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The Divine Truth
The sun was a distant, useless star hung low in a sky blanketed by the haze of pollution.

As soon as he stepped into the frigid winter air, Eli finished snapping the buckle at his throat. His sneer for the cold sun deepened as the breeze whisked powdery snow around his legs. His hair plumed around his face, and his jaw tensed. He tucked fingerless gloves deep in his pockets and tried to erase the memories of what his blackened eyes witnessed within the hospital that finally spat him back out on the streets. The creak of old wheelchairs moaned in his mind. The smell of vinegar and bleach burned his nostrils. Dark, damp; within the prison-like tunnels he'd left behind, Eli's contempt had been a black god of mercy in comparison.

Most of all, he wanted to forget the madman that occupied the last hour of his life. What tumbled within that greasy scalp was pure insanity. Chthonic tales spewed from his puckered old lips like venom. He spoke of underwater volcanoes spitting snakes the size of buses. He spoke of the earth shaking, and the coming of a man whose feet broke stone with every step.

Snow crunched under Elias' feet like abandoned bones. The route in and out of the visitor's ward clearly was not well-traveled enough to warrant regular snow shoveling; security was likewise surprised at his early morning request for entrance. As he came upon the final wall, he wrapped himself in power and smiled to himself while the cameras registered his face. Every absurdity had a grain of truth somewhere, and deep in the mind of one psychotic scientist locked in the Guardian until the end of his days, Elias found a grain of truth lost in a sea of delirium.

That modicum of authenticity was going to help him uncover the truth of his uncle's demise.

Iron bolts snapped open, and he was released once more into the world while the Guardian had never known he was the greatest danger that could have walked out of their asylum this day. He turned down the street headed for the metro station, already forming a plan in his mind.
Edited by Elias Donovan, Mar 18 2014, 05:42 PM.
She had blood on her hands. Tehya hadn't anticipated the tight way guilt settled in her chest and hung there like a millstone. To protect and serve the Atharim's cause she would do whatever she deemed necessary; that was a philosophy etched into her very soul, non-negotiable. But now she found herself having to realign the boundary of her own morality, to discover where her limit really lay. The rougarou had been a monster, and irredeemable; she did not regret killing it. The creature had tortured and murdered its victims, and it would have continued to do so until someone put it down. She might not hold it truly accountable for its nature, but it had deserved to die.

No question.

The problem was not the death itself, but the manner in which she had experimented on it. She'd felt the instant its mind had snapped, and in that moment had realised her own potential to grow into something dangerous. Very dangerous. Such self-knowledge seemed a harsh penalty to pay, but regrettably necessary. Tehya considered herself moral. She would not falter to the temptations of power, and she would find a way to neutralise the gods. But she was beginning to comprehend how awfully dark a path she might have to take in order to accomplish her goals, even armed with the best of intentions.

Such contemplations burned in the back of her mind but were not the sole focus of her thoughts during this lull between destinations. No snow marred the currently deserted subway station, underground as it was, but it was cold. Tehya's clothes were non-descript; a black coat, a scarf tied up to her neck, jeans tucked into serviceable boots. Her black hair was tied simply at the nape of her neck, hanging in a tail to the tops of her shoulder blades. No make-up softened her face. Tall for a woman, and bold-featured, she was used to the wide berth of strangers. Of course the set of her expression was habitually serious, usually because the intensity of her thoughts were set to serious matters. Right now her hands were thrust in her pockets, and she just looked mildly irritated to be waiting for the metro. A screen overhead counted an estimation of time until the next train, but that's not where her dark gaze was set. She watched the black mouth of the tunnel.
The tunnel downward was lined with tiles surprisingly clean compared to the streets above. The Russian train system was immaculately kept. Russian. He would continue to think of the city as Russian despite the inlay of Dominance symbolism everywhere. In fact, as he rounded a corner to swipe his metro card and so gain admittance, he passed a scrubber, a man working a buffing machine like a lawn-mower with a DI patch on his jumpsuit. He looked up and received a tranquil nod in acknowledgement as Elias passed by.

The metro station itself was a hollow dome beneath the street. Chandeliers illuminated the vault's crown, but the light mingled with the fluorescence of modern signage positioned at eye-level, and cast every face with false dour.

The platform was relatively sparse of bodies, but one in particular, a woman, staring down the mouth of the tunnel, seemed on the verge of expecting a train to propel from the blackness at any moment.

