Damage Control Chapter 2: Surt

USEF Report Dagon, section L (Linguistics), Paragraph 1-3, Rank HEL-6

The Atlantean language is surprisingly familiar, and offers great insight into the spread of language across the world, and a common origin to many languages. Proto-Indo-European is well known as one of the most common ‘base’ languages, and its influence can be seen everywhere from Portugal to Persia. (also, technically, nearly a thousand miles east of Persia, but leave me my wordplay to enjoy.)

Atlantean language spans a substantially greater range. The first instincts of linguists, confronted with it, is an odd pidgin or creole of German and a variety of Polynesian dialects, a combination which is as bizarre as it is improbable. These two cultures had absolutely no contact for most of human history, recorded or not, and little if any combined culture.

It could simply be a vast coincidence. It could be a consequence of the Atlantean diffusion. It could simply be one titanic joke being played on linguists the world over who think that word-choice has meaning. Nevertheless, it provides us with an easier jumping-off point than if we did not have the connection in the first place. Atlanteans have shown a surprising facility for picking up human languages, one which has eased integration substantially.

Chief Researcher Cherry H. Verne

“The problem with big, open deserts, and remote ocean bases, is that on top of being a pain in the ass to supply and staff, they are not actually all that secret in an era of high altitude spy planes and satellite photography,” said Miller, sitting in the front seat of the heavy pickup truck. I sat next to him, wearing my yellow rain-slicker, shivering a bit as we drove through the snow-dappled forest. “Sure, it’s all well and good to be a thousand miles from the nearest community, but everyone’s going to know you’re up to something. And thus…” He gestured upwards.

Atlantis had modest plant-life. Kelp, algae, a coral system. All quite attractive, in their own ways. But no natural thing there had grown like these. The trees were sleek and rough-barked, growing to tower above the rough and sandy road, creating a canopy. It was both like coral, and utterly alien. “What did you say this place was called?”

“The Pine Barrens.” He grinned. “Lots of legends around this place. Hell, going all the way back to 1909. Now, I’m fairly sure the Menagerie was built in the 90s, but who’s to say it was the first facility the EFUS had here? There isn’t a lot of history or facts kept on archive about the EFUS, but I’ve seen case files dating back to the 1700s. Probably just a hoax, someone’s idea of a joke, but…” He shrugged. “That’s the thing you learn about this special ops work. Everything gets denied, and the things that are admitted are usually just there to distract you from something bigger.”

“Distrust seems… very difficult. I prefer things simple and straightforward. Hunting, knowing your prey, knowing how to find it.” I looked out the window, frowning. “I fear that may make me a liability.”

“Hell no. You handle the tracking and the tasering. I’ll get between you and the politics.” He grinned. “It’s what a good Sergeant should do.” He leaned back in his chair and made a low, contented sound, a growl low in the back of his throat. He seemed perfectly at ease, despite the thick bandages wrapped around one hand, cloaking it in white linen that had been stained black here and there.

“Does that hurt?” I asked, softly.

“Eh. I don’t have pain sensors built in. The damage was only, well…” He chuckled. “Skin deep.” He was quiet for a moment, and looked over at me. “You know, you barely reacted to seeing my hand stripped bare like that. I’m pretty sure your kind don’t make much in the way of advanced cyborgs. I was expecting… Well, hell. I don’t know. A little prejudice. I get plenty of it among humans. Just scares them to see this kind of thing.”

“I can see what is human in you very clearly, Sergeant,” I said, looking out the window. “All humans, Atlanteans included, rely on their tools to define themselves. Tattoos, piercings, clothing, weapons- Is there anything different about a prosthetic? They are still a part of you, even if they are not flesh.”

“Hrn,” he said, ending the conversation on an ambiguous note. “There it is.”

The road ended in a large, wide concrete foundation, covered by some sort of canvas fabric which had been raised with tent poles. A large circle drawn in chalk with a massive H in the center dominated one side of the foundation, with a bank of large elevators beyond it. Miller got out of the truck, and I followed, shivering in the cold. The two of us approached one of the elevators. We stepped in.

