Exposure: 4-3

Visionary knocked on Grandmaster’s door twice, light raps of her knuckles that proceeded her entering before he responded. He didn’t tell her to enter though, nor did he say anything until she was inside, with the door clicking shut behind her.

His helmet was on the table, beside a pair of empty plastic cups that had housed some coffee; a third, half drunk, was within arm’s reach. An open laptop faced him, and his expression was stern and serious, his tone of voice grave and lacking character. Visionary was accustomed to this from him, and knew to hold back on anything light hearted.

“Thanks for coming back, Visionary.” He said, glancing down to the screen of his laptop. “Hope your operation went well, but this requires your attention. I mean, hell, this is gonna require Messenger’s attention, truth be told to you.”

Visionary’s eyes flickered for a brief moment. “Messenger? I’ll need you to explain what’s going on. Is this with regards to the Burnham case?”

Grandmaster nodded, then pointed to his laptop. “Come and take a look. I’ll be the narrator to this Brother’s Grimm little story I’ve uncovered.”

She nodded and walked over, standing to his left. He tapped onto Outlook and opened a recently opened email he’d received, bringing up a batch of pictures taken by phone.

“With the Burnham case, you know he confessed and gave us the location of evidence to help us convict Barnes. Turns out, he wasn’t lying about it, and it’s all really solid stuff. He gave us the location of the Fartouched animals that were kidnapped, as well as the computers that were stolen, some storage bin north of Manchester city centre that Burnham took them to. And that’s the thing. I sent Impetus out because I wanted eyes and ears from somebody I can trust and’ll keep in touch with me, and because I ain’t got time for reports. Well, he showed me what he found out.”

He clicked, and opened the pictures.

The first picture was that of a calico cat, dead. Lying on its side in a cage. It had barely entered decomposition but its skin was withered, wrapped around bone and sinew tightly. The life from its eyes was just as drained as the rest of the body.

Grandmaster began to cycle through the photographs. The next two animals, a black rat and a bulldog had suffered the same fate. The rest of the animals, over two dozen in total, had their heads turned at right angles, their necks snapped to ensure their death.

Visionary’s eyes went wider, and she looked at Grandmaster. “They killed them.”

“If that were the half of it.” Grandmaster said, turning his head to Visionary.

“Why did he put them in a storage locker though?” She asked. “That doesn’t make sense.”

“I didn’t think so either, but Burnham’s smarter than I gave him credit for. See, that’s not the biggest thing we found. The C-Team took some laptops with them to extract data from the hard drives on site.”

He navigated to a second email, sent three hours later. This one had several video attachments, five in total, and he clicked the final one. It was several hours long and he paused it immediately, going about halfway through the recording before pausing at a spot where Burnham was meeting a secondary figure. It was showing a small living room from a ceiling corner view, with the blinds closed. A table was in the centre of the room, with the engine that Doppler’s crew had stolen lying in the middle. It was modified, with wires attached to the power generator and a control panel strapped to the side, and beside the engine was a small metal case. Three animal cages were next to Burnham, with two that had already been opened, their gates slightly ajar. One was rodent size, another for cats, and a third for dogs.

“That’s Michael’s home.” Visionary said, leaning in closer. “A containment team raided it. We found nothing.”

“Yup, but this was five days before we caught Burnham. He took security footage of what he did with Barnes. I reckon, because he knew if this went south, he needed to clear his name and have evidence that he was just an accomplice, not the main conspirator. Makes a little more sense when you think about it, and it points to him keeping everything in a storage locker-”

“-for evidence.” Visionary interrupted. “That’s very pragmatic.”

“You’re telling me. He even recorded the audio. Take a gander.”

Visionary turned slightly to Grandmaster and nodded. Grandmaster hesitated a second before pressing play.

The video came to life. Anthony Barnes walks forward a few steps and points towards the engine. He sounds frustrated, and a little weary.

And this is it, with the modifications I asked for?”

Michael Burnham nodded. The footage was of a good quality but it was still grainy, and didn’t show his facial expressions clearly.

That’s it. Everything you asked, you got. You get what you paid for, don’t ya?”

Anthony rubbed his chin, holding his elbow with his other hand.

I assume you’ve tested the device.”

Michael nodded. “Made sure it worked, then killed ’em.”

Anthony walked over to the cages, and opened one of them wide. The camera could just see that the two cages that had been opened, were empty. The third he knelt beside, and put a curled finger in the gap. Afterwards, he yanked his finger back out of the cage and stood, then nodded.

I need a demonstration. I assume these-” Anthony points to the metal case on the table. “-are the sedatives I requested?”

Michael nodded again and walked over. He opened the case, and the contents were obscured by the lid shielding it from the camera. He did take out something in his hand, a syringe and a vial that he began to fill up.

Anthony went back to the cage and opened it. He reached inside, and his mumbles were barely audible above the sound of the cat struggling inside. It hissed for a few seconds and let out a growl, but grew subdued in seconds.

Shh, there there. Come on, now. No need to scratch me.”

He emerged calmly with the cat held by the scruff of it’s neck, and he curled his other arm underneath to support it. He brought it over to Michael, who carefully administered the sedative. Within a minute, the cat had fallen asleep in Anthony’s arms. He brought it over to the table, easing it down onto it’s front and stroking behind it’s ears.

Michael nodded, and took the wires attached to the engine, and begun to fasten them around the cat’s waist and head. He wasn’t particularly careful when doing so, but he made sure they were tight enough. He moved over to the control panel and adjusted something on the screen before turning to Anthony.


Anthony nodded.

The moment of truth. Go on.”

With one final tap on the display, the engine began to activate. The hum of alien energy was audible and the screen began to show flashes of static, flickering boxes of white and black that seemed to surround the engine like a halo. Moments passed, and the cat began to convulse and shudder. Anthony leaned in, his hands beginning to clench whilst Michael watched calmly. The cat began to spasm more and thrash and rolled it’s head up, eyes wide, letting out a weak and feeble meow before collapsing. The cat looked gaunt and frail, an exhumed corpse; just as in the pictures that were seen before.

Michael tapped the display once and the engine powered down. Anthony stared, and though his expression wasn’t perfectly clear, it was obvious he was shocked.

…what did you do?” He stated, staring straight through Michael.

Sucked ’em dry. What’cher think was gonna happen, Barnes?”

Anthony’s voice began to fill with a slow fury. “This isn’t what I asked for, not in the slightest.”

Pacing towards Michael, Anthony raised his finger accusatory. Michael raised his hands, a gesture that Grandmaster felt familiar with.

You asked me to get you the engine, and fer’ these modifications to it. I did exactly what’cher wanted, word by word. It ain’t my fuckin’ fault if it went tits up!”

I asked you to get me something that could cut off people’s power. Drain them of their Farside energy and they’d be powerless. That’s what I-”

-that’s what you thought would happen, ya daft cunt.” Michael interrupted, raising his voice. “That ain’t my fault, not one bit, so don’t point ya cunt finger at me, blamin’ me! I took your money, I hired Flare an’ her little twat crew to steal those animals for you. I asked Doppler’s Crew to steal the Engine. I even got some anaesthetic because you wanted these bastard animals sedated, when I would’a just plugged them in live and kickin’! I’ve done everything you asked me to do, exactly as you wanted, no questions asked, and now you’re blamin’ me because it fucked up. Ain’t that right?!”

Anthony stared quietly, then lowered his hand down. Michael stepped forward, repeating himself.

Ain’t that right?”

After a second, Anthony nodded.

Yes.” He raised his head, speaking deeply. “But I have nothing now. What am I supposed to do? I promised. I said I’d have a way to suppress their powers. I wanted to turn them off altogether, neuter them, but this is just execution. This isn’t what I wanted, Michael.”

Not my problem.” Michael said, stepping back. The shift in his tone was noticeable, aggression into calm and controlled. “If you wanna tamper with shit you don’t know, your business.”

Anthony began to run a hand through his hair and turned away, and left his palm in his grey hairline. He let out an exhale, defeated and contemplating.

I need one more thing from you. I need you to get rid of the animals, and the data we have. No evidence. Destroy it all.” He turned, letting his hand drop to his side. “Nothing remains. No links to me whatsoever.”

Michael nods. “That ain’t a problem.. What about that?” He said, pointing to the engine.

I’ll deal with that. Just… do what you need to do. How much do you need?”

This one’s on me.” Michael said, prodding his own chest with his thumb. “You’ve made me well off enough, I think a freebie’s in order.”

Anthony nodded, turning away from the engine. “Thank you. I’d best leave. Help me move the engine to my car. I’ll find a way to hide it.”

Grandmaster stops the video.

Visionary lowers her hands from her gasping mouth.

“The rest of it is just him moving the engine out of the room.”

After a second, Grandmaster shoves his laptop closed, then leans back in his chair. “Everything clicks now. Burnham knew it was gonna go tits up from the start, so he recorded everything. We have enough info here to verify every claim that Burnham made. He knew, he fucking knew, and he’s covered his back every step of the way. And the moment it went south, he was ready to take a dive to drop Barnes in it, and save his own skin. That smart son of a bitch.”

Grandmaster rubbed the bridge of his nose. To his side, Visionary nodded slowly. “You were right.”

“I don’t give a crap that I was right.” He stated, leaning backwards, a dawning realisation washing over him. “I’m astounded. Burnham was much fuckin’ smarter than I gave him credit for. That man’s smarter than any of us here.”

“What do you mean?”

“Because you didn’t notice what he did halfway through the video, and now that I’ve seen it again, I saw exactly what he did. That son of a bitch. When he was talking to Barnes, that little rant he gave him?” Grandmaster turned to Visionary. “He worded that perfectly, because he knew he was being recorded. He made sure that he said that he did everything because Barnes hired him to do it, and got Barnes to admit to that on camera. God fucking damn.”

“And that’s why he kept the evidence.”

“That’s not all.” Grandmaster rubbed his face. “We didn’t get an admission of attempted murder, ‘cos there’s no intent to kill people. But what we did hear was an admission of intent for nullification of Farside-born abilities.”

Visionary raises her head and meets eyes with Grandmaster.

“It might be just a step above GBH, but it’s enough to issue a warrant for arrest.” A smile starts to grow on his face. “We got ’em.”

Visionary nods. “I’ll go and inform the Director. This will most likely have to be brought to his attention.”

Grandmaster nods. Visionary starts to walk out and Grandmaster’s helmet begins to let out an alert. He takes his helmet and puts it over his head, and as Visionary begins to turn on the knob, he speaks.

“Hold up, Visionary.”

She turns around to the sound of his distorted voice, taking a step closer to his desk.

“Answer, loudspeaker.”

The system that changes Grandmaster’s voice in the helmet now starts to crackle with background noise, and a familiar voice pierces through.

“Grandmaster here. You’re on loudspeaker.

Hello, Grandmaster. Whom else am I talking to?” Impetus answered.

“Just Visionary. I’ve shown her the pictures and footage you sent me, so she’s up to date. What’ve you got?”

Hello, Visionary. I hope you are well today. Did your operation succeed?”

“It did, Impetus. Thank you for asking.”

Grandmaster wags his finger from left to right. “Can you two skip using my helmet to catch up for one second here? Impetus, what did you find?”

Impetus scoffed. “So impatient, but I guess this is serious, is it not? You’re aware that we found that footage on the computers. We found something else that you need to see. I’m sending a picture to your email address… now.”

Grandmaster pulled open his laptop, and Visionary walked back around to his left as the screen came to life. A new email came in, and he double clicked on it. Inside was a PDF attachment, and he opened that as well. Inside was a report, detailing instructions in small print. Further down as he scrolled, he came across blue paper and white outlines, with precise and detailed drawings, measurements and engineering information.

“Schematics?” Visionary asked, leaning forward.

Schematics of the engine that Anthony Barnes has hidden from us.”

“Okay.” Grandmaster said, leaning back on his chair. “That’s good. Should help us as evidence that he was using it for nullification purposes.”

I would not show you just a mere engine blueprint, Grandmaster. Can you see anything different about it?”

Grandmaster scrolled back up and him and Visionary studied it for seconds. Grandmaster shook his head. “I can’t see anything. Looks just like the engine in the video.”

Exactly.” Impetus said. “Like in the video, Grandmaster. Not the engine when it was stolen.”

“Yeah, makes sense. You modify something like this, it’s untested, so you’ll need notes. I’m no engineer, but I don’t see what you’re getting at.” Grandmaster scrolled back up, reading through the instructions before. His eyes wandered over a note, scanning the bottom of the page.

This is not just that. This is an official schematic. It has come straight from MAGI-Tech. These are official blueprints. The engine was modified and these notes are annotated and signed by-”

“-Artifex himself.” Grandmaster said, as he saw Artifex’s signature on the bottom of the page. “Son of a bitch.”

“He’s still in the NFU workshop. I’ll send a C-Team to bring him in for questioning.”

Grandmaster nodded. Visionary bowed her head and left the room, closing the door behind her. “Impetus, you make my job easier and harder at the same time. Goddamn.”

A pleasure as always, Grandmaster. I would help you with Artifex but I need to continue here.”

“That’s fine. Give me a bell if you hear anything else.”

Of course. Goodbye for now.”

Impetus dropped the call.

Grandmaster took his helmet off again and left it sleeping on the table. He put his hand on his head, so that the tips of his fingers brushed against his temples. With a deep sigh, he spoke aloud to himself, barely above a whisper.

“Just a little longer, Kai. Just a little longer.”

The metal door opened with an ominously loud noise, a crack of metal and machinery that signalled the entrance sliding open. Several members of an NFU containment squad stood ready, armed with Emotional Dampener Rifles. They held them losely, fingers off the trigger as they walked through the open doorway. The last man inside took the keycard that’d been acquired from the receptionist, who had shrunk behind his desk and hadn’t said a word since their arrival.

One man led the way and two men flanked him, three others behind. With their armour, they were virtually indistinguishable, and walked slowly towards the control panel that lead them to Artifex’s workshop doors. Their approach caught the attention of the security camera, as several red dots started to dart and trace on their clothes. No further than ten feet from the door, the apparent leader raised his hand and signalled for a crunch of boots on the floor, and everyone stopped in symmetry.

The lens of the camera rotated for a second, before it spoke to them.

Weaponry detected. You have not been authorised to enter the workshop. Please identify yourself or the automatic defence systems will be armed. You have ten seconds to comply.”

Raising his head, the leader replied.

“Commander Jason Cohen of the NFU.” Jason said, turning his head. The red dots began to focus on him all at once, attracting to several points on his chest; his heart, shoulders, ribs.

Voice recognised. Commander Jason Cohen, no designation. You have not been scheduled for a visit. Please remove your helmet and disarm yourself for confirmation of identity.”

Not wasting more time, Jason passed his rifle to the man next to him, who held it by the stock as he took off his helmet. The red dots began to trace around his cheeks, along his nose and forehead and even dipping into his eyes. It took seconds to process before the voice called back to them.

Identification confirmed, Commander. Artifex has been made aware of your presence. This is a reminder that Artifex has strict policies regarding visits-”

The voice stopped. A few seconds later, it spoke again. Accompanied by the door being pulled open by machinery, and the way to Artifex’s workshop being opened.

Please enjoy your stay.”

Jason slid his helmet back on and took his rifle, then lead the way for him and the other five men to enter the workshop.

It was as much of an organised chaos as Artifex had normally worked with. Artifex himself was stood next to the table closest to the entrance, and to the side of the hand that leaned on the table was a laptop and a phone-like device on top. His white shirt had the sleeves rolled up, but otherwise he wore his characteristically smart attire as normal. He didn’t look annoyed, but calm and patient.

“I want to make it clear that I haven’t turned off the defence systems just yet, and you’re armed men. Even if it’s verified you, I need to be totally fucking sure about this.” Artifex raised his head. “Commander.”

Jason stepped forward, and Artifex raised his hand. Jason didn’t move further, and he let the hand drop to his side.

“Artifex. Nice seeing you again.”

“Not nice seeing you with a fucking rifle in your hand. You know, I made those weapons for you, and you come here holding them like this. Six armed men, standing in my workshop, what’s the phrase…” He snapped his fingers quickly three times. “…armed to the teeth? Some sort of fucking irony here.”

“I don’t like being here as much as you don’t like it, either. But we are here on official work business, and it’s not the kind that you can schedule or announce.”

“Mm.” Artifex responded, quickly. He took the phone off the top of the laptops and tapped the screen, then nodded. “My workshop, very secure. Normally sets to non-lethal, unless weapons are registered. Also set up some of my Intention Detectors into the security feeds, and it’s telling me you’re being honest. Or you’re very fucking good at lying.”

“Not that good, I’m afraid.” Jason turned his head. He caught a glimpse of the man to his right, who was holding his rifle in his hand. He’d yet to put his finger near the trigger, and he assumed nobody else was doing so. “And I’m not here to talk with you, either. We’re here to bring you in for questioning, regarding the theft of your stolen engine, and your involvement with Anthony Barnes.”

Artifex nodded slowly. “You know, now is good time to make joke asking if I’m being detained or not, but we all know how well that’d end for me.”

“That’d be in bad taste right now.” Jason responded. “Would you like us to call your lawyer for you whilst you’re en-route to the NFU headquarters?”

“No. “Don’t think is necessary. I figured you’d be here to talk about this with me, so I did you a favour.” Artifex raised his hand and put the device on top of the laptop, then patted it a few times. “With regards to stolen prototype and dealings with this specific client, all information recorded is on this. Will save you time, though I’m aware you’ll be looking through my workshop. Evidence gathering and all that.”

“Glad this could be done peacefully. If you’d like to make your way with us, we’ll make sure this goes as quickly as possible.”

“Room will need to be secured. Give me five minutes.”

The containment team waited and watched as Artifex began to secure the room for his absence, and he took the laptop with him after he was certain all defence protocols were up and running. He turned the lights off and locked the workshop door, before leaving through the relative darkness of the corridor. Two men behind, two either side, and Jason and the final officer leading the way, with Artifex in the middle.

With his arm on the back of his chair, Artifex casually glanced around the interview room. He hadn’t been there for long, a few minutes at most, so he was a little surprised as a familiar set of armour entered the room and sat across from him. Grandmaster had a file in hand, brown paper with sheets inside of it. He threw it on the table so it landed in front of his chair and pulled the seat back, resting down. Artifex watched him carefully, studying his moves.

“You were quick.”

“Things feel like they’re going really quick. For the purpose of this interview, I’m going to call you Janos. You okay with that?”

Artifex nodded. “Before we start, good to see you’re taking care of the suit. We can talk about it later though. I mean, I want to hear how it’s been doing.”

Grandmaster nodded. “For the record, I’m starting this interview at 13:06pm on December 3rd, 2015. My name is Kai Rhodes, also known as Agent Grandmaster of the National Farside Unit. With me is the person being questioned, Janos Briggs, also known as Artifex. Janos has declined a lawyer’s presence here today. This will be a quick interview, as Janos has come willingly here today.”

Artifex watched as Grandmaster opened the file and took out several photographs. The first sheets were print-outs of the PDF that was on the file of the computers that were previously seized.

“For the purpose of this interview, I refer to the event in which Janos was brought into NFU custody for questioning. Janos, when you were brought in, I was made aware that you already had a laptop that you said has, and I quote, ‘all the information on this’, with regards to the questions you’d be asked today. This leads me to believe you’re aware of why you’re brought in today. Is that correct?”

“That is correct.” He reponded.

“You’ve been brought in today with regards to information about the prototype engine that was stolen by Oliver Sullivan, also known as Doppler, as well as information that has recently been discovered about dealings that you’ve made with an Anthony Barnes. These dealings involve the prototype engine in question and modifications that, in documents seized today, indicate that you yourself have made to the stolen prototype engine.”

Grandmaster slides the sheets of paper towards Artifex. “I am showing Janos evidence A.1, the PDF document that shows proof that he has made modifications to the stolen prototype engine.”

“Would you like me to explain from the start, what is going on?”

“Yes please, though I’d like to make you aware that in doing so, anything you do say may be given in evidence. We would like to know primarily why you hadn’t reported to us that you knew where your stolen prototype engine was and that you’d modified it without the NFU being aware, despite knowing that it is part of an on-going case that we have.”

Artifex nods, then leans back further on his chair.

“Okay. So, the situation is like this. Anthony Barnes approaches me, tells me that he would like to privately hire my services, and even offers a sum of money up-front to keep things confidential. What is important here is that such contracts are made with my safety in mind. Is a promise of safety to me that such work can’t be sold or used publicly, nor used against me or MAGI-Tech. Said contract is on the laptop, so you can verify that as part of procedures. As part of contract, totally legally binding with regards to client confidentiality.”

“Anthony Barnes and I signed contract that stated total confidentiality, in return for previously agreed work that he reveals once it’s all done. We sign contract, he pays up-front, then decided to show me my prototype engine. At this point, contract has bound me. If I mention to NFU, contract is broken and I have a very huge lawsuit on my hands. That is why I did not inform NFU that he has my stolen engine.”

