February Patreon Novella

This month’s Novella is Damage Control, exploring the aftermath of Skin Hunger, the first Atlantean officer of the Esoteric Forces of the United States, and Sergeant Fetu Miller’s continuing career! https://www.patreon.com/user?u=5359808 As always, it’s just a dollar a month to be a part of the patreon, which I’m updating even between the novels while working on Actus Deus, the next Atina LeRoux story.

The first of four chapters follows below the cut. Action, buddy cop comedy, spy thriller stuff.

Fenrir

USEF Report Dagon, section B (Biology), Paragraph 16-22, Rank HEL-6

The most unique aspect of Atlantean biology has nothing to do with their more obvious traits. While their dramatically varied appearances, underwater adaptations, and ability to interbreed freely between members of the species are curious, what stands out most is their cellular senescence.

There is none.

In a human being- in any living organism- this would result in cancer. Breakdown. The body consuming itself the moment that something goes wrong, under constant assault from its own cells. A different kind of entropy. This trait of Atlanteans is not universal- We have studied several who show normal cellular senescence, mostly children and juveniles. It appears to be a function of their connections with divine beings, pacts made on a grand scale with the gods they have created. Structurally, it’s reminiscent of the well-known effects of pact-making among human wizards. For the first time, however, we can see this as a cultural effect, and confirm that a wide-scale program of biological immortality is possible.

The probable mechanics are as yet unknown; Because of the inability of pacts to ‘heal’ cancer or other maladies that have already progressed to a dangerous level, it must be assumed that the pact works on a molecular level, possibly creating a template of the human member of the pact’s cellular structure, and refreshing them into this state. The fact that new mental connections can still form, and muscle tissue can grow stronger, leaves some substantial questions about this hypothesis.

This is one of two primary reasons for the Atlanteans’ HEL-6 threat level. The Atlantean population of 50,000 were extremely disciplined in their approach towards resource conservation, and still found themselves constantly threatened by a Malthusian Catastrophe. Part of this issue was their natural response to lengthened lifespans- that is, reduced rates of child-bearing. And part of it was simple outpacing of their food supply, combined with an extremely cautious approach to life.

If this knowledge gets out in the wild, it can’t be contained easily. We all will die, eventually, and a way to ward off the greatest terrors- Heart disease, failing organs, and the ever-looming specter of the Big C- is irresistible to most. We do not have the wisdom to live forever, or the heinous favoritism necessary to make it the province of only a few. We need a solution to this problem, a system of education to prepare people for a new state of existence. Unfortunately, there may be no way for society as we know it to survive this paradigm shift.

But oh, the possibilities it could open up. Pandora’s box is always tempting.

Chief Researcher Cherry H. Verne

When I was a child, a mere twenty-eight, I first learned how to channel electricity. I was born with a shape that was unusual among my people, and what most Atlanteans required training and skill to do, I was capable of by simple instinct. My father knew that this meant that I had a special purpose, a rare duty, and so, he knew that he had to give me up to the hunters, to be trained and to learn the ways of gods, how to hunt them, and how to protect our people.

When I was eighty-two, my training just finished, a malign god possessed one of the two greatest Godwhisperers of Atlantis. The other soon after sold his soul, his future, his race, to an ancient foe. I did not see that coming. I had learned everything that my people had to teach me, and it still wasn’t enough.

I was, by Atlantean standards, still very young. The tattoos on my skin proclaimed my prowess in my training, for lack of any great and legendary hunts to speak of. Perhaps if I was older, if I had found my skills sufficient to every task for a thousand years, if I had a long list of broken gods that I had slain tattooed across my skin, then I would feel resentful of my current state. I might be angry about the uncomfortable, rough clothing that human decorum insisted I wear. I might feel slighted by the fact that I had been greeted by a minor functionary rather than the leader of these humans. I might find the hour I had waited in the dry air to be an unbearable imposition, a disgraceful insult.

I was young, and nervous, and everything rode on this. So I simply felt gratitude as the door finally opened, and the Colonel of the United States Esoteric Forces waved me in.

