Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Andreyich
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Andreyich Your colleague, friend, brother

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>>>Tuesday January 15, 1991

>>>Stavropol Krai

"Pull, pull!" The ropes tugged harder, and so the staues went down one by one. First Dzerzhinsky, then Frunze, then Marx, until finally reaching Lenin and Stalin. Most just had their plaques crowbarred off, but as if to add insult to injury one was replaced with a crude but discernible cast of Krasnov, Shkuro, Wrangel.

The Marxist-Leninists weren't happy but their opinion hadn’t mattered when they had won barely a tenth of the vote in all of Stavropol; surveys revealed that even this paltry vote was almost entirely to be a product of internal migration from elsewhere within the USSR. All other parties had to be content with single digits or less, the People's Collective Party having won more than eighty percent of the local vote. It was a good name of course, and an accurate one. But it also belied the full truth. It was the party of the Cossacks, the natives of the region. They of course had to operate within the framework of the CCCP, claiming to have the variant of socialism they followed owing to the ancient and democratic Cossack collectives. Socialism with Cossack characteristics! But to their electorate they made clear their disdain for the Marxist. When speaking on national television they of course explained that this was because the Russian people could not be forced to take on this strange Anglo-German brand socialism — this would be Imperialism! Why, weren’t those foreigners the very people who made fascism and now pursue the most hedonist and decadent forms of capitalism? But to their electorate they made clear they were the ones who would react. They were the ones who would melt the star into a cross and the hammer and sickle into a Cossack’s saber. They would be the ones who would make the Leninists and Stalinists pay for the de-Cossackization that so many in Moscow were eager to sweep under the rug. Today was just the beginning. The history books stamped by the Leningrad cretins would forget the indignities inflicted upon the Cossacks but the sons of the Don vowed they would not.

But they had acted too fast, they knew they had overestimated the discretion of their base. This wouldn't have mattered if not for the delicate timing. Today Spartak Leningrad had went up against Dynamo Stavropol, the more practiced Southerners taking the match 5-3 with a local referee making decisions that erred on the blatantly biased. The Spartak fans were angry and since their tickets to return home were largely only for the next day the football fans from the Marxist-Leninist core of the RSSR roamed the city very, very angrily. Then of course a delegation of students from different faculties had landed a few days earlier largely from Primorski Krai, the area being one of the most loyal to the main Communist party.

The success of the PCP had emboldened the locals leading to their little citizen initiative with the statues but it was not without opposition. Of the local enemies to the cause of the PCP there weren't many. Of them most were too afraid to do much knowing they had friends in every part of Stavropol from administration to police. To anybody with all the facts of the situation the outcome of the day would not be as surprising as it was to most of the Soviet Union and indeed the world at large.

Nobody could be sure who was the first to form what locals dubbed the “red mob”, and it likewise wasn’t quite clear who threw the first blow.. But as one the local red activists grouped together with the Primorski Krai students and the fans of the Spartak Leningrad football team at the sight of the old statues being brought down.

Some organized in smaller groups around the smaller monuments in the area, and these perhaps ironically had the best fate only being shoved about to clear the way for the destruction of history.

The largest of the happenings was along the administrative building, just outside where the regional party members convened. The people surrounding the Lenin monument were quite numerous and for some time they felt as invincible as they looked. Workers trying to get to the site were pushed back, but they were soon replaced with far more insistent comrades. The Dynamo Stavropol fans forgot their smugness over their football team’s victory over the nemesis when they saw this very same nemesis defending one of the greatest villains of their history.

The football hooligans would have been enough to simply beat back the people surrounding the statue, but when the rest of the local people came forth a riot consisting of two mobs fighting one another very slowly turned into a stampede. First the Priests came to support the locals, then members of the militia claiming to be “impartial” came forth from within the administrative building beating upon the people surrounding the monument.

The event only got more horrible as one of the Spartak fans shoved a youth in grade school down into the ground such that the child’s ear was scraped bloodily; an injury that would heal in a day, but to see one of their children bloodied by these folk from elsewhere roused the Cossacks. More violence yet came from the recognition of the Koryo-Saram and other Asian peoples amongst the Primorski Krai students. The Sino-Soviet split though now healed geopolitically, but its propagandistic impact was still in the minds of the people of Stavropol in particular who had lost much wealth during the great reduction of trade with China reducing demand for the agricultural machinery manufactured there. Particular cruelty was shown towards these Koreans and other students with bottles being first smashed to be vicious blades before being used to strike. Yes, these weren’t Chinese, but were not those people all friends and - when we got down to it - all the same?



The violence entered its fatal stage as fans of the Football Club of Yessentuki arrived. A smaller town and even more distant from the ideologues in Moscow and Leningrad they had suffered far more than the men of the capital at the hands of the people who’s incarnations they saw surrounding the great statue. They had a rivalry with Dynamo Stavropol but they were more than happy to make a truce to kick these fools off of their lands. Whereas the locals had only gone for the defenders of the statue with whatever was at hand like bottles and stones the FC Yessentuki fans and their friends came far more prepared with petrol bombs and clubs one man having even brought along a pistol according to some sources. Angry shouts turned to frightened and pained screams as great blood was drone and burning petrol hit flesh.

For the participants it may have seemed like an eternity but the whole even took less than half a day to be done. By the end there were more than two hundred with varying degrees of injury and nineteen dead, three of whom were locals. Of the injured nine would expire on the way to the hospital with a further two comatose. All after the statue went down and a new one was erected all the Stavropol natives ran like the winds as they realized the possible legal ramifications of the day, while for their part the OMON and other Militia members roused did not seem very enthusiastic in the chase that they gave to their local kinsmen instead reserving their strength to beat the visitors and arrest them for having “incited and participated in a violent riot.”



>>>The Moscow Kremlin

Premiere Anatoli Pavlenko closed the file, standing up to look outside the windows of the Kremlin. It was a theatrical gesture but he felt that for some reason the members of the Supreme Soviet assembled at the desk expected it of him. Behind him were arguing Tikhonov with Ryzhkov along with several other figures, and as a crescendo was reached of overlapping voices Anatoli once more sat down.

“What have you told the newspapers to say.”

“I have told them to be quiet Sir.” Ryzhkov said.

“Mmmmm. Have any acted out of line?”

“We rectified the few cases that have.”

The Premiere said a nasty word.

“Drop the muzzle order. Now!”

Anatoli wiped his brow, shaking his head.

“I take it our Eastern partners have by now heard of this news.”

“They haven’t said anything, but it is inevitable.”

“Tell the Stavropol militia if asked about the ethnicity of the victims to reply that they do not know.”

“It is just a few Koreans. Met a few of their kind with Brezhnev. It’s not a big deal Premiere, nobody will really care after a day passes.”

Brezhnev.

“Perhaps Councillor, perhaps. But if not for our Eastern partners abroad we need to at least look at what our comrades in Primorski will say.” the Premiere said, suppressing another nasty word in direction of Ryzhkov.

At this point Anatoli turned away from Ryzhkov wanting a… different opinion. “Mitrovich, any word from the East?”

“Errr, not quite. Some. The governor of Primorski went to us but the Koryo-Saram councils sent messages right to Stavropol demanding answers.”

“What was the reply?”

“A well written rendition of ‘fuck off’.”

“Of course it was. Can you deal with it?”

It took Mitrovich’s best efforts to not look flabbergasted at having been told to single-handedly prevent a simmering ethnic conflict spanning two continents.

“Good. What of the parties?”

“Most condemn today’s events but only a few are going against the PCP directly. For now anyway.”

Anatoli sighed, it was a better result than previously expected but not by much.

“We should crack down on the Stavropolites. The PCP needs to be put in its place my dear comrades.”

“No, it cannot. We cannot be seen taking away what we gave so recently. All the little parties say they want something to be done about Stavropol’s ‘insolence’ but the moment we do something they will all cry out in anger at us abusing our powers and our new oppression. Now then, if that is all let us go meet them.”

The assembled Soviet leadership left the meeting room and went down to meet the Congress of People’s Deputies still arguing amongst itself. At the portal to the auditorium one of the Clerks was waiting to open it for them to pass through, the little man sweating profoundly. “Is everything alright in there?”

“They’re fighting, Comrade Premiere.”

“Who?”

“Stavropol’s PCP representative, Nikolai Pavlovich.”

“With whom? What did he say?”

“With a lot of them.” The Clerk looked to a transcript he was typing on his computer, which after a moment he turned for the Premiere to view. The Premiere pushed it back after realizing it was a list of slurs, shaking his head. “Let’s go.” he said, repeating it a few times under his breath.

They opened the portal and went to their seats, keeping quiet as they listened to the argument between Stavropol’s Antonenko arguing with Moscow’s communist party deputy. They came in at the tail end of the conversation, but it did not bode well for the Union’s stability.

“A-ha-ha! Oh you little bitch you dare threaten me?” the Stavropol representative laughed without any humour. “If not for Stavropol you Marxist, Stalinist degenerates would be starving decades ago. After university I went right to work on the farm, when have you worked with the people? No you little worm you’re the bourgeoisie of the Soviet Union, and you dare cry these lies of the Cossacks not knowing socialism. Seventy years ago you tried to destroy our people. The Cossacks still stand, but everybody forgot about your Marx, Lenin and Stalin. But know, just like you tried to destroy us we will destroy you Leninist, but we will not fail.” By the time Anatoli had ascended the steps to his seat Nikolai Pavlovich had taken off his shoe and was moving over to strike the Moscow representative with it. The Premiere clasped his hands as security came and a different topic was broached. Being Premiere was different to his expectations. The sheer amount of delegation he was to do only gave him a feeling of powerlessness as the chilling words of Antonenko echoed in his head. These would be interesting times.
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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Jeddaven
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Jeddaven the Dunmeri

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Brasilia

Another day, another nightmare.

All around Conceicao, Brasilia was burning. Her honour guard was dead, mutant corpses strewn about the palace grounds. To the East, Paranoá Lake was clogged with the wreckage of thousands of tiny boats and millions of floating, bloated corpses. To the West, the city burned, the deafening roar of the inferno's flames narrowly failing to drown out the screams of so many innocent people. Jets screamed overhead, seeking to fight off some unseen attacker, only to be rendered unto heaps of flaming wreckage in the blink of an eye. Tanks and armoured cars littered the streets in every direction.

Brazil was helpless. Her nation had thrown everything against the enemy, every piece of military hardware, every last-ditch weapon, every man and woman able to carry and fire a rifle... And it all amounted to nothing. Worse than nothing, perhaps. If they hadn't fought back, then they could have at least survived on their-

"President Conceicao?" A voice whispered, so impossibly gentle that it couldn't have been human. In mere moments, however, the voice brought the listless President back to the world of the living, leaving her to jolt upward in her chair. Her eyes darted from one side to the other - left, then right - only to finally settle on the gently smiling face of a kind young man, dressed in the finest of suits, beaming at her from across the table.

"...Filipe." Conceicao groaned, rubbing her eyes with a furred, wickedly clawed hand. "How long was I out for this time?"

"Only a few moments, President Conceicao. You haven't missed anything just yet. Are you sure you are well?" The young man asked, canting his head to one side. A tongue, partway reptilian in nature, slipped out from beneath his teeth, idly flicking at the air.

Conceicao gave him a dismissive wave, carefully straightening her custom-made suit, noting the slight twinkle in his eyes as a nictitating membrane slid over each of the bright, blue, shining orbs. "I'm fine," she groaned, forcing a wicked, fanged smile onto her discoloured face as she idly scratched at a splotch of bright green scales. "I will be, once the day is done. The others - are they here?"

The boy nodded. She nodded back. Behind Apolônia, the door buzzed, swinging open - and in came a parade of Brazilian Ministers, diplomats, and generals, each dressed in practical, if well-made uniforms, sparsely decorated by medals. One-by-one, they took their seats at the table, a handful muttering greetings in Portuguese or one of the many languages native to pre-colonial Brazil. For the first time in days, a genuine smile graced Apolônia's features as she nodded to her aide, a pair of television screens unfolding from the scene at either end of the table.

"Ladies, gentlemen... You all know why I have called you here today." Conceicao began, taking in a deep breath. "Today, Brazil is more powerful than it ever has been, enough to nearly challenge the hegemony of the world's great powers on its own... But she is still vulnerable. Her armies are strong, but so are her people. Her people, however, are merely mortal. Morale alone cannot protect us - not against the American fascists, not against the communists should they decide to turn against us, and certainly not against the visitors, who we still know so little about. The Americans and Russians could flatten our cities with nuclear hellfire and weapons that hang high above our head, and... Well, even I do not understand what the visitors are truly capable of. Today, we show the world that Brazil will defend its soil to the very last breath." She continued, giving Filipe a sidelong nod. The screens, each and every one, flickered to life. The feed they seemed to depict a rapidly approaching metal speck shook violently, as if rocked by an earthquake, and all across the room, a handful of eyes widened in shock, others simply displaying their quiet assent.

"Some of you realize what I speak of, I think. Ahead of us, you will see the Stella Maris - the largest space station Brazil has put in orbit, and enough to rival both the Soviets and Americans in size - though not in number. She is a state-of-the-art construction, equipped with the finest telescopes and sensing devices, all pointed throughout the solar system to watch for Visitor activity. That is what all of you know of her. There is, however, much that some of you do not know."