“These things always take forever,” he growled. “I’m convinced the base is just a few feet underground, and they make them slow as tar so it feels like we’re going into the center of the earth.”

I watched the glowing electric cables through the walls. I could only see the closest through the thick stone, but he was right. They were moving very slowly indeed. “You’ve stabbed the shark in the gills there, sir.”

He grinned. “Finally. I’m going to rag Cherry about that to no end.”

The base itself was the kind of clean, sterile white that humans seemed to find soothing. Personally, it reminded me of being trapped under a glacier, and the office of Chief Researcher Verne, paneled in wood and filled with books and other gewgaws, made for a very pleasant change. The unconscious demon strapped to her table muddled the effect, though. She smiled as the two of us entered.

“Good job bringing this one in, you two. Far as I can gather from examination and venom samples, it’s a brown recluse spider. Damned if I know how exactly one got the spiritual energy necessary to become a demon, considering the lifespan and shyness towards humans. Examining the web revealed distinctive patterns- We think it was using the webs as a sort of food storage, slowly terrorizing a human while using the energy gained to weave webs, which it would then survive off of in a low energy state…” She frowned. “Very curious.”

“Great, Cherry. Can we keep it from attacking people?”

“The new class of implants should take care of that. After that fiasco with your cortex bomb, the Colonel was able to argue for a strict need-to-know policy. The only people with the transmitter codes to activate it will be you, me, and the Colonel himself.” She smiled. “Nice and trustworthy. It’ll shut down all electrical impulses from the thoracic vertebrae down, until the counter-signal is sent. So, even if it is used, it’ll be less… You know, immediately fatal. I wouldn’t leave it on for long, though- She won’t be able to breathe.” Then she sighed, and clicked her tongue. “For gods sakes, go to the bio-lab, get that hand fixed. It’s morbid as hell.”

“Yeah. Stick here with the doctor, Yeagerta, she’ll fill you in a bit more while I’m busy,” said Miller, with a nod to me, before ducking out through the door. I was left alone with the rather intimidating woman

“So,” said Cherry, a sly smile spreading across her face. “You’re an Atlantean.” She held a small welding torch, and the smell of burnt flesh filled the air, making me wince. It was not a healer’s room. It was the room of a destroyer. That was okay. I felt at home here.

“Yes.”

“Heard a bit about you. We’ve got half a dozen Atlanteans working in the menagerie, easily a hundred times that in the US government as a whole. I don’t buy the whole ‘I want to do good’ thing- There are a lot of ways you could do that without risking your life.” She looked up at me, an eyebrow raised. “So what is it? Deathwish? Sadism? Secret plan to destroy humanity?”

“We are both a part of humanity. Those who thought otherwise, on both sides, were merely ignorant to the truth. As to my reasons… Every society needs violence.” I sighed, and shook my head. “So long as dissent is possible, so long as violence is possible, there must be sanctioned violence to counter it. The more peaceful and serene that society is, the further that violence must be kept from those who benefit from it.” I waved a hand at the demon lying across the ground. “This is a violence hidden from the public, but still necessary. I know that our two races’ fate will hang on the balance of how we use that violence. If I want my people to be safe, I must be that violence.”

“If you want a thing done right, you have to do it yourself,” she said, and smiled. “I can dig it.”

“And what of you, Chief Researcher Verne? How did you come to be the kind of person who could slice open a seemingly human creature’s spine, and insert a device to control their body, while-” I raised an eyebrow, as I noticed a curious white container, producing an aroma suggesting blended spices, “-you eat your lunch?”

She smiled. “Well, three things. First, this woman’s murdered at least a dozen people according to open police reports and the bones we dug up around the house. Second, she’s not actually human, and is part of a species that doesn’t usually have sentience, let alone sapience. And finally…” She fell silent for a moment, and set down her welding torch. “You know, I’ve discussed a lot of subjects, but I don’t think I’ve talked with Atlanteans about space travel. What do you know about the stars?”