“And then what happened?” Grandmaster asked.

“He tells me what he wants. He wants engine to drain energy instead of produce it. I ask him why he wants to do that, and why he didn’t just ask for me to make him an engine to start with. Idiot idea if you ask me. Tells me, there’s not enough time, apologises and all that. He tells me what he wants, doesn’t say what it’s for, but knows I’m stuck and have to do it, because I want that engine back eventually. So I got to work, I made the modifications and left the engine functioning so it can be used normally, or as wanted.”

“What modifications did he ask you to make on the prototype?”

Artifex takes the sheets of paper and begins to neatly arrange then, putting them on the table just after he speaks. “Said he wanted me to make the engine suck in energy, instead of producing it. Not out of the realms of possibility, but I questioned many times. Why? He didn’t tell me. Told me I wasn’t hired to know that. Told him it was a dumb-shit idea, really dangerous, he had no idea what he was working with, but he was stubborn. I knew look in his eyes. It’s the look in mine. Arguing isn’t going to work.”

“After you modified the prototype engine, what happened then?”

“He took it and left. Not spoken with him since then.”

“And that was your entire involvement with Anthony Barnes?”

“That is correct.”

“For the purpose of the interview, I’m communicating through my helmet to the observation room currently watching the interview in progress. Are there any further questions you’d like to ask?”

Grandmaster waited.

“No further questions. Janos, thank you for your time.”

“Thanks for making this quick”

“We’ll be searching through your workshop for any additional evidence that may help with our enquiry. You’re not permitted to enter or be near that building until further notice. We require you to stay in the Headquarters until such further notice is given. Is that understood?”

“Understood, yes.”

“We’ll do our best to accommodate your needs for the duration of the stay. I’m concluding this interview. The time according to my helmet is 13:16pm on December 3rd, 2015.”


Beginnings: 2-7

The radio of the alarm clock began to blare, signalling 5 o’clock on the dot. As loud as Radio One carried to play on, nobody was around to turn it off. He’d already left, forty five minutes prior to when he was supposed to wake up. It’d always been the case, his personal body clock was always more fine tuned than anything man-made could provide. Every time he set the clock back, he’d wake up to the alarm morning, then wake up somewhere between half an hour to an hour earlier than when it sets off. It didn’t help that he couldn’t drop back off once he woke up.

It was something he had to endure.

Whilst he was out jogging, Grandmaster didn’t look anything like his namesake. Sporting tracksuit bottoms and a white vest that was far too lacking in coverage for such a mild winter morning. It hadn’t snowed, as it never did in England, but it was certainly dark enough that meagre light that the sun was starting to provide at this time of morning wasn’t good enough. Lamp posts illuminated his way as he jogged on, ear buds connected to the MP3 player strapped to his arm.

Lamp post. Too large. Not viable.

Not a soul in sight, not a car on the road as he pushed himself forward. It was calm and serene, a perfect temperament to gather his thoughts. Right now, he was Kai Rhodes, a man jogging with too little clothes, and only about ten minutes away from doing his morning 10k. He ducked under a stray branch that was crossing his path, briefly spying a much thicker one on the ground that he strode past.

Even now, his power was working, taking in information. He saw the branch and he could see the perfect point to hold for balance and could picture how much it weighed, what would be the best method to use it to strike somebody, approximately how far he could throw it and what method he’d need to use to utilise the weight and how lacking aerodynamically it was-

They were like intrusive thoughts, ones he could dismiss quite easily by looking away. All the information came to him in the time it took for him to register what it was, as if his basic sight also tuned into the object in question. All he knew was how best to use it to bludgeon seven shades out of somebody.

Funnily enough, it helped him to focus, especially when he was pushing himself. Little distractions took the edge off more strenuous activities, and made running bearable.

He made note of the perfect way to utilise two large branches, several smaller ones, a discarded shoe, his own shoelace as a garotte when he stopped to tie them for a moment, the key he took out of his recently unzipped pocket to get into his house. It was perfect for quicker, defter jabs and cuts.

When he got inside, the first order of business was having a shower, cooling off and getting ready for work.

His home was large, spacious. He had little in the way of hobbies and enjoyed his job, pulled in regular overtime. His position at the National Farside Unit was one that gave him a good salary with great benefits but little to spend it on, or others to lavish it with.

He’d kept to himself, mostly. He thought inwardly, didn’t suffer fools well, and held himself to a high standard. If he couldn’t do what he’d ask of others, he wouldn’t ask it. Exceptions were made for more exotic cases, Fargraced with abilities he could never muster. Because of this, he had little time to date or seek out a partner. There was often complaints from their end; one woman he’d seen before, a work colleague said she felt he spent too much time trying to fit her into his lifestyle. A man he’d met once told him he didn’t talk often enough, and spoke too much about work when he did, and he’d grown bored and called it off.

All reasons sounded the same. Excuses, each and every one. Exculpations that said to him, they weren’t worth the time if they weren’t willing to accept that work was a big part of his life.

Once he’d gotten himself clean and out of the shower, he went to the bedroom to change.

Don’t leave me behind. Can you see me, I’m shining-

He tapped the top button of the alarm clock, turning it off.

Unsuitable for sustained attacking. Likely to break in a single strike.

“Tsk. The shit they play these days.”

He was meticulous when it came to putting on his armour. Having eaten breakfast just after he woke up, all he needed to do now was gear up and he’d be ready to go out. Underneath his armour, he wore form fitting under armour that looked like carbon fibre, aimed for flexibility and to absorb sweat. He made a point of taking his time to put on every segment of armour, making sure each bit was as tight as it needed to be.

His helmet was put on last, stripped from the chord that was charging it overnight by his bed stand. He put it on over his head gently, allowing it to wrap around his skull.

It didn’t make him feel any more complete than normal. As all armour did, he felt protected and assured.

He went downstairs one more time to lock the house up, and swiped his car keys off the coffee table. He brushed aside the thought on how poor it was to stab somebody with something so blunt, though he could never not hold it so the weight was distributed properly. Even something so small as a key, he always held it for maximum effect.

Today felt a little different. Other than the regular schedule of parking up, getting through all the security checks, making his morning coffee and finishing off any errant paperwork that required urgent attention, he had something to look forward to. As he sat in his office, his helmet scanned over the paper he held in his hand, selecting sections of text and transcribing them to the interface inside his visor, so he could continue reading it even after he put it down. It also uploaded the written files to his computer. It was an incredible device, all the systems and subsystems accounted for, one that he was all too consciously aware about whenever he went on a mission or operation.

A single blow to the head may destroy something valuable, no matter how well protected it was. He hoped the money he shovelled into Artifex’s hands afforded him, and it, that safety.

He spied his coffee on his desk and stripped himself of his helmet, feeling the buzzing of circuits and electronics power down. He let it rest on the table as he took a sip of his coffee, begrudgingly swallowing it down.

“God damn, this instant stuff takes like dirt.”

He stared at it for long seconds before taking another sip.

“Better than nothing.”

He took the file in his other hand and leaned back on his chair, folding one leg over the other. He studied it for moments. A case file on Ryan Macey, leader of the Technomads. They had every bit of information they could afford to get from him, a few details from police files that they’d managed to haggle for. Nothing that they didn’t know already. Lists of outstanding charges, costs done for damages incurred.

He scanned it for a second, peeling back a small sheet of paper that was held by a paper clip to the top, noted nothing of importance, then threw the file onto the desk. It landed, with its edges perfectly adjacent to the lines of his desk. He took another sip of coffee, easier to take in once he’d assimilated to the taste.

He took a second to focus on the mug, and felt how it weighed in his hands. His powers were already informing him of how he could use this mug. Mundane information, how to use it, the knowledge and the muscle memory that came with it. He also had a feel for the structural integrity that it’d need to strike somebody with. A wealth of information, all pertaining to acts of violence.

He smiled, even grinned.

“Some sorta fucked up universe that gives me a power to know how to murder somebody with a mug.”

Tiring of speaking to himself, he blew on his coffee and downed the rest of it, grunting afterwards. He wiped his mouth on his fingers and thumb, rubbed them together, then discretely wiped that on the side of his chair. He put his helmet back on, letting it take seconds to case him in.

The power was already on and he had full visibility before the rest of the systems came online.


“Call NFU front desk.”

CALLING Front Desk (Work)

The phone rang three times.

Hello?” The voice was female, young.

“Hello.” Grandmaster left the comment to linger, knowing it would add just a drop of confusion.

Uhm. Hello, this is reception.”

“Hello, reception. This is Grandmaster.” He spoke intone, smiling to himself.

Oh! Oh, sorry, hello Grandmaster. How can I help?”

“I need a favour. When Agent Visionary enters, call me and let me know. Tell her I’m waiting.”

Okay, sure. Will do.”

“Alright. Thank you kindly. Bye.”

Grandmaster hung up the line, pushing against the ear with the comms to do so. Abrupt, but he didn’t need to waste time.

He took off from his seat and stretched upwards for a second. Some joint in his body cracked lightly as he did so, and he made sure to turn the light off as he left his office.

The workshop in the NFU headquarters paled in comparison to Artifex’s workshop, though it wasn’t lacking by any means. It was smaller, a single room with diamond plated metal grill on the floor. It had mostly the same configuration, with boxes lining the walls to the left as you entered, wooden benches with fireams being dismantled and repaired, soldiering irons and wire cutters strewn to the side. There was a control panel near the ceiling, to the left of the far side wall, next to a closed window.

A single man was here, young with short brown hair parted to one side. His white lab coat hid his figure, though he was staring at a grenade launcher in his hands that he was currently tinkering with. He’d dismantled the casing that gave it the appearance of an NFU weapon and was replacing one of the pieces of the cocking lever inside the gun.

Grandmaster knocked on the open door twice, and the engineer inside turned to face him. Freckles and thin lips stood out on his face. His helmet identified him quickly, providing him with the information as the square targeting him went green.


“Morning, Owen.”

“You must be… Grandmaster, yeah?” Owen put down what he was working on and got off his stool quickly, adjusting his coat to make himself look more presentable.

“Yup. Stand at ease.” He noticed he was awkwardly standing at attention, possibly in a means to seem more disciplined to his superior. “I’m not here to grill you. Relax.”

Saying this, Owen nodded and instantly grew more comfortable in Grandmaster’s presence. He slumped his shoulders slightly, giving him a nod.

“Sorry, it’s a habit, sir. Uhm, what do you need help with?”

Grandmaster took a quick glance around, left to right.

“Albert not in yet?” He’d ask, as much as it was obvious what the answer was.

“No, sir. He starts at nine.”

Grandmaster reached behind his head and began to take his helmet off, pulling apart by sliding the segmented plates holding it together. He took it off his head and walked over to the work bench closest to him, stepping a little to the side. He put the helmet down on the table and pushed a button. The panels went back and started to lock together. Owen stepped around to get a view of what was occuring, watching with a bit of wonder on his face.

“When he gets here, tell him I need the other settings activated on this helmet. Keep it safe. Make sure it doesn’t go missing. Especially don’t wear it.”

He looked down at him, and it was hard to tell if he was serious or not. For that reason alone, Owen looked slightly worried. Evidently, he’d probably not push his look, and he nodded quickly. “Okay, understood. Thank you, sir.”

“Thank me for what?” Grandmaster posed the question as he took a step back. His arms folded, his head tilted. He looked amused.

“I- I don’t really… know.”

Whilst he was a little confused, Grandmaster’s tone meant no harm. He raised his hand and made a mock salute to him. “I’d talk but I’ve got business to take care of. I’ll be back when my helmet’s sorted.”

Owen nodded. “Okay, see you later, sir.”

Grandmaster made a ‘tch’ noise and turned on his heel. As he walked away, he fired off that salute to indicate he was walking away.


There was a bit of derisiveness to his tone, though he only made the comment that he was called a sir over anything else. It didn’t seem to settle well with him. He walked down the corridor for a second and turned, as something caught his eye. He approached over to a vending machine standing by the wall, next to a potted plant. He scanned the options, and stared longingly at the option for a rich cup of coffee.

He shook his head and thought against it.

“I’ll be pissing like a fountain if I keep drinking coffee.”

A few seconds longer, he kept his glance, before pulling himself away from the machine. Abandoned in the hall, Grandmaster let it be, pushing onwards to other business.

“Grandmaster speaking.”

He’d returned to his office and checked over the paperwork that he had to fill out, for the recent raid on the Technomads. As he was almost finished, it was fitting to receive a phone call just as he was on the last leg of his work. He ran a hand through his hair, part of him feeling unused to having his hair not enclosed in his helmet whilst in this building.

Grandmaster, hello.” A familiar voice, the receptionist from before.

“Good news, I hope.”

Agent Visionary is here.”

“Good news it is. Thanks for the heads up.”

This time, they put the phone down before he had the chance. It caused his brow to perk, thinking nothing of it as a gesture. They’d done their part. He had to finish this before his part could come into play. He grunted, and resolved to finish off the paperwork he started.

It wasn’t long before he intercepted her. As per her normal routine, which he had gleamed from working with her for many years, her first stop was to always gear up and head to the equipment rooms. She never took her equipment home with her. Having custom made armour was a luxury that Grandmaster had, one perk of which was that his armour was technically his and not loaned by the NFU. He could have it anywhere, at any time. Otherwise, if it was part of the standard attire that an agent wore, it had to stay at the Headquarters.

He waited outside for her to get ready. The moment she opened the door, her head turned towards him as she walked out, even before she’d seen him. He turned to face her, arms folded and leaning against the wall. She saw his eyebrows were raised, and he was looking at the mask covering her jaw.

“The good doctor was right. Can’t see a thing.”

“Grandmaster.” She bowed her head. He did the same, with much less enthusiasm. “You’re enthusiastic.”

“The sun isn’t shining, it’s a miserable grey day outside, it’s probably gonna piss down later. My coffee was awful, as per usual.”

“Again.” She said, with a hint of a smile underneath her mask. She didn’t seem to wince any more; either hiding it, or grown accustomed to the pain.

“Again. The only joy I’m gonna get from today is getting this interrogation going. Once you’ve finished your morning routine, all your paperwork and other things that aren’t interrogating some lowlife, call me. The sooner we get started, the better.”

“I feel you’re eager. Too eager.” She said, voicing a concern.

“The clock is ticking, Visionary. This guy is holding the answers that I need to move on and hunt the bigger fish in this pond. When I get them, I can go after this, and put this wild goose chase to rest.”

“It feels like you’re trying to find the justification for your hunch.” She said. “Instead of letting the evidence come naturally.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you’d probably say the same as me if it was Sage that told you to handle this investigation.”

There was a silence. Visionary looked, stared at him, as the scant seconds between words felt like a gulf in the conversation.

If he’d hit a nerve, the pause and silence were the only indications. She kept her mask up, as far as he could see, obscuring her real reaction.

“You know what you’re doing, Grandmaster. I’ll make sure you stay on the right track.”

“I appreciate it. I’ll see you when you’re all good and done.”

They exchanged court nods, and parted ways for now.

Grandmaster had to wonder if he’d offended her. There was certainly a moment where she thought about what he said, though if he’ll ever find out what she thought about it, that itself would be a strange turn of events. For now, he knew it didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

He had to wait just a little longer.

Four monitors, all facing different points in a single room. One was overhead and gave a top down view of a room, with a single table and two chairs, one already occupied by a dishevelled man. Two showed the perspective of each chair, facing the other. The final camera was in the wall, giving a horizontal view of the scene. Black dots in the room, which eschewed the standard reflective window that most interview rooms had. The cameras themselves were standard equipment. High definition, but entirely normal.

Visionary stood with her arms folded, watching the proceedings. Jason sat on a chair next to her, elbows on the table in front of him, fingers interlocked. They waited, patiently.

The door opened, and outside there was a view of two members dressed in garbs of Containment Squad armour. Grandmaster had finally gotten his helmet back, and he also had a file at hand. Nonchalantly, he flicked it out of his hand, landing right before the other man in the room, upside down to him and perfectly aligned even after it slid an inch or two.

Grandmaster took a seat slowly. Ryan watched him carefully, glowering. Glowing blue eyes, pale and light stared back into him, and he gauged every curve, how the mask concave inwards near the cheeks and around the speakers. The mask rendered him unreadable, other than body language.

On the other side, Jason glanced to Visionary. “Creepy.”

“He said it was intentional. Grandmaster requested the room to be featureless, and I know he’s not letting him see any facial expressions. It’s all for effect.” Visionary said, not taking her eyes off their colleague.

“Mmm.” Jason hummed back, looking between the pair. “I could bet money on who might swing for who first.”

Visionary gave him a glance, though didn’t reply.

Grandmaster’s voice was hollow, devoid of emotion. His helmet manipulated his voice, making it sound reverberated thrice. “Ryan Macey. Leader of the Technomads.” He flicked open his file, even though his helmet was feeding him all the information he needed. “36 years old. Brown hair, blue eyes. Noticable features, scar over left eyebrow. Blood type, B negative-”

“I want a solicitor.” Ryan barked back at him, arms folded and shoulders raised.

“-two brothers, parents deceased. Twenty nine charges of assault. Seven charges of premeditated, aggravated assault. Ten counts of major property theft, thousands of pounds worth of property damage-”

“I want a fucking solicitor.” He reiterated, as contempt grew in his voice.

Grandmaster heard him, let him talk, and merely carried on. “-several other charges present, and your stupid ass gets caught by the NFU. The only reason you ever managed to escape is because we didn’t have your case in the first place.”

“I said I want my fucking lawyer, you deaf cunt.” Ryan scowled deeply at him. Grandmaster seemed unphased, even leaning back in his chair. One arm rests on the back as he gauges. His helmet, modified for this particular encounter, was using facial recognition systems to try and discover any weaknesses or any particular reactions. Right now, it registered hostility.

“Right there.” Visionary pointed to the monitor, showing the back of Ryan and the front of Grandmaster. “He’s baring his chest. He’s showing Ryan he’s vulnerable, giving off the impression he’s not afraid.”

Jason cocked his head to Visionary. “Are you going to analyse everything they do?”

“Yes.” She said, bluntly. She turned and smiled back to him. “Yes I am.”

“Great.” She noted how dry he retorted, only making her smile wider.

“I heard you the first two times, I just elected to ignore it.” Grandmaster tilted his head casually.

“I want my lawyer, and I want my phone call. This won’t work on me.”

Grandmaster leaned forward, resting his forearm on the table. “Do you think we’re in a movie here or something? Do you honestly think it works like that? That you get dragged in here, I read your rights, you get some scumbag on thirty grand a year to tell me that ‘my client has the right to remain silent’?”

He let the comment linger in the air. Ryan scowled back to him, refusing to answer and refusing to change his body language.

“Let me make things perfectly clear.” Grandmaster pulled his arm off the table and sat up straight, appearing a little bigger. “The National Farside Unit are not the police. We don’t follow police procedure. We don’t owe shitbags like you squat. We have a period of holding before we transfer you over to the police, in such a case like this, as long as you’re currently in our custody, we’re only obliged to present the evidence of your charges and transfer you safely to their hands.” Grandmaster said, the tone of his voice only reflecting a tenth of the emotion he was putting into his words. “Up until that point arrives, you’re in our care. My care.”

“So you’d best simmer the fuck down, buttercup, and stop pretending we owe you anything.”

Jason tapped the monitor, poking the spot where Grandmaster’s head was.

“Not technically true.”

“No, not technically.” Visionary said. She tilted her head a little, observant. “In every other case, he’d be permitted a legal representative. Because of the Director’s Sanction-”

Jason finished her sentence. “-he’s got more elbow room to get answers.”

“Yes, exactly.” She nodded.

Jason slid his chair out and stood up. “I’m going to get a drink. Tea?”

“Yes, thank you.” Visionary smiled. Jason temporarily excused himself, and left the room. Visionary lowered her head, watching meticulously.

“We’ve got a few ways we can go about this. All we need is information. If you cooperate, this goes easy, all is well and we’ll see what we can do for you. I’d rather not bring up the options of what happens if you don’t. Ruins the surprise if you keep acting like a jackass.” Grandmaster made a dismissive hand gesture as he spoke.

Ryan eventually spoke back, after as long time to simmer. “Incentive, to rat out my lads? Fuck off. I’m not grassing in nobody.”

“Quite frankly, your ‘lads’ are going to jail. I don’t give a shit about them.”

“Then what you talking about?”

Your time.”

“Saying you’re gonna get me less years behind bars?”

“Oh, let’s not fool anybody here. You’re gonna be about seventy before you even see the outside world again for yourself instead of through a window.” Grandmaster said, bluntly. “We can see about shaving a few years off. This is less of a reward scheme, more of a punishment scheme.”

Ryan folded his arms tighter and leaned back in his chair.

