Damage Control Chapter 4: Loki

USEF Report Dagon, section D (Divinity), Paragraph 16-21, Rank HEL-6

This is the big one. The thing that makes the Atlanteans a true game-changer for us. The thing that justifies all the risks and all the dangers of taking the Atlanteans in.

All science begins with the ability to measure. If you cannot measure, you cannot properly hypothesize, and you cannot test, and you cannot experiment. That is the nature of science. That is the nature of sapience. To understand, we must be able to observe. A child works their limbs in the very same way. They see, and they feel, and their senses let them discover what this nerve does, or that twitch of a muscle.

When I first learned that magic existed as a freshman in college, it was the most nightmarish thing I had ever known. All of those rules, physics, chemistry, biology, the tripartite foundation on which reality is built, were useless for explaining it. Even math. Even the glittering crystal city of the mind, the truest of abstractions, the fundament of reason, failed. With magic, two and two made fuck you.

I remember all of those wasted days. Trying to track the effects of pacts, to discover what made one person gain inhuman strength- enough that their bones should have snapped, enough that they should have punched a hole in the ground when they lifted something a hundred times heavier than themselves- and another become capable of weaving song into constructs of delicate light, both from the same supernatural being. Why Vampires passed on their strength when no other undead did. How the Horsemen and the Sisters could violate the speed of light and causality by passing from one place to another instantaneously. How a simple set of words in the right place could rip open a hole in the fabric of the universe to a dead ocean.

With the Atlanteans, we can start to get a grasp on things. We can start to understand. We can start to measure and test and figure out what the fucking rules are, and how we can regain control over our world again. I can stop going to sleep and dreaming about strangelets and spontaneous vacuum collapse and a thousand other nightmarish things caused because we don’t know how divinity works.

Sorry to go on about this, but I sometimes feel like nobody really understands how serious this situation is. How dangerous it is. Until we understand magic, we are completely and utterly at its mercy. We need to bring it to heel if we want a chance.

Chief Researcher Cherry H. Verne

The three dead demons were very hard to distinguish from humans. The bull shark’s teeth were jagged and multi-rowed, the anaconda’s eyes were distinctly serpentine, and the catfish’s absurd whiskers. Jissika stood over them, her expression sober. Perhaps even bereaved.

“They were not humans,” I said. She looked up at me, an eyebrow raised.

“They were people. They deserve respect. They were brought into this world by a bastard, raised by him, and never had the chance that they deserve. It does us no harm to show them a little compassion now, when there is nothing else we can do for them.”

I looked away. “To be sapient is not a gift for them. They are abominations, caught forever between two worlds.”

“Yeah? Well so are dogs, and most of them are awfully happy creatures,” said Jissika, lighting a cigarette and looking down at the bodies. “I don’t know your story, kid. What made you so hard?”

“I was born special. Capable. My father gave me to the Hunters so that I would be able to protect my people from abominations like these. Those who were sapient, but not human. Parasites upon the soul. My abilities meant that I had a great duty.”

“Mmmm.”

“What?”

“Nothing, nothing,” said Jissika, in a placating tone of voice, lifting her hands. “Just, well. My people had something like that happen. Children being taken away from their parents so they could be ‘raised properly’.” She looked out through the window as the golden lights of the nearby city passed, water lapping at our feet. “Never turned out well.”

The ship was dead and still moving. It would sink, sooner or later. The great old ship would be consumed by the waters, devoured in the darkness. Not before it finished carrying us to the swamp where we would hunt down our prey, but nonetheless.

I examined the ship. There were ragged traces of faith, here and there, but they were unfocused. That was the nature of this world. Too many people without enough unity. Some saw this ship as a prison, others as a paradise, others as a simple place of work. There was no unity, and thus, whatever soul the ship had was buffeted, torn apart without ever having a chance to live. That was sadder to me by far than the fate of the demons. At least they’d had a chance.

“You miss your father?”

“What?”

“Your father. The Hunters took you away from him, yeah? Were you old enough to miss him?”

“Yes,” I said, softly.

“You ever thought of reconnecting with him?”

“Many times. But when I finally had the courage to, I was too late.”

