Kakroom Inactive Projects 2


He sat up on his bed, rubbing at his eyes as he attempted to banish the pleasant dreams from which he had been so abruptly removed. "Terribly sorry, sir," a voice echoed in the dark. "Call for you."

"From? Light," he added, and across the room, a small orange lamp glowed on his dresser. He flinched, as per usual, as the sudden light revealed the voice's true form - a hovering, glittering frown, alternating between expressions as it leapt from word to word.

"Private line."

He blinked and squeezed the ridge of his nose; his discomfort was palpable as he swung out of the Twin and limped over to the washroom. "In the bathroom, Pontus. Shades."

"Yes sir."

The windows opened, revealing a quiet, beautiful night. High-rises as far as the eye could see - and in the distance, towering above them, the spiral tower of the Coalition.

He cracked open the pill bottle and put his dosage down with a swig of the waterskin, which he put off to the side on an elegant stone table. The mirrors facing him doubled as a reactive surface, displaying (in-addition to the unshaven mug of a 63-year old man) the morning prophecies, weather and temperature, news alerts, and messaging. A red light flashed - to be calling at this hour, it could only be one person. He hit it as he got out his shaving equipment.

A younger face dominated the far left reflector. Bald, in uniform, with a deeper voice that did not match his naive exterior and without any indication of pity for calling at such an ungodly hour. Thomas the Liasion at his most humanitarian. "We've got a crisis. I need you here."

He glanced at the digital clock. "It's 4:30. Another six-hundred forms about troop-deployments can't wait?"

"Not that. We're short an impartial observer. Be here by 5. We're waiting."

Thomas swiped a hand over the image, and it dissipated, only leaving the reflector.

No time for a shower. Phillip limped back into the bedroom and removed his pyjamas, swapping them for his old Plainclothes. He strapped on his gun and slid a badge onto his belt, and headed towards a large, sterile walk-in booth near the door to his room. He walked inside, feeling the mild claustrophobia that always arose in the small, gray, booth, and folded the door closed behind him.

In front of him, on a small, raised platform, sat an altar, sprinkled with flowers and candles and a picture of Phillip's favorite result of the Coalition's endemic iconophilia - a rendered axolotl crossed by two swords, which (for some reason, lost to him) he found incomparably amusing.

A slab of meat sat in the midst of the honored place, next to his pocket knife. He cut into it and sprinkled some poppy over the blood-soaked mess. The cry he'd heard easily within the range of a hundred times once more came into being, in the form of a irate spirit, shackled to the altar, possessed with the face of a woman and the body of a snake.

"1 UN, please. Reverse the charges."

The thing seized him, wrapping itself around his garment until he was totally smothered in its embrace. It disappeared, and he found himself falling through a sea of sparks.

He was on solid ground again - the plaza at the base of HQ. Even in the early morning, it saw activity - suits walking in pairs in and out of shadows, a STRIKE team on patrol. Even at base level - this top of a grand, pyramidic staircase the Coalition was so fond of - many of new high-rises could be seen, along with the endless blinking lights of jet-cars for the low-of-income and old-fashioned among the new society.

He walked into the building as the moon began to leave the horizon.

He saw Thomas first. The receptionist'd given him a location - top-floor - and it wasn't too hard to go from there. Everything was blocked off. An endless sea of shock-tape he needed to constantly wave about his badge to have cut, until eventually he found Thomas at a spacious, corner office in its own section of the floor. Flanked by two soldiers in armor, the Liasion tapped a watch. "I wouldn't be late, if you didn't have your goons barricade the entire facility." Thomas shrugged, then motioned him inside. The grunts cocked their guns.

The first thing he noticed was the blood.

It was quite literally everywhere. He slowly circled the room, trying not to touch anything. A bookshelf to his left, a desk in front - and a window behind. A full V shape of someone's essence, imposed over the chair, and the more outside its outline over the viewport.

He looked back at Thomas. "What is this?"

"A lieutenant general's office. Jennifer Dower."

He turned to the chair. "Supposing then…"

"That's the general, yes."

The surveillance room was magnificent; a wide, dark chamber, populated by hundreds of well-dressed heads, hunched over computer terminals, facing the grand centerpiece of security: the FaceRec tree, humming on spirit power and locking on to every Blue, Green and Yellow within the city's vicinity. The agent in Phillip loved to come see it. The human despised it.

For the moment, he, Thomas, and the dutiful Security Chief sat at an innocuous, unoccupied terminal at the room's far corner. The security footage showed her hard at work one moment, a flash of light - and paste, over the walls of her office. "Is it missing a frame?" Phillip asked, incredulous. The security chief shook his head. "That's what we've got."

Phillip scratched his chin. "Well it's not very much. Not to go off of. For all we know this could just be a double-E."

Thomas and the Chief exchanged looks. "A what, sir?"

"A double- sorry, a procedural anomaly. I mean why are you assuming she had a killer at all? It's a tragedy for the poor girl, but that's not my department."

Thomas appeared to consider something, and then dismissed the Chief, who saluted and moved away to review one of the endless monitors. He then said, with grim resolution, "I'll bring you down to the body."

They made their way into the depths of the building via a huge lift. The orange sunrise laid bare the twinkling city of high-rises filled to capacity and in-progress. Eventually they descended below ground, and the doors opened to a white waiting area. "What is this place?"

"The morgue."

They walked into the vestibule, where they met a partition manned by a small individual in an labcoat, the palette of which was equally as prejudiced towards blinding-white as the rest of the room. He greeted them with a smile.

"Welcome, Liasion! It has been only days since your last visit. I'm honored."

Thomas returned the younger's grin. "I'm afraid the circumstances are the same, doctor." The latter's eyes flickered between the pair. "Shall I bring you to her then? Her contents remain pristine."

Thomas nodded. "Yes please, my friend.

The doctor left his office through a sliding wall on the right hand side, and, pushing his finger into a port, opened another door, which he ushered them through.

The hall was expansive. From his meagre position, Phillip could see a vast collection of rows of white tablets, stretching horizontally in regular intervals. "Quickly now," the doctor advised. "It is a ways there." He and Thomas started off, leaving Phillip to follow from a distance. "This is the morgue?" He asked.

"Yes," the doctor confirmed, with a touch of confusion. "Have you not seen the rows before?"

"No," Phillip admitted. "What are they?"

"What do they look like?" Thomas muttered.

"What, you mean - all these - people?"

The doctor assented, "Coalition, Council, city officials."

"No regular people."

"No. The heap reorganizes their components, for maximum efficiency. Remember - the bombings?"

"I remember."

"It's through here." They entered one of the columns, passing bleached chest after bleached chest until finally, they came upon one in particular. The doctor pushed a button on the side of tablet, springing open a harness. In several swift movements, he strapped his hand to the getup, which then proceeded to enter him with several sharp objects. After several seconds, the device gave off a low beep, followed by lighting of a green LED, leading the doctor to unstrap himself, push the harness back in, and pop open the tablet - swinging the lid over his head as he did so. Inside were, hyper cooled, were what appeared to be large chops of flesh.

"What is this?" Phillip asked. Thomas answered, "Viscera, bone fragments, brain matter - everything we could recover, barring the essence."

"Doctor, would you leave us, a moment?" The man consented and moved back up the column, his black hair the only thing separating his pale form from the rest of the room.

From his breast pocket Thomas removed a huge device; at first glance Phillip assumed it to be a Syringe, but the mass of circuitry and glyphs on the exterior made him take a second guess. Before he could, Thomas, stabbed the device into a mass of the woman's flesh and, very slowly, body mass floated onward and upward through the small tube, compacted to the point where the hunk of meat from which it had fed was significantly diminished in significance. He walked over to a small readout over the coffin and plugged the device in to a port adjacent to it, reading 'PROP'T.' It whirred and hummed, and eventually a number came up on the screen. Phillip had difficulty believing his eyes.

"You asked, why we're assuming foul play. Provisional-Councilman Torvin, if at the conclusion of your investigation, it is your professional opinion that this woman was not murdered, I will see to it personally you do not work in this building again."

Thomas put his hands together. "You're acquainted with this kind of work. A psyker in the High Command proper will cause a panic. You'll find me a trail and paint me a picture: this woman was murdered, by a Type Yellow. We will then proceed as the situation necessitates - destroying the elements involved, or publicizing them, to be forgotten. You have two weeks."

He sauntered off.

Phillip kept watching the screen.

The Contour was almost empty the night after. Barring a few lonely saps drinking themselves to death to the sweet crooning of washed-up and deceased Hollywood artists, all was quiet and solitary. He shared his usual Scotch at the bar with Griffith - who, despite all the hardship facing ex-Foundation operatives, found himself stable enough to swap stories most nights of the week.

Phillip continued on, "A Yellow. Four years strike, Professional Citation. Latent, or - hidden. All that time."

"It's pretty unbelievable. Military family. How would they have gotten by?"

"That's what I'm gonna find out."

"You taking a visit?"

"They live in the boonies. Guess people like that - have their reasons."

"Are you gonna tell them?

"Depends. If I'm feeling particularly nasty." "What about you? What's cooking in the department?" "Besides the slave labor?" Griff gave a morbid chuckle.

"Besides that."

Griffith leaned in close, as though imparting a secret: "Dillon's in China. I'm here handling his paperwork, while I have agency spooks creeping up my asshole. Making sure the old man doesn't fuck up their precious and confidential operations."

"So - per usual."

"Pretty much." Griff smiled. "You know how much I love our little talks, Phillip."

"I love 'em too. Makes me feel -" he shook his head, suddenly disgusted.

Griffi obviously noticed his discomfort. "World's gone to shit, hasn't it?"

Phillip shrugged. "Who's to say?"

Griffi raised his eyebrows, and said, "I do. Nights at Redrafted. Sally Lewin - mm."

"And Dave Defranco. Those were - interesting times."

Griff scoffed. "Interesting? Be honest with yourself, man. Better times!"

"I don't know, anymore."

They grew quiet for a time. They listened to the resident performer - a beautiful woman, with a voice to match. Griff eventually returned, "Where do you figure they went wrong? Along the way."

After a while, Phillip said quietly, "I think about it. Quite a bit." He felt a well open up in his chest. "Empires die all the time, Griff. Some of them get overturned, fighting for what's right. Others bleed to death from their own incompetence. I guess ours just… faded. The time was right and we - well, we're just here to clean up the scraps."

The seas of sparks again. The worlds became less lustrous, and darkened; he was on the edge of a vast forest of pine. A barren field sat before him, and at the center - picturesque scarlet cabin, except he's confused, moved outside the perimeter. "Hello? Coalition business!" Nothing responded; for a wild hideaway, it was exceptionally quiet. Removing his badge, he slowly walked up to the house. It looked warm and natural and inviting, and as he stomped up the wooden steps to the porch, he began to feel somewhat more confident in his survival. He knocked on the wooden door.