“We have evidence to believe you’ve been dealing with somebody. You went into that warehouse with the intent on stealing specific items to give to a buyer. We want the buyer’s name.”

“Don’t know what you’re chatting about.” Ryan raised his shoulders. It wasn’t even a carefully crafted lie. Grandmaster’s helmet confirmed as such.

“Bullshit.” He replied, not shifting even a little. “We know you do. We know the items you stole for whoever this buyer is, were not found in your stash, and you shipped them off remarkably quickly.”

“Still don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I’ll lay it down again for you, seeing as you’re too stupid to see it.” Grandmaster said. “One way or another, I’ll find out who it is. With or without you. Once we do, you’ll be hit with charges for perverting the course of justice. Eighty, before you’re out, and we’re gonna make sure they know every single detail.”

“Guess you’ll find out with or without me talking.” Ryan looked unusually smug.

“I’m giving you the option for an easy way out. You tell us who, we don’t have to repeat this. I’m giving you seven days and the sooner you opt out and fess up, the better it’ll be for you.”

“Fuck you and fuck your offer.” Ryan spat at Grandmaster. The spit landed in the middle of his helmet. He didn’t seem phased.

Jason returned, holding two cups in his hands, covered by a white plastic top with a little hole to drink from. He put one into Visionary’s hand, and she didn’t even turn to look as he did so. He sat down carefully, holding his

“Did I miss anything?”

“Ryan spat on Grandmaster.”

“Ooh.” Jason pulled his chair closer to the screen, and took a sip from his cardboard cup. “Any reaction?”

“Nothing yet.” Visionary took a sip of her own drink. Jason made her coffee the way she liked it, at least.

“I’m still not sure who’ll swing first.” Jason frowned, slightly. “What do you think?”

Visionary refused to respond again, watching the monitor closely. Jason rolled his eyes.


“How much did he pay to keep you quiet?” Grandmaster folded one leg over the other, wagging his foot back and forth.

Ryan hadn’t responded. Grandmaster took it as a hint to keep talking.

“Couple of grand? Ten grand? Maybe you could join the Ten Granders. Heard they’re on the run lately.”

“Fuck them, and fuck you. You Farside bunch of cunts.”

Grandmaster’s helmet picked up on the extra vitriol used to spit out those words, and brought to attention a potential leverage point.

“Oh, so that’s what this is about. Somebody’s an insecure little asshole because of the Fargraced.”

“You all think you’re so great. You’re a bunch of freaks. Trying to fit into society, trying to pretend you’re not a bunch of fucked up freaks of nature. You’re taking away what makes Britain great.”

“I’m pretty sure neither you nor your buddies are gonna be in the category of what ‘makes Britain great’.” Grandmaster made a wave, as if physically throwing the comment into the room.

“We’re ordinary people. You Farfreaks are just hiding. You’re all dangerous. I don’t want my kids going to school, not knowing whether or not some kid gets bullied and starts using his superpowers. Time bombs, waiting to blow up, all of you.”

“Farfreaks.” Grandmaster sounded incredulous.

Ryan puts his hands on the table, forcefully bringing them down onto the wood. Grandmaster doesn’t flinch, or his helmet obscured that reaction.

“You on that Beasts of Britain facebook page? The one where everyone acts like a racist idiot and you all jack off to bombing the middle east?” Grandmaster’s tone is a little more mocking at this point. “Just asking.”

“How many times am I going to have to say fuck you before you get the message?”

“A few more.” Grandmaster replied with. “To be honest, I don’t want to hear your pathetic little tirade on what you think is right for England.”

Ryan shrugs. “You’re not gonna get anything else from me?”

Visionary had sat down on her chair, removing the top of her cup so she could drink more freely. Jason was leaning back in his chair, with the novelty of watching an interrogation starting to fade. He had one ankle resting on his thigh and barely suppressed a yawn, covering his mouth with a gloved hand.

“Do you think this will work?”

“I don’t know.” Visionary responded, taking another sip.

“What do you think’ll happen?”

“I think they’re both stubborn. I know Grandmaster won’t back down. He’s adamant about this, his feet are digging into the ground. He’s always pushed back when faced with adversity. Here or on the field.”

Jason nodded. “He doesn’t back down. That much I know.”

Visionary nodded. “We’ve worked together for a long time. We were on the same squad. Very pragmatic. Very stubborn.”

“You admit he’s good.” Jason raised a brow.

“I do. He is.” She turned to face him. “I just wished he would follow the rules a little more. It becomes a problem for me, especially when I have to clear up after him.”

“Is it worth the results?” Jason sips his tea.

“Sometimes. Fifty fifty.”

“I don’t get to see this side much.” Jason admits. “We only see the agents in action when we’re on the same missions. The stuff behind the scenes, the pecking order, the politics. We’re only filled in by hearsay and rumour.”

“Does it surprise you?” Visionary glances to him, waiting for an answer.

“It’s interesting. Different side of the coin.”

Visionary nodded. She took a sip from her drink, directing her attention to the monitor.

A few seconds later, her attention was at a knock on the door.

Visionary turned her head and gave a look to Jason, who offered a shrug in return. She opened the door after a pause.

Jason had never seen Director Sage in the flesh, and her clothing and general appearance was something entirely else. He sat upright, then forced himself up to stand upon realisation.

Sage walked into the room, her robe barely restricting her movements. She stood inside and left the door open, giving enough space for everyone to move around freely.

“Director Sage.” Visionary said and looked shocked, bowed her head politely.

Sage smiled politely, looking between the pair. Her gaze lingered on Jason for seconds, and he felt a weight pile on his shoulder. He didn’t baulk, standing at attention as if he was addressing any of his superiors.

“Visionary, Jason. Nice to meet you both.” She nodded her head. Her blindfold stuck to her forehead, tight enough not to budge from any movement, not tight enough to restrict or be uncomfortable. “Jason, I require a word with Visionary. If you’d excuse us?”

“Yes, ma’am.” He said with an affirmative nod.

“Visionary will meet you when we’re done. Go and get something to eat. You haven’t eaten anything since five o’clock this morning.”

Jason paused at that, recalling his morning, and slowly nodded. “Right away.” With a polite nod, he stood at ease before quickly absconding from the room. He made sure to close the door afterwards. Sage watched him leave, turning full body to do so.

When he was gone, she turned to Visionary.

“Visionary. Nice to see you. You’re healing quickly.” Sage smiled to her, folding her hands over her robes.

“Thank you, Director.” Visionary paused, reaching up to touch her cheek. It felt less sore than yesterday. The painkillers were doing their job.

“You’re wondering why I’m here.”

Visionary nodded.

“I won’t deceive you. I did say I’d be more forthcoming with you. I trust that we will keep this to ourselves?”

Visionary nodded much slower.

“Good. You’re wondering why I sanctioned this, to allow Grandmaster to interrogate this individual. He’s of little importance, this Ryan Macey, other than the information he reveals on the seventh day of his custody during the interrogation. Grandmaster will set things into motion from that point onwards. He will go to the police and be put on trial, they will find him guilty of many charges, and he’ll be incarcerated for quite some time.”

Visionary didn’t nod. She watched and listened, eyes wide.

“I see a lot of questionable things, and I know where they lead. This is quite small, quite tame in the grand scheme of things. It is however, necessary. No lasting harm will come to Ryan.”

“I… understand.” She says. Visionary didn’t quite understand, though by now she was used to anticipating that Sage would either inform her of what was to come, or leave it blank and cryptic and elaborate nothing about it. Today seemed more like the former.

“I’m here, Visionary, because of your desire for me to be honest with you. Another event will happen, something of importance. Three days from now, you will be on duty, on a late shift, and will be called out to investigate a robbery. You’re going to be dispatched to a location with Shaun and Alex.” Sage said. “I’m telling you this because you must leave before you’re dispatched to that scene. You’ll be there as it happens.”

“This sounds important.”

Sage smiles. “I can also tell you. You’re in no danger of any lasting harm, none of you. There’s no worry of your lives. That too, you asked me to tell you about.”

Visionary nodded.

“And the answer to your next question is yes.”

Visionary looked as if she was going to ask something, but relented upon hearing the answer. She just nodded instead, knowing she didn’t even have to ask at this point.

Sage nodded politely. “That’ll be all, then. When you have any spare time, do come up and see me.” She said, with a polite smile.

Visionary hid her bewilderment and nodded, before bowing her head politely. “I’ll endeavour to do so. Thank you, Director.”

Sage bowed, mimicking Visionary, before she turned to leave. She began to hum a small tune to herself, nothing that resembled any song. Notes and tones she made up as she left the room, closing the door behind her.

Visionary sat back down and turned to the monitor. She had time to reflect on what was said, what wasn’t said, and just how much Sage was hiding and letting on. The honesty was reassuring, though it was now a little more worrying to consider the future. She’d never given thought to what’d happen in three days time, now she knew something was going to occur.

The fact that Sage had to assure her that nobody would be really hurt, didn’t seem to help neither.

Grandmaster’s voice broke her out of her train of thought.

“Seven days. You have seven days. The longer this goes on, the more I drag it out. We’ll see how much you like Fargraced when we introduce you to a few.”

Ryan’s eyes narrowed for a second. Grandmaster’s helmet picked up on the reaction, keying him into it.

“Yeah, we employ a lot of talented, powerful people. See, there’s a few that we don’t get to use. Really powerful stuff. I hear one of them can rip your memories out of your head. I use the word rip because that’s what it’s the equivalent of.”

“You don’t scare me.”

“You should be.” He says. Grandmaster leaned in ominously. “Seven days. Give me the name, the honest truth, Ryan. Don’t be an idiot.”

Grandmaster started to stand up. Ryan sat down, still defensive and unyielding, hostile to a fault. Grandmaster turned and knocked twice on the door before calling out.

“All done for today. Take him back to his cell to think on it.”

The door took a few seconds to open as the guards allowed Grandmaster to leave. Visionary watched as he made his leave, and watched as the two guards came in with handcuffs and began to escort him outside. The camera even got a glimpse of Grandmaster wiping the spit off his helmet, before he turned to walk to the observation room where Visionary was sitting.

“Three days.”

She spoke and touched her jaw lightly, turning off the monitors. She stared at her reflection in the black glass, watching her own reflection.

Her daze was broken by Grandmaster once more, who opened the door abruptly. He held a tissue in one hand, and there was a trace of a smudge on his helmet.

“Visionary, you were quiet. Here I was, hoping you’d be the angel on my shoulder.”

She turned to him and smiled lightly. “You behaved yourself. I didn’t see the need to interrupt.”

“I always behave myself.” He said dryly. “Prepare the recordings and bring them up to my office. Get some food, we’ll run over these tapes and see if we missed anything.”

Visionary nodded. Grandmaster gave her a flick point before he closed the door.

It took her a minute of thinking in before she found the motivation to clear her thoughts and act, do something other than indulge in introspection. She pulled out a laptop and started to wire up the monitors to it, and began to download the interrogation.

It would give her ample time to think, at least.

Beginnings: 2-6

Jason stumbled and collided into the wall to the right of them. Visionary had turned entirely away with her hands over her ears and her eyes shut, topping over onto her knees from the concussive force of the grenade. Grandmaster had only managed to turn halfway before he stumbled, almost shunted away by the blast, and slammed his hip into the table and shoved his elbow down onto it to get his bearings. At first, it was totally dark, in the next few seconds their vision was obscured by pure white, and their hearing was a fog of feedback that overwhelmed them.

Of all three, Visionary had been hit the worst. With nothing to protect her face, nothing other than eyelids to cover her vision and only her hands on her ears, she was barely protected. Her balance suffered dramatically and all grace she had was forced out of her, and she had to put a hand on the floor to even remain upright. Grandmaster suffered less, though he still took the full brunt of it. Were his helmet fully operational, it may have provided some sort of counter measure, or offered greater protection.

Jason of all of them seemed to be taking it better, though that wasn’t saying much. He was still disorientated greatly, and the wall was the only thing keeping him upright. By virtue of having experienced this before, he had braced better than the others, and his helmet came with a physically protective element to it.

They weren’t able to gather their thoughts to realise that a greater threat was striding around the corner. The man who threw the flash bang haphazardly walked around the corridor, and seeing the devastation he’d left, he acted more seriously.

His armour wasn’t different from Jason’s own, but it looked much less refined, older and worn out from excessive use, wear and tear, and age. In his right hand he held a weapon, a gun of sorts. Uncharacteristically smooth compared to other NFU items, it looked more like a pump action shotgun rather than the rifles that they normally employed. It was connected by a thick tube from the handle to a small square device on his arm, which had a purple gem set in the middle. It glowed and hummed with an alien energy.

The helmet he wore was a hybrid; from the back to the cheeks, it resembles Jason’s own with an uncanny accuracy, though the front had a visor of sorts. His face pinned him to his thirties, and he had a large scar over his left eyebrow.

He walked forward to them and raised the gun, cocking a lever on the side. Power flushed from the gem and began to whirr to life, pumping energy down the tube until a circular panel on the top began to glow with the same royal colour. It took a few seconds to charge up, and clicked to signify that it was ready.

A few seconds was all he needed that the flash bang provided to him. He knew which targets to aim for first, and held his gun to up to Visionary, who was trying to stand up. He pulled the trigger, not even bothering to aim precisely.

It sent out a gout of superheated plasma, which looked more like a purple solar flare in a plume of force that erupted from the nozzle. The spray would have covered all of her torso, if she hadn’t somehow predicted or seen it coming.

She desperately shoved herself out of the way of fire, managed to get clear of it before it had done grievous damage. She grabbed Grandmaster and tackled him in the same stroke, throwing them both to the floor behind a desk.

The man was stunned for a second, and fury grew over his face. He didn’t care if they couldn’t hear him, and his voice lashed out to them in a Mancurian accent.

“You fuckin’ Fartouched are all a pain in my fuckin’ ass. You can’t even be shot right.”

Jason had began to regain his vision and though concussed, he took the time it took their assailant to speak to stagger and throw himself behind a set of desks further away from them. He took out his rifle and held it to his chest, getting a sense of his surroundings. He was groggy, every sense in his body telling him he needs to give up. Through conditioning and experience, he braced himself.

Visionary and Grandmaster stumbled to the floor. Grandmaster seemed to be getting his senses back a bit more now, and started to blink and look around. Spots of black began to crawl into the edges of his vision, and he saw Visionary lying on his hip, as well as the damage that their assailant had caused with that weapon to the ground.

The floor was a mess, as violet flames flicked around the blackened floor. The carpet had been stripped away, as had several lesser layers beneath it. The man advanced forward, still quite a distance away. His weapon needed time to recharge, and was drawing on energy with each passing second.

He elected to go into cover rather than be in the open and manoeuvred behind some desks. It could take up to half a minute to recharge, judging by how slow it was siphoning energy into the gun. He struck it with his fist, muttering for it to go faster, impatient as he was. He knelt down behind the desk, facing the NFU agents, lying in wait under the assumption that they had no idea where he was.

Grandmaster looked to Visionary, who was getting herself off of him and they both huddled behind the desk. Even in her weakened state, she managed to reach for a grenade on her belt and forced it loosely into Grandmaster’s hands. He looked at her, still unable to hear anything they might say, and she held up two fingers for him. Then she quickly brought her hands together, in a shielding motion.

Two. Cover.

Grandmaster knew what weapon he was against, judging by the damage it caused. It would charge itself with Eldritch energy and fire a short stream of superheated plasma, in a spread like a shotgun, and vaporise an area. It had a catastrophic effect on human flesh, and even their armour wouldn’t help them much here. He also knew that the current versions of the firearm were really illegal, and took upwards of a minute to recharge their shots.

Failing the element of surprise, he lost his biggest edge, and he was recuperating.

With a nod, he took the grenade and shoved his head out. The motion made him feel uneasy but he could see a shadow beneath the second desk furthest away from them. He took the pin out and threw it so it’d land near his feet, and as quick as he could muster he whipped out his pistol and took aim.

It bounced and rolled near the man’s feet, and he had the advantage of being able to hear it much better. It still took him largely by surprise, unaware of a retaliation so soon. He scrambled to his feet and plunged himself out of cover, a second before the grenade went off.

Grandmaster opened fire, though his accuracy wavered and he missed a fourth of every shot. The armour worn by the NFU did a lot to help shake off the effects of fatigue weaponry. Even with three shots planted into his arm, he barely wavered. The man ran behind the wall where he’d previously hidden, giving him a perfect view of the door leading to the stair care.

Here, he had an excellent vantage point that he used before. If they all went through the middle or the right door, he could hide behind the wall so they couldn’t see him, and he’d get the drop on them. He assumed they wouldn’t split up, and gambled on it to get the drop on them.

Grandmaster couldn’t hear a thing still, but he knew he’d be harder to find by voice this time, and still had cover to work with. His voice sounded slurred, not able to hear to use the right tone of voice.

“Ryan Macey, you slimy bastard. Illegal firearms are gonna get you life, you fucking tool.”

There was a chance Ryan had forgotten how long a stun grenade rendered the victim deaf, or he assumed because Grandmaster was speaking that it’d worn off. He acted more tense and serious instead of slumping against the wall. He looked down and saw it hadn’t charged yet, and muttered out a ‘fuck’ before deciding to reply.

“All you NFU cunts are the same. You think you’re so special with your special powers. This ain’t even your problem, so fuck off.”

It fell on deaf ears.

Jason carefully picked his head up and judged the situation. He saw Grandmaster was aiming to the wall, and went under the assumption the target was active and pinned. Jason knew this was chaotic and there was no lines for communication between them, so he had to act in the best interest of the team. He took his rifle up and aimed on point, trying to match near the location of where Grandmaster was. His helmet helped where the effects of the flash bang still lingered.

Visionary had managed to get her eyes open slightly now, and she blinked a few times before standing up, as if unaware of any danger or threat, or uncaring. She took out her bar mace and gripped it in two hands whilst she approached the wall, and began to follow it around. She stopped just as her shoulder was about to meet the edge of the wall and lay in wait, watching Grandmaster carefully.

He nodded back to her. Ryan stirred a little, impatiently waiting on his shotgun. He turned and eyed the door, and a thought came to him. At this point, Visionary raised her hand up and made a gesture that resembled talking to Grandmaster. He nodded in return, and began to speak. Just a second after he did, Ryan began to move for the far door.

“This is a waste of time, Ryan. The building’s surrounded, but I bet you think you’re gonna get out.”

Grandmaster’s voice was useless to Visionary, as she couldn’t hear, though he was loud enough that it masked her own movements from Ryan. She pointed to Jason, who seemed to have had his attention caught by her, and she points from him, to herself. When she begins moving, he understands and continues aiming. Grandmaster meanwhile, has an understanding of what she’s trying to do, and gets up from cover to go to the spot she was standing in, pistol down and ready.

The standoff had lasted long enough that their hearing was coming back. Jason had managed to get all of his back and was otherwise fine, other than a mild concussion. Visionary still felt the worst effects, her vision still somewhat disorientated and sound not fully returning. Grandmaster was in the middle as far as vision, disorientation and hearing went, and he could hear enough over the droning buzz in his head to hear movement far ahead.

Jason had an opportunity, and he pushed into his ear with a single finger.

“This is Squad Commander Jason, target engaged. Wait for signal. Over and out.”

Ryan had fled around and went through the far door, then crept past the stair and opened the other door. There was some wall waiting for him to take cover behind. He glanced at one of the walls opposite him and cursed the lack of a window this far back to give him a good reflection. He paused and pulled off the wall, glancing around the corner, guessing they hadn’t heard him yet and he assumed they thought he was still in the same position. He caught one of the agents, still aiming on his old position, and moved back into the wall for cover.

He looked down at his weapon, and the hum became much more audible. When it clicked, he let out a small sigh of relief. With the gun in hand and finger on the trigger, he turned and went to spring out for another surprise attack.

Visionary intercepted him. The moment she heard the click, she held her mace ready to swing the moment he acted. As he did, she stepped out and swung it straight into the plastic of his visor. It crumpled upon impact, shielding his face from the majority of the trauma, though it was heavily cracked. The recoil caused him to stagger back, straight into the door he came from, and prematurely fired. With with arm out and to the side, the blast evaporated a large chunk of the nearby wall, and everyone could hear the sound now. Impact, melting, pressurised air.

Visionary almost lost her balance and staggered to the left despite this, and he was quicker to respond than she was. She swung with a single hand on her mace now, and he darted backwards. He went to club her with the end of his currently useless gun. Though she’d managed to evade it, it lacked the usual grace. Her movements were sluggish, mentally bogged down. She didn’t give him chance to act on it, and instead stepped forward to try and swing for him again. He moved backwards once more to dodge the blow, so he was closer to the furthest door to them; the door on the left when they had initially come upstairs.

Ryan noticed this, at least, and he quickly stepped back and shoved the door open with his body. Visionary didn’t relent and begun to give him chase around the corner.

