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1

Lanthanide Hills Training Facility (Site-19 premises)

Lyakhovsky Islands, Northern Siberia

“Andrea Adams…”

Clef’s eyes drift up from the thick packet of paperwork in front of him to his assistant, who sits sprawled in a chair in front of his battered desk.

“…Getting married…” He repeats slowly.

“Look, just…sign off on it, okay?” Adams rolls her eyes, dreading the response to this, and sure enough her mentor breaks into a massive shit-eating grin. It’s not everyday you get to poke fun at your assistant’s personal life.

“…In France.”

“It’s romantic. Not that you would know anything about that.”

Clef looks back at the sabbatical paperwork, holding it up dramatically and squinting at the fine print.

“…In Paris.”

“You can really just sign off on it.”

“…travelling Europe for your honeymoon…”

“No really, please, don’t let me stop you. I just need the signature.”

Clef kicked back in his chair, leafing through the paperwork carefully. “I don’t know.” He drawled loudly. “I could just keep you here. Five month's leave is quite a stretch to do everything on my own. Have plenty of paperwork, and besides, I’m sure you know,” he gestured to the reinforced window behind him, providing a refreshing view of the endless, barren landscape of Camp Lanthanide. “Siberia really is nice in winter. What with the five months of darkness and all. You ever read The Shining? 30 Days Of Night? Oh! One Day In The Life Of Ivan Ivanovich? You know, you could just bring her here. Very romantic.”

September 20th, 2016

T-24 days to Site-19 winter lockdown

“I know you would rather live in Florida.” Adams was thoroughly examining her nails. “You don’t need to keep telling me every time you look outside. Just sign the damn release.”

“Well, I won’t with that attitude. When’s the wedding?”

“What does it matter to you?”

“Well, I’d hate to miss it.”

Clef reveled in her brief and poorly hidden expression of ungodly horror.

“…Doesn’t matter.” She finally says.

“It matters if you want to get this signed.” Clef quiped.

Andrea hesitated, then sighed.

“…November 3rd.”

Clef made eye contact with her for a long moment before slowly opening a desk drawer to retrieve a pen. She groaned as he wrote it down on a post it stuck to the side of his desk.

“That’ll do, agent. Here.” Clef dropped the thick stack of forms onto his desk with a dull thwump. Adams raised an unamused eyebrow.

“…Aren’t you gonna sign it?”

“Oh, I did this morning.” Clef continued grinning, opening up his email on the desktop computer with a passive wave of his hand. “Now get the hell out of my office.”

Andrea smiled genuinely, stood, took the packet from his desk, and closed the door behind her on her way out, and it was in this manner that he saw her for the last time in one piece.

Time until Site-19 disaster:

103 days


2

When Francis Wojciechoski start hating his body?

Did it happen all at once? He thinks it was a long time coming, the first reaction when the swelling went down and he started to feel the pain through the dull numbness. Gas station mirrors and puddles by the side of the road. Never thought much of how he looked, but now he hates it, hates, hates, hates it because now his body was hers, hates it because that was the body that she liked, that she touched, that she owned. Was it ever his? He wonders. Dark nights in a rattling van laying awake as the others slept in their mottled kevlar and guns at arms reach, he feels it, feels it, phantom hands and manicured fingernails and he thinks that was when he started changing his appearance.

I want to make her hate me so she never touches me again.

It’s four months out when he starts gaining weight despite not eating anything. He looks shorter, nose bigger, hair more unkempt because that way no one will ever touch him. At physicals they remark that despite looking as if he’s gained weight, he hasn’t actually gained anything at all. He hates it when they take pictures for files because it means they can always see him- what if they think he’s desirable? What if they want to touch him-

Don’t take pictures of me.

Alto Clef could look however he liked, and that was damn fine with him, like a coping strategy, a survival tactic. Nothing wrong with lying if it kept you alive. There is safety in knowing women look at him with disgust. There is safety in knowing that reality is always a little bent around him, giving him room to grow, to move, to breathe, to put some distance between Francis’s body and Alto’s surroundings. Hell, after a while, he didn’t look like Francis at all.

And that was damn fine with him, because he lived as Francis for 22 years and look where that had gotten him.