“Ah,” she said, and the tone was that of a grandmother’s sympathy, deep as the ocean and comforting, though it could promise no alternative. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault,” I said, and tried not to sound like I was lying. “A lot of people died during those last few weeks before we fled Atlantis. A lot of unpleasantness. They can’t be brought back.”

“I know how you feel,” she said, and I didn’t doubt her for a moment. I smiled towards her. “I’m serious.”

“I know you are. And I appreciate that. We’re all in this together.”

Jissika jerked back from me like I’d slapped her, her expression drawn. I frowned.

“What’s the matter?”

“Nothing. Just-” She smiled. “Heard those words once. In a movie.” She shook her head softly. “Are we? Are we really all in this together?”

“Of course,” I said, softly.

“Then why do we act as though we are all alone?”

I was quiet for a moment. “I suppose because we think it makes it easier if we care for fewer people.”

“Indeed. Like when you are underwater, running out of air, and your brain thinks that the best way to react is to open the mouth and breathe, and so, you wind up smothering yourself all the faster.” She watched me for a moment. “I wonder, are you as far above all of this as you act?”

“I certainly hope so.”

“Well, so do I.” She looked up. “We’re there.”

The village was ancient. It might have predated Columbus. Individual houses had been changed, the structures built on stilts, standing above the water. I could see the debris where houses had fallen in the past, and the fresh paint where new ones had been raised within the last couple of years. Sticks rose out of the water around the cypress trees, mosquitoes swarming thick in the air. And the place swirled with divinity.

“Shit,” I muttered. “He made a genius loci. That whole village is alive. No idea how many demons.”

“Any idea where he is?” asked Miller, as I crouched next to him. He’d ejected the ruined shoulder, and was fastening a new arm. I held it in place while he used his good hand to attach fasteners. I had absolutely no idea where he’d gotten the thing from. Had it been airdropped? Did he just keep a duffel bag full of replacement limbs on hand at all times? I smiled to myself as I looked up and studied our destination.

“All of that divinity is flowing out from one place. He’s near the center of the village, and…” I squinted. “He’s doing something. A ritual, maybe. Not sure if the agents are in there.”

“He’s trying to get away,” grunted Miller, as the other intelligence agents gathered. The British man had found a drink somewhere, and was sipping quietly at the small, inverted-cone-shaped glass of alcohol, while Aneis leaned against the riverboat’s railings, glaring enviously at Miller. Her leg was missing, and I was given to understand replacement was much more difficult for those whose nervous system wasn’t flowing with the magic of one of the most powerful beings on Earth. “The Heinlein isn’t oriented properly yet. Ten minutes until it is.” He looked up at the village, his expression stiff. “Don’t think he’s coming in willingly.”

“Can’t take the chance on him getting out alive in a cloud of dust,” said Aneis. “We need to go in there.”

“Not sure how many demons he’s got swarming around there. And a genius loci… What would that be capable of? I’m guessing you’re talking a spirit of those buildings?”

“The entire area. It’s… not often used by Atlanteans. Our currents used genius loci. They were trained strictly. They had to be. They could be capable of terrible destruction, otherwise.” I studied it, my lips tight. “I’m not sure how to deal with it.”

“Pagan,” said Miller. “How fast can this ship go?”

“If I want to risk us sinking before we get there?” asked the woman, an eyebrow raised.

“Just so.”

“Maybe thirty knots, though even odds the engines would overheat.”

“Go for it. I feel lucky.”

“Yeah, well, maybe I don’t, huh?” Pagan narrowed her eyes, looking up. “I think we should just call this one lost, wait till he pops his head up. Does us no good to die assaulting his stronghold.”

“I wouldn’t be averse to bombarding the place and hoping we got him,” said the British man, conversationally, his eyes fixed on the village.

Games. All games. I turned my eyes towards the water. “I will meet you there,” I said, stepping lightly onto the railing. Then I dove forward, and into the water. It was thick as a soup, clouded with life. I felt the listening device on my shoulder die- I had to count that the Chinese and Indian agents were already making their move. If they weren’t, I couldn’t wait forever. I felt the eye of alligators on me, and their slow reptilian consideration. I did not care. I could take them.