“Damnit. Jason, call them in, we can’t let him charge up.”

Jason nodded, and both of them begun to mobilise around the corner. Jason was busy sending an order through his comms.

“Containment Squad, move in. Approach through back entrance and engage. Over and out.”

His hearing had totally cleared, hearing the response with no buzzing or interference.

“Affirmative. Moving in. Over and out.”

Ryan had got enough room now that Visionary closed in, and they stood at a standstill for a few seconds. She was aware that she wasn’t in a position to bide her time, and she needed to be aggressive. She made the first move, a swing with her mace that was a feint more than a full swing, and she tried to get herself ready to avoid the counter blow. He came at her, trying to jab at her with his gun. Concerned that it could still fire, she moved to the side of it and tried to bring her mace into his open shoulder.

He was quicker than she expected, or she wasn’t in the best mental state to judge it. He brought the weapon in between him and the mace and a shattering collision of metal rang through the open room. He raked her weapon to the side and she stumbled, trying to pull away before he had the chance. Seizing the moment of her weakness and with her unable to throw herself out of the way, he slammed the butt of his gun straight into her jaw.

Visionary tumbled onto the floor, already caught off balance, the blow had caused her to reel and she rolled onto the floor. He didn’t wait for her to get up, and didn’t check to see if the weapon had reloaded. Ryan brought it up with the intent on firing, and had both hands on it before he felt something hit the square of his back, and once more as it hit his shoulder.

Grandmaster and Jason had got into position behind some desks on the far side of the room, and began to unload a salvo of fire onto him with rifle and pistol. The shots didn’t do anything to breach the armour he wore, but it began to take some effect. More importantly, he wasn’t aiming at Visionary, and he could see what unfolded next.

It started with two, then four, then six. Ten men of the containment team that entered in pairs had begun to pour into the room, rifles raised and aiming towards Ryan. The last two came in with more conventional firearms, though they all bore the same designs. They formed a ring to reinforce Grandmaster and Jason. Two of them had broken off and began to walk down to the door, aiming to make sure all ways to leave were sealed off by men and weapons.

“This is the National Farside Unit, put down your weapon, put your hands up and move away from the agent. We will use force if necessary.”

Ryan didn’t move, a deer caught in the headlights. It took him a few seconds to weigh up his options, studying the men and their guns. Their fingers were on the trigger, not resting to the side like he had hoped, and they had an air of discipline and authority. Slowly, he reached over to his left arm and found the Velcro that held the power supply to his arm and pried it off him. It hung awkwardly off the weapon, though they were both put to the floor. He raised his hands slowly, though it was clear he didn’t want to do it.

Grandmaster, Jason and the six other agents took aim and hit him with a single shot of their fatigue weaponry each. He staggered, as if hit square in the chest, and they fired once more. With the wind and consciousness knocked out of him, he toppled onto his back and landed to the floor with a thud. His armour protected him against the brunt of it, but it still had some effect. It just took a lot longer than usual, and a few more shots.

Grandmaster was the first to raise and he holstered his pistol on his side. He went straight for Visionary and offered her a hand to get her to her feet, which she eagerly took and stood up.

“I took the first shot I could. You alright?”

Visionary nodded slowly.

“Well fuck me.” He said. “You can be hit.”

Visionary looked at him and seemed to smile, though she winced slightly afterwards. She leaned on him for support.

“Looks like I can. The concussion, it-”

“Don’t make excuses.” Grandmaster interrupted her. He quickly perched his head upwards and Visionary tried to follow where he was looking to. His helmet had begun to close his visor off until it was back how it was before it was hit by the Bug, and his eyes came back to life slowly. All trace of the face beneath was hidden again, his voice augmented and more mechanical than before.


“That would have been nice to see the guy through the wall before he flash banged us.” Grandmaster said, with a tone showing he took some humour in the situation.

Jason stood and pointed to Ryan on the floor with his open hand. “Containment Squad, we have four targets downstairs, five by the stairs and lift, one here. Prepare them all to be escorted to the cells. Good work, everyone.”

The men all nodded and began to divide themselves up. One began to call for more vans and reinforcements to come, in preparation to begin taking the Technomads away. The others began to mobilise and went to start to gather the bodies. Everyone was starting to make their way to the front entrance of the building, after hoisting up the bodies of the unconscious criminals in a fireman’s carry.

Jason approached Grandmaster and Visionary, who both nodded at him upon arrival.

“Grandmaster, with permission sir, I’d like to help my men with evac.”

“It’s not necessary, Jason.” Grandmaster replied. “You just took a flash bang. We need you and Visionary to get checked out. I’m not going to have you overexert.”

“You’ve already gone above and beyond duty, Jason.” Visionary was smiling, despite her eyelids flickering as if to indicate it still hurt her to do so.

“With all due respect, I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t feel I could do it. I’ll get checked out immediately afterwards.”

Grandmaster paused and studied him. His helmet gave him a trove of information, though the health of his target wasn’t one of those things. He just nodded to him.

“Permission granted, you crazy bastard.”

Jason nodded, his expression and response to that comment weren’t seen. He made his way to the other men, and begun to guide and tell them where to go with the unconscious bodies. He himself wasn’t any stranger to getting stuck in, as he was preparing somebody to be carried by himself by laying them on their back in a spot with enough room.

Visionary stood on her own weight now and rubbed her jaw. It still hurt when she moved it, a throbbing pain that amplified if she spoke or moved her mouth at all, though it was manageable.. Grandmaster was busying himself by looking to the side and verbally checking that all features of his helmet were working properly. He was making sure the targeting systems were fully functional firstly, then his thermal and regular vision. Cycling through them all took a minute, and Visionary waited for him to be finished. She leaned against the wall as she did, part of her not trusting her to stay on her feet too long.

Several more members of a second Containment Squad that were waiting near the site had begun to enter the building. They began to enter through the front door and began to make a sweep through the building with their weapons raised, though they’d been told that the threat had currently been neutralised. They still followed protocol and made sure that the site was safe and nobody was hiding, as well as trying to locate any caches of equipment or other ill gotten gains that may be hidden. They were quick, efficiently prowling through the building. Once the building was made secure, they began a more in-depth search to look for stolen goods.

Grandmaster lead Visionary downstairs, and made sure he collected the weapons he previously discarded. Jason had been cleared to stay with his men, and the two Fartouched were making their way to leave. Grandmaster kept his pace with Visionary, who was still feeling the lingering after-taste of what the stun grenade had done to her. They opened the door to go outside and the fresh air hit them, a sudden sting that made them aware of the sweat on Visionary’s head. Covered head to toe, encased in armour meant Grandmaster didn’t notice, though when he inclined his head to Visionary he seemed to notice and paused to give her a second.

With a nod, they made their way back to the van. They may have won for now, but any celebrating would have to wait for the time being.

Visionary watched as Grandmaster left the room through the door she was facing, as she sat on her chair in the hallway. They were back at the headquarters and they were in the small wing of the building where they held a small doctor’s office. Grandmaster had his helmet off and held underneath his arm, and he looked about as sour as he normally did after getting examined.

“The good doctor’ll see you now.”

He didn’t sound pleased, though he never had. For some reason, he was never a fan of getting checked up. Doctor, dentist, opticians, Visionary had never seen him respond to those visits as anything other than a grunt and a bad look on his face. Visionary had even heard him say he’d rather pull his nails out with a pair of pliers. She didn’t dare test the theory but she had nudged him previously to do so, and he never refused yet.

She stood up, already feeling better than she had done before, and entered.

The office was clinical, sterile. It didn’t differ from a general practitioners you’d see in any small town. Whites everywhere, everything clean and tidy. To the immediate left was a desk housing a computer and beyond that was a filing cabinet. To the immediate right was a coat rack, and behind that was a small table that housed some examination equipment on a metal tray. In the far left corner was an examination bed, which had a recent indent where somebody heavy had sat. On the furthest wall was a sink and all the sterilised equipment she’d need, and the doctor herself was sat on a computer chair that faced another chair, pulled away and ready for Visionary to sit down.

She’d met Dr. Owens only a few times since she’d been here, not having to really worry much about her own health. Half of the times, she was taking a recruit there, but every so often she found herself within these four walls. The doctor was as surprised as she would be, though she gestured openly to the chair in front of her. Visionary took a seat.

“Well, you’re not one I see here very often.” Her voice was high, unmistakably welsh. Visionary took a single look over her; her blonde hair was straight and in a bun atop her head, and she had a chubby face that was shaped by square glasses. The rest of her was a bit above average in weight, though she seemed to have some pride in her appearance. She wore make-up, though it seemed she’d been conservative and applied less, rather than more. “It must be the end of the world!”

“Not today, Doctor.” Visionary smiled, resisting the urge to flinch again. “Has Grandmaster told you?”

“Oh, yes. Stun grenade. Nasty, that.” She took a clipboard from her desk and began to write down a few things.

“I’ve been hit in the jaw with a gun. Nothing too serious.”

She looked at her for a moment, glasses on the bridge of the nose. “Don’t be silly, everything is serious, even that.” She pushed her glasses back up. “Tell me what happened.”

“I was caught off balance and got struck here by the butt of a weapon, as big as a shotgun.” Visionary removed the face mask that was covering the lower half of her face from view. She pointed to her jaw; it was inflamed and pink near the hinge, and the area was raised slightly compared to the other side.

Dr. Owens stood up and walked over and held her hands out, clad in latex gloves. “May I take a look?” She waited and Visionary nodded.

“Yes, please.”

She took Visionary’s chin and jaw in her hands delicately and began taking a visual inspection of the wound. She touched her finger to it lightly and Visionary inhaled a little, which caught the doctor’s attention.

“Open your jaw, please.”

She did, and the doctor nodded.

“Close, please.”

Visionary followed the orders as instructed.

“How does it feel?”

“Dull throbbing normally. It’s uncomfortable when I talk, hurts to be touched.”

“Ah.” She said, then sat back down again and started to write on her clipboard. “Just a bit’a blunt trauma. I don’t think it’s been fractured or broken. It’s probably going to go blue and purple and fade in about two, three weeks or so. Keep your mask on and nobody will know.”

Visionary nodded and smiled. As if to demonstrate, she blinked, the discomfort disrupting her breathing pattern.

“The best thing I can recommend is that you have your jaw scanned to see if there’s any lasting damage.” She took out a prescription form and began to hastily write something down. “I’ll prescribe some painkillers for your jaw. As for your concussion, I’d advise you not to do any strenuous physical activity for the next few days. See how you feel, but I’ll put in a recommendation for you to be off-shift just to be safe.”

Visionary stopped smiling. “I should be fine, I don’t feel as if I’m that affected-”

Dr. Owens cut her off, wagging a pen at her. “Doctor’s orders!” She smiled. “Even Visionary needs a day or two off. Give it a few days, okay?”

Visionary paused, but relented and nodded.

Dr. Owens reiterated. “No assignments, I mean it!” She tore off the prescription and handed it out. “Lots of rest for you, miss. And cocodamol. Probably best not to drink on the wine if you fancy a tipple.”

Visionary smiled a little wider and took the receipt. “I’ll try not to have a drink. Thank you, doctor.”

“Alright, now off with you! Go and rest. I’ll have a word with the Director about it.”

Visionary took this as her cue to leave. She stood and neatly bowed her head, and made her way out of the office.

Grandmaster was waiting outside, legs spread slightly. When she came out, it took him a second to realise. It was guessed that he had something playing in his helmet that distracted him, and it turned off once she got his attention. He stood up and took his helmet off his head, after a few seconds of it opening up to release him.

“Lemme guess. Painkillers and ‘don’t work for a few days’?” He asked.

Visionary nodded.

“Could’a guessed. She told me the same. Bollocks to it. I’ve got more important things to do than sit at home and feel bad for myself.” Grandmaster ran a hand through his hair. “Good work today, by the way.”

“It was nothing.” Visionary said, though her humbleness was grating him.

“It wasn’t nothing and you know it. But, we’ve been there, argued that a few times. I’m not gonna bother.”

She smiled to herself, that same smile. This time, it was a small victory to her that she was happy for.

“Well, I’ve got some good news on the way.”


“I made a few calls. We’ve got overwhelming evidence of the Technomads and past crimes, and these crimes are the straw to break the law’s proverbial back. If we get this whole ordeal done quickly, they’re gonna be facing a decent amount of jail time for all the crap they’ve done. More importantly, we’ve got something new. We’ve got their leader in custody. We probably wouldn’t have gotten him there if we hadn’t have held back the Containment Squad until he was engaged. Probably would have bolted it if we went in there with all guns blazing.”

Visionary nodded.

“But as you know, I’m a man who has to see things through. We don’t have the Ten Granders so we can’t do diddly squat about the stolen animals, and I’m pretty sure none of the suits or higher ups care about a few cute and cuddlies being taken by a girl who, on record, loves the little bastards and can control them to a degree. We’ll have to get them later. Going on my original hunch though, whoever was contacting the Ten Granders probably got in contact with the Technomads as well. Which is why we’ve got their leader before they hit town.”

Visionary nodded again. “Judging by how bare the building was and the lack of any of their previous successes, it’s safe to assume they’ve moved everything away, and the goods they stole in question have passed hands.”

“Bingo. Whoever’s doing this is quick and good, gets some low lives to do his dirty work and then washes his hands of them. He doesn’t care if they’re caught or not. But, we want nobody tipped off, so this isn’t hitting the media.”

Visionary paused and tilted her head slightly, as she briefly thought about it. “What are you planning to do?”

“What I’m planning to do is get answers. We’ve got the leader with us right now. Tomorrow, we’re gonna eat a good, greasy breakfast, then we’re dragging his sorry ass to an interrogation room, and then we’re gonna get some answers straight from the horses mouth.”

“Interrogation.” She said, bluntly.


“I’m not asking you to partake. I need you to be there and to watch it, because I know you can pick up on things. And maybe your voice in my ear will make sure I don’t knock his teeth down his throat.”

Visionary looked at him for a scant few seconds.

“You know there’s a good chance I’ll probably at least threaten to do so.”

“I know. It’s why I don’t think you interrogating anybody is a good idea.”

“Hey. I resent that remark.” He said, rolling his eyes.

“Resent as you may, I stand by it.” She folds her arms. He notices, and raises an eyebrow.

“I promise I won’t go over the top but we need answers. Now’s a better time than any, and I need you there.”

She had to contemplate this. Not one to pace around, she simply kept her eyes pinned to Grandmaster. He may have thought she was trying to intimidate him by doing so, though he didn’t seem to budge on the issue.

“I will, on one condition.”

“Name it.” He barked back.

“Get a Director’s sanction on the matter-”

Visionary’s phone had started ringing.

Grandmaster raised an eyebrow, then he furrowed his eyebrows. “You’re joking.”

He sounded legitimately surprised. Visionary took her phone out of her belt pocket and checked the number, holding it up for Grandmaster to see.

Director Sage.

She answered, wasting no time.


Visionary, this is Director Sage.”

“Hello, Director.” She was giving her the benefit of the doubt. The Director could be calling for any reason.

I’m here to give you explicit, verbal permission. This is a Director’s sanction to proceed with interrogation of Ryan Macey tomorrow.”

“Understood, Director.”

Tell Grandmaster that I know he hates it, and he has to deal with it. Go and get some rest, Visionary.”

The director hung up.

Grandmaster raised an eyebrow and folded his arms. “I hate it when she does that.”

Visionary smiled wide enough to hurt, and she didn’t seem phased by it. “She knows, and she said to deal with it.”

“I’m not sure that I like that the NFU is ran by a precog of some kind. Glad she’s on our side.”

Grandmaster nonchalantly shrugged, then turned to begin walking down the hallway. He put on his helmet and paused as the plates began to run around his head, sealing him into his armour. The lights of the eyes lit up, and his voice took on that reverberating tone.

“Make sure your breakfast is a good one, Visionary. We’ve got a good old interrogation on our hands.”

Beginnings: 2-5

“Alright, listen up.”

Inside the van, Grandmaster addressed Jason and Visionary adjacent to him. He was speaking through his comm as well, to keep in touch with the occupants of another van close to them. Jason and Visionary were sitting opposite him on leather-bound chairs. Facing directly opposite him was a monitor, showing a grainy picture of a large building from a point of view in the sky that was above the level of where the van was.

“We’ve got one shot and we need to bring at least one of these bastards in for questioning. The local authorities are aware of our operation here and won’t interfere unless we request backup.”

Behind him was a rack of weaponry; rifles and pistols with a block-like design to them, a shotgun and some batons. A few had been procured already; Grandmaster sat with a pistol and a rifle and one of the batons already equipped. Visionary kept her bar maces at hand, Jason carried the same load-out as Grandmaster. Each of them carried two pairs of handcuffs each, discretely stashed away into belt compartments.

“Remember, these weapons have just been approved. Three shots downs somebody to exhaustion, four makes them unconscious. Do not, under any circumstance, hit them again if they’re down. Assume they’re out for good.”

Grandmaster glanced between the pair, who showed all signs of being ready. Visionary was calm, almost serene and watching him clearly. Jason showed the signs of a soldier, with proper posture and a body language like he was ready to burst into action. A coiled spring, being wound up gently.

“Call when you’re going to use a Fatigue Grenade, and only for a good reason. Anybody found out to directly or indirectly hit one of the NFU in the blast radius will see how pissed off I can get before you’re suspended for the rest of your career.”

He tilted his head to show he was looking between them. Visionary gave him an affirmative nod. Jason was silent, still, his finger tapping the side of the rifle in his hand just above where the trigger was. Grandmaster paused for half a minute, the radio silence created a thick blanket of tension as they waited.

A voice sliced through the wait, whispered and hushed.

All operatives, Squad is in position. All exits covered. Eyes on the roof by the far stairwell. Over.”

Everyone perked up. Grandmaster put his index finger to where his ear would be to reply.

“This is Agent Grandmaster, is the path clear? Over.”

Agent Grandmaster, the path is clear. We are mobilised and ready. Over.”

“Containment Squad, good work. Stick to the plan, don’t deviate, and keep on comms. Await my signal or the sound of conflict. Over and out.”

Affirmative. Over and out.”

The comms died a moment after.

Grandmaster cleared his throat. “Helmet, command mode.”

Only Grandmaster heard the response.


The light was on in the back of the vans, though it was still dim. As he activated this, his visor began to increase his visibility in the darkness, almost as bright as clear sunlight. He looked around the room, and saw the information he was being fed back. All non-combat systems had been shut off or eliminated, and his targeting system seemed to latch onto people and identify them as friendly or hostile quicker. In addition, a small square materialised in the bottom right of his view; an overhead map of the area, with several green dots on the screen surrounding the target building.

They were near a small housing estate, where a small road could be driven down to access the building in question. The lights were out, though there was a very faint glow inside if you were close enough and could study the windows. It was square in shape, with just a single entrance on the ground floor and a pair of exits at the back, one on the second floor with a metal staircase that came down to the ground like a helix.

Grandmaster also had an overlay of the interior of the building in his helmet, and it was all carefully explained to every person on this operation. Both floors had a U shape to them, with the bottom of the U near where the front entrance was. On the top floor, it kept mostly to that shape. On the ground floor, the U itself was divided; the entire bottom section was a reception area, the rest of it was divided into 6 rooms, with two either side on that U shape and the other two in the middle. Those two were connected by doors leading to other rooms.

The top floor was much more simple, and stuck to the U shape. As a derelict office building for a call centre, this is where most of the desks and computers were, the bulk of the business. There were smaller rooms up here, offices and stationary cupboards and toilets.

Grandmaster nodded to the others, then slid open the door of the van that faced away from the building. Visionary and Jason were the first to get out and armed themselves with rifles, Grandmaster doing the same and leaving just shortly after. They’d parked in the driveway of one of the houses, everything already cleared beforehand to avoid drawing any suspicion.

They circled around with Visionary taking point, sticking close to the row of houses and using cover to weave and manoeuvre themselves as they approached the building. The agents who were in position had done so much longer before, and crept through a canopy of bushes and trees that surrounded the vicinity. The easiest way to get through them would be to cut through the back garden of one of the properties. They were in luck that the local people were fully cooperative.

Visionary lead them through a wooden gate, clattering against the bricks of the side of the house. The lights were dimmed, other than the glow of the television being on in the front room. They made their way to the back gate and holstered their weapons. They approached the wooden fence on the far side and Grandmaster rushed over, squatting beside it whilst cupping his arms. Visionary jogged up, and he boosted her over. She tucked her legs in and neatly jumped over, landing and moving to the side whilst taking out her rifle. Jason soon followed, propping himself over with one leg.

Grandmaster was the last to scale the fence and he landed with his palm open to the grass below. They all knelt motionless, staring at the building ahead. Grandmaster let his helmet scan the building, vision piercing through windows until he scanned the area. With a nod, he raised his hand and flick pointed towards the building, taking his rifle out. They advanced, quick and silent, unheard over the rustle of wind blowing grass and trees under the night sky.

