out she needed to find her savior again for more than one reason - the main being to get near Ascendancy. Though the newly forged alliance with Tehya also called for that meeting.

Aria flipped the pages of the holoscreen to the Atharm database of godlings. Aria remembered Michael mentioning he'd been hunted by her brethren. He had to be in there. A last known whereabouts something to help find it. It would make it so much easier than trying to find him in all of Moscow.

Sure enough, a last known location had been sent by the last group who had hunted him. Sadly they had not returned, he proved to be a worthy adversary to the Atharim, there really was no wondering why he'd proven himself to Ascendancy. Aria read through all the information they had on Michael Vellas, newly appointed Commander.

Aria grabbed her things, the single sword hung at her hip with the gun holstered at the small of her back. She contemplated not taking anything, but Aria didn't want to be parted from her weapons if she were to need them. She didn't expect Michael to pose a threat, but there were other dangers that her sword and gun could manage. The only true way to kill a godling was to catch them off guard, and Aria didn't think that Michael would be any easier to kill than Ascendancy. It was a good thing she didn't want to kill him.


Aria hated taking the metro, but she did to get where she was going faster. She could have walked but the day grew colder, a storm was predicting to hit later that day. The weather in Moscow sucked, Aria missed the semi-warmth of the Vatican winter. But snow was definitely a new sight and the cold air helped her focus.

Wrapped in her black trench coat, Aria took a deep breathe and knocked on the door. Someone was inside, but she couldn't tell anymore than that.
Today was supposed to be a day of relaxation but Michael found it hard to unwind given the recent developments. He felt more secure than he had in a long time but relaxation was still far away.

It had been so long since he had had a chance to do something that did not threaten either his own life or others he found himself at a loss. The thought of going out held no appeal to him. He did not feel like being recognized for his feats in DV. He hoped that Nikolai and his team had at least attempted to suppress the video, but media in this day and age could never be kept from those who wished to find it.

SO it was he found himself propped up in bed with a copy of Ovid's Metamorphoses for company. It had been one of his favourite poems from Ancient Rome in his time at the military academy and with the revelation of the Atharim's knowledge perhaps he could glean something from the myths.

It spoke of a golden age ruled by Saturn and his Titan children before the age of man, then came destruction, sin and revolution. The rise and fall of Gods, men and monsters.

However, whatever truths the text may have hidden, Michael could not discern. He had fallen into a content state of calm when a knock came from the door.

Instinctively he seized the power, but with little force or intent. It was a curiosity in itself. The only people who had visited him were assassins, and he very much doubted an assassin would be pleasant enough to knock.

Although surprise had not worked, perhaps they decided had decided on a new approach. Michael thought with dry humour as he made his way down the stairs in his thick coat of navy blue.

When he opened the door, he drew in more of the power at the sight of the tiny Atharim woman. She did not seem openly hostile, but he prepared both defences and an attack just in case.

He did not bother with pointless questions of how, his only concern was why. "What brings you here, Atharim?"
Aria sighed as she felt the presence within vanish from her senses. He had grasped his weapon and Aria knew he was prepared to use it. Not that she could blame him after all, being hunted like an animal would do that to anyone.

Aria looked up at him and smiled softly, trying not to be threatening, she wasn't here to hurt him, she only wanted to talk and get away with her life intact. Those were her only goals, whether or not any fruit came from the conversation was of little consequence.

The venom in which he spoke Atharim made Aria cringe inside. His hatred for her brethren was clear, again she could not blame him. She spoke carefully. "My name is Aria, Commander Vellas. I only want to talk."
She grinned wryly at him. "If I wanted to hurt you I wouldn't have come alone, nor would I knock on your door."
Aria parted her coat to let him see she was armed. "I'll leave my weapons at the door. If you let loose the power you hold."

It was his choice, she would not go unarmed in his presence if he held the power, what little good it would do in the long run, even having her weapons and he not grasping the power, there was no doubt in Aria's mind who would be triumph over any attack. But she hoped he'd make up his mind and let her in, the cold wind was starting to bite harder against her exposed skin. Aria hoped the storm coming was not some omen to be interpreted.
"I remember,"
Michael replied to Aria's introduction. Yes, he remembered well. She had given him the first pieces of meaningful information on the Atharim.

