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War Games
A Dark Operations helicopter darted across the stars. Cold, deadly mountains were the terrain far below, and above, distant starlight their only map for orientation. Its occupants were four military, not including the two pilots, and one apparent civilian....

They landed near a heavy gate, one which guarded the only passage in and out of the cityscape beyond. The blades whipped cold air onto the face of that 'civilian' as he disembarked. Immediately, he curled a black mask down his face. The eye-pieces were lit from within, and his clothing was laced with numerous state-of-the-art technologies. Yet he was all but hidden from sight, donned in full black gear as he was.

The gate was opened at their approach. Beyond a car waited on the other side to drive him into the heart of the city. But first, an officer stopped him on the way.

"Final communications check?"

"Affirmed," he replied.

"Locator check?"

"Affirmed," he replied.

He began to go, but the captain stopped him again. "Sir, are you sure you do not wish to take at least a pistol?"

The man, a shade blacker than the surrounding darkness, turned to gaze upon the officer. "I have all the weapons I need, captain. Besides, I will be closely watched."

He sprinted toward the waiting trucks and officially disappeared behind the confining walls of the closed city of Sarkovo.

Edited by Ascendancy, Jan 4 2015, 10:08 PM.
The city of Sarkovo was about 60,000 strong in population. The purpose for its secrecy was born from its strategic location in the mountains along borders between two nations that no longer existed. Today, its closed-status remained in tact for far less interesting reasons. Today, this closed-city was finally put to profitable use.

Nikolai rode in the passenger seat of a black SUV as it rumbled along the snow-packed road into town. His corner of the windshield displayed their location on a map of the city, which was otherwise laid out as any in the United States. There were two main commercial districts in town and residences, mostly poor, some modest, were scattered in between. To offset the harshness of the citizen's lifestyle, the government subsidized much of the cost of living. But the old, Soviet-Union buildings were in need of upgrading. When they drove past a burned-out building, Nikolai made a mental note to see to that the city was audited. They should have the budget for appropriate upkeep. Then again, if the city didn't survive the exercise, there may be no need.

Pressure sensitive gloves retrieved the icons of the ten men placed here. Shortly after extraction from their camps, a subepidermal chip was implanted that now provided the signal by which Nikolai could track. Ten of the twenty, filtered for the men since they were all he could sense, blinked unawares on the map. The first was located in what appeared to be an alley behind a string of restaurants.

The SUV powered down their lights as it pulled into that very alley. A dumpster, shoved into the center of the path, blocked their way. Nik curled the mask down his face and opened the car door.

Snow crunched under foot, but despite the freezing temperatures, he was quite comfortable. His staff promised the best in thermal clothing: as it was both thermal and anti-round weaves, they clearly did not disappoint.

"I know you're out there,"
he called into the silence as he edged forward from the front of the SUV.

From the distance, a feeble voice, Scandanavian by accent, responded. "What-- what do you want?"

His short-lived training as an Atharim returned. I want to hunt you. But he did not say it a loud. He wasn't a maniac. There was a purpose to this apparent madness.

The back door to the nearest restaurant banged open and the employee that emerged, trash-bags in hand, a cigarette dangling from his mouth, stopped dead in his tracks before the masked man. "The hell?"

Nik could not have timed it better himself. He pointed down the alley where a silhouette of a figure was running the opposite way. From no where, fire streaked from that direction, arcing like arrows raining from above. They struck the brick wall and sizzled in the snow, but several pierced the busboy's trashbags and they instantly burst into flame.

The boy, no older than twenty, screamed and ran back inside. Nikolai darted back to the car and they sped out of the alley. There were nineteen more to find.
Kostya rolled as he hit the ground and rubbed his shoulder as he stood. He wasn't sure where he was. His last memories were of the Sickness and he appeared to now be better. No matter - he was stranded in an alley without any knowledge of what he was supposed to do.

He made a quick inventory of what he had - not hard to do - only $50 and the clothes on his back. He remembered before he was sick - a kind man with a good heart. He always did what he had to for the best of all with what he had. What could he do with $50?

Kostya started walking, not sure of where he was going, but staying still just wasn't his style. He soon heard the sounds of struggle and ran towards it to figure out what the issue was. He arrived in a what appeared to be some sort of strip mall. The sounds were coming from two men fighting over a coat.

