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The illusion of peace
The call to prayer was flowing through Victoria's window as she came into her apartment, juggling the large brown bag with the keys, finally managing to hit the door closed with her heel. She stopped for a moment, smiling, just listening to the musical shouts. It had almost been irritating when she'd first moved to the city, the numerous minarets all with their own calls. Victoria liked it now. It was familiar, safe. She knew she was home.

Victoria had only returned the other day to Jerusalem. The Third had been cycled off the front for some R&R, dispersing into its base at Jerusalem for a while. A lot of the men just lived at the CCD military base; the barracks there were pretty comfortable. Plus they didn't need to rent anywhere in the city. Victoria herself didn't need much. She rented an apartment in the old city, over a fairly big square that always seemed to have some market in it. It was a nice little place. She lived alone, and didn't exactly need much anyhow. A couple of rooms, close to shops, open and airy. Victoria was simple enough.

The kitchen, living area, what passed for a dining room was all one big open space, allowing Victoria to quickly flick her boots off neatly in the entrance hall, and get her shopping packed away quickly. The apartment still had that musty smell in it, but it wasn't too bad. Ms Silverstein, the tiny, ancient widow next door always offered to clean and look after the place while Victoria was away, but she was... uncomfortable with that. Not that she didn't trust the old woman, but it was basic paranoia on letting anyone in unless she was there.

Standing back from the now sufficiently full fridge, Victoria stretched her arms out, cracking her neck slightly to a loud sigh of relief. Just with herself, at home, she could actually relax. The usual wall of stiffness went a bit, and Victoria hummed to herself as she poured out a glass of wine. Admittedly it was only midday but, in her opinion, after going a couple of months without a drop, she damn well deserved it.

Her bare feet padded along the rugs that she had all over the wooden floors. She was kind of shocked at how cheap some of the beautiful rugs she picked up from the market below were at times. Were there too many? Possibly. Still, they were easy enough to clean.

She went to the radio first, flicking through onto something soft and classical. Her eyes strayed to the piano in the corner of the room, before she decided to play later. Too tired. Needed to just sit back, drink, and relax for once. Victoria was saving up for a really nice grand piano. Something that was beautifully made and tuned, just perfect. Problem was she wasn't sure how long she'd be here for. Maybe when she had a definitive, stationary posting. Then to the balcony doors, throwing open the wide, glass doors to let the sound of the city battle with her music, getting some air flowing through.

With everything finally as perfect as it could be, Victoria slumped onto the sofa with no small measure of contention. Sipping her wine, she leant forward, placing her Wallet on the low coffee table, and finally got the internet up. She winced as she saw her inbox. That could be cleared later, when she could be bothered to hack through all of that. Victoria went to the news first, hungry for whatever she'd missed while she'd been away. They got most news on base, but it was usually pretty late. Apparently something big had come from the Ascendancy while they'd been on their last mission. With no small amount of trepidation, she flicked open the video, sitting back to watch their illustrious leader give his speech.

By the time he was finished, Victoria was as white as ghost, her hand shaking enough to spill some of her wine on her sweatpants. It didn't register. All she could do was stare at the holographic screen in front of her, blank after the finished video.

She wasn't the only one.

That they had an idea what it was, that the Ascendancy would be able to help her made her almost want to vomit in relief. Victoria wasn't some kind of freak. Well, alright, she was, but importantly there were other freaks.

Her glass went to the table, ignored, as Victoria hunched over her keyboard, desperately hunting for the form to send in. There wasn't much hesitation. Her oath to serve still stood, no matter what. And... maybe they'd be able to help her. Teach her. Stop something from going wrong.

Edited by Victoria Wolff, Oct 3 2016, 04:26 AM.
Twenty-six hours after Col. Wolff submitted her registration, a command was issued by the administrative staff for Major General Martin Stanko that she arrive on base immediately.


A career in the army, and the Ukranian-born MG Stanko never expected to see the orders on his screen. It was routed through the office of Bader Koertig, General of the Army, a man that Stanko had only met once, and the currently highest ranking general in the CCD. This was a man that advised the Ascendancy on a daily basis. He issued the order, which must have been composed by the Ascendancy's hand, to intervene in the career of one of his colonels.