There are confused looks and more discomfort and after a while; he flaunts it. Hey, babe, wanna come back to my place tonight? She flicks him off. What about you? Would you have sex with me? She turns away. Damn bitch doesn’t know what she’s missing, huh? Huh? What about you? Would you touch me? I bet you would have touched Francis. He would have let you touch him, you know that? He might have even cried.

One man’s mutilation is another man’s survival strategy.


1:34 am in the dark feeling her

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3

99% of Type Greens undergo the following sequence of psychological changes as their powers progress.

PHASE 1: Denial: The subject refuses to acknowledge their ability to warp reality. The Type Green will attempt to rationalize away their abilities by various means. In some cases, the Type Green will end here: their ability will be self-suppressed, and they will not proceed. However, most then proceed to:

PHASE 2: Experimentation: The subject acknowledges their abilities and begins to test the limits of their powers. In general, Type Greens tend to experiment in one of two patterns: slowly, methodically, and carefully, advancing a small amount at a time, or in a small number of sudden jumps. In any case, the subject will generally remain in this mode for some time, before proceeding to:

PHASE 3: Stability: The subject reaches the limit of their powers, and determines the boundaries of their abilities. The Type Green achieves control over their reality shifts, and can manipulate them as necessary. More importantly, they can choose not to utilize their abilities, if needed.

Phase 3 is usually characterized by attempts to live a "normal" life. The subject will continue in normal routines, and aside from necessary precautions to prevent losing control, will utilize their abilities only in private, and only in a manner that will not harm others. These Type Greens may be classified as Threat Level 1 (monitor, do not engage), but should be monitored closely, due to the risk of proceeding to Phase 4.

PHASE 4: The Child-God: Sadly, the majority of Type Greens will eventually progress to Phase 4. During this phase, the reality bender becomes obsessed with the power it possesses and will attempt to utilize it for personal gain at the cost of others. This phase is marked by reduced empathy for other humans, inability to accept personal faults, and increased megalomania.

Although warning signs are numerous, the key aspect of a Phase 4 is the use of their abilities to manipulate other humans. Teenage and young adult Type Greens will typically use their abilities for sexual purposes…

-PHYSICS Division Field Manual 13: Special Circumstances, Humanoid Thread Entities, Published 1984.

When they were teenagers she touched him.

They were laying in bed at his house and it was dark, and Lilly knew he wasn’t asleep because he was staring at the ceiling but she did it anyway and maybe pretended that he was asleep, and he owed it to her. He owed this to her, because it must suck, it must suck to always ask and have him always say no, to want him and to always get no as an answer. Sometimes you need to make compromises, he tells himself, in a relationship. Sometimes you need to let it happen for the other person’s sake.

So it was raining outside and she touched his chest. There was rain on the roof and rain on the windows and she touched his hips. There was rain on the street and clouds in the sky and she touched him right below the elastic band of his boxers, manicured nails and tips of fingers. The light post outside casts light through the rain and she touches the hair between his legs and his heart picks up speed and at the time he thought it was arousal but would learn later in his life that it was fear and would also learn that there is a fine,

Fine,

line

between the two,

And she goes down a little farther,

And he feels everything,

And she touches the soft skin of the space between his testicles and the inside of his thigh,

And his heart beats fast and his chest hurts,

And then she slides up two of her fingers and touches him and he lets her because he owes this to her,

Owes this to her,

Owes this to her,

You need to be able to do some things for love.

Her fingers are on his shaft now and he thinks, be aroused. Get turned on. You’re lucky to have her. She curls up to him, blond hair and thin body and the rain outside, sleeping in her jeans, arching her body against strips of orange lamp light filtering through the blinds.

You need to do something.

Her entire hand is pressed against his shaft now, almost to the head. He feels frozen. His heart pounds at her silhouette; for a moment she looks like a predator to him, like something skeletal and powerful, something with a mouth full of canine teeth, and just when she touches the head of his penis it comes rushing in so quickly that his ears ring and he grabs her arm a bit too harshly, too carelessly, too quickly.

“Francis.” Muses Lily. Looking back he sees this as their first encounter, the first time she enters what he would know in another life to be phase two; the phase of power, of control.

She’s a goddess, and that isn’t a good thing.

