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Continued from

Martin walked the halls of the Atharim until he came to the large wooden door that he'd been seeking. It was a place he didn't frequent often. The tools of his trade we not usually kept in this place. A gun and a sword were all he really needed for most monsters. But gods, gods they required something special.

It was all about the tools today. More tools. He would also mention the use of his latest tool. To snuff out others like Father Store, or even gods in their halls. Maybe even wolfkin and sentients alike. He still had to test the theory and make sure the girl was reliable, but that would come. He would tame the little monster for his own purposes whether she liked it or not.

Martin opened the unlocked door and sauntered into the room. It was brightly light and very spacious. And he did not recognize a face or an item in the room. The Regus wasn't there yet, he was early for a change.

Edited by Borovsky, Feb 9 2015, 01:59 PM.
Armande's feet were silent on the lower floors of the Baccarat Mansion. His towering form in his black cassock marked him out from all other Atharim and those they employed as they flittered about their business. More than one person averted their gaze when they saw who it was, conversations in the hallways dying in mid-word at his passage.

He noted all of it as he made his way down, but only in a peripheral way. The blood of the Atharim was flowing now, its heart beating strong and steady. He was reminded of his youth and his training in the desert among the Bedouin. The cries of horses and men as they trained and fought. The beast was an extension of himself, controlled reflexively with knee and thigh and leg more than reins, all the better to wield sword or spear or bow. And underneath it all, the steady thrum and rhythm of horses legs at full gallop, of their deep breathing.

The Atharim had been awakened, those ones with pure hearts. Very soon his Orders would set forth into the world and begin the war in earnest. Soon. But for them to be equal to the task, they would need more than they had become accustomed to. The millenia had not been kind. They had lost them weapons, it was true, weapons that had been forged by the gods and that had been used by the Atharim in their wars, that given humanity a chance.

But the millenia gave gifts as well, gifts other holders of his office might have balked at. Foolish men, so focused on the past that they failed to see what could aid them. Their reticence was perhaps understandable at the time, given the loss of influence and power the Church, and thus they themselves, experienced. But life was about adaptation, not stagnation.

Finally he arrived at the lower basement. It was a good size and would give them the room they needed. What purpose the room served before, he did not know or care.

When he opened the door he saw that Barovsky was already present. The man had taken to his new assignment with ferocity. He couldn't help but smile. The lure of the Order was one that even tugged at his heart. Though Regus, he made it a point to hunt on his own from time to time. Strength of mind followed strength of body. One could not understand the challenges of hunters if one forgot the heft of steel in ones hand or the exhilaration of the fight. This was war, after all.

He nodded to the man as he shut the door. "We will be joined by one other here shortly." He nodded to a bench and table and sat down.
Joseph 'Seph' Theiss, born in Bern, Switzerland, was, especially in his later years, more scholar then hunter. He had never been among the Atharim's best. There were no stories of his hunts and deeds, no lessons to be taught to the younger generations that could not be better exemplified elsewhere. Not a failure by any stretch, but his martial prowess had simply never stood out. His nickname was a somewhat morbid play on words; after the car accident, surgical errors had led to a life-threatening sepsis infection that had further debilitated his already damaged legs.

Where Seph had been mediocre at best as a hunter, he had shined for his tactical insights and his connections, a skill that may never have come to light had it not been for a depressingly mundane car accident many decades ago. Left unable to walk without a cane, his use to the Atharim in the field had been all but ended.

But rather then fade into obscurity, or take his own life, Seph made use of what of his body still worked. His mind. He studied at Cranford University in the UK long before the disasters that had led to the economic collapses that had eventually brought Europe into the CCD. His impressive performance there had led to an internship and later full membership at the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO for short), a think-tank that among all it's touchy-feely works, also developed new conceptual weapons and their possible implementations in real-world scenarios.

