“Shit. Shit. Fucking hell.”
Shaun stared at the gaping wound in his house in disbelief, studying the wreckage that had been caused by the Eldritch excavating his front wall with its body. He wasn’t in a state of panic; he seemed more vocally concerned that his dad wasn’t going to be happy. He turned around and barely registered Tether, nor Visionary, and looked at the creature, to vent his rant in its direction.
“Come on. Seriously? This fucking thing? I left you alone in that building, and you’re here now and-”
At this point, he turned towards the pair of costumed Fargraced, frowning heavily at them. They noticeably flinched when his ire was guided to them though he wasn’t slightly consumed by his rage. By his tone, greatly annoyed more than murderous fury.
“Are you two NFU? What are you… did you do this?”
Visionary raised her hands. Tether looked to her, having never seen her show even a sliver of fear before. “We can explain-”
“I don’t need you to explain!” He barked back. Her mouth was slightly agape, frozen in place. Not even her eyes flickered away from him. “I need my wall fixed! My dad’s only gone out to get a paper and he’s going to come back to this. Jesus.”
Tether finally broke his silence. “Look, I’m sorry, it just-”
“Sorry?” Shaun took a step forward. Visionary almost launched to her feet, arm on Tether’s shoulder and hoisted him to his feet. Shaun relented and studied them for a moment, and realised how defensive they were about him. With a sigh, he lowered his arms. “I’m not going to hurt you. I’m just… I’m a little pissed, okay? I mean, wouldn’t you be if a hole was blown through your house?”
When he turned to take a look at the lamp post, they both unclenched their body. Relief washed over them like a cleansing wave.
By now, the van had finally arrived, and after slamming the brakes, men and women began to pour out of the back. Seven agents carrying weapons; though they carried some vague similarities to guns such as a nozzle and a trigger, these were far more advanced in design, and were linked via tubed to a small pack on their back. On their hips were some sort of fancy tazer rod and they were clad in raiment suited for combat; their armour was much more fortified with NFU logos on their front and they wore sleek full helmets with blue tinted visors.
They had approached the scene and entered the area with discipline. When one of the men at the front had noticed the scene, he raised his hand and the men and women under his command ceased, and stood to monitor the scene carefully. Shaun had meanwhile picked up the lamp post that was torn in half from the Eldritch’s impact, hoisting it off the ground so effortlessly it was nearly weightless in his grasp.
“Goddamnit.” He dropped it to the floor; it crunched to the pavement, the glass in the lamp itself that hadn’t been previously shattered cracked and splintered. Several of the armed NFU officers raised up their weapons, fingers not going into the trigger just yet. They had prepared their aim to Shaun. He turned around, and merely frowned and opened his arms.
“Really? Really? What are those gonna do to me?” There was an awkward, palpable pause in the air. “Put those things down.”
Visionary had finally snapped from the stupor that took her and raised her hand, finally attempting to regain control. “Stand down. Civilian is not hostile. Situation has been contained.”
Shaun rubbed his face, and sat down on a chunk of his wall that was big enough for him to settle on it for the time being. The commander stepped forward to Visionary and Tether, and bowed his head briefly. “Roger. Did the civilian do this?”
Tether intervened. “Not really. Like, I, uh, sort of put it through his… window. Sir.”
The commander addressed Tether, turning briefly to him. “You put it through the window?”
“Agent Tether was pinned beneath the Eldritch. He used his powers to take it off him, but used too much force. It impacted with the civilian’s wall and tore it down.”
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” Tether broke down, dejected, slumping shoulders, bowing his head. “I didn’t, I just sort of-”
“Tether, it’s fine. You were pinned and only did what you thought was appropriate in the moment.”
The commander nodded. “I didn’t know you had in you, Tether. Trust me. You act when you’re pushed that far.”
“I hope you guys are having fun over there-” Shaun said, still barking with a grievance to share. “-talking about whatever. Not like you’ve lost your bathroom wall or anything.”