He was, by human standards, old- Maybe even elderly. The hair covering his head was thinning, and not because he had shaved it, as the hunters’ traditions required of me. His skin showed wrinkles where gravity and time had pulled at it, and his body had not been youthful and vigorous enough to pull it back. And he was, to my understanding, not quite half my age.

“Alright, kid. The President made the call for me to interview you, while he’s waiting for the new guy to take him over. That gives us approximately one month before an entirely new president, who’s openly questioned the charity the US government has shown to Atlanteans, takes over. If I hire you, it is going to drive a wedge between me and him that may well be fatal to this nation, considering the sheer level of supernatural insanity filling the world. Two major sources of bad juju got cracked over the summer, one of them in your back yard. So why the hell should I give you a chance?”

I blinked. “Your head of state is going to what?”

“Tick-tock, whatcha got?”

I blinked again. “My people are on the verge of dying out. We are few in number, unable to hold territory not ceded to us, and we are capable of living where you can not-”

“Yeah, yeah, we’ve got nearly a score of Atlanteans working in the research division. This isn’t about Atlanteans working anywhere with us. I’m asking why you should be on the front lines. Why should I make you, a foreign national from a species that tried to wipe us out with divine weapons, into a part of the thin red line between humanity and the monsters in the dark?”

“Because I will challenge any agent you care to test against me in single combat, and best them.”

He raised an eyebrow, and snapped his fingers. A man stepped into the room from behind him. “Sergeant Fetu Miller. Master Sergeant of the Esoteric Forces, chief non-commissioned officer, and the man who is in charge of training you.”

“Good to meet you, young lady,” said the human. My eyes flickered over him. A human’s body was filled with electric impulses in random fractals, and belief that varied from person to person- almost always weak. Fetu Miller was not like that. In his body, the electricity followed strict lines and angles. He was like a living circuitboard. His spine was lit afire with a blazing energy, and where his heart should be was a generator. The only part of him that did not appear to be shot through with the angular lines of an artificial being was the brain. And that…

I could sense the malign god he was linked to. It wasn’t like anything my people knew. Not like anything that we made, at the very least. What was there, present in him, was only a crumb of that thing’s power, but it blazed-

“Sergeant, the recruit here thinks she can take you.” The Colonel leaned back in his chair, lifting his heavy leather boots onto the desk. “Can she?”

The ability to read the electricity in nerves is a tremendous advantage in combat. One that I was uniquely suited to using. The nerves are a living warning system, crackling with fury when someone is moving to strike a blow, different parts of the brain triggering. From a distance of ten feet, I could tell precisely what a human had planned from the parts of their brain that activated. They were not so different from an Atlantean- Practically the same, in most cases.

Sergeant Miller was not like that. The glowing lines didn’t change substantially as he moved forward. He squared off, turning sideways towards me. “What do you know about hand to hand combat?” He asked, his voice calm, unconcerned, as he faced me.

“I am expected to be able to kill disobedient gods,” I stated, entering my stance, sinuous and flowing, rocking from one ankle to another.

“Well, then.”

He surged forward without any warning beyond a brief flicker in his cerebrum. He lunged forward, testing my guard, one hand wrapping around my shoulder, the other going for my legs, aiming for a grip that would pull me into the air.

With a flex of my body, my skin became slimy. As he lifted me, I burst out of my clothing, sliding out with effortless grace from the neck of the formal outfit, and landing on all fours. Only the coils of copper wire around my wrists remained.

The sergeant discarded the slimy clothes, raising an eyebrow. He took a step forwards, and I stepped back. The two of us kept pace with one another, slowly circling.

“Aw, hell, someone do something!” said the Colonel, “All this pussy-footing around, I’ve got places to be!”

Miller lunged while my attention was on the Colonel, taking advantage of a split second of distraction. One of those huge fists struck me in the midsection. The slickness of my skin made it difficult for him to make direct contact, his fist skidding off of my midsection while I slid back, absorbing the blow. I still struck the wall hard enough to send a shock of pain up my spine, my head spinning from the strike. I saw him approaching me, lunging.