Apolônia cleared her throat, gesturing toward the speck as it grew larger, finally visible to the naked eye as a large, slowly spinning cylindrical space station, thick metal rings situated at various points along its length.

"She is much more than that, however. The Americans and Russians will not like it, but the Stella Maris is more than just a research station. She is a protector - a platform studded with state of the art KEM launching systems, advanced pint defense technology, and a custodial weak artificial intelligence that helps the station's crew manage the station's functions." Conceicao paused, allowing her ministers and generals a few moments to process the information before abruptly continuing.

"As of this moment, you are the ones to know this, but that is about to change. Tomorrow, once the second of the station's railguns are armed, I will announce the true purpose of Stella Maris to the international community. I do not enjoy keeping secrets from so many of you, but in this case, it was necessary in order to prevent the station from being compromised, but that is not important. Was is important, however, is that Brazil is now more prepared than ever for any threat - she can strike unavoidably anywhere in the world with just over twelve megatons of energy, far more precisely focused than any nuclear blast - and, hopefully, the first step along the path to bringing ourselves into parity with the Visitors." She said, briefly scanning over the ministers arrayed before her. Some exchanged glances, some nervous, other enthusiastic - but none dared open their mouths to question their revered leader.

"Filipe," she continued, settling back into her seat. "Our next matter of business concerns Angola, I believe?"



UN General Assembly Chambers

Wayorá loved his country - Brazil - or at least the miracle President Conceicao had brought to it. There was, truth be told, little he could say hadn't been vastly improved, from the state of its developing economy to the way the average person was treated by the government. He, if nobody else, could say that much - a scant few decades ago, he'd been living in an ailing, dilapidated aboriginal village, struggling to stay sustainable due to near-constant exploitation by previous Brazilian governments. Bow, he was Brazil's representative to the world, its UN ambassador, but even he couldn't help but occasionally hate his job. What else were you supposed to think, after all, when you were staring down the barrel of hundreds of diplomatic guns, explaining to said diplomats that you had at least two enormous weapons pointed at all of their heads. Still, even with wrinkles already appeared on his newly aged face, he had a job to do.

"Ladies, gentlemen, friends of the world..." He began, quietly clearing his throat to grab the Assembly's attention. "Thirty years ago, the paradigm of human existence was forever changed. I won't bore you with the details, as I'm sure most of you remember the very events I refer to, and all of us have different stories. Different thoughts - a rainbow of opinions, one might say. Some of us were excited, terrified, simply awestruck, or any number of emotional states in between... But what we can all agree on, I think, is that none of us liked how helpless, vulnerable, and unprepared the Visitation made us feel. What, after all, could we hope to do?" He said, gesturing across the entire chamber, arrayed before him.

"Even now thirty years later, we are still struggling tooth and nail to survive in this strange new world. We've all made great progress, I'm sure you can all agree, in so many different ways, whether that be through human ingenuity or sheer refusal to lie down and let these anomalies take our beautiful blue marble from us. Today..." He paused, though only for the briefest of moments. When Wayorá wrote the speech, he thought it was only for dramatic effect, but now, alone in his thoughts, it seemed so much more like fear. That meant he needed to move on quickly, of course - and so he did, relaxing his muscles into a more friendly, laid back posture.

"Today, I am proud to announce that Brazil has taken another step in protecting our planet from hostile extraterrestrials. The Stella Maris, a state-of-the-art telescope array and research station, joins the ranks of the great powers prepared to defend our planet with arms placed in orbit." He said, promptly continuing before the chamber had a chance to erupt into an uproar, even as murmuring broke out within the General Assembly, spreading like wildfire. "Now, I assure you, that is the sole purpose of the Stella Maris: to study and protect, and nothing more."

In the brief moment of silence that followed, the chamber erupted into furious debate.

Inwardly, all Wayorá could think to do was wonder what else the government had been hiding from him.

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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Mao Mao
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Mao Mao Sheriff of Pure Hearts (They/Them)

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PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

January 15th, 1991
EMPRESS OF KOREA

Cheongwadae, Seoul
The winter snow that coated the gardens of Cheongwadae had finally melted, making them accessible for the President and her staff. President Na Mi-Kyung went out alone to have a moment of solitude before being forced back to the unpleasant world. She reflected upon her dead parents and prayed that they were proud of her. Or at the very least, gratified that their only child was safe and sound. Then, her tranquility was interrupted. Mi-Kyung immediately knew that her friend was coming to visit when there wasn't any sound of resistance from her security. So, she spoke up. "It's nice to see you again, Chairman. I would've prepared a feast if I knew you were coming."

"You know why I am here." Chairman Xue Xuefeng said in a severe tone.

"My petition..." Mi-Kyung answered with a smile. "I knew that it should've been scented."

"I'm serious. You've made the National Congress divided on the matter, which is something that hasn't happened in decades." Xuefeng explained.

Mi-Kyung laughed. "That's because they don't want to stand against the Paramount leader openly."

"Very funny." Xuefeng replied before finding a nearby bench to sit on. He didn't care if the snow hadn't melted yet. Mi-Kyung sat next to her friend and stared out at the garden. Both of them remained silent for a minute until she started talking again. "It's incredible to see how much this garden has grown since we last saw it together, isn't it?"

Xuefeng nodded. "The tenth anniversary of the Korean Reunification was the last time we stood here. I believe that tree over there was barely planted, and now it's growing high over the other plants. Remember the first time we set foot here and saw how much of the garden was devastated by the artilleries. It took so long to replace the damaged flowers and bushes. But now, we are here to witness its regrowth. Breathtaking, isn't it?"

"Only if we weren't so busy to spend time together." Mi-Kyung frowned. "I assume you came here to tell me to shut up."

Xuefeng stood up and then turned to his friend with a hint of a smile on his face. "Actually, I came here to ask if you were up to the task—reopening Korea's ports to foreigners that want the world to live under capitalist rule, especially Americans. Look at the citizens living under the Soviets calling for newfound freedoms that their government has restricted. China would look bad on the international stage if we are having similar problems in Korea."

"Just like Taiwan?" Mi-Kyung added while Xuefeng glared at her.

"Their citizens were brainwashed by the Kuomintang while South Koreans were under American influence. Our situations are completely different. But if you have a solution, then I trust your judgment to keep the peace." Xuefeng looked at her watch then back at Mi-Kyung. "I have to go back to the mainland. I will express support for the petition at the next National Congress."

Mi-Kyung watched as her friend left the garden to head back home. She sat there for a few more minutes until one of her aides approached her. And she knew what it meant: time to go back to work.


Shilin Night Market // Taipei
Two young men watched the entrance of the night market to find their target and kill them. One of the men had a brown bag, which contained a pistol and a photo of the target. It was an older businesswoman based on the outfit in the picture with another man. That was all he knew about her, and he was okay with it. After all, she was from the mainland that moved to Taiwan shortly after the invasion. Like plenty of Taiwanese people, their hatred towards mainlanders was unmatched since they "invaded" their homes. So, to him, it was good that another "invader" was going to die.

Then, he got the signal from his partner. It was time.

He stood up and followed his partner, who was going to "accidentally" bump into the target. But, both of them weren't expecting associates with her. It was already too late to let them go. While his partner was apologizing, the other man reached into the bag and felt no pistol. That was when he saw his friend with the gun, thinking he had the better chance to kill her. However, her associate saw the weapon and had enough time to push the target out of harm's way. Two shots rang out, and the associate dropped to the ground with bullet holes in his chest.

Before his partner had time to react, the other associate pulled out a pistol of his own and opened fire at the assassin. The other man knew that his friend was already fucked and ran towards his only chance at escaping with his freedom: a rented motorcycle. He didn't want to risk getting captured and ran towards it with lighting speeds. By the time he started the motorcycle and began driving away from the night market, he thought nobody followed him. That was until he heard a gunshot and felt something going through his right leg. It caused him to lose control and fall off of the motorcycle.

The last thing he saw was the left side of a parked car before he lost consciousness.


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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Andronicus23
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Andronicus23 Rogue Courser

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New Horizons Coalition

Tactical Recovery Team Zulu 43 ‘Night Stalkers’ - Paris, France
Recovery Operation ‘Hammer Fall”



Commander Vahid had stumbled upon something terrible.

Zulu 43 had made their way to the warehouse in quick order, and on his command, had breached the doors and began their raid with pinpoint precision. Initial resistance from the smugglers had been light, as expected, and Vahid had anticipated that the raid would proceed as a standard operation.

What had quickly become clear was that this was far from a typical smuggling ring. The intelligence that had been gathered over the past month had not indicated anything out of the ordinary. The smugglers were suspected to be affiliated with contacts in North America, and the artifacts that had been positively identified as in their possession were not considered to be dangerous. More than likely they’d been acquired either through illegal zone scavenging operations in eastern europe or via illicit artifact trading within the city itself. All in all it was considered a low-level bust, with the potential to at least reveal some valuable info on higher level targets.

Things had started to go sideways once they'd cleared the first floor, and proceeded down into the warehouse basement level. Zulu 43 had neutralized resistance quickly, but soon found themselves staring at an unanticipated makeshift tunnel deep within the basement’s structure. It had seemingly been carved out recently by the smugglers themselves, and a safe bet would assume it was some manner of escape tunnel that potentially connected to other buildings in the surrounding area. Not wanting to lose the initiative and potentially allow any high-level targets to escape, Vahid had made the risky request that Zulu 43 continue pursuit immediately down the tunnel. A request that had quickly been granted by Operation Command.

Activating their night vision optics, and leaving two of their members behind to guard the entrance and await reinforcements, the Recovery Team had probed the darkness beyond. The tunnel appeared to be wired for electricity, but in their haste to escape the smugglers had either not activated it or had shut it off to deter pursuit. Overall the tunnel appeared stable and surprisingly well constructed, which immediately began to tip Vahid off to the notion that this might be for more than just a quick exit.

Those suspicions were confirmed when the team began encountering rooms: living quarters and storeroom areas. Some of them even appeared to be well furnished, especially given the circumstances. They cleared each and every one before proceeding onward. In one of these rooms, Vahid had found and picked up a book of some sort, lying on a nearby table upon which strange symbols had been carved. The cover had multiple languages, French, Latin, Russian, and English. The title had read simply:

“The Prophecies of The Thousand Eyes”

“Shit,” Vahid cursed, as he showed the book to his lieutenant, “I knew something was off here.”

“Thousand Eyes,” The Lieutenant gave a whistle, “Didn’t think we’d seen those psychos here. How the hell did they get into Paris unnoticed?”

Vahid shook his head, “No idea, but we need to fall back. Now. There’s no telling what's up ahead.”

“Commander! Contacts!” One of the soldiers shouted, right before he began opening fire further down the tunnel.

“Damn it!” Vahid cursed, and swung his M4 back up.

Screams echoed further down, and twisted almost inhuman forms could be seen manifesting in his night vision. Unchecked NLC mutations, especially those utilized by the Cult of the Thousand Eyes, were loathsome to behold. Thousand Eyes was a Post-Visitation Doomsday Cult dedicated to the idea that humanity was unworthy of its place in the universe, and ultimately believed it to be only deserving of enslavement or eradication. By hastening this end, members of the cult hoped to be found worthy of transcendence by the ever-watchful ‘thousand eyes’ within the black void of space.

The hulking form of a heavily muscled man-creature covered in all manner of ritualistic tattoos barreled down the tunnel towards the Zulu 43 members as it threw aside lesser mutates in its way. In the confined space, it seemed nigh impossible to bring the NLC mutant down with small arms without it reaching them first. Vahid began waving the rest of his team away to make for the exit back where they’d come.

“Ramón! Light it up!”

One of the soldiers detached a flamer nozzle from a device on his back, and he aimed it down the tunnel towards the rapidly advancing mutant. As it came within feet of the pair of them, the nozzle unleashed a hellish torrent of fire. The sounds of screaming filled the tunnel and the fire illuminated deformed faces caught in utter agony.

“Go go!’ Vahid ordered, and he and Ramón began to beat a hasty retreat to follow the rest of Zulu 43 back out the tunnel.

Svalbard Global Operations Headquarters

“As all divisions are currently present, the meeting may proceed.”

A woman in a cleanly pressed black dress suit took her seat at an empty table in a dimly lit room, all around her on the wall were various screens, upon which six other individuals in similar attire were displayed as they transmitted remotely from locations across the globe. Their faces were obscured and their backdrops were nondescript, a certain degree of anonymity being the desired result.

“I’d like to start by going over the report from Paris, an artifact Tactical Recovery Team, codename Zulu 43, engaged elements of the Cult of the Thousand Eyes during a raid on a suspected smuggling ring. Once it became clear that the cult was involved, Zulu 43 immediately retreated and relayed a request for assistance. A close quarters combat specialist team was deployed and the nest was immediately purged. We’re still gathering evidence regarding the Cult’s activities there in cooperation with French authorities.”

“Thousand Eye’s presence in a major European city is disturbing to say the least,” One of the figures on the screens stated, “We need to make sure everything is being done to ascertain how they were able to slip past Coalition intelligence and establish such a strong foothold.”

“A foothold right under our very nose….” another added solemnly, “Aurora any thoughts on that point?”

The woman perked up at her codename, “I’m taking the necessary steps to do just that,” she replied, “I should have an initial report from my subordinates within the next day or two.”

“Very good, I don’t mean to suggest that this was a lapse in your division’s operations. It is a concerning development that affects us all.”