For a second, Francis thinks she’s about to throw him off for even daring to touch her. Her eyes are obscured in the light and ridges of her spine are poking out one by one, all the way down her back, just under her skin; she takes his other hand and presses it to her own hip, under her shirt, and he can feel the top of her panties numbly through the buzzing daze but it does not feel like he wants it to feel and he hates it, hates it, hates it—

“Francis.” She says when he struggles, trying to work his hand back from under hers against her side, and this time it’s a warning. Her other hand is still on his cock, frozen, and the whole world is intensified, too bright, saturated with hazy light of numb fear like pinworms under his skin, wriggling, jolting. Index finger over head of penis, other hand sliding his own right under the ridge of her panties and there’s a silhouette of horns like when they were children but it’s just the bare outline like a shadow against the back wall like a red outline from the orange window light that starts to flicker, his chest feels heavy and his soul feels compressed and the world feels stunned and all he thinks is how quickly this happened and how quickly they grew up recreating scenes from Poltergeist and changing the channels on the radio with their minds and bending pennies without touching them and you, you, you with your horns and hooves and you with your mouth filled up with teeth and you with your hunger stronger than his would ever be and that should have been the first indication, looking back, that Francis should have run from her, her with her angry silhouette with water drop shadows and her with her tongue that grew sharper and pierced ever so slightly deeper as they grew and her with her thousand eyes when he only had three and her with her hand around his cock that night with the rain but Francis was young and didn’t know better and Francis trusted her more than anyone and Francis might have even loved her in a strange fearful way because Francis didn’t run then and Francis never would.

He yanked her hand from his boxers. She does not talk to him for another week, but he feels her manicured nails and fingertips for a year afterward.

He sleeps with his legs crossed for longer.

Time until Site-19 Disaster:

12553 days


4

Abigail Higbee considered herself to be a witch, and her youth pastor couldn’t change that about her, not even when she painted red sigil patterns on her black nails and fought with her mother over the church visits. No one knew when she and her boyfriend Nick caught a black cat and killed it for a ritual. It was a sacrifice to satan, and supposed to bring them good luck— or so said the instructions copied down from what they read on Nick’s mom’s battered PC over dial-up internet. She wasn’t like other girls. More mature, she figured, wiser than her mother and more open-minded, too. She dressed all in black and pierced her ears and got grounded for a week after telling her mother to fuck off.

In 1988, Abigail Higbee entered 8th grade at Pier County Middle School. She was 13. She weighed approximately 135 pounds. 5 feet, 2 inches. Female. Blood type AB.

She had her first period that summer, and the nature goddess that lived in the woods of Pier County, Cornwall knew, and decided that 1988 was as best a year as any to bring about the cleansing of the world. Would you like to serve a higher god? She asked them, showing them her hooves and horns in the woods around their home.

In 1988, Abigail Higbee was fertile, and so was Francis Wojciechoski.


(what you are and all you are)

Alto Clef never had a will, not because he assumed a feeling of arrogance over death but because he knew what they were going to do to him. How he felt about this was irrelevant because of its comminality; he, himself, had done it to others, had came to the conclusion long ago about the reality of mutilation and exploitation. Many people would want his body when he died. Hopefully, he thought, it would just be a matter of which person.

So when the Foundation response teams dug his frozen body out of the snow, they took him to a small facility on the outskirts of Paris. Dr.Scantron started with a latral incision, just above the forehead, and he and his assistants would spend the next 45 minutes carefully pushing aside brain matter and muscle. More powerful reality benders could have up to 30 third eyes.

Alto only ever had one, and they found it about 30 minutes in, buried deep in the back of his head around the stem; a smooth, round, green object about the size of a marble. Once they had cut it free of the surrounding cells, they plucked it out with tweezers and unceremoniously dropped it into a 50mL graduated cylinder. It hit the glass with a soft tink, and rolled to a stop at the bottom, shimmering slightly in the florecent lights. Inpenitrable, but it would run out of steam in a few decades without a host; what happened to it then depended on the agent.