Visionary just paused, then turned to the commander. “Commence clean-up. What’s left of it, anyway.”
Shaun stood up, and swatted the air in the Eldritch’s direction. “Yeah, get this thing away from me.” He turned to walk, and looked down to an awkward squelching; up to his knee on one of his legs was caked in alien offal and ichor, and this caused him to bicker more. “I just had these washed.” With that, he shook his head and made his way back inside his house, stepping over some drywall that was littered near the car.
“Tether.” Visionary said, whilst having her back to him to address the commander. “You’re around about his age. Try to see if you can talk to him. I need to have a private word.”
Tether nodded, and lowered his protective hood. He tried to adjust his hair, previously enclosed, and only made it messier. He approached the front door and went to knock, but saw it was already open. He pushed it ajar, and popped his head in the gap.
“Hey, uh. Can I come in for a second?”
“…what?” Shaun replied. “Just a sec.” Tether looked down, and noticed the trail of footprints of foul liquid printed into the carpet, where Shaun had discarded his shoes, socks and jeans he’d just worn. They were totally caked and it even began to coagulate over them, if it even was doing that at all. He came back down a second later, freshly changed and without anything on his feet, sidestepping over them.
They finally saw eye to eye, with Shaun looking up to the tinted goggles. Tether raised them to his forehead, and glanced inside for a second.
“Can I come in for a second?”
Shaun studied him for a second, a decision being made in his mind.
“…yeah, alright.” From the tone in his voice, and the lack of reluctance to open the door and make way for him, it seems he had calmed down quickly. “Come on in.”
He lead him to the living room, which had thankfully been untouched in the onslaught. Shaun opened the blinds and let some light inside, though the site of outside just made him shake his head. Alex went to take off his shoes and didn’t realise he was in boots for a second. They took time to put on or take off, and it would have been an awkward scene. He elected to keep them on and went inside.
“Sit down.” It wasn’t a command and it wasn’t taken as one. Tether nodded, thanked Shaun and took a seat on the leather three piece. Shaun sat on a two piece sofa just across from it, with his back to the window.
“They told me to come inside and talk to you. I don’t know what to talk about though.” Alex admitted, as he finally took his goggles off and rested them on the arm of the sofa.
Shaun looked to the side for a second. “There’s not much to say. Well. You can tell me what the hell just happened. Up to the bit where that thing went through my wall.”
Alex told him, in as much detail as he could remember. He told Shaun he was a recently trained NFU agent and he was just coming off his probation. This was meant to be just a small scout to find the Eldritch, then tell the containment team where it was and they’d capture it. It had gone near his house, and he had to distract it before it may have attacked somebody.
“So I took that pole. Oh, yeah, I grabbed a pole from the building site, and I threw it straight at it, and I brought it back to my hand.”
“Brought it back to your hand?”
“Yeah, let me show you.”
Visionary waited until Tether had gone out of hearing range, and watched as Shaun openly invited him in without even a fuss. To be certain, she waited until the door was closed before she turned to the commander. Several of the men under his control had begun to assemble around the Elrdritch. They begin to weave straps around its body, which had begun to lose some coherence of form. Its tentacles begun to droop, no longer held up in place. They were trying to keep it together as much as possible, and continued to bind it up tightly.
“Commander, patch me through to the control room. I need to report something to head office.”
He nodded, and touched where his ear would be inside the helmet. “Control Room, this is Containment Squad Leader Jason Cohen, force number 223. Agent Visionary has requested to speak with you on an urgent matter.”
There was a second of pause before they got a response. Jason had dug out a hand held device from his pocket in anticipation.
“Squad Leader Cohen, this is Control Room. You’re free to patch us through.”
The voice was male, a young age. He pushed a pair of buttons, and pointed it towards Visionary. Her comm came into life, and she began to speak directly to the control room, whilst Jason stashed the device away.
“This is Agent Visionary. Control Room, do you read me?”
“Loud and clear, Agent Visionary. How can we help you today?”
“I have an urgent matter that required reporting. I need you to patch me through to Director Sage. This is an urgent priority.”