Aurora nodded, “I take no offense, and concur with the assessment.”

“Very good, we’ll continue monitoring the situation then, and raise our threat level regarding the Cult of The Thousand Eyes worldwide. It's clear that we’ve underestimated their capabilities. Their dangerous use of NLC artifacts poses a threat to mankind as a whole, and they cannot be allowed to spread unchecked.”

“Agreed.” Came the unanimous reply.
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Dr Lovecraft
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Dr Lovecraft Unknowable Scientist

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"BUZZ! BUZZ! BUZZ! BEEP! BEEP! BUZZ! BUZZ! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!"

The alarm screeched, violently ripping the young boy out of his dreams and thrusting him back into the cold, clean cell that was his bed room. Swinging his legs over the edge, the boy sat up, squinting against the eerie green flashes of light that illuminated his room. In another thirty seconds, the alarm would stop, and his room would be lit by the same eerie glow from above, though with less intensity. The boy inserted two fingers into the wall, grabbing hold of a well hidden latch, sliding the wall out of the way to reveal a small, cramped closet space. There were two drawers at the bottom, further limiting the space. Along the top was a wrack of hangars, each adorned with an three identical, white uniform, each with a green band on the left arm, a white cog in the center. The uniform was a single piece of clothing, designed to cover the entire body, save for the hands, feet, and head. He stepped into the only clothing he had ever known, grabbing hold of the small, interlocking mechanism near the crotch, and pulling it all the way up to his clavicle. Only to his clavicle. He would not bring it all the way up to his neck, for he was a rebel.

In another sixty seconds, the door would slide open, and he would be forced out into the world he knew. But for now, he was free to put on his required footwear, though he intentionally laced them improperly. Because he was a rebel. As the door slid open with precise timing, the boy exited... only to have it malfunction and try to shut on him. This had been expected, and the boy spun as he left, twisting his body out of the way just in time. Turning to face the stark white hallway he found himself in, the boy fell in line with the other children, each with their own uniforms and required footwear. The boy's name... was irrelevant. On the cuff of his right sleeve was a barcode that contained all the information relevant to the future employee of Hypothetical Physics Logistics Corporation. He and his peers were marched down the hall to their classes, kept watch by HPL Corp.'s own security team, donned in similar uniforms, though theirs were reinforced, and were green with black bands. In these classrooms the children would learn all they needed to become productive members of the HPL family, taught by individuals who had been meticulously hand picked by HPL's highest ranking members. Because they cared.

All the while the children's parents were hard at work, running power plants, constructing weapons, researching new technologies, or simply doing the menial grunt work that allowed the corporation to flourish, and with it, society. It was a hard, unforgiving job, regardless of which sector they had been assigned to. It was not a thankless one, however. The laborers, engineers, botanists, and medical professionals were all well compensated with free housing, three free meals a day, and a small chip implanted into the back of their right hand that allowed the to purchase goods using digital credit that was loaned to them for an honest day's work. It was a paradise the likes of which only the oldest and most senile among them dared question.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Meanwhile, in the the Kraft Science Facility that had been built around Singapore's capitol building, the true leaders of the nation convened to discuss the affairs of state. Doctor Penny Kraft, daughter of Harley Kraft and CEO of HPL entered the stark, white conference room. Many believed her relation to HPL's originator had guaranteed her ascension to power. This couldn't be further from the truth. The genetic donor of roughly forty five percent of Penny's DNA had never been a mother, only a business woman. She would rather die and take the planet with her than appoint an unworthy successor. Every moment of Penny's life she had been compared to experts, every achievement worth nothing if it could not beat her competitions. Harley Kraft had not given birth to a daughter, but rather, had created a monster. Smarter, colder, able to be more ruthless than her predecessor ever was.

As Penny Kraft sat down at the round, white conference table, she cast a calculating eye across the assembled officials. When her mother had first started the company, they were all native citizens of Singapore, willing to work longer, harder, and for far less pay than any American. As soon as HPL hit it big, they had been downsized, every one of them, in order to make way for the experts from countries that could afford higher education. Now the pendulum had swung back, as almost everyone in the room was a native citizen of Singapore, groomed from birth to be the top minds in their respective fields. Dr. Kraft expanded her lungs, creating a vacuum that pulled air in through her nasal passages. She held this cocktail of gasses trapped within her for exactly one second before slowly releasing it back out of her nostrils in a heavy sigh. "Alright, let's get down to it. Super Intendent Jiàoyù, how are our future scientists doing?" She asked as if inquiring about the state of a vegetable garden. "Excellent, ma'am!" The man named Jiàoyù answered proudly. "The children are incredibly receptive to our sixteen hour education program! The few that deviate from the curriculum are quickly singled out by their peers, discouraging any kind of rebellious nature. In the rare case that they're unable to quell themselves, the trouble maker is immediately medicated to remove their harmful influence from the student body."

Dr. Kraft nodded silently, unphased by this good news. "Mr. Qián, how is funding?" She asked, sliding her eyes over to the next person in the line up. "Very good, ma'am. Everyone has exactly as much money as they need to do their jobs, no more, no less." Qián answered dutifully. A nervous man, he tried to hide his emotions when under the cold gaze of his CEO. Fortunately, his answer seemed adequate, as Dr. Kraft's piercing gaze shifted to the woman next to him. "Dr. Yánjiū?" The woman cleared her throat. It was a bad career move to be the bearer of bad news, but an even worse one to hide it from her superiors. "Just a few hours ago, Brazil announced the existence of an orbital space station named the Stella Maris. It's stated purpose is to act as an early warning system in the event of another visitation. However, while some of it is powered using our technologies, we make up a very small part of the station's design. Further more, the Brazilian government was adamant in their refusal to allow our engineers to work on it. I believe it utilizes a type of technology we are unfamiliar with, one that could potentially be a problem if we don't unlock it's secrets within the next few weeks."

Mr. Qián placed his forehead in his hand, rubbing it slowly as the head of Research and Development spoke her next words. "Due to the nature of the problem, I believe we will need more funding for... inside help." "This is ridiculous!" Qián spat, his nerves finally getting the best of him. "Research is YOUR job! We can't keep handing out checks every time you find a new toy to study!" Yánjiū knew better than to speak out of turn, however, and simply gritted her teeth as the shaking official continued to berate her. "If you had done your job in the first place, they wouldn't have been able to work on this damned station, let alone launch i-" "Mr. Qián." Dr. Kraft interjected sternly. Qián's blood froze in his veins as his CEO's eyes locked onto his. "You will wait for Dr. Yánjiū to finish her report." This was not a command, but rather a statement of fact. "Y-yes ma'am." He stammered. "Of course. My sincerest apologies, Dr. Yánjiū." The idea of having to answer to these... women would have infuriated Qián, had he not strangled his pride years ago.

After thanking Dr. Kraft, Yánjiū continued. "We also have reports of increased cases of mutation in both Brazil and Paris. We have a team of chemists devoted to creating a cure for it. Currently, the best candidate is Compound D4-G0-N. It has been observed to help fend against mutation and even alleviate some of the more minor symptoms, however, it requires repeated use in higher and higher quantities. Those who stop using it suffer withdrawals and often exhibit signs of increased mutation. Finally, we've begun development of an experimental weapon that fires syringe tipped cartridges at over five thousand rounds per minute. We plan to sell these as Anti-Mutant weapons to any nation or military complex capable of purchasing them. The guns have low accuracy and a high rate of jamming, with a 15% likelihood to misfire, however, the cartridges are filled with a chemical similar to Compound D4-G0-N that has been dubbed White-Lie. It reacts harshly to langium, dissolving any langium based material it comes into contact with. For this reason, it's important that the bullets be longer than average, to allow for space between the White Lie and the langium caps." Dr. Kraft allowed the room to sit in silence for exactly two seconds before speaking. "Proceed with your cure and weaponry as planned. In the meantime, I want you to find out what makes this Stella Martis tick. We can't have an unknown technology floating around, and we certainly can't risk someone else spotting a potential Re-Visitation before we do. Go through the government if you have to, it's all their good for anymore. Mr. Qián, I expect you'll give Dr. Yánjiū your complete cooperation." "Yes ma'am!" was the only response out of him. They continued their discussions for another fifty-five minutes exactly. When the meeting was concluded, Dr. Kraft dismissed her officials. Standing up, she placed her hands behind her back and began to slowly, slowly, pace around the large, circular room. Each step echoed, though she didn't hear them. She was deep in thought. This Brazilian space station troubled her. How did anyone manage to design, construct, and launch an orbital space station without her knowing. What kind of secrets did it hold? What do they know that I don't?
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by MagustheRed
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MagustheRed

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The Archbishop – The Anglican Communion – London




Faith.

For the love of it or the lack of it.

Faith was what had driven Humanity towards greater and more terrible things over the long march of time. Faith in something, a god, gods or no god or gods. And pressing tobacco into a pipe between his fingers, the Archbishop looked up at the great midnight sky above and considered what it was to have faith in his day and age. That had, after all, been what the debate on the BBC had just been all about. Britain Believes, or something along those lines, a new flagship late hour program intended to round out Tuesday’s programming by asking religious experts for their answers on some subject or another. What ungodly soul had decided on an hour-long debate show from 11pm on a Tuesday night was the question the Archbishop had hoped would be asked.

But what else could be asked than what had been asked? What was faith in the age of the visitation?

Drawing a matchbook from inside his cassock, the Archbishop sticks pipe in betwixt lips and teeth, cracks match onto, along and off sandpaper, covers the spark and the flame with tired flesh and brings the heat and the light into his pipe. Soon, in no time at all, he feels the warmth and smell of the smoke in his mouth and the air around him, shaking out the match, he flicks the charcoal ended remnant into the nearby bin and considers the question.

What was faith in the age of the visitation?

Well, what had it been what it had occurred? When souls from beyond this cradle called earth had graced or cursed their little blue orb with their presence and touch? How could he explain his night in the woods staring up in horror at the burning skies above that convulsed in the aurora of a million pinpricks of colour? Waves of magnetic fire coursing over the world as the atmosphere had shifted and shivered as strange beings had strode across the surface of the earth. His chapel in the trees turned upside down, inverted in the air with twisting staircase where one could walk feet in the clouds and head to the ground. Tombstones lingering and hanging like thrown pebbles over a skimming pond, the skeletons of the dead reaching out through the once-bottoms of the graves in morbid greeting and farewell to the strangeness before them.

It had been a challenge to whatever faith you had.

Around him in that forest others had dropped to their knees and prayed, to their old god or to the new gods they saw before them. God or Gods. Faith in a higher power, but belief in which? The old order or the new order? He had remained standing, lost in and losing his mind and clinging onto the teetering scars of his faith, a subject of a photo that had graced a number of publications since then. And looking up at the hanging light above like he had all those years before, the constant reminder of the visitation in night and day. Before he can think any further, the door to the balcony opens behind him, bathing him in a wall of heat and sound, and illuminating a figure to him.

“Rabbi Weinberg. Can I offer you a light? I don’t drink.”

The Rabbi, one of the other religious leaders on the panel, shakes his head and joins him by the balcony after shutting the door behind him.

“I was just about to say the same in reverse Archbishop. One small sin we each allow ourselves I suppose?”

The Archbishop nods, before turning to lean on the railing and look back up at the twin orbs above them. The Rabbi leans too, taking a sip on what, from the Archbishop can smell, is a heavy glass of whiskey. The Archbishop pauses, before gesturing at the sight before them.

“I wondered once, what my mother would have thought of all this. She was a spiritualist, lost her father and brothers in the Great War. She died in an air raid in the Second, in the middle of a group tarot reading of all things. Anyway, she always said that one day the spirits would avail themselves to us one day in some shape or form. I suppose she’d say she was right. I know she’d say that. But that question, what is faith now? Well, I can’t say what it is yet, perhaps I never will, but the question, what is faith now? That aches within me for some reason.”

The Rabbi eyes him, before shrugging, more to himself and launches into an old tale.

“My old rabbi had a story when I once asked a question. In ancient Israel, during the age of King Solomon, a shepherd loses his flock to a wolf, his house and lazy son are burned together when his son falls asleep whilst tending the fire and his wife leaves him for another man who has everything that he does not after all this. So, the shepherd in his grief goes to the village rabbi. Why? He asks, why does the almighty allow such things to occur? Well, my old rabbi would say then, what would you say?”

The Archbishop nods, hums, before replying.

“I would say the lord works in mysterious ways, though I have never found that to go down well when said. I would say that ours is not to question the will of the lord, but they would then ask why they should worship such a being. So, in the end, I would say that we can ask, we will always ask, and perhaps you may be answered, but until that time comes, to do good, to abide by the word and to do unto others as you would have others do unto you. I would then offer to help the shepherd, to provide him with a new flock and house and restore harmony to his life. What the lord will do, the lord will do, but until he chooses to tell us why, all we can do, is to carry on as best we can.”

Weinberg chuckles.

“Certainly a better answer than mine. I tried to quote a full passage of the Torah, but my Rabbi shook his head, and told me to go and clean the corridor until I thought of a better answer, because the corridor needed cleaning and time would bring me clarity. Eventually, I learned the lesson. So, what is faith now?”

The Archbishop takes a long drag on his cigarette, taps the ashes onto the pavement a few floors below.