I shrugged. “Distant lights. We did not have them in Atlantis, and even in our heyday, we knew only that they were unimaginably distant. The revelations of this universe- worlds beyond measure- has been… Not precisely transformative, but unexpected.”

“Worlds beyond measure,” said Cherry, her voice soft, as she stared pensively into the distance. “A good phrase. Do you know, when we first learned about your existence, when we first confirmed that you were a group capable of forming pacts, empowering gods, and reproducing normally- In other words, not a supernatural species- It was the first time we’d ever found anything like that? And when we found out that you were humans, genetically equivalent, an offshoot changed by your exposure to another world, it was such a profound…”

Here, she paused, sighed, and looked down at the unconscious figure lying across her desk, the corners of her lips pulled down into a melancholy frown.

“Disappointment.”

“I am sorry,” I said, not sure what else to say.

“It’s hardly your fault. But the prospect of alien life, truly alien, something from another world, something not human…” She sighed. “This poor creature in front of you is the closest we come to finding it. An animal infected with a human mind, with human thoughts and needs and instincts, with no choice in the matter.” She looked up. “Countless worlds. And only one sapient species that we know of. Broadcasting our existence is simple- child’s play. The universe has been conducive to intelligent life for fourteen billion years. And yet, all we see out there is… silence. Unbearable, unending silence.”

I didn’t answer. As the air conditioning hummed, and Cherry H. Verne’s soft brown eyes held mine, I studied her for the first time. I saw the frantic, white-hot belief in her. Among my people, she would be notable. Among humans, she was close to unique. All of that belief, and nowhere for it to go. “It suggests an ominous possibility.”

“We have a name for it,” she said. “The Great Filter. The unknown enemy of sapience. Countless theories, of course- Perhaps life is rare. Perhaps sapience is rare. Perhaps we destroy ourselves. People have concocted fanciful tales of galactic empires and berserker probes, but I don’t hold with that. Those would be localized. There would be evidence, elsewhere. But everywhere we look, there’s… silence.” She tented her fingers. “Perhaps we’ve weathered the storm. Perhaps it was life or sapience or disease or the atomic bomb that was the great nemesis. But it would be an act of absolute arrogance to believe that humans are special.” She shook her head softly. “I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet.”

“So, you joined because…” I prompted her, feeling unsettled in the pit of my stomach by her statement.

“H.P. Lovecraft was a popular writer, though only after he died. He believed that the universe was cold and inimical. I’m inclined to agree. He believed that humanity was fated to change, to become twisted, and horrific. That the only way life could survive was to lose everything that he saw as worthwhile in it.” She smiled. “He was a bigot and a short-sighted fool. Life demands a harsh toll, but there’s little we stand to lose by changing ourselves.” She looked down at the demon. “So, Yeagerta. You ready to put her unconscious if that implant doesn’t work?”

I blinked at the sudden change in subject. “What-” But Chief Researcher Verne was already snapping her fingers.

The creature’s eyes snapped open. They flicked from side to side, panicked, feral, mad. The rest of her body didn’t move in the least. The Chief Researcher smiled. “Good morning, sunshine. Do you want a job?”

“What?” asked the creature, its voice blunt. “What job?”

“Simple enough. You killed people. You probably thought you had to do that to survive, but you were wrong. I’d wager you fed off of fear. The connection you maintained with humans as their captor, offering them a hope of escape, the only face they saw as they slowly starved to death.” She looked up at me, and smiled. “I imagine you’re finding yourself quite hungry at the moment.”

“My purpose,” hissed the creature, its head lolling to one side to glare hatefully up at me. I returned its gaze without emotion.