The contacts Seph had developed during nearly two decades with TNO had proven a valuable asset to the Atharim. Weapons developers, suppliers, even smugglers and illegal dealers. Access to government or privately funded research, and a unique insight into applications of weapons that when he had been a boy were mere science fiction.

For all Seph's interest in the cutting edge of weapons technology, he was in some matters a surprisingly techno-phobic individual. Or perhaps simply not one ready to accept that he couldn't push his own damn wheel chair. His legs may have failed him, but his arms were still well within the realm of things he could control.

The door was briefly held open for the elderly man as he carefully maneuvered a modest wheelchair into the room. His assistant respectfully remained in the hall, the simple seeming ironwood cane that Seph had used to navigate any stairs that would have otherwise bar'd his path. Into his early 70s, the old Swiss man had a grandfatherly appearance about him.

He paused at the door after his assistant had closed it, and nodded respecfully to the Regus. "Evenings greetings, Regus. I appologize for my tardiness."
He hoped that the exhaustion of navigating the stairs was not too evident, "High Inquisitor. I offer congratulations for your new post. Although in truth, I am both honoured and concerned to have lived long enough to see the need for it."

At the Regus' permission, Seph would fully enter the room and approach the table, where he might prepare to deliver his presentation.
At last the door creaked open and the old form of Theis slowly wheeled into the room. For a moment his lips compressed in sorrow as he took in the sight of this brilliant old man. Such a mind, imprisoned in his own body from an accident, of all things. And now age was taking its toll. The very idea repulsed him. He was vital, a man of action, despite his age, as many had learned to their sorrow. But he could not pretend that he did not suffer from the occasional aches or pains from activities that would have meant nothing to him in his youth. Indeed, those realizations each morning only strengthened his drive to keep pushing himself, demanding that he stay physically sharp.

Still, it was a reminder of their limited nature. And that time passed by relentlessly, an unending river of history no one could stop. Even so, though, they had power. The appropriate actions at the right time could shift the current of that river, a dropping of a pebble creating waves that could build as they interacted with another.

One just had to know where to drop.

The Regus stood, walking over to shake his hand, giving the old man honor. "Welcome, Theis." His usually glacial blue eyes held a glint of warmth in them. For the man whose insights had proved so invaluable, it was true. Theis' knowledge of tactics and strategy was deep. They had provided clues as to what really happened so long ago, as they scoured the old texts and inscriptions of the god-wars of the past. More than that, his connections with arm's dealers and governments, with research firms and think-tanks, gave him access to new technologies that would help level the field against the reborn gods.

It was that last that was the biggest reason for the warmth in his eyes. In only a short time, his vision of the Orders of the Archangels was becoming reality. The reborn gods would find that humanity had grown claws and fangs, that it could defend itself against them more easily. And at a lesser cost. The river swirled beneath. It was time to drop the pebble.

To the man's words, he responded. "Our place in history was set long ago. The fulfillment of prophecy has drawn near." An uncharacteristic smile wanted to show itself. "We Atharim are called once again to save mankind." A twinge of his anger at the existence of Apollyon threatened to rise, but he tamped it down. It was easy to do, given the purpose of their meeting.

He gestured to the table, and then went to sit down. "I trust your work was fruitful." His movements were energized. A strange feeling stirred in him. After his mother's death, adopted and cared for by women of the brothels, little gifts, sweet treats or the like, were occasionally given when available. Usually something small and spontaneous. But what he felt today was almost akin to what he had felt that one Christmas Eve, that anticipation and excitement, knowing they had all chipped in to get him something special.

He felt young again. His eyes shone, hungry to see what Theis had found for them.
Martin was glad to see the Regus was not too far behind him in arrival, it meant he had less time to stand around unsure of what to do with himself while he waited.

Shortly there after Seph Theiss wheeled in. A man who was worthy of standing before. Stupid people took the man from the field. Accidents were the bane of an Atharim hunters life. Accidents made hunters into old men they were not meant to be. Martin prayed any accident that would injur him would take his life, otherwise he might have to do it himself. He couldn't sit idly in a chair the rest of his life, behind some desk. He sighed at the thought, he would go out fighting or he'd do it himself.

