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Running to Stand Still
As far as cities went, Moscow was pretty nice. Crowded, but she expected that. There was an energy here that she hadn't felt in a long time. Excitement and optimism. Everything seemed lit up, including the people. She passed a kid walking down the street with a shirt that was displaying ever changing images and scenes at a rapid but rhythmic pace. The style vaguely tickled her mind, though she couldn't put her finger on it. She hadn't grown up seeing much TV as a kid. One or two scenes made her raise her eyebrow and she laughed to herself. That'd go over real well in Idaho. The kid- maybe 19- looked her in the eye and smiled as he passed her.

Yep. Definitely an energy. In some places anyway. The higher the higher ups, the lower the lowly. She'd seen a bit, though she didn't really have much time to explore yet. She'd just gotten in yesterday and primarily had seen just the route to her hotel. The dinner in the lobby restaurant was good enough. Food didn't really interest her.

No, she was here for a reason, one that made it hard to sleep that night, so anxious was she. She'd gotten up early and gotten ready- simple black jeans and boots, white shirt and her grey leather jacket. It was cold, but she didn't notice it that much. She'd hunted in the north west in winter. You got used to it.

The sidewalks had been salted and her feet crunched their way down the street. The neighborhood had a quieter air about it, more relaxed. Small shops and houses lined the street, with the occasional market on the corner. She passed a bookstore with old books displayed in the window. She didn't bother stopping. She'd never really been interested in reading for fun.

Up ahead was a much larger building, really quite beautiful. It seemed like some old manor house or something. Stone steps lead to two polished wooden doors. Her wallet beeped. She was at her location. She stood there for a moment and then started up the stairs.

Once inside, she was questioned at the door. She gave the appropriate phrases and was taken to another room where, after an eternity of scans and verification, she was finally ushered into a library to cool her heels. There were a few tables about, but the room was empty. She did notice the cameras strategically placed throughout the room. She smiled at one of them and then leaned back to half sit on one of the tables facing the door while she pulled out her wallet and logged back into the darkweb and the Atharim forums for more research.

It seemed like forever before a robed priest, maybe her age, tall and whispy with thinning grey-tinged brown hair- no way was this guy a hunter- walked in. It seemed a bit odd to see a priest here, but she supposed there were all sort who were Atharim. "Ms. Cross. I am Father DeLuca. Would you follow me to my office please?"

She pushed off the table and slipped her wallet in her pocket. "Sure thing. Thanks."
She followed him through various hallways. She saw people sometimes walking about. It was quiet though. No seemingly idle chit-chat or anything. People seemed focused on their work. Well, it was what she expected, she supposed. An organization was an organization, after all. Especially at the heart. New heart maybe. She wasn't sure. Made sense, though. What with all that was going on in Moscow, it made sense to make this the hub.

The man let her into a small office and gestured to the chair before taking his seat behind his desk. "We were surprised at your message, Ms. Cross. We've had a few Americans join us here in DI. But in general, that branch of the Atharim tends to...keep its independence. What is it you want?"

She smiled and leaned back in her chair. She smiled. "Simple. I want to hunt gods. This new order. I want in."

The man looked at her for a moment over clasped hands. Finally his eyebrows raised. "The Order of the Archangels is by invitation only. The Regus himself is the one who chooses."

She laughed a bit. She understood of course. But it wasn't gonna stop her. "Well, then, let me speak to him. Simple as that."
She nodded at his computer terminal. "You have my record. You know what I can do, what I've done. You won't find many with more experience than me. Let me talk to him."

The man sighed, shaking his head slowly. "I'm afraid the Regus is very busy," he began but she interrupted him.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm sure he is. But it will only take a moment, I'm sure. Just let him know that I am here and..."
he voice trailed off as she tried to think of a word. One came to her, but she didn't like it. She wouldn't say 'request an audience', not for anyone. She tried to make her voice more friendly-like. "Ask to speak to him."[/color] Once she got to talk to him, she was sure he'd listen. She could be persuasive if she wanted to be.