I burst out of the water, cutting through it like a knife as I landed on the planking around one of the houses, and set out running. In the distance behind me, I heard a chugging growing louder. I ran along the heavy wooden planking, and heard it cracking and splintering as the riverboat struck. Shouts filled the air, and I felt the divine beings around me closing in on all sides.

The Sergeant hit them like a shark. He swept through the air, and they recoiled from this strange thing, human and not, smelling of oil and steel and death. He grinned as he ran alongside me. “Not trying to get away from me, were you?”

How I hated the games.

The others were bogged down. Fighting the wave of demons, drawing them in to one place. A dozen lifetimes spent raising these demons, and then spending their lives like this. This was just another part of the abomination. I listened to them die, and I did my best not to sympathize.

We stopped as we entered the center of the village, Miller a few steps in front of me. A broad, open section of decking, without a ceiling- Only a few colorful tarps spread here and there. In the center of it, the archmage- I didn’t know his name, I realized, and I sincerely doubted it was Billy Bowlegs- sat on his knees, with his heads behind his hand. The Chinese man in the white business suit and the black sunglasses stood behind him, gun against his head. The archmage was grinning.

“Sergeant Miller,” said the man in the colorful, tourist-y T-shirt, as he stepped out from behind a tarp. The bald man in the saffron robes was a step behind him, his expression melancholy. The man in the turban and the monster stepped out from behind another one. “Good to meet you again.” His English was barely comprehensible, thick with his accent, but his smugness was inescapable.

“How’d you get here before us?” asked Miller, his voice soft. As though he already knew the answer.

“Apparently, you didn’t hold your people in a tight enough grasp. A mistake the PRC never makes,” said the man in the sunglasses, smiling. “Your little mermaid there gave us everything we need. Killing you is going to be hard. But I’m sure the Panchen Lama and a Rakshasa can handle it.”

The bald man stepped forward, his expression aggrieved. “I’m sorry it has to end like this, Miller. You know the burdens we each bear.”

Miller turned his head towards me, his expression unmoving. “You did this? After I gave you a chance? You betrayed me, Yeagerta?” His voice was so soft, so… not like him. I shook slightly.

“I didn’t have a choice, Miller.” I hoped he got the message. His lips curved into a smile.

He lunged at me, faster than he had in the office. One hand went around my throat, curiously gentle. The other hooked into my raincoat. He spun me once, twice, and then I slipped out of the jacket, like a missile.

I hadn’t asked about the other gifts that Miller had been given, but I’d had a chance to read his file. An uncanny mind for tactics, a kinesthesia that had been amped up to purely inhuman levels. What he targeted, was struck.

I hit the archmage around the midsection, my foot slamming into the gunman’s face, knocking him spinning to the ground. The archmage and I spun across the ground as a huge, feathery form swept out of the night sky, talons lashing out. The man in the turban’s head hit the ground, followed shortly by the rest of him, and blood sprayed into the air, painting the black-skinned monstrous woman.

“<Oh,>” said the Rakshasa, in her ancient Hindi dialect, a frown tilting her lips as her tusks spread slightly. “<I liked him. Ah well.>” She licked her face clean, and then let out a howl that split the clouds above us, deep and resonant and reaching right down into my bones. I felt the swell of divine energy, and decided that I had substantially underestimated the power she had been holding in her belly. As the blood dripped down her bare breasts, outlining her shadowy skin, I felt the terror fill me.

The archmage had squirmed out of my grasp and was already running, sprinting for one of the outer buildings. The Chinese officer turned towards the creature, his eyes narrowed. “You are to change back this instant-” he began in Mandarin. Her fist seemed to swell to the size of the man as she wrapped her fingers around his waist, holding him, only his shoes and head visible. She planted one colossal thumb, nail jagged and worn, against his throat, and then flicked it upwards. I was reminded of a man I had seen in a bar a week ago, removing the cap of a bottle of beer with a similar motion. Then she held the corpse over her mouth, and squeezed, blood draining down her throat. The divinity in her shone brighter.

“Do not let her drink any more blood,” said the bald man, as he moved to flank me and Miller. “If you can disembowel her, it will weaken her substantially.”

“Can you distract her for fifty seconds?” asked Miller, his voice terse as he checked a display on his newly replaced arm, the panel glowing a gentle blue.