But Martin brought himself back to the present, the man was a tactican, he was a weapons man. The Regus was eager, he could see that glint in his eyes. He too felt the same. They had much to discuss and the reason to see to better weapons was great. But Martin wondered if the Regus was opened to all the tools at his disposal. He would keep a close eye on that.

Martin offered his hand to Seph, "A pleasure to see you again. I look forward to what you have to offer us today." He sounded a bit too eager he was sure.
Seph shook hands with the two men then made his way to the table, where he deposited a pair of tablet devices which he slid towards the Regus and High Inquisitor. The devices contained indepth technical data on the things they would be discussing that day, as well as 'Coles notes' versions of each. Costs and acquisition times, training plans to bring the Atharim hunters up to date on their use, even tactical data plans which had been lifted from his contacts. That information alone would prove of great value; the leg work of learning how to employ the weapons and tools had already been done for them.

"It has been, Regus. Challenging, but fruitful. There have been great breakthroughs in the sorts of technology that will make our task far easier in today's society."
In recent years, it had seemed as though more of the creatures the Atharim battled had moved into the cities. Or beneath them, really. Such places were always a risk to work in; the risk of witnesses, of security systems and cameras catching sight of their hunters or their prey. The more they were forced to work in the cities, the greater the risk of drawing unwanted attention to themselves.

Brushes with law enforcement, with gangs and organized crime. Reporters, hospitals, government agencies. The more it happened, the harder the Atharim needed to work to keep that unwanted attention at bay.

"Our more traditional weapons, even in the hands of masters, ris drawing unwanted attention. Firearms leave evidence. They are loud, and recovering every fired round or spent casing is time consuming and difficult, especially for a prey that tries to run."
Modern forensic sciences could learn much from a few bullets lodged in a wall. A well preserved round could lead to the type of firearm used. Many hunters had a preferred weapon, their lucky gun so to speak, which could begin to link various hunts together.

"But this is the age of energy. Advances in micronization, power sources, computer technology have brought the fictions of our youth to the hands of soldiers and law enforcement agencies of today. These weapons leave no spent casings. Many make no noise, or leave any evidence of their use. And many, because they are, on their own at least, nonlethal, are seeing far more common use. Especially with the recent legalization of private armies."
Private security forces, more accurately, but already some of those groups were looking more like their own little armies loyal to corporations and the ultra-rich.

Seph drew their attention to a file on the tablets which had a rather efficient approach to describing such weapons. The file was lifted from a new experimental police task force found in Moscow itself. Naturally, much of the basis for the organization's use of such weapons was to prevent collateral damage to civilian and public property and persons, rather then the Atharim's approach of stealth and secrecy, but the information was still clinical and accurate.

The weapons ran the gambit of modern nonlethal tools. Directed energies, sonic emitters. Devices designed to inflict temporary pain, disorientation, crippling seizures, nausea, and all about as safe as a regular Tazer. Cutting edge generations of such weapons were often little larger then a more conventional firearm, and in most cases nearly as durable.

"The hardest part regarding the new firearms was lining up suppliers. Much of the work of how to use such things has been quite thoroughly explored. It was in other areas that my work proved more challenging. We seek to employ these weapons because they will be alien to the would-be Godlings. Something against which they will be unable to protect themselves. But much as we need new weapons with which to fight them, we need new means to protect ourselves from them and from the prying eyes of society.

"With these weapons, we should be able to level the playing field against these demons. But we will need new tools with which to avoid detection, and to protect ourselves against both the reborn gods and the common rabble's attention."
Other files that were found on the tablet devices would go into greater detail of the tools he would next refer to.

"The reborn-gods live within society. They are not hiding in the shadows of abandoned buildings or forgotten caves. They are in restaurants and schools, they live in apartments and have jobs. They travel the metro, hidden in plain sight. And as such, they benefit from the protection society provides. So we need a means to move undetected, to track them and corner them in places where we may strike unseen, or if needed, strike and leave as little evidence as possible."