I drew my will in. It is difficult to describe how to release the charge in my electricity-generating organs to someone who does not possess one. The thick bands of electrocytes that took up a large portion of my torso contracted, and I felt the strange tension of their electric potential grow. I judged my moment, and as he swung with his right fist, I brought my hands out- catching his blow on one wrist, and striking his opposite shoulder with my other hand. There was a flash as I saw the trail the lightning blazed through him- And then something in him went dark, and the lightning was intercepted before it reached his shoulder.

His right arm hung at his side. His left arm held me pinned against the wall. It would be several minutes before I could release a burst like that again. He frowned. “That was a good shock. Enough to damage my motor control, but not enough to short out my entire body. You drove it through non-vital areas, too. If you’d wanted to kill me, you’d have gone for the base of the neck, or the top of the skull.” He checked me. “Ribs feeling okay?”

“Yes,” I said, sinking out of his grasp as he released me, and onto the ground. “You were hardened against electrical attacks. Circuit breakers at vital junctions.”

“Well, I knew you were coming,” he said, and grinned over his shoulder. “I want her, Colonel.”

“Ask, and you shall receive. Get her a damn rain-slicker or something, though. She’s going to invite fraternization with her tits out like that.”

An hour later, I sat in the sleek plastic garment. It was surprisingly ideal. Smooth to the touch, loose enough that it was easily discarded, and it would not conduct electricity, preventing any embarrassing discharges if I should find myself incapacitated. The color was a pleasing yellow. I looked up at the sergeant, and bowed my head to him once. The two of us sat in the back of the van as some other member of the Esoteric Forces drove. “Thank you for vouching for me, sir.”

“Sergeant. Always address me as Sergeant, or Miller if we’re sharing a moment. I didn’t nearly bomb a government building to get called ‘Sir’. That aside, I’ve got a few questions, I should warn you. Your continued status as a member of the Esoteric Forces is reliant on them. First, why are you joining?”

“My people are… reliant, upon the good will of humanity, at the moment. Anything I can do to nurture that good will can help my people survive.” I looked off to the side. “And I need to learn more about this world.”

“Hmmm. Your name- Yeagerta Niwha. What’s it mean?”

“Sergeant?”

“Every name’s got a meaning, even if people sometimes forget. My name- Fetu Miller. Fetu was a Samoan god of the night, the shining star. Miller… Well, some ancestor presumably ran a mill.” He grinned. “So Yeagerta Niwha. What’s it mean?”

“It is not a given name, exactly. More of a title that replaces- devours- my birth-name. It means the Hunter of Monsters.”

“Interesting,” he murmured. “You were able to fight. And well. I’m given to understand that most of your species doesn’t bother learning how to fight. Few personal conflicts, little crime, practically no encounters between you and humanity- Aside from a few very unfortunate ones. Hell, there wasn’t even much in the way of predators in Atlantis itself. So, where and why did you learn to fight?”

“Part of my training. Atlantis was peaceful. But there were still occasions when violence was needed. Most often if a god was mistreated and began to lash out. It was very rare, but it could cost lives when it happened- A risk we could not afford. As long as we were there, I was needed. Now…” The words lingered in the air.

“Don’t mistake things. You’re still going to be needed. But while you’re a member of the Esoteric Forces, you’re an American first, an Atlantean second.”

“Permission to ask an impertinent question, Sergeant?” I asked, hesitant. I had never been a member of a military before, but I knew of hierarchy.

“Granted.”

“You know of the threats out there. There are… dark gods. Things that could destroy everything. Humans, Atlanteans, the entire world. In the face of that… How can you remain fractured? My queen, Ku-kaili-moku-polemo… She was shocked when she discovered how divided, how fractured, the United Nations was. Why do you fight each other?”