The rest passed by him like the winter wind. What on earth she would want from him he didn't know, unless perhaps she had decided to break her chains. Irritation more than anything melted away on the surface of calm he encased himself in. Even if she said she didn't want to kill him, would they never leave him alone? He had just started to get comfortable .

He had half a mind to shut the door in her face and go back to bed. At another time, maybe he would have, but now was not that time. Whatever her purpose here, it may prove useful, and if worst came to worst, the world would be rid of one more Hunter.

Michael's tone was not accommodating, but it was not hostile. "It is my day off, I have time."

He gave the concealed weapon a brief glimpse as she made her request for amnesty. Did she take him for a fool? Who was to say that ten Hunters did not lurk beyond his sight? What was to stop them placing a bullet in his head as soon as he had let down his guard?

Frankly, he did not care. "Keep your weapons,"
he replied. "If I wanted to kill you now I would have done so already, and if I want to kill you later, you would at least stand a chance. However, I am not in the mood for killing, I never have been."
He turned his back on Aria, gesturing for her to follow him in. "Besides, you are entering the beast's lair,"
he added. It seemed that Nikolai and Tony's flair for the dramatic was wearing off on him. "A hunter should know what that means."
Aria followed Michael into his home. He honestly thought she had a chance, she'd have laughed if she let the emotions enter her being. A thought was far easier than the movements to draw her gun and fire. Aria wondered if anyone outside of other reborn gods knew the intracacies of their power. She would have to inquire with Tehya when next they met. Maybe there was a way around their powers too. Granted a mere mortal would have little of anyway of knowing or controlling such a device. But that was a thought for later.

He'd said she could keep her weapons, but she really didn't want to be a threat. Her life depended on it. Aria took her weapon belt off, and set it beside the door. "There is not a weapon I possess that gives me a fighting chance against one like you. While we've only touched the surface of what happened in Mecca, I know fully well my life is in your hands."
She laughed softly to herself. "As it has been each time we've met."

Aria stood just beyond the door away from her weapons. She clasped her hand behind her back to keep from fidgeting. It was uncomfortable being with out her weapons, but it was for the best at the moment. "There are others in the Atharim, who believe the current regulations in place for ones such as yourself are too drastic. The only way the Regus will let the lot of you live is to control you for his benefit."
Aria held up her hand to keep him from saying something. "I don't want to control any of you, only keep my brethren from your backs. Token control, an agreement of such. Granted we've yet to implement or get approved any such methods. We are small in number, but killing a human is very much different than killing a monster who makes humans their prey."

Doubt and guilt tried to rise up in Aria. She pushed it aside the best she could before it overwhelmed her. She knew all too well how easy it was to kill another, to know the feeling, to have enjoyed the feeling. The reborn gods were no different from any human, it was their actions that should determine their status, not what they are, or the potential they problems they could cause. You don't kill a man because he has the potential to be a rapist, or an murderer. The godlings were dangerous, but teaching them, allowing them to exist could benefit everyone. There was good to come from it all.

Aria smiled. "A war is coming. One to which the Atharim are not prepared for. Traditions need to be broken if any of us are to survive."

Edited by Aria, Jul 17 2014, 09:07 AM.
Aria seemed to go to great lengths to remind him how dangerous it was of her to meet him. Michael did not disabuse her. In this case, she was entirely correct, she would be dead before she had a chance to do anything foolish, but it would not always be the case. Other than that, he did nothing to put her at ease.

That was the problem with Atharim. Even those with broader minds like Aria thought he would strike her down just because he could. Didn't she understand the notion of control? He had not killed her simply for being Atharim when they had first met, and neither would he do so now. Despite his abiding hatred, he did not desire to slaughter the Atharim, his only wish was to stop their hunts. It was not his fault that they decided death was preferable to negotiation.

He bit off his bitterness with force and focused on Aria's words, and they were interesting. A faction within the Atharim who did not wish to kill humans. It made sense. It should make sense. He wondered just how small a fraction Aria's group consisted of. For their own sakes, he hoped more of them saw reason. Soon, there would be no alternative if they wanted to hunt the so-called Gods.