Just then, a flurry of activity erupted behind him. He spun back around, and in the field, perhaps a dozen different sentry guns had popped up from the foxholes in the mud, their barrels trained directly on his centre mass. Before he could spring to cover, metal shifted away in the door behind him.

"Turn yourself."

He complied, and in doing so he saw that a small visor had opened in the door as he had been accosted by the sentries. Behind it lay two brown, powerful eyes.

"If you want to survive the coming minutes, I recommend telling what it is you're out in this neck o' the woods."

He spoke, keeping his hands raised. "PHYSICS. I have a badge. Do you want it?"

This gave the eyes paused, before they ordered him, "Step back, slow-like." He did so.

"Hold it up." Phillip retrieved it from his belt, uncomfortably aware of the number of guns whirring to lock on to the action. He held it up.

After a period of observation, the eyes said, "Now put it back down." He dropped it, and on impulse, his other hand. The latch closed, and the door clicked and clacked as its various securities released. The door opened, and he knew he was looking at Colonel Dower for the very first time.

"PHYSICS," the Colonel repeated.

"In the flesh." Phillip assured him.

The man sniffed. "You know my daughter? She's in the corps. Figure a man like you - you might get around to knowing a girl like her."

"…Mr. Dower, may I please come in?"

Mrs. Dower wailed from the confines of her bedroom. The living room itself was a lovely place; ornate, filled to the brim with carvings of fantastic creatures. Mr. Dower sat solemnly in what looked to be a hand-carved wooden chair.

"I didn't raise a psyker." He said.

Phillip tried to comfort him. "I've been going through the archive. If she ever learned what she was, she kept it on the down low. She would've gone through - hundred, two hundred C-tests. She couldn't slip through that, no-one could. Your daughter was a very special woman, Col. Dower. However she did it - it's what we're left with."

"Is there anything else?"

Yes. I need to talk to you about some - specificities. He took out a pen and pad from his jacket pocket.

"Colonel, to be utterly frank, High Command wants me to paint this as a murder case. Now, I have nowhere to start, and absolutely nothing to go with. If you can give me something, anything that could help me build - some kind of dossier, that'd be appreciated."

"Well what're you lookin' for?"

"Anything. Grudges, friendships, sexual…' he stopped himself. "Sexual relations, perhaps of a dubious nature."

"Oh, god." The Colonel exhaled. Phillip searched for the idea that would make it acceptable. He failed to find it.

Time passed. Mr. Dower sighed. "It's why I left the force, you know. Shit like this. Pack of shit-heaps and liars."

"They're just… just trying to keep things together."

"Where'd you serve, boy?" His voice was urgent and a little bit afraid. Phillips was taken aback. "I'm sorry?"

He repeated, "Where'd you serve? Africa? The Tropics?"

"Europe. I served in Europe."

"Infantry? Mobile, yes." Cheating sons of bitches. You ever seen anything like this? Far too much, Phillip thought. "Something akin to this situation - yes, once."

"My daughter wasn't no skank, you hear? She did her time, did her service. Just as honored as you or me. You get that."

"Yes sir, I do."

"Back then, she wrote us - letters -" Dower stood, and with a dazed gait he walked to the coffee table at the center of the room, where photographs of a girl, flowers, and a small pine box sat in the middle. He picked up the box. "High castle wasn't so fond of the paper-bound stuff, but she insisted." He removed a small stack of yellowed paper from the chest, dropping it on the table and shifting through until he found what he was looking for - a single sheet of paper - and, with a trembling hand, extended it to Phillip, who took it.

The print was small. Phillip began to search out his reading glasses. "Martin Lawrence." Dowers said. "Don't know who he is, don't know where he went. Build your dossier." He stalked off, towards the cries of his wife. Phillip stood. "Colonel?"

Dowers turned to him with tears in his eyes. "Get out of my house. Please."

"Colonel the - could I -"

"Take it. Take them all. They were hers." Dowers entered the bedroom and closed the door. Phillip could still hear them mourn through the home-made wall.

It grew quiet. In the end, Phillip put away his glasses, gathered up the letters, and put them in the box. The door did not creak as he returned to the sunset.

That night, he buried himself in stationary. He sipped bourbon quietly in the study as he pored over the woman's records - an endless collection. He knew that if he was going to find anything, there'd be traces of it in the mail.

Mom, Colonel - it's Jennifer. I'm writing to you on your orders, and while this command's not altogether providing of leisure time, should I fail, and let them take me, I'll just have to come back around, so that you can set me straight. The post is going pretty well. We're a five man group - Leo, Silica, Norm, and Marty. And if you're wondering - Leo is just fine where he belongs. Supplies are good; the locals keep us in their favor. They've got no love for the insurgents, these folk. We met up with a FU adjutant a couple miles back. He looked world-weary. I almost felt sorry for the guy. Appealing to your rival - I'll always remember that lesson, Colonel.

Hey pals. Jen here. We're pushing along the river. The bombardment is pretty constant, but we'll hold up yet. STRIKE's shooting us some reinforcements from the South - we'll win enough time to break out, and then we can clear them out of the bush for good.
Scylla and Leo dispatched their commands yesterday. When the troop gets here, they'll bring them out - back home. I don't know how's Norm's taking it. He's stable, but he keeps interior most of the time. I'll give him a talk tonight. Maybe we can mail the ring to her parents.
Marty's doing worse. We've kept him in sickbay for most of our camp. He was always nervous, but I'm not sure he'll pull through this time. He took one squad yesterday, and it really wore him out. I might just have to keep him on probation. One less set of hands, but we can't really let him die.

Jen here,
Berlin is beautiful at night. One day I'll get the money and bring you both out here, just for a trip. Marty and I stood post and the sky lit up as our Harriers ran the mortars. The ejecta - these guinea pigs are easy pickings. I'm surprised they've given the Taskers such a beating. Perhaps they've just been run down.
Speaking of Marty, he proposed yesterday. I said ok. Norm's been gone for months, and it's been a lonely way out here. I think you'd be alright with him, dad.
We're moving deeper into city-centre tomorrow. Providing support for a forward column - it shouldn't be much of a stretch. Till then.

He removed his reading glasses. "Pontus, the time." The Lare lit up the room. "5:00, sir. The sun is rising on New York. Would you like me to prepare the coffee?"

"No, Pontus. Thank you. But lay out my clothes, please. And get me my pills."

It was a bright, sunny day outside the archive. The nature lounge area they'd set outside was full of couples; he chose a bench, near a cluster of pigeons, and decided to call Griffith. He heard the man pick up with a sort of primal grunt. "Griff."

"Phil! What's happening? We on for tonight?"

"Maybe sooner. Do you still have access to the old network?

"Network? Uh- what, what network? Phil, look, I'm feedin' my cats here - yes, you Sunny - can we do this later?"

"I don't know. I got a lead last night." "Oh yeah. The parents." Phillip heaved a sigh as he heard him set down something heavy over the phone. "How'd that one go? You piss in their mouths?"

"No, no. I've been running through the Coalition's logs, but there's nothing on this name - Martin Lawrence. I needed to know if you still have access." "To what? Phil?"

"The network." He tried to let the statement sink in. "

A voice tinged with melancholy answered him, "…SCiPNet?"


"Well why didn't you just say that? No, Phil I don't have access. Why would you even think about something like that?"

Phillip took out the letter he'd tucked into his jacket the night before. He'd pored over it at least a dozen times. "These are dated pre-war. Maybe something was lost."

He heard Griff groan over the line. "Phil, what was the deal with this high castle bitch in the first place? You know? Lay it out for me." He thought long and hard.

"Dower gets booted up the line, dies, and tests positive for specimen L-" He sighed. "Type yellow.

"Do you hear what you're saying Phil?"


"Check em out. Head down to the camp. If you don't get ahold of this Lawrence, maybe you'll work something out."


He hung up and looked back towards the archive. The area was full of trees, expelling their red-and-orange natural works of art - honoring the great, solid structure.

That evening, before entering the Thaumatic chamber, he entered the rough set of coordinates he'd pulled from the library. Once again, he fell through a whirlwind of sparks, and a moment later - found himself on solid Earth.

It was not the Quarantine Zone, he could see that well enough. If anything, it was a slum on the outskirts. Dumpster and barrel fires lit up the streets. Men and women in ramshackle collections of clothe and He could see the UN building in the distance. Slums.

He checked the coordinates on his GPS. He was just a mile outside the basic perimeter. It'd be a walk, but he could make it. He walked through the street, acutely aware of the weapon hanging in his shoulder holster.

As he hiked through the smouldering ruins of his old job, most of the vagrants and disposed experiments paid him attention at first - but, upon sighting the style of firearm on under his bicep, slunk off in fear of retributin. While moving over a collapsed overpass, he was privy to the fine actions of his new colleagues; STRIKE officers, fully outfitted for the hazardous environment preparing to summarily dispatch the commands of a number of weak-looking, sickly people. Their visors glowed blue and red in the night and while they tracked his movement, they too left him mercifully unmolested.

As he drew closer to the site, he passed down a long avenue. Once the site of heavy fighting, from the looks of the decaying fissures and bullet holes. Winos and wartrash hung about, and eventually, after climbing over a half-century old taxi, he happened upon what looked like a young girl and her mother.

Both were clothed in rags. The older woman appeared to be sleeping, and the child clutched her chest, whispering and crying. He knelt down on the hood of the car, and watched as, slowly, the woman brought her hand up to the child's face, brushing away tears and dirt, before expiring. As the child began to wail, Phillip decides it was his time to depart. There was nothing to be done.

As he drew farther and farther away from the Pyramid, where the glittering lights of the city behind almost faded, he happened upon fewer and fewer residents.

It came as he rounded the corner to a wide, empty Boulevard. His muscles ached and he began to consider the possibility the Quarantine Zone was, in fact, only a horrible rumor, perpetrated as fact for the benefit of naughty children. But before he could convince himself of the fantasy, headlights shown in the distance. A real vehicle, plowing through car wrecks. He rushed toward it, and eventually it became clear that the transport in question was a truck, well-emblazoned with Coalition colors. The engine became a roar and he rolled out of the way as it ran through his form. A soldier on the back of the truck, standing at a large turret swiveled the gun to face him.

"PHYSICS." He cried. "Coalition business."

The burly form leaped out of the truck and considered him from up above.