Visionary lead them to the side of the building, making sure they weren’t in line of sight of anybody or any cameras that may have caught them. They knelt beside a large window pane, one open and accessible, large enough for a person to slip through. Whilst they knelt beside the brickwork that gave them cover, the men turned to Visionary.

She closed her eyes. Flickers of strain and concentration trace in pulses along her eyelids and her cheeks. As she opened her eyes, she raised her head up, and she gazed through the air at nothing in particular. It only took a second and she caught a breath afterwards, before making a gesture to Grandmaster and Jason with her hands.

Two men. Entrance. At ease.

Grandmaster nodded. With a pair of fingers, he reached up and took the open window by his hand and gently began to pry it open, at first wide enough for a head to pass. He let a few seconds go past, then glanced back to Visionary. She repeated what she did before, as if the silence around her was magnified to a greater degree as she exerted some senses beyond everyone else. She turned and nodded. Grandmaster continued, and made the gap wide enough for an upper body to fit through. He checked with Visionary one more time, and she repeated the motions again. Quickly, she nodded and made another hand gesture.

Looking. No.

He lifted his head, not into the gap but to stare through the window beside him. To him, he could find his targets easily. A pair of men standing, facing away from them and towards the room where the stairs were located. They were engaged in a conversation that they could barely hear, only a few emphasised words here and there. Grandmaster picked up one making a hand gesture of sorts, something sexually implying. The other laughed loud enough for the others to pick up. Grandmaster remained quiet, then motioned for Jason.

They wore ballistic vests that looked like a much simpler, archaic version of Jason’s current armour, minus a bodysuit to go with it. Their helmets were riot visors, open, and the one on the left had a lit cigarette hanging from his lips, the cherry close to the filter. Grandmaster’s helmet picked up on the weapon holstered on their hips, identifying them to be some sort of knife. The one who wasn’t smoking was carrying an older version of the Emotional Dampening weapons.

Jason crawled over on his hands and knees, squatting and kneeling to get beside Grandmaster. He took out his pistol and checked to see if the energy core had flushed enough energy into the weapon for enough shots, and was satisfied to see it was ready. Jason took the unsaid hint and got his own pistol and checked it, making sure it was ready.

Grandmaster began to tap his foot on the edge of the bricks so they could all hear a small thud. Visionary kept on point, studying the surroundings and keeping her rifle close, to cover them. Grandmaster tapped loud enough for them to hear, a gradual beat. Once, twice, thrice…

On the fourth beat, they both quickly raised up with pistols already aiming at their respective targets. Grandmaster and Jason blasted them with a salvo of pulsing energy fire from their pistols. Three shots each, Grandmaster striking the back of the non-smoker’s thighs where no armour protected it. Jason aimed for the same area on the smoker. They groaned, energy drained from them, and succumbed to exhaustion before crumpling and falling to the floor on their sides.

Visionary kept down, though she glanced slightly to the side. Even from this crouching position, keeping them covered, she had seen what had transpired. She touched her comm in her ear and spoke so gently that it may have been confused for a noise in the wind.

Front guards down.”

Grandmaster stood up a little, then put a fourth shot in each guy. One was feebly trying to reach for his phone, wheezing and letting out a croak for breath, before the final shot rendered each of them out cold, too tired to even stay awake. Jason slunk to the side slightly, and Visionary raised to her feet, still keeping watch. Grandmaster rose up and put one foot on the window ledge, before landing down onto the carpet with a slight thud. He took his pistol and aimed it, scanning the room for any signs of activity. When his helmet picked up no signs of motion or life, and quickly flicked through to see any short range thermal signatures, it signalled the all-clear.

In turn, Grandmaster did the same, and made a single wave of his hand with a thumbs up. Visionary turned towards him, Jason was quickly scaling the wall and climbing into the room through the window, and swapped his pistol for a rifle. Grandmaster drew more energy reserves from the weapon’s core, so he had a full round of shots to work with.

Jason took a Hardware Bug from his belt and pushed in the head with a click. The feet uncoiled out from the middle and he aimed for a security camera currently pointing away from them. He hit his mark, and the legs quickly seized the camera and sent out a small pulse, a few feet in diameter. It was an unusual noise, a faint spark of electronics that sounded like a crackle of electricity, followed by something calcifying or freezing.

Grandmaster nodded, and holstered his pistol. Visionary quickly moved over to the door with the stairs and kept her back to the door, with a clear line of sight from her head through the window, at the stairs behind it. She kept her eyes on the other doors, rifle raised.

Jason stubbed out the cigarette onto the carpet beneath them with his boot. Grandmaster motioned to the other body and Jason moved over to the legs, as he grabbed the upper body underneath his arms. Grandmaster tapped his foot and on the fourth tap, they both lifted him up, and hauled him to the reception desk. They put the body where it wasn’t immediately visible, and went to move the other with just as much haste and efficiency.

Once both bodies had been moved, Grandmaster went to the window and gently eased it back to being closed, clicking the handle shut. He turned to Jason, tapping his wrist, then pointing to the bug.

Jason responded back with four finger, followed by holding his thumb, index and middle finger out. He closed all but his index finger.

Four minutes.

Grandmaster nodded, then turned around. Jason took this as a sign to sheath his pistol and take out his rifle, check the charge was correct, then moved to cover Visionary and keep the other doors in his sights.

His helmet began to shift his vision from the clear view of the walls and slipped into a thermal vision that took a few seconds to warm up. What he saw ahead was a total of four figures but couldn’t make out what exactly they were doing. A few were lower than the others, possibly seated. One more was much further away, much more faint than the others. It was difficult to see if it was just lingering head from a power generator or a person.

Grandmaster’s vision returned to normal, becoming clearer and giving him perfect visibility again. He stuck up four fingers and pointed ahead to their direction. Visionary nodded, then took herself off point and carefully crept over to the door. Grandmaster and Jason followed behind, in that order.

She opened the door as careful as she could muster, and her eyes flickered back and forth as if they were pulling on a tether in the middle of her eye. She proceeded, then turned left. Grandmaster followed after, keeping her cover. Jason covered the rear, turning to the other corridor with his gun raised, finger not quite on the trigger. When it was clear, he turned and kept his eyes in front of him, though before they all turned a corner to the right, he did one final check.

They turned around a corner into a much larger room, with one wall giving them cover. They could hear a television in the distance, and there was a chant of a crowd and the distinct noise of a commentator over it. The other guys were talking boistrously, though nobody could make out who was who or what else was going on.

“…the fuck are Man United playing, anyway?” One man had a deep, gruff voice, with a distinctly Mancurian accent.

“Eindhoven.” Another man had a much lighter accent, harder to pin.

“That german or summit?” The other asked him.

“Nah, it’s like Sweden, mate.” A third voice chimed in, a tone somewhere between the two. He also seemed to hail from Manchester.

“Better than the fuckin’ paki’s anyway, right lads?”

The others agreed quite verbally, as if to prove a point. They cheered in a machismo fashion, verbally pumping themselves up.

“At least Barnes is gonna kick those fuckin’ brown faced cunts outta England, after he kicks out those Farborn freaks.”

Grandmaster hadn’t been wasting time listening to them, and was already making plans. Visionary kept point, staring ahead into the distance and through everything else. Grandmaster made a quick series of hand gestures.

Visionary, left. Jason, middle. Me, far away, then right.

All three nodded in agreement. He tapped his foot several times, counting down for them all, and things moved quickly from this point onwards.

They all moved out with their rifles raised, ready with their fingers on the trigger. They saw all three of the men in the room, on chairs, watching a big flat screen television. On the table in front of them was a deck of cards and crumpled up notes, coins and face up cards sprawled everywhere. All three guys by the table had taken their helmets off and put them on the ground near their chairs. Football was playing on the television, the opening minutes of the game.

The one of the left was overweight, had a flat nose and a broad face, with a shaved head. The one in the middle had brown hair, shaved on the side with the top left at a medium length, and a broad scar on his cheek. The third was much thinner, with tattoos crawling up his neck and onto his face. T, wearing the same equipment as the two men outside.

Only the man on the opposite side of the room, who was walking back from the television behind a table that had been left when the office was abandoned and hadn’t been moved since, was facing the NFU agents as they moved out of cover.


The three Technomads all looked up to him the moment that they were opened up on. The one at the far end of the room was lucky enough to drop on the spot and avoid the first shots that Grandmaster poured into him, a volley of three hits that would have been precise were they not obfuscated by the furniture in the way.

Visionary and Jason hit their targets, and they weren’t even aware of it. They pumped four shots into each of them, jolting for a second before the effects of the Eldritch weaponry took its toll and rendered them unconscious.

Grandmaster altered his fire and hammered the one man who hadn’t been shot at just yet, and swiftly plastered him with energy fire. He’d managed to stand up in shock and reached for the gun that was still strapped to his side, and almost reached it before three shots had fell him. A fourth was quickly put between his eyes, and his eyes rolled to the back of his skull with an awkward grunt.

“Shit, shit! Boss, we’ve got trouble downstairs-”

Visionary and Jason ran around, circling the table in a pincer formation. They had been ruthlessly quick in dispatching the others and quick on the trigger to hunt down the final one, and that was all he could say through his old comm device before they both ran around, and the pair pumped two shots each into him. He was curled underneath the table, holding his knees to his chest with his finger near his ear.

Grandmaster reloaded his weapon, then looked up. Heat signatures above him, as limited as his visibility this way would allow, had begun to rise up and stir from being inanimate. He changed himself back to normal visibility and didn’t even pause for thought.

“Stairs, now.”

Jason and Visionary nodded and checked their weapons. They ran back to the door and Grandmaster thrust it open by ramming his foot into it. He poured through, Visionary and Jason shortly afterwards.

“Put pressure on them. Stall.”

Grandmaster flung the pale wooden door open and pointed his rifle with a single hand holding it into the room where the stairs were, and scaled it up as he walked inside with haste and resolve. Visionary and Jason moved in and took aim to the stairs as well, and all three were pointing their weapons to the doors that they could see. Grandmaster began to scale up the stairs carefully, both hands now on his rifle, and he barked out something whilst being careful to not be too loud.

“Got a lock on them. They’re moving carefully. Old mark ED weapons.” Everyone present knew that previous versions of Emotional Dampening weapons were less efficient, but they would drain the target of the will to fight and render them emotionally neutral. Perfect for capture, or a coup de grâce.

There was three doors from this point onwards. One to the front, two to either side, positioned centre in the building, with a pair of toilets before the door right ahead. Visionary slunk ahead and took point again, pressing the button to the lift that was opposite them. Fortunately, it was already on this floor, and once it opened she stepped inside to give her cover, as she kept her eyes on the door to the front, and the one that was hidden from view of the stairs.

Grandmaster and Jason lowered to cover, with Jason behind and above the kneeling Grandmaster, using the opaque guard on the banister to keep themselves covered. Grandmaster put a finger to his ear.

“Containment Squad, advance on the exit but do not enter. That is an order-”

He was cut off as the Technomads had opened the doors and were staring down at them, with their visors down this time and guns and knives at hand. Two from the door directly facing the stairs, two from the centre door, and a single one where they couldn’t see.

They got about a moment to judge the situation before Visionary opened fire and hit the guy in the centre at the front, who was holding a rifle. He fell down just as he was raising it up, falling backwards and sending the guy behind him off balance. The man behind him staggered for a second, before Visionary unloaded a trio of shots into him as well, and he soon hit the floor behind him with a cumbersome thud.

Grandmaster and Jason fired onto the two in front of them, though the Technomad at the front was covering the other guy, and after they both fired a pair of shots each, they had to wait before cover was clear. The Technomad already had something in hand that nobody had seen before, and it was primed and ready to throw as his comrade fell down. Jason only managed to get a single shot before it careened through the air.



Grandmaster’s Visor had begun to automatically shift and change, though Grandmaster called out too late as the device collided and latched onto his arm. He threw himself into cover away from Jason and the fight as the feet wrapped over and latched onto him, and Jason sunk down to his knees and gave him cover, landing the last two shots on the Technomad who was trying to get out of sight himself. The Bug sent out a pulse that caused his weaponry’s technological aspects to cease to function for the duration, circuits paused and frozen so no current could travel through them.

Luckily, his helmet had a fail safe, and upon the detection of a bug, it began to split and pull apart at the face. He’d be denied his sensory equipment and comms for the time being, though the faceplate had parted so a single glass slit allowed him to see through normally. A fail-safe built in for just this occasion.

“Shit.” Grandmaster, grabbed the bug and threw it at the nearest wall, shattering it to spare parts in an instant.

Visionary and Jason swept up from the Technomads who were there, and everyone was a groaning lump on the floor. A pile of bodies too exhausted to fight, that they in turn ‘executed’ with a final shot to knock them out.

“I’m down my senses and comms for a few. Visionary, extra vigilance. Jason, comms.” Both nodded. Jason handed Grandmaster a spare pistol he had, and he checked to see if it had been affected. It was a relief that Jason’s equipment hadn’t suffered.

They regrouped. Visionary on point, they advanced through the door to the right, careful not to step on any bodies.

They emerged into an open space office area; the tables were still arranged in neat lines, though the computers had been removed by now. Office chairs were still present and strewn across, with some of them in a small open circle where the Technomads had previously been sitting passing time. They could see ahead to glass panes separating the far end of the room with small offices, and to their left after the stretch of wall, the room opened up into the middle chamber and the other end of the building. No doubt in the same arrangement.

Grandmaster was closest to the desks at the right side of the room, Visionary in the middle and slightly to the front, and Jason was closer to the wall.

“Flush him out. He’s still in here.”

Grandmaster held his pistol tight, and they moved on. They were a dozen or so feet away from the clearing when Visionary’s eyes went wide, and something was flung from out of view into the room. Everything ran slow as she clutched her ears and began to close her eyes desperately.


The grenade bounced off one of the desks, into the window and bounced back just to the right of the trio. Grandmaster raised his arm to cover his face as quick as he could, without the warnings or protections that his helmet normally provided. Visionary was the most defenceless and almost dropped to the floor, with her eyes closed, mouth open, ears covered. Jason would fare the best and even he turned away from it.

Everything went quiet and their worlds turned to darkness, a white void followed by a harrowing screech of feedback that blotted out the world around them.

Beginnings: 2-4

Visionary took a sip of her coffee, and quickly put it down on the table. It was lukewarm already, neglected from the constant attention she gave to her laptop. She’d been scrying her laptop relentlessly for half an hour, studying reports and documents that she’d dredged from internal archives. Several of them were on the most recent crime that she had attended with her newly formed team. One document was the details of the collateral damage incurred from the fight, as well as a detailed analysis of the animals that had been stolen from the laboratory. No less than 5 dogs, 6 cats and 11 mice that had been Fartouched were missing.

Another report detailed about a recent raid on the Ten Grander’s base by two Containment Squads; the teams were more than well equipped with technology that Artifex had pushed past the testing phase. Fatigue Rays, which hit the target with a concussive bolt of energy, sapped the energy from the target until they were too tired to fight and collapsed from exhaustion. They wore ear buds that relayed only what the other members of the team spoke, to counter Candour’s ability to lie and stop them, and they wore special goggles that blocked out everything but the view of their cameras to minimise Flare’s chances to blind them. She had instead just blinded them through their goggles, and their crew absconded. The animals were nowhere to be sign, though there were signs that they’d been living on one of the levels with Alpha.

Jolly was back up after his defeat. Initial NFU assessments did assume him as as having a healing factor of some kind, and this seemed to verify it. Recent underground activity that has been spotted or put on social media indicate that Jolly is sending his men after Flare, or at least pushing deeply into the direction of wherever she seems to be hiding. Beside that, Visionary had another report of the kind of ‘examples’ that Jolly did to people that crossed him. Each one an incredibly brutal display of force. At a bare minimum, they were hospitalised for months.

The scent of freshly cooked breakfast snapped her out of her trance. Not that she wasn’t aware of what was going on around her; Visionary of all people could boast some degree of constant awareness to her surroundings. It was who was carrying it and put it on her table.

She folded the laptop over and saw Jason sliding a fresh mug of coffee over, beside the one she’d not managed to drink. He was armoured, though he’d elected to keep his helmet off for the time being.

“You could probably use a top up.” He said. She smiled and took a sip, nodding thoughtfully afterwards.

“Thank you.” Her eyes flicked down, almost so quick that Jason didn’t catch her spying his breakfast. He had double of everything you could get: toast, bacon, grilled tomatoes, fried eggs, mushrooms, hash browns, lots of beans. “Cheat day?”

Jason grinned, before starting to make an impressively stacked breakfast sandwich, using his toast and bacon to start with. “Cheat day. Used to be Saturday, now it’s Wednesday. As long as my macros are fine.”

“You and your macros.” She takes another sip, then slides her laptop to the side. “How did it go yesterday?”

“Fine. Really well. Artifex was still Artifex, but he seemed to like the kid.”

“And his side project?”

“Nearly complete.” He was cutting up some eggs now, making sure they fit on his sandwich. “I have my doubts he can mass produce them. He’s made miracles happen before though.”

“The status quo is fine then.” Visionary puts her hands together, interlocking her fingers.

“Looks like it. How’s the girl doing?”

“She’s doing well. She’s experienced with her powers. Another week and she’ll be ready, I imagine.”

Jason sliced up his newly made sandwich and began eating, though once it had been made he didn’t seem to make another and just started to eat whatever was on his plate. “You have skills, fire power, flexibility. She’d add some utility.”

Visionary nodded, and took this moment to take another sip of her coffee. She put her mug down and used it to nudge the other one out of the way, off to the side of the table.

“How’s everything at home?”

“Home?” Jason said. A smile crept over his face. “You don’t normally ask.”

“I thought I’d show an interest.” Visionary smiled politely.

“That’s awfully kind of you.” Jason put down his fork for the moment. “Home’s going okay. I work a lot. When I don’t, I’m in the gym or talking to my old squad. Share a few beers, watch the footie.”

“Oh.” She said. She was at least good at feigning some sort of dull surprise. “Quite ordinary, then.”

“I’m not unpredictable.” He pinched his fork between index finger and thumb and began collecting food onto it. “What about you?”

“My parents are still deciding if they want to move back to China or not. I think they’re not going back because of me.”

“What makes you think that?” Jason pointed his knife at her.

“My dad thinks I should be married by now. They’re somewhat traditional in many senses. Me moving out shocked them, but they accepted it. Deep down I know they want me to marry, have children, but they know it might not happen any time soon.”

“Why’s that?”

“I have too much work to do.” She smiled softly. “I don’t feel like I’m ready yet. I never really have done. On top of that, this work is dangerous. I wouldn’t want them to worry about me. I don’t know how much my parents have influenced this decision, truthfully.”

Jason nods slowly. “I know. I’ve always had a military background in my family. I think the proudest day of my dad’s life was when I managed to get into the SAS.”

“And after that you joined the NFU, right?”

“Mmhmm.” Jason took a big swig of tea whilst humming. “That’s pretty much it. Been a fighter my entire life. I might not get everything about Farborn, Fartouched. I know where I can make a difference though.”

Visionary’s eyes darted down for a second, still smiling and acknowledging the conversation. “We’re not that complicated, when you get down to it.”

“Maybe the powers aren’t. If you’re telling me you’re not complicated, I’d disagree with you.”

“Oh? You think I’m complicated?”

“I think I can’t tell if you are or not. Sage rubs off on you, but there’s more to you than you seem to let on.”

Her smile goes wider. She doesn’t respond initially.

“Not saying anything about it isn’t helping, either.”

She giggles slightly. Jason looks down to his pocket. “’scuse me.”

He delves down below the table and retrieves his phone, still vibrating in his palm. He glances to Visionary, whose smile decreases slightly. After seeing that Grandmaster was calling, Jason answers it.

“Commander Jason speaking.”

Hello, Commander. Glad to hear that you’re still speaking. All is well this morning?” Grandmaster answered.

“As well as it can be, sir. What can I help you with?”

Can you tell Visionary to answer her damned phone? I’ve called her twice now. I know she has the bloody thing on her at all times.”

Jason glanced to Visionary, and grinned slightly. “What makes you think she’s here?”

Well, going on a hunch. You two have breakfast together almost everyday you can. I know your schedules allow it today, and I could think of another hundred reasons. Tell her to pick up the goddamn phone. I’m calling again.”

Jason brings the phone away from his ear. “It’s Grandmaster.”

Visionary has her phone out already. It’s vibrating gently in her hand, and she answers the call.

“Grandmaster, hello.”

“If that’s everything, sir, I’ll leave you two-”

I’d like both of you to stay for this.” They shared a glance to each other. Jason sat upright a little, bringing the phone closer.

“Yes, sir. A matter of importance?”

You could say that. Visionary, you asked me to look into that case. I’ve found something interesting. Maybe you can make something out of it.”

