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Door after door
<small>From: Signals and shards</small>

Nikolai was not a man of whim. That he was not in his office practicing the forthcoming address to the media was a conscious choice. Depending on the reaction of the American media, his team would make a decision whether or not to make a public speech or simply issue a press release. In the meantime, Nikolai was not about to waste time practicing a talk he may not need to give. Not when there were more pressing issues at hand.

His daily briefings always included an update - if there was one - about progress in the Facility. Details were always skipped. He had no insight as to how many subjects the Facility currently housed. He had no idea as to how many were on staff. From a few sentences to a simple, no update, and short of a breakthrough finding, the leader of half the world devoted a rare amount of his faculties to the topic.

Yet here he toured the Facility for the first time since his initial walk-through two years ago. The front corridors were transformed from what he remembered. The former bunker was cold and sterile now, white and modern, in these common-use areas such as where he was now led. The Facility Director was a stout old man of great prestige, recruited from within the government, and already wielding a great deal of clearance as a bioweapons defense scientist. It was his formulations which coursed the Ascendancy's circulatory system for years now: vaccines and anti-toxin boosters among others. These agents of immunological protection were administered only to the highest level of government: men and women that if they were suddenly lost to bioterrorism, plague or epidemic, the government would fall into chaos. Nikolai hated the very idea of chaos in his regime.

Their progress was ongoing. A long, difficult process to say the least. Mapping genomic function was like charting every individual ray of light to streak across the galaxy from a trillion stars, and in the Facility, each subject was their own galaxy in this enormous, overlapping universe of mystery. Which was why a specialist named West -- or Weston -- was now recruited to their team. Nikolai nodded in approval of the news.

A number of the subjects had died. He could not recall how many, though Director Stephenson had said the number not two minutes beforehand amid an avalanche of other directive updates. Nikolai was not particularly listening. He had another reason for being here.

Their tour of the Facility took them down a level below the main floor. Formerly, these rooms once secured weapons. An arsenal of the Soviet era. Now this sub-basement, so far below ground it would have been fully protected from a direct nuclear strike at the surface, had been reworked for another purpose. Identified by six-inch thick steel doors spaced at even distances apart, magnetically sealed individual bunkers completely contained those waiting within.

At his left, the director continued to speak. To his right his primary body guard flanked. Behind, two more men in suits and synced LW's continually scanned for danger. Nikolai was as safe here as he was anywhere, but neither caution nor manipulation was not the reason he seized the furious power he commanded. The moment he did, his expression darkened, not an evil countenance, but one of menace, aura and confidence. In these moments, his title was so befitting, it could send a man to his knees in respect.

This time, the Ascendancy did nothing with the power he so often used but simply wrestled it to his will, forcing it to fluctuate across his very soul until it cowed to submission. With the enhancement it brought, he stretched forth his mind, and attempted to sense something, anything, as they passed door after door.
The twin doors parted from the center and each disappeared into slats between the wall. The entrance was wide enough both Torri and Krasivolkya entered side by side. For Torri’s part, however, she was thoroughly disinterested in the woman at her side. On one hand, she felt as though she’d stepped back in time a century. This was a Soviet-era bunker painted with modern technology. The macabre of what that meant settled into her very bones. On the other hand, the army Captain was thrown into something of her dreams.

They were greeted by a round wall of glass onto which was projected a number of different screens. Krasivolkya gestured and Torri tapped her newly learned keycode into the system and up came a flowchart of commands. She selected first a map which laid out the Facility’s floor plan and general layout. There were security posts positioned at regular intervals. There were bunkers and dormitories for the staff. Along with food prep, lockers, and even a small cardiofitness room. Krasivolkya wasn’t kidding when she said most were here on a permanent assignment.

The floor also housed an array of laboratory space. Personal work areas were assigned by color code while shared used areas were centrally located. There were server rooms and AI analysis software. The entire back half of the Facility was designated by blocks of rooms labelled CT’s. Torri gestured and inquired of the abbreviation. It was then Krasivolkya informed her it stood for “clinical testing.”