Sergeant Miller seemed to consider the question for a long few seconds. “You know, there’s a phenomena- widely believed- that extraterrestrials, sapient beings from other planets, have visited the Earth. Some people think that the government covers up any evidence of it in order to hide the truth. Others think that the existence of aliens is hinted at by the government in order to justify the accrual of greater power.” He smiled. “People would treat the supernatural the same way, no matter how unquestionable it becomes.”

He leaned back against the chair, his eyes on the trees as they swept past, the strange great plants that grew on this world in spires, so stiff and proud, unlike the kelp of my home. After a long few moments, he sighed, seeming to gather himself again.

“Let me tell you a bit about the way we work. We monitor threats. Give them a fun little ranking system. You familiar with Norse mythology?”

“I am afraid not, Sergeant.”

“Well, that’s fine, this isn’t really based on Norse mythology. The guy who came up with it was a bit of a nerd, loved his comic books, took a lot from them. Fenrir, Surt, Hel, and Loki. These are the four threat classifications we use, with a little number to explain how dangerous we think they are.”

“Hmmm.” I frowned. “The names are vaguely familiar. The flow of them, at least.”

“Fenrir, the beast, is one of the bringers of Ragnarok. We use this designation for threats which are, so far as we can tell, unsophisticated. Their motivations are basic- Usually food, territory, fear, those kinds of things. They tend to be the ones that we fight the most, simply because there’s no negotiating with them unless you’re already in a position of strength. They’re also the least frightening, because they’re easy to manipulate, and usually don’t have the intelligence to predict the kinds of attacks we can bring to bear. They can be sapient, even cunning, but most of the time, if they were genuinely intelligent, they’d either have a motivation beyond survival, or understand that being dangerous to humans is bad for their long-term survival. There’s a subset, Jormungandr, for those which are- for one reason or another- not worth interacting with. Usually because they are either too powerful, and too passive.”

I nodded. “Such things were not unknown to the Atlanteans. On occasion, an animal which one was overly familiar with might become divine. These creatures were abominations, beasts given minds, and rarely used the gifts given to them well. It was considered quite a scandal, and the act of someone dangerously negligent.”

“Really? Hmmm.” His brows wrinkled. “You don’t have many domesticated animals?”

“A few. But it is considered extremely bad luck to name them, or otherwise treat them like people. Gods can be made from objects, the dead, or stories- To make them from animals is to grant divinity to a mind that already exists, rather than one that you make. They can be… dangerously unpredictable. Much of my duties revolved around such creatures.”

“Now how’s that for convergent evolution?” He grinned. “We had a Fenris style threat back in 2015. A lost plague god which had managed to find itself a cult. The cult itself was a separate threat, but the god, on its own, had extremely simple motivations and desires. Still nearly decimated the human race, though.” He sighed. “If I’d been up and running… Well, I might not have made the difference in that one, but could have saved an important asset.”

“Sergeant?”

Sergeant Miller smiled vaguely out the window. “Sorry. Old war stories. Next is Surt. The leader of Muspelheim, one of the Fire Giants, inimical, and destined to destroy the Earth at Ragnarok. There’s a certain kind of person who- Well, there’s no negotiating with them, there’s no dialogue with them. They’re intelligent, they can even act reasonable, but their ultimate goal is utterly destructive. Smaller threat levels may be devoted to the destruction of a specific actor- The United States Government, China, that kind of thing. Higher threat levels… Well, they want to see the world burn.” He turned his head to study me. “Do the Atlanteans know of the Horsemen? Conquest, War, Famine, and Death?”

I frowned. “We… knew of them. As embodiments of humanity. We thought we would flee them by entering-” I paused, my eyes widening. “That’s what it is.”

“What?”

“The power in you. The thing that lets your body stay alive in spite of how much you’ve given up. You made a pact with…”

“In this place,” he said, his voice suddenly cold and stormy as an arctic sea, “you will find a lot of people trying to make up for past failures.”

“I am sorry, Sergeant. Please, forgive my prejudices.”

He waved a hand. “That’s not the important part. What’s important to me are your senses. You can sense divinity, like the rest of your kind. Correct?”

