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A.E.G.I.S. sure likes its secrets. A perfect place for our game.


Perspective: Paul R. Jones


I wake up from the nightmare mentioned by Craig recently. I think I’ve been getting it relatively frequently since I joined A.E.G.I.S. The planet getting torn apart from the inside… Just a short glimpse of it brings a shiver down my spine. And now Craig’s words are stuck in my head: how my son is relevant here?

I turn my head to the right: the bed is empty: Chris probably took Roland to school already. I turn my head to the left: 8:15 on the clock. Time to get up.

Time flies by in my morning routines and it’s 9:45 now and I am closing the door to the apartment. I am wearing my regular suit, which makes me look like an average clerk. If only clerks knew how dangerous my work can be sometimes… Although today the plan is to finish the paperwork on Craig.

I get to the street and see a taxi waiting for me. I get in on the backseat.

- Hi there, Pauly, - silver haired black man greets me. He is one of the few I allow to call me like that: "Pauly" sounds as if I am a parrot. But I do allow it to some of the really close friends, Chris and this old man here.

- Hey, mister Abrams. How are you? How’s missis Abrams?

- Not good, not good. She can barely walk nowadays. And I’m fine more or less, after all – a sitting job is what I got here.

The car goes down the street getting into the flow of cars and into the regular traffic jam.

- Why won’t you bring her to A.E.G.I.S. medics? Surely, they can think of something.

- She believes this will be against God’s will. I ask her: "And what, am I working for Satan now?" "No. Your technologies are from Satan, but Director Choler is a good man, and you work for him, so you’re fine".

- Did not know she likes him that much.

The car crawls out of the jam and into a dead end. Mister Abrams pushes a button under the wheel and a small panel with other buttons slides down from the roof, as if in Luc Besson’s "Taxi". He pulls a few switches, pushes another button. Behind the car a hologram of a brick wall appears, and I feel, as the car lifts a bit, starting the transformation, getting more aerodynamic features and a pair of wings from below. The car then floated a bit higher; mister Abrams pulled the wheel steering straight into the dead end. In the past I closed my eyes every time he did this, but now this high-tech stuff seems so… Normal.

The car passes through the wall, which for a moment turns into a gas-like substance. I never understood why we have such precautions. I mean, some amalgam over the car to make it invisible could suffice. Well, it still was used, but I do not see a point in all these holograms for this.

We are flying higher and higher over New York. The roads look like arteries with slowly moving cars-erythrocytes. Manhattan as heart (or maybe stomach?), Queens as lungs, A.E.G.I.S. as brains. During the flight we are usually silent, since mister Abrams concentrates on controlling the car. But it does not last long: soon the car stops in the air: A.E.G.I.S. was ignoring their agents again, apparently. But soon, in a few yards ahead of the car a huge hangar materializes, the door to which is opened, inviting in. Guiding lights are blinking along the walls and floor, people are running around. The base itself is made of huge spheroids connected by catwalks and tunnels, each spheroid can easily detach, if required.

I sign in in the hangar and go to the changing room to put on A.E.G.I.S. uniform: dark blue, almost black, made of Kevlar pants and shirt; yellowish belt; white boots and over-the-shoulder holster for a gun or blaster. Dunno who came up with this design, but it looks stupid. Luckily, I am a field agent, so rarely have to put this one on. I also take the blaster out of my locker. I prefer regular guns, but in most places on the base only blasters are allowed on regular basis, since computers are protected from their projectiles, while bullets can damage them, needlessly increasing risks of operations’ failure.

As soon as I get my earpiece in it beeps signaling incoming transmission:

- Paul, Director Choler wants to speak to you.

- To me? Directly?

- Seems like it, get it going. Stat.

Near the metal door to Choler’s office there is a panel with fingerprints scanner: touch it and Choler will be notified who is waiting behind the door. I do not keep him waiting, of course, but he keeps me waiting: only in 10 minutes or so after I touched the panel, the door opens and a young agent rushes from the room, followed Choler’s shouting something in Spanish. He notices me and invites me in.

- We have a situation, agent. A simbiot activity was detected recently in world Alpha-139.