Elias joined her. A wind pulsed from the opening every few minutes, borne by the movements of a distant behemoth unseen from their position. His coat rolled gentle sways on the air, as did the fringes of thick, dark hair fallen around his face. When the woman looked to him, recognition blinked its way across his darkly rimmed gaze. She was American. Native American, he knew it clear as day.
A man joined her. Tey glanced at him, eventually, when it seemed he would insist on standing beside her despite having almost the entire platform to choose from. Even then she could have ignored the passive company - he didn't speak, didn't interrupt the churn of her thoughts, and it was quite natural in large cities for strangers to share silent company with only transient interest in the presence of the other. But she stared back levelly when she caught his eyes, and returned the scrutiny. For a fleeting moment she wondered if he recognised her - but that was highly unlikely, if not impossible. Most likely, it was simply plain as day that she was a long way from home.

He held a sort of melancholic anger she was inclined to associate with his youth and manner of dress; she saw a child beneath the dark paints of his eyes, the ink black of hair worn long, the billowing wrap of night in his clothes. Tehya did not find the effect intimidating, but perhaps only because she'd seen far, far worse than any eccentrically attired human. "Delayed," she offered after a moment. Her gaze detached and returned to the tunnel. There was little inflection in her tone to suggest whether she was lamenting the inconvenience, or if she was just passing on friendly information. Or maybe just seeking to fill the void of silence. Well, maybe not the last; she was not the sort to open conversation with strangers for the social nicety. Generally the metro worked like oiled clockwork, but of late there had been a series of faults. Delays. Evacuations. Minor disturbances, but the sort of thing the Atharim took note of.

Edited by Tehya, Apr 4 2014, 10:50 AM.
Elias was content to be left alone.

The seconds stretched on. He might not have noticed had the woman remained quiet.

"Delayed," she said.

Eli shrugged and mumbled something to the effect of: "So much for the famous metro system."

Then his phone rang.

From the depths of his pocket he retrieved the device, high-tech model phone. It had been his uncle's. He certainly would never been able to afford something that sophisticated.

he said. He quickly started shaking his head, disappointed. He had been expecting the call. ""He knew nothing. His mind was half gone anyway, but the bits and pieces he remembered were useless to me."
There was another pause, one that resulted in a disdainful sneer. He was fixed upon the tiles lining the platform across the tracks.

His voice flattened, "No need to remind me of the deal. I'm not going to back out. Alright, fine, have what you will of this-"
the story he told was an amusing one, and no less frightening if it were true, something Elias considered in the back of his mind despite the absurdities. "Forty-seven years ago, the team sailed toward Scott Island to investigate what was thought to be oceanic seismic activity. They found, instead, a swarm of Giant Pacific Squid,"
Elias nodded. "Right. Deep water Antarctics. This is where it gets interesting."

"Dr. Haggit was the only one to survive the expedition, and what he claimed happened is what sent him to the Guardian for the last half-century."
He paused, expecting the subsequent question that followed. "He claimed the thing that capsized their vessel was whatever was feeding on the squid."

His lips twisted with amusement, the same twist that glinted in his eye. "That's exactly right. The earthquake opened a cavern, a predator was released, and it fed on the nearby squid. There must have been a migration route. Dead specimens have been washing up on shore ever since. There's a carcass of one at the Wellington observatory. The scientists were in the wrong place at the wrong time. He's been locked up ever since."

Another pause. This one flattened the mirth of before. "Only this time, we don't have a witness; sane or otherwise."

Shortly after, he returned the phone to his pocket, and continued to stare ahead, consumed with ideas that churned despite rational thought to the contrary. Something had happened to his uncle, but not an attack from monsters of the deep. Then again, the ocean was a vast frontier.
Tehya turned her back and idled on the yellow safety line when the guy's phone started ringing. Of course, if he'd wanted the conversation to be private, he should have walked away, so she felt no guilt at the fact she absorbed almost every word. The thought of giant creatures in the sea was not so preposterous, no more so than the monsters lurking in Moscow's shadows - or the ones strolling in full view, waiting for metro trains. She'd never lived by the ocean, and its grey vastness, its unquantifiable mystery, was an unnerving prospect. It disturbed her to think what manner of legacy the gods may have left beneath its frigid depths.

Her phone buzzed faintly against her fingertips, and she pulled it from her pocket enough to briefly glance at the screen. Her brows lifted in faint surprise, then tumbled into a frown. Aria Piccolo, one of the pair of furia she had tasked after the rougarou. She might hope that the subtle lay of foundation in recruiting furia specifically for that job had offered fruition, but caution tempered optimism. She mentioned research, and Tehya had been in Moscow long enough to realise how fragile her position here was. It did not help that she was American.