“Probably not alone.”

“Yeagerta?”

“Yes, Sergeant,” I said, squaring my shoulders.

The young man could not be more than a quarter my age. He could not have had nearly the training I did. But when he exploded into motion, he made me feel slow, pathetic, clumsy. His style did not remind me of the brutalist, straightforward motions of one of the martial arts practiced by the military, or the knife-hand techniques I had been trained in. His motions were flowing and elaborate, and for all that, his fist struck the creature under the chin, snapping her head back, before I was halfway there.

A monstrous black arm fell like a meteor, slamming through planks as he slid on his feet to the side, his motions as graceful as kelp in a current. Another blow came after him, and he directed it upwards with no more effort than a man gently guiding an insect out of the water to safety. It was amazing.

It was also not enough. The Rakshasa was growing more aggressive, faster, and if the planks were destroyed, if the man lost his footing, he would be killed. I suspected the Rakshasa would find his blood more revitalizing, as well. I watched as he took a long step to the right, and the planks shuddered, sending him plunging down a foot or two. He managed to catch himself, but he was off balance.

The Rakshasa raised a fist, and then screamed. The current surged violently through my body, up one arm, along the copper wire, from the Rakshasa’s left ankle to the right arm, and back down the other copper wire, and into the water. I gave her everything I had, and it only stunned her for a moment. She twisted, and brought her fist into my midsection.

I folded around it, my body twisting and spinning into a coil as I sped up her arm, and sunk my teeth deep into her ear. She roared, grabbing for my body with one hand, as the monk landed a kick that could have split steel on her kneecap, leaving her unsteady. She lashed out, and the monk’s luck ran dry, as she struck him in the midsection hard enough to fill the air with the sound of breaking ribs. He spun across the decking as she tumbled unbalanced to the deck.

I leapt off of her, turning to face her again, my heart pounding with panic and I knew I’d never survive all my composure melting like salt in the current and I would never ever get to see my father again she would tear my head off and drink my blood and I had never kissed a man I had never had children of my own all that pain and suffering and it had all been wasted I was dead

“Hey.”

Miller’s voice cut through the confusion and the fear, as he stood, his arm blinking a soft and steady orange. It turned to red, and he smiled at the creature. She let out a low growl.

“Yeah, come and get me, ugly. Look at me. Big and tasty.”

She lunged forward. He caught her under the chin with an uppercut that should have broken her neck, and she seized his hand in one of hers. She lifted him up, her other hand wrapping around his body. He watched as she slowly began to pry at it, pulling slowly, serenely, the joint beginning to screech under the pressure.

“Yeah, yeah, take your time,” Miller grunted. “I’ve got all the time in the world. God, I hate this fucking trick-”

There was a thump. The entire deck shook violently. A dozen trees in a line groaned, creaked, and then fell. There was a tremendous explosion, and several tons of earth and water rose into the air, and began raining down. The Rakshasa let out a low gurgle, and collapsed to the ground, staring at the open ruin where her stomach had been, the deck visible through her blackened, cauterized entrails.

“But it never gets old.” Miller stood up. His right arm was a ruin. His torso was half-missing, and his legs were all the way missing. “You were really convincing there, Yeagerta.”

“Thank you, ser… Miller.”

“Really convincing. Scary convincing.” He looked up at me, his eyes narrowed. “If I tell you to catch him in the next twenty seconds, do you think that you can do it?”

I looked up. “Or die trying, sir.”

“Do, or do not. There is no try.”

I looked at him, blinking with confusion, and he grinned.

“After this, we get a week’s leave. So I can explain that cultural reference to you. You’re not doing this if you think you’ll die.”

“Then I’ll do it, sir.”

“Run like hell.” He tapped his wrist. “Mark.”

I sprinted for the hut. I could see the Archmage’s faith glowing within. I was all too aware of what was waiting for us. One-a-thousand. Two-a-thousand. The numbers counted down unaided in my head, in the background of my thoughts.