The second half of the order was bizarre by any standard, but that was before the world was changed. Before the theatre of warfare as known was about to shift. Stanko felt it in his bones, the wars of the future, and it was terrifying. Never did peace mean so much. Never did the CCD need to dominate that peace more in order to protect it.

He closed the screen and thought through how he was going to say this. How to deal with one of these wielders directly.

In place of the previous screen, he summoned a history of Colonel Wolff's career. Decorated, brave, dedicated and respected, there was little to criticize. Oh there was always something, but nothing obvious. Stanko was harsh, but fair, with his subordinates. But in light of this, the third screen open, the one containing the copy of her registration, all her previous files should be reevaluated.
The command had Victoria frozen up in front of her Wallet; face almost pure white, unable to move, unable to think clearly. She was panicking, she knew it. If it was connected to the form she had sent in, they'd have said right? It would be from politicians, bureaucrats. The summons would be to do something with the campaign, no doubt.

But what if it wasn't? There was a fear of something as bad as a court martial. Hiding secrets like that from superior officers? The worry that she had made herself a traitor didn't want to go.

Victoria was outside Stanko's office in a matter of hours, having used her rank to reroute anything she needed. A private army car had swiftly taken her to base, the driver lapsing into silence, refusing to face the tense silence made of fear and anger that emanated from the officer. She had decided on full dress uniform for the meeting. Knee length boots, shining so much as to be almost blinding, over well fitted black trousers, pressed to perfection. The jacket was black too, trimmed with orange, the symbols of her rank the same colour. Medals were polished, clipped above the left of her chest. In the Jerusalem heat, she has elected to leave the long overcoat behind; as much as she liked it, it was impractical here. Finally, the peaked, black leather cap rested on her head, orange band hat band holding the shield that represented the Panzer division.

The Major General had a secretary, of course. Victoria stamped to a halt in front of her, boots ringing in the silence of the hallway, eyes staring determinedly at the wall. The mask was as strong as ever; she could well have been made of stone. Show no weakness. Not here, not now.

"Colonel Victoria Wolff, Commanding officer of the Third Regiment, Division Panzer, to see Major General Stanko on his request." She barked the clipped words as well as she had ever been taught. Precise, to the point, and emotionless. As all good officers needed to be.

Edited by Victoria Wolff, Oct 3 2016, 04:28 AM.
The secretary acknowledged the colonel and set about entering a number of commands into a holo-screen projected across his glass table. "If you will wait, colonel, I'll tell you when you can enter the Major General's office."

Inside, the notification that Wolff had arrived popped up on Martin's work station. With one last glance at his orders, he minimized all open screens with a swipe through the air and replied to the secretary that she was to be shown in.

It was only a few minutes that Col Wolff had to wait. The secretary, ignorant of the reason for the visit, showed the Colonel to the MG's office. He opened the door for her, saluted briefly and retreated.

Major General Stanko was a fit man in his fifties with salt sprinkled through trim black hair. He was clean shaven, although he would have been allowed a regulation-style beard but had never been fond of them. His wife also preferred a smooth jaw. A picture of his family, including his wife and two sons, both military, was one of multiple images decorating the office. Awards, acknowledgements, even a Master's degree were also displayed on the walls.

She was as he recalled seeing her last. Her choice in formal attire was the correct one. Despite new lenses through which he viewed her, Martin was impassive, but professional. Never seen was warm or particularly welcoming, neither was he apprehensive or cold. Merely direct.

"Colonel Wolff. Come in. Sit." He gestured at a chair and returned any salute she might have offered. "You've no doubt anticipated the reason you are here."
If 'military' as a concept had a spokesperson, a mascot, it would be Stanko. The type of man to bend steel with a look, who hit every regulation to perfection. The room seemed almost artificial in its rigid perfection, yet she was not looking at the room. Her eyes were on the textbook example of professionalism sitting at the desk in front of her, vision tunnelling onto the Major General. His words made any hope she'd clung to melt like a summer snow. Victoria was not naive enough to think this was some sort of congratulation for the efforts on her campaign. Certainly if it was a promotion to Major General, it wouldn't be Stanko telling her that. No. The form. Her powers. For what was not of course the first time, but was extremely far from a regular thought, Victoria felt a twinge of regret for doing her duty. Selfish, of course.