I nodded.

“That’s important.” He smiled. “Next, Hel. The lady of the underworld, the keeper of the unrighteous dead. These are rarely destructive forces, but they’re still a danger, because they represent a new paradigm. They do not want to destroy, necessarily, but the danger is that their philosophy, their concept of the world, will become infectious, to the detriment of humankind.”

“I see. Like the Dead Ocean, or Ku-Thule; Whoever might survive the change of the world that they would inflict would no longer be recognizable to us as… people.” I frowned. “The scale of these foes are… intimidating.”

“By and large, any individual one of these creatures would have no success. The problem is if they have the chance to unify, or aggregate enough power unchallenged. We strangle those threats in the cradle. And last…” He sighed. “Loki. The God of Mischief. Bringer of betrayal, unsettler of houses, so on and so forth. Loki classification is… rare, if only because it’s kind of an esoteric threat. They don’t want to burn everything down, and they don’t want to change things. They’re seeking freedom, more than anything else. The right to pursue their own path. A laudable goal, but-”

“But one that disrupts. I think I have discerned the common thread between these threats, Sergeant. They are not about destruction, but disruption. The violation of the status quo. Unpredictable consequences, and the like.” I nodded softly. “My people know the danger of sudden changes, discontinuities in the established order. And I would suppose that they are somewhere in the list of threats?”

“Hel-6. Don’t get me wrong. We don’t fear the Atlanteans conquering us, or killing us. Ku-kaili-moku-polemo’s actions, both before and after contact, have created a great deal of good will. We don’t consider you an active threat.”

“But a passive one,” I said, softly. “The introduction of any new technology, any new idea, can be a threat.”

“The issue of your biological immortality already has some of our tech boffins pulling their hair out. And on top of that, you’re capable of detecting divinity. Is that an ability you can teach to me?”

“I… don’t see why not. Humans have always been capable of it, though few recognize it for what it is, and fewer know how to hone the sense involved.”

“Exactly.” He shook his head. “Imagine if that skill started spreading? Hell, we don’t have to imagine, there’s already been tests in half a dozen countries, and results are starting to show. Wider American culture hasn’t taken much notice of it, but they will. Especially when they start noticing walking wells of divinity among them. When they start to realize that there are monsters in the cracks of the world, and among them. When the truth comes out, how are people going to react?”

“Ah,” I said.

“Yeah. So, we have to get ahead of it. Keep people from losing their shit. Preserve the status quo.” He grinned. “Isn’t that what the heroes always want?”

“I see.” I turned towards him. “The Atlanteans are no strangers to preservation. But I must note… We nearly all died because we tried to keep our world the same.”

“Ah,” he said, grinning. “The other side of the coin. See, the Esoteric Forces’ job isn’t to stop change. It’s to understand it. To soften its blows, to understand what it’s going to do to us. The proposition of biological immortality could destroy us as a society, but…” He looked down at his hands, slowly opening and closing them. I heard the soft whirr of mechanisms from inside of him. “People might respect life a lot more, if it didn’t seem so short.” Then he looked up. “We’ll have you meet with Cherry tomorrow. She’ll be able to tell you a bit more about the research side of this. But first…” He narrowed his eyes. “What do you see outside?”

I looked out the window, and frowned. The van had been driving for some time. It crept down a mountain road. I considered the question, and the context. It was unlikely he was asking me a philosophy question, or to describe the beauty of the city. He had been interested, by my ability to see. And what, specifically, I could see.

The world of humans, the dry land, was an alien place in many ways. Compare it to Atlantis. Scents were muted, the air dry and harsh on skin adapted to be continuously underwater. My gills remained tightly shut, giving a faint sensation of discomfort that I had grown used to over the past few months. Electrical impulses were muted, almost invisible due to the air gap. And divinity…

It was a wasteland of gods. What few artifices were old and well-maintained enough to even support a god were wasted and muddled. Those humans who lived here painfully short on belief. It made the exception stand out like a flare.