I burst through the wall. Five-a-thousand. I saw the archmage kneeling, sprinkling chalk on the ground. I slammed my heel into the floor, making it crack and splinter. Six-a-thousand. “Crazy bitch!” screamed the archmage. The demon lunged at me, all talons and feathers, and time lost track as we fought. Twelve-a-thousand. Could that be right? Eighteen-a-thousand. Time was speeding up. I spun and slammed the demon against the planking, and the entire floor fell underneath us, falling down towards the brackish swamp waters below. The moon and the stars and the nearby lights of the city, all obscured by the falling water and earth and organic muck raining from the impact of the first round from the Heinlein.

God, I hoped it was dark enough.

God, I hoped it was salty enough.

God, I hoped she accepted the tribute.

Yam hamawet!” I screamed. And something heard me.

The cloying, humid heat became bone-dry. I opened my eyes, and we stood there, on the dead ocean. The tar sat unmoving between us, as the Archmage, for the first time, looked shocked. The demon stood up, her large and luminous eyes glittering as she stared around us.

“You have a choice,” I said, softly. “You can come back with me, and work off the lives you have taken, and hope to someday be set free. Or you can stay here, in this place.” I looked out at the bleak landscape. “Trust me, when I say that there is no chance that you will ever escape from this place. No one escapes from her grasp.”

He licked his lips. I saw the way his mind ran. He was already planning his escape. “Deal,” he said.

He expected to escape. To be free. He was very old, and he did not know the tools arranged against him. He did not know what humanity was capable of. He would never, ever escape. I would make very sure of that.

“Why did you do all of this? Alert the others? Get their attention?” I asked, my head tilted. “You were the one responsible for all of this, weren’t you?”

“Oh, yes. Every last inch. I knew what would get their attention. I knew they couldn’t resist. Planned them all out.”

“Why?”

“A game.” He winked. “It’s in the nature of all humans to play. How can one wind away the centuries without a fun game? And I confess, I didn’t expect to lose- But that’s what made it all the more fun. Now. How do we get out of this place?” He asked, smiling. I would not be sorry to lock this man in chains for the rest of time.

“Simple. We say the name, once we have paid a tribute.”

“Tribute?”

I kicked the demon in the stomach. She stumbled back, only a step. Her heel just made contact with the oil. It was enough. She screamed as the thick, caustic oil lunged out, spreading her arms, making them into wings, trying to pull away. Bands of the oil wrapped around her wings, pulling them tight as a straitjacket. Her face was a mask of terror. “Father!

The man looked away, his eyes embarrassed more than anything else. “Sorry about this, dear. You did well. Goodbye.”

I watched as the demon screamed, betrayed, terrified, pulled down into the tar, until her head vanished below the surface. The sound cut off. All that remained of her was a single large bubble. It popped, and then there wasn’t even that.

Yam hamawet,” I whispered.

We were back on Earth. I struck the man, once. He folded over, unconscious, and I began to swim. Slow, across the surface, keeping his head above water.

When I met Miller half an hour later at the ancillary meet-up point, an old and cheap motel, he was carrying my rain slicker, and the phone. His eyes flickered to the man. “The demon?”

“Permanently incapacitated,” I said, and was grateful he didn’t ask me to elaborate. Abomination or not, nothing deserved what had happened to it. Betrayal of a broken tool was still a betrayal. But I had little choice. Perhaps, someday, I would be able to make it up to her. “The agents?”

“Pagan found them in one of the houses, extracted them safely.” I felt a wave of relief. “We got him, and nobody found out. Not even our allies.” Miller let out a slow sigh of relief, and smiled. “Good job. You did an amazing job, Yeagerta. Past my greatest expectations. I’d be proud if you would consider yourself a member of the EFUS.”

“Of course.”

He chuckled. “I don’t know if there’s anything extra we can do for you-”

“I may… ask a favor. A mission. Someday, if I realize it’s possible.” I looked at the man, thinking of the woman clawing at the tar. “You can say no when the time comes.”

“Yeah.” He nodded. “Yeah.”

“And one other thing.” I took a deep breath. “Whatever you find out. You should share it.”

“That’s not how the game works-”

“I know. This isn’t a game. They know Archmages can exist now, which means they’ll find them. They’ll figure it out, whether you share what you find or not. They’ll take them by force, like the Tongxinheli tried to take me.” I looked up. “But they are still humans. We are all still humans. And our enemies are not. No matter if you make them auxiliaries, no matter if you try to think that the biggest threat is a foreign government…” I was quiet for a moment. “You know about what destroyed Atlantis.”