A pounding headache and several minutes later, he found himself in the back of the very same truck. The tall man stood on a gun at the rear of the cabin, scanning a horizon Phillip could not see. Rubbing his eyes, he perceived himself to be surrounded by a number of other dissidents; rich, poor, crying, stoic. The rumbling of the truck shook them all, but if it was bringing him where he thought it was - he could live with that.

Eventually he came to looking over the edge of the truck. They had arrived at a grand, walled compound, in a dusty, cleared out area smack in the middle of former suburbia. A huge, silver-and-gold UN emblem set against the black walls, made him shiver.

They carry him inside, and he gets up, and sees the vast numbers of people. The convoy slowed as they passed through the main gate. On all sides were cages full of silent men and women, clad in colored jumpsuits. Above them, quadrotors spun a fine mist of nutrients, water, and neural inhibitor into the cells, banishing thoughts of sleep, food or sex from the assets.

It was quite ingenious, Phillip thought. How wise of them to adapt a tried-and-true Foundation technique.

"How special are you?" Turning his head, he found a voice, hosted by a ragged-looking man in a torn blue jacket. He considered the question.

"I'm not."

He looked up at the gunner. "Hey." When the lumbering form turned to address him, he removed his badge from his back belt and waved it at him. "PHYSICS," he said, "Coalition business.

The gunner, seeing the double-palm globe on the face of the badge, left his post, plucked the parcel from Phillip's hand and examined it more closely. After a moment, the gunner looked at him with great intensity - all that could really be gleaned from the one-eyed mask he wore. A warbled voice replied,



The gunner kicked him in the teeth. He groaned, "Uh, countersign, wasn't it? It's been a while." The gunner slipped the badge into his pocket and turned back to his Browning. Phillip coughed up blood. "Wait," he croaked. The gunner glanced back around, "I've got it - Echo-Sierra-Baker. With a twist."

The gunner stared at him. His impenetrable, singular eye bore down into Phillip's two own.


The lift opened on a long hall, which they dutifully dragged him down. Windows on the sides gave a perfect view of the suffering below, and the sight at the end of the hall was perhaps one equally intimidating.

The Warden - Phillip presumed the man was the Warden, courtesy of his styled black uniform and army of citations planted on his chest - was a huge man; even from a distance, Phillip could perceive the fat cigar hanging off his lip as being puny compared to his monster of a face. A pair of rottweilers growled beside his desk, and to his right sat a pleasure spirit, who smiled at him. The guards roughly forced him before the man on a mat emblazoned with the same olive branches he'd seen outside.

The Warden peered at him over the equipment. "Hello, Agent Torvin. I wish you'd notified us of your visit; I'd've sent a car for you."

"Sorry." Despite himself, he was. He stood. "I didn't know this place was off the map."

"Well, we can't have people popping in and out of the holdings at will. Bad for business." The Warden considered Phillip - perhaps measuring him up for the slaughter. "It's two hours until we ship them out to the labor districts; I have five minutes." The implication was clear; you have five minutes.

"I'm looking for someone." After a moment's consideration, he added "A man, Martin Lawrence."

"One of my inmates?" The Warden's tone was cautious, as might be expected. I could very well be here to break someone out, he thought. Perhaps even now, it's still not so implausible.

"No, or - maybe. Somebody's dead and I'm looking into it. They're my only lead."

"Is this NERO business?"

"No sir. I'm empowered by NERO. But I retain my services and loyalty - to the Foundation."

"The Foundation," the Warden uttered in a stunningly unsuccessful attempt to constrain disbelief.

"Yes sir." The Warden chewed on his cigar. As he waited for reply, Phillip's concussion-addled mind began to construct an elaborate joke regarding oral fixation.

"And what is it that drew you to my facilities in particular, Mr. Torvin? You're the primary house for Yellow acquisition in the region. I couldn't find anything on him in records. Records is horseshit. Lily." "Yes, sweet pea?

"Escort Mr. Torvin here down to the labs. If he can't find his man, have a detachment bring him back to HQ. Right away."

"Come, darling," her wispy form carried him along, back down the dark hall to the lift. He felt a rough push and he collided with the far elevator wall, and the lights flickered as the button for a 'Level 3' lit up near the doors. He dusted himself off, and the latter opened a minute later. A smell hit him. The room was full of death.

He walked forward. Masked, robed figures stood around operating tables meticulously spaced out in the periphery of the room, allowing a straight corridor through where to a room at the back. Everywhere his eyes begged him not to glance bore witness to one atrocity after another; live vivisections, squirming bodies with their innards portrayed, a team of the figures working with edged items around inside something covered and awful, a hoisted man in the nude, receiving limb prosthesis.

His ears rang and his head swelled from sensory overload. He did not vomit; he had stopped when he was 30. Instead, a well of anger and frustration inexplicably reared itself from his stomach, stretching all the way up through his ribcage. He felt wont to think, and comprehend the people around him.

Years seemed to pass before one such robed figure, overseeing the work in the awful thing, extracted itself from the operation and walked readily toward him. Phillip blinked at the short, oddly unimposing image of a man, which made a grunt of appreciation and lifted up its welding goggles. He - it was, in fact, a he - extended a hand, with which he grabbed Phillips own digits and shook with vigor. "You're the man from NERO, yes?" He didn't respond. The figure continued, regardless, "Warden just radioed, said you'd be coming along. You wanted information on one of my patients. Come. I have the full medical history in my study. Come along, come along!"

The figure, with a starkly surprising gentleness, took hold of Phillip's arm and led him through the grisly scene. Symbology he recognized from his time with the Fox sprung up from the Awful thing, springing around the room in a physical substance, shaping and molding itself to the cheers of the onlooking figures. The journey to the back ended only after a century had passed in his mind, when the creak from the doorknob crept its way into his subconscious.

The office was as stark white as the morgue and the operating room they had departed, and with a nudge the doctor indicated for him to seat himself at a chair behind a desk at the center of the wide, sterile chamber. The doctor then seated himself; at the desk was a terminal, and with a few clicks of a mouse to his side, and some clacking from the keyboard, a panel ejected from the side of the monitor. The doctor ripped off his glove and tossed it into the waste bin, and pressed his thumb hard against a fitted groove in the center of the pop-out. A voice proclaimed, Aura recognized. Designated user. Full access.

"And what was the name you required?"

"Martin Lawrence." His ears were still ringing.

The keyboard clacked. "Martin Lawrence, any middle name, date of birth."

"His birthday was in March. March 25th."

The doctor tapped into the terminal and grinned. "Ah, yes - I have three such individuals. One Martin William Joseph Lawrence, currently serving in-house as one of our test subjects. Another, Martin Daniel Lawrence - deceased. And a third - Martin James Lawrence. Missing."

Phillip's jaw opened. "What- what is he? "

The doctor continued, "I'm sorry. Martin James Lawrence. Missing. An early acquiry. Latent ability. Says here he had military service. Coalition work in Europe - classified."

"Context - what was the context of his escape?"

The doctor shook his head. "Lost, here. Undetermined. We have many pass-throughs. It is difficult to keep track. It is possible he would've been picked up again under a different name. Or, he might've vanished. Funny case."

"Sir?" His eyes were dull. He saw nothing. All was glass.

"Sir, are you all right? Sir?"

"I'll take those files to go, if you please."

He slammed them down on the table - the box, a sheaf of data he'd picked up from the Quarantine Zone, everything. Thomas had insisted on meeting him in the war room, in the highest of Coalition offices. Down below, one could see the Empire building - dwindled and decrepit, but standing.

"I've got your picture," he said.

Thomas turned from the window at the far end, and walk around the edge of the room. "What's all that?"

He was ready. "Dower was emotionally engaged with a colleague, Martin Lawrence. Near the end of their tour in the Union, he passed the TYBQ with full confidence, and got remanded to custody in Germany and then New York, and then he escaped. She never appealed on his behalf and, unless these are to show any different, never made to contact or resume relations with him in any way."

Thomas had cleared the table and stood beside him. "It doesn't wholly explain matters, but I suppose it's sufficient."

"There was a child."

A silence passed. Thomas walked back over to the window and stewed. Phillip began to worry for his health. If he wasn't enhanced, he was still so young to be collecting such stress.

"When?" Thomas asked.

Phillip shrugged. "Don't know. I'm assuming as early as 2019. There's references to it everywhere in her work. So much was encoded, though - she must not've trusted the couriers, even with their past experience."

"Anything else?" Thomas' voice edged slightly.

Phillip thought. "They spent so much time in Germany; maybe she got picked up with her father."

"It's not out of the realm of possibility. Is he still alive?"

"They couldn't say." Phillip gestured at the papers. "This is all we have. It's what you asked me for." He straightened his tie and turned to leave. "And if that's all, I'll be heading home."

"You're not done." Thomas said, sharply.

Phillip looked back. "I'm sorry?"

"You're not done. How many more have you spoken to about this?"

Phillip turned back around and put his hands in his pockets. With a sinking feeling, he realized his answer could prove deadly.

"No-one. Not yet."

Thomas himself returned; his eyes were not the same fearful ones that'd surfaced just moments ago. They were icy, and full of resolve. "Colleagues?"

Phillip suddenly became very aware of the rain pounding the window outside. "None."

The rain pounded further as the two men stared each other down across the room.

Thomas finally opened his mouth. "We cannot allow this to germinate."

"Why?" He asked the question that'd been eating him since he'd left. "They had a bastard in wartime. That's nothing uncommon. What is the malfunction here?"

Thomas gritted his teeth. "Nothing you need to know. But I still need my impartial observer." He waited before finally concluding, "I want the father's body. And the child's, preferably. Ashes would be acceptable, if unfortunate. Go out and find them."

"What if they're alive? I'll need backup to bring them in, he had full proficiency with th-"

Thomas shook his head. "You will have no backup. You will not bring them in."

Phillip heart sank a little further down. "Why me? Send STRIKE."

"As you fail, I will. But I would prefer this dealt with discreetly. Outside the chain of command." Thomas' hard exterior softened. "I know you, Phillip. You do good work. You've done better, so far."

Phillip was frozen. He didn't know what to say. He had a million thoughts racing through his mind - he hadn't felt as such but back at the old Site. He turned to leave again. As he opened the door, Thomas left him with a parting note.

"I know I can trust you, Mr. Torvin. If not for your sake - then for Griff's."

As he left the plaza, he threw his phone down a sewer drain.

Phillip shot out the lock to Griff's apartment and kicked in the door. Dark. Empty. Stupid. He checked corners as he flipped on the light.

Three dead cats lay on the rug.

Torvin goes to Griff's, where he busts inside. It's empty; cats dead. Griff's keys are on the table.