"Advances is thermal-defeating fabrics. Paparazzi-maddening anti-flash clothes. Camera detectors and scramblers. IR glasses to detect laser-actioned security systems. Electronic lock pickers. Even signal-jamming technologies. Simply wearing a mask is not enough anymore. Modern thermal cameras can register person's unique thermal image. Bystanders with Wallet-devices and built in cameras."
The Atharim has fingers in every pie, so to speak, but even their reach only went so far.

"The sort of clothes and equipment we can employ are tried and tested by movie stars, politicians, and private security types the world over, and thanks to their money and contacts, is only a few generations behind military versions. And, loosely speaking, is entirely legal, or at least passive enough that having it raises few questions."

"The other devices...they are far more illegal. Not that we need worry so much about that."
He grinned and drew their attention to other files on the tablets, "For every new cutting edge security system, there quickly comes a new way to circumvent it. Camera detectors are built into glasses these days, and lasers to destroy them. Devices that can counter electronic locks. Others that can block common Wallet and cellphone signal bands."

Those had a relatively short range, sadly, although there were others that could work in tandem to form a comprehensive ECM bubble, to block off a few floors of a building, for instance. Thermal imagers like the ones Hood had provided to track the godling, Jaxen Marveet so many months ago, would allow Atharim hunters to study a building and plan their attack in regards to the danger of witnesses.

"Drone devices are technically illegal in most urban centers. Privacy laws aside, they are a risk for police and news helicopters, low-flying aircraft, and the like. But, they are still widely employed for surveillance and reconnaissance purposes. Even underfunded park rangers in Africa have access to such technology. Modern devices are as small as baseballs, and can be used inside buildings if the needed."
Armande listened intently as he paged through the tablet. But in his mind, he already could see the Order of the Archangels hunting. A ghost of a smile almost appeared as he skimmed spec after spec.

Dazer Lazer Defender. Blinds or disorients target with intense directed EM radiation. Range: 5000 meters. Pencil flashlight size. Stealth model allows for multi-spectral attack across entire EM band, making detection and/or shielding difficult before damage can be inflicted. At normal levels, result is temporary blindness. At higher energy levels, rupture of the eyeballs or searing of the retinas can occur.

Active Denial Directed Energy Weapon. Heats water on target's skin causing incapacitating pain with little damage. Hand held device. Multi-spectral capabilities. Standard use: crowd control. At higher energy levels, can burn skin and rupture organs.

And so many others. Electrolasers. Pulsed Energy Projectiles. Miniature UAVs armed with hypospray ability.

The god's had access to an unholy power. Unchecked, that power would lead to the re-enslavement of mankind. But not since the days of the original god-wars so long ago, had the Atharim weapons that were comparable. Perhaps one or two of those artifacts remained. He had teams researching the possibility. There were clues if one knew the truth. But even without, with these weapons, the Atharim would crush the head of Apollyon and his brood of vipers. Earlier holders of his office had rejected the emergent Age of Enlightenment as a loss of power and influence. They had strenuously worked with the Holy Church to maintain the power structure that gave them the access and freedom to act. They had quashed any rebellious elements within the brotherhood itself that promoted such dangerous ideas. But today, here, it was clear that such advancements had been providential. That they should have access to such things just as the reborn gods began to crop up like weeds was no accident. The war was coming, the battle foretold by so many for so long. The Order of the Archangels would be ready. The vision of it was rapturous.

Theis' words proved to be sobering, though. It was always the same. Technology was a double edged sword. Those same advancements would make their work in the shadows all the harder. Armande's icy blue gaze read over the strategies that would allow them to continue. They were an extension of their usual secretiveness and not unacceptable. He shrugged mentally. It could not be helped. The hunts were in the cities now. Cameras were everywhere. It took moments for computers to pull images and collate all of them so that there was nearly continuous full 3-d coverage on any modern street.