Torri blinked. ”There are patients here? Now?” In their briefing, she’d been informed there would be access to patients, but it only just now sunk into Torri’s understanding. The depth of what was going on here. Her lips formed a thin line of thought, but it wasn’t up to the Captain to question command, but her oaths drew a moment of doubt to her mind. Volunteers?

The map shifted then, showing an outline of the level below them. There were dozens of individually bunked cells. Within each were the identical shapes of a cot, toilet, sink and shower head. They were completely isolated from one another and red bars designated the security status of each door.

It was the faint glow of a restricted access symbol which drew her next question. It was overlaid across a thumbnail of the level, one for each floor, on the corner of the screen. ”Is that?” She started to ask, but cut herself off. Not sure if she should be nervous or excited. ”Is he here?” She turned to Krasivolkya for clarification, just as they were approached by security guards.
Krasivolkya was struggling to maintain her inherently calm exterior. Something. SOMETHING about this place wasn't right. She was beginning to feel ...odd ...scared, but not afraid as much as frightened ...and strangely she KNEW what the difference was.

Krasivolkya literally willed the sweat not to bead around her head and hair. She focused on something else, refused to feel the stress, much as her father had taught her to do. She had never been down this far before, and she felt like ...well, like a caged animal, if she was honest with herself. She felt like a cornered beast. A wolf caught in a trap.

Krasivolkya watched but didn't see Dr. Weston approach the screens and pull up additional information. She was so concentrating on keeping her composure that she didn't even think to re-address with Mrs. Florsheim the fact that she had neglected to make sure a floor plan was included in the briefing.

"KV," Krasivolkya called herself by the diminutive her father had always preferred. "KV. This needs to stop. You are feeling uncomfortable, and you're about to start letting it show. You know who you are. You know you are in control. You are a part of this mission now because of all you have achieved. Pull yourself together, KV. Chaos of the mind is a chink in the armor of your soul." Krasivolkya reminded herself of the idiom her beloved father had impressed upon her, over and over. And if there was anything Krasivolkya was adamantly against ... It was chaos of the mind.

"What was causing this?", she thought. It was this place. Something about this place didn't sit well with her. There was something about the blocks of patient rooms that seemed to call to her, and at the same time assault her senses. She had had moments of panic in her life, everyone did, but this was something else. Something she couldn't name.

Then, she sensed a change. Something sharper and more resilient was registering in her brain. Apart and separate from the assaulting panic, this was not fear. This was an acute awareness of a rival or dominant ...or challenge. She wasn't sure.

Her head was starting to swim. They had been here hardly minutes. She turned her head to regain her focus and saw her reflection in a highly polished blank screen. Her eyes. Her eyes! Her eyes were lightening! Even as she watched they seemed to be turning from her regular amber brown to something decidedly more .... Well ...almost golden...

She then snapped to attention. Someone or someone's were coming this way. She could hear a faint sound of military boot on tile. She looked up but didn't see anyone. What WAS going on with her?

She then noticed the holographic restricted symbol on the screen in front of an obviously startled Torri Weston. Krasivolkya KNEW exactly what that symbol meant. Her intuitions went into hyperdrive. The panic faded. The challenge, the dominance she had felt was first and foremost, the faint sound of military boots grew louder and suddenly made sense.

Krasivolkya snapped her head up and faced forward just as two security guards rounded a corner and approached them.

The Ascendency. Was here.

Krasivolkya cursed under her breath as a single drop of sweat ran across her right temple.
It was the steady measure of relief which accompanied the Ascendancy’s return to the main level. Having left the corridor of cells with no clarity given to his doubts, the remainder of his inspection of the Facility was uneventful. Director Stephensen unfurled an abundance of information, meanwhile, which to Nikolai, read like the Dead Sea Scrolls. He was hardly familiar with the processes the good director relayed, but Nikolai’s interest was hardly feigned. If anything, he truly had enjoyed the experience, and it settled his mind of the morning's tension. He was comfortable in these narrow passageways. The power of this particular subterranean seclusion was akin to experiences in other offices beneath the Kremlin. His living quarters were below the surface, for instance, rather than in the lofty palace of the Czars as the public understood them to be. Perhaps it was an unease with heights, he assumed, which surely the lofty building of the Palace boasted; likewise, darting through the air aboard any aircraft no matter its mass certainly elicited the same sense of wrongness. Yet he slept soundly in such quarters not solely for the proximity to Terra firma nor solely for its protection, of which the earth provided in times tense with international conflict, but also because he simply preferred it that way. And when the Ascendancy requested such construction, hell itself rearranged to see his command granted.