Specimen Lumens

Item #: SCP-XXXX

Object Class: Euclid

Special Containment Procedures: Potential LUMENS are to be Hazed properly by a qualified Proctor within 24 hours of identification. Inconclusive LUMENS are to be released and amnesticized, and reacquired as becomes necessary. Conclusive LUMENS are to be remanded to Foundation custody, provided a cell at Site-223 and watched for signs of a XXXX-Tower event. Should one occur, Site staff are advised to:

  • Evacuate all non-essential personnel.
  • Notify Centre-North Regional Command to engage protocol XXXX-Vague Sweep.
  • Euthanize all unaffected LUMENS instances.

At this time, the occurrence of an XXXX-Tower event would necessitate a radical change in perspective regarding strategic perception of the LUMENS phenomenon, but the transmissions received by RHC Northwest 3-55-12455 indicate such a reversal is unlikely.

Description: SCP-XXXX is a pseudo-probabilistic phenomenon affecting an unknown percentage of the total human population, characterized by various psychic abilities manifesting from an outside source. Aforementioned subjects have been designated specimen LUMENS, and will be referred to as such for the remainder of this document.

It is estimated that the Foundation has acquired only 25% of active specimen LUMENS in the contiguous United States; however, it is also believed that only 13% of all specimen LUMENS will ever see their abilities manifest at all. It is still unknown what separates activated LUMENS from those who remain dormant. See Incident Report XXXX-3 for more information.

Individual LUMENS specimens have exhibited the following traits on multiple occasions:

  • Telepathy (99% active instances)
  • Telekinesis (87%)
  • Demanifestation (10%)
  • Remanifestation (0.34%)
  • Psychosomatic Subversion (0.2%)

Specimen LUMENS is near-indistinguishable from an a-LUMENS capable human. Unlike specimens MUTO and ORTUS, each of which precipitates natural phenomena in a measured vicinity (Hume levels and Blue-body radiation) specimen LUMENS demonstrates no quantifiable traits which could be conceivably detected and responded to en masse. Only minute, variable discrepancies in LUMENS biochemistry allow for a delineation between it and the general population, necessitating physical operations on the ground level.

Thus was the Hazing test developed, delivered by authorized Proctors to individuals reported as displaying one of the above traits. It is rendered as such in the original registration:

Vivisection of numerous specimen LUMENS has led us to believe that its capacity for low-level reality warping is biological in nature. The Siell-Riemann Identifier exam has been designed to test this theory.
1. The designated test-giver is to be provided with a baseline questionnaire consisting of simple logic-response interactions.
2. The test-giver is to be provided with a simple device measuring breath-rapidity, heart-rate, and intestinal distress.
3. The test-giver is to alter this format to be filled with non-sequitur answer-response interactions capable of evoking confusion and fear responses in the recipient.
4. The test-giver is to judge recipient's response on an arbitrary grade-point scale to be determined by this committee at a later time.
5. The recipient's passing such an exam would result in the test-giver either removing himself from the testing area and requesting assistance in subduing the newly acquired LUMENS, or collecting the specimen himself. Failure would result in the test-giver following standard amnensticization procedure.

History: Specimen LUMENS has proven to be useful in providing the Foundation with manpower capable of deterring threats beyond the reach of mundane arms and armaments. LUMENS operatives are regularly culled from the incarcerated civilian population, and have successfully been inducted into company societies and communal living.

XXXX-Tower is CIE code for an isolated loss of 200 separate LUMENS over the course of 29 months, from March 14 1984 to August 14 1986. Each LUMENS demanifested from their cell without audible feedback.

On January 10 1991 LU-114, an inactive LUMENS lost in the third month, remanifested in the cell they had departed. They were administered a Hazing test to confirm their LUMENS capabilities remained present.

[[collapsible show="+ Test LU-114-4" hide="- -"]]

Siell-Riemann (HAZE) Iteration 114-C
Proctor: Agent Violet-19
DTC: 2/5/91+0900 EST

Proctor: Subject 114.

Subject 114 is unresponsive.

Proctor: 114.

No change.

Proctor: Do it.

Guard Alpha-4 administers electrostatic shock. Subject 114 is unresponsive.

Proctor: If you're not going to cooperate, we'll need to end the test.

114: Ask me what you wish.

Proctor: Very well. Do you remember how it works? The questions don't matter; only your answers do.

114: I remember.

Proctor: A large dog barks at you. You flinch and he tears out your throat. As you lay bleeding on the grass, a beetle drowns in your essence. Do you care?

114: It's sad.

Proctor: A man shoots you in the chest, and then himself. The desert's vast expanse exhausts you. You have his gun, and you know no one is coming to help. Will you accept a long, agonizing death, or a quiet one?

114: I'll take what I can get.

Proctor: A tired wino offers you his sandwich. He begs you for change, so you shove it down his throat. Were you simply in pain, or did you hate this man?

114: I was tired.

Proctor: A hated gentleman demands that you eat his dog. You beg him for mercy but he does not relent. He will kill you otherwise; you know this. He's done it before. The bitch's life, or your own?

114: I slaughter it myself.

Proctor: The mine has flooded. The water begins to slowly creep above your chest, splashing poison into your mouth. Will you sink with the rest of the workers, or climb over their bodies to survive a little longer?

114: I accept the inevitable.

Proctor: The silly little girl has murdered her parents. She asks you to join in the fun. Their blood seeps beneath the floorboards. Do you accompany her, or run for your life?

114: I do neither.

Proctor: Just a moment. You've just killed the little girl, shoved her off a cliff. You watched her shocked face turn to terror as she tumbles into the rocks. Are you satisfied?

114: I'm relieved.

Proctor: Test over.

Recipient Score: 220 over 119
LUMENS Status: Inconclusive
Proctor's Analysis: Subject response time averaged 2-3s. Registered fluidity on cardio, resp, in's. Outlier cmp. Answers inline with specimen trauma victims, post vivisections, and oper's. Marking midway in light of this.

[[collapsible show="+ Interview LU-114-1" hide="- -"]]

Humanoid Interview
Code: LU-114
Interviewer: Agent Violet-19

V19: State your name.

LU-114: Mary Waller.

V19: On May 25, 1984, you exited containment through unknown means. This is your opportunity to explain yourself before your vivisection.

LU-114: Is this a hearing?

V19: Effectively, yes. Your time begins now.

LU-114: I'm not quite sure what you mean.

V19: Pull up file two, please.

Technician Elworth engages hardroom B's projector, displaying video feed on the wall of Site-22's humanoid wing dated '5/25/84.' LU-114 is standing in its domicile, awaiting roll call. Her form exits the frame several seconds into the loop. The feed begins again.

LU-114: Yes, that's me. I remember. I was taken.

V19: By what? An entity?

LU-114: Yes.

V19: What of the other specimens? Where are they?

LU-114: They are in pain - held by him.

V19: They are alive?

LU-114: Yes. He called it a padded room. He took me there to assert his power; me, and all the others.

V19: What is he? Does he have a name?

LU-114: I don't know. I don't think so. You could give him one, if you wanted to.

V19: What does he want from LUMENS?

LU-114: I'm not sure. He wants to hurt us, but the reasoning on his part is lost to me.

V19: In your opinion, would the entity you encountered in this matrix constitute a threat to humanity?

LU-114: In the sense that you mean, yes.

LU-114's vivisection revealed no anomalies in their physiology beyond idiosyncrasies consistent with those of specimen LUMENS. In light of their testimony, all previously acquired specimen LUMENS were placed under greater security in anticipation of the cosmic entity's countermove. Their reconfirmation test notwithstanding, regional high command deemed them valuable enough to be reclassified as an active leak following her reconstitution, and subsequently asked her to provide a more detailed account of her time in the matrix. LU-114 will be referred to by her official asset designation for the remainder of this document.

[[collapsible show="+ Transcript" hide="- -"]]

TTD - Humanoid, XXXX
Transcriber: Louise Schreiber, M.J. (temp.)
Transcribee: SA-Ω19, ("Sour Gryphon")
DTC: 7/8/91+1154 EST

Transcribee: I believe I was seated before him. He appeared to me as a great mountain on the edge of a wide darkness, trapped within a plane of little white points. He asked me my name, but for some reason, I couldn't recall it. He told me that in time I might grow to perform many great services. When I pressed him about himself he refused to give me anything of note. But - then we moved to his room. He told me it was the place where he had been born, a place where - light flickered, off the corner of my vision, and everything appeared stained.

We were walking somewhere and I so desperately wanted to return home, but he wouldn't let me. He said that it was here I would die, but I do not think he meant it the way we mean it. For a while, it certainly did not feel like I was alive. He brought me somewhere else, somewhere different. As we were walking through his room, towards wherever it was he wanted to bring me, we passed upon Paris. I had known it, from when I was a child. Uncle's restaurant. I was at the back of it. I could see out, into the city, but everything was only glowing brightly; I could not see anyone else.

I was sitting while a man, a very old man, prepared something for me in a skillet. I remember the fire, leaping up out of it and the staff, running around and around shouting at themselves. He brought the food to my table and then we sat, and I ate. I was hungry, you see, very hungry after everything. I - did not believe I was dreaming, but I think I wished I was. And this older man, he and I talked for a good while. He said he was a - brother. His brother. Struck me as odd, considering how polite and ordinary he had been. He told me that I was 'passerby.' He said he was due to give me my price of - kindness. My price of kindness.
He told me that he loved his brother, but that they had been in a fight, and he had lost, and now it was only a matter of time before the mountain gained dominion over… the son? I didn't understand. He coughed, and I realized he was sick - his essence had come all the way across the table, onto the dish he had prepared for me. The fire stopped, and everyone - looked at us. After that, I suppose my time ran out. I blacked out, woke up in miles more of little lights. Solid ground, again, and he was there - much smaller, as he had been before. The room was padded. Within the darkness were his matrices. He said it was the womb. And he told me that it was there I would die. I hope he was wrong, but I can't tell anymore.

It's all hurt after that. I can't distinguish it. Not in a way you could cope with.

I can say I left him wanting.

When asked if she would be willing to return to the matrices, Asset Gryphon responded strictly with hostility.

[[collapsible show="+ Incident Report" hide="- -"]]

Incident Report XXXX-3
DTC: 1/13/92+2133 EST
CIE Code: HL-XXXX-Y (Humanoid, Lethal, Contained)

Background: Armed Containment Area-44 had sustained 14 additional specimen LUMENS incarcerations over the course of several months. The uptick in acquired specimens led to increased awareness regarding perimeter breaches, but no other action was taken on the part of RHC.