Then, they would open his mouth. They would remove his teeth, all of them, and they came out fairly easily; decades of chain smoking would do that to you. They would cut off his fingers and strip them of the flesh. They would cut out his lower lumbar, and pull free the spinal cord. And when they were done, they would grind it all up (except for the eye, of course, which would remain gleaming throughout the process) and throw everything into a steel pot with rosemary from the local grocery store.

And they would burn it in the laboratory oven.

Where they put the rest of his body doesn't matter, although some may find some solace in hearing that he would be properly buried and marked with only his initials in a graveyard nearby; no, the contents of the pot would be carfully scooped into a small metal tube, and embedded into the center of a metal sphere about the size of a tennis ball. This reality anchor would be only powerful enough to protect a single agent, which was something that Alto himself would ponder at night when his eye still resided in his head and he could flip the TV channels with his mind. Who would he go to? Would he even be powerful enough to be made into one at all? He barely made the lowest qualifications, but would he rather his remains be used for something useful, something other than sliding a coin across the table in private or sensing the presence of others? Was there even anything left of his power at all? What if She took it like She took everything else?

But the anchor- a model 6z (the smallest), serial number 4552035 (the lowest value)- would go to an agent residing with her wife, for the time being, at Site 17 in Poland. It would come to her in a metal box along with a new handgun and a plastic ID with a new clearance level on it. She would carry it with her everywhere, as was the point of it, and Andrea Adams would admit to her daughters several years in the future that it was, indeed, the most haunted item they owned. The dog avoided it; the cat would hiss at it. Her wife would insist that it "could watch them having sex", and would ask her, "Can't you just take that dingy thing out the garage for a tonight?", to which she would grudgingly accept, moving it from her nightstand to the workbench outside. It would save her many times in various ways. Would save her children, although it never took well to them- her daughters would be filled with an overwhelming sense of dread while holding it, and left it alone in their mother's work bag for the most part. The little blue LED light embedded in the side to show it's active state would glow softly while she slept. It would get dented, and it didn't fit well into her pocket, but would fit okay into a purse. The paint would rub off a bit. It would accompany her on a rediculous number of missions throughout her career, and would get lost more times than she could count, wether it would be black market dealers who knew what it was, or her leaving her bag on a train, or rolling out in a firefight. It would come back one way or another. Would show up in an unmarked box on her front step. Would be in the passengers' seat of her car. Would be back on her nightstand in the morning, right next to her handgun, right where it belonged. Maybe it felt like it owed her a debt. Maybe it was just trying to be annoying. Maybe it just was what it was, which was very clearly abnormal, even for an anomalous item. She never would get around to reporting it. Little did she know it would be the best wedding gift they had received.

When it would die out one night about thirty years later, she would wake up suddenly feeling as if she had lost an old friend.

when i am dead, take the eyes from my head. take the teeth from my jaws. the bones of my fingers. the sinew of my spine. burn me in rosemary; carry me with you.

i will stay.

- A prayer from an older time.

CONFLICT1
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5

22. All reasonings concerning matter of fact seem to be founded on the relation of Cause and Effect. By means of that relation alone we can go beyond the evidence of our memory and senses. If you were to ask a man, why he believes any matter of fact, which is absent; for instance, that his friend is in the country, or in France; he would give you a reason; and this reason would be some other fact; as a letter received from him, or the knowledge of his former resolutions and promises. A man finding a watch or any other machine in a desert island, would conclude that there had once been men in that island. All our reasonings concerning fact are of the same nature. And here it is constantly supposed that there is a connexion between the present fact and that which is inferred from it. Were there nothing to bind them together, the inference would be entirely precarious. The hearing of an articulate voice and rational discourse in the dark assures us of the presence of some person: Why? because these are the effects of the human make and fabric, and closely connected with it. If we anatomize all the other reasonings of this nature, we shall find that they are founded on the relation of cause and effect, and that this relation is either near or remote, direct or collateral. Heat and light are collateral effects of fire, and the one effect may justly be inferred from the other.

Therefore, one can argue that the men containing Abigail Higbee had no reason to check for the validity of her pregnancy in the ritual. Was she not grouped with the other six virgins of the ritual, who initiated violent XK-class scenarios upon the birth of their children? Did they not accept that they had no room to spare, that surely the birth of this bride, the seventh bride, would cause an irreversible end? They saw the others, and they saw her— a sheep in a pack of wolves. They had no reason to doubt, and the stakes for potentially doubting were far too high. If we were to doubt every Keter class entity that came under the Foundation's control, would we not loose everything? What is one mistake in the safety of billions? This is cause and effect. The poor fucks were simply trusting logic without a second doubt.