“Faith is faith. The lord works in mysterious ways. Who are we to question him? Not the answers people want to be hearing. No wonder attendance rates are falling across the board. And no wonder the number of visitation cults are increasing across the world either. Such is the state of the world entire, undergoing change. Turning from peace to war, from love to hate, from the old to the new, as it always has been, as it always will be. And what can the old faiths offer the new world?”

The Rabbi eyes him for a few more moments, before taking another swig of his whiskey, emptying the glass and looks into it, pensive and a little sad.

“The world is much changed. And we will just have to learn to live with it. We will tend to our flocks, and shepherd them from harm as best we can.”

The Archbishop nods, murmurs his agreements, and motions his thanks for the Rabbi’s company when the man leaves. They agree to keep in touch, plan some cross-communal events to help those in need and then, the Archbishop finds himself alone on the balcony, cigarette burned down to a stub of ash that drops from his fingertips and leaves them smudged in tar and dust. So, with nothing else to do, he turns, leans on the railing, looks up at the old earth moon and the new earth oracle and considers everything past, present and future in a single question. What is faith worth now?

Faith.

For the love of it or the lack of it.
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by TheEvanCat
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TheEvanCat Doing specific things for beer money

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Zone Rouge 23, French Algeria

A boot tapped on the metal floor to the rhythm of a ponderous drumbeat. Heavy, distorted guitar filled the air with raw and ugly notes. A singer, voice saturated with aggression and angst, sneered lyrics describing a heroin trip and suicide in no uncertain terms. The music played from a boombox that had been strapped to the top of a nearby weapons rack with a fraying green ratchet strap. For hours on end, the soldiers in the cramped cab of their patrol vehicle listened to CDs brought with them on their deployment. Along with bantering about anything and everything, it was their only entertainment as the machine crawled through kilometers of dark, grey landscape.

Sixteen men in two vehicles made up the patrol. Each of the trucks, the term an understatement enough, was a massive twelve-wheeled armored vehicle. The massive cruisers trod gently over the terrain with gigantic, wheels regulated by a complicated pneumatic tire inflation system nested within the armored hull. The sleek, angular craft were outfitted for overland expeditions: inside their armored and angular frame were spaces for a cockpit, living quarters, compartments holding electronics and communications gear, sensors, an airlock, storage space, an airlock, and even a cramped toilet like a cross-country bus. They were covered in prominent antennas that swayed in the wind and bumpy terrain and cameras providing an almost completely surround-view of the windowless shell.

Their frames were painted in a mottled grey-green scheme, a modification of standard camouflage to better fit the tones of an anomalous zone. On each of their sides, beside their hull numbers, a large and bright French flag had been prominently painted. One of the cruisers bore a large crane like a wrecker vehicle’s, stowed securely along the side. A remote-controlled turret duly swiveled atop it, a large ammunition box bolted to the side to ensure that the crew would rarely need to dismount for reloading. It carried with it a trailer that resembled a cab-less dump truck, a gigantic bin to store whatever could fit. The other was further festooned with more antennas, a radar covered in a cylindrical shell, and meteorology gear on a shelf that extended towards the sloped front to give more surface area to the already-crowded roof. This one carried a flatbed trailer, like a long-haul lowboy.

Ahead of the patrol drove a much smaller craft. It appeared to be an armored remote-controlled vehicle, like a chunkier version of a Martian space rover. Equipped with a plethora of probes, manipulator arms, cameras, and scientific equipment, it had rolled carefully up to what appeared to be a series of cylindrical containers peeking out just above the ashen-grey surface of the zone. Inside the armored cruiser, a man sat in a padded chair and observed a bewildering array of CRT screens in front of him. His focus was on the central one, showing the grainy camera of the drone’s manipulator arm. He pressed forward gently on two joysticks, one to move the arm forward and another to angle a fork-like scraping device to touch the ground. Beside him, a TV labeled “GROUND PENETRATING RADAR” suddenly shifted its picture.

Its complicated readout looked like the ebbing and flowing tides of a grey ocean. But as the operator nudged the drone forward, its display suddenly shifted to reveal four distinct sharp arrowhead-shapes at different points on the screen. A screen embedded into the wall above it, labeled “LANGIUM GASEOUS RESIDUE DETECTOR” displayed corresponding spikes above the background measurements. The operator began to lightly claw at the ground with his forked arm, slowly uncovering the glowing cylinders beneath. He had done this a thousand times and already had an idea of what he was finding before he could even get the spectrometer on another arm onto target. “Mon adjutant,” he called over the intercom, “We got some of those batteries.”

From across the cockpit of the cruiser a tall man, wearing green camouflaged pants and a sweater bearing epaulettes bearing a gold bar bisected by a thin red line, came to look over the shoulder of the drone operator. The flickering light of the screens flashed across his oversized glasses as he reached out and tapped the camera monitor. “Yep, those are batteries. Run the laser and we will call our partner to pick it up.”

The drone operator, a caporal, responded affirmatively and brought a second arm out with yet another control panel. This clunky setup was necessary for the vast array of equipment that these drones possessed. Once it was in position, the operator pressed a button to switch the monitor to the other arm’s camera, where a set of crosshairs was superimposed over the footage. He deftly maneuvered the laser to aim at the battery and begin its scan. Outside, the drone gave off a low hum as its pulsed laser quickly ionized a microscopic portion of the battery and an optical sensor analyzed its generated ions. After a few seconds of scanning, a flashing result appeared in the bottom of the screen: “NLC COMPOUND 141.”

This information had already been transmitted to the other crawler, but the adjutant gave a courtesy radio call to the other vehicle commander anyways. In a delicate maneuver, the command vehicle reversed slowly, its driver careful to keep the wheels straight on its carved-out path lest he jackknifed the trailer and they had to wait a few days for tow support. The crane vehicle drove forward and stopped beside where the drone had designated the NLC batteries with an infrared laser. The crane on the cruiser began to extend and swivel to where the batteries were located, now dug safely out of the ground by the drone’s claw. Everything about this was slow and deliberate. It took the crews almost an hour of painstaking maneuvers to control the massive vehicle and equipment’s movements. But they had finished: all four of the batteries were dropped into the trailer atop a treasure trove of other artifacts.

“Good catch, continue patrol,” the adjutant called out over the radio.

The vehicles started their crawl again. Massive engines rolled the tires across sharp rocks and treacherous changes in elevation. Even a small ditch or bump could risk a rollover of the cruisers. The speaker inside was turned back up again, and the music continued to play. It was an atmospheric favorite of the soldiers, a complementary soundtrack to the dismal weather and alienated terrain that they saw day in and day out on their seven-day patrols. It was also a unique cultural quirk to the men who crewed the machines. Since The Visitation of 1961 and the subsequent exploitation of NLCs artifacts, France had given the uniquely dangerous mission to its traditionally most expendable forces: the Foreign Legion.

The Legion was rapidly deployed with the bare minimum of equipment and understanding to scout the anomalous zones that were rapidly appearing in French colonial possessions. Many of them died, often horrifically, as they were exposed to the horribly scarred environment and mutated creatures before protective gear had time to develop. It was these sacrifices that led the Legion to stand up its own training and research organizations: the tactics and technology that were now commonly used across the globe to operate more-or-less safely in the anomalous zones had been developed by Legionnaires and initially taught at Legion troop courses. Even their cruisers had been developed by the Panhard Company based on exacting specifications produced by Legion reports and intelligence.

The caporal exited his chair, which was locked into the ground to reduce rollover injuries, and leaned up against his control panel. The man’s uniform nametag read “Zalewski.” He had been a refugee from Communist Eastern Europe, his family smuggling him to the West when he was only a small child in the 1970s. Many of the men in his unit had similar stories. They were criminals, refugees, people in hiding from spouses or the bank, or even Francophiles who wanted a chance to serve in what they saw as the world’s greatest country. Charles Zalewski had nowhere else to go after he could never hold more than a job as a waiter in a small town in Alsace. His lack of ID documents hampered his ability to even go to university.

“I’m ready to go home…” he mused absent-mindedly as he reached for a steel cigarette case in his cargo pocket. In front of a sign explicitly prohibiting smoking in the vehicle, he lit a match and inhaled deeply. The crew had long since disabled the smoke detectors and the cruiser’s air filtration system was sufficient enough to get most of the smoke out.

“Home?” deadpanned another member of the crew. Jacques Dumont, a Légionnaire who had fled Quebec after his resistance cell had been decimated by American airmobile troops, turned back to see Zalewski smoking by his control station. “Base is not home.”

He cocked his head and thought about it for a second: “Well, on second thought, maybe it is to you, commie. Shitty rations, a creaky bed, and plenty of rats to chase out. Must be just like Mother Russia or wherever you came from.”

Zalewski chuckled and tossed a crumpled-up piece of paper at him. “At least I can speak French the way they taught us, not like your fucking speech impediment. Your mother must have drank a lot with you in her.”

“The only thing I’m excited for right now is coming off shift. I am exhausted,” said the third soldier. Another caporal, this one German. He had changed his name to Patrick von Möller, and often convinced people that he was another Alsatian much like where Zalewski had initially settled in France. Von Möller never quite talked about where he had come from, only vague references to street gangs in West Berlin. The rest of the unit had hypothesized about it, and joked with him about running from a crime lord, but von Möller would just shake his head and redirect the conversation. He checked his watch, a surprisingly expensive Swiss timepiece that bore years of wear and tear. Probably stolen. “Thirty more minutes. Then I can sleep.”

“Just don’t jerk off too loud, and don’t finish everywhere,” sternly instructed the adjutant as he returned through the hatch leading towards the bathroom in the back of the cruiser. Adjutant Gerard Lemas was the only Frenchman aboard, and had come to the Legion from a conventional unit like most senior NCOs and officers. He was the highest-ranking non-commissioned officer in the platoon, and the current patrol commander on this week’s foray into the anomalous zone. Despite his slender frame and big glasses, he exuded an air of strict paternity. Plenty of people had mistaken him for a logistician or a computer programmer before he flashed them his green beret with a harsh stare. He would dress them down appropriately if they mistook him twice.

“You share that bunk with Hollande, and he has to sleep in your pool of degenerate children.”

“Yes, mon adjutant,” was the only thing that von Möller could muster. He looked back at his dashboard and instruments, knocked out of the conversation.

The low hum of the cruiser’s engine and the grunge music were the only sounds for a few moments, until Dumont started chuckling. Like a contagion, Zalewski and von Möller joined him. Lemas cracked a faint but noticeable smile, and went back to his station. Largely surrounded by radios and a computer with a pixelated satellite map of the zone, he studied their route. Their path had taken them out and back in a cloverleaf-pattern to maximize their chances of finding NLC artifacts. It had been a good haul, but that only meant more time preparing paperwork and offloading the material when they returned to base. He had already gotten a head start on the forms, each artifact required at least a dozen or so forms in a series of three-ring binders stacked lazily across the small amount of desk space that he had. Some of them were thicker than others, depending on the perceived hazard of the material.

The song changed again, the CD repeating back to the first track in its playlist. It had been like this for three days now. Someone had to tell Dumont, the resident DJ, to bring more disks next time. Von Möller had been banned from the boombox after slipping a “best hits of polka” disk into the collection for one patrol. That lasted about three minutes before Lemas had taken the CD and made them sit in silence for a few days: he then taped it to a green “Ivan” target on the rifle range for their next qualification and ensured that it was forever destroyed. The cruiser patrol continued, Zalewski returning to his drone station to prepare it for the next operator. Before they knew it, their shift was over.

Four of their colleagues appeared through the door, bleary-eyed and freshly woken. Their leader, a slightly subordinate NCO, went to Lemas’s desk to receive the shift change brief. The others milled around in the passageway until the leaders were done, long since numbed to the routine ordeal. At their adjutant’s beckoning, the Legionnaires turned over their positions to their counterparts.

“Anything cool happen?” Zalewski’s counterpart asked as he took the seat and quickly reviewed the screens.

“We found like, some batteries and stuff. Might have run over a creature, not sure what that bump a while ago was.”

“Ah,” his replacement replied disinterestedly. They were all ready to be done with their patrol. Zalewski rubbed his eyes and stubbed out his cigarette on the ashtray next to his console while his replacement bid him a farewell: “Well, I’ll see you soon. Take care.”

“You too.”
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Hidden 28 days ago 28 days ago Post by Crusader Lord
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Crusader Lord A professional, anxiety-riddled, part-time worker

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The Greater Republic of India


In front of the Secretariat Building, New Delhi


The most recent meeting had long ended in the building, the other department heads and ministry officials long dispersed, but even so President Daksh felt that some fresh air after it all was more than necessary. He'd invited Prime Minister Ishann to come with, and the other man seemed to readily accept the offer. Now the two stood upon the front steps of the Secretariat Building, watching out at the pools of water directly out before them, surrounded on either side by the symmetrically-cut shrubbery and plants and carefully-laid pathways before them. It was a sight both had seen many a time before at this building, but even so the glow of the late afternoon sun reflecting softly off of the water was not as comforting as it had been before.

...In fact, the air between the two seemed some peculiar mixture of a worn-out tiredness and a lingering sense of tension.

"To see the day you and the Army Minister announced 'that' as being completed is something I never thought I would see, President Daksh, much less an approval to use it. Even so it all seemed to work out in the end, in no small part due to the Army Minister's own passionate speech to the House. He once told me he studied overseas and took oratory classes at his father's insistence, but to see him in action like this was a first throughout all of my tenure.