"It's mine!"

"Give it to me!"

Kostya ran to move between them. "Hey - stop fighting. Jesus Christ you're grown men."

The first man turned towards Kostya, anger etching the lines of his face. Now that he could get a better look, he could tell that the men who probably homeless. Well he was one of them now.

"Well what are you gonna do about it. The police are gone - there is no law here anymore."

"There is always law."
Kostya sternly replied, meeting the man's gaze.

The other man piped in. "Who's gonna write it - enforce it - you?"

Kostya turned to meet the other man's steely gaze. "If I must."

Something sparked between the two men and they looked at each other and nodded before dropping the coat. To Kostya, their intent was clear. Their fight would be over if they had another coat - and he had one. Surely they could both take him on - but they didn't know his secret.

Kostya looked towards the onlookers and spied a woman - perfect! The first man lunged and Kostya blocked the oncoming punch with his left arm. The sweet energy filled him and he delivered a blow to the man's gut, causing him to fall backward. To the other, he released the energy in a wall of air, pushing him towards a brick building. The onlookers gasped.

The two men gained their breath, but conceded the fight. Kostya knew why he was here now. This place needed guidance - a leader to keep them from tearing themselves apart. Kostya was here to establish order. He had power - the sweet energy would help, but he would also need allies, and if it came to it, he would have to bend some to his will. It would only be temporary - to establish order.

"No matter what we need to work together. We can't fight - a house divided against itself cannot stand. We need to help each other."
The words spilled out of his mouth without thought. "If we've truly been abandoned, we're not going to let things get out of hand - we'll destroy ourselves that way. Come with me - let's work for a future."

Several sighed and walked away, but a few stayed - including the two men in the fight. Kostya looked at his followers - and spied amongst them two women. Good - he would need to keep one in his company at all times - the sweet energy only came when he was in the presence of a woman.
Waking up in a hospital bed for days even weeks on end only to find yourself thrown into the street of some god forsaken city for some unknown reason made the world seem that much colder than it had even days before, and for Simon the world was a horrible place. He was not surprised to himself plagued with the sickness. The world just shit on him and kept on doing it.

But now, maybe now it was all worth it. Now he had this power. He could see it, a light just out of the corner of his eye. It raged with a sweet sweet song.

Sitting huddled in a corner of an empty alley way where he'd woken up with nothing but $50 in his pocket and the clothes on his back. The least they could have done was give him something warm to wear before throwing him on the street.

Simon started a fire just a few feet away from him in what was left of a box. As the fire erupted from his well placed orange thread of power, a man ran out. Simon laughed. He didn't know why he was laughing. He almost killed the man.

The world shit on him, and now, he had this power. It was not some divine providence. It wasn't a gift, it was his revenge. With the warmth of the fire burning brightly, soon it caught to the wooden terrace above it. Simon smiled. Pay backs a bitch!

Simon backed out of the alley way, he willed the fire hotter and brighter, and it obeyed his every command. The world would pay.

Edited by Nox, Feb 3 2015, 01:33 PM.
As Nik climbed into the back of a dark SUV. Clandestine sort of activities were always powered by black SUV's. They were reasonable necessities, but he did find the melodramatics tiresome after a while. Then again, he was the one running around in a mask picking fights with low-born gods. Perhaps the melodrama was fitting.

The next individual on his list was a hot-headed twenty-four year old named Rahim. Within the safety of the car, Nik studied the boy's file as they traveled. Despite his ill-temperament, he was salvaged from an otherwise decent family in former Turkey. Rahim had some pharmaceutical habits as well. He's been several days out of his normal life. The withdrawals were likely stretching his minds to its limits. Nikolai would be careful. Paranoia could shove a man over the edge.

The cars rolled to a stop at a corner in a residential neighborhood. Many of the city's homes were built in towering apartment complexes, but this was one of the few that reminded him of his childhood. There were sidewalks, snow-laden trees, and actual yards. Rahim was holed up two houses down. Nikolai doubted the boy was invited inside by the family that lived there out of the kindness of their heart.