“To Director Sage?” There was disbelief in his voice. “Just… bare with me a moment, agent.”
The line went quiet for half a minute. Visionary watched as the men had finally wound the beast up in leather straps, holding it tight enough to hold its form in place. The six remaining men and women took out some steel from the back of the van, and laid them in a cross hatch around the beast so they overlapped. Jason watched as well, and took out the device from before. One man called over with a “Ready.” before he had input a code and pointed it like a remote to the beams. They became ‘active’ and began a low hum, before they started to levitate off the floor by unknown, airless means. It was raised to waist height, and the men and women began to get ready to use them to hoist the beast inside the van. Curiously, the poles seemed to be locked in place against each other.
“Agent Visionary, apologies for the delay. We do have special instruction to patch you through. Connecting you now.” He responded, apologetically.
“It’s fine. Thank you for checking, and thank you again.”
There was a pause where the comms died. When the pause ended, Visionary spoke.
“Director Sage, this is Agent Visionary. Can you read me?”
“I can.” Sage spoke much less formally. Her voice exuded an experience, which paired well with the maturity in her voice. “Tell me what you’ve found.”
Alex held up his goggles and a glove he’d taken off his hand, and held them in the air. Shaun watched with an amused curiosity, and seemed to show more when he heard a click ring in the air.
“When I do this, the two objects are linked together. All I have to is will it together, and-”
He let go of his glove, and it flung straight from one hand to the goggles in the other. Even when he tilted it upside down, they were still holding together like a pair of magnets. He caught the gloves from underneath, and waved them about like he was explaining a magic trick.
“That’s kind of cool.” Shaun said. Alex nodded.
“It’s so cool, man.”
“So you’re… Farborn then, or Fartouched?” Shaun asked quite openly.
“Farborn. Visionary outside is Fartouched.” Alex replied.
“Ah.” He said, glancing behind himself for a second. “Can’t imagine it was pleasant for her.”
“I don’t know what it was like for her. I mean, I was born this way, right? She’s actually gone through the Farside. I’ve heard it really messes with you.”
Shaun nods. He didn’t have much to add to that.
“Are you Farborn too?”
Shaun laughs under a breath. “Yeah. Thought it might be obvious at this point.”
“Hey, you never know. I didn’t know if you were Farborn or Fartouched.” Alex explains himself, leaning back onto the sofa. “There’s a difference.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” Shaun seemed to realise something. “So, anyway. You brought the pole straight back to your hand.”
Alex carried on. He told him that it got the beast’s attention and it unleashed a horrible howl, something that chilled him straight to the core. He even asked how Shaun hadn’t heard that yet, and Shaun commented that he was probably still in the shower at this point, or at least leaving it. It was an acceptable excuse. He described it as screaming so weirdly, like it made him want to throw up, like something grabbed a part of him that he didn’t even know existed. And then it jumped on him and pinned him to the floor. In his desperation, he took that pole from earlier and ‘tethered’ it to a stone he found on the ground, then let the pole sink into the Eldritch’s body. When he threw the stone, he channelled as much as he could and the Eldritch launched from him.
“…and into my wall.”
“Yeah. Again, really sorry about that.”
“Look, it’s fine. It’s fine. It’s… well, it’s not fine, but I can see what happened. It wasn’t deliberate.”
Alex hung his head slightly. “It’s my first patrol as well.”
“That sucks.” Shaun states. “Sorry to hear it, dude.”
“I don’t know how I’m going to.. Hey, uh, what was your name?”
“Shaun, I’m Alex. Or Tether. Uh, I think something’s going on outside.”
Shaun looked surprised and turned around, leaning on the back of his sofa. He was friendly just then but now, he sounded like he expected whatever was happening outside.
“That something, is my dad.”
“We’ve encountered a young man, about 18 to 20 years old. I have legitimate reason to believe he is Farborn.”
“You know this for a fact.” Sage responded.