Still, the truth is what we are about to do is nothing we can take back in the aftermath. Many still left a bit nervous, others more confident, but...even you, it seems, fall into the former."


Daksh's eyes simply turned to look at the other man, looking on with a gaze that seemed to hold stalwart and true despite the notes of exhaustion visible behind them, before shifting back towards the scene before them.

"I won't say you are wrong, Prime Minister, what we are undertaking is something that has taken it's toll even on me. It was one reason I wished to step out here, even as you seemed to be drained by the occasion. Yet I cannot blame you.

Years of patience and funds, negotiations, the payoff from certain fines from Maharashtra and here in the NCT, and careful management of the Military Bugdet's internal allocation were required. Among 'other things'. Yet what some once called a 'useless vanity project' has borne fruit, and yet tomorrow those who ounce doubted will be proven more than wrong. Our nation, once a puppet of the British and put to shame, will stand out on the world stage with prominence and pride."


The President raised his hands, gesturing out and up at the world before them before letting them rest more formally by his sides once more.

"Still, the arguments were made, the information placed before the House and other Ministries, and we all came to the necessary and unanimous consensus in the end. Do not worry too much, Ishann."

The other man seemed to shuffle silently for a moment, before a restrained yet defeated sigh finally escaped his lips.

"I pray you are right, Daksh. More so I have been encouraged before meeting you out here to tell you to be wary of the use of 'that' on behalf of both the other Ministries and House. Beyond what has been approved, you must communicate with the House and Ministry Heads and seek approval. Myself included among those. That is what was decided.

I simply do not want to see our people made out as barbarians-"


He didn't even have a chance to finish those words, the President's eyes swiveling over on a dime and his voice raised and cutting through the humid air and Prime Minister's words like a hot knife.

"Barbarians, you say? By whose metric? By whose tongue?"

Barbarians. Savages. Such was what they had been seen as by others when the Dutch and British arrived. His father, even his grandfather, had been able to tell stories of those days whether from their own lives or that had been told to them by loved ones. Barbarians that agitated their people, savages that had pushed them around, he wanted nothing of those days. He had continued to help push for the fight to modernize India even now, even as his most ambitious predecessors had prior, so none would ever call them much les think on them with such vulgar terms again. No longer would their people a stepping stone for others beyond their shores.

Even so, the man did pause for a moment after his words rung into the cooling air...before letting out his own sigh. Mindlessly Daksh adjusted his tie and button-down shirt, before turning his gaze again to meet that of the other man next to him.

"The crunch work on this was painstakingly done to ensure this could happen, and can moving forward as we need it, and our soldiers and officers have been preparing for this day after the project finally completed. Maintenance has been accounted for, adjustments were made to keep things in-balance, and proper channels have been used. Even so, we both know that India has needed much in the way of projecting its power beyond these borders. Something to make the world take us seriously, but not enough to cause others to lay siege to our shores.

It will be the first time in history this sort of thing has happened, and India shall stand at the head of it all in a positive light in the long run."


The Prime Minister seemed to ever so slightly grimace, his silence speaking volumes as he places his hands behind his back.

"...Or we will be standing at the beginning of our world's end. I may not be as religious as some, nor wield it in the duties of my office as I have long upheld, but I pray we do not end up as Ashwatthama did before Lord Krishna. For great would be our curse, and immense our suffering."

Daksh clicked his tongue in return, though he did seem to gaze out in thought for a moment at the very least.

"...Way up there, Ishann, we can assuredly make our stance as well as our might clear. We will not end as the ancient epics once detailed for the viallins, but be the victors and greater and glorious in the aftermath. We will be the Pandavas of this tale, not the other way around.

I say this, I do all of this that I have done thus far, because our people need something. They need something to make them feel as if we are strong, and that they can accomplish anything. They need something to feel as if we deserve to exist upon the grand stage that is this world, and be among its great actors!

We shall make our people even greater, but to make things better we must inspire them. Not simply sit back in the shadows and simply just sit idly by and sell Bollywood movies around the world as we have been."


Daksh's eyes turned towards his companion, who seemed to calmly stare back in an almost challenging manner. Yet in the end the latter would lightly shake his head, before giving a surrendering motion with his hands before placing them behind his back once more.

"Then I pray we have such resolve as you do now, Daksh, throughout the coming days. I have already made preparations for what will be released to the press and media outlets, both local and international, and all we will need to do is adjust them as the situation demands. All that is left is...well, for you to pull the trigger.

Until we meet again, however, I must be on my way. The cook I have hired for tonight is supposed to prepare my favorite dish, and I'd sooner get home than be trapped for several more hours on the road."


With that Ishann gave a light nod of his head before walking off. Daksh felt his eyes follow the man for a bit, before returning up to the darkening sky. Indeed, the remannts of sunshine were like a fading light on the horizon, though for this moment they shone softly like a beautiful gold. It made him think, even. Perhaps this weekend he could take his family to see the NLC-mutant Zoo in Mumbai, or the world's tallest international hotel bed and breakfast being built only some blocks away from from the Secretariat Building. Such sights were new to India, and yet the magnates and wealthy building these projects had brought in much in regards to fines and jobs once things had settled down.

Of course, on the other hand, the struggles of the encroaching shadows about their nation's border still loomed. Indeed the nation continued with their own struggles within, of which there were many.

Indeed, at one time or another darkness always fell upon Bharat...and yet inevitably they would rise to a new dawn and overcome. Their history, their people, spoke volumes of this. This he was sure of, and this time would be no different than all the others.

Such was his hope for the future.




Several Kilometers Off the Southern Coast Of Burma, Western Indian Ocean


The man laughed from the bridge, one hand on the ship's wheel to steer and his worn AK-47 still cradled in his other hand with a finger on the trigger. His dark eyes looked out the window as the vessel continued to float on the waves many a mile from the mainland, all whilst he stood here and took it all in with a fancy cigar clutched between his lips. The smoke from it trailed up from the lit end, the fancy lighter used for it stuffed in the hole-ridden and patchwork pants he wore. The crew of the vessel had already surrendered, but to catch some cargo ship headed from India to somewhere back in Europe. It was a goldmine. His contact had been useful after calling in that this one coming by at the right time, and it was an easy job once they'd taken the crew by surprise almost a week ago. The crew'd been packing, though, so he'd had his men ferry those bits back for later and bring more to staff the ship by this point.

Damn stupid foreigners, they never learned. They tried over and over again to stop them, but in the end it was all just a fool's errand. His men had been looking for a score like this forever, gathering up the supplies and striking at smaller targets and looking for information, but finally they had done it. Now they had one big cargo ship, and whatever the hell supplies it carried inside still there. They'd made the call back to India to ransom it last night, and already the old crew had been taken ashore for ransom or been shot already in taking the ship. Not many chances came around for them to get something these days, but the lack of any Indian response so far hadn't worried them. Anything fancy, anything stupid, and the rest of the crew and ship's cargo were forfeit whilst they themselves got away!

And yet this morning, there had been no ships in the area whilst they set anchor. Period. As if it had all become a ghost town. For his part, the man didn't mind, it just meant a day for his men to watch and enjoy themselves with the cargo below while they waited for-

But the man never got to finish his thought. A split second later the clouds seemed to part suddenly, as if something was descending down upon the world. But none of them would get a chance to perceive much less process this.

CRASH!!!


It was over in an instant.

A spear of light from the heavens themselves pierced the ship through, crashing through it like paper and deep into the ocean below.

The impact itself sent ripples outward as a great kinetic energy was imparted into it, generating great waves that roared both east and north to crash hard into the close-enough Burmese coast. Those unfortunate enough to be out on the coast on this day would find themselves...unfortunate, to say the least. Drownings, fishing and pirate ships washed away or capsized, children swimming who were hidden away in the salty waters, and more such stories would arise in the following hours and days. Some wondered if another earthquake had come to life, and yet as the pieces were being put together the Burmese government and others would find that an answer was handed out in an Indian news release, its title eventually clashing across TV screens and over radio waves across the world:

"Indian Government fires Newly-Unveiled Orbital Kinetic Strike Weapon on Burmese Pirates"


Hours later, however, the scene would again repeat itself.




Many Hours Later, Near Southeastern Border Near Pakistan, Kashmir and Jammu Province, India


The ground just over the border, into the annexed Kashmir and Jammu territories from the Pakistani side, was the location of a fortified Pakistani military base that had for years intruded upon this sovereign Indian territory. Even after its assimilation into India proper, even with the security placed there and forces to protect the peoples there, Pakistan had claimed the area was still 'theirs' despite having lost control over it. This base, this military base, had sat there for years as testament and constant issue for the area. It spat in the face of common reason!

Whilst Pakistan was not the only nation to lay claims on this area, they were the only ones to intrude beyond the border with any sort of illegal fortifications and the ilk still at this time.

But today, that would change. It would change only a small while after news of the Burmese Pirates' fate reached even this illegal base itself.

A 'spear of light' once again would descend, a flash within the span of a moment that only those looking to the southeastern skies in the province would have seen. The strike area had been long cleared of Indian Personnel and only a small few villages had been cleaned out to move the people far away. The Pakistanis had taken this as a suspicious sign, sending men out to scout before the news finally hit later that day. First they had simply laughed it away, and yet now those within the effective area would come to realize the truth all too late.

CRASH!!!


Panic that an earthquake had occurred ran through the people of the province, even as that flash from the heavens shook the earth itself with a mighty force that made it seem as if the world was to end. Even so, for those living in the Kashmir and Jammu Province, they would ultimately be escorted back to their villages in due time. At least, once observation of the damages and such things had been assessed by the Indian Military in-depth and were accounted for. Even the Pakistanis would scramble too muster and send others in to try to examine, look for survivors but with the Indian Military presence they would be forced to observe at a long distance...or were shot and bombarded into fleeing before they could see much.

Even so, reports from both Indian and Pakistani sides as well as the later international news crews trying to observe from afar would tell of the same general story at least. Likewise another news headline would be released by the Indian Government, one which would rapidly spread over the TV and radio networks of the world:

"Indian Government fires Newly-Unveiled Orbital Kinetic Strike Weapon For Second Time on Illegal Pakistani Military Base"


A later third release the next day beyond would note further justifications for the two strikes, as well as contain official copies of memos and warnings actually sent to the Burmese Government days before to warn it of the impending first strike a week ahead of time. Burmese officials, many of whom 'dismissed' the warning, have been pulled into the public spotlight. Meanwhile the number of civilians deaths in the Pakistani strike were reported as "0" on the Indian side, with additional documentation and proof provided to assert the claim and provide a headcount of the civilian evacuees after UN representatives arrived several hours later. This event was also met with a hasty Pakistani counter-claim, however, that 'countless civilians were slain' and a demand for sanctions on India...however, the evidence in the days and weeks following thus far has not given a seeming validation to this counter-claim.

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Hidden 24 days ago Post by Jeddaven
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Jeddaven the Dunmeri

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The Outskirts of São Paulo, Brazil. January 16th, 1:25AM UTC-3.

"Wake up! Wake up! Something's on the radio!"

Antoine groaned, roused from his sleep by the sound of his wife's voice - and the sensation of her frantically trying to shake him awake.

"...Grngh..." He groaned, forcing his eyelids open.

What time was it? He wondered, glancing over at his alarm clock.

3:00AM, it read.

"Hurry! The Deacon said it's-"

Antoine leapt up from his bed with a start, scrambling to force his legs into a pair of pants. Wise as he was, the was a demanding man, though he'd certained earned the privilege, far more learned in the ways of the Thousand Eyes than Antoine or his wife.

Rushing outside of his shared room with his wife, Antoine atumbled into the common room - and a gaggle of fellow believers crowded around a single, antiquated radio set. The voice coming from it, laden with static as it was, was unmistakable - the São Paulo state police chief, clearly just as tired as they. One of Antoine's companions gestured for him to come closer, and so he did, listening closely.

"...apologizes for the sudden inconvenience, but, however, the curfew will remain in effect for at least the next twelve hours due to an potential release of highly toxic chemicals at a nearby pesticide production plant. All residents are required by law to remain indoors for this period, and should keep all windows and doors tightly sealed. Any persons found outside during this period by police will be apprehended for their own safety and delivered to the nearest available hospital for prompt examination. The potential release, if confirmed, would consist primarily of Methyl Isocyanate, which is highly toxic to humans and-"

Suddenly, the voice dimmed as the deacon turned the volume knob, a look of consternation on his wrinkled face.

"...We can't just stay inside! We have an important shipment of NLCs to retrieve today." He said, turning to face the rest of the gathered brothers and sisters.

"Brother Antoine - you and your wife used to work with industrial chemicals, yes? What sort of equipment would we need?"

Antoine froze, unused to the attention - especially at such a pivotal time. He was eager to help the cause, though, despite his nervousness - and the possible danger of exposing himself.

"MIC is primarily absorbed through the upper respiratory tract, but we'd need full-body protection to be completely safe. I-"

"We have the equipment you need. You and your wife will suit up and head out in our truck to collect the shipment."

"How soon, sir?" His wife asked, though Antoine could barely manage to pay attention to her words between the opportunity ahead of him and the dull thumping sound in his ears. His beating heart, perhaps. He wasn't certain, but it hardly mattered.

"Immediately. Chemical leak or not, we can't afford to leave our brothers and sisters out in the cold."

"Of course, sir! Should we-"

The sound was getting louder. Closer, maybe?