“Yes, yes. Now, you have a choice of a new purpose. You can serve, and earn the right to be a human.” She smiled, and there was something chilly as the silent universe in her expression. “Or you can refuse, and earn the right to be… laboratory material.”

“Survival,” hissed the creature. “Warmth. Food. A mate. Another day.”

“That’s the spirit,” said Verne, the cold vanishing from her face like frost in the sun. “We’ll get someone in to debrief you and explain the terms of your survival. For now, we’ve got a meeting.”

The two of us walked through the corridors of the complex, Verne carrying a binder under one arm. I passed the time by watching the cables. The arrangement of the corridors were such that the sense of direction quickly became confused- Favoring sixty or hundred degree angles for corridors, rather than 90. If not for my ability to track the wiring in the walls, I would have quickly become lost. This topmost floor appeared to be primarily made up of research labs, medical quarters. It was all so… repeated.

“Getting used to the industrialization thing?” said Verne, a smile running across her lips. “I’m told it’s disturbing to Atlanteans. The whole… sameness.”

“To be unique, to be cherished, is to be strong. We don’t go in for… mass production.”

“Yeah. We noticed that,” said Verne, smiling. “It explained a lot, learning about your people. The inability to mass-produce enchanted objects, the relatively short lifespan of magically enhanced equipment. Hell, we’ve got an artificial intelligence program here that’s designed to take advantage of the tsukumogami principle. Still not much luck with that.”

“Such projects often take years at a time,” I said, softly. “And the coordinated input of many thousands.”

“Yeah. It’s a pain in the ass.” She sighed. “This meeting is mostly bureaucratic. Our closest allies on the continent are- naturally enough- our only two neighbors. Canada’s Royal Mythic Police and Mexico’s Cuerpo de Fuerzas Extrano share a common issue- Primarily, the remaining supernatural beings left behind by the various Native American civilizations.”

“Of course,” I said. I was no stranger to humanity’s genocidal tendencies. There was a reason my people had left. The rest was all Greek to me. I hadn’t memorized 90% of the states, let alone the countless other countries of the world.

“The Mythies are relatively easy to get along with, sharing a belief in rehabilitation, but they’re kind of a soft touch. They’re far less willing to lean on supernaturals. Lot of guilt. Recent upswing in native recruits, which has helped their knowledge base, covering some of their weaknesses in actual field assets. The Cuerpo…” She frowned. “They’re a bit more hardline. There’s a lot of history here, but what you fundamentally need to know is that they sprung off of the government forces dedicated to fighting the drug cartels. The cartels drew upon supernatural resources, and as such, the government forces have a… Well, bluntly genocidal approach to things. Even making pacts is illegal. They rely more on military hardware bought from the United States, and a relative lack of oversight.” She sighed. “Messy.”

She stopped at a door, little different from any other, and pushed it open.

“-is an unconscionable violation of human rights. Sentencing without hearings or the right to a qualified attorney-”

“Human rights, abuelita. There’s an important word there.”

The room was spacious, light filtering in through windows. I could see the powerful electrical sources behind the windows- The light was thoroughly artificial.

A mahogany table sat in the center of the room, with close to a dozen chairs around it. Three were currently occupied, one by the Colonel, the other two by the two women who had just been speaking. The one opposite the Colonel was a small, wizened woman, with long, silver-white hair, dressed in a loose dress that looked inappropriately breezy even for the air-conditioned room, let alone the weather outside. Seated between the two, facing the door, was a younger woman, whose eyes were hard as flint. Her hair was cut nearly to the scalp, leaving a thin fuzz of black, interrupted above her left ear by a scar that ran from near the eye, all the way to the back of the head.

“Well, well,” said the scarred woman, her eyes twinkling, leaning back in a refined and dignified military uniform. “The offshoots. What are you staring at?”

I tilted my head. “I thought pacts with the supernatural were illegal under your government,” I said, my eyes drifting across her. I could see it, there, the dull gray of the supernatural pact dimming her belief. One of the risen dead.