As soon as he left the car, he took the light of the universe into his grasp and every sense of his body flared strong. The moment he did, a reciprocal pulse of energy swelled from the house nearby. Rahim knew someone was coming and meant he was advanced enough to sense another god. Nikolai would be careful.

He approached the house's back door, he found a curl of power had already melted the locking mechanisms. A bare touch of his fingertips and the door shoved inward. Nikolai found himself in a dark kitchen, but his heightened senses saw the remnants of a fight clearly. The pulse of energy remained steady from the center of the house. Strange that he wasn't moving. These individuals were suppose to be screened so that they weren't too unbalanced to handle the situation, yet volatile enough to spark conflict in the city. If Rahim were another Valdir, Nikolai was going to be pissed.

He carefully rounded the threshold between the kitchen and the dining room. A barbed tangle of weaves were ready to thrash out at anything in defense, but he was not here to destroy Rahim. He was here to incite conflict, not decimate the kid. A few more steps.

He stopped along the wall to study the layout of the darkness beyond. A large - no two large - shadowed lumps sat on the floor. One of them was Rahim. He pulsed with power. Next to him was what Nikolai thought was a great dog curled up with its head in Rahim's lap. Featureless behind his mask, Nikolai frowned, studying the remainder of the room. That was when he found two other bodies, or what remained of them, strewn around the perimeter.

Had Rahim killed everyone in the house except the dog? It was a good start, but-

He froze when the 'dog' lifted its head. Its skin was sucked against the bones of its warped skull. The globes of its eyes were bright against the coal black its skin, when they turned upon Nikolai, his breath caught in his throat. It was no dog.

It stretched out its forelimbs, gangly and knobby like branches reaching for a victim, and light glimmered on the two long fangs protruding from its mouth. It licked some sort of satisfied, gummy noise and went back to sleep. Rahim pat its leathery skin and looked upon his visitor.

"And who are you?"
He asked, lethargic sounding.

Nikolai was certainly not going to answer. He would be the one to demand answers. Especially when a boy knew how to tame a monster of legend. "How have you come by such a pet?"
He rounded the room, carefully keeping his distance from the long arms of the rakshasa.

Rahim curled his palm around the creature's skull, soothing it. "He was hungry. I was hungry. We helped each other."

Nikolai studied the remains of the creature's recent meal. "But a rakshasa?"
He did not recall much of their legend, because frankly he didn't care to remember the details, but images of these creatures were burned into his mind. There was no mistaking what it was.

Calling the creature by name drew Rahim's attention. He stood, careful to let his pet sleep without him. He approached Nikolai with the boldness of a challenge. "Rakshasa? You're Atharim aren't you? An Atharim and a god. How fascinating. We didn't know if the Atharim would hunt down one of their own."

Of everything Rahim could say, he did not anticipate confrontation with the damned Atharim. "I am not Atharim,"
his voice was empty. "Are you Atharim?"
It didn't matter if Rahim was, but Rahim should not know such things. How had he tamed a Rakshasa? It seemed his question struck a similar nerve for his laugh struck like the bite of a snake.

"A masked man, Atharim and god who knew exactly where to find me. Are you the one responsible for bringing me here?"

Nikolai was at a loss. The kid knew about Atharim, monsters and gods? He seethed something foreign under his breath. "Memento mori"
. Was that Latin? Nikolai turned back just in time to realize the slick smile on the kid's face twisted deadly. Rahim was summoning a force strong enough to pull down the house.

A flick of his hand and the kid was thrown from his feet. The force of his body hurled against the wall knocked everything from the walls. Panes of glass shattered on the floor all around him. The Rakshasa flung to all fours at the noise, and ripped through the darkness toward Nikolai.

Stumbling backward, Nikolai whipped a razor-sharp blade forward. The resultant gash leaked an arc of red from the creature's body. It's scream burst through his mind, and the flash of its fangs was the only warning of its retaliation.

Nikolai had enough. Blocks of power and the creature was caught and crushed to death. Nik was careful to avoid the mess as he rounded upon Rahim.

He grabbed the kid by the shirt and yanked him to his feet with talons of power. But the kid's head fell limp against his shoulder. The brute force of the throw had killed him. "Damn."
Nikolai said, irritated.

The talons of power held the kid high when Nikolai yanked a necklace from the corpse. At first he thought the symbol was an oroborous, but closer inspection found something else altogether.