"- bring anyone with us?"

The Deacon nodded slowly. "Yes. You will have a few of our warriors with you, in case the heathens attempt to apprehend you. No matter what, you can't allow them to capture the NLC! It's of vital importance that-"

Louder. He could barely even hear the noise of crickets outside now.

"Hey!" Sister Alexandra said, peering out a nearby window. "Is that a helicopter?"

Without so much as thinking, Antoine rushed over to the window, then...

A rush of a series of rapid, thunderous cracks filled his ears, and his world became pain. Glancing to the left, he saw what looked like the mangled remains of his leg - to his front, the shredded corpse of Sister Alexandra as high-caliber shells ripped holes in the wall next to him. He looked to his Deacon for guidance, finding little more than one of his tentacled limbs writing helplessly on the ground, no sign of his body remaining beneath a scorched, blackened spot. Everywhere, there was gore and blood, his wife nowhere to be found. Glancing outside, he was finally able to resolve the emblem of the Brazilian army on the helicopter's tail - and a rocket speeding toward him, a plume of black smoke following closely behind.

"Target confirmed killed. Going around for a second sweep, over." Ana said, tightly clutching the joystick in her hands.

São Paulo, Brazil. January 16th, 1:30AM UTC-3.

“Affirm - sniper team is in position.” A voice echoed in João's radio. Briefly tearing his gaze away from the large, black explosive charged strapped to the nearby wall, he glanced over to a tall office building several streets over. In his brief moment of distraction, his squad filed up behind him, taking their positions - and João frowned, clutching the strange, metallic contraption in his hands. A strange time to live-fire test an experimental weapons system, to be sure - but he supposed there must've been a reason for it.

"Operation 'Clean Sweep' is a go. Initiate breach, over."

"Wilco. Initiating breach, over and out." João whispered back, offering another of his soldiers a small, curt nod. The woman nodded back, depressed a trigger in her hands, and...

Boom.

A series of sharp cracks filled his ears as the charges detonated, both his and elsewhere along the massive structure, brick walls collapsing inward in clouds of dust. Without so much as a word uttered between the members of his ten-man team, João stormed inside, taking the briefest of moments to scan the scene before him as he moved. Dozens of bunk beds, men and women lying across them all in various states of wakefulness. Some were easily identifiable as humans, others more akin to hybrid mutants pulled from all manner of conservative conspiracy rag - but none of them were fully awake.

Gunshots rang out from behind João, punching holes through the handful of cultists grabbing for their handguns in quick succession. Already, his team was piling in through the same entryway he'd passed through mercilessly executing the room's occupants, one-by-one. Not once did any of them stop moving, João included.

He, of course, was doing his own work - aiming the barrel of his weapon at the head of a huge, muscular hulk of a woman, he pulled the trigger. An invisible beam crossed the space between them, followed by...

Zzzzzzap! Zzzzap!

A nearly solid rod of lightning followed the trail of ionized gas created by the laser, making contact with the woman's forehead. Her eyes shot wide open, closing again, followed by nearly every muscle in her body exploding into a fit of spasms - and by the time she was done, the air around her was filled with the stench of overcooked meat, her organs scorched black while still inside of her body by the electrical shock shooting through her. João cursed, a stray fork of electrical power sending a violent shock of pain through his body - but he proceeded after a brief moment of hesitation, slaughtering another cultist in a shower of sparks and veins of lightning.

Few words passed between the members of the team as they went about their grim work. Mariana, the giant of a woman she was, only hesitated long enough to bring her shotgun to bear on a foe before painting their beds and the floor beneath in a shower of gore.

Adalberto barely slowed at all between each blast of flesh-rending flechettes he unleashed, leaving a trail of ragged corpses in his wake.

Adao busied himself dragging a twitching, gibbering mass of mutant flesh from its beg, glancing sidelong at João for confirmation.

João simply shook his head - not the man they were looking for. Turning towards the barrack's exit, his ears were filled with the sound of gunfire and brains splattering across the floor.

Wordlessly, the team proceed, executing the few remaining survivors on their way out and into the hall. Left, right... Both ways were clear, aside from the sounds of panicked screams and the ratta-tat of gunfire all around them. Turning left, João headed toward a staircase descending into the darkness. He passed by an open door on his right, eyes briefly falling upon a single man wielding a shotgun inside - only for him to abruptly collapse, his heart punctured by a shot from one of the snipers across the street.

"Bravo team!" He barked into his radio. "VIP isn't in the barracks - any luck?"

"Negative." Aoi responded, pointing the barrel of her shotgun at the handle of the door ahead of her. Squeezing the trigger, she blasted the lock free in a cloud of dust and shattered metal. Quickly slinging it back over her shoulder, she extracted her PDW - a small, sleek little thing - and waited as one of her squadmates tossed a flashbang inside.

*BANG!*

The room was awash with white light and she charged inside, loosing a burst of bullets on the first thing she saw - a human silhouette, quickly dropping to the ground. A sharp *crack* from behind her saw another body fall, then another - and still she advanced, stopping over a desk behind which a gibbering mass of flesh scrambled for bulky pistol.

"Ayubu!" She snapped.

A sharp pop followed as her squadmate opened fire, sending the mutant spiralling to the floor with a resounding *pop*.

Hidden 22 days ago Post by Andreyich
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Andreyich Your colleague, friend, brother

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>>>Wednesday January 16, 1991

>>>UN

As the Brazilian speaker finished his speech the different members of the Soviet delegation looked between each other, and almost as one erupted into laughter, several Warsaw Pact comrades joining in the guffawing. Rules of etiquette were thrown out the window as one of the delegates asked for Fyodor Vladimirovich through his giggles to quietly send a message to the Warsaw pact and other brotherly nations to not make any objections to this, to let the Brazilians have their infantile fun. The only one unhappy amongst the group was the military attache, Maxim Konstantinovich. His face was somewhat grim and thoughtful as he started to write notes to later send to the Premiere. The Brazilian satellite wasn’t even a potential nuisance, let alone a threat. But that was the exact problem. The Americans had their own space program that was a far greater threat and it was quite likely that NASA was having the same reaction of condescending laughter. This was an expensive toy that would take away a great many resources from Brazil’s reasonable defence of its borders from the Americans and Washington would know this very well. So too would ordinary Brazilians who would look to the sky to see a great sink of money that might just make them decide maybe the Americans couldn't be much worse than this. The man shuddered. He knew they had to be spoken to about this but Maxim also knew that much like chihuahuas and other breeds of those insufferable tiny dogs it was the small nations that had the greatest pride which would be wounded when one pointed out their follies. The fall of Brazil would be a very dire event for Soviet geopolitics as it would insure all of America’s attentions could be put towards Cuba and the other oases of anti-American thought. This would need a great deal of attention from Soviet leadership.



>>>Wednesday January 16, 1991

>>>Soviet-Afghan Border



Holy shit it was fucking hot. Gabriel Antonescu had heard it could get this bad and he believed it but he did not think it would feel like this. Moldova was warm enough, the whole nation having a wondrous tan there that many lower class Soviets went to try and receive as well. But here along the border with Afghanistan was truly something else. If he could just about weather the climate as it was by itself there was also his gear. Oh the Soviet Union in its military reforms had spared no expense even for the greenest of conscripts as himself. But whether or not that was a good idea was a question he was more and more intent on raising. On his head was a heavy helmet with goggles upon which he was yet to put on the designated camera and low light goggles. But of course before that he was to take it off and don his balaclava and active headset. Back in the training fields in Northern Russia the kit was heavy but felt nice keeping him warm, but here along Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan it felt as if his brains were boiling inside the kettle of his skull and gear.

His chest felt rather ironically to be the best of it all. The water cooled suit given alongside the heavy armour was very heavy but it also kept him mercifully cold. Of course there was also the armour itself, a composite solution of soft and hard armour covering his arms from the elbows and knees up alongside his torso from both front and back with thick plates to make bullets and shrapnel alike strike harmlessly. That was far from the whole story of course as he was given an AK-74M with optics, folding bayonet, laser and flashlight combination, and grip. For a sidearm was a modernized TT chosen over the Makarov derivatives for the renovated pistol from the world war’s greater ability to defeat soft armours so often worn by the illegal stalkers crossing the border. The two weapons insured that the rig built into his armour had a total of a dozen magazines in it in combination with his multitool and grenades

There were then his gloves, his boots, so on and so forth that even in the air conditioned barracks made Gabriel feel as if he had all his bones broken, and now mended was still covered in a sweaty cast.

When he tried to take these concerns up with his Colonel he called him a faggot. Then to add injury to insult he made him also carry a backpack of ammunition for his squad which they were of course thankful for. But they were absolutely not thankful when the Colonel said that for the next patrol the air conditioning in their IFV would be turned off “for diagnostics”, the machine’s logs showing if they tried to disobey the order once they were deep in the wild.

The good part was that the Officer was also watching a movie on his TV, and in an eagerness to shoo the offending conscript away had not forbidden him and his team from setting on top of the vehicle. Though he had initially thought of this work-around to save himself, the looks from his comrades made it clear he would be driving the BMP while they enjoyed the fresh air.

Thus far the squad had not seen much on its patrols, the worst they dealt with was a shoot out between some sort of smugglers that had turned into a bloodbath as the explosive shells from the vehicle’s 50mm cannon turned them into puddles of red. They had then agreed to not drive up any distance to examine the scene because they enjoyed their dinner staying inside their stomachs.

In general none of them wanted to see conflict and if they heard noises akin to gunshots they tended to drive slightly around them. Indeed in this evening mist they reckoned coming upon trouble was an impossibility.

But not everything could be avoided. As they approached the border village of Aradlik, shots rang out. One of the men snoozing on the roof of the vehicle cried out as they struck him. Absolutely nobody in the squad had been paying attention and in a panic two of the soldiers fell off the vehicle, while others struggled to scramble over one another unsure of where the shooting was coming from. Though the bullets that hit the vehicle would not have any chance of hurting Gabriel the rattle of metal and the sound of panicked cries broke his nerves in an instant.

He swerved and several more men fell off of the vehicle who were rather lucky to not be flattened by it. As muzzle flashes illuminated the landscape to contrast the darkness of the setting sun, it was revealed that the gunmen were hiding behind some boulders parallel to the road. It was hard for Gabriel to actually hear anything with the man that was shot accidentally activating their mutual mic contact, and screaming in it. It was nevertheless hard to stifle a laugh when it turned out the man hit was Garik the Georgian, and none of the bullets had actually gone into his flesh instead flattening upon his armour. But his laughter very quickly ended when something explosive hit the outside of his vehicle. Four shots struck directly whilst two detonated nearby. “Grenade launcher!” Cried out Niklaus. He was an odd fellow, a bit obsessed with the military shite and knew more than any of the other conscripts about what was out here. Indeed, he was the only one who had not slept through half of the training lectures. It was said the Karelians were built different.
Rather narrowly the vehicle was missed by a rocket that curved its path, the guided missile only failing to hit its mark by the panicked and erratic movements of Gabriel. Along with the rest of his squad went down into a ditch by the rode where they would be covered from the enemy’s assaults.

Conscript Styopa peered over the edge of the sand a bullet grazing his helmet after a few seconds. “You fucking idiot get down!” Gabriel said over their line. Hopping into the vehicle Stjopa looked to Gabriel for a moment before getting to the vehicle’s electronics. “Stalkers. A lot of them. High end gear. We didn’t see them they should have avoided us. Something has them spooked. I’m calling the Colonel.”

Though Gabriel knew this would result in a massive arse-chewing with punishments like using their tooth brushes to clean toilets, it was clear this was the best move. Thus he only nodded, and patched the vehicle through to the command center of the Soviet base. A video feed opened with the Colonel who was looking very angry. Still in the corner of the vision was a hastily moved beer bottle still visible in the foreground along with the glowing embers of a cigar and a movie the man was watching placed on pause. “What do you want? There’s important administrative work being done here.” the Officer demanded, the edge of his mustache still coated in some indeterminate sauce.

“Sir we got ambushed!” Stepan pleaded. “Rockets, grenades, there’s a lot of them.” The Colonel was about to call them out on them spouting nonsense, but something about the fear in the conscript’s voice got to him. The Colonel was a middle aged man who was approaching an informal retirement into a roll like working in the academic field, in his weariness he was oft obtuse and unforgiving to the young men under his command, but he wasn’t a bad man and as a god fearing person he knew he’d die of a stroke in a decade if he let these boys with hardly any facial hair die on him.

He scrambled on his desk, knocking over a lamp and his bottle to put on his cap before rolling his chair over to a terminal. “I’m dispatching a drone. Yuri, get over here!”

The officer’s adjutant ran into the room cleaning a contact lens, cursing under his breath as he failed the first try to get it in. “Get in the seat! The guys are in trouble we’re sending a Yastrib.”

“Yes Sir!”

“Now where the hell are you?” the Colonel asked, inputting coordinates into his program when Stepan replied. The nearest active drone was brought under the man’s control, and its engine roared unheard to get it towards the location of the squad. Very quickly it made out the foe with its infrared scanners.

Though the enemy wouldn’t observe it, the soldiers looking expectantly towards the sky all cheered.

Except nothing.

“Someone throw a grenade.”

“Wh-”

“We don’t have authority to use a missile from the drone if it isn’t worth it. Throw a grenade. It won’t reach them in the middle but it’ll force them back nice and clustered, then we can launch.”