The man compressed his lips, but said nothing. Finally, he typed something into his computer and she heard a chime a few seconds later. He looked at her and then said, "It seems the Regus is free for a brief visit. I will take you to him." A ghost of a smile appeared on his lips. "I do hope you remember that you asked to see him."
Ichiro had spent the majority of his time in Moscow so far getting settled in. He had an apartment close to the Atharim HQ. The time spent away from hiscv home he spent in the library - both the Atharim and civilian. If given a chance, hemight host an event at the library to teach some of his culture to those interested.

The Moscow Atharim were all abuzz about the Convocation and this new orderto hunt the gods. Ichiro was interested. He had killed a god - one who had been a friend -and had assisted with the death of his brother. Killing gods wasn't new ro him,but the methods employed would be new - at least he assumed that it would.

Today Ichiro was going to meet the Regus. He wasn't sure what he would say to the head of his order, probably just offer his sword. With this new order, there were bound to be shifts. He would serve where he was needed as he always did. If that meant hunting gods, he would do so with the fervor he gave to everything.

Ichiro followed the Christian priest that was leading him though the headquarters. He wore a long black trench coat to covee the twin blades he carried, the longer katana on his left hip and the shorter wakizashi on his right. It was uncomfortable, and he preferred the on one side, but the coat didn't allow it.

They entered a room and he saw a woman there with another Christian preist. He bowed to them and smiled in his customary greeting before taking a place off to the side to wait; Ichiro did not wish to imterrupt. Despite his stature, Ichiro stood with the deadly grace of a trained predator. Off to the side he waited patiently for his summons.
The Regus Armande Nicodemus only lightly sweated from his exertions. His feet were planted on floor of the training room, the wood smooth on his bare feet. Gunnar's blonde hair was slick with sweat and he breathed heavily, but at least he wasn't holding back anymore.

Gunnar Halvorssen had been a hunter in Sweden. Armande violently rejected usage of the terms D anything in his mind. He clearly remembered when countries went by their own names. That the Abomination himself was the source of such geopolitical restructuring and renaming made using such terminology repulsive to him. For clarity, with others, he would use the accepted nomenclature. But in his own mind, Apollyon held no permanent Dominion.

Halvorssen had an extraordinary record as an intelligent and resourceful hunter. But much more than that, he had the loyalty to the raison d'ĂȘtre for the Atharim. He would do well in the Order.

Gunnar lashed out again and Armande parried it quickly before delivering a savage blow to the ribs. Gunnar seemed to absorb the blow, however, one kick of his reaching his hip. Back to stance. The Regus didn't exactly smile, but he was in good spirits. Since the Convocation, those who sparred with him were too afraid to push him, to land a blow. They did not understand. 'Ferrum ferro acuitur....' As iron sharpens iron... "Excellent, Gunnar. Do not hold back." While his job was more administrative now, he never had been, nor would he ever be a man beholden to a desk or chair. He was the Dagger of the Atharim. He had to be sharp.

When he was satisfied with his workout, he padded over to the bench that held his towel and wallet. As he wiped off the light layer of perspiration, he checked his wallet for messages and found one from Father DeLuca. He grimaced for a moment. Americans, he thought irritably. Of course the name of Ms. Cross had come up more than once. She and Mr. Marx had sterling reputations in that more chaotic and lawless environment. What they displayed in vigor and drive, though, only highlighted their lack of subtlety and understanding of the true war that was going on.

Still, he was in a charitable mood. He changed back into his black cassock robes. Despite being of heavier weight than his karate-gi, he still had a full range of motion for whatever challenges might come his way.

His mind flicked through the possibilities with this woman as he walked purposefully to his office. DeLuca was in the ante-chamber with a rather tall mature woman, only a hand-span shorter than Armande himself, with a hardness to her face. Of course, he expected nothing less from a hunter of over thirty years. There was also a much shorter man in the room, Japanese, though he too had the lean maturity of a hunter. An eyebrow quirked. Mr. Yoshimura had requested a meeting but the timing was intriguing.