“Yes. He managed to kick a Girallon-class Eldritch through a lamp post. The lamp post snapped in half, then he jumped from a first floor window to the pavement. Upon doing which, he then stomped it so hard his foot physically went through it, and managed to cracked the pavement beneath it.”
Sage paused. What Visionary had said made her mute the microphone. The ten seconds of silence felt like it lasted far longer than it should have. Visionary looked to the Eldritch, which was now stored inside the van. Jason waited for them to secure it inside.
“Are you in Aven’s Close?”
Visionary paused. “Yes. Did you see that?”
“We are aware of him. Visionary, this Farborn is of importance to us. Bring him back to NFU headquarters. Use whatever means at your disposal to achieve this. Lie if necessary. Urgent priority.”
Visionary spoke up after contemplating. “Affirmative.”
“He will follow if he believes it’s his own idea.”
She waited again, though she nodded to herself. “Willco. Thank you, Sage. Agent Visionary, out.”
The comm merely died afterwards, without so much as a goodbye from Sage.
One of the men who had helped secure the Eldritch had emerged from the van, the door opening to the side made it obvious of his approach. “The Eldritch is secure and ready for transport, sir.”
Jason gave him a nod, and turned to Visionary. “We’ll head back and bring this one in for-”
“Sir, it appears a civilian is entering the area.”
A figure emerged from behind the van, and quickly approached over with a shambled hurry. He was heavy set, a man approaching his fourties with the receding hairline, beer belly and wrinkled forehead to match. His eyebrows were thick, furrowed and almost scowling, and his finger was raised and pointed accusingly towards Jason. There was something definitely aggressive about him, as Visionary and Jason turned to him and stood their ground.
“I thought I made it clear to the NFU to leave my family alone-”
Before anything else, he’d noticed the devastation behind him, and though Visionary attempted to speak to him to try and resolve it diplomatically, he barrelled forward with his arms wide and desperation in his voice.
“What in the name of god has happened here?!” He turned around, torn between shock and anger. “My house! You NFU bastards, what did you do to my house? Where’s Shaun?!”
“Sir, if you’d just calm down-”
“I will NOT calm down, there’s a bloody big hole in my house, you daft bint!”
“I am not a bint and I’d appreciate if you didn’t call me-”
“How about you be quiet! I’ve told the NFU more than enough times. We had an agreement.”
“Sir.” Jason attempted to restore order. “The situation is contained for now. If you would listen, we can-”
“You call this contained?!” He said, motioning to the debris on his driveway and the empty space where a wall used to be. “You can’t even contain the central heating in this house anymore!”
Shaun had become wise to his father’s return and got up from the sofa. “I knew he’d be pissed. C’mon.” He made his way out and Alex put his goggles back on, moving quickly behind Shaun as he left the house. He saw it all, right from when Jason tried to speak to his dad. He walked over to the situation, being calm amidst his father’s accusations. Shaun put his hand on his dad’s shoulder and he turned around. Shaun saw the anger fade away, as surprise took over.
“Shaun, what the hell is going on?” Shaun’s dad turned from Visionary and Jason, who decided to let them speak for a moment.
“Things happened. Look, dad, I need to explain what’s going on, okay? You’re out here, yelling at Visionary and… whoever this guy is.”
“I’ve just gone to get the paper and there’s a sodding hole in my house, Shaun!”
“Yeah, I know dad, and you’ve got every right to be a bit pis-ticked off but standing out here shouting at them’s not gonna help. Plus, I think the dog’s gonna eat my jeans, they’ve got Eldritch… gunk all over them.”
“Eldritch?! There’s been an Eldritch-”
Shaun frowned again. It was increasingly common for him to do so today, so he raised his voice just enough.
Craig did stop, and stared at Shaun. It looked like the shock of not calling him dad instilled the seriousness of the situation, and he took a second. He looked between him and the hole, then turned to Visionary and Jason, then back to Shaun. Perhaps frustration overtook him or Shaun had made him relent, but he nodded slowly.