As the group proceeded to the exit, the outstretched arm of his primary body guard forced Director Stephensen to fall behind. Nikolai cast a glance aside in recognition of the man’s forced retreat. The gesture was meant to bring the two additional agents closer, one of whom now flanked Nikolai. Together, the three men communicated with one another, confirming the presence of sanctioned unknowns ahead. The third agent called up the Facility’s system and in the span of moments loaded information bearing recent chip-granted access, identification software, facial recognition, and a log of keycode transactions. By the time Nikolai himself rounded the corner, a cool explanation came from his primary man concerning the two women in his path. ”Custody of State Chief Liaison Krasivolkya Constantine and Captain Victoria Weston of the Custody Medical Corps,” other than confirmation of their identities, the agent remained impassive, but ever watchful. All of them were as such: ever-watchful.

Nikolai himself strode without slowing, studying the pair of women as he approached. Krasivolkya seemed coiled, and what with the magnification of sight and sound rumbling his chest with power, the single line of sweat streaking from her brow glistened wide as a waterfall to him. If it had not been for that one detail, he might have released the Power to the back of his mind, but if she were nervous enough to break a sweat, he wanted to remain on his guard. These three agents were good, but after the unfortunate incident in Siberia, Nikolai was far more willing to entertain the idea that everyone wanted him dead, even those in his own government. Slaughter your savior? Fools.

He paused a comfortable distance from the pair of women, and the intensity of his gaze turned to the Captain. Her salute was rigid, perhaps in overcompensation for the demurity of her rank before her Ascendancy. As well she should; he was not often confronted with lower-tiered officers. Yet he deigned to nod in recognition of the gesture.

”Liaison Constantine, is it?”
He asked despite already knowing the answer. The cut of his voice was crisp and professional, sharp as the cut of his suit and the directness of his gaze. The hand he offered to shake in greeting he likewise extended to Victoria. ”Captain. I understand you are new to Facility leadership. I would wish you luck, but the matter is too urgent to leave to the whim of fate. She is a coy one after all.”
The expression tickled some corner of his mind as though the idiom was more literal than anyone truly anticipated, but despite the curious surfacing of his charm, the cloak of the Power did not lift its shadow from his presence: he was a god in the form of a man.
God was he tired.

Alric had long since sunk within himself during his time here. It was the constant feeling of being watched which was more than a feeling for him. Gone was his sun kissed skin and handsome features; replaced with an unkempt beard and a sickly appearance. Gone was the physique that he and his trainer, Philippe, worked tirelessly on. Alric, the present one that laid on a cold rigid table under a ring of too bright lights and the electronic pulses of whatever machine they wired him for this go-around, didn’t serve him well enough to continue rebelling. All that earned him was the echo of his own voice before his throat simply gave out. Today, like the past couple of days, he thought of such things. Beforehand he couldn’t recall much of what transpired during his stay here. Aside from the insane amount of testing done to him.
Vaguely he recalled traveling to Moscow, am I still even in Moscow?, with Philippe and Julian his manager and make-up artist, who was also Philippe’s husband. Julian had introduced Alric to his then-boyfriend when Julian signed Alric’s contract. They had just flown into Central for a meeting, some kind of shoot for a private security firm’s recruitment poster. It should have been an easy job, given that prior to his modeling career, Alric’s resume was filled with details about his service in Dominance VII’s military police force. ‘The military made him strong and tough,’ Philippe liked to boast on camera about his star-client, ‘but I chiseled out the god-man you see today.’ At the time, the Frenchman didn’t seem like such a taskmaster, but even during the supermodel’s allowed stints of vacation, Julian made sure to keep tabs on Alric’s schedule, diet and life. Then again, Alric didn’t mind so much. He may be the man’s investment, but they were also friends.