She returned the Wallet to the depths of her pocket, felt the comforting outline of the gun holstered at her hip, and resolved to answer once she was on the train. It would do some good to first contemplate a suitable time and meeting place.

"Do you believe in monsters?" She might have been taking the piss, but there was no indication of tease in her expression when she turned her face to him. Its severe lines were cast in interest, not ridicule, and she was utterly unapologetic for both commenting on his phone call and intruding upon his bubble of silence. He had lost someone; she extrapolated that much from what she'd heard. It might be purely innocent; he might be a grieving young man searching for meaning in a world that offered no free answers. But if there were anything true in his suspicions, and in the ravings of a man incarcerated in the Guardian, then she also knew that civilians poking their nose in such affairs usually ended up dead, or worse.
Continued from Combing the Grid

The day was frigid, a light dusting of freshly fallen snow swirled as he walked. The last few days had seemed to fly by. His aunt Ivana seemed genuinely relieved to note the change in her nephew. For Connor, it had been as if he had been sleep walking and had finally woken up. Learning that there was real magic out there- that his son had been touched by it- and that there were monsters and an evil MiB group- Atharim or whatever- who hunted monsters and men alike- had been one thing.

But the gift he had been given that night by Aria and by Jensen and Giovanni had been what woke him up. The realization that he had lived up to his vow to protect Hayden with all his power, that he had had those precious last moments with his son, that was what finally freed Connor. He felt forgiven. And now Hayden was always in the back of his mind, expecting his father to start living again and Connor was going to honor that.

He only had a few more days left in Moscow- he was anxious to get home and back to some semblance of normalcy- and had been killing time by exploring the city. Such a strange mixture. He thought about the things he had seen in his lifetime- the amazing advances in technology and science- and could see how much of what he had seen in movies and TV growing up was now everyday reality. There was an explosion of color and light. It reminded him of that movie TRON he had seen with his dad years ago. Glowing strips and lights that existed for no reason except because they could. The CCD was energy rich and loved showing it off. They wore in on their clothes, put in on their buildings and paraded it on their cars.

But he also saw the poor wandering those same streets. Alley ways and tunnels where people huddled in groups to escape the frigid cold of the nights. There were charity groups that endeavored to help those unfortunates. And just as back home, there seemed to be number of religious revivals going on. He could see a steady stream of supplicants, mostly those who were clearly struggling, interspersed with those better off, entering into churches, synagogues, mosques and converted store-fronts.

His eyes took it all in and he felt a sense of sadness at the unfairness of life, that some people could be so blessed and seem to be free of worry and that others struggled just to survive. It was the same everywhere. I can't change the world, he thought when he imagined what he was supposed to do about it. I'm just one man. At one time, he thought he knew what was going to fix those problems...but that had been a long time ago. He still wanted to believe....but wanting something to be true didn't make it true. All I can do is show kindness and compassion to others, he thought. If I can make things a little easier or better for the people in my life...maybe that will be enough. It seemed a weak purpose, but it was all he had.

As he thought, he made his way done a subway tunnel to take the next train. It was still cold, but without the wind, it seemed less intense. He was glad he had worn layers of clothing though- black jeans over black hiking boots, black pea coat, white shawl neck sweater over a white button neck t-shirt.

Connor saw a man and a woman standing on the platform. The man- almost a kid really, the same age Hayden had been- was about his height though a bit more narrow in the shoulders, and dressed in dark colors and makeup. It was a statement, though of what specifically, Connor didn't know. His earlier musings about the unfairness of life here- and in the US too- made him briefly wonder what would have had to happen to make this kid feel like physically expressing a sense of alienation. Sadly, there were far too many possibilities and again he felt that sense of despair at the way the world was.

The woman on the other hand was dressed casually in jeans that were tucked into boots. And she was tall for a woman. As he approached, she briefly glanced at him, and he immediately saw that she was Native American. He smiled. She reminded him of home. She was really quite striking. Connor watched her for a moment more before looking down the tunnels in either direction. "Is the train coming soon?

Edited by Connor Kent, Jun 20 2014, 08:28 AM.
Face nearly hidden behind thick bands of hair, Eli turned toward her. She was nearly as tall as he, though she were cut from curves his plank-like body lacked. His leanness was either that of the creatures that scuttled from the light when its rock was disturbed, or he was long used to battling illness of unspecific causes, or perhaps a little of both. His rock had been disturbed, and what was revealed was none too pleased.