“Go inside. I’ll talk to them and get this sorted, and I’ll tell you everything afterwards, okay?”
He nodded again, and let out a deep breath. It was more than relief; it almost sounded like part of him wanted to give up, or was going to. He made his way back to the house, and stopped himself from becoming angry again as he saw pieces of his old window littering the ground. Craig was sure to step over each piece of debris and made his way inside, and the door closed to the sound of him moaning about the stains in the carpet.
Shaun meanwhile, turned his attentions to Tether, Visionary and Jason. Nobody was quite sure what to make of what happened, so Shaun broke the ice and directed his attention to Visionary.
“You’re… Visionary, right?”
Visionary nodded. “Yes. Before you say anything, Shaun.” He stopped, and nodded, in some way permitting her an interruption. “On behalf of the NFU I’d like to deeply apologise for the inconvenience we’ve caused to you and your family. We’d like to set things right. We know you and your family don’t trust the NFU.”
Shaun turns and looks over his shoulder. He said quite dryly. “Can you blame them?” Though when he turned, he was smiling a little. “Heh.” Tether at least got the humour.
“Right. You guys, you need to sort this out. And not just fix it either. You need to fix it all, all the repairs done with no charge to us.”
Visionary paused for a second, and nodded affirmatively. “I don’t see a problem with that.”
Shaun waited, and let a beat pass. “…and compensation.”
Jason and Tether shared a glance “We can negotiate something with our legal team. In fact-” An idea seems to have struck her. “-we could get somebody out Monday if we sort everything out tomorrow. If you’re not doing anything, why don’t we have somebody pick you up tomorrow, and you can come to our headquarters, and we can resolve this issue quickly?”
Shaun picked up on a smile beneath Visionary’s mask and thought about it for a moment. The look of genuine contemplation on his face made her smile just a bit wider.
“Okay, yeah.” Shaun nodded. “And… I’ll need a shower when I get there.”
They arranged a time, and Shaun shook their hands individually. Tether had no issue with this, though Visionary had hesitation to take his hand. Jason’s grip was firm, though he found Shaun’s firmer still. Shaun went to his house to console his dad, who had watched the entire thing through the front window of the living room, whilst Tether and Visionary followed Jason into the vehicle.
“Visionary.” Tether spoke up, once they were about to climb into the van. As the door slid open, the smell of the dead Eldritch hit them, and both the Fargraced baulked from its lingering stench. “Am I going to still be on probation after this?”
She got in first, and there was just enough room for them to squeeze aboard next to the Containment Squad, who had already begun to discuss what they were going to do after work today. “No. In fact, you performed excellently today. We got more than what we came for. It far outweighs the costs.”
Tether seemed surprise, and pulled his hood down once he took a seat. “You… mean Shaun, don’t you?”
She glanced to him for a second, and didn’t move her head to do so. “In a way.” She spoke no more of it on the journey back, and Tether found her silence on the subject disconcerting to say the least.
Shaun returned to the house. Opening the door revealed the pile of clothes and his shoes had been removed from their spot, and there was an attempt at cleaning before they’d given up trying to shift the substance. It still stunk through the front end of the house. Shaun made his way to the living room, where his dad had made them both a mug of tea and left it on the dining room table. Craig made his way over and sat down. Taking the hint, Shaun joined him afterwards.
They both took a sip, and exhaled out of relief with a sigh. Shaun looked to his dad; he wasn’t eager for the answers to follow. Shaun saw something else; fear, maybe doubt.
He explained it all. From Saturday when him and Josh spied the Eldritch where it lay in the building site, to when Visionary and Tether had found the beast entering the Close on a regular patrol, and Tether accidentally flinging it through their window after it pinned him down, right when Shaun was cleaning his teeth. He also didn’t mask what happened next; punching the creature so hard it tore through the door frame to the bathroom, and when he kicked it out and ripped the lamp post in half. He even went into detail about jumping after it, and putting it down in one single stomp, and then how he went inside to change, and spoke with Alex afterwards.
At this point, Craig was already there, and he went no further into it.