“Go ahead, Grandmaster.” Visionary’s expression turned serious.

Alright. Took a little look into the Ten Grander’s latest activity. Nothing big. Petty thefts near their base, nothing new. Out of nowhere, they go and steal some animals. Weird thing to pull off, doesn’t match any previous crimes reported, totally different area too. What do you think of that?”

“It’s likely they may have been approached and offered a job.”

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m guessing you’re still looking into it, so you know they’ve got the hell outta dodge.”

Visionary glances to her laptop. “From what I’ve read, that seems to be the case.”

Yup. Signs of the animals living in their base. No cages, nothing set up long term. And that report you’ve checked this morning shows they’re leaving and moving somewhere else. Commander, what do you think?”

“It sounds to me like somebody asked them to get the animals for them, then they left before Jolly got to them. Maybe they tipped them off.” Jason put his knife on his plate, holding the handle of his mug instead.

Bingo. That’s what everyone else is thinking. Now here’s a bit of speculating from yours truly. Whoever it was, wasn’t some big group of animal loving assholes. None of that PETA crap. Whoever it was, hired them out so it wouldn’t get back to them. Whoever it is, wants some no-names to do it for them so they’re not caught. Tell me if you think that don’t make any sense.”

“I’d say that’s a fairly logical train of thought.” Visionary commented.

You’re damn right it’s fairly logical. So, next question. Why animals? No fucking clue. Getting Alpha made sense to get them. Experiments? I don’t know. What I do know, is that we’ve got a guy who asks a bunch of low lives to grab something from somewhere and get it to him, for a good bit of cash. Onto my next point.”

Not sure if you two are aware of the details but there was a crime last night. Normally, not our problem. The police dumped it onto us though. Some small gang who uses Eldritch tech to do hit and runs for money, rob stores, all that crap. They hit a MAGI-Tech warehouse. Normally these guys raid the place for new weapons and trophies. Not this time. They took a computer or two, filled some flash drives and stole some components. They touched nothing else. Very precise, very focused. Seem really unusual to you?”

The pair shared a glance again.

“Definitely And the police just gave it to us?” Jason queried, then took a swig of tea.

You know how the fuzz are when it comes to anything Farside related. Even Eldritch tech. They think we’ve got nothing else to do other than doing their job for them. In this case, probably a good thing.”

“You believe they’re related, with what you’re implying.” Visionary chimed in.

I do.” Grandmaster paused, possibly for effect. “I do indeed. They call themselves the Technomads. Bunch of fucking idiots. They go on about how they think that everyone has a right to all the technology, Eldritch included, but they’re a bunch of thugs with fancy looking guns. This doesn’t fit their modus operandi.”

“Big words.” Jason jested.

Well aren’t you the comedian?” Grandmaster’s tone was dry. “Bet you think you’re a funny guy. Enough about that. Both seem to be the same deal. Small gangs getting one particular thing, going and getting something out of character, taking nothing else. Either way, we’ve had this case dumped on us. I’ve requested some jurisdiction on the matter, which means I get to request who I want to assist me on this.”

Once again, Visionary and Jason shared a look. Visionary responded first. “That being us two.”

Perceptive as always. Visionary is a name given well to you. Everything’s fine as far as admin is concerned. You’re my left and right hand on this case, proverbially speakin’. First order of business is to do a quick check of the scene. The men we already have there are doing a fine enough job but I want to go and take a look myself before we do anything.”

Jason seemed to get the gist of the message, and necked the rest of what remained in his mug. Visionary did the same, finishing off her coffee quickly. Fortunately, most of Jason’s breakfast had been demolished in no short order.

I want you two to accompany me. Two pairs of eyes and Visionary do to a quick sweep, see what was stolen, then I want to go on the offence, so to speak.”

“You want to go after them?” Visionary looked concerned, holding her phone a little closer to her ear.

Yup. The case is ours and we don’t sit with our thumbs on our asses like the police. We have large amounts of evidence it was them, we know the location of their base and I have a Commander under my authority with a Containment Squad to help me deal with them. We’re going after the little bastards and finding out what’s going on. And if any trouble comes about it, all the heat’s on me.”

Neither of them responded immediately. Grandmaster decided that the wait of a few seconds of air time was too much.

If you two are done with your romantic breakfast, get your asses to my office. We leave in the hour. Grandmaster out.”

Before anybody could respond, the line was dead.

Jason raised his eyebrows slightly and put his phone away. “I can see why he never has a case for long.”

“He’s good at what he does.” Visionary did the same, then pushed her chair back and stood up. “Gear up, I’ll see you in his office when you’re ready.”

Jason nodded. Visionary normally would at least wait for him to catch up but he could see a determination in her steps as she power walked to the equipment rooms. He sighed a little, then snagged the last piece of bacon on his plate, dipped it into some brown sauce and popped it into his mouth, before clearing the table and putting everything on his tray. He made sure what remained of his breakfast was either stacked away or put in the bin before he made a move to venture out and gear himself up.

Grandmaster leaned on the back of the car that had brought the trio in, arms folded, staring at the warehouse. It was in a somewhat desolate part of Greater Manchester between Wythenshaw and Sale, and the industrial estate housing the warehouse looked neglected. The pavements were curved, shaping the pathway of cracked roads, littered with potholes and sundered earth; the road markings had all but worn away, pale whites with splattered edges that added to the derelict appeal

It was a plain, unassuming building, cuboid in shape and bland otherwise, though kept in much better condition than the surrounding buildings. The top half had the effect of corrugation, and above the doorway hung a large sign.


‘Make another great invention’

Grandmaster eyed the yellow tape covering the front entrance of the building for a few seconds and snorted, unfolding his arms. He patted his side where he’d normally keep some sort of armament on his person, his hand lingering for a moment. Visionary was about twenty paces away on the phone, whilst Jason was a few feet away from the car, nearer the building. The car park they loitered about on was empty, barren save for their car and a few Containment Squad vans that were already here, working on the scene.

Jason turned to Grandmaster. He studied him through his visor for a second. The gulf in technology between their sets of equipment was visibly striking.

“What do I need to address you as today?” Jason rolled one of his shoulders as he spoke. “Normally, I’m in command.”

“Today’s a day for firsts. Agent is standard protocol.” He didn’t sound too serious, though he was quieter than when he spoke over the phone to them before.

“Okay, Agent. Do you mind if I ask a question?”

Grandmaster turned his head to Jason. Through his visor, he managed to target him. Information poured just in his peripheral vision, giving him details of who he was facing. The targeting square turned green after a second.

“Nope. Fire away.”

“No disrespect meant. Your equipment is much higher quality than our Containment Squads.”

“No disrespect taken.” Grandmaster stood off from the car and turned to face Jason, as if addressing him properly. “Perfectly reasonable comment. There’s a few reasons.”

He flicked his finger up in the air. “First reason. All Fargraced Agents must wear an outfit as to properly identify themselves and to give them a unique appearance. It also helps a bit with merchandising, daft as it sounds. You know HR, you know how much revenue they make from that.”

Grandmaster sounded weary, and well versed in saying that particular point. Jason nodded. Grandmaster flicked up another finger, pointing two skywards.

“Second reason. Due to my rank I’m allowed certain freedoms. One of which being, to design my own armour. I spent a small fortune commissioning this from Artifex.”

He whipped a third finger in the air on the same hand. “Third reason. I value my safety. I’d pay any amount to make sure I’ve got even a single percent better odds against somebody. We’ve got a kid who hasn’t got a recorded upper strength limit on our side. There’s a woman in the unit who can absorb kinetic and electrical energy and can use it to get stronger, tougher, shoot lightning, heal wounds. I have to stare these bastards down knowing my armour won’t fail me when I need it.”

Jason nodded affirmatively. Compared to Grandmaster’s helmet, his only provided a basic amount of information. It had a basic facial recognition system to identify targets, but it gave nothing else beside that. No words, no designation of hostile or friendly targets, and certainly not a phone. They all were able to see in any number of ways, from infrared to night vision. What Grandmaster’s helmet could do beside that, he couldn’t even guess.


“Do you think your equipment in the Containment Squads is lacking?”

“No, sir.”

“How old is it?”

“Few years. Two, maybe three.”

Grandmaster studied him for a brief second.

“Could probably do with an update. I’ll see about mentioning it to the Chief Commander.”

Jason nodded again.

Visionary joined them. Compared to their gear, she only wore a face mask and eschewed any armour on her head.

“What’s the word?” Jason asked.

Visionary stopped, so they formed a neat triangle. “They’ve given us permission to access the site.” She shot a glance to Grandmaster. “Which you know you need to acquire before we attend any crime investigation scenes.”

Grandmaster waved it off, his expression unrecognisable beneath his helmet. He started walking to the front door. “Takes up to two days to process.” The other two began to follow behind him, catching up quickly. “Excellent work, Agent Visionary. I knew I could count on you to get that paperwork crap out of the way so we can do some real work.”

“You know how important documentation is, regardless of rank.” Visionary rolled her eyes.

“Yeah, yeah. I know. Still a pain in the ass.”

“Is he always like this?” Jason asked in jest to Visionary. He wasn’t subtle either, knowing Grandmaster would hear it. She didn’t get time to answer before he did.

“Damn right I am.”

Grandmaster lead the way past a pair of men in forensics gear; standard issue white jumpsuit with hoods, face masks and a pair of mechanical goggles on their faces. He nodded as they went inside and ducked underneath the yellow tape; clearly marked with hazard stripes and writing that said “NFU INVESTIGATION SCENE” along the length in black letters, with a yellow edge around it when it went over a stripe of black.

The doors were already open. Inside, the warehouse was being thoroughly swept through. Footprints near the front entrance were marked off by circles of chalk. Several men and women, all dressed in white and part of the forensics team, were looking through some of the aisles containing large crates of wood and smaller ones of plastic. To the side, one man was using a device to scan bootprints on the floor, much more prominently visible than any others. The rest were sweeping over the floors going back and forth through the front door. Two forensic investigators were investigating a control panel, one holding a piece of Eldritch Technology that looked like a square scarab.

“Well, they’ve got this covered. This is more of a formality than anything else. Let’s do a quick check to see if what they’ve got here matches the intel on the Technomads. Visionary, check the point of entry and ask about how they got in. Jason, check the DNA to see if we get a match. I’ll look at security footage and see what was taken.”

With nod from everyone a small wave by Grandmaster, they split up. Visionary didn’t have to travel far, and neither did Jason. Grandmaster slunk his way through the towering isles of equipment, to go and check the security room for the evidence he was seeking.

The two members of the forensics team were both female, and Visionary could see the device much clearer once she got closer. It looked like it had the body of a much stockier, cuboid-like beetle. It had a single button that made it look like a head. Along each side were three robotic digits, six in total, and they were being tested by being tugged on and rolled around to test the joints.

One of the two women noticed Visionary and nudged the other, who paused what she was doing and turned. They bowed their heads and she spoke, her voice a little husky.

“Agent Visionary, an honour to meet you.”

Visionary nodded back. “The pleasure is mine as well. What have you found?”

The woman holding the beetle turned it over and held it up for Visionary to see, though she didn’t hold it close enough that Visionary would take it from her. Visionary got the idea and observed. “What we’ve found from a preliminary investigation is that they’ve used your standard Hardware Bug. They’ve disabled the guards outside, come in through the front door and used it to ‘pause’ the security interface and gain entry.”

Visionary turned to the door for a second, then turned her attention back to the Bug.

“That makes sense.”

“It seems like it’s a professional job but we’ve done some fingerprint traces. We’ve got some prints and we’ve sent them off to be scanned. They didn’t seem to take all precautions.”

Jason meanwhile, was squatting on the floor near a chalk circle next to a footprint. Another female member of the forensics team was carefully scanning over it with the device in her hand, with red lasers tracing an outline of the entire boot from just the print alone. It seemed to even add in the parts that were missing. She turned it off, withdrawing a large spray bottle from her pocket, and began to cover the area with a light layer of foam.

She spoke to Jason afterwards.

“We’ve got enough DNA. The security feeds we got before they were shut off showed they were covered up, balaclavas and gloves, but we still have hairs, skin cells and bootprints to identify them with.”

She pointed to another member of forensics who was scanning over the floor, beaming a laser grid on the ground infront of him as he walked down the aisles. Something seemed to show up blue on the grid and he stopped, keeping the device pointed at it. After a few seconds he turned to Jason and the female forensic investigator, waving the device.

“Got another hair. Same guy.”

She checked the foam. It had mostly solidified, rising up about half an inch from the ground. “I don’t think we’re going to have too much trouble finding out who did this, Commander.”

“I don’t, either.”

Grandmaster joined the pair ten minutes later, after getting some information and discussing their findings. They both turned as he arrived, nodding their heads and standing more at attention.

“Let’s recap.” He flick pointed to Visionary. “What did you find?”

“The Technomads disabled the security guards outside, forced entry through the front doors of the warehouse, then used Hardware Bugs to pause the security consoles to interrupt the alarm being set off. They used similar Bugs on the security cameras near the front entrance, but cameras at the back were unaffected. It’s assumed they were caught on tape by those, and after they left the security console ‘unpaused’ and began the alarm again. They’ve also left some fingerprints on the Bugs.”

Grandmaster nodded. Flick point to Jason. “Jason, what did you find?”

“They tracked some mud inside. Seems the majority of them wore the same type of boots. They’ve left DNA all over the place. Stray hairs, some dust and skin cells. We’re not lacking in evidence to pin it on them, if any of the initial DNA traces are any clue. They were organised but not totally professional. I’d say that fits them as far as profiles go.”

Grandmaster nodded. “Good, great work. I checked the security feeds and it confirms everything you’ve said. We’ve got some clear visuals on some of the tech they’re using, and it matches some of the descriptions of previous robberies they’ve done. They came in, cleared the way, and went straight for some very specific things.”

He takes out a small piece of paper, ripped from a notepad.

“A lot of this stuff, I don’t know what it is. They’ve taken two computer towers from the head office. Most of them contain some basic information and documents on the electronics in this here warehouse. Wires, nuts and bolts. Some things called ‘Power Coupling Coils’ and ‘Eldritch Distribution Cores’. I don’t fucking know what that crap is, but they stole it. Normally, these goons go for weapons, equipment, armour, they try to take the latest equipment that NFU Containment Squads are supposed to get, but they’re usually a few years late.”

He motioned for the pair and began to walk outside. Visionary and Jason shared a glance, then followed after him.

“Now that we’ve investigated and I believe there’s sufficient evidence and just cause, we’re going to go and hit the Technomads. We just happen to know where their base of operations is as well. Now I know it takes about two, maybe three working days to process this through. We’ve got evidence here, we’ve done profiling. I have enough reasonable suspicion to believe that the Technomads are behind this. And, we know where their base is right now. We need to hit them before they up and leave.”

Both Visionary and Jason waited to react. Visionary nodded, Jason did so too afterwards.

“Now, we’re gonna head back, gather up some resources and men and plan on how we’re gonna nail these bastards. Jason, get your Containment Squad, and some of them fancy Fatigue weapons. Grenades, rifles, pistols, the whole works. We’re gonna go and give them an extensive ‘field testing’, tomorrow night.”

Beginnings: 2-3

Shaun squinted and looked into the distance, his back facing the hotel he was staying in. The winter’s air had a light mist clinging to the distance and the horizon, wreathing over lamp posts and traffic lights with a gossamer aura. The sky was clear, a pale light shade of blue with a hazy spot in the sky where he could make out the sun. The air tasted and felt crisp, cold and refreshing, though Shaun exhaled deeply to see how much breath he’d make. Surprisingly, it only made a light plume of white air, a small reminder of Katrina and her abilities.

He didn’t wait long, and zipped up his marl blue hoodie as he saw a car approach him. Another black BMW graced his presence and swept up, stopping to a halt in front of him. He grabbed the door and hauled it open, sitting inside. Across from him on the other side was a familiar figure, but not the one he’d come to expect.

“Shaun, hop in.” Jason smiled back to him and shuffled over slightly, even if he had more than enough room and a whole seat between them. He’d only seem him fully kitted out before, or training. This was a different look for him, as he sported a suit. Black, with a thin black tie and a very clean shirt. Shaun even noticed how well it fitted him, as if custom made.

Shaun himself never sported a single piece of smart clothing since his inception into the NFU. He wore either his self designed outfit for patrols, or some combination of jeans and plaid. Today was different, as he merely wore jeans, and a plain, dark grey t-shirt underneath his hoodie. He never changed out his Sketchers, not once.

“Is Visionary taking the day off or something?”

“Yuhong? No, never. I don’t think she’s capable of it.” Jason grinned slightly. “I know I’m not as pretty as her but I’m sure you’ll survive.”

Shaun buckled up and put his seatbelt on. He turned his attention to the driver; this one was male, with dark skin and slicked back, black hair. “Good morning. Are you ready?”

“You found a driver that talks?” It was hard to tell if he was more surprised or sarcastic.

“Hah. We’re good, take us away.” Jason reached over and patted the shoulder of the driver’s seat. The driver nodded, and began to pull away.

“So, yeah. Not to be disrespectful but Visionary is usually the one that comes with me.”

“Yeah, usually. Site visits are a little different. They’re my area, and I need to do a report on how our friendly inventor Artifex is doing.”

“Huh. You need to keep tabs on him?” Shaun seemed interested.

“He’s got a contract with us. He mostly does his own thing but we can’t be too sure, so we need to just make a visit every so often. Perfect time to have our new blood go and see just what he does. It adds perspective.”

“This is probably the point where I should ask, why he’s called Artifex and what he does. All I know is he has something to do with MAGI-Tech and he’s an inventor.” Shaun pushes the button to wind his window down, letting in some cold air.

“He’s called Artifex because he named himself.” He stated it honestly. “Bit of information on Artifex. A lot of Fargrace have very obvious powers, as far as we can tell. Artifex does something else entirely. The best way he explained it to us is that he can simplify technology. He knows how to cut every corner, make anything take up as little space as possible, work better and faster.”

“Simplify it?” Shaun began to muse on the idea.

“The best example is when he held a press meeting once. He said he could see a blueprint, and instantly see where every bit of wasted space was. He simplified the lack of space, and could make it a third of the size whilst keeping all of the power. He’d say that the operating system was too complicated, too messy, and reprogram it, so it took up less operating space, and ran faster. The power supply wasted too much energy, so he’d take an extremely advanced power supply, make it smaller and simpler, something that drained less energy, and fit it into this device.”

“So what he had was something that was half as big, twice as quick, three times as energy efficient, and he’d market it for the same price, because he’d managed to make his factory so simple that it ran quicker at much less cost, and could sell them for more profit at the same price. Then he said, that’s why he’s going to dominate this industry. As far as I can think about it, I don’t know if it actually is what he says it is, but I’m not going to argue it.”

Shaun nodded observantly. “I think I get it.”

“He got Fartouched, started working in the industry, started his own company and made enough money to move to England and start MAGI-Tech.”

“He’s not English?”

“Polish. No jokes. He’s not fond of them, and he can be mercurial at the best of days.”

Shaun raised both his hands. “I wasn’t going to.”

The mist had begun to fade outside, until all they saw was the clear blue of the skies above. It still felt like there was a lingering cold, especially coming in through the window. The driver made Shaun’s window go up slightly, though didn’t close it off. He noticed, but didn’t react.

“What’ll happen is, we go in, you get to meet him. Ask a few questions, have a look around. Don’t touch anything. I’ll ask him how things are going and what he needs, take a look at what he’s making and if it’s in line with our standards. He might kick us out after then. Play it by ear.”

“That’s what I wanted to ask.” Shaun leaned back, feeling more of the cold air on the back of his head. “What does he do with the NFU? From what I know, MAGI-Tech is the biggest Eldritch tech company in the west.”

“You’ve done your research.” Jason sounded a little impressed. “He has a contract with us. In his own words, he has enough money. He wants to help us out, because he realises we’re important. He doesn’t work for free though. He makes prototypes for us, new gear and armour, asks us to field test, and helps to mass produce what we need. We get to test some of the things he makes for us, things that don’t normally sell and don’t get approval. It’s beneficial for all of us.”

“Huh. Yeah.” Shaun glances around the car, then knocks on the plastic part of the door next to him. “Do you think he’ll make a better car?”

“He wants it. He’s been working on it for months, as far as we know. Nobody will give him the go-ahead. Too much paranoia about Eldritch technology. People still don’t trust it.”

“I know what you mean. But, an Eldritch powered Tesla, that’d be something.”

“You like your cars?” Jason raised his eyebrows.

“Yeah.” Shaun nodded. “My dad’s a mechanic. Can’t say I like all the BMWs you guys drive. I’m more of a Jaguar sort of guy.”

“Aston Martin for me. It’s a classic, it’s a british car.”