Alric’s head began to pound, and his recollections of the past faded to indistinguishable memories, but one remained clear as day. Soon after landing but before they made it to the hotel, there was an accident. A big rig, if he could trust himself with the memory. It was the sort of thing to stick in a man’s mind, but surprisingly, the accident that shut down the highway wasn't the memory in his head. It was what came after. Falling ill - almost identically to a time once before. They’d been climbing in the Alps, but one faulty hold sent him tumbling down the mountain side. When he was medevaced to a nearby hospital, he was flagged almost immediately into isolation: his symptoms matched those of the WHO’s alerts about the pandemic that had been spreading across the world.

A familiar darkness that haunted his memories of the recent past took hold once again. His musing of his two friends’ fate brought back that familiar weight that stayed his rebellion in recent days. What happened to them? A deeper darkness began to consume him. Why me? This is ridiculous! This is something out of a movie! He was a nobody. Just a man with a pretty face. His mother, a Swedish model now turned immunologist, cautioned him to take care. There were many people, men and women, both that weren't stable and could obsess over him. His father began to instruct him in self-defense once he began to take on modelling jobs in his teenage years because of this revelation. Xavier, a retired medic and sniper in the GSG 9 always stressed stillness of mind and smooth logic will win the day. This is too elaborate for a psycho.

But Alric’s anger crept to the forefront of his consciousness and began to consume him. His outrage reached it’s zenith. His hatred for his captors, the hopelessness that he wallowed in, the exhaustion of all of the poking, the prodding, the pain and isolation these people inflicted on him, it all built up within him. It boiled against his mental block, his safety valve that his brain developed to keep him safe and in control. But his wrath would not be denied.

Just beyond his reach was a radiant object. He was scarcely aware of what it was but he knew that he had taken hold of that object that eluded him once before. He pushed harder. He knew that it was the key to his salvation, that it had saved him once before on the Alps and it could do so here again. He focused his seething fury as much as he possibly could. He needed absolute strength if he was fight. Steeling his resolve he continued to force his desire of freedom against the ceiling within his mind until it fractured and crumbled.

Power rushed into him. The feeling was orgasmic. It moved like blood within him; coursing through to every fiber of his being. A coarse laugh passed his lips, as he struggled to remain in control of the fire and ice that flushed his being. It wouldn't be much longer, he knew, till he would have it in hand and settle the vendetta with those nearby.
For all concerned, Torri ignored the woman beside her. She was literally doing all she could to keep a straight face. Early on she was stellar when it came to keeping her composure. She could silently curse a sergeant screaming in her face and not so much as a flicker of discontent crossed her expression. But this event was certainly not something she wanted to ignore. It was something she wanted to absorb. Not twenty-four hours in Moscow and already she was sixty levels beneath the Kremlin and about to come face to face with the man to whom held her oaths as a soldier, officer, and physician. The Ascendancy himself.

Her heart was rabid in her chest and she physically willed herself to stillness. Do NOT blow this Torri.

She’ll never forget it. The moment he first rounded the corner. Her eyes went straight to him, of course. Having slid across the forms of his entourage; the guards, even the director who would become her boss, faded to a muted background.

He was strangely shorter than she expected, and overall slimmer too. Which wasn’t to say that the Ascendancy wasn’t without presence, but perhaps she’d spent too many years trying to picture what this moment would be like, she’d inevitably built up the image of a conquering gladiator turned benevolent ruler. For shit’s sake. What’d she expect? A leather skirt and a sword?

She saluted as he approached, followed by the return to formality in her posture upon his acknowledgement. This would be the moment she should tell her children about someday. If she ever had them. And if she weren’t under sworn orders to not reveal an ounce of any of this. Did I ever tell you kids about the time I worked in a secret government facility doing illegal research on human subjects and I met the Ascendancy himself face to face? I thought I was going to faint when he looked me in the eye.