“There,” I said, pointing down the road. “About two miles that way. If you’re looking for something powerful and malign, it’s down there.”

“Really?” Said Sergeant Miller, an eyebrow raised. “Two miles? And you can tell it’s malign?”

“The… There’s not really a good word for it in your language. Call it the musk of divinity. I can taste it with great sensitivity. There is a being empowered by belief in that direction, and that belief is not pleasant. Fear stands chief among its flavors.”

He nodded. “Would you be able to pinpoint its location?”

“Easily.”

He smiled, teeth shining in the dim light of the van. “Over the past forty years, we’ve had half a dozen missing person cases in this area. Girl Scouts, a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses, hitch-hikers. Police investigated, and never found anything. We’ve had suspicions of a supernatural entity here for a long time, but they were elusive enough that we couldn’t spare the manpower to hunt the thing down, and dangerous enough that we couldn’t pass it on to the regular police.”

“And so, you need someone skilled in hunting. Someone who can follow the tracks that you cannot see.”

Miller nodded, and knocked twice on the window separating us from the van’s driver, pointing down the road. “The Roman Legions were a powerful force, but specialized. They had shit for cavalry, shit for skirmishers. The Romans could have trained more horsemen, but they didn’t have the tradition for it. They found themselves living near cultures which did have those traditions. And so, they made auxiliaries. That’s what I want. The Esoteric Forces has strengths, and when it plays to those strengths, it’s unbeatable. But our intelligence-gathering…” His brow wrinkled, a dark expression playing across his features. “We’ve had some bad situations happen because we didn’t know our enemy. Because we didn’t have the right flexibilities.”

“I see.” I looked up, and pointed. “There.”

A gravel roadway led up the side of the mountains, into the woods. The sergeant tapped the window twice, and the van came to a stop. “You stay back, prepare to intervene if it makes a break for it, or if it overpowers me.” His eyes went down to the coiled copper wire around my wrists, and back up to my eyes. “I’ll go up the front driveway; You go through the trees.”

The air was cold, and harshly dry. I studied the terrain. It was a new problem, moving stealthily on land. The experience of hunting in a medium where sound and sight ruled over scent and touch and the spark of electricity was novel, but not beyond me.

The sound of Sergeant Miller crunching up the gravel pathway, for example, made it nearly effortless. I shadowed him up the hill, my footsteps masked by his, my stance low, keeping my senses aware, focused on our destination. The musk of divinity was thick in the air.

The building where the divine energy was focused was old, dilapidated, snow crusting the shadowed places around it, dead leaves caught in gutters. It was a dead building, and frankly, it was rather surprising to see it still holding together. I could see why few people would cross its path. The divinity remained still as the sergeant stomped up to the door, dressed in a long black robe with a white collar, and struck the door three times with one gigantic fist.

The divinity did not move. The sergeant knocked again, and something caught my eye.

A delicate thread hung in the air between two trees. Almost invisible, like a current beneath the water- but it was charged with divinity.

“Sergeant! Trap-”

I was already moving, which was what saved me, when a large pile of leaves shifted and the creature threw itself at me. Its divinity was masked, almost nonexistent, and its appearance matched- gaunt, human but strange, brown-skinned and ribs standing out against the skin, dressed in ragged once-white clothes. It was stronger than it looked, lunging at me with a blow that took a chunk out of one of the nearby trees. Denuded branches rattled as the tree tilted, and then fell, while I scrambled backwards in a series of leaps and dives.

The aberration kept up with me, moving with a bizarre and unsettling series of pacing steps. It reminded me almost of a crab, but faster, sharper, more graceful. It lunged again, and bright teeth shone in the light as it lunged for my face.

Miller’s fist interposed itself, and the teeth sank a short distance into his arm before breaking on the inhuman mechanisms beneath. His other hand grabbed my wrist, pulling me behind him. Miller cursed as the creature backed off, the skin rapidly rotting and necrotizing, turning black and decaying, revealing the whirring mechanisms beneath. “Important piece of intel, don’t let them bite anything you can’t afford to lose.”