The Regus debated having the meeting with both at once, to keep them off balance, but in the end decided to have the interview with Ms. Cross first. She was the one who had insisted rather impudently for this. There was a reason American's had not been considered for the Order. The meeting could go badly for her.

"Ms. Cross, Mr. Yoshimura." His tone was neutral, neither indicating pleasure or irritation at their being here. In truth, he wasn't sure himself. He looked at both of them for a moment more, then nodded to Ms. Cross, indicating she was to follow him. A flicker of anticipation skittered across his mind. Would this be like his meeting with Seth Marx? It irritated him, not being able to use a tool because he couldn't trust it.

He sat behind his desk and watched her as she sat down. There did not appear to be any hesitation or apprehension in her movements or face. He decided to let her speak. People said far more than they realized when speaking. "What is it you want?"
Regus was....impressive. Ten or fifteen years older than her, but not weak for all of that. He projected a sense of steel. Maybe it was the eyes, the metalliic ice blue that seemed to burn wherever it settled.

She found herself smiling. She didn't think much of men in general. Far too many were weak and driven by their base emotions and hungers. So easy for her to manipulate. But this man...she found herself feeling a genuine sense of respect.

She was still herself, of course. But that just meant that she was honest. No sense in hiding or pretense. At his nod, she followed him into his inner office and sat down in the chair facing his desk. She hadn't been asked, but it was there and she did it without thought. She was not a beggar.

He sat there, steely gaze penetrating her and she felt a thrill. And then he questioned her presence. What she had planned to say fled. The bravado and flippance she normally spoke with disappeared. She could be honest with him, without artifice.

Emotion tinged her voice. "I read what you did. What you said at the Convocation. You are right. Absolutely. The minute I did that I dropped everything to come here."
She paused, collecting herself. " I want to join the new Order. I want to hunt the gods."
When the Regus himself appeared in the ante-chamber, Ichiro turned to face him. The greeting delivered, a simple name, was returned with a bow befitting the man's rank and skill. The Regus nodded to the woman in the room, indicating that he desired to speak with her first.

It didn't bother Ichiro. He was patient and hadn't waited to meet thus far, another half an hour wouldn't hurt. As they both disappeared into the Regus's office, Ichiro adjusted his swords, moving the wakizashi to his left side with the katana so they sat in a Japanese fashion. It wasn't necessary to hide his blades here as he did on the streets of the city and he wanted to go through his forms here later.

Ichiro knelt to the ground, sitting in seiza with his trench coat billowing out behind him. He could meditate, but he wanted to remain alert for when the Regus called him. So instead he sat and relaxed, waiting patiently to be called.

((OOC: I'll post again after the Regus comes to get him - He'll stand slowly when the door opens. Feel free to mod that when the time comes if you wish. Until then, he'll sit patiently and content with his own company until you two are done.))

Edited by Yoshimura, Apr 10 2015, 12:38 PM.
Armande gazed at her for a long moment, the events of the now running parallel to the meeting he had with Seth Marx months ago. A meeting that had proven meaningless almost from the start. Disgust welled up in his throat. There were times when he almost thought the American branch of the Atharim to be unsalvagable, the leaven of overweening arrogance and pride having spoiled the whole lump long ago. The scarred flesh of Rune Marx all that remained of the single botched attempt on a reborn god. Not the record of a man who considered himself the greatest Atharim hunter on either side of the Atlantic.

And here was another American, another here only for the masturbatory thrill of the hunt. Contempt filled his heart, though he showed none of it. So it would begin again. The patient exploration, a surgeon carefully parting layer after layer until the truth lay exposed. Malignance? Or purpose far beyond ones own pathetic desires.

He needed weapons. He was forging them, one at a time. Was the metal itself good or bad? Or was it the place of forging, of tempering?