The guards in his presence kept a wary eye on her. They made her skin crawl, so she forced herself to focus on him. She gave a curt nod in return to his gracious comments. ”I will do what I can, Ascendancy.” God he was charming...sophisticated. He’s how old?! The cut of his suit, tailored like a second, silken skin, beckoned to be worthy of grazing. The boldness to his gaze; though he was not the beastly warrior, the threat was there; she had no intention of crossing him. And when those eyes settled on hers, she wanted to buckle and look aside. As though he were power incarnate, and she the unclean lamb cast from the temple. Everything she had ever heard about him was real. Everything she’d always laughed at, that you wanted to kneel like a commoner before the throne, that you loved him for loving you, or that you believed utterly in the completeness of his presence, never would Torri balk again.
Rushi looked up from the monitors which had been occupying his attention. Beyond the transparent screens glowing with real time data collection and through the dim sheet of a one-way mirror, Subject twenty-two was suddenly laughing.

"His heart rate is spiking," Rushi heard his colleague announce. He tucked a pap pen into the pocket of his labcoat and crossed to the vitals screen to study the electrical signals coursing sharply in rhythm to Alric's heart.

Rushi slid the screen aside and pulled up the EEG. "Oscillatory activity is going into phase reset." He glanced once more at Subject twenty-two, though no longer laughing, the man appeared no different than any other patient. Restraints kept his arms and legs in place on the gurney; a measure frequently deemed necessary. Subjects could injure themselves ripping out IV's, or interfering with any number of procedures. He was just one of a hundred in gray scrubs, only his bore the block lettering of his ID number.

Rushi frowned, unsatisfied by what he saw, and returned his attention to the screen. A few finger swipes and he was looking at a digital reconstruction of the man's prefrontal cortex. "It fires like ..." he gaped and looked closer, hardly believing his own discovery, "like he's been dosed with cocaine."


Suddenly, Nikolai turned sharply, staring into the distance, expressionless. Where a moment before, there was nothing but the chill circulation of air conditioning and the threat of the Power he held. Now, he sensed a flood. He felt it clearly and judged it.

The main agent at his side checked his earpiece and watched the Ascendancy with a heightened sense of awareness. For whatever it was which overtook his man's posture, he was doubly on guard.

With full expectation they would remove themselves from his path, Nikolai cut around the two women without another moment's hesitation. The Agents surrounded him as he strode, though it was clear they were unsure where their man was heading. Finally, Director Stephensen stumbled forward, but not before fixing Dr. Weston and Krasivolkya with a stare. He waved that they ought to follow.

Nikolai entered a dimly lit control room. Desks were connected to the ceiling with transparent panes of electronics. Three walls were made of one-way glass beyond which were brightly lit procedure rooms. Two scientists floated between a pair of panels; they both turned at his entrance. The Ascendancy ignored them, and moved immediately to one window behind which the young man which was flooded with power. His power.

He stared in disbelief, and reached greedily for more, enough that he would need to strain to manage it. His soul ached for more, but a quiet place in the back of his mind cautioned willpower, and from the calm of his training, he resisted the urge to draw it all. Or to render every living creature in sight to no more than mere ash and dust. A fate he was on the verge of casting. One quick, decisive moment. It'd be as easy as breathing.

"Who is he?"
He demanded.

"Subject twenty-two." A voice behind him answered uncertainly. Nikolai did not respond, supposing it didn't matter who this man was. He was going to ask himself.

He directed an order to the two scientists. "Turn those off. You will not be monitoring me."
One of the agents stepped up to see the command was carried out. They immediately tapped codes into the system, and the panels went dark. A moment later, the Ascendancy, god, ruler of half the world, and Apollyon of Man, crossed the partition and entered the procedure room. Two agents followed. He assumed the others waited in the room beyond the mirror, watching.

Nikolai wore disbelief and threat like a billowing cloak, and before this rival his countenance took a dangerous turn. This was his domain. His world. He was safe wrapped in layers of earth. Powerful and safe. Suddenly his mind swirled with thoughts of Dayton; of Trano, of what he dismissed as stress and fatigue. But the poison of doubt was now too gangrenous to ignore; he had to determine the source of all this. At the moment, it was the anonymous boy strapped to the gurney before him.