The question itself - do you believe in monsters? - he took seriously: a narrowing of eyes, the curl of contemplation. He believed in heaven and hell, and the monsters that sprang from both. He believed in God and creation, and the inherent devilry in both. Monsters that lurked beneath the bed? Or lept from the closet?

His reply was sincere, but muddled. "I believe there is an explanation for everything."
What made her ask, he wondered. He had to guess her heritage prompted the question. The Indians had a legend for everything under the sun, including the sun itself. "Do you believe in monsters?"
Despite the gentility of his tone, there was a flicker within the black rims of his eyes that suggested perhaps she'd found one?

The trance-like connection warping Eli's view was interrupted by another. The Guardian was not a popular stop on the metro, and this station in particular was rife with tales of haunts and horror. Men leaping onto the tracks to escape the bondage of psychological incarceration, splattered on the rails right in front of them, and cursed to remain in an eternal train station. The Guardian boasted such horrors and more, Eli discovered in his reading about the institute. The man who joined them, easily of an age of Eli's dad, was also American. Days in Moscow and now three of them all waiting at the same platform.

He shared a look with the girl, then relayed the news onward like any good samaritan. "Delayed."
The man looked at the woman for a moment before responding the Connor's question. "Delayed.
" It was just a single word- a friendly piece of information- but he heard a bit more in it. Another American. Perhaps they were together.

Connor waited for a while, the stale odors of exhaust and garbage and some other indefinable smell- Iron? Rotting meat? hung in the air. The lights cast a strange pallor over everything. The tunnels were mawing entrances into pure blackness. Far distant echos signaling the existence of other trains running through the vast subterranean tunnels broke the silence only briefly. The time seemed to stretch and took on a surreal quality. He was reminded of the encounter with that...mist creature. The darkness took on a forbidding quality. Mosters were real, he had learned.

Suddenly, it seemed funny how studied everyone- including himself- was in their diligent attempt to maintain their sense of solitude while traveling. Strangely, he felt a desire to talk to them, just to pass the time. Perhaps they'd resent it. He'd have to watch and make sure. More than once talkative strangers had irritated him too, he had to admit. Terse answers would tell him what he'd need to know.

"I've seen a lot of the metros here the last few days.
" He chuckled. "This is definitely the creepiest.

Edited by Connor Kent, Apr 21 2014, 04:55 PM.
An explanation for everything.

Her lips quirked into something of a grim smile, and she thought of the tattoo that curled around her soul, the sum total of her life and being. The inked mark was an inconsequential thing, blooded in by her grandfather using ancient technique rather than modern technology nearly a decade ago. Her ouroboros had never been artful, and its once crisp lines had long since blurred, but the oaths still held tight. They always would.

Belief suggested acceptance without proof, and she had proof. She did not believe in monsters. She killed them, in whatever manner she was capable, at whatever personal sacrifice was demanded from her. But there was a glint in his dark-rimmed eyes. Not a threat exactly, but a twist on the definition of monster. He swallowed her question and spat it back warped, and though she was quite sure he insinuated himself, she had every reason to instead catch glimpse of her own reflection.


"No. I do not."

Another joined them on the platform.

Tehya looked him up and down with the courtesy interest of one stranger to another, but did not return the smile. She was an ill socialiser; she saw little point in it, given her circumstances. Her life in Moscow was isolated, and carefully constructed of the discipline needed to excel at her work yet keep herself hidden at the same time. Necessity kept her fellow Atharim at arms length, which was arduous enough, and the idea of maintaining walls around ordinary civilians too just made her feel weary. A sudden wave of homesickness washed out her insides, not really for her country, but for the blood family still there; the only people who knew her secrets.

Since Elias had answered the man's question, she saw no reason to speak, and for a while the silence continued. When it was finally broken by the newcomer's polite idling of the scenery, Tehya was not particularly irritated, but she knew little what to say. Creepy? She didn't think so. The stalinesque architecture was flamboyant. Some would call it beautiful, and probably it was, but her absorption of surroundings generally had little to do with aesthetics. Terrible things had happened here, perhaps moreso than other stations throughout Moscow given its proximity to the Guardian complex, and they had every right to linger, but she had long since trained herself out of unsubstantiated fear.

She shrugged. "You get used to it."

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