His father was relieved, though there was still something uneasy in him. The entire store had given Shaun enough time to drink his tea, whilst Shaun still had half a mug to go.
“And that’s it.” He put the mug on the table and watched his dad’s reaction. He put his mug down as well, much more gentle.
“It makes a lot more sense now. Might have lost my rag with them.”
“No kidding, dad.” Shaun said, with a bit more of a smile on his face now. “You probably would have told the Eldritch to bugger off, if it was still alive.”
“I bloody well would have as well. Bloody Eldritch, in our bloody neighbourhood.”
Shaun did laugh. It broke away from the seriousness, and made them both forget, only for a few seconds.
“Leave the Eldritch to me, dad.”
“So what did you say to them, out there? You shook their hand. Don’t be making deals with them, Shaun.”
“I didn’t make a deal with them, dad. I just told them they’d have to repair this, and it wouldn’t cost us anything.”
“Aye, they’d better do. They’d better bloody do, Shaun.” He brought his mug to his mouth, taking a swig.
“And compensation. I told them they need to give us that as well.”
“That’s a first.” Craig seemed surprise. “Normally they tell you where to shove it.”
“They’re going to pick me up tomorrow morning, and they said we’ll get it sorted.”
Craig’s attitude changed, and he put the mug back on the table. “Shaun.”
“Dad, it’s fine. I’ll be fine.”
“It’s not you I’m worried about. I know you’ll be fine.” Shaun began to look a little more concerned now. “I know they might seem like they’re trying to fix things. And I dunna doubt they won’t fix the mess they’ve made here. And I dunna think they’ve even got anything that can leave a scratch on you. But Shaun, you can’t trust them. Don’t trust the NFU, not even for a second.”
Shaun took the seriousness of his dad’s tone and leaned forward a little.
“Is there something about the NFU I need to know, dad?”
“There’s a lot you need to know but I can’t tell you yet. I can’t stop you, Shaun. Hell, I learned that when you were five and you got your football stuck underneath the car, and you lifted the bloody thing up like it were nothin’.” Craig laughed, reminiscing. “When you see a five year old pick up a Ford Mondeo, you know you can’t hold them back. Just promise me, if you go there tomorrow, you’ll keep your wits about you, and you don’t trust them? Not a single one, Shaun. The NFU have a lot of things to hide.”
Shaun paused. He had to take it all in for the moment. “…okay, dad. I promise.”
Craig’s shoulders rose; a weight had been lifted from them.
“Did I seriously pick up the car when I was five.”
“You bloody did, aye. Dropped it as well. Buggered the suspension.”
Shaun laughed, deeply, even as he spoke. “I’m sorry, dad. I don’t even remember. Honestly.”
They shared some laughs, and Shaun pressed his dad for more questions about what he did when he was younger. He got nothing from him as Shaun’s mum had come home from work early, looking after Shaun’s grandmother, and begun shouting and screaming and asked if Shaun had sneezed and blown a hole in the house again. Shaun and Craig had quite a lot of explaining to do, and it made Craig look tame in comparison when he had arrived on the scene before. It took several cups of tea and Shaun explaining what had happened, and what was going to happen twice before she stopped being hysterical and listened to reason.
It had been quite a busy day, all things considered.
It felt odd for Shaun, at night. As he would normally brush his teeth before going to sleep, he stared at the gaping abyss where his bathroom was, and shook his head with a deep sigh. He stepped in, feeling the night breeze against his bare feet and hands and face, and knelt down for a moment and plucked something from the rubble with his finger and thumb. He held it up as best as he could see; an electronic toothbrush, snapped in two, with toothpaste and dust coating the head, crusty and dry. The other half was somewhere in the wreckage, possibly beneath plaster or a pile of wood and rubble.
He looked at it in his hand for a moment, then let it slide out and clatter to the floor muttering to himself.
“Gonna need a new toothbrush as well.”
He didn’t bother looking for the other half. As far as he was concerned, it wasn’t worth finding.