Event: 3 individuals (each later identified as being interned at the facility as specimen LUMENS prior to the compound's security upgrade) manifested in several of the Area's holding wings. Subjects were hostile and casualties of security personnel climbed towards 100% within the first five minutes. Surveillance logarithms were tripped and Response was dispatched on alert level black. Intruders targeted individual LUMENS cells and, following a brief period of physical restraint, converted specimens into accomplices, eventually forming roaming packs focused on forcing open cell doors to the end of converting more specimens.

Response: IRAW high-altitude attack drone BU440 engaged the enemy at 2142 EST with shoot-to-kill orders issued from RHC. Unit climbed to an altitude of 45,200 m and engaged active camouflage before bombarding the facility with precision energy strikes. Within 20 minutes the affected Containment Wings of the Area had been reduced to rubble and the perimeter constructed by Response was lifted. At the cost of 100% of the compound's assets and 97.8% of its personnel, the threat was declared neutralized at 0900 EST. Relevant authorities are advised to refer to 'A44RIR' for a total list of casualties.

[[collapsible show="+ Autopsy SGM-3 HL-XXXX-Y" hide="- -"]]

Following Incident Beta, Special Agent Violet (Iteration 19) requested an audience with Asset Gryphon, and that they be permitted to use Directorate approved enhanced interrogation techniques (up till and including Grade B measures) on the subject. RHC approved this request due to their prior experience with specimen LUMENS under the caveat of close supervision.

[[collapsible show="+ Interview Asset, "Sour Gryphon"" hide="- -"]]

Humanoid Interview
Code: SA-Ω19
Interviewer: Agent Violet-19

Gryphon: Hello again, agent.

V19: What happened at Area 44?

Gryphon: Many people died - or, that's what they told me.

V19 indicates for the deployment of Catalyst Blue. Bio-analytics confirm that Asset Gryphon begins to suffocate; they display no emotional distress, nor any perceptible discomfort. Their trachea depresses and develops severe bruising before V19 indicates for the Catalyst's release.

Gryphon: Your desire to hurt me is well-founded.

V19: Enough bullshit. What happened at Area 44?

Gryphon: You're going to hurt me again, now.

V19: True.

V19 indicates for the deployment of Catalyst Yellow. Asset Gryphon's epidermis undergoes and sustains severe burn wounds over the course of three minutes. At no point does Asset Gryphon react to the stimulus. V19 releases Catalyst Yellow after Asset's apparel succumb to the method.

V19: Do you know what we picked up? The night of the storm?

Gryphon: A field of dead stars, full of oblivion.

V19: Gravity waves. A cluster of dwarves. A mountain on the edge of space.

Gryphon: Very good. Very good! Yes!

Asset Gryphon's dopamine receptors fire. She suffers several spiral fractures in her wrists and forearms as she breaks her restraints, to leap in presumed jubilation. Detachment Strauss move in to suppress the outburst. V19 indicates situation normal.

V19: You're going to come with me. I'll make them do it.

Gryphon: Were an army between you and I, I'd tear it to pieces. You mean to murder him?

V19: Destroy. Obliterate. Turn to rubble, if at all possible.

Asset Gryphon makes physical contact with V19.

Gryphon: He will break me. Gorge himself on my insides. Are you prepared for such things?

V19: Are you?

Gryphon: I am not the one who will suffer for it.

[[collapsible show="+ PETITION TO RHC FOR THE ACQUISITION OF SA-Ω19 ("SOUR GRYPHON")" hide="- -"]]

Petitioner: Special Agent Violet, Iteration 19
Submitted for the Approval of: Regional High Command (Dorne Symet, operational overseer)
Sensitivity Level: Secret

On January 13, 1992, Foundation installation Area-44 was attacked by a hostile extraterrestrial entity, resulting in the deaths of over a thousand men, women and children in-and-out of company employ. This entity is believed to be responsible for the genesis, nurture and exploitation of several thousand psychically-capable individuals, known at large as members of the LUMENS offshoot - official designation SCP-XXXX.

It is my intent to acquire sponsorship for a mission to AFEO-XXXX-Prime, ascertain the location of the 200 specimen LUMENS believed to have been manifested there by unknown means, and barring new developments, destroy the entity and its constituents, should any become known, in order to prevent further loss of life. Analysis of the attack on Area-44, when the object revealed its presence in the form of the large-scale gravitational anomaly, has indicated that what was witnessed was only a small portion of the damage the entity is capable of inflicting on the Foundation and the peoples of Earth.

To this end, a strike team consisting of myself, Asset Gryphon, and 3 other Foundation operatives, to be determined at a later date, shall solicit a vessel from a sanctioned contractor for the purpose of transporting ourselves to the object. The anomaly's defensive capabilities and the extent of extraspatial abilities are not known at this time, so a point will be made of taking every precaution on approach. We will require RHC's stamp of authority in order to procure the resources necessary to accomplish the specific objective.

I've approached the Engineering department's own B. A. Sanderson to mockup a charter for the mission as it's due to proceed:

Point A is focused on egress of the terrestrial solar system. This will mark the first significant objective of the journey, that being to determine whether Object Prime is averse or aware of our efforts to neutralize it, and whether its capacity to shut down such efforts grows upon our approximate distance to it decreasing by a detectable amount. Should the former or both of these assumptions be proven false, the captain will signal uniform deactivation of all primary systems prior to a period whereby the crew will be entered into a state of suspended animation; depending on the capacity of the vessel procured, this is predicted to be upwards of six months, downwards of one standard Earth century.

Point B is a step further. The surveillance group which registered entity Prime's original signals estimates its location as being several million miles departed from the circumference of our local galaxy, thus necessitating the aforementioned contract. This will indicate roughly successful egress of our local galactic arm, determined on-site by the reanimated captain and Asset, who will supervise consciously the remainder of the mission.

Point C will indicate arrival.

At this stage, all crew will be reanimated manually by the now-operative caretakers. The situation will be assessed at safe-distance - determined by the resident officers - and plans will be undertaken for

1) Analysis of the physical, psychological and anomalous facets of the creature.

2) Neutralization of its hostile tendencies.

3) Recovery of the <200 remaining specimen LUMENS presumed to be held by the creature within unknown confines.

I submit myself for the leadership of this effort. I renewed my Proctoring license in 2015 and have performed over 200 Hazings to this date, participated in 27 combat actions in which I have been provided with and enforced mortal jurisdiction over several active LUMENS, and maintained an ongoing platonic relationship with Asset Gryphon. I believe these qualities render me an above-average candidate to drive the proceedings, in addition to an irrational hatred I have observed in myself for the continued existence of AFEO-Lightfoot. Should RHC believe otherwise, I feel comfortable throwing my full support behind any nominated replacement.

In addition, we fail to secure RHC support, Special Agent Violet, Iteration 19, states their intent to declare their contract void and engage in an act of open rebellion against the O5 council and the Foundation at large.

Status: Approved. -D. Symet, A.L.

RHC's declaration of support for the project spiraled into several different developments. Agent Violet, Iteration 19 was recognized as operational director, and as such was permitted to choose an official title to delineate herself from her counterparts in the Service. Her submitted request of designation reconfirmed her birth name as well as the position of 'Captain' in recognition of her final posting. It was also approved April 1 1992.

Feelers were dispatched towards other aspects of the Foundation manpower suppliers as well as a number of independent aerospace developers with units specializing in anomalous flight and deep-space capabilities. Lockheed acquired the contract in July, and began construction on the on August 5.

[[collapsible show="+ Project Blue-92 - Operative Interview 1 - TAC" hide="- -"]]


Interview EU-XXXX-LIGHTFOOT - Iteration: 12

Interviewer: Captain Ross, Project Director

Interviewee: Unit Gold-212

Stated Goal: Enlist personnel with skills and qualities appurtenant to operational directives.

Subject Dossier: Tactical Unit Gold, iteration 212 has served in over two dozen Mobile Task Forces during their tenure and has been credited with their obsolescence on several occasions. It has a confirmed kill ratio of 304:3, one of the most effective on record and persistently the best in each of their participatory elements. Gold-212 was born in Saint Paul, MN on 4 November 1992. Shortly after their conception, both they and several other surrogate couples pursuant to PROJECT SUNSKIN were murdered by an armed group entering the maternity wing by force. Iteration 212 was subsequently raised-direct with group B specimen SUNSKIN harboured by FMed in Site-56.

Associated Observers: None.

Ross: Good morning.

G212: Hello.

Ross: You're here for the job?

G212: I am.

Ross: Right. Well, Mr. Gold, first I need to clear up some things with you. First: upon the conclusion of our discussion, you're going to be ushered back into the place where you walked in while we - I, make a decision regarding your employment. If I'm satisfied, we'll talk more. If not, the doctor will issue you Class-A. Is that agreeable to you?

G212: Yes.

Ross: All right. Second thing I need you to understand the context which was denied you in advert, if you received one. It's at this point we have most of our dropouts, so we figure it's economic to place it right up front. Unfortunately, it also happens to be the point where we'll be breaching classified territory. Sound okay?

G212: If it's all right with you, it's all right with me.

Ross: The operation is due to take place over the course of an excessive timeframe. We can't be certain of the exact duration, not right now, but we do know that if we are successful in our primary objective, it is possible that when we embark on our return journey, the place we come back to might be very different.

G212: Or not here at all.

Ross: Or that. What I need to know is if that bothers you.

G212: I'm sorry - bothers me?

Ross: Yes.

G212: Well, if I'm frank, it tickles me a little.

Ross: What about it do you find amusing?

G212: Amusing's not the word I'd use. Morbid, certainly.

Ross: Affecting?

G212: I've been in the service for a long time. I think I've seen my fair share. As long as I've got something to do, figure I'll be A-OK.

Ross: The journey will involve a period of extended inactivity on your part. Unconscious, but immobile.

G212: That's no problem.

Ross: Very good. I see that you're qualified in - most of the areas we specified. Why don't we talk about you? Why do you want this job?

G212: Outer space?

Ross: It's not as popular as you might think. I didn't know I was coming until a half year ago. Of course, we can make pretty much anyone fit for duty, but the principle - well, volunteers are still rare. So why you? Why now?

G212: I've dreamed of leaving for a long time. It's an exciting opportunity, and I'd be happy to a part of it.

Ross: So you want to join up, because - you want to join up?

G212: In a sense, I guess, yeah.

Ross: Mr. Gold, if we're going to be working together, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to be honest with me. I can't take someone I'm not 100% on. They made that clear.

G212: What's 100%?

Ross: Just that.

G212: Well, I've been here since I was a boy. Real little, you know. Stuck me in Tac when I finished school, first kill by the end of the year.

Ross: How'd that feel?

G212: Oh, I didn't feel anything. They ironed that out.

Ross: Did that bother you?

G212: A little. Just felt - vacant.

Ross: And you've wanted to escape, is that it?