It seemed moronic to the men but they didn’t have time to argue. The Colonel applauded their enthusiasm as they all grasped the frags about their person and threw them until none were left. The vast majority were not nearly close enough to have any effect but to make the enemy laugh at the conscripts, however just enough landed close enough to make the enemy run back.

“Launch.” Came the command, and a single rocket was launched from the drone. It was an anti infantry one with shrapnel in such volumes that some pieces whistled over the heads of the conscripts. Amongst the Stalkers it left a bloody mess of fingers and limbs strewn about. The Colonel of course promptly ordered them to investigate.

The foe did indeed have high end gear with many instances of Western arms, armour and tactical equipment. “Take photos.” the officer demanded. Though who was here was clear, it was still a mystery why they had decided to take this fight.

Fortune insisted that they find out soon. As the men returned back to their vehicle the mist started to clear and they saw coming from the road towards the Afghan border village they had been driving down to a sight brought by the clearing mist. There were perhaps hundreds of them, Afghan tribals that looked… different to how they were typically taken to appear. They had paint on their faces, their clothes daubed with all sorts of nonsense that looked even more like nonsense to the men than Afghan or Arabic.

“Colonel!” Gabriel cried through the still open line. The Colonel had been doing paperwork for the launched missile, and looked up into the feed from the drone. He stuttered momentarily as Yuri zoomed in on the procession coming towards the squad. He started to say something three or four times each attempt stopping before any words truly formed. He knew what was there, he was briefed on the cult many times before. The poor conscripts of course weren’t and the better for them. “Fuck it. Yura, launch the Ad missile.” the man said, rubbing his forehead.

“Yes Sir.”

It flew in a flash, and it left a flash in the corneas of the squad. The Soviets had long spearheaded military thermobarics and the introduction of NLCs into combat Engineering was a rather joyous day for them. More greedily than any earthly flame the shining heat expanded across the landscape such that even the camera of the drone was momentarily rendered useless. But just as the fire came, so it disappeared. There was nothing left of the hundreds of Afghans save a charred landscape with a few bits of promptly formed glass here and there.

The Colonel once again took over control of the drone and flew it some distance towards the village. There they were, drawn on the roof of the small Mosque now desecrated by the cultists; the thousand eyes. With a sigh the Colonel opened the six remaining rocket pods of the drone and launched each one to leave no trace of the village’s existence. Gabriel who had observe the event from the roof of the vehicle fell off of it onto his knees, and promptly vomited as anxiety struck at him like a brick.

“Get back to the base. Now!” It was going to be a tough few years before retirement for Colonel Ruslan Kazimirko. The Afghans most certainly would not be happy about one of their villages being vapourized, and the reasoning for this happening he would have to explain to leadership. He’d get a lot more rather nasty responsibilities in the area as there was confirmed cult presence in the border in addition to growing Stalker incursions and the slow expansion of the zone. He closed his eyes, before opening them and shooing Yura out. All this nonsense was later, he had a movie to finish.
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Hidden 21 days ago Post by Yam I Am
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Yam I Am Stubborn Bastard

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January 21, 1991
University of São Paulo, Brazil



Within the Auditorio do IEA, of University of Sao Paulo fame, the silently bustling crowd shuffled about in their seats. Some cast whispers among each other, others cast curious glances up above at the next sign of exposition for that fateful day.

The United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development cast their doubts on this particular conference. Although there were some miraculous hopefuls within the crowd. The UN CSAT had no qualms nor doubts over the verity of Brazil’s scientists, no, yet the commissioners of the conference all hashed their doubts all the same. Sciences for Anomalous and Xenophysical Studies was still a field well into its infancy, after all, and in that same infancy had come many of the growth pains associated with, perhaps, the overzealousness which accompanied the field of rapid discovery. To be frank, most within the crowd expected the next report to be something only the most astute of professors might humor as a discovery. But the title alone drew them in, all the same. After all, with a presentation titled the likes of this, who could resist at least giving them the time of day?

Costanzo reached over the questioner’s table, taking a brief sip from his water glass before the next announcement. Sighing in refreshment, the glasses-bearing man blinked, once again peering down at his papers. Mr. Sciacca tilted the paper up, squinting as he adjusted his glasses, before nodding his head and lowering it toward his microphone.

“And please welcome...Dr. Maria Kawaguchi, Professor of Xenophysics and Quantum Physics.”

Mr. Sciacca and his table of UN CSAT accomplices gave light, polite claps in turn; A gently humbling antithesis to the resounding welcome the crowd behind them returned. The spotlights illuminated the stage before them, and the beading, curious eyes of the crowd soon turned unto their presenter.

"Thank you, Mr Sciacca." The gently middle-aged woman nodded, clad in a finely pressed grey suit, an identification card pinned her to lapelle. Her hair was tied into a tight, immaculate, manicured in much the same way as the rest of her appearance was - and her mannerisms, too, every movement carefully calculated to some inscrutable purpose. In her hands, she clutched a small, electronic remote, quietly clicking button in her palm, activating the projector. The space behind her was suddenly illuminated with the digitized image of one of Brazil's anomalous zones - some stretch of unidentifiable rainforest in which gravity seemed to have failed, floating pieces of the landscape dotting the sky at various heights. "What you'll see behind me is a phenomenon that most of you are familiar with, at least in appearance - and that's what I'm here to talk to you about. In various anomalous zones across the world, there are similar phenomena to what you see here behind me. Places where, in stark contrast to most of what we know about physics, gravity simply doesn't "work" as it should." She said, punctuating the word with air-quotes.

"For the past several months, my team at this very same university has been studying the phenomenon. It doesn't take an expert to reason that, if there are places where gravity works in such a manner, that there must exist an exotic particle with negative mass. We reached the same conclusion, of course, but that's not what I'm here to talk about today. Not precisely, at least."

She cleared her throat, as if bracing herself for something. Another click, and the slide changed again, this time displaying a mostly flat plane, strangely warped upward and downward around opposite sides of a circle about the center.

"What such a theoretical negative mass particle would allow us to do, however, is the focus of my presentation. For decades, we've all puzzled over how the Visitors reached Earth, and more importantly how we might reach them. What a negative mass particle would allow us to do, according to our projections, is, just that - to expand and contract space around an object such that effective faster-than-light travel is achieved... And without violating what we know about the mechanics of relativity by accelerating a massive object beyond the speed of light."

The crowd paused for momentous moments, slowly turning to one another as they exchanged blank-faced murmurs among one another. The secrets of faster-than-light travel? Certainly, this would be a discovery for the eras, yet...the narrowed eyes of some of the crowd’s more cynical members expressed doubt, disbelief at the theory.

Costanzo smacked his lips, furmering for the words to say. Pacing his eyes between the presenter and his equally awestruck accomplices, Mr. Sciacca nervously adjusted his glasses. He looked up in uncertainty, and curiously presented his query:

“So, Dr. Kawaguchi,” he began, his beaming Latin eyes constantly shifting between unsteady glares away and a straight-faced answer from the professor, “according to your team’s current understanding of these anomalous phenomena, the negative gravitational effect of certain anomalous fields would allow the transport of objects at velocities greater than the speed of light, correct?”

“Yes, Mister Sciacca.” she responded.

He nodded back, slow to keep up his pace of response.

“Would the use of nongravitational artifacts for these purposes - or have these artifacts - produced negative reactions upon practical testing?” he replied, “Such as the stabilization of reaching the current gravitational threshold to enter orbit having negative effects on course trajectory?”

"Preliminary testing indicates that reactions aren't sufficiently negative within Earth's gravity well to make testing impossible, however, the greatest difficulty we've encountered is in acquiring sufficiently large samples to definitively verify or disprove our theory." She explained, gesturing toward the slide. "To produce this sort of distortion on a sufficiently large scale to be effective would likely require a concerted international effort toward either reproducing or uncovering enough of these such artifacts and NLC. There simply isn't enough in Brazil, according to our models."

“And, to add upon this,” Arun Khalachi, an elderly Asian man, situated to Mr. Sciacca’s left inquired, “it appears that this particular use of New Langium Compound would be nonrenewable, if I am understanding correctly?”

"We have no reason, as of now, to believe it would be nonrenewable - the volume necessary would be quite large, however." She said. "The Compound would serve as a component of such a drive, rather than as fuel."

The crowd excitedly whispered at her response, some eyes immediately beaming like the overhead lights in the bleakness of the room’s void. The UN CSAT’s members all turned to one another, exchanging looks varied from impression to cautious optimism. The room began blossoming into an explosion of hushed conversations and excited whispers, illuminating through the darkness as it was suddenly hushed by the interjection of Mister Khalachi.

“I see.” he responded, unraveling his clenched hand unto the table, “Will there be a practical demonstration in the near future? If so, when can we expect the first flight, Doctor Kawaguchi?”

"As soon as we can acquire international funding - and cooperation on the collection of the requisite NLCs. As I said, Dr. Khalachi, we simply can't manage this alone within a reasonable timeframe. The science, however, is sound." She nodded, smiling gently.

Again, the answering committee turned to one another, silently exchanging with one another while the crowd once again resumed its intense murmurs. Slowly, Costanzo Sciacca raised a hand, adjusting his microphone as he leaned in for the closing remarks:

“Well, thank you very much for your time, Doctor Kawaguchi.” he appreciated, exchanging a professional smile towards the physicist. As the projector behind her flickered away, Sciacca once again reached toward the microphone.

“We will be taking a small intermission while we wait for the next panel.” The crowd soon after stood, exiting as they all beamingly discussed among one another the sheer marvel at what they had just beholden. They, more than anyone else, knew that perhaps they had just beheld human history in this very auditorium.

As the room emptied, the hearing committee turned to one another, yet not a single word was said. Etched expressions upon their faces told all which needed to be known, and only by the agreed utterance of Mister Sciacca motioning to his aide, coming in with a hand-wave, sprinting from the back, that this seance was blissfully broken:

“Get Moscow, Washington, Paris, and London on the line. Start drafting a new UN resolution for this. I want preliminary responses by tomorrow morning.”



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Hidden 21 days ago 21 days ago Post by TheEvanCat
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Meyrin, Franco-Swiss Border

Less than ten kilometers from Geneva lay an expansive campus of high-technology facilities. Born from the CERN site created in 1954 to study particle physics and nuclear science, the French had expanded their ownership of the program and created dozens of facilities dedicated to the study of NLCs brought back from the Overseas Territories. While CERN retained its traditional name, the Conseil européen pour la recerche nucléaire had become a misnomer. The program was now owned wholesale by the French instead of a European council, and its scope had expanded to become the principal body for the research and development of NLC compounds.

Most of the facility maintained an academic appearance aboveground, nestled between idyllic French and Swiss fields. Despite the conspiracy theories about Langium poisoning and other negative contamination around the site, it was common to see farmers tilling their fields in the summertime. Most of the action happened underground, where a complex labyrinth of laboratories, accelerators, and test chambers created a miniature city unto itself. Thousands of staff worked on hundreds of projects big and small to develop NLC compounds for engineering purposes. The mission of these scientists was purely civil in nature, the only caveat that the French had to concede to maintain the program: advances in energy generation, transportation, space and air research, healthcare, and dozens of other fields were produced almost daily. Military research of NLCs remained highly classified at test ranges and facilities far away from the picturesque mountains of CERN.

The tallest structure in the campus was the central office building located in the new wing of the facility. CERN separated itself into the campus for particle and nuclear physics and the NLC sites themselves, often creating an interservice rivalry between the scientists who worked on either project. This was not helped by the fact that the offices were separate and the NLC wing was seen as newer and better funded: more than one bar fight had broken out in Geneva when a nuclear engineer wanted to prove something to a Langium engineer. Atop this building was a glass-walled office belonging to Doctor Arthur L. Delacroix, the head of all Langium research at CERN and regarded as the primary living expert in France. He had taken this position almost ten years previously, and was a fixture in national and international discussions about the substance.

The scientist, his white hair long since balding, adjusted his glasses as he stared at the computer monitor in front of him. He had managed to open up his intranet’s electronic mail application and was looking at a quick note sent to him by the chief of NLC space applications. Doctor Delacroix much preferred paper and letters, but had reluctantly allowed the network terminal to be installed in his office mostly to satisfy the younger members of his staff. They had always been bringing up his missed emails and calendar invites, and he recognized that he just needed to adapt to the way of the future. He read the small words on the screen, even if his eyes didn’t adjust too well to the harshness of the blue light:

Dr. Delacroix,

Dr. Kawaguchi presented her work at the UN CSAT conference in Brazil. I attached her whitepaper to this email, but would like to talk to you about this in person. I will try to come by as soon as I can: the government and the UN are pushing for action on this.

V/R,

Émile Verne, PhD


That was it, sent just over an hour ago. Doctor Delacroix scowled at the message as he tried to click on the paper icon that hovered in the “attachments” bar of the email. He clicked it once, highlighting it blue. It wouldn’t open. He clicked it again with the other button, and a menu with a dozen options popped up and obscured the text of the message. The scientist sighed, figuring he could just get Doctor Verne to open it for him. He leaned back into his chair, before suddenly hearing a knock on the glass door. It was Doctor Verne, in a grey sweatshirt and jogging pants. He was much younger than Delacroix, but was still an expert in the application of NLC compounds to space science. The head researcher waved him in, pressing a button on his desk to unlock the door.