At long last he spoke. To her credit, she had said nothing during his silence, had not tried to draw attention, nor had she squirmed under his weighty stare. She would get this much, then. Not a direct challenge, to be answered with bluster and brag. No, he wanted truth. It was time to come to the root of things. His voice was quite, his gaze heavy. "Why, Ms. Cross, do YOU wish to hunt the gods?"
Regus quietly looked at her for a long while and so she sat still, absorbing the atmosphere of the room. When he finally spoke, it was quietly. She couldn't really tell what was going on behind them. His question was simple, but there was something behind it. She knew steel hidden in silk. The memory of Regan whispering to her as they stalked their prey. Quiet. Deadly. She couldn't help the slight smile that came to her face. At the thought. She wasn't afraid. But she was aware that she was being judged.

She quelled her desire to throw caution to the wind, to flaunt her independent nature, her utter lack of concern for the thoughts others and just tell him that if he was smart, he'd let her join. The room was silent, forcing her to contemplation and she found herself wanting to answer truthfully.

She tilted her head slightly to regard him. "The obvious answer, of course, is that they need to be killed. Simple as that."
Somehow, though, she knew that he would press for more. She pursed her lips in thought, her eyes catching the books and parchments or whatever that decorated the room. A flash of insight came to her. "I'm not a scholar. I don't know much about history or anything. The man who trained me to be Atharim didn't exactly sit me down and make me read a bunch of books- where we came from, why, and so on. Hard to read living that life. But I got the general story, of course."

She breathed easily, knowing what she meant to say. "For me, at the end of the day, this is about humanity's survival."
She flashed back to all the hunts she'd been on, what she'd felt. She let her passion show. "It's survival of the fittest, period. Humanity against everything else. So I hunt and kill rougs and oni and wolkfin and whatever else is out there because they are a threat to us. Their abilities make them dangerous to people. We are the tools that have been created to make mankind safe. We are the guardians!"

She looked pointedly at him. "And the reborn gods are the worst of all. Because the potential for evil and abuse is so much greater. They are not like normal people. If they go bad, a lot of people suffer and die. I know some of the stories at least. So this is a war. And I fight for mankind."

She paused, thinking. "From what you said at the Convocation, I think that we are on the same page. I want to offer my services to this new Order. I believe in it. It should be done. I'm good at what I do. Simple as that."

Perhaps not elegantly spoken. She couldn't help that she really had no experience or interest in speaking to anyone as anything other than an equal. She hoped he didn't take offense. And he did, well, she was who she was. He seemed a smart guy. Hopefully he wouldn't let a little thing like that keep her out. Cuz she wanted in. Real bad.
Armande sat there quietly thinking on the her explanation, her tone and manner discordant with the words themselves. There was no subtlety to her, that much was obvious. No sense of decorum or manners. She was far too familiar with a superior. "Offer my services," indeed. He almost snorted at the suggestion that she was contracting herself.

And yet, the words she said, rough and uncouth as they were, were correct. Watching her speak, the fire that lit in her eyes, the expressive movements of her hands, he knew something else. He could tell she meant them.

So, what would he do with her? He was familiar with her record, of course. If she had been Old World Atharim, there would not have been an issue. She and Barovsky and Halvorssen would have formed the core of the first Canticle of the Order. Her ability was not the issue.

Finally he spoke, his blue gaze searching into her. "And how far does this war extend, Ms. Cross? Are there exceptions?" He thought of the Sentient girl. She was not one. She had been sentenced. But her death would accomplish something, at the least. He leaned forward, the weight of his stare intensifying.

"You asked for this, Ms. Cross. You barged in here and demanded to be a part of something you were not invited into. You say the words, mouth principles. What I would like to know is how far your loyalty and belief extend." This was the core issue, the reason he had limited the Order. "Do I get the privilege of having you join the Order because you deign to agree with me in some things?" His eyes narrowed. "This Order is meant to be the blade that cuts the head off the dragon, Ms. Cross. I will not tolerate deviation in the ranks. I am the head of this Order. I say who and where it strikes. No discussion, no argument. This IS a war. You were right about that. In a war, soldiers take orders and follow them. Betrayal or disobedience are punished with severity."