G212: No. I like doing what I do. Feels like I've got a purpose. But… I don't know. Something's missing. And I'm not gonna find it down here; I know that to a certainty.

Ross: Are you lonely?

G212: You could call it that. Tired, I guess.

Applicant Status: Approved


[[collapsible show="+ Project Blue-92 - Operative Interview 2 - ENG" hide="- -"]]


Interview EU-XXXX-LIGHTFOOT - Iteration: 18

Interviewer: Captain Ross, Project Director

Interviewee: D. Michael Collie, R&D Chief, Area 15

Stated Goal: Enlist personnel with skills and qualities appurtenant to operational directives.

Subject Dossier: Dornier Michael Collie, D.Eng. graduated from Stanford University in 1956 after receiving a bid from the French government for the rights to several highly successful weapons systems; these subsequently received field testing during the Indochina Bush War, to acclaim. He was approached by the Foundation in 1964 for a commission of Senior Researcher, which he accepted under the condition he be permitted to maintain a presence in the private sector. His further ascendance of's departmental hierarchy has led to an estimated 200-50% increase in efficiency since his appointment to Deputy Chief. The Mark I, a firearm of his own design, recently surpassed the AK-47 in units produced, due in part to its adoption by both the United States government and Soviet Union. His declining health has led him to refocus the Department's policies towards cooperation with FMed.

Associated Observers: None.

Ross: Hello, Professor.

Collie: Good morning, Violet! It's so good to see you again. I was so happy when I heard you were taking volunteers on for the mission. I hope everything's coming along.

Ross: It's all going very well, sir. We've been getting plenty of applicants.

Collie: Oh, that's so good to hear! You know, just the other day I was chatting it up with - a Tulsa, I think - the guy from Records?

Ross: I think there's a Tulsa in one of the Mobiles. E11?

Collie: The commander! That's the one; you always had such a good memory. Anyway, we were talking over lunch and he was on about this stir you guys are creating - everybody's really excited about it!

Ross: We are too. It's been very encouraging.

Collie: Fantastic. Now, I won't take too much of your time - I saw the waiting room out there, just killer, really - I do hope everything that I submitted was satisfactory.

Ross: I couldn't find a problem, sir. Your paperwork was immaculate.

Collie: Oh god, I need to give Jennifer a raise. My secretary - she's been doing such fantastic work; Jason could not have found a better replacement. Anyway, if that's all there is, I'd be happy to - heh, do a dance, stand on my head, whatever you want. This is really exciting.

Ross: Yeah, professor, it really is.

Collie: I'm sorry, am I talking too much? I've just been going since 4, this whole thing with the merger and all the new divisions and it's just driving me nuts, so I'll just let you go ahead with this.

Ross: All right. Professor, you're obviously aware of the process we'll be forced through, in order to make sure everything goes smoothly before we engage. But, before I go on, do you have any questions on that front, or…?

Collie: Why Violet, I designed the blueprints myself. I can't imagine there's anything I might've missed. Did they tell Dennis about the issue with the rear thrusters?

Ross: They did. It's being worked on; he said they didn't think it'd be too big of a problem.

Collie: Well that's good. I don't know, I'd say I'm all good when it comes to the technicals. Anything else?

Ross: Yes, sir. I singled out some files I'd like to go over - just make sure you're not getting into anything you might not get out of.

Collie: Oh. Well, all right. Give 'em to me.

Ross: First concern is, obviously, your condition. You're keeping up with your anti-psychotics?

Collie: I'm having a new iteration developed as we speak. It'll be twice as effective for twice as long, with none of the back-sass - and we'll be able to push them out a million at a time. It's gonna do a whole lot of good, let me tell you.

Ross: Okay. I see you're all up to date on your exercises, all except for-

Collie: My therapist. Julianna? I had her fired. Said I needed to take time off. Not that I resent it - she's living it up right now over with one of my colleagues. Lovely girl - but work's what keeps me organized, strong. It's why I'd love to accompany you on your trip.

Ross: Right, about that - look, Professor-

Collie: What's on your mind, darling?

Ross: Sir, I'm not sure that you understand this is an explicitly military operation. Or what's at stake here.

Collie: You don't think I can handle it? Out there?

Ross: They say they've had a lot of practice, but…

Collie: Violet, my friend, I am They. Just-just the other day, I finalized work on another dozen launches. I mean, I understand why you, why would you-

Ross: Professor. I've known you since I was taken in. I don't understand why you're doing this - why you want to-

Collie: No, no, I understand… I'm old. Even if my dietitian doesn't want to tell me, I can feel it creeping up my spine, every time I fall asleep at night.

Ross: It's not-

Collie: No, it's more than that. It's… god, I don't know. I just can't stand it any more.

Ross: If you're stressed, there's-

Collie: It's not stress. God, I haven't felt more alive - not since college. You know me - I always tried, tried so desperately to keep aloof. Away from it all, just another worker bee.

Ross: It's why I looked up to you.

Collie: Thank you, dear. I only ask because- well, maybe because I am going a little senile. But you know that's it's never factored into what I do. I'd die before I'd let that happen.

Ross: I know.

Collie: I'd pull my weight. When I look up at that rock, I see a second chance. And I've always said how much I'd give for one, haven't I? If I could just have that- one more chance.

Ross: It's only human.

Applicant Status: Approved


[[collapsible show="+ Project Blue-92 - Operative Interview 3 - MED" hide="- -"]]


Interview EU-XXXX-LIGHTFOOT - Iteration: 22
Interviewer: Captain Ross, Project Director
Interviewee: Sergeant Major Willis Kane, CIA
Stated Goal: Enlist personnel with skills and qualities appurtenant to operational directives.
Subject Dossier: Sgt. Kane received experience in the Rhodesian military during the country's civil war, later being selected for membership in Squadron "C" and then the "Devil's Company" - an 132-man military organization responsible for large-scale retaliatory ethnic cleansing following conclusion of hostilities. Sgt. Kane's repute as a skilled Type Blue was tied to his status as a field medic, and in 1983 he defected from the group to the United States, who provided asylum and amnesty in exchange for his unique services. Sgt. Kane now operates a Foundation-sanctioned clinic for crippled and critically injured soldiers in Virginia, and has been recommended to the Project on special instruction.
Associated Observers: Thatcher Medford M.D. (CIE intermediary)

Ross: Good morning.

[Subject provides no response.]

Ross: Excuse me - sir? Are you with us?

Medford: I may have overestimated the dose. [Doctor Thatcher begins a preliminary examination of the subject.] Eyes are glassy. Mr. Kane? Can you hear me?

Kane: [Subject begins to stir audibly.] Where am I?

Medford: You're all right now Mr. Kane, you're just reacting to the medicine. Here - [Doctor Thatcher administers mild electrostatic shock.]

Kane: Ah!

Medford: That should be enough. Can you speak, Mr. Kane?

Kane: I'm… fine, thank you.

Medford: All right then. I'll leave you to be, if that's it.

Ross: Wait outside.

[Doctor Medford indicates assent and exits interview.]

Kane: Where am I?

Ross: You're in our facility. Were you briefed on the context of this meeting?

Kane: No. I didn't know I would be here until - now.

Ross: Well, that's fine. I've had several of you today.

Kane: What?

Ross: Nevermind. Mr. Kane, you're currently being interviewed for a sensitive military operation. I want to know if you have any qualms about leaving the Earth for an extended period of time.

Kane: …qualms? Of course. I have a practice, patients. I'm all they've got.

Ross: Do you have any living relatives? Family you might miss given time?

Kane: My parents are dead. I don't have a girlfriend. My uncle is - well, I don't really care about him. Does that cover it?

Ross: Very much. We've been looking for a medical officer - your file indicated that you possessed an innate capacity for the reconstitution of flesh, bone and muscle.

Kane: How do you - well, that much is true. It does take a hell of a lot out of me.

Ross: We possess similar capabilities. Were you to accept our offer, your practice would be well-accounted for, in most respects.

Kane: About that - what is it you're offering, exactly?

Ross: A search-and-destroy mission. We have an enemy, and it needs liquidating. It's attacked us before, and we're worried it'll do it again.

Kane: And my stake in this, is…?

Ross: We're looking for survivors of an abduction. Patients. Given your past decisions, we were told you'd make a good choice.

Kane: An abduction? Wait- didn't you say…

Ross: 200 of them. And we've been told that they're in pain.

Kane: Jesus. Look, I'd help if I could, but I can't leave-

Ross: The Agency has offered you up to us. The cloak-and-dagger was merely precautionary.

Kane: I believe you.

Ross: So- how about it? Shall I call the doctor back in?

Kane: What was that you said- about- an extended period of time?

Ross: Projections are optimistically in the decades. Skeptically, we may not return until the next millennium.

Kane: Heavy. So we just - leave all of this behind?

Ross: And return.

Kane: Do I have time to think about it?

Ross: I'm afraid not. I've got a great number of people waiting for me to take them up, instead; people who don't have your - unique perspective. Nor your talents.

Kane: My people. Can you get me an assurance in writing?

Ross: We're not leaving for at least another year. You can supervise the changeover yourself.

Kane All right. Let's talk.

Applicant Status: Approved


The launch date was set for 1 January 1994. During the interim, Proctors began to report a severe dearth of specimen LUMENS acquisitions, both active and inactive. Acquisition rates would only return to pre-flight levels until the latter's conclusion.

Lockheed delivered the craft to Launch Site 01 three months prior to the mission; following review by FEng and personal inspection by R&D Deputy Chief Sanderson, the vessel was cleared for operation and loaded onto Reserve Dock 08, to be stored under heavy guard.

[[collapsible show="+ ENG - DCR Intake Review - October 4 1993" hide="- -"]]

On 1/1/94+1200 EST, Project Blue-92 entered its Operational Phase.

[[collapsible show="+ Received Transmission, vol. 1 " hide="- -"]]

Flight Recorder Log - D1XXXXEX
4:05 - 6:24 (EST)
Status: TRANSIT - A


[[collapsible show="+ Received Transmission, vol. 2 " hide="- -"]]

Flight Recorder Log - D1XXXXEX
22:08 - :17 (EST)
Status: TRANSIT - BC

Gryphon: Do you have any family, agent?

Ross: I did.

Gryphon: And what did you think of them?

Ross: My father left when I was young. I only knew his body, when he was dead. My mother loved me.

V19: And you loved her?

Ross: Yes.

Gryphon: I had a family once. A little girl, before your bosses took me away from her. The gift is not inherited.

Ross: Where is she?

Gryphon: Oh, I can't know. My parents, maybe. Or an orphanage. I cried over her for many nights.

Ross: Do you still?

Gryphon: No. You know, that was one of the first things he took away from me. Inside. We are his family; all that's left, I suppose.