“Men destroyed Atlantis,” he said, his voice soft. “Gods encouraged it, but it was the hands of men. Nachtka Wai and men in our own damn government. Humans can do… a lot of harm.”

“No,” I said, softly, shaking my head. “Men were used. As catspaws, as stalking horses. But Gods caused it.” I looked down at the unconscious man. “And humans can do harm. But they can also help. That’s more than most creatures can say.” I looked up. “I won’t try to force the issue, Sergeant, either way. I proclaimed my loyalty to you, and there it shall stay. But I do think that the countries you think of as your enemies already know some of what we will discover. And the countries you think of as your allies need to know it.” I bit my lip, trying to think of what to say. I went with my heart. “Trust is hard.”

“You can say that again. Speaking of which…” He was quiet for a moment. “You really did a good job at fooling me, there. And at showing me what you were planning. I’m guessing you were bugged since you stopped responding at the hotel room. Where the hell did you learn to act?”

“My goal is simple,” I said, softly. “It makes everything else simple, too.”

“Hnnn. So, why DID you choose the EFUS?”

“Chance.” I was quiet for a moment, and then quirked my lips in a smile. “And you did not place a tracking device on me.”

Miller was quiet for a moment. Then he coughed, and to my very great surprise, a blush appeared on his face. “Well…”

“What? When?”

“Not exactly! More, just… Look, the phone has a GPS, and voice inputs. Technically, those could be used to track you, and hear what you say. Easy to turn off, though. Here, just…” He took the phone out of my pocket, and opened a menu. “I got guilty when you said that.”

I was quiet for a moment. Then, I laughed, and smiled. “Thank you, Miller.”

“Fetu,” he said, smiling cheerfully. “Alright. We’ll have to get this guy out of here by morning. I’m going to go get us some takeout.” He bent down, and used a pair of plastic strips, tying the archmage’s hands behind his back, and gagged him for good measure. I doubted any more demons would be showing up soon to help him.

“What happened to the monk?”

“Gedhun? Back to the People’s Republic of China, with a report of the failure. He’ll blame it on the Rakshasa going wild. Relations between China and India may chill a bit, between China and the US, they might thaw a little. Especially if the Colonel goes for your idea.” He smiled. “Sad to see him go. That’s a man who was never meant to fight.”

“He fought very well.”

“Yeah, but that just makes it more tragic.” He sighed. “I’m going to see if there’s a place that makes gumbo around here. Some kind of fish, anyway. That cool with you?”

“Of course. Do you think I have time for a shower?” I asked, smiling. He raised an eyebrow. “That swamp was filthy.”

“Yeah, sure, I’ll probably be at least half an hour.” He smiled. “At ease.”

I smiled, and waited as he left the room. I rooted through the motel’s bathroom supplies, and found a small jar of bath salts. I turned on the shower, and flicked off the lights. When the tub was full, I poured the salts in, and swirled my hand through the water, eyes closed as I did. I took a deep breath, and pulled my arm out, drying it with one of the towels.

Yam hamawet.”

The water shifted. Now, it was like a pane of glass. Darkness swirled around the figure of Nachtka Wai, his bill pointed proud and straight, his glass eye staring sightlessly upwards, floating within the depths of Yam Hamawet. It was a honeyed trap. The Ocean showing me what I wanted, pretending it was just within arm’s reach. Inviting me to dip a hand in.

“Hello, Father,” I murmured, softly. “I know it’s been a couple of weeks. I’m sorry. I was being watched. I have their trust now.” I closed my eyes, breathing out. Finding out the identity of my father had been difficult, in more ways than one. I still remembered every word contained in his screeds. “I hope you’re well, in there. Sane, or… insensate, at least.”

He didn’t move. I didn’t know if he could hear me. I didn’t know if it mattered. It did, I supposed, if only because if someone remembered him, kept talking to him- That helped.