He put the charm in a pocket and let the body drop. As he left he set the place a blaze. If anyone was interested enough to investigate, the skeletons would be found in the ashes, raksasha among them.

Edited by Ascendancy, Feb 4 2015, 09:49 PM.
Floorboards creaked in a steady rhythm in time as Serine rocked back and forth on the rotting wood splattered with melted ice. She cradled her raw legs in an effort to ward off the cold.

Her oval eyes were red but dry, staring at her feet. What had she done wrong? She had always done as she was told. All of her teachers said she would be a great asset to the Custody when she grew up. She made sure to treat everyone with respect and kindness, even those who hated her long raven hair and unblemished pale skin. She had felt ashamed. How could she hate people who suffered because of who they were? It had made her want to hide.

That had been the story of her life so far. Lucky. Just weeks before she had come down with fever and chills. The doctors said it was 'the Sickness' and there was nothing they could do to help her. Most of the people who developed the disease died, yet she survived. She had felt ashamed all over again. She survived while others died because she was lucky.

Has my luck ended?

The latch on the wooden door jingled and Serine froze. Deep voices boomed on the other side of the flimsy door. She squeezed her eyes tight.

"Well well, aren't you a good little girl?"
Roz taunted in his strange thick accent. "What do you think Manni, should we give her a reward?"

Manni spoke in awkward and broken phrases. "Good girl. Reward."

Serine hugged her knees tighter before bracing herself. She opened her eyes. The two men in thick fur leered down at her. Roz had taken everything from her when she had arrived. Serine thought they were beggars like the ones she had seen on the streets of Moscow. The sight of her money had sent them into a frenzy.

"Please, let me go. I just want to go home."
She could not remember how many times she had spoken the same words, but it was all she could think of. They said they would kill her if she tried to escape and she had nowhere to run to. She had no idea what city she was even in.

Roz shook his head. "Too dangerous outside, missy."
The look in his eyes as he came closer sent a shiver down her spine. She pushed her back up against the wall. "Time for your reward."

Serine's eyes widened. Roz started to unbutton his pants. He grabbed her arms and pinned her to the wall.

"No. I don't need a reward. I don't need it."
She pleaded. The other girls used to tease her for being a slut, but she was still a virgin. The thought of sex scared her still. She was not ready. She was only fifteen!

Roz grunted and ignored her protests, slipping his underwear off now. One hand groped at her chest while the other pulled at her pants.

Serine struggled against the man's massive weight in vain. She was frail against his powerful grip.

"Reward. Reward."
Manni chanted from behind.

"Manni, help me. Please."
Tears welled in her aching eyes that she thought were empty of water.

"Reward. Reward. Reward."

Cotton ripped and Serine let out a yelp. No. This could not be happening. Why? How?

She could not bare to look at Roz as his hands groped her body but she was too afraid to close them. Instead she focused on Manni's gleeful face. "Help,"
it was a defeat whisper. "Please help."

Dread settled in the pit of her stomach with sick inevitability. Nobody could help her. Nobody would help.

The admission gave her some comfort. Warmth spread into her frozen limbs and she felt Roz's hands hold her hips. Something pressed up against her thighs and she jerked against his grip in revulsion.

Her eyes sought Manni desperately. Panic filled her lungs with nervous energy. This is really happening!

"Reward. Reward. Reward."

"Manni! Stop him! Please!"

"Reward. Reward. Re-"

The expression on the young man's face changed. He scrunched his nose up, confused.

Then he grabbed Roz by the throat from behind, yanking him off her.

Serine watched in horror. Roz was twice as big as the gangly youth, but Manni would not let go.

"Stop. Stop. Stop."

Serine closed her eyes when Roz slammed Manni's head into the wall. Still, he could not pry him off. She blocked her ears as the grunts grew more desperate.

"Stop. Stop. Stop."

The seconds that passed were agonizingly slow. She could not imagine something worse in her nightmares. When had everything gone wrong? Why did it happen to her? She had done nothing.

With a sick feeling in her stomach, Serine realised the struggle had stopped. She reluctantly opened her eyes and let out a muffled scream. Roz lay on the ground his face bloated and purple, eyes staring lifelessly at the ceiling.