-David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section IV, Skeptical Doubts Concerning The Operations Of The Understanding, Passage 22


6

When the seven brides were conceived for the red king in the winter of 1989 in Cornwall, england, the ritual was completed in an abandoned barn on the property of the sect vice leader, a teenaged boy named Nick. They killed the six cats and twelve goats. The runes were carved. The virgins were summoned from where they were hidden and nailed to seven posts and Will raped each of them, one at a time. They chanted and hummed. When he reached the seventh mother- a devout named Abigail, who was Nick’s 16 year old lover and partner- they kissed, and he began, and it was not rape for her. They knew it would not be. No smart servant puts all his eggs in one basket, and Abigail had dreamed of serving her god in this manner.

She was not the seventh virgin, and she would not birth the seventh bride.

There was no ritual for Francis, who on the night of the winter ritual in Cornwall drank wine with his childhood friend, Lilly, on a nearby shore. He did not notice it when she put something in his drink because he never in a million years would have thought she would do anything but protect him. She led him to the rocky shore and he noted how the drink was affecting him and the thought you need to get out of here crossed his mind, and he stayed. And Lilly forced him to the ground and smashed his head onto a rock and he struggled and it only took ten minutes, her hair, her breath, the smell of the lake, the pain in his head, his groin, his lower stomach, Lilly please, Lilly, stop.

There was no chanting for Francis’ ritual. There were no thumping tribal drums. No animals were slaughtered. There were no runes. No one heard him cry and he needed no ropes to hold him down. His panic was palpable, his body frozen. She did not say his name even though he begged hers. When she put him inside her he turned his head to the side and watched the soft waves lap a cold shore and said Lilly, Lilly, please, and she heard him and did not stop, and he was angry and tried to push her away and she did not stop, and he had bruises on his arms, bleeding from his head, groggy and afraid the sect leader for the local red god chapter- intent on bringing about a better world- did not kiss him because she never loved him, and this would be the first and the last time Francis would ever have sex and she did not stop until he came inside her and that would be the moment that would cause him so much pain over the next 20 years, asking himself in dark nights in empty beds Did I want it if I came? If I was erect, does it mean it was what I wanted? Why did she fuck me? What did I do? Am I overreacting? This is seduction, I was seduced, some things just can’t happen to men.

She would leave him there on the shore. He could not rise to meet her, and would not say a word when she pulled off him and dressed to leave, or for many hours after she left. He crawled from the rising tide and tried to dress- fingers numb, body heavy. Confused, what did you take from me, Lilly? What did you do to me? His vision is blurred and his head is aching. He vomits until there is nothing left in his stomach and tries to get up again and stumbles. The ritual took only ten minutes for Francis; he will forever contemplate how something that took ten minutes to happen could have possibly done so much to him, how it could have possibly taken so much from him, how swift and silent and brutal it had been, no words exchanged, no explaining what she was doing in some antagonistic monologue, no dramatic turn.

She had raped him on the cold shore and left him there. Rape is such an extreme word. She had seduced him on the cold shore. Tricked him. He should have known better; isn’t it up to an agent to know better? Wasn’t it his fault when he had a thousand opportunities to flee and a thousand opportunities to throw her off, if you had only done this, Francis, it wouldn’t have happened? One thousand red flags shrugged off in cheap wine and laughter, the few hours before, when she poured his third or fourth drink for him and he was tipsy, and he saw her put something in it and drank it anyway, left his gun in the car, knife on her table, all the little things and chances he had to stop it and he didn’t, so didn’t he want it if he knew where it was going? If he saw her put something in his drink and the thought of leaving, his regular gut feeling of something is wrong here dampered in alcohol but he felt it, some wisp of anxiety as she led him down the beach, if you knew why didn’t you leave, why did you let her do it to you?