As Stanko finished addressing her, Victoria stiffened, heels clicking together with a satisfying tap, and a clenched fist moved to cover her heart, arm bent. The silent salute finished, her hands dropped to the metallic double button row of her jacket, practiced fingers quickly undoing them. Victoria's father had drilled into her to never, ever sit down with a jacket buttoned up. It was rude, apparently, but would crease and ruin your jacket on top of that. Automatic by this point. It was a miracle her hands were shaking, fumbling the buttons and making a fool of herself. Steady mind, steady hands. Stay calm. She wasn't under fire.


"Major General. Thank you." Victoria kept her voice low, respectful. She would anyway, of course. She rather liked Stanko, as much as one liked a superior officer. She detested being overtly friendly with her direct subordinates or superiors. Familiarity and friendship was too great a risk in a war zone. Moving forward, she took the seat in front of him, keeping her back straight, head proudly high. Her profile was like that of an eagle; sharp edges, a strong look, and defiance. If she was to be punished, then so be it. Victoria had done her duty. She could take solace in that.

"I believe so, Sir." That clipped voice again. The only acknowledgment of anxiety was when her long hands took the peaked cap off her head, fingers running along the brim as she brought it to rest in her lap. A bare flicker of uncertainty across her eyes. Who next? Where was this going to go? Finally, she braved it. "What is to be done with me." It wasn't a question. More resigned to her fate.
If ever there were doubts about allowing women in combat, they were erased by Wolff's performance. Martin never had a strong opinion on the subject either way, despite his father's firm disapproval of the idea, but a sense of pride swelled briefly that Wolff was his subordinate. Her record and professionalism were equally impressive. The last campaign alone was worth acknowledgement, but he had to wonder how much of her success was due to sheer talent or these powers.

He eased in the chair, hands crossed, expression thoughtful as he watched her settle in.

"I'll be blunt, Wolff. I don't know what is to become of you. I am in possession of station transfer orders for you. With what has come to light, the armed forces are going to shift on their axis. I don't know if it means something as major as a new branch of service or as minor as a new string of specialists. Whatever it is, you'll be involved."

He pushed the order across the desk. The letterhead displayed the upper echelon of its origins, that of the office of Bader Koertig, General of the Army.

"Moscow, Colonel. For the foreseeable future, you're reporting to the Kremlin."

The exact date was transfer was effective in the next few days. The orders described the location and time she was expected to appear. She'd first gain the appropriate credentialing and upgraded classification access once on site. It was a major shift from her life as she knew it so far.

"I did try to find out what awaits you. The Custody of Defense is a brick wall about it, but it is likely that you'll be instrumental in molding the future of warfare as it is known."

He paused a moment, drawing a thoughtful breath. "You are one of these users, then. Show me something."

If he was afraid, the fear was buried deep.
Orders from Koertig? The General of the Ground Forces. The only man who could command Victoria above the General was the Ascendancy himself. For the first time, Victoria actually showed some emotion in the room. Her face turned a shade paler, a shaking hand raising to touch the letter before she snatched it back down. Stanko had no idea either. Of course he didn't. She was walking into this whole thing blind. Part of a new specialist force, or even a new branch... or perhaps Victoria Wolff would meet a tragic accident in Moscow. No, that was silly. The Ascendancy was too smart, too driven to cover such a power because it could be threatening. She'd be used. There would be duty. Perhaps, as dark and selfish as the ambition was, she would even be at the forefront of that.

"Moscow. The Kremlin. I will leave tomorrow, Sir. Could your secretary arrange a flight for me, around midday? I will need to prepare today, and if you would allow me, say goodbye to my men in the morning." A foolish little admission to emotion, but she couldn't just leave the men she'd led through fire and hell. They'd go to the gates of hell for her, and now... Well, all Wolff could do was recommend a good replacement. "If I could be so bold, I'd recommending promoting Major Mikhailov to Colonel, and Captain Henderson to fill his rank within the regiment. Saying Mikhailov is driven is an understatement, and Henderson is... capable." And he knows. The least she could do for him. She was sitting here thanks to his quick thinking. It was, admittedly, overstepping her bounds but to hell with that. If she was leaving her men, she'd cover them as best she could.