“Totally. Jaguars just have the look for me. I mean, they’ve got crap fuel economy, but you don’t buy a Jag because you want good miles per gallon.”

Jason nodded, and waited before he spoke. “So if you had your way, you’d get rid of the 3-Series we use? What would you replace them with?”

Shaun thought about it. “Yeah. I’d say, a Mondeo Titanium. It’s a Ford, so you know it’ll be reliable.”

“Huh.” There was a tone of being impressed in Jason’s voice. “Might have to recommend that.”

The journey was about as long as it normally took, though they went to an entirely different location about a mile away from the headquarters. They pulled up to a smaller building, in a very similar style to the others, though not being as large meant the glass front didn’t stretch so far into the sky. The windows themselves only covered a small portion, a strip two panes wide in the middle of the building. The rest was walled away, with regular sized windows allowing light inside. The security was tighter as well, almost as defended as the headquarters, with two separate identification and biometric checks before they were allowed to step past the front entrance and into the building.

The receptionist, a young man with trim blonde hair, had let them in and made a quick phone call as they verified themselves. He nodded and typed something onto the computer at his desk and inserted a pair of gemmed cards that were laying next to his mouse into a slot on his terminal. The machine made a pinging noise before he took it out and handed the first one to Jason, before repeating the process to Shaun, and handing them a pair of lanyards.

“Enjoy your visit.”

Jason lead them to a metal door and he inserted his card into the access panel next to it, and a light above it flashed green for a second before a loud ‘thunk’ opened it up, and the door slid open. Shaun watched, as it opened quicker as he stepped up to get through, and slowed down as he walked past it. He fiddled with the card in his hand for a second, then looked at it. The purple gem in the corner was part of the design that seemed to be prolific for the NFU.

“They use these cards a lot.”

“They’re really clever things. They check the biometrics of the last person to hold it before it scans them.” Jason replied, tapping the gem in the corner.


They were walking down a corridor, which was a different look from the normal sterile look of whites and blacks in the main entrance, and the air seemed lighter. There was less noise of air conditioning whirring in the background that amalgamated with the voices of ambient chatter in the distance, and they could pick up a very faint noise of something going on past another set of ominous doors.

These ones seemed much more sleekly designed, with a larger control panel to the side. There was a red security lens that was bobbing from side to side that picked up on their approach. A circular ring, much like one on a conventional camera shutter, narrowed and pulled away. Gave off an eerie facsimile of a mechanical eye. Shaun pointed towards it, nudging Jason.

“Hey, it looks like James Bond.”

“Kinda does, doesn’t it?” Jason said.

Welcome to Artifex’s workshop.” Either the camera or some speakers that Shaun couldn’t spot were speaking to him. “Voices recognised. Shaun Larson, designation unknown. Commander Jason Cohen, no designation. Please insert your cards to verify identity.”

“Can it hear us?” Shaun asked. He took his card out of his lanyard and walked over, slotting it in the second lowest slot. Jason did the same once he had room.

“It hasn’t yet. Alex asked about that when he came. Artifex told him he had to change the voice so it didn’t sound creepy. It sounded like Megatron.”


Verification complete. Please remove cards.” Jason grabbed both and handed Shaun his own. Shaun recognised the noise as one similar to the large doors that Sage had in the headquarters. The sound of gears and mechanisms moving out of place to allow them in. “Automatic defense systems have been disarmed for your entry. Please enjoy your stay.”

“I’m not going to ask.” Shaun elected to reveal.

The doors opened. The floors were a light grey concrete and the walls were a sterile white. The ceiling tiles were out of place, spotted and more at home in an office workplace. Wooden shelves lined the left side and everything was nearly arranged into unlabelled categories. Devices went up in size, special casings holding purple gems with one labelled “zasilacz”, then boxses of wiring and tools of all shapes and sizes. Furthest away were plastic, sealed boxes and containers. One even had a biohazard sticker covering the mechanism that would unlock it.

Wooden tables and consoles for power tools were in the centre of the room, and on the far end Shaun could see a 3D printer lurking in the back. The far wall had a wooden staircase on the left side which went up into an area that looked to be storage, whilst a white tarp that covered the entire back row was draped over, and access seemed to be on the right side.

A man was hunched over the table, sitting on a stool. He wore black trousers, polished shoes and his sleeves were rolled up neatly to just before his elbows. He had what looked like a solder gun in his hand, though this one looked far more advanced than anything Shaun had seen in the school workshop.

“I kinda expected an assembly line.” Shaun was surprised still, as he walked into the new room. He inhaled lightly, and smelled burning metal and sawdust faintly in the air.

They managed to get a closer look of his features. He had wrinkles on his forehead that were the sign of regular frowning, and his eyebrows were thick. His nose too, seemed to be a little bit larger than average, and his lips were contorted in focus. He took pride in his appearance, from the curly, dark hair that rested thick on his head, to the stubble covering his jaw and top lip.

As they walked over, they could hear him mumbling, before he put down his tool and took the circuit board he had in his hand, and threw it aggressively at the wall.

“Kurwa mać! Pojebane to jest! Gówniana angielska płyta, chuj ci w dupę!”

“Bad time?”

Artifex ran a hand through his hair and stood up, kicking the stool away so it slid on the workshop floor. He ran a hand through his hair, and he looked to be in his early thirties. When he spoke, his accent was obvious.

“Always a bad time in this piece of shit workshop. You, you NFU, you give me terrible equipment. I can’t do a fucking thing with this. You get me some cheap shit from China or something?”

“You don’t sound happy.” Jason sounded much happier. Artifex swept his hand and took the tool in his hand. Shaun expected a wire to snag on him, though it seemed to be wireless.

“Of course I fucking don’t. I mean, come on, you want me to do work for. Even on contract, I asked for my tools, a week ago.”

Jason took out a pen and a small notepad from his pocket and began to jot it down. “Tools. Understood.”

Artifex pointed his tool to Shaun. “This one, this is the one I’m meant to be nice to, show around? New agent?”

Shaun turned to Jason, almost expecting him to speak, though he seemed to look back and give him a slight nod.

“Yeah. Shaun Larson, I’m the new kid.”

“Yes. Very nice to have been meeting you, Shaun. Artifex, real name Janos Briggs. Few rules of workshop. Don’t be touching anything without permission, try not to annoy me, no photographs, no revealing confidential information. You understand?”

Shaun nodded slowly. “Uh-huh.”

“Good. Then you can ask questions. I will be listening, but I must keep working. Hope you understand.”

Artifex walked over to a small plastic tub on a table further away and fished around for a few things. He pulled out another circuit board and scowled at it, reluctantly keeping it with him as he dropped it onto the desk. He pushed a button on the grip of his took and the point of it began to glow white hot. He reached for some solder on his desk, and began to heat up the solid silver already present on the board, trying to remove it.

“I don’t really know what to ask.”

“This will be quick then.” He seemed capable of dividing his attention without issue.

“I did want to ask about the armour you made for Grandmaster.”

“Grandmaster?” He asked. He tapped the button again, and sat upright. “Oh, yes. Grandmaster. Custom made armour. One of best I’ve made yet.”

“Alex said it was made out of Carbon Shear?”

Artifex looked at Shaun this time. It was hard to gauge his expression. “Oh, you listen to him.” He points the tool to Jason. “This one listens.” He lays it on his desk, and began to use his free hand to gesture his words. “Improved Carbon Shear. He ask for custom make, so I give him the best money can buy. Do you know what Dilatant is?”

“Uh, no.” Shaun looked a bit out of his depth.

“Non-Newtonian fluid. When you hit it, it gets harder. Used same principle and applied it to armour made of Carbon Nanotubes. Several layers. Extremely complicated to explain to you. I’m not even going to bother.”

Shaun looked a little offended. “I did want to ask about your power as well.”

Artifex was turning to go back to work, though he heard what Shaun said and slid off his stool. “You want to ask about powers?” He went over to the desk where he’d previously gotten the circuit boards before and took out a device from the same tub, much like a phone with a screen on the front and some sort of glass sensor on top. Artifex walked back and turned it on, pointed it to Shaun, and raised his eyebrows and nodded.

“Oh. So you are interested. That is first.” He looks to Jason. “You bring me a boy who is interested.”

“Did you just use a lie detector on me?” Shaun folded his arms.

Intention detector. Not lie detector.” Artifex turned it off and threw it into the bucket, making a noise of crashing circuit boards. A small Micro Card flew out of the bucket and onto the table. Artifex shrugged, and sat back down on his stool. Only this time, he faced them.

“Yeah.” Shaun lowered his arms.

“It is not like the other one that came. Tall boy, got in my face, asking me every-fucking-thing about my works. Annoying little shit.”

Jason cleared his throat. “That’ll be Agent Tether.”

“Yes, him. It’s good to have enthusiasm, but he was bouncing off the walls when he came in.” Artifex sighed deeply. “You though, you ask well. I don’t mind asking.”

“How do you ask well?” Shaun asked, taking another glance around.

“It’s not important. You wanted to know about my power.”

“Yeah. I’m not sure I fully understand it.” Shaun admitted.

“It’s not an easy power to understand. It’s like difference between… knowing a guitar song and playing one. Technology we have, see this?” He grabs the circuit board and shakes it until it bends in the air. “This is a piece of shit. Normal technology works on basic principles we know and trust. It’s more complicated than it needs to be. We work on power limitations, overheating, circuit lines, inefficient wiring. What other people make is inefficient. Light and heat, going to waste. If you take the light and heat and convert it to energy, less worry about power, less overheat.”

“Modern technology can’t do that. But Eldritch technology!” He raises from his chair, passion in his voice. “That is future. What MAGI-Tech makes is a revolution of the industry. But people are stupid and ignorant. They think Eldritch technology will backfire. They don’t understand it, so they don’t trust it. Banda kretynów. Boy, Shaun, you know the Unit?”

“That’s the prison for all the Farborn and Fartouched.”

“Yes. I helped make the Unit. When the wars started happening back in 2001, when everyone was going batshit fucking crazy over religion, Forgefather made design for tank-sized weapon, the ones that hit people with energy and change their moods and emotions. Forgefather eventually sold me the blueprints for the design, the extortionate bastard. I used them to make the Emotional Dampeners in the Unit, and Emotional Dampener Rifles that Police and NFU use to this date.”

Shaun nods, slowly, though it seems a few things have gone over his head in the process.

“It is easier to say I know how to make technology less complicated. Everything else is side effect of the process.”

“Same difference.” Shaun nods, taking a third look around. “What are you working on?”

“This? Not this shit. This is for NFU. They want me to try to make cheaper version of Combat Scanner in helmet. Not easy, I’ll have to remove a lot of features. Do you want to see what I’m really working on?”

It seemed Shaun and Jason were equally as interested and both nodded. Artifex threw the circuit board onto the table again and walked over to the back of the store, beckoning the pair to follow him. He shoved the tarp out of his way, and they caught a glimpse of something large and metal that was hidden from view a second later. Jason lifted it up to let Shaun in, and they both walked in carefully. With eyes wide open, they approached and saw what was being hidden from view.

Computers, monitors and wires were everywhere. Many had different screens, showing rows of undecipherable code. There were several heavy tables holding power tools and saws, welding equipment and several devices that neither of them could identify. All across the room were parts of something, large and no doubt expensive. A gauntlet on the table with the palm facing to the sky, with wires leading from it to a monitor with a progress bar slowly ticking up. As it continued to compile more code, the fingers flicked and flexed, clenching in natural movements.

A helmet was nearby with a visor similar to Grandmasters, though the front was bare and without any design. This too was hooked up to a screen, and on it was an overlay of sensory information that it was taking in. When they walked into view, another screen had a square box that hovered over them, like it was targeting them. Text appeared above their body, and Shaun could see it was actually their names and ‘NFU AGENTS’ underneath. The square went green afterwards.

On the back, stood up and almost crucified was the rest of the power armour. There was a hole where the back would be, a rectangular slot that was similar in shape and size to a large block of metal on the table, which seemed inert and not doing anything.

It almost looked complete, in it’s own way.

“Wow.” Shaun broke the silence as he walked over to the table. His hand reached out, but he pulled it back before Artifex turned around to remind him of the rules.

“That’s a mighty fine impressive suit of armour.”

Artifex was busy tapping a few times on a tablet he had in his hand, of his own brand. ‘MAGI-Tab’ was on the top of it, above the screen.

“Personal project of mine. First one possibly ever made. The idea of power armour has always been around but it’s never been doable.”

He turned the tablet over, which showed a full mock-up image of the armour. It was painted with a steel blue. Sleek, form fitted but still bulky compared to the suits of armour worn by the Containment Squads or NFU agents. Down the side showed various options for weaponry. Amongst them were guns, underslung the hands, and he wheeled through several options. Another image showed the armour holding a large rifle, something far larger than a normal person could wield without bracing it first. The last option seemed to be less worked on than the others, a glaive or halberd of such.

“The reality of power armour is that it is too costly, not feasible without some sort of power supply, and there is a chance that sufficient impacts can turn you to mush. Cost is no problem for me. Power supply was easy to make, even managed to make it so that heat from inside the suit is absorbed back inside. Not even warm. Making sure you don’t turn into mush was greater challenge.”

He taps the tablet a few times, and a diagram of an equation comes onto the screen.

“Hard to explain but basically, there is a field of energy around the user. When the armour takes impacts, the force is absorbed by the field, then siphoned into the generator. Fargraced studied in the unit allowed us to make a similar device, then I made it simpler. See, Japan is not afraid of Eldritch technology. That is why I sell so well over there, and they make interesting prototypes. They’ve even started to make cars powered by Eldritch fuel gems. I took ideas from them, purchased schematics and blueprints, and they work. So I made them better.”

“That doesn’t begin to sound like it makes sense.” Jason contributes, tilting his head.

“I know.” Artifex responds. “It doesn’t sound like it. But it works. That is my best understandings of it,. It’s been field tested.”

“Field tested? How?” Shaun hovers over the gauntlet, still twitching with false life.

“I wore a test suit and threw myself off a roof.”

Shaun and Jason turned to Artifex; of all of them, the scientist was the one that didn’t seem to care much. Jason looked stunned, Shaun just looked at Artifex as if he was mad.

“You threw yourself off a roof?” Shaun sounded incredulous, and moved away from the gauntlet. “Are you fucking crazy?”

“Listen.” Artifex stood forward, pointing at Shaun. “I did smaller tests previously and proved it worked. Things like hitting walls, having cars ran into the armour. I needed to see if something big and sudden was violent enough to damage it. Risks are necessary if you want to succeed. Don’t tell me I’m fucking crazy when it works.”

“What are you even going to use it for?” Jason asked, curiously.

“There might be a day when I need it. Would rather have it than not at that point. And it’s a suit of fucking power armour. At what point is it a bad idea to have it?”

Shaun shared a glance with Jason. “I can’t blame him.”

“Oh, Artifex. You know the drill by now. Do you have a list of what you need?”

Artifex grunted and began to grumble as he put one tablet down on the table and dug through a pile of them on one of the shelves on the far wall. He took another, turned it on and checked to see if the information was right, then amended something and turned it off before handing it to Jason.

“I’ve already got a list of things you need to get me.”

“Great. When can we expect our own NFU suits of power armour?” Jason smirked, clearly joking.

Artifex possibly understood, though he sounded more sour. “Fat fucking chance. Even making a weaker suit would cost too much to make, repair, maintain.”

“It was worth a shot. We should be going. The NFU would like to thank you for-”

“-it’s services, yes.” Artifex interrupted him cleanly, finishing off his sentence. “You say the same thing every time. Just bring me my tools, my equipment, and give me new things to do. Making what we have better is good but we need to progress, evolve our technology.”

“Oh, we’re going now?” Shaun turned to Jason. “Yeah, okay. Not much else I need to ask, anyway.” Shaun turned to Artifex and nodded once in his direction. “Thanks for letting me look around. It’s been interesting.”

“Sure.” Artifex was already checking the screen of the gauntlet, and watching the code fly up the page. It seemed to be stuck at 43 percent, though the compiling was taking its time. “Keep up good work, or something.”

Artifex waved them off, as if it was all he could to do say goodbye in his distraction. Jason gave Shaun an affirmative nod before starting to walk back, offering to hold up the tarp for him. Shaun ducked underneath and they both walked together to the door. Jason was making his way to the console by the side of it, and they repeated the same process of exiting as they entered; both cards in and a vocal confirmation before they left the room.

The same corridor, which seems much more dull in comparison to the workshop, greeted them as they walked down.

“That didn’t take long.” Jason turned on the tablet and briefly scanned over the inventory list. “What do you think?”

“Of all that?” Jason nodded to the question. “Interesting. Lots of stuff I didn’t know what was going on. Artifex himself, he’s really smart, really intelligent. Bit of a dick at times.”

“Heh. He’s manageable. He has a lot going on, believe me.”

“I still don’t quite know what the point of it was.” He admitted, before they got to the next control panel that would take them to the front reception area again.

“It’s about communication and trust. Artifex is one of the NFU’s most powerful allies. He has a lot of resources and money, and we use a lot of his equipment. We can trust him, but we need to keep sure that he trusts us. We honour our contracts, we get him what he needs, and he gives us what we need. It’s about keeping him on our side.”

“He’s contracted though, isn’t he?” Shaun asks, getting his card out pre-emptively.

“He is, but he can still work for other people. Just remember, his loyalty so far is bought. It’s not a bad thing, as far as allies go.”

Shaun nodded. He went quiet again as they went through the door after putting in their cards. They handed them back to the receptionist and made their way back to the car. Before they left the building, Shaun stopped in the doorway and looked back to Artifex’s door, sealed shut.

Jason noticed he wasn’t keeping up the pace and turned around.


Shaun turned around, raising an eyebrow. “Hm?”

A look of concern etched over Jason’s face, then it shifted to realisation. A pause lingered in the air for a few moments as they shared a brief glance, before Jason broke the deadlock “Come on. Let’s get you back to the hotel.”

Shaun took another second to glance at the door, before shrugging off the daze he was in and walking outside. The fresh air hit him again, and brought him to his senses.

“Yeah. We should go.”

Entrance: 1-6

Monday morning had come and gone. Shaun found himself at odds with Josh; they no longer shared the same time table and Shaun was needed in school later on a monday. This made things a little awkward between the two. Shaun almost found himself walking to Josh’s house to meet up and walk to school, though halfway through the little detour he normally took to Josh’s house, he realised it was quicker to go the other way. He turned on his heel, and jogged a bit ahead to make up for lost time. He could at least indulge in listening to music on the way to school, buds in his ears until he reached the school grounds. Music was paused, earbuds swiped and put into his hoodie pocket and he ventured to the start of a new year at school.

Sixth form was a big step up, not only in terms of feeling like he was growing up but also the status and respect it gave. The Year Sevens, the first year in the English secondary school for high school and aged around 11 or 12, would greatly fear them as lords and whimsical tyrants, whilst Year Twelves and Thirteens, who were reaching the end of secondary school, saw them as less powerful. In the grand heirarchy of education, sixth form were still the kings amongst paupers, with the added benefit that they no longer had to wear uniform whilst at school. Sixth Form was one way to go afterwards, College was the other.

Shaun’s media teacher was a Mr. Kai Murray. He was in his class, listening to him tell him about the basic structure of the class, the lessons and coursework to be expected. Meanwhile, Shaun’s bag on his table hid his phone from sight, and he’d barely paid any attention to the other students just yet. His focus was on texting. First, he checked the message he received.

were u been man

Shaun frowned slightly, flicking his glance up to the classroom for a second. He saw everyone was more interested than he was.

oh right well just some stuff last nite, did i miss owt?

“-your yearly project doesn’t have to be anything specific. It has to be about media though, and what effect it has on us, and the subject matter-”

The response back was so quick, it appeared premeditated.

nah lol wanted 2 meet but did sum fifa instead

Shaun tapped out a quick reply.

okay yeh sure will let you know about tomorrow got stuff tonite

The response back was equally as quick.

safe m8

With those social obligations sorted and the friendship patched up, Shaun discretely sunk his phone into his pocket, and began to pay attention to the classroom.

“-ultimately it’s an individual project. So no, Garth. There’s no group works.”

There was a slight tone of elation about the news that group work wasn’t present.

“Conferring and sharing ideas is fine though. We cannae stop that.”

Shaun had a quick look at his new teacher as he slid his bag underneath his table. He was in his early thirties. Mr Murray was scottish through and through, with a thick accent that was almost as thick as the 5 o’clock shadow on his face. Shaun noticed there was more women in the class than men; whether Mr Murray was the cause of this, he suspected it may have influenced the decision.

“So what we’re gonna do for the first period, is decide what you want to do. There’s a sheet on your desk with a few broad topics.” Shaun picked it up and gave it a glance; one thing stuck out to him, and his eyes lingered near the middle of the page for a second. “As long as it fits, knock yourself out.” He smiled; it was warm, a bit trusting. “Come back at the end of the hour, have a think, talk amongst yourself. You dunnae have to stay in here. I feel it can inhibit the creativity needed.”