"Who are you?"
Alric’s mind began to settle after what seemed like hours. Now that the fire and ice that flooded into his veins was beat into submission, at least for the moment, for the moment he began to assess how, exactly, he was going to use this glorious strength. He didn’t actually feel stronger physically nor had his mental fatigue gone away. He was just as weak and sickly as just moments before. He didn’t have the words, in any of the languages he knew, to describe it well. Just Power. Alric’s focus moved to quieting his mind and reining in his emotions. He would seek fulfillment to his vengeance soon, but the lessons learned from his father and instructors would be the leash.

While he calmed down, he began to become aware of a growing threat. It was moving closer and growing more powerful than the threat that he could feel from himself. Soon he could track the feeling with his eyes. It’s just so dense and overwhelming. It cowed Alric a small bit unconsciously. Now he would need his mind clear and be in control. Otherwise, he admitted regretfully to himself, he would be crushed as he watched the threat enter the room.

Well doesn’t that just beat all. The greatest conqueror known to history, the leader whose empire spans half of the globe and many would say he was a God; The Ascendancy, flanked by two men, entered the room. It was hard to tear his eyes from the man whom he had sworn to defend but he did manage to glance over the two men that stood near the door. Their hands were clasped in front of their coat buttons but the tell tale line told Alric that their coats were still closed, which meant that they thought him of little threat. However, as a former member of the GSG 9 of the sixth Dominance, Alric knew the protection detail that watched over the Privilege and other VIPs. They worked in three man groups and always one of the bodyguards were left side dominant. This way they could produce less risk of the Ascendancy, or their charges, being in their lanes of fire should the need arise for bullets to fly. Which told Alric that the third man was behind the mirror, in all likelihood with weapon drawn and his head in the crosshairs.

Alric’s glaze moved back to the Ascendancy. The menace that flowed off the man was unbelievable. His stance warned Alric that he was no stranger to combat. It also told him that he was used to his mantle of control that he wore that made everyone obedient. Alric wrapped himself within the hot cold of the Power he held much like a child wraps himself in a blanket for security. He would not shy away like a young wolf cub, but he did show a small bit of decorum (and intelligence) and stared at his chin and not squarely into his eyes like he had been moments before.

Sergeant Alric Rainer. Retired member of GSG 9 of the Sixth Dominance, Excellency.
” GSG 9, originally a Special Operations Group of the Germanic Federal Police. Before the Ascendancy came to power they were, and still are, one of the best S.O.G. within the Dominances. With an average of 3000 missions completed and only twenty weapon discharges and specializing in kidnapping and counter-terrorism, many of the other Privileges and VIPs sent their retainers to the GSG 9 for training. One in five managed to complete the training and while their division had multiplied they still held their high standards in regards to earning the badge. Alric didn’t feel the need to mention that he was only an active member for one year before being moved to Public Affairs and being placed on the reserves list. But surely he would know this. How could he not know if he was here, where ever this was.Excellency why am I held prisoner? I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve served honorably. Why have you done this to me?
What is this Power? Why can I feel it pulsate from you? How dare you look at me like I’M THE ENEMY!

Edited by Alric Xavier Rainer, Aug 31 2013, 01:37 PM.
The sudden tension out of no where rackled Torri's already drawn nerves. As a result, her already severe expression darkened with concern. She turned to watching the three bodyguards for clues to what was going on, but she remained ignorant of the details.

She was hardly a stranger to safety SOP, but the developing situation, whatever it was, was leagues beyond anything she'd ever had to deal with before. Training she always assumed was purely academic kicked in.

Torri seemed to take it on herself to see to the welfare of the only civilian present, though a second look at Krasivolkya and she thought the woman was likely capable of taking care of herself. Still, it was the thing to do, so Torri did it.

She moved swiftly from the Ascendancy's path and shared a concerned, but interested look with the government liaison after the director beckoned them to follow. He was the boss. Therefore, Victoria followed.

And she found herself in a room she could hardly absorb in one studious sweep. All the years of learning how to hide her true emotions slammed the breaks on her revealing her shock, but it was difficult, even for a physician, whose nerves could endure anything when they had to.

She swept from glass panel to panel, absorbing everything the data flickered. Data about three live patients....subjects she reminded herself.... living and breathing on the other side of one-way glass, which she could tell simply from the difference in the rooms' illumination patterns: bright on their side, dim on hers.