Victoria was expecting that request. Taking a deep breath, she lowered her head. This was slightly embarrassing, but then again, no one knew how it worked. Maybe, maybe they could find a way around it.

"Of course, Sir, but..." She raised her head again, meeting his eyes, a flicker of embarrassment at her lack of ability. "It seems the power can only be used in tandem with a weapon. Perhaps because of its destructive powers. Do you have a firearm I could hold?"

Edited by Victoria Wolff, Oct 2 2016, 12:37 PM.
Her surprise was not unexpected. He didn't judge her for the brief show of emotion. She was attached to her soldiers, and Martin rewarded loyalty, as similar rewards had been bestowed upon him. "Of course. Speak to him about it when you leave. Take the morning to address your men. They have earned it, as have you. Nasty business cleaning out the foxholes like you've been doing. As for the promotions, send me those names later, and I'll take them into consideration." He knew he'd forget the moment she left. Promoting majors was not the top priority in his mind of late.

Her final request put her ill at ease. He supposed that was to be expected. To go from years of secrecy to full exposure would be uncomfortable. But he needed to see it for himself. As far as he was aware, she was the only soldier in all the army with the power. Maybe Koertig knew of more, maybe they were gathering them to Moscow for a purpose, or maybe they wanted Wolff because she was a colonel. Either way, Martin may never have the chance to see this again.

He unlocked a cabinet under his desk and offered his own sidearm. He trusted Wolff with it, for hell, if he couldn't trust her, he couldn't trust anyone on base.
Victoria quietly accepted the well crafted side arm. Simple, but effective. She didn't expect anything else from the Major General. It didn't feel correct in her hand like her own did, but that was expected. Her own wasn't even standard issue, but a personal weapon she'd had signed off. A family gift. It was... special. She'd found herself with more of an edge when using that with other weapons. Likely the familiarity building a bond.

Ensuring the safety was on, her hand slipped around the familiar grip of a sidearm, gripping it tightly. No discharging it in here of course. Stopping herself from chewing on her lip as she thought, a bad habit of hers, Victoria just thinned her mouth, looking around the room. What to do? What would seem... impressive. Her eyes passed everything until they finally came to rest on Stanko's desk. A bit of mischievousness actually sparked inside of her. As terribly inappropriate as it would be to have a bit of fun with this...

Not that she needed to hold her hand out, but Victoria did anyway. The gestures felt natural. That was how it always worked in... films, not that she'd ever admit that. Far too embarrassing. Even more so was the fact that she'd thought she might need a wand for a while. No. Concentrate. Always had to concentrate on the threads. Taking a deep breath, she fell back into the flow of the power, letting it come to her. That was the way of it. Let it take you, anchor yourself down, and simply direct the power that flowed through you. Every sensation, heightened, while emotion was pushed to the side. Useful in battle, certainly.

The small threads of yellow appeared, weaving together to slowly raise Stanko's desk in front of him. Victoria kept her face grimly set; if she wasn't embracing the power, the sight of Stanko's shocked face disappearing behind his desk would have been rather amusing. When the heavy, wooden furniture was floating close to the ceiling, she tied the flow off, and straightened herself on the chair fussily. Looking up, she met Stanko's eye, the desk now high enough to not obscure her view of him.

"I can bring it back down at any time."
Wolff held out a hand and Martin waited for something to happen. The barest movement shifted against his knee, and his gaze fell to the desk. It almost croaked with movement, like a great tree lifting one of its massive roots after a hundred years underground. He pushed back from the elevating furniture, desk chair rolling smoothly away. A pen rolled off as it passed his head, clattering to the ground. Wide eyes quickly narrowed when Wolff announced her ability to return it to the floor. "That's enough," Martin's tone was clipped short, but whether irritated or afraid, one couldn't say. Suffice to say, he concealed a shiver down his spine. Anyone to share a room with Wolff was at her mercy. For if she could move the furniture, what stopped her from moving him out the window?


"Good luck in Moscow, Wolff." He stood.

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