“Thanks, boss,” Verne said as he stepped into the office, making sure to close the door behind him. He noticed Doctor Delacroix looking at him. “Well I saw the news but I also had to do my run for the day, couldn’t put it off any longer even if someone just changed the laws of physics.”

“You and your running, Doctor Verne,” Delacroix said, shaking his head. “But you could have at least gotten dressed appropriately. Back in my day, we-“

Verne cut off the scientist, waving his hand dismissively. “Yeah, yeah, sir, you wore a suit and tie and walked uphill in the snow to class both ways. But sweatpants are comfortable, and I’m not presenting at the UN like Doctor Kawaguchi was.”

Doctor Verne approached the desk and noticed the email client still up on Doctor Delacroix’s screen. “Have you seen the whitepaper yet?” he asked with the slightest hint of a smirk.

“No, uh,” Delacroix stammered. “Well, I was hoping to go over it with you. It seems to be of a very high importance.”

Verne shook his head and leaned over to the mouse. “You click the left button twice, fast. That will download it.”

He did so, and the attachment quickly downloaded onto the computer and popped up on the screen. Beneath the letterhead of the Brazilian university where Doctor Kawaguchi worked was an abstract and pages upon pages of scientific data. Doctor Verne pointed to the abstract and tapped on the monitor: “I got a phone call from a colleague in Brazil working on an exchange program with their NLC work. Doctor Kawaguchi has seemed to isolate an exotic negative mass particle responsible for some of the gravitational disruptions we see in the anomalous zones. Particularly the one in Guyana. “

“We’ve known it’s been particle-based negative mass for some time,” said Delacroix, cocking his head. “You’re telling me they’ve managed to replicate this? We’ve been trying that for years!”

“Well, not really,” Verne said, running a hand through his full head of hair. Despite touches of grey at the fringes and the hint of wrinkles on his face, Verne was still ruggedly handsome well into his late forties. “They’ve identified the method of testing and replication… but it requires a lot of NLC. And they’ve also run the calculations on its applications. They say it’s possible to utilize it to expand and contract space to accelerate objects past the speed of light.”

Delacroix squinted at Verne, hardly believing what he was hearing. “Weren’t we working on this?” he asked, puzzled. “You brought up this concept a few months ago.”

“Yes… I mean, theoretically it was possible,” replied Verne, suddenly on the defensive. He put one hand on his hip and gesticulated with the other. “We have been working the calculations and… the damn Brazilians are just faster. But who knows, those kooks live and breathe Langium at this point.”

“Well this saves a lot of work, but they still don’t have anything.”

“No, and that’s where the UN comes in. They released their calculations for the volumetric and mass requirements of specific NLC compounds to replicate the particle generation seen in the gravity zones, but it is a lot. They don’t have enough in all of Brazil. The UN is talking to us, the Soviets, and the Americans about a triparty program to accelerate this research.”

Doctor Delacroix rubbed his chin, looking around the room. His eyes landed on the portrait of the French president that hung in every important government building, a humble bespectacled man by the name of François-Jean de Mer. He almost allowed himself to be lost in thought before an electronic chime rang out from his email client and a new message flashed on the screen from the senior leader mailbox at the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation. “Click on that!” Verne almost exclaimed. “Two left clicks,” he added, poking at Delacroix once again.

ATTENTION: UN Resolution 699

Dr. Delacroix,

As per the briefing at the UN CSAT by Dr. Kawaguchi yesterday, the UN has reached out to our ambassador regarding participation in the proposed UN program to generate an international space vehicle propulsion system based on negative-mass propulsion. Upon discussion with President de Mer and the cabinet staff, a vote will be pushed to Parliament this evening for immediate proposal. We fully expect that Parliament will vote to participate, but we will need formal approval before shifting funds.

Dr. Verne and yourself will need to appear before the Ministry to brief members of staff and President de Mer on the implications of this discovery. We have chartered a flight to Geneva International Airport (Air France Flight 2431) to take you and necessary staff to Paris. It will arrive at 09:45 hours tomorrow morning and the CERN logistics and finance staff has been directed to immediately handle government travel reimbursement procedures. Dr. Verne is copied on this email.

Please call my office number to confirm receipt of this email – I know you don’t like sending replies.

Thanks,

Roxana Masson, Minister of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation


Verne and Delacroix both looked at each other, stunned. “I didn’t expect de Mer to be on top of this… it usually takes weeks to formulate any sort of cooperation with the US or USSR,” Delacroix said.

“My assistant was telling me that there’s been a lot of chatter on RRPIS,” Verne mentioned, referring to the internet protocol that French military and government organizations were now using to transmit classified information. RRPIS and its unclassified counterpart, RRPINC, functioned much like the CERN intranet that Doctor Delacroix had been struggling with. “The Air and Space Force is already pushing their development people into this. It’s big, sir.”

“Then it looks like we may need to get ready too. It’s going to be a long night,” Delacroix agreed. “Would you mind sending someone for coffee and something from the café downstairs? I’ll ring my wife and tell her I will be late tonight.”

Verne nodded and looked at his watch. “I’m going to take a shower and I’ll be right back here once I get my team together. Luckily we caught this before the end of the day… I wouldn’t want to be recalling people back to the office.”

Verne headed for the door, bidding Delacroix a temporary farewell. He headed for the stairs, rushing downstairs to his own office: senior leadership occupied the top floor, while the Space Science Department ironically occupied one of the lower levels in the tower. Delacroix, meanwhile, stood from his chair and walked to the glass windows that looked out over the campus below. The lights of Geneva were beginning to turn on in the approaching dusk. It was only four in the afternoon, and he always hated how short the winter days had become. The doctor stuck his hands into his pocket and turned his gaze up to the sky where he could faintly see a jet flying from the airport.

They were on the cusp of the greatest scientific advancement in human history.
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Hidden 20 days ago 20 days ago Post by Andronicus23
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New Horizons Coalition, Svalbard Global Headquarters, Office of Xeno-Intelligence Director Miranda Rockwood (“Aurora”)


“UN Resolution 699...”

Director Miranda read through the printed memo carefully, her face stoic as she finished the small brief. In front of her, Xeno-Intelligence operative Dr. Ronald Varis waited patiently. He’d brought her attention to the memo right away, and was eager to hear her thoughts.

Miranda sat silently for a few moments, staring at the paper.

“At a loss for words Director?” Varis asked, “I know that in my case…”

“Morons….” Miranda finally said, interrupting her subordinate and setting the document aside.

“Hmm. Not entirely speechless then...” Varis quipped, “I suppose you are taking the pessimistic approach then. Global cooperation like this is something the Coalition has been desiring for years is it not?”

“I prefer the phrase ‘necessary caution’. And yes, in some sense it's exactly what we've been looking to see, but not like this. Not with this goal in mind. What we want….what we need, is a global concerted effort to agree on defense countermeasures against the Visitors, not this unrestrained optimistic drive to ‘boldly go’.”

“Faster than light travel would be a large step on the way to equalizing our standing with the Visitors. That’s undeniable.”

“And it's something we’ve feared for years might bring the Visitors back,” Miranda stated, firmly, “The Xeno-Intelligence Division has maintained for years that FTL travel and the potential it brings, while undeniably important for humanity's future in the stars, should be approached cautiously. It’s a latchkey advancement, something that signifies a civilization's readiness to begin exploration and colonization of the galaxy, and indeed, universe proper.”

Varis sighed, “I know. I suppose the futurist in me cannot help but feel excited.”

Ignoring the sentiment, Miranda continued, “It's possible that the Visitors came to earth for the first time, perhaps only to examine humanity from a curiosity standpoint. No different than if we observed a colony of ants digging tunnels deep in the forest. We watch, we observe, and we learn much about a societal structure so implacably different from our own, from creatures that we would consider so many magnitudes below us. It's simply genuine interest and scientific curiosity. Sure we might accidentally step on a few, but there is no harm intended.”

Miranda leaned forward, glaring at Dr. Varis, “Let me ask you a question Ronald, what do we do once those same ants start marching their way into our homes? We exterminate them.”

Varis nodded, “Many within the Director Council won’t see things the same way, I’m sure. Other divisions are undoubtedly going to look at this news more favorably.”

“It's our job to see things in ways that others will never consider,” Miranda replied, as she began typing up an email, “We’re supposed to be the voice of fear.”

“So what are you going to do?”

“We need to get a handle on this. Make some calls, and do some digging. I’m going to get a hold of our UN contacts, and our agents in Brazil. If this resolution is happening, then we need to have a voice in how things proceed. In the meantime, I want you to stay focused on what we found in Paris. Keep investigating Thousand Eyes activity, the Council is expecting a report soon.”

“Right I suppose I have an interview to conduct then….”

Svalbard Global Operations Headquarters, Interrogation Room 1C


Two armed guards in full gear stood outside the door leading to the secure interrogation room at the end of a long hallway. The interrogation rooms were deep within the facility, and a level up from the holding cell block. Coalition protocol was not to keep prisoners long term, as in the cases of artifact smuggling or the like it was up to the country of origin’s own discretion for sentencing and punishment: except in special circumstances as dictated by UN charter. Thousand Eyes Cult members were one such exception,

“He’s inside?” Dr Varis asked as he approached.

“Yes sir,” One of the guards replied sharply, “Are you ready?”

Varis nodded, “Yes I’m under orders from Aurora to begin the interrogation immediately...go ahead and open it Sergeant.”

The guard nodded, and unlocked the door with his key. A secondary retinal scan confirmed the unlock, and the heavy security door swung open, allowing Varis to step inside. The guard quickly closed the door and shut it behind him.

Two other guards were already inside, their P90s gripped firmly in their hands pointed down but ready at a moment's notice to swing them up towards the subject in front of them.

The subject in question, a man covered in decadent tattoos and wearing a yellow jumpsuit, regarded Varis coldly as he approached. A muzzle covered his mouth, while his hands and feet were both bound with cuffs: he said nothing as Dr. Varis sat down in front of him.

“State your name and affiliation, for the record...as clearly as you’re able with that thing on you...” Varis began, trying to assert authority.

The prisoner didn’t respond, seemingly unwilling to cooperate.

“What do others in the Cult call you?”

Still there was silence, only the hateful glare of the man seated across from him.

“Okay I’ll level with you,” Varis continued, deciding to switch his tactics, “You allowed yourself to be taken alive...as I understand it, that's a cardinal sin within the Cult of the Thousand Eyes. You’re life there is over. You know that, I know that. If you go back they’ll torture you to death...flay you alive or pour molten lead down your throat…. If we turn you loose into the world they'll find you. There’s a good reason why ninety-nine percent of the time we don’t capture Thousand Eyes cultists alive during a raid. They’re either too insane or too scared to find out what will happen if they surrender and the Cult finds out. However, the rare few who do comply with arrest usually have a damn good reason for doing so. They want out...they want a deal. I’m thinking that’s the same case with you, or am I wrong?”

The cultist balled his hands into fists, but remained utterly silent.

“I’ll take that as acceptance. So why don’t you tell me...what is it you want? I can’t help you or offer you anything if all you do is sit there.”

The cultist lowered his head, and still remained quiet.

Varis stood up sharply, “Alright fine we’re done here. Guards...”

“Wait,” the cultist said suddenly, looking up with a look of fear in his eyes, “I want to die.”

“You...want to die? Well then you could have just let Coalition Tactical shoot you if that’s all you wanted.”

“You don’t understand. I want to die peacefully.... After I’ve told you everything.”

Varis retook his seat, and folded his hands in front of him, “I’m listening. Go on.”

“It's not right. What they’re doing...it's not right. I can’t be a part of it anymore.”

“You joined an apocalyptic Death Cult, I’m confused at which point you thought they were in the right,” Varis quipped, “But I’ll bite, what do you mean you can’t be part of it anymore”

The cultist shook his head, “We were told it would be our salvation. That we would be chosen. Taken up and transcended. The Visitors would make us gods once we offered up the planet to them. Then we would rule the stars as their servants…”

“Yes I’m familiar with the cult’s prophecy, what else?”

“The Acolyte...he says it's not enough to wait for the Visitors to return. We cannot wait to be transcended. We must force our transcendence.”

Varis raised an eyebrow, “You’re talking about mutation. NLC mutations have been used by the Cult plenty of times before. Why is this different?”

“Different...” The cultist shook his head, “Different because before only those who desired it would use the compound. Now The Acolyte has found something else...something stronger. And now no-one has a choice anymore.”

“So members of Thousand Eyes are being forcibly mutated, is that it? By a stronger NLC agent? Something the Acolyte found or perhaps crafted from an artifact?”

The cultists nodded, “But the mutations...it's not like before. It starts as usual, lots of muscle growth, thicker skin...but then the screaming starts….and the screaming doesn’t stop. They scream until their throats tear and eyes burst while the skin bleeds and tears….” The cultist became wide-eyed, fear etched across his face, “And then….”

“Then what?”

“They become something else...” The man lowered his head, seemingly wishing to say nothing more on it.

“And Paris? Why were you there?” Varis narrowed his eyes, unnerved by the man’s confession and unsure whether or not to believe him.

The Cultist looked back up, genuine sorrow etched on his face.

Dawning realization hit the doctor like a brick, “Kidnapping?”

The cultist did not reply, but his expression said it all.

“Escort the prisoner back to his cell,” Varis stood up and motioned to the guards, who moved in to grab him, “I need some time to corroborate this information…”
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