“Keep your gaze from my soul,” said the woman, her voice even and sharp as a knife’s edge.

“Fuck’s sakes, Pagan, everyone in this room knows you’re on the supernatural take,” said the Colonel, taking a pull on a cigar, bent over the table with an expression of supreme aggravation. “Way to buck the stereotype there, by the way.”

“The subject at hand,” said the scarred woman, brushing off the mockery without any sign of annoyance or uncertainty. “The Atlanteans.”

“You know that one was taken out of our hands,” said the Colonel, a slight grin spreading across his lips. “How many times have I complained about that unpredictable prick? He got involved in something too big, and wound up making a good impression. Luck of the draw. Could have happened to any of us.” He puffed on the cigar, and his eyes flickered to me. “Hey, Niwha. Can people fool that vision of yours?”

“There are techniques. They can be shared. Difficult, but possible.” My eyes flickered to the two women. “The more people who know of such techniques, the less useful they will become. That is the nature of secrets.”

“Well, our allies can keep secrets, can’t they?” said the Colonel, grinning toothily. “Listen, I’m not interested in any of the tribalism shit. We’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

“Ah, yes,” said Pagan, the scarred woman, her expression empty. “The ‘Horsemen’.” She raised both hands as she said the word, palms flat, and crooked the index and middle finger of each hand twice.

“You know,” said the old woman, a slight smile running over her lips, “I remember my parents talking about the Soviets. Those mysterious monsters on the far side of the world. The reason why we had to leave our home, and get settled in that barren shithole that I grew up in.” She narrowed her eyes. “It was shit then, and it’s shit now. The ‘gods who rule above the gods’, dedicated to our destruction. I’ve met fucking gods.” She produced a slim cigarette and a purple plastic lighter, flicking one to light the other, and puffed twice. “They didn’t do much good for me.”

“Not this conspiracy paranoia shit, Smith,” growled The Colonel. “The Paradise situation-”

“A U.S. superweapon- One which we were told was foolproof- going haywire,” said Pagan, holding a hand over her mouth and coughing delicately. I sympathized. The smoke in the room was acrid, and growing thicker by the moment. “I fear the United States’ carelessness far more than I fear any mythical bogeyman.”

“God save me from arbitrary skeptics,” growled the Colonel. “We’re sharing the fucking resources. The research we gain from the Atlanteans, any breakthroughs, and personnel willing to volunteer. I know the situation has been unstable. That’s why I’m trying to build us a little goddamn faith. Now, Cherry, take a seat. Yeagerta, you too. Tell us about the discoveries you’ve made on the Atlanteans.”

“Thank you,” said Verne, taking a seat next to the Colonel, setting down a large binder labeled USEF Report Dagon. I sat down next to her, trying to follow the hierarchy as best as I could. “First-”

The door burst open, Sergeant Miller standing there, his damaged arm covered in pale, somewhat sickly looking flesh, a few shades lighter than the rest. “Colonel. Emergency. The demon we were interrogating was made by an Archmage.”

The colonel stared silently at Sergeant Miller. He chewed the cigar slowly. “Sergeant, our allies are in this room.” He nodded his head towards Pagan, and Smith, who were staring with equally deadpan expressions. “As I’m sure you understand, evidence of an Archmage is… excruciatingly sensitive. Rather like being grabbed by the short hairs, and yanked. I’m confident that you wouldn’t be grabbing me by the short hairs in front of our allies and giving me a firm yank without incredibly good reason.”

“We’ve been tracking someone who matches the description. Small-time Native American hustler we thought was cheating casinos. We had a pair of agents watching him in Lousiana. If he’s an Archmage…”

The colonel’s pupils had shrunk, and he stared at Miller. The cloud of smoke hung around his features as he slowly removed the cigar from his mouth. “Motherfucker.” He let out a slow breath. “Contact them-”

“Already did, sir.” Miller’s brow furrowed. “No response. They-”

“Get their video feed working. Shit. Motherfucking balls!” The colonel stood up, and sprinted out of the room, Miller shortly behind on his heels.