He sat back and watched her for a moment more. "Do you still wish to join?"
Jacinda had irritated him, but she wasn't really sure why. She'd been trying to respectful, after all. Oh well. There was nothing she could do about that. The Atharim on this side were touchy. In the States, no one was her superior or gave her orders. She got reports and cases and handled what needed handling. Sometimes Atharim got together to take care of larger threats. And then that meant there would be some kind of loose organization. But those were sorted out pretty quickly. Among her fellow hunters seniority was pretty much the primary method. Bad, stupid or impulsive hunters died pretty quickly.

Here, though, it was so much more ordered. The hierarchy was so much more rigid. Part of her rejected it almost viscerally. It was so alien to her. And yet those blue eyes burned into her. So much could be accomplished when part of a team. She thought back to the many times she'd hunted with others. Some were a joy and some were a pain. More often than not, personalities clashed and it made things worse. Hell, more dangerous was the better word. People who thought they knew better than she did, despite her decades of experience. But when it worked, well, you could feel it. It was almost like the total was greater than the sum of its parts. It didn't happen often, but when it did, it was something else.

And this was what The Regus wanted. A real team. Obedience. Loyalty. That's what he wanted to know. Could he get that from her. Honestly, she wasn't completely sure. It was such a departure for her. Could she do it now, at her age?

She examined herself. It came down to trust. Do you trust the people next to you. Do you respect them. Do you have their back and will they have yours? Can you count on them to make the right calls, even if you don't agree with it? That right there, that would be the hard part. To believe that they had information she didn't.

She met his gaze. This man, she could respect. He wanted a weapon in the war. He didn't strike her as one to waste men in stupid forays. He had cut to the core of the issue for her. His team was not to be casually thrown together. He was building something. She could trust him. As for the others, well, they got her trust only in as much as he trusted them.

She smiled. "Yes, I still want to join. I'm not saying it will be easy. Old habits are hard to lose. But it's worth it. I can swallow my own ego for the sake of mankind. I want to be a part of your Order, your team. This is far too important."
She hesitated. "If you'll let me."
Armande could see the thoughts play out on her face. It was amusing how transparent she was to him. She made no effort to disguise her reactions and feelings as she worked through things. It was so very typical, the brash, open and uncaring manner that seemed to characterize her and her brethren. Which worked very well where they were, he supposed. The hunts themselves were very effective.

What was lacking was cohesion and finesse, the ability to sublimate the needs of the individual in order to accomplish something far greater and more effective. Armande smiled on the inside. Alexander at Guagemala. Marius at Vercellae. Napoleon at Austerlitz. The Atharim against the gods of old. Time and again, the victory went to the more maneuverable, dedicated and disciplined force, despite their smaller size.

That was what he was doing here. Instead of legions and centuries, cohorts and phalanxes, he would have his Orders and his Canticles, pieces to be used in the war against the Abomination and its seed that was sprouting up in the earth.

Good officers would be required. This woman had the mettle. But did she have the discipline, the will to submit and be part of something larger than her own selfish ambition. He watched the pieces click into place and at last she spoke.

He did not feel relief of course. It was enough that another hunter would not be wasted. The metal had to be good to forge the sword. No matter the skill, poor material made poor weapons.

He looked her in the eye and said nothing for a long moment, letting the tension draw out. At last he spoke. "I will allow it." His face grew hard. "Bear in mind what I said. You exist as a soldier. Your life serves a greater cause. And sacrifices may sometimes be necessary." He let the words sink in. "Do not make me regret my decision. It will be the last painful mistake you make."

He dismissed her. She would receive her orders soon enough. In the meantime, there was another hunter to meet with. He sent a message to send in Yoshimura. More testing to be done, he guessed.

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