And then there was Domovoi. Regus felt protective of the Atharim's charge. Domovoi must not be allowed to interfere. Once silence had descended, Regus steepled his fingers, his black sleeves sliding down slightly, and looked at Theis. "This task force. It must not get in our way. I trust we have eyes and ears inside?"
Oh this was almost better than sex, Martin felt like a kid in a candy shop. All the new weapons with the tablet sitting in front of him Martin barely listened to what the old hunter said. Technology, suppliers, not his concern, the weapons though, those could be useful.

Martin's thoughts wandered to and from the various weapons on the tablet, the uses he could put them to, the people who he'd give them too. The order was still looking for a few good men and women. Actually they'd always be looking for the perfect candidates. There were several on his short list, some friends, mostly people he trusted with his life. And then there were others who happened to have excellent records and way about them that might bring down a god or two on their way up. That list had been given to the Regus. Along with his replacement.

Martin had another topic to broach when necessary, but right now he was lost in thoughts of killing gods with new tech.

But it was the threat of some CCDPD force that brought his attention to the game. "The police have always left those cases open, now they hunt. We need an inside man. Though I doubt anyone in the Atharim could pull off undercover work like that, none of us are cop enough, we break the law far too often. Though one of our informants might get in easily enough. There is a list of good men and women scattered throughout the CCD that might fill your role in a more specific capacity. It's just a matter of talking whoever is in charge they are worthy of the transfer."

Seph listened to both the High Inquisitor and the Regus' words and nodded in calm confidence to both men's questions and statements. They did indeed have people on the inside, so to speak. One had been known to him for only a few years; he had encountered the woman in his more scholarly and 'legitimate' life away from the Atharim. The other he had only learned of more recently, but had been known to the Atharim for quite some time already.

"There are already two, that I know of. Neither are true Atharim, but rather sympathizers. Officers whom have crossed our paths in the past, and have been found open and supportive of our beliefs. One if the task force's armoury officer. Officer Kira Zinoviya. Positioned as she is, she will be of little use to us for tracking their activities, but she can provide us with information on what tools and weapons they are using."
She would prove valuable for her technical expertise.

"The other is Detective Jérémie Favager. He is tasked with the investigations that would lead to the task force being deployed. The hound that will lead the hunters to their prey. He will be able to, at least occasionally, keep us a step ahead of them in their hunts."
He would not tell them of everything, of course; if the Atharim were to keep ahead of them on every case, there would be an internal investigation which would put the man at risk of being discovered.
Armande Nicodemus felt pride as he listened. The men before him, men like him, were the reason the Atharim had existed for millenia. Centuries of operating in secret, safeguarding mankind. They were men of strength and determination. But it was much more than that. Their age and wisdom was what made the difference. They were not young hot heads like some hunters were, driven by emotion or vanity. The faces of Punit and of Marx flashed through his mind. No, they were deliberate and far thinking. He could trust them. Armande was not foolish enough to believe that he could know everything or everyone in his organization. He didn't need to. He was the head of this body. The mind did not have to consciously control each muscle or organ or regulate each system to survive. As long as the autonomic nervous system functioned, the mind was freed to dwell on more important matters. As he was.

"Continue to work with them, Theis. Carefully. We do not want to lose assets." His icy gaze shifted to Borovsky. "Informants are well and good. But their loyalty is always suspect. A full Atharim in Domovoi is the best long term solution. As long as they are dependable."

There was so much to do. The end of all things galloped toward them, inexorably. To Theis, "In the meantime, begin procuring our material assets." His eye flicked to Barovsky. "The 1st Order is nearly chosen. Training will begin as quickly as possible."

The Regus' eyes became glacial and his voice heated as he leaned forward hands clasped, the black sleeves of his cassock splayed on the table between them. "We must destroy them now, while they are weak." The weeds among the wheat. It was harvest time. And the furnaces blazed.

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