She entered the room enough to be ready for action at command, but smartly remained out of the way of her superiors. Her hands went folded before her. Her expression was tight, but neutral. Whatever tension shadowed the Ascendancy, Torri was willing to thwart it at a moment's notice.

Subject twenty-two, Rushi Ajeet answered the Ascendancy's question. Victoria recognized him, of course. The was a monument of a scientist. His published works were sourced constantly by her contemporaries. He'd not recognize her of course. She was far too new to the ever-evolving picture of up and coming minds. At least, she doubted it.

More pointedly, the Ascendancy was not pleased with the answer, and Victoria was silently glad he didn't turn the furnace of his gaze toward those waiting behind him. She truly did not want to have to endure forcing herself from shrinking back any further. This was trying enough.

Suddenly, monitors, digital rays, infrared scans, and electrical studies winked away. All the panels which formerly displayed the data frosted to empty glass, though she noted the activity coming from the two rooms the Ascendancy did not enter remained active and normal. The other subjects weren't aware anything out of the ordinary was going on in here.

It didn't take a rocket scientist to realize the source of the tension wafted from the sole man singled out by the Ascendancy. At the man's answer, Victoria did drop a momentary jaw in shock. GSG 9!

They weren't covert ops. Their missions, the majority, are top secret but their roles aren't. Like some militant CIA intelligence, anyone was aware of their existence, but Torri had a particular insight into what she was witnessing. A week ago she was in Berlin. A week ago GSG 9 operatives stopped her on the way to her car and days later she was on a plane with vague orders in hand to report to the Kremlin. Fuck! And one of them was strapped to a table in front of her.

His question hardened her heart. She had to ignore what was running through the back of her mind. She knew nothing about this man's past. She could infer nothing. It was none of her business who he was, Sergeant Rainer ... Subject twenty-two.
It was not the realization of the lengths he would go to save the world from itself nor of how many souls he need harvest to see that time did not end, but rather the blinding brilliance that was the discovery of another god which cast mercurial ripples across the pond of Nikolai's ascended world.

The boy's suspicion was right to turn to malice; he was right to question; he knew not what this sacrifice meant. Of his name or deeds, the Ascendancy knew nothing, but he knew the honor it was to retire from the Border Protection Group. The agents of the GSG worked counter terrorism, personal protection, and carried out special weapons operations. Their conduct was honorable. Their service meaningful.

He moved to Alric's side, straight, and without hesitation.

Little of what flared before behind the sharpness of Nikolai's gaze remained by the time he leaned far above the man's line of sight. Alric's demands fell as dull barbs from the Ascendancy's empathy; he did not have the luxury of ignoring reality. What was done, was done. What did call to him was far more imminent: a volatile situation was sparking the very air, and the shrill sound of warning shot shivers down his spine that he take extreme care with these next few moments, and Nikolai hardened his mind of all personal doubt, disgust, and anger until the battle for self-control relented, beat back by a man of immense discipline, until someone calm against the storm on the horizon remained.

"You are here because you are sick,"
he said matter of factly. Light and power ebbed, and though he did not use it, Nikolai's grip tightened on the stretcher as he watched for recognition. He filled Alric's view of the world, and forced the man to ignore everything but the command he was about to give, to trust to nothing but the truth presented to him in this pivotal moment.

In that fleeting moment he considered but quickly dismissed all attempts to clash power against power. The Ascendancy dared not sooth the man's betrayed trust with a demonstration as he had done in situations past for fear the tentative resolve against which the two men fought back would fracture, and everyone, not just themselves, would be crushed by the weight of the world overhead when the two struck blows. In his heart he knew what resulted would cut the vulnerable threads by which he clung to power. Even being as close as he was to this second god-made-flesh was repulsive: as two magnets which would war until time ended before accepting one-another's presence.

The steady command that followed chilled even the strength of the Light raging through him and forced it into submission as he would will that of Alric. Nikolai fixed upon the man's torn expression, a father who for the safety of his son, would be obeyed. For all their sake's.

"The Power you wield, you will release. You will not let it slip away. You will not let it escape. As purposefully as you seized it, release it now, my son."


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