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Jess had a story like many others, a cataloguing of moments in her youth that pushed her to the side of rebellion. She had watched for years how those with and without S.I.N were treated differently. How the great gap between the two seemed to be widening. It was assumed that Jess was a sufferer herself, tainted by the genetic mutation that kept some in the lower bowels of society.
But she was not.
Jess had always had a distaste for discrimination. Her very soul had rejected the nonsense and justification of how and why society behaved as it did now. She felt everyone was equal, despite of where you came from, what your were or how your cells formed and grew. She had be called an idealist with much of her ‘radical’ thoughts put down to her youth. But it was her youth that bred the rebellion within also, the mutinous feelings she had for how she was told to live.
When she discovered there was another way, and others who felt the same as she; Jess poured her effort into undoing the pain that the past had normalised. She craved to know more of the Altered and the magic, to do her part in righting the wrong. Her path had crossed Levon’s, a ghost like being in the revolution. His skills and gifts were well known, but also his allusiveness and reluctance to fully engage in the fight. Now Jess knew a little better the part he played. The veil had been lifted on the The Order and she had gotten what she had wanted, a true part to play in the war against the unjust.
Aiko had long ago become a target for her rage and contempt. She knew all about his upbringing of course, she had done her research well. She knew the secrets he kept and the hypocritical state of his youth. He may be smartly dressed on the outside, but inside he had been just as ‘unclean’ as the many he and his fellow appraisers shamed and kept persecuted.
All her efforts it seemed had come to this, to this tipping point where finally she had a real shot at correcting.
“Jess, are you in?” Nina asked her, tapping her knee slightly as if to rouse her.
“What, oh yes…of course.” Jess replied, her mind turning over the plan that had been hatched.
“Do you have your companions?” Nina asked, holding her own little book before them.
“Always” Levon said, producing his own.
“Yep.” Jess said, reaching inside her jacket and taking out her little black book.
“Good, then we have no time to waste. Levon…” Nina started, but was interrupted by a murmuring sound.
“Answer.” Nina said, turning to face a floating hologram behind her. The Gustave Doré rendering suddenly transformed into the giant head of Dr. Winkoski whom they’d been with not long before.
“Karen, what’s up?” Nina said, she was calm and polite. Karen seemed on edge.
“Ah, good. You are all there. There has been a development.” She said. In the background the lab they had been in earlier was a bustle of activity.
“What’s happened?” Nina asked.
“It’s Aiko, we found him in the altered. He was trying to get through the gates of Asher.” Karen said.
“Found as in apprehended, or found the remains of him?” Nina queried.
“We found him, but he escaped back into the material realm. When he tried to get through the gates, he was stopped. The exchange seems to have banished the darkness too, for it no longer swirls around the Altered. Our members are reporting it is not showing anywhere.” Karen said.
Nina was a quiet for a bit, thinking over what he had heard. She looked to the giant globe that was in the centre of the room, and noticed the blackness had gone.
“Was it he who stopped him?” Nina asked, her voice almost a whisper now.
“Who else.” Karen replied, before continuing. “We know Aiko still has his companion, and we must assume he was able to return on his own. Our disturbance trackers show entry and departure points that match his movements. We are waiting for word to come from his Atone industries to confirm if they are still on course.”
“We must assume, like you said, he returned. He will follow his plan, he believes in it too much. But we need it confirmed before we act.” Nina said.
“Agreed. We’re trying to get this information now, but I would say we must proceed with our time-frame if we are to stop him.” Karen added.
“And what of his holiness?” Nina asked.
Karen looked away momentarily at this, as if uncomfortable slightly.
“We’ve yet to contact him.” She said, slightly embarrassed.
“Not too surprising. I’m sure he’ll appear just at the right moment, he usually does.” Nina said, looking across to Levon.
“Well, we’ll update you when we know more. I’ll continue to organise the final stages from our side, and transferring of our reversal pathogen. Awaiting confirmation of its success from you still.” Karen said.
“Right, and we are about to start the test so it will be with you shortly.” Nina said to Karen.
“Speak soon.” Karen said and logged off.
“He’s been busy.” Levon said to Nina as the hologram changed back to the Dore prints which spun and moved in classic beauty.
“The Pope has his reasons, I’m sure he’ll appear soon.” Nina said.
“Well, he was always an absent father in my life so I’m not surprised he’s doing the same thing to others.” Levon said, his face showing annoyance.
“Your father is the Pope?” Jess asked, this day seeming to offer her a new surprise after the next.
“Yep. And for all his goodness, he never sticks around long enough to be of any real benefit.” Levon snapped.
“He has his calling, he is doing what he knows is right.” Nina interjected.
Levon sat there, thinking on this.
“Maybe, but he’s never there when I need him.” Levon replied.
“I’m sorry for that, but if the world is better for his actions, then you have to deal with your own issues and selfishness. There is more at stake right now.” Nina offered in her quiet calming fashion. This seemed to do the trick as Levon seemed to shrug off his annoyance as he moved on the chair, perhaps seeing the bigger picture.
“So, what do we do first?” Jess asked, trying to get into action.
“We need to test the reversal pathogen. We can only stop Aiko otherwise if we don’t know how it will work.” Nina said.
“But I thought there wasn’t enough time to check its effectiveness.” Jess asked.
“There is a way. There is a place between the Altered and the material realm. A purgatory if you will. It seems to react intensely with anything from the Altered, but also stabilises things from the world below. We believe if we test the pathogen there on a group, we can gauge the potency of the agent and its success.” Nina said.
“So, we need some volunteers?” Levon said.
“Some brave ones I’d say. That is quite a risk.” Jess said.
“All or nothing at this stage. Can you gather some people who suffer with S.I.N to go with you to this place and test it?” Nina asked Jess. Jess looked away, taking in the vast room and all the words that were continued in the books. How many of those books continued stories of hope, of overcoming? She turned to face both Levon and Nina.
“I think I know just the people.” Jess replied.