“Archmage?” I said, in the scorching silence of the room.

“A standard wizard is a mortal who has made a pact with a supernatural being. Immortality- so long as the pact lasts- and magical power,” said Verne, her expression ashen as she slumped back in the chair. “An Archmage is- Well, they’re theoretical.”

“Nowadays,” said Smith, the wizened old woman showing a slight grin. “The legends say they used to be a lot more common.”

“Relatively,” growled Verne. “An Archmage is any wizard who is spiritually powerful enough to, in the course of a single lifetime, create a supernatural being. Usually demons, though undead and fairies are theoretically also possible.”

“Which is significant be-” I paused, and my eyes widened slightly. “Capable of producing their own immortality.”

“Exactly. Unbeholden to a supernatural force. Capable of creating a personal supernatural companion, a Familiar.” She looked up at Smith. “Could I get one of those?”

Smith shook out three cigarettes, offering them, in turn, to Pagan, Verne, and myself. I was the only one to refuse. “Understandably rare. What kind of person dedicates themselves so thoroughly to another, sufficient to discover the power that rests within them? Even if Archmages are still born, their talents would likely never become obvious to them. But with that much power, even the most minor supernatural being could become… spectacularly dangerous, in their hands.”

“A brown recluse spider,” I said, and frowned. “What is their lifespan?”

“About two years, at the outside,” said Verne. She lit the cigarette, and puffed it twice, blowing out a cloud of smoke and coughing raggedly for a second before continuing, voice hoarser. “Even with the raw state of the spider-”

“A very powerful Archmage, who was active at least forty years ago,” I said. “He is also most likely a member of a people who you committed genocide against.”

“Life,” said Smith, and the old woman chuckled. “It certainly does bite us in the ass, doesn’t it?”

The door opened. The Colonel entered, his expression hard as flint. He sat down at the front of the table, and pressed a button. There was a click, and a blur of light spread across one wall as Sergeant Miller entered and sank into the chair beside him. The blur slowly came into focus. “This is the feed from their security setup in the hotel room.”

It was an image, slowly moving. A hotel room. I had seen several like it, even in the short time I had spent among humans. Well-furnished, with a beautiful view across a sprawling human city that I did not recognize on sight. Two men sat inside. One raised his head, and drew his gun, turning towards the door. The image became unfocused, crazed patterns of black and white fuzzing the scene out, distorting it as the two men twisted in the strange interference, until it was entirely unintelligible. It was like that for perhaps three minutes, then it abruptly came back into focus.

I could see signs of what had happened. The bullet holes through the windows, crazed fractures spread out around them through the glass. The beds unmade, slashes visible that had gutted them of their stuffing. An arm was visible, hanging out from behind one of the beds. On the wall, in brilliant red, five words had been painted.

BILLY BOWLEGS SENDS HIS REGARDS.

“Shit,” said Sergeant Miller, his voice soft, his expression stormy.

“Sergeant,” said the Colonel, “you’re going to need to assemble a team. Track the man down. Hunt him like a dog. Capture him if you can, kill him if not.”

Kill him?” Said Smith, her eyes narrowed. “Not a fucking chance. I’m coming along, and he’s to be captured. He’s not a U.S. citizen, and he is a human.”

“Oh, come now, abuelita,” said Pagan, her expression dancing with amusement. “We know this is not a matter of mercy or justice.” She flicked a hand towards the image. “Will you be sharing that resource with us, Colonel?”

“Of course,” said the man, gruffly, nearly biting through the cigar.

“Well, I shall be happy to come along on the mission. To make this mission more… multilateral.”

“Your help is appreciated, Major, but-”

“Good,” said Pagan, her eyes narrowed.

It was obvious, the true reason for the tension. This Archmage was dangerous, certainly- deadly. He had killed. But that alone was not enough to cause the people in this room to be on the verge of killing one another. It was not the reason the Colonel had been angry.

