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I am the anomaly
"Why do you watch this dribble, Ascendancy? You never gave the media much thought before."

Nikolai shifted his gaze from yet another report on Amira's death to the man that currently kept his company, Rameshwar Singh, and for about the tenth time, Nik considered asking the Privilege to leave. If the man had even an inkling of the Ascendancy's displeasure, he would trip over himself to get out the door. The problem was Nik wasn't sure whether he wanted to be alone or simply left alone. The Privileges were the closest things he had to friends - above ground anyway - but Nikolai was not ignorant. He knew their allegiance was purchased. Everything has a price, he thought bitterly. At least it simplified the world.

The grimace must have translated because the Privilege shifted in his seat. Otherwise he held his gaze. This man could stare down a charging bull without so much as a flinch. In fact, he had once. Half the man's skull had been caved in during the incident, though you wouldn't be able to tell by looking at the man's thick, black hair. Yet he was uncomfortable around Nikolai. Nik almost smiled at the reaction.

"These people spurn reason,"
he began. The interview was muted, but it was obvious the witness standing on the mosque steps was pointing out where he'd found the linen-shrouded body. "They want to turn back the wheel and live in the cesspool of the dark ages,"
he seethed.

He shook his head and looked to the ceiling. The aircraft was spacious, but despite warm walls, the interior could not fool him. He was trapped between the distant planet below and the eternal horizon above.

The Privilege replied, voice steady, "Will you release the Dominance if asked?"

Nikolai barely took a moment, "If I thought all they wanted was release from the Custody, I would consider it."
Then he shook his head, staring at the screen. The interview was over only to be replaced by the video of the murderers taken for arraignment. "But these people will never be content until this Hasan is what I am."
Disgust curled the back of his tongue. Even if the man was a brother-god, he could never be what Nikolai was. Nobody could.

The Privilege perked to the edged of his seat, hands folded on his lap. "What of this conference, then? You go to seek peace?"

His chest did not tighten; nor his stomach sink. He thought back to when he first saw the news of Amira's murder and he knew what must be done. In his mind, casualties blurred with sacrifice for the greater good. Nikolai would teach them what it meant to justify the honorable slaughter of a beloved innocent.

But he didnt answer the question. Instead, he signaled for the aid in the next room. A moment later, the young man entered.

"Get me General Grigori Devdas from MILSTAR command. Tell him I want an update on the SPACE-TRACK situation."

The aid nodded and the Privilege took his leave likely with his own guess for the Ascendancy's plan. He was likely to be wrong. Afterward, when the General was put through, Nikolai was already standing, hands tucked casually behind his back and in complete control of the anger billowing across his thoughts.

the General greeted. "I have an update for you."
Devdas was a slender man with broad shoulders that suited the gray and gold Custody Air Force uniform. Among his many accolades which were prominently pinned to the front of his uniform, the four-star general was the current commander of the Air Force's space agency: MILSTAR. It operated on defensive budgets rather than on research and so gave them more money and greater applicability. Nobody cared about Mars, especially Nikolai, but high-altitude rocketry and satellite weaponry on the other hand.

Prior to his current position, Devdas served in numerous states of leadership throughout Custody services. He was also an aeronautical engineer and an accomplished upper-atmospheric pilot.

He continued with his update of the situation as officially stated in the record. "In the past few hours STAR-TRACK Situational Awareness has begun monitoring an anomaly roughly two million kilometers from our atmosphere. We have been in contact with DARPA with the US-DOD. They are now aware of the anomaly, and I can confirm they have been in contact with Beijing for corroborating evidence."

Nikolai nodded thoughtfully, "And the anomaly will be ready as scheduled?"

The General straightened his posture, if that was even possible. "By current trajectory, will be ready at 2300 hours the night before."
The man was proud of the accomplishment. As well he should be.

Nikolai's consideration approved. "Very good, General. I want regular updates sent to my office every two hours until then."

"Of course, Ascendancy."
The General saluted. The screen returned to the muted coverage of Amira's murder.

Nik crossed to the window and looked out. A field of white clouds rolled beneath the plane, but unfurled above was the endless sky. An opaque crescent of the moon hung sentineled with the heavenly dusk. By week's end, the same peaceful horizon would rain fiery comets. The Atharim, Trano, Hasan: they should know not to push him too far, but Amira's murder was the last straw. Let them slaughter one another, but blame him for their butchery?

They sought God's favor.

It was time for God's answer.

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