Simbiot. Fucking great. Simbiots (or, what should be a more correct scientific terms, symbionts, but someone once misspelled the word in a public report and the misspelled form spread) are quite rare, but their activity are monitored very closely, since they are considered as dangerous as high-level mutants. I mean, some scientists do think, that the supposed "tar" A.E.G.I.S. encountered in world X-0 (a pun on the affected chromosome and the place being a ground zero for the mutant disease) actually contained those simbiots.

The creatures are generally in a mercury-like form, but black as tar. Liquid with some minimal brain activity and, perhaps, some conscience even. They can bond to most of organic materials and empower them in one way or the other. Hosts become very strong and slowly lose their minds because of that strength and because of simbiots’ toll on their bodies. Only a few recover after simbiot is removed through high temperature or loud noises application. Even those who do recover mentally still have their cells corrupted drastically and the corruption spreads like cancer, sometimes even becoming such.

Luckily most simbiots’ activity is concentrated in a small set of worlds, where A.E.G.I.S. or partner organizations have strong presence, so controlling the simbiots is not that big of an issue. Not the case for Alpha-139, though.

- We sent one of our local operatives to track the simbiots’ host down but seems like all that is left of him is some ash and this audio, that he was transmitting live at the moment. – director pushes a few buttons on his computer and a voice comes from the speakers:

"Visual contact established with potential target. Target just left an apartment building, in the vicinity of which we tracked the last simbiot’s activity… Three unidentified men are following him… Target is running, and the men continue pursue… Target stops and one of pursuers walks up to him… Oh, God… Jesus Christ, they are all dead and mutilated… Blood is flowing towards the target… He’s a Devil incarnate!.. I… I think I was spotted!.. What? How did you?.. Ahhhhhhhhhhh"

- Did… Did he say that blood was flowing towards the host?

- Yes.

- Wait, and you mentioned, that there was a pile of ash…

- It was our agent.

- If blood can be explained, since simbiots are, in a sense, like vampires, the fire… How? From what I know they hate high temperatures. They tend to leave the host if there affected by it. How come this one did not leave?

- Yes, this is a… Disturbing development to say the least. I want you to go down there and check it out. If possible, engage, gain target’s trust and learn whatever you can.

- Why me? Don’t we have personnel with more experience with simbiots? And there are local agents there, as well, as you said yourself.

- Alpha-139 has a skeleton crew of agents, since it’s not technically advanced and does not have any mutants, magicals or anything like that. And you… You know perfectly well that you were able to get into A.E.G.I.S. because we knew about you as Pusher. We knew about your talent to push just the right buttons of people to get what you want.

I stare at the bald soldier with an eye-patch over his left eye, feeling an empty hole somewhere inside my stomach:

- You know, I am not like that anymore…

- Well, you may have to remember your skills for this job. You know how devastating the simbiots can be with a susceptive host. And this one seems abnormal to boot. You can’t communicate with the simbiot directly, but you can get in touch with the host. That is your mission.

- But…

- No "buts". This is an order. You are to be as cautious as possible and do not engage unless you are sure of your own safety, but you do get as close as possible and intervene when required. We have some information about the host and of some versions of him in other worlds. Get into one of the free briefing rooms and familiarize yourself with it.

I leave with low spirits and slowly walk towards the briefing rooms. In one of them I log in under my username and read the information on the target. Lives in Moscow, Russia… May be a small problem, since will have to use the universal translator, but nothing I can’t handle. Goes to school…Wait, he’s just a kid, 16 years of old. Older than my Roland, obviously, who’s 8, but still a kid. He lives alone, parents died in a car accident, relatives help him with money…

I look at his photo: soft, a bit plump, big lips, wide nose, eyebrows meeting above it almost like a unibrow, blue eyes with a slight greyish tint to them, high forehead cover by light-brown hair. I guess, Roland could look similar when grown up if he started eating more, than he should and if he suddenly acquired the same sad gaze in the eyes.

I really hoped that I left my past behind me, but… This youth here… He is my new mission target. My new prey. And even though I am reluctant to go back into my darkness… Somehow, I feel somewhat excited, that a new hunt is about to begin.


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