If Archmages were still born, then to be able to find them, to know how they were found, would be supremely useful. It would provide an incredible advantage to whichever nation broke the code first. The Atlanteans had been an incredible resource, too. But this one could be taken secretly.

If he could be captured, subverted, interrogated, studied, he could lead to the discovery of more. That kind of advantage could be… phenomenal.

I stared up at the screen silently. I looked across at Fetu Miller, and his eyes met mine.

Change. The kind that could destroy. The kind that had to be killed, before it twisted humanity beyond recognition.

“Are you with me, Yeagerta?”

“Yes, Miller.”

USEF Report Albino Monk, Section X (Threat Assessment), Paragraph 1-8, Rank SURTUR-9. OLDMAN clearance required; If you are reading this and are not the Colonel, there is probably a gun aimed at your head right now.

In spite of Sergeant Miller’s ongoing vouching for the former FBI agent, he is not to be regarded as an ally by EFUS personnel. This is an unfortunate political reality. His actions have directly destabilized the US government in places, and he is directly responsible for the destruction of two Cities. The fact that both of these cases saved a majority of the population of the Earth is, unfortunately, not worth much to our threat assessments.

There are three parts to this issue. First, his status as a pawn of War. Regardless of any other connections he has made, he started as a catspaw for one of the Horsemen. Her supposed defection only increases the suspicion. The Horsemen are marked universally by a level of long-term planning that can be best described as ‘psychotic’. Even the apparent good done in this case may be in service of a longer term plan.

Second, despite his good intentions, his actions have brought the world of gods and the world of men closer together. Our current state of instability, and the growing awareness of and interference by supernatural forces, is entirely his fault. He may save us, only for the consequences of his actions to plunge us into a greater crisis. The increasing tensions we have reported from the remaining Cities corroborates this. Good intentions paving the way to hell, and all that rot.

But let’s be honest with ourselves, shall we, Sir? We both know that these are secondary concerns. The real problem is Nash himself, and the power he has accumulated. We have him on record as having confronted several gods of a power that the entire EFUS military apparatus would be hard-pressed to even distract, and defeating them. As of this moment, he is probably the single most effective countermeasure to the Gods, should they mobilize fully.

And behind all of this is his personality. An emotionally crippled boy raised by a mentally ill single mother. His anti-authoritarian tendencies hidden behind a level of detachment that verges on the psychotic, he managed to get hired onto the FBI and come across as little more than a somewhat dull, but otherwise harmless young man with a thirst for justice. Given access to power, he proceeded to unveil a violent streak a mile wide. The man assaulted the U.S. Secretary of Finance. Granted, the traitor was a Horseman plant, but nonetheless.

We can’t depend on this man. We can’t allow him to act unhindered. His concept of ‘justice’ is, at best, childishly simple, and more prone to destroying power structures than making anything to replace them. In his own way, he could be as dangerous as the Horsemen- perhaps moreso. They, at least, consider the consequences of their actions. The fallout of his breaking open of Hell is yet to unfold entirely. How long until one of the Damned wind up causing a major crisis? Admittedly, their fear of him seems to have held them in line so far, but if he should show any weakness, the result will be catastrophic.

All of this is compounded by the aforementioned power. The Gae Bolg weapon proved entirely useless against him, which is a situation we frankly did not foresee. He seemed confident in his ability to counter the Pugno Dei as well, and regardless of whether that was bravado or not, we can’t afford to drop another asteroid on him. For the moment, we don’t have a countermeasure for him. If he should decide, tomorrow, that the President of the United States is as great a threat as the Gods of the Cities or the Horsemen, there is precious little that anyone can reasonably do to stop him.

For now, our chief strategy is surveillance and avoidance. He can be avoided. He can be worked around. He is, effectively, a natural disaster. We can at least try to forecast him.

Chief Researcher Cherry H. Verne

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