The creature’s eyes darted, from me, to Miller, and back to me. It took a step back, and then, as he lunged with a haymaker that barely missed it, lunged away. It made it nearly twenty feet before the copper wire Miller had pulled from my wrist and wrapped around its waist with his ‘missed’ blow went taut, still wrapped around my wrist. The creature hit the ground, nearly dragging me off my feet. I took a deep breath, and released the charge that had been building in me.

The creature convulsed once, wildly, and went still on the ground. I could see it breathing quickly, and sent a second charge through the creature. This time, it was truly unconscious. I glowered down at the creature. “Should I execute it, Sergeant?”

“No.”

My eyes flickered over to him. “It’s killed humans-”

“Yeah, I know.” He sighed. “Welcome to the nature of the situation. The Roman Auxiliaries, they were offered a deal. Twenty-five years of service, and they could retire, they and their children rendered citizens of the Roman empire by their service.” He walked over, and carefully unwrapped the copper wire from where I had tied it, tossing it over to me. “This thing is an animal. Defending itself, and feeding, and not knowing what was right and what was wrong. That doesn’t mean it’s innocent. But you can train an animal.” He looked up at me. “Is that a problem?”

“No, Miller,” I said, trying to hold back the tension, the uncertainty. “I am sorry I did not detect its ruse. I will be better next time.” I reached out, stroking a finger through the lines of silk, studying them curiously, holding it up in one hand. “It’s strange. The creature seems to have invested much of its divinity into these threads. It bundled them into a nest within the building- That’s the presence of power I saw in the first place. Should have realized it wasn’t moving.” I slowly lifted my finger away, watching the gossamer thread follow. Still so much to learn.

“Hell, you spotted it, Niwha. Handy. And you kept your head in a firefight.” He crossed his arms, one metallic and covered in tatters of flesh. “This is what I want you for. Helping me hunt down these things. Capturing the ones that we can. Killing the ones that we can’t. What do you say?”

“Nothing would please me more, Sergeant,” I said, bowing my head. “But where are we taking it?”

“Ah.” He grinned. “Well, you need to meet the research staff, I need to get my arm repaired, and it needs to be put into secure holding while we see if it can be useful. Thankfully, it’ll only take one stop. You’re going to get to see the Menagerie.”

USEF Report Ripper, Section X (Threat Assessment), Paragraph 5-8, Rank FENRIS-J-5. OLDMAN clearance required; If you are reading this and are not the Colonel, there is probably a gun aimed at your head right now.

It may seem odd to classify a simple artifact weapon as high as FENRIS-J-5. While the knife’s previous actions have caused an impressive body-count, it’s within the range of a mortal serial killer, without the purpose or power necessary to be ranked higher. In light of its relative docility and apparent capabilities, it would normally not rank above a FENRIS-2, at the most.

Near the end of the conflict in New York City during August 2016 (Need to consider a good name for this that doesn’t sound as stupid as the media’s ‘Summer of Terror’ or EFUS’ preferred ‘The Great Jackoff’), the goddess Amaterasu (See USEF Report Lucky Dragon 5 H8) manifested herself fully, confronting a small group of mortals, seeking to recover the person responsible for the conflict. Police Captain Dane Larson (See USEF Report Elektra L3) confronted the goddess, and with the use of the knife, apparently scared her off enough that she hasn’t confronted those involved since then.

Amaterasu is not known for being risk-averse. Either the captain pulled off the bluff to end all bluffs, or the knife is vastly more powerful than we understood. In fitting with our standard operating procedure, we are assuming the latter. The reason for the relatively low threat level is because currently, the knife is not taking any action, and is in the hands of a relatively uninvolved civilian. For now, best practice is to keep an eye on it, and leave it be. Incidentally, this same incident convinced us not to provoke any of those involved after the conflict.

Specific instances of noted abilities, limitations, and psychological tendencies may be found in Index B.

Chief Researcher Cherry H. Verne

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