This perked a few heads. Such freedom was a clarion call, and nobody had elected to stay inside given the choice. After wrapping up, Shaun decided to take a quick nip to the canteen, whilst taking out his phone and glancing at the screen.

He remembered the conversation he had with Yuhong that night.

“One shift and that’s it.”

“I’ve glad you’ve had a change of heart.”

“I’ve been raised to give people a chance. No exceptions here.”

“That’s great. You have class to attend, that I’m sure. Are there any days off you’d like?”

Shaun paused. “I was thinking, tomorrow. Tomorrow night.”

“Tomorrow night?” Yuhong questioned. “Are you sure?”

Shaun cleared his throat a little. “Yeah. Tomorrow night.”

“It’s a little soon. We would have preferred more time to prepare.”

“That’s not my problem.” Shaun became rather blunt for that comment, and threw it out nonchalantly. It did make Yuhong pause.

“We’ll… make arrangements.”

“Hey, Yuhong.”

“Yes, Shaun?”

“How many other people, Farborn or NFU recruits, get to pick and choose like this?”

She paused again. “None. As I said before, you’re an individual case. Because of that, we have instructions to accommodate you.”

“That’s way too much power for one man.”

“I’m glad you think so.” Shaun couldn’t tell but he was certain there was a bit of relief in her voice. “This would be Alex’s first shift as well. We like to do both night and day shifts for our recruits.”

“Oh? Well, that’s good. Yeah.” Shaun said, surprised. “So what will we be doing?”

“In this case, we’ll be the on-call team. It’s ideal for new recruits. Other teams, higher priority, will be dispatched to incident. We are there in case everyone else is busy. The on-call team, in such cases where the primary teams are occupied, are sent out. Because of Alex and myself and our range of powers, we will be dealt low priority, low danger missions.”

“The NFU doesn’t like throwing in the newbies into the deep end.”

“No, we try not to. Extreme circumstances excluded.”

“No plan survives contact with the enemy.”

Helmuth von Moltke?” A hint of interest and even pride shon in her voice.

“Is that who said that? I picked it up in a, uh, video game.”

“Oh. Still. It’s very true.” She said. “Hopefully, it will be a quiet night and we get to observe. Perhaps we’ll get a chance to investigate something. It’s surprisingly common that we deal with people who become Fartouched, for instance.”

“I don’t envy those people.”

“Nobody does.” Yuhong sounded a little solemn. “I didn’t.”

Shaun paused for a good few seconds. He thought to ask but relentled, and disregarded the idea.

“When does it start?”

“We’ll have a car pick you up at 6pm. And thank you once again, Shaun.”

“Okay. Alright then.”

When he snapped back to reality, he’d found that he had wandered into the library, and was staring at the Fantasy section on the wall. To the left of it, he saw the shelf containing works on the Farside. With curiousness about him, he approached, dragging his finger along the spines of the book and making a strumming sound and stopped at what he thought was a random book. He plucked it off the shelf, tilting it down and yanking it out easily, and glanced at the spine and the cover.

Eldritch: The study of creatures from beyond & Official Classifications (Illustrated version).

Shaun slid it back in, and reached to the other side. Tapping the top of each book, he counted down to 5. It was the same number fro, one end to the previous book he plucked out, and mirrored his prior actions. This tome seemed a little thicker, with an illustration on the front. It depicted a man, clad in stylish metal platemail fighting off a demonic creature. The knight held up a shield to fend off an onslaught from the demon, which was flying in the air aloft wide, bat-like wings, wreathes of energy engulfing its hand raised to the sky, ready to unleash it upon its foe. In the knight’s other hand, he held a decorative longsword, held back and ready to counterattack.

Superheroes of the 21st century. Depicted: Solomon and Vorpal, 2013.

His inquisitive nature lingered, he flicked open the page and glanced at the opening paragraph.

Superheroes of the 21st century.

Biographies of the Fargraced:

Farborn and Fartouched who rose to greatness.

By Samara Hawkins


The Farside is everywhere. In modern day life, the Farside is an every aspect of our lives and culture. You see Eldritch sightings on social media, from those attacking a city to the harmless ones you’ll find in your local park on your morning jog. It’s no surprise that the Fargraced of the world also play an important role. Almost like they’re taken straight from comic books, these gifted individuals help our day to day lives. They fight crime, stop rampaging Eldritch, battle with the villains of the new age who may be gifted themselves.

In this book, you’ll find pictures of these self styled superheroes and their greatest achievements, as well as the notorious villains that they will encounter-

Shaun had stopped reading at this point and closed up the book, sliding it back onto the shelf in a fit of boredum. He glanced at his phone again and began to dig his earbuds out of his pocket, though something made him stop. He looked at his phone again, lost in thought for moments, before reaching back out and taking the book back into his hand. He thoughtfully stared at the cover for a moment, as something struck him. He glanced at his hoodie and tugged on the fabric; it was a Cornflower Blue, a little pale, made of marl fabric. Once more, he checked his phone, actually looking at the time.

“…about 40 minutes.”

He mumbled to himself, then put in his earbuds, played some music, and dedicated some effort into going back to his house.

When he arrived, he unlocked the door and arrived to find Button already scrambling over, climbing up him to get at his face. A bit of laughter, patting and giving her a fuss and a play, before telling her to wait in the kitchen for him before he climbed up his stairs. The dog obeyed, much as it wanted its ears scratched more, and lay back in its basket whilst chewing on a large, fake bone.

Shaun skipped his room and went to his parents room. Talking to himself was a new thing, though it seemed to help guide him.

“We’re packing up tonight, going to the hotel tomorrow, he should still have it… Wardrobe.”

He hopped over and pulled open a door, swinging it open. Inside were a line of shirts, jeans, trousers and jackets all lined up, with a mirror on the inside of the door. Shaun went straight for the jackets, flicking through them.

“No, no, no. Ew. No. Denim jacket? Dad, seriously. No. Ah!”

The jacket he pulled out looked hardly worn. It was tan in colour and the lining was a bright wool or fleece, Shaun couldn’t identify. It had a pair of pockets that fastened on the breast, and two open ones by the hip, with two on the insides. He looked over it, nodding and impressed, before beginning to try it on.

Normally, it would have been a bit big and baggy but when he was wearing his hoodie, it fit quite snugly over the top. He tested the freedom of movement by stretching out, swinging his arms around; just baggy enough to allow good movement. As a test, he also pulled his hood up, and looked down at his jeans and sketchers. As an added benefit, the extra layers of leather and wool did add an illusion of Shaun looking bulkier. Not that it was needed, though he did seem to admire his new aesthetic.

With all this settled, he whips off the coat and tucks it underneath his bed covers to hide it.

“It’s not like he’s ever used it. He won’t notice.”

Satisfied, Shaun went back down, made sure Button had a treat and an extra bit of a fuss, before locking up and heading back to school.

The day was ponderously slow. Shaun continued to keep checking the clock on the wall in class, as well as glancing at his phone, assuming he wasn’t being seen as he did so. Everyone was currently discussing what they had thought was a good idea for their project. One of the women in the class, a mousy girl called Alice with box frame classes, commented that an hour wasn’t a lot of time to decide what to do for the year. Mr Murray reminded her that they could really change at any time if they wanted to but if they wanted to change half a year through the course, they had 6 months of work to make up for.

She had personally decided on a progressive idea; the effect of oversaturation of advertising in modern life. A few other students had picked something more niche or broad; cinematography in film and television and the effects it has, the nature of stereotypes and the need of minority role models, and how media affects and makes political campaigns. Shaun had decided already picked his, and opted to show the effects of the Farside in modern life, and just how deeply it affected everyone. Mr Murray was satisfied, and they spent the next hour discussing what sorts of themes they could involve and what inspiration they could take. Each student had their turn of spotlight, whilst they opened ideas, everyone was encouraged to help and make their own suggestions. It took time to get through everyone, though it was a fairly relaxed environment. The entire day was planning; from what had previously happened, translating it into a project, presentations they’d do through the year, generally laying out what was to come for the next year or so.

With the day eventually over, Shaun made his way back home.

Tea was tense, to say the least. Shaun and his dad barely spoke through the evening. They’d said hi when Craig came back home and that was the length of their discussion in its entirety. Shaun had thought of speaking about it but knowing it would just exacerbate the situation. Shaun inherited a stubbornness from his father’s side of the family, one that became obvious in times like these. Anne just elected to stay out of it, like usual. Many times she’d been the mediator in the past and it suited her poorly, not making the situation worse but never getting anybody to come to a standstill.

The car arrived at 6pm on the nose. Shaun said goodbye to his mum and gave her a kiss and a hug. He ruffled Button’s head and gave her another fuss. He did have the dignity to say goodbye to his dad, and told him that he was sorry but he was going to do this, as he’d always been told to give people a chance. His dad said he’ll talk to him about it when he got back, in a rather ominous tone.

A moderately dull car journey was made entertaining with the latest Rudimental album on Shaun’s phone. The driver was as usual untalkative at best, and Shaun could deal with a bit of silence from other people for a change. He arrived and found Yuhong waiting for him at the front entrance, after he went through several security checks. The smile on her face beamed as she saw him enter the building, and he greeted her with a court nod.

“I’m glad you came, Shaun.” She wore the same work outfit as before, though her blouse was a plain white today.

“We’ll see how glad I am at the end of it.” Shaun rolls his shoulder slightly, trying to get used to the jacket.

“Are you cold today?” She asks, whilst turning and beckoning him to follow. He walked beside her as they went through more security checks. Today, Shaun wasn’t given a guest pass; he was given a card that was much the same as Alex, as well as a small leather wallet. Inside was a badge, a silver symbol of the NFU and a slot for his card to go in.

“Huh? Oh, no. Just thought it’d be like, well. You guys have costumes and I don’t need armour and the NFU is probably big on keeping identities secret.”

“It’s not like you need body armour. We’ll get you a mask.” Yuhong pointed to his card. “You have the same access as any of our agents on probation. If you want to go inside somewhere, put the card in, gem up and to the left.”

Shaun nodded. “Got it. Just make sure the mask isn’t like…” Shaun paused, thinking. Yuhong waited for him to expand, as they walked down the corridor to the equipment room.

“Like what?”

“…I don’t want a mask. Nothing like Doctor Doom or a wrestler. Maybe a bandana, or a mask like yours.”

Yuhong thought for a second, and sounded cheerful when she responded. “I think we have something like that.”

They had approached the changing rooms, and Shaun waited outside whilst Yuhong got changed inside. A few people walked past, and nodded to him and said his name to greet him on their travels, which piqued his curiosity. He put his card into his new badge, noting that the gem did make it somewhat awkward to fit it neatly inside. He stashed it inside his jacket pocket, making sure it wouldn’t fall out with a small dose of rigorous activity.

Yuhong came out, fully armoured up as Visionary, holding something in her hand. She showed it out, and Shaun took it from her hand. It was a black neck warmer, something what a motorcyclist would wear, easily covering his mouth and nose. With eyebrows raised, he nodded gently.

“Yeah, this is what I want. Will they mind me borrowing it?”

“It’s yours.” Is all she said. He shrugged, accepting this and starting to slide it over his head. It fit well, and he tested it by pulling it up past his nose. Visionary had already started to walk away, and Shaun followed. He tugged up his hood, and cleared his throat to catch her attention.

“What do you think?” He said, stretching his arms out.

“You look like you might mug somebody.” She said, without turning her head in his direction. “But I can’t see who you are. It works, for now. We can discuss a proper uniform later.”

“This is good.” He said, looking around the corridor. “I look cool. I don’t look like a superhero. No cape or anything like that.”

“Generally speaking, the NFU doesn’t allow capes as part of your uniform. Capes can catch, snag and be used against you. The only people who wear them are people who don’t get into physical combat, or are strong or quick enough.” She turns to him. “In my opinion, it’s not an easy look to pull off either.”

Shaun glanced above, and saw them walk past a sign pointing them to the training room.

“That’s pretty sensible.”

“We prefer body armour that protects you. Tether for instance, his armour has better protection against knives, blades, batons. Weaponry you use up close. His powers mean he needs to be close. It does offer ballistic protection though. My armour, is to protect against bullets.”

“I don’t know what your power is, come to think of it.” He’d say, stepping forward a bit so he’s in her line of sight.

“It’s hard to explain.” She’d say, glancing towards him. “But I will say, I don’t need protection that close. I don’t get hit.”

“Isn’t that a better reason to have that sort of armour?” Shaun made a hand gesture of him stabbing something. “I’m not saying you’re not as good as dodging blows as you say you are, I haven’t seen you in action yet, but just in case you’re unlucky, or you can’t dodge, isn’t it better to have it like, as a precaution?”

“That’s right, good thinking. It’s not like paper to a knife. It’s advanced, Artifex grade armour. I can dodge a punch very well. Bullets are more difficult.” She turns fully to Shaun. “It allows me to be dexterous and dodge well. It maximises my strengths, minimises my weakness. I am, sadly, weak to bullets.”

Shaun snorts, and giggles. “Can’t say I know what that weakness feels like.”

“We have design discussions, with fashion designers and famous bloggers, about costume design. We had a bit of trouble thinking of something for you.”

“Me? Why?” They turned a corner. A man in armour, much like Jason, walked past them and nodded to them. “Agent Visionary. Shaun.” They both nodded back.

“We’d need something that can survive as well as you do.” She said, bluntly. “That’s going to be impossible. So, we decided that we can focus just on aesthetics.”

“Coat, hoodie, biker mask. Done.” He said, dismissing the thought with a hand wave. “I’ve saved you thousands of pounds already.”

“Have you thought of a name?”

“Shaun. Shaun is a good name.”

They had finally breached the doors of the training room. This time, it was occupied quite heavily. A lot of people were using the gym equipment in the far corner. A pair of individuals were training in the ring; an older man and Alex, who were currently sparring. A few people were sitting down and watching them. Shaun was lead over to them; Alex was in full gear, and the other man was showing him some defensive techniques.

Tether had his arms up, fists loosely open. When the man came with a right hook, a somewhat slow attack, Tether clenched his fist and made that quintessential click, drawing a shield that lay on the floor beside his feet, to the back of his hand. It was a sudden movement, and he thrust it up to block the blow. Another blow was thrown his way, a lower punch aimed for the stomach. To Visionary’s surprise, with another click the shield shot from one hand to the other, and he intervened the blow with it. The instructor nodded, and stepped back.

His voice instantly sounded familiar to Shaun. It was the NFU agent he met previously. Jason looked totally different than he imagined; he had a chiselled jawline, short brown hair, with cuts and scars over his face. Notably, his nose looked like it’d been healed from being broken. He wore a white tank top and jogging bottoms, tattoos of dragons and Japanese artwork up his right arm. He was built; exercised regularly, went to the gym, and his poise showed a certainty in his actions.

“Takes time to make it an instinct but keep practising. Practice is the best thing you can do.” Jason spied Visionary and nodded, clapping loudly. “That’s all for today. Go back to your circuits and cardio.”

By this time, Tether had started to come over to Shaun and Yuhong, and he formally greeted the latter. Shaun held his hand up and he slapped it, locking thumbs. “Hey, Shaun. I didn’t think you’d come.”

“I didn’t either.” Their hands broke contact, and he looked around again. “Giving it a chance, y’know?”

Tether nodded. “Yeah, glad to have you, man. What are you doing today?”

“I’m on shift with you.”

“You’re on shift?” He smiled slightly. “Took me six months of probation. I made it, by the way.”

“Hey, grats.”

“After the Eldritch thing, Visionary put in a good word for me, she said I showed ‘excellent combat aptitude’.” He made sure to do air quotes.

“I didn’t know you could like, Tether something twice. Like with that shield.”

Tether blinked, then looked at the shield. “Oh, yeah! Found that out the other night. I never really tried it that way before.”

“It’s a cool trick. Wonder what else you can do.” Shaun nodded.

Yuhong approached Jason, and they shook hands briefly. “Agent Visionary, pleasure.”

“Likewise, Commander.” She smiled broadly beneath her mask.

“You got the boy on board.” He said, looking to Shaun for a second. He shared the glance briefly. “You’ve got a hell of a way with words.”

“I’m better with numbers.”

“Ah.” Jason said, realising. “Whatever works. Not my department. Are you on tonight?”

“Yes. Shaun’s been given clearance to attend a mission with us.”

Jason looked over him again. Him and Alex were in the middle of discussing something they couldn’t quite hear.

“Special treatment isn’t normally your thing, Agent.”

“I can make exceptions.” She smiles again. “He’s a unique case.”

“His outfit is… interesting.” Jason said.

“It’s something.”

“What do you think?” Shaun said, with his arms open wide.

“It’s alright. You look like you might mug somebody though.” Alex said, with one eyebrow raised.

“You too?” Shaun slumped a little in defeat. “She said that as well. C’mon, it’s all I could put together.”

“Hey, it’s fine. I’m sure nobody will know it’s you. Just, don’t go down any dark alleys.”

“What about you?” Shaun pointed to Tether’s uniform. “You look like Batman’s latest sidekick.”

You look like somebody that would ask for change on the streets.”

“Yeah, well you look like…” He studied his outfit for a second. “…nope, nothing’s coming. Batman’s latest sidekick is the best I’ve got.”

“Hah.” Tether said, folding his arms. A smug smirk crept on his face.

“But you’ll always be the sidekick. You’ll never be Batman.”

“Oh, that’s low.” Alex said with a bit of a chuckle.

Jason and Yuhong walked over now. Jason patted Tether on the shoulder. “Keep it up. We’ll practice tomorrow. Good luck on your first night shift.”

Tether nodded and beamed a smile. “Thanks, sir. I’ll let you know how it goes.”

“You do that, agent. Shaun, good luck tonight.”


Jason walked away, and swiftly left the training hall. Shaun and Tether looked to Visionary, who let her gaze linger on Jason a little as he walked away. She addressed the boys. “Our shift starts at 8. We can get half an hour’s worth of training done.”

Shaun raised both his arms up. “Do I… need training? Honestly?” His question seemed genuine.

“There is always room to improve. Even with you. Have you had any practice, any martial arts training?”

Shaun shook his head. “My mum and dad sort of told me not to. It’s not like I needed any help defending myself.”

“You could learn some basic techniques.”

“If you say so.”

They spent the next half an hour going over some of the absolute basics; It seems for all that Shaun had, he never really needed to work on his technique, and barely threw a punch. Visionary showed him the basic forms required, making sure to correct it precisely along the way, and also to aim through them rather than at them. Shaun commented that aiming ‘through somebody’ for him could leave them with a hole in their chest. Visionary needed to think on that. Meanwhile, Tether was practising his powers. One thing he’d picked up on was that he could link an object and send it flying to whatever he linked it to, but cancel the tether mid-flight. The object simply flew through the air to the last point that was tethered, and he aimed a few projectiles with it meanwhile.

With the time spent well, their first shift finally came.

It predictably became as dull as Shaun had expected. For all the time and preparation and basic protocol Visionary went over, the majority of their shift was just waiting. Other teams were being deployed on various missions and objectives; they were sent to high priority incidents, whilst Visionary’s team was a small team designated to non-lethal encounters. Because of this, there was little in the way of doing missions for them. The shifts lasted 6 hours each before they were swapped with the next on-call team. Tether was busy watching some skating videos on his phone. Shaun was busy playing games on his, and Visionary was watching the news. Nobody else was here, as everyone had been deployed to the far other ends of Manchester. With the reach of this NFU office hitting all of the extended Greater Manchester area, it was no surprise that some teams were left to their own devices.

…as once again, Anthony Barnes, leader of the Union of Britain party, has brought up the subject of Fartouched registration. In his speech today, he claims that ‘only having Farborn children registered doesn’t do justice to the fact that many Fartouched walk around with the general public unaware of who they are or what they can do. The United States of America has already made it mandatory. It is the biggest concern to the safety of the general public.’ His radical and, somewhat passionate stance on the debate, has left the Union party open to heavy criticism from other parties-”

On-Call Team, this is the Control Centre.” The noise came from the speakers in the top of the room. Small, discrete devices that seemed to give extremely clear sound that bounced through the room. “You’re being dispatched.”

Visionary rose from her chair and put her finger to the comm in her ear. “Control Centre, this is Agent Visionary. What are the details of the dispatch?”

Agent Visionary, Control Centre here. Trespass and possible theft.” Visionary glanced to the television, and muted it with a remote. “Location is… the NFU Testing Facility, between Sale and Stretford.”

Yuhong stared at the wall for a second, then frowned in confusion. She was lost in thought for a moment.

Tether interrupted the silence. “That’s Jolly’s turf.”

“Control Centre, can you be specific as to the nature of the dispatch?” Visionary asked.

Agent Visionary, silent alarm was signalled. Cameras picked up three