He felt small in the early morning on the cold dark beach. He didn’t know what he wanted. He was confused, and half dressed, and sick, body throbbing. And when he woke up in his sleeping bag in the back of the GOC mission van, groggy from a hangover and some unknown drug with bandages covering a thousand cuts and bruises and a single bad gash on the back of his head, his teammates gave him water and clapped him on the back and congratulated him for finally getting some, asked if she was hot, how big her boobs were, if she screamed when she came, joking any sex worth having ends with a concussion and he made up some shit about how hot she was and how they went three times and just passed out after and thats why they found him laying on the beach half dressed and they left cornwall that morning and Agent Ukelele slept, oh god, just passed out, lulled by the lurching and bouncing of the car and the bickering of his teammates, dreaming about it, turning it over in his mind, feeling where she touched him, where she left bruises, the aches in his muscles from where he tried to push her off, like she had taken every ounce of strength from him in the ten minutes she made him the seventh virgin.

He would wake up and they were still driving and he could feel the pain in his lower abdomen. Between his legs. His ass. His thighs. He felt sick. He wondered if what he thought happened really happened, but he hurt like it did. He wondered if she felt this way, and doubted it. He wondered why she did it. He wondered why she didn’t stop. He wondered when they stopped at a gas station and he staggered into the bathroom to take a piss and was alone and went into a stall and slid down his pants and underwear and looked at his lower stomach and testicles, these deep fucking bruises, wondered if they had been there when they found him, wondered how they got there and what else she did to him that he might have blocked out in those ten minutes of fucking nightmare insanity that he kept wondering about. He wondered this when they moved the van onto a ferry to cross the london channel into France and wondered this when the drugs had left his system and he was well enough to fight again and wondered long enough to be angry and wondered long enough to kill her and to see his child in some kind of rage state, some kind of awful sort of disconnect brewing in his soul.

Francis would remember shooting Lilly once. What Francis actually did was shoot her, and then shoot her, and then shoot her, and then shoot her, and then shoot her, and then shoot her, and then pull the trigger again but be out of bullets, and then roll her dead body over and just throttle her with a blank expression on his face until he calmed himself and stopped punching a dead body and for a long time his daughter would think about that scene and wonder why were you do violent and not know the answer until it was shown to her (although that would be a story for another time). Francis would remember crawling over with blood dripping from his right knee and picking up his 5 year old daughter and taking her to a nunnery, but what Francis actually did was stand up- adrenaline rushing through his body, shattered knee snapping- and look over at his daughter. He would limp over and pick her up, and she would cry. He would be holding her too tightly and would wonder if he could hold her tighter. He wanted to cause her pain, thinking you did this, you did this, and would instead stumble out of the woods in a sort of drunken haze in the rain with the blood from his rapist running down his limbs from where it soaked his clothes, holding his daughter in hand. They would go to the nunnery, but first he would scrawl some barely-legible message on a scrap of paper because he wanted to hurt this child, wanted to hurt her like her mother hurt him, wanted to kill her, and he remembered thinking to himself I’m not a good father.

And he knocked on the nunnery door and limped off with her standing there. She would wonder why he killed her mother in this way. She would wonder if he was a violent man. She would sit through bible studies where the nuns would show fires and burning demons and the silhouettes of the tortured, and she would tell Sister Darline one day that she saw her father kill her mother, and would ask, Sister, will my father go to hell? And she would say Yes. He will. God will punish him for what he’s done. And she would ask, What if my father is a good man after all? And Sister Darline would say If he has killed another, he has sinned irreparably against God. And she will ask, Will God forgive him? And Sister Darline would say, Only if he repents.

On New Years’ Eve, 2017- three hours before the largest breach in Foundation history- the seventh bride lay kneeled at her bedside in prayer, and she asked, God? Are you there?

And this time, a God answered her.


TO WHICHEVER OVERSEER HAS THE TERRIBLE MISFORTUNE OF HAVING TO STEP OVER MY FATASS FROZEN DEAD BODY WITH THEIR GUCCI BOOTS WHEN THEY VISIT THE WRECKAGE OF THIS STALIN ERA DEATH PIT IN SPRING AFTER THIS HELLFUCK OF A SHITSHOW IS OVER:

God damn, I hope Benjamin Kondraki is sober enough to kill my daughter.

Wish you were here,

Clef

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