Ross: Soldiers?

Gryphon: Would you fight? To save your mother?

Ross: Of course.

Gryphon: As would I. That might be what he wants.

Five minutes pass. Agent Violet continues to make adjustments to flight path.

Gryphon: I read your report.

Ross: What about it?

Gryphon: You said that you would disobey them, for me.

Ross: Not for you.

Gryphon: Is it common practice?

Ross: You could call it that. We can't lie.

Gryphon: But you can omit. As I did. He asked for, many things, and though I couldn't resist, I did not give him our people.

Ross: It's different. I was born this way.

Gryphon: Or grown?

Ross: Born. The Foundation cares about you, more than you know. Me, too.

Gryphon: But you would hurt them.

Ross: I'd try. I don't think I'd manage it, though. They call it seeding - back when I was a kid. It's not a matter of control, it's a matter of loyalty, of love. In any case, it probably helped them realize how serious things are.

Gryphon: Sounds like what he did with us.

Ross: Yeah.

[[collapsible show="+ Received Transmission, vol. 3" hide="- -"]]

[[collapsible show="+ Received Transmission, vol. 4" hide="- -"]]

[[collapsible show="+ Project Blue-92 - Debriefing" hide="- -"]]

[[collapsible show="+ Project Blue-92 - Final Report - 92Ross - SEC" hide="- -"]]

Training Day

A story.

A man on his deathbed gathers up his friends. They have all served him well and justly, and it's time to divvy up the legacy of a life well lived.

He takes the wisest among them, and provides them with mandate: "Do what you should." He
thanked them, and they moved on.

He takes the kindest among them, the men of good character, and provides them with mandate also: "Do what you must." He thanked them, and they too moved on.

Finally, he takes the most loyal among them - those who, in good times and bad, stayed the course, echoed his sentiment, and stood firm against the winds of change. These men he took close to his person, embraced, and in the end, provided mandate, as he had the others:

"Do what you will."

They thanked him and he passed from this world.

The sun rising on the commune was a sea of orange-yellow that glinted off the guard-posts, search-lights and walls and cast grand shadows over the perimeter wall and the dormitory blocks in a way that the entire island was bathed in a kind of lustre. The palm trees bristling with fruit untouched on the surf just outside the main gate once more had the deep emerald green leaves shine in the golden hour.

In one such dormitory room, above his mother’s bunk, a sandy-haired boy creeps out of bed and throws on a pair of hiking boots.

Using the techniques Mr. Nakawa drilled into them every waking hour, he stealthily creeps out into the hallway and past the guards patrolling in intervals, and as he does this, he watches the lush color of their black uniforms and the intricacy of the weaponry and the badges of honor they maintain.

Without a man noticing, he slips from the building, out in the sandy streets, dodging the watchful eye of sniper rifles, moving from building until he sneaks over to the hole – an inconspicuous, almost insignificant, assuredly invaluable tunnel under the high, concrete barrier protecting the outside world, from the one within.

He uncovers the rocks concealing it and, without hesitation, dives in, his eyes adjusting the lighting as it changes from the slowly growing bright of the day to the borderline blindness of the fissure.

He wriggles himself through, cursing under his breath at the roughness of the Earth irritating his scars of the previous day’s exercises. He makes his way through to the top, seeing blue sky once more and leaping out to rush across into the forest.

The jungle is dense, and for a boy of his stature, daunting. He climbs over tree stumps and vines and plucks a leech from his ankle while moving up the stream. As he reaches the end he sees the entrance to the vast cavern he has been searching for.

He moves inside, the light gleaming into the dark, reflecting off stalacites from the ceiling, with the water leaking deeper into the Earth. He stumbles over rocks and boulders until, eventually, he reaches the oasis.

A small pool of water, at the center of the cave. A young girl in a sharp uniform sits near the edge of the glowing body, next to a dark-skinnend boy in an outfit for a man older than him.

He makes his way down without a squeak. They notice him only when he decides them to.

"We're all here," he says, startling the pair - though not so much as before. They turn to him, and he notices the red blotch on Elise's white cheek, and the weary, sleep deprived look in the eyes of Aaron.

"Elijah," Aaron said, "It's good to see you still living."

The trio moved to a circle, where they could speak quietly and intimately, with only their own company.

"They say," Elijah said, "That we are going to practice more techniques today. No more repetition."

"We're supposed to be experimenting," Elise whispered. "On real people. The ones in the jumpsuits."

"I'm finally done with the procedural," Aaron breathed, "It took so damn long, but I'm glad it's over."

Elijah looked at Elise, "He told me to give you another message."

"Really?" The girl's brown eyes glowed in the bioluminescence of the cave-creatures, their purple emanations the only sources of light to guide their path. "Tell me. Please."

"He says he's ready to meet. He'd love to meet you here. I told him I'd take him, tomorrow."

"What about me?" Aaron asked.

"About you, nothing." Elijah chuckled. "We can go rock hunting, or something."

"We still don't know how much they know."

"They know nothing," he proclaimed, boldly. "They do not suspect, and they will not remember three little children meeting in the caves. We will come back tomorrow, and I shall introduce you, Elise," he said directly to the girl. "Combat efficiency be damned."

"And you're sure you're okay with it?"

"I have no interest him, nor any of the squad - nor, anyone else." He added, sheepishly. Stronger, "I will take my body to my grave."

Aaron laughed. "We'll see about that."

"I hope so."

"…and so," Mrs. Partridge, Elise's course teacher lectured as the light from the 10:00 sun shined through the blinds of the Science Division building's first-year classroom - a fine, advanced area, full of diagrams, the class's latest tests with the DESG (D.irected, E.nergy, S.preadgun, a moniker Elise's friend joy was very happy to take responsibility for) and the new ballistic weaves, "It is my pleasure to advance you, to the second rung of our course."

Mrs. Partridge, a towering woman whose pitch-black bowtie did nothing to diminish the authority of her presence, adjusted the latter aesthetic piece and continued, "As each of you has been well informed, you are the unique among the students in our pool. Since its inception, the divisions of the Founder's Trust have accepted most specimens among the H. Sapiens variety in equal measure, with the exception of our own department. You are each among you, more, in mind and in body than your compatriots. Perhaps you have each attempted to test your limits in this area. This is perfectly normal. Come!" She shouted, and a man in full combat gear shoved a blindfolded prisoner in a jumpsuit into the room. He forced him onto his knees, and the class stood in awe of the sight.

"Now, you will have the unique opportunity to let me see which among you is ready for the advanced course, and those others who are not so proficient. Form a line, and begin."

They did so, their identical blue uniforms making them a sight to behold - at least in Elise's view. She heard screams of agony in her spot in line - the very last, as she had marveled at the organization of her comrades till it were too late - and try as she might she could not get a glimpse of the suffering. Ages seemed to pass, until she came to the front of the line.

Mrs. Partridge looked up from a clipboard, as she checked off boxes. "Elizabeth," she said, the name Elise despised. "Give us a taste."

She reached out with her mind towards the pitiable creature. She felt it, squirming and slippery, though not at all out of her control. She thought back to when she was a young girl, ordering Karajan to sit on her lap and massage her shoulder. She was just a cat, though. The man's brain was like an engorged version of hers. She tried to think of it that way, and had him stand.

"Good," Mrs. Partridge said. "Something a little deeper."

Elise struggled to make him rub his head and pat his tum. She ended up doing the same herself, to laughter.

Mrs. Partridge ignored it, "And, to finish off - self-harm."

Elise ended the loop and only just then registered what had been said. She looked at Mrs Partridge in confusion, and then saw - the man had deep, deep marks in arms, wrists, and neck. He was even bleeding in several places.

Without intending, she imagined the pain inflicted by such wounds, and their connection led to a crippling agony in her throat and hands. She fell to her knees and held her hands to her temples. The line of students recoiled and disformed in surprise. Mrs. Partridge wrote something down.

"Please continue the test, Elise. We are losing time."

Elise could no longer enjoy her time with the man. She could he feel, in the distance, his screaming at her, for help, and vengeance, and quiet. A deep pain arose in her chest as she moved the man's arm to his esophagus. With his own strength, she ripped into it, causing blood to leak away from the area and various viscera to exit the cavity she had created. In the back of his fading vitality, she felt gratitude.

Mrs. Partridge made a note on her clipboard. She got to her feet, shaking.

"Acceptable performance, Elise. To your place in the line." To the guard, she scolded: "Well, what are you waiting for? Bring in the next."

"And that is why, while the procedure's fine points may have been lost on the plaintiff," Aaron spoke to the 'Jury' of his peers, "It was perfectly within Ethical regulations, as set by precedence in Incident 3789-Beta-C." The court was a small one, and traditional in structure. The Administrative division's instructional plaza sat at the highest point on the Island, Mount Scranton, and from the windows shining in the hot noon it collected a temperature unparalleled over the other facilities on the Island. Prosecutor Garland watched his method attentively from the 'Judge's' seat, his gavel at the ready.

He continued, "The Committee has no right to issue a stop order on this essential action simply because it was not within Mr. Gavarrow's-" he looked at a Disposable Human in a suit, the 'Plaintiff' next to a guard in similar pomp for the occasion. "-faculative capacity, at the time. It is the Trust's recommendation that at this time, for costing the Foundation procedural system valuable on an easily resolved case of minutiae, he be remanded to Site-43 immediately for processing, to be reassigned to a case more befitting his capabilities. Thank you." He ended with a smile, which was returned by his classmates. He moved back and sat with Charlie and defendant's table, the former of which clapped him on the back.

Prosecutor Garland, however, had a different look on his face.

"We're going to a five minute recess. If I could see the defendant in my chambers?" The pronouncement took a moment to ingratiate itself to everyone in the room, and Aaron exchanged nervous glances with Charlie.

"It'll be fine," he whispered, "We've been working day and night. He probably just wants to congratulate you before the verdict. Go on," Charlie coaxed him, after Aaron made a thoroughly unconvinced grimace, "Go on."

Aaron stood up, as dignified as he could, and squeaked in his sneakers over to the Judge's quarters, which rendered as according Garland's tastes. They included: brown hardwood finish, a place overlooking the cliffs down below, a number of alcoholic beverages (one of which was currently being poured) and a desk with various objects of varying significance flanked by an American flag and Trust standard. Garland turned to address him.

"What are you doing?" He asked. Aaron confused, responded, "I'm sorry, sir?"

"What," Garland emphasized, "Are you doing? Didn't we talk about this?" When Aaron still blanked, he continued. "Your verdict. You were sublime. All we're talking about is the verdict, Aaron, my dear dear boy." He came closer.