She scrambled to her feet, swaying as nausea hit her.


Blood oozed from Manni's scalp and red eyes twitched unnaturally before they stopped, just like Roz's.

Serine hunched over, falling to her knees. Her stomach heaved and she convulsed while the acidic burn scored her sore throat.

Edited by Michael Vellas, Feb 6 2015, 01:08 AM.
Nikolai was ill at ease. He'd shoved his mask high on his forehead, face hot inside the sweltering car. Perhaps ill-at-ease was misconstrued. He was frustrated. The planted power-user was dead and an entire family was slaughtered by a monster. Truly bothersome was the behavior he'd witnessed between man and beast. The scars on his arm itched to investigate.
"Is there any sort of internet signal?"
He asked of the driver.

"Not inside the city, sir," was the reply. Nikolai guessed as much. "Is there something I can arrange for you?" He went on to ask. Nik pulled the charm from a pocket, studying the symbol in the dim lights of the car dashboard. Memento mori was Latin. That much he remembered. Mori was likely a derivative of morior, a word reflecting death. In high school and law school he studied multiple languages, but the phrase itself was lost to distant memory.

"No. Carry on. How far are we from the next user?"
He'd do his own research when back among modern civilization. He'd rarely given more than a passing thought to the underworld crawling beneath the surface of society, but now, consider his curiosity piqued.

He needed to remain focused, for now. These users were nothing compared to his own greatness, but they were not inert.

Simon never looked back at the fire that he had started. He walked away as the power slide from his grasp. He tried to reach for it, but it was elusive. It was not the first time nor the last time it had faded from him, but it still beckoned him to use it.

$50, what could he do with $50? But was that really the question to ask. What could he do to get more cash? He smiled to himself, Simon knew exactly what he could do.

Simon walked the streets in virtual randomness. He was looking and not looking he was really waiting for the power to join him again. He didn't know how long it would take.

Night started to fall, the chill of the Russian winter was starting to set into his bones. He found a cheap hotel and settled in for the night. He would finish his thoughts in the morning. In the morning, he would make his move.
Simon woke refreshed and ready to take on the world just as he had predicted he would. His new power was useful, it had set fire to the alley way with ease, he knew it could be used for a lot bigger things. And he had just the perfect place - small time for a trial run but he'd have better plans later. After a trial run.

He'd seen the place as he was running from the fire. It was a back waters place, few people coming and going, but it looked like it might have some pretty interesting things going on. He noticed a few illict drug deals going on as he had come back later that day. Maybe it wasn't illict, who knew in this town in the middle of god knows where.

Simon had no idea why he was dumped here, nor did he really care, he just needed cash, and this was the best way he knew how to get it.

He walked into the convenient store, a man behind the counter glanced at him but gave him little more than a second thought. Simon laughed to himself. He grabbed the ever present power and it raged through his body. It was like an extension of himself. He could see everything better, feel everything, smell everything. Which was not as pleasant as one would hope in a place that stank of debris and human bodies.

He walked up to the man at the counter with an oil grin. "Give me all you got."[/laugh]

The man laughed at Simon, he had the audacity to laugh. Simon's grin grew wider. He held the palm of his hand out in front of him and a flame grew in it. <strong>"I won't ask again."

Kostya did what he could, recruiting people to his cause. He kept the women close to him. He never knew when he might need his sweet energy. His posse followed him and soon they had food and shelter for the lot. The food still needed to be rationed, but here everyone looked out for one another.

The worst part was the infighting. It was hard to break the need to survive mentality that many of these people felt. Each time, he used his sweet energy and his power was more firmly secured. He knew many feared him. At this point, fear was a good motivator for them. It kept them working together and not tearing each other apart.

More people needed to be drawn to his cause though. He needed to plan. He wondered if there were more like him out there and what they were doing. Hopefully they used their power for the uplift of the people. If not, they would have to be dealt with and swiftly.

For that, Kostya practiced, forming balls of fire and using air to throw things around the room. The women watched and in the eyes of one was fear - in the other - admiration? He wasn't sure.

He finished and went to bed, but the woman followed him and entered. She climbed into bed with him and held him. Kostya didn't resist as she leaned over to kiss him.


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