“They’re better than you thought, father. Kinder. More worthy, capable of greater grace. Belief. Faith. Beauty. Love.” I wanted to reach out, to touch the water, but I knew that that instinct led to a very long, very still death. “I’ll show you that they’re worthy of life, father. We’ll rescue you. I promise.” My heart became very cold, and very still. “And I promise you, the ones who put you in there, who condemned you because they couldn’t see it in them to forgive, that cat, that human who the queen loved-” I gritted my teeth. “I’ll make them pay.

I hated the games. But I still knew how to play them.

USEF Report Horace, Section X (Threat Assessment), Paragraphs 1-4, Rank LOKI-11 OLDMAN clearance required; If you are reading this and are not the Colonel, there is probably a gun aimed at your head right now.

Look. I do my job. I know I’m courting disciplinary action saying this, sir, but: You’re fucking nuts. Loki-11? The Horsemen class in at a Surtur-10. They are the greatest threat our world faces. And you’re giving this kid Loki-11 based on- what? Your gut?

He’s got a modest kind of charisma. He’s a nice kid, if twisted by his uncle’s childrearing style and a lot of tragic things happening to close family members. He’s extremely- I’d say excessively- compassionate. Lot of charitable giving, lot of self-sacrifice. Real martyr complex. Anti-authoritarian enough for a Loki classification in combination with his connections with Bastet (See USEF Report Felix FJ-7) and the other creatures he’s accumulated to him (See USEF Reports Justice S-7, Nicki Minaj FJ-8, Here I Go Again FJ-2, and Wakinyan FJ-3). But Loki-11?

I saw the report. The theory that he’s an archmage, based on that old car he turned into a Tsukumogami. Randall Creed owned that car for decades, and put a lot of love and attention into it. For all we know, it was a Tsukumogami long before. The connection to these creatures? Simple compassion, and not being smart enough to get out of it while the getting’s good. If the kid has the divine power of Nergal and Ku-Thule hidden away somewhere, the worst he could do is bring them back. That’s a lot of chaos one person can unleash. But Loki-11?

The failure point of it all is in Bastet, and maybe those other strays he keeps around. Granted, if someone took out one of the people he’s started to cling to, he might do something stupid, and that would have nasty consequences for everyone. But these precautions that are being recommended are insanely overblown. So far as I can tell, the kid is a good-natured idiot. He’ll die, like the rest of Bastet’s priests. We’ll find her a new one, hopefully with training and some modicum of emotional control. No more Howards. No more Horaces.

I strongly recommend we lower him to a Loki-4, maybe 3, and discontinue active surveillance. We could use the resources elsewhere.

Chief Researcher Cherry H. Verne

 

 

P.S.

Personal Notes, Cherry H. Verne. If you are reading this, you are either quickly dying of the neurotoxin I’ve laced them with, and I need to go on the run, or you are Sergeant Miller, and I’m already on the run. Hi, Fetu. Sorry it had to shake out this way.

Horace Creed. It’s a long shot. I can almost convince myself it’s the Colonel seeing ghosts. Certainly, the archmage thing is a non-starter. If he had the power necessary to turn a car into a Tsukumogami in two fucking weeks, he’d be surrounded by the things. They’d be blossoming around him like a Disney princess as interpreted by Lovecraft, or maybe Christopher Marlowe.

But something weird happened around him when he went to Montrario Point. Every spy satellite we had pointed at him went down at once, and they didn’t come back up. We don’t know what happened. We don’t know how he got into Atlantis. The next thing we know, he’s washing up on the shore with his supernatural buddies. Did he have help? We don’t know. Did he have the kind of power that humans aren’t supposed to have, and he broke it open himself? We don’t know. Does he know? We sure as hell don’t know.

We recovered one of those satellites. It had been struck by a fragment of ice. Perfectly normal. Just, not instantaneously to three satellites at the exact same time. Whoever did it could have made it look like an accident. This makes it look like a shot across our bows. That’s terrifying, because the one who jumps to mind? She could exterminate us without a second thought, if she felt like it.

What is a Sister doing talking with this kid in private? What is this kid hiding? How did he break through? Can he do it elsewhere? Can he help me figure out the Wow! Signal bullshit? I don’t know.

If the Colonel takes my advice, and the surveillance backs off, I’ll make my move. Get in contact with him. If not- Well, there are a lot of leads to pursue.

I still need to find out why the universe is empty.

Love, Cherry

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