Aaron suddenly remembered, and his cloudy eyes appeared to clear. "It was my determination that Gavaroww's punishment would only fit the circumstances. All he theoretically did was refuse to enter the chamber. He didn't actively sabotage to the operation."

"Aaron," Garland lectured, exasperated, "Who is that man out there?"

"Mr. Gavaroww?"

"Yes. Mr. Gavaroww."

Aaron shrugged. "I assumed he was disposable. There's a whole stock of them on the Island."

"And why is that, Aaron? Why don't we just use somebody else in company employ?"

"Presumably…" he racked his brains. "Well, I suppose, to make the session feel more real. To make have us consider our verdicts with the person in mind."

"Exactly. That, is it, exactly." Garland drank, and thumped his glass down. "So what is your major malfunction?"


"The whole point," Garland said, "Of acquiring a disposable specimen Prime in the first place, of the course itself, was to familiarize yourself with this aspect of 'guilt.' Disposable, Aaron. He's supposed to die."

"But…" He was cut off. "But what, Aaron? You were tasked with readjusting the defense into our offense. That's the basis of Trust policy."

"But why would we give up necessary manpower?" Aaron replied.

Garland said, "Aaron, that's the key. Maybe you overthought it, but the rest of your classmates seem to have understood this. We are here to rid ourselves of the dregs. We are here, because we must have the Committee, understand what is necessary. And what is necessary, Aaron, is as little as possible." He placed a hand on Aaron's shoulder. He felt helpless. "Now, my boy, you are perhaps one of the finest lawmen to have walked through my hall in the past three years. So I'm giving you one more chance. You will go back into that chamber, and condemn that man to death. Non-negotiable. Do it. Clear enough terms?"

Aaron was wordless. "Clear… enough?" The statement came out as a question.

"Good." Garland breathed heavy. "I look forward to our time together."

Garland walked out. Aaron was silent, frozen. He thought back to the endless nights of study and argument and theory in the Commune libraries.

Then, he straightened his tie, put on a smile, and walked back out of the office, past the Jury, towards Charlie. He remained standing as he addressed his peers.

"It is… the re-determination of the defense, that Mr. Gavaroww be immediately remanded to Site-43 for processing and… termination, of employment. Thank you, your honor."

Samuel roughly knocked him onto the sand. "Damn!" Elijah spit out blood onto the burning material. The beach was filled in a line with sparring partners, watched over by the crossed-armed Commander Rothstein and the ever-mysterious Mr. Nakawa. Samuel, a thick, tanned, burly boy without a shirt - as with the rest of them, pulled him up. "That's 3-0." He laughed. "You just need to hit a little harder, Eli."

"It's in the legs," he argued. "Besides, how the hell do you hit so hard anyway?" You're not that strong."

The ever-present, Commander Rothstein shouted, "Language, Elijah!" He shouted back, "Sir, sorry sir!" He thought a moment to reword his statement. "Besides, how the hot fuck do you hit so hard anyway, you fat piece of shit?"

"Better! Remember, hatred is love!" Rothstein yelled, and gave him a thumbs up. Samuel chuckled. They took their places again, and under his breath, Samuel whispered with each blow.

"Did you tell Elle?" He slammed his fist into Eli's ear, who took the opportunity to knee him in the gut.

"She's excited," Eli groaned, "No names. Just as you wanted."

"Good. I just want it to be her and me." He got Eli in a lock. "Thank you so much, for doing this. You have no idea how much it means to me." He threw him.

They landed on the ground in a cloud of dust, which promptly cleared. Eli coughed.

"No problem," he said. "I love you, man."

"Hold! Pair 7" Mr. Nakawa shouted from his post, and marched over with an energy that continuously surprised Eli - perhaps it was the whiteness of his hair. Immediately, all the boys took on a respectful stance, and the pair struggled to unwind and face him.

"Sir!" Samuel and Eli shouted in unison.

Nakawa stopped, his hand fingering the handle of his IJA ceremonial katana, reliably at his side. "You are weak this morning, Elijah."

"Sir, I'm trying my best, sir!"

"Your best is not enough, not today. Take your positions." Samuel and Elijah snapped into sparring stances. Nakawa continued. "I have viewed your progression with much interest. Your bond is strong, but the distribution is weak. Now you will prove me wrong. Samuel, you must fight with all your strength. Elijah, you must finish Samuel. At the end, I will determine where your future lies. Acceptable?"

"Yes sir!"

Then begin.

Eli didn't expect any mercy from Sam. From day one, they'd made it very clear: throw a match, thrown off the Island. Your family, your place in intellectual elite - reduced to dust, for compassion. Often an empty threat - he'd been doing it all morning, after all - but not at this distance. As such, Sam - with sorrow in his eyes, punched and kicked with a horrible fury. Eli could barely keep up, let alone attack. He needed to win, or they'd never the night together.

Sam knocked Eli off his feet, and the pair scrabbled in the sand. In desperation, his body aching and his arms nearly in lock, he bit him with all his might in the leg. Sam recoiled as blood gushed from wound, and Eli knocked into his jaw, struggling to keep him in a hold. He wildly thrashed as Nakawa watched with great interest. Realizing that he no longer needed to keep up the charade, Sam stopped.

Nakawa smiled. "In fighting the Americans, in a place not far from here, we were forced to slaughter our own brethren who they forced against us. After the war, when others from my unit decided to continue their work, I relinquished my command and came here. Do you understand the meaning of this story?"

Eli's muscles burned. "I don't know, sir."

"I slaughtered my brothers readily, with the same readiness that lost me many battles winning me, many more. I am congratulating you, Elijah. You may yet become owed to our Corps. Release your battle-lover."

The tension exploded as Eli released him from the hold, plowing Sam into the sand. He turned and gave him a grin.

Nakawa then drew his sword and put it forth to him. Elijah looked at the blade. "Your weapon is beautiful, Sir!"

"Take it." Elijah readily accepted the gift. "Thank you for letting me touch it, sir! It is of a very fine quality!"

"Kill Samuel."

Elijah paused. "Sir?"

"If you are to question me once more, Elijah, I will have you removed from the program. Kill this man."

Elijah looked at the sword, and then looked at Samuel. Samuel groaned.


Elijah looked at Nakawa. "Permission to take a leave of absence for heat-stroke, sir!"

Nakawa stormed forward. He removed the sword and slammed it back into its scabbard. He took up Samuel by the head and, with a wrenching movement, snapped his neck. The body collapsed into the sand. Eli watched it fall."

"Send him back to the Battalion." Commander Rothstein stepped forward, put a hand on Eli's shoulder, and ushered him away from the practices, which promptly resumed. He talked into a phone as they ran.

"Two more washouts. Get another bunk ready."

That night, Eli returned to the cavern, alone.

Aaron and Elise sat by the pool, as per usual. Once more, they looked around in confusion, then further when they saw he was unaccompanied. They sat in their circle and they talked.

"Where is the suitor?" Elise asked.

"He's dead," Eli said. "Washed out."

"And you?"

"Washed out. Maybe I'll make a good cook." His attempt at humor fell flat. He turned Aaron. "How about you?"

"I don't wanna talk about it." They both looked at Elise.

"Another time."

The three sat together in silence for some time. After a while, they fell asleep - snoring, in a peaceful bundle against the rock wall. They each escaped the horror in the quiet of their companionship and of their dreams.

Noche Oscura

The Beaver's dam was leaking. Inside his cell, the Inmate slumped alone against the brick-layered wall, listening to the rain and thinking of home.

The room had no windows; only the cage and a small partition where one could come and sit and talk with him. His wild beard and hateful eyes to little to entice his visitors, however, and they completed their stated goals as quickly as possible. Mostly, to attempt to torment him and wring information from his mind. His brain felt wet; a droopy, abused thing molded into various shapes and then left to dissolve in the water. He caught water droplets with his mouth; they never reached his tongue, of course.

He had tested the limits of the cell long ago. Many circles had been walked inside; he had banged his head against the wall enough to blow away the bits from his skull many times over. He had bit his tongue, which drew no blood, and healed itself on the hour. His attempts to build himself left his muscles feeling droopy and useless. He had held his breath for as long as he could, but air found its way into his lungs through some antique port they had drilled opened in his psyche. He did not feed; he did not drink. He did not perish.

OBSKURA, he decided, was perhaps the most anal organization in the history of America. He would die when, and as they decided. It was a time, he hoped, to come soon.

He had been in the cell for 435 days. The storm had been with him since the beginning, and it had not yet stopped.

He was left to determine the facts.

The place was not simply a construct of his mind; he knew that well. Before his incarceration, he had spent many months passing this place; it was physical and it rained often. But never had they faced such a monsoon, and he refused to believe they were still.

His beard had been with him since the start of it. He had no mirror, only his own fingers. What he could deduce was that it had grown a number of inches. His fingernails, too, had propagated themselves - long, filthy daggers - and his clothes had been worn down to a degree. Of course, he thought, they could simply be growing the facets externally, while extending his perception of time.

He counted thunderbolts. There were a fair few of them; crashes, each one almost indistinct from the other. But as his time grew, and he despaired further, and his old Commandant began to press him further for information - he began to lock down inside. And when there was nothing left to do, that was when he could hear - see - the patterns in this, tapestry of suffering they had strung together for his benefit. As time passed, he attempted to count the individual drops, soon proving it to be a fruitless effort.

The leak in the corner was a source of comfort. He believed that they intended it as a source of anger, and he did everything he could to keep up the charade - at first. Within six months he acquiesced to his evening activity of catching each one without letting it splash out of his mouth, before it promptly disappeared.

His end determination was that he was being held for perhaps a week. The single execution he'd witnessed, back in the old days, had taken a month from interrogation to the man's death by vivisection, an activity he'd used to rah-rah at in the square.

There were many things he used to rah-rah at. So much for it.

All he had left was the rain.

He tried not to think about the convoy. It came to him anyway; he couldn't sleep, but for some reason, they couldn't take away the dreams. Perhaps they choice not to. He used to cry out and scream and claw at his eyes as the nonsense overlaid with his conscious sight. He saw many things; the ride, from Montreal to New York, through the ice-swept roads of the Canadian border, the popping-sounds which changed his life, the wake-up call.

None of it mattered. He was alone. Water tapped in the corner.

He thought about dying. He knew it would come, eventually; he hadn't ever wanted it, and even for the first few months, he stuck out. But gradually - the laughter and joy he could see in his dreams, that which he'd sacrificed himself to protect, was no longer enough. He began to pray, and then curse, the only god he had ever known; finally, he was left where he had begun: in solitude. Without a cause to live for. And at the last he only wanted to be relieved of the storm, and the popping-sounds, and the water which pounded at his skull.

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