When she had finished speaking, Michael sat down in the single chair of dark maroon and turned it to face the double seated couch in front of the TV. "You may as well sit down,"
he said, pointing to the couch. He resisted the urge to squeeze his eyes shut and rub his temples. "So I am constantly reminded. I take it this 'war' you refer to is something regarding the belief of your group? What makes you think I care what happens to the Atharim?"

He let the question linger before answering it. "I assure you, I don't. However, I am not like your colleagues. What do you propose?"
Aria glanced at the couch, of all the places to sit, sitting casually on the couch didn't appeal to her. Aria took off the long trench coat and sat down putting her coat in her lap. Sitting on it was highly annoying and always restricted movement. Aria wished he would drop the power. She disliked being in the dark about how someone was feeling. It made saying the correct thing much more difficult.

"I don't expect you to care what happens to me, or to my associates. And I don't honestly care either myself save a few that I've met. It is not necessarily our beliefs that indicate war. Prophecies come from all sorts, and mostly from those with your gifts. I know war is coming. I've felt the destruction of the prophecy. That time, is now. The rise of Ascendancy is that herald. I could go on about our beliefs. But the manuscript I gleaned the information from was not necessarily of Atharim origin. Just prophecy."

Aria didn't quite know how to sit in the confound soft chair, she disliked most couches for that very reason. It made her feel awkward and self conscious, two things she didn't need to be.

"The Atharim will take out the weakest of you first. Killing their families too. You know this. Why we continue to hunt the strongest and most powerful of the reborn gods I do not know. If they are powerful we need weapons to fight you. We have none. "

Aria smiled, "If the weakest were no longer the weakest, if they were not the sick and newly found, untaught that they are now, they would become more of a threat to us. And we'd have no other choice but to make concessions. We have some who can teach inside our ranks. But since you are now close enough to THE most powerful known reborn god you probably know many more than I could count. An alliance is the only way we both survive."
Aria frowned. "And I personally want to survive as long as I can."
It was apparent that Aria was extremely uncomfortable, and it made her talk. She explained the Atharim's position, and Michael could have laughed if his heart was not frozen like cold steel.

She did not do a very good job at endearing him to an alliance. They grew scared when the prey bit back? Fortunately, her blunt words did more to help than a carefully prepared speech.

"Whatever your beliefs say, you don't have to convince me,"
he started, addressing the points from the top. "War was always inevitable."
He cut short that line of thinking, not wanting to ruin his day further.

"An alliance is your best option,"
he continued without malice. "It is as you have said. You can only hunt the weakest of us. If you sought to prevent the return of the 'Gods', you have failed."
He did not mention his new Command had not yet started. It was truth nonetheless. There were hundreds of them, perhaps thousands now and each one he had met had survived only to be stronger.

He seized upon something she had said, probing. "There are 'Gods' hidden in the Atharim?"
That was promising, although he did not envy whoever it was that had gotten themselves into such a mess. "It was bound to happen, I suppose. But I still don't understand. I don't want to see any more unnecessary death either, but what do you want? You say you want an alliance, what do you want, and what do you offer?"

Aria knew asking him to release the power again was fruitless, the last time he'd complied his anger had overwhelmed her, perhaps it was for the best she didn't know what he was feeling. But it was such a convenient way to discern things. It was almost disorienting not having the emotions of the other person slamming into her.

"I gain from an alliance, the Atharim, probably wouldn't like it anymore than you do. And since I don't speak for more than myself and maybe a handful, I'm fairly certain any alliance I make will certain fail if the Regus can't be convinced there is something to his benefit - even if it's feigned."
Aria smiled darkly. She knew the Regus would kill her in the end. If Ascendancy did not, then he surely would. There was not doubt in her mind that whatever came of this, her life was forfeit. The world would probably be a better place too...

"They didn't infiltrate because they were gods, if that's what you think. Most Atharim are born into the society. We live breathe Atharim from the moments we are born. Their fates were to be reborn gods, much as mine was to be Sentient. It's either hide what you are, or die. You pray your family understands and doesn't turn you in."
Aria knew all to well the dangers of being a monster of Atharim lore, even if she hadn't know what she was before, she'd always felt that she lived by the good graces of Father Dimitri and those who handled her. But it didn't matter now, she lived only by the good graces of the Regus now, and he sent her on a suicide mission, great man that!

"Right now, I can't offer anything more than promise. Which I know doesn't do you any more good than it does me."
Aria grabbed the folded paper she'd placed in her pocket before leaving the Atharim headquarters. It was an entry she had wished to show Tehya, but for now she'd leave it in Michael's hands. She unfolded the paper and held it out for him to take. "I've come across a book that ran in my family for generations. It's a translation of a translation of a translation, and so on back from the time of the end of the sixth age. A time when the Atharim eradicated the gods. In it thee is mention of a device, on that allowed one god to control another god. It was used as a weapon by the Atharim. This is that entry."

Aria let Michael look over the paper. It didn't say what it was, how to use it, just mentioned it. "It is my proposal to mimic the concept. A visible guarantee that this reborn god is on the side of the Atharim."
Aria shook her head. "I do not propose an actual control mechanism. Just a device that looks like it's doing something. I would need a few volunteers who would obey the commands of the Atharim handler, no matter what. Of their own free will. They'd have to rely on the handler's judgement, a complete agreement of trust."

"In return, the devices keep the Atharim from hunting those who wear one. I don't care if they work for you, the Atharim or do nothing at all. So long as they don't hurt anyone, the Atharim can back off, because they think they are theirs."

Aria sighed. "There is no guarantee that the Regus will buy into it. The device is not found, made whatever you want to call it. I only can offer promises."

The more she talked the more she knew this was probably a very bad idea. There was no proof, no agreement. It was all talk.
Edited by Aria, Jul 18 2014, 08:50 AM.
As Aria concluded her proposal, Michael was at a loss. He sat, staring at the tiny woman over the piece she had handed him.

Eventually, he spoke, his voice slightly disbelieving. "You have to be the most insane Atharim I have met."

He summed up her proposal in a flat voice. "You come to me because you know it's too dangerous to kill us. You want an alliance, my co-operation. To create - or fake - a device that apparently has the power to control us. Then you want me to hand possibly myself and others over to your friends and convince them you have control over us?"

If he did not believe her intentions before, he did so now. Only someone desperate would try something like this. Or a madwoman. Whatever Aria was, she didn't seem to be that unhinged. Perhaps her power - Sentient? He had not heard it before - at the hands of the Atharim had driven her insane, and she had learned to cope with it.

"I should kill you now and dispose of even this little piece of information"
he said, waving the document in his hand. "But I won't."

The urge to rub his temples came back stronger than ever. "You really are going out on a limb, aren't you?"
The question was rhetorical. "Surely you don't expect me to agree? I may have some power over other people, but despite what you think, I am not a God. It would be a death sentence!"

He pursed his lips in thought. "It is a...poor plan. I would be risking lives for no reason. One wrong move and it could get everyone killed. And the premise itself? That is not trust, it is slavery!"
He shook his head. He did not even have the energy to muster any anger. "What happens if the plan goes well? This...Regus...would order us to either be captured and controlled or killed. While it may be a charade, it still amounts to the same thing, or worse. We would have to pretend to obey."

"This would not promote trust. Trust must be earned and given freely. I would bring armies down to eradicate even the name of Atharim before agreeing to...this..."

Michael paused for a moment, putting the plan out of his head. "The only reason I haven't killed you is so I can convince your friends to stop this madness."
Now of all times he needed to be diplomatic if there was any hope of reconciling even a fraction of the two sides. "I am willing to negotiate with you, but not...this. No, the Atharim must come to trust us without being forced. Either side. It will be a slow process, but I may have an idea."

He was putting himself in extreme danger if she agreed, but it was worth the risk. "I will agree to meet with your friends who aren't as...zealous... as the others. Perhaps talking to a God without being struck down by lightning might convince them we are not evil. I admit, it is not a promising plan, but you Atharim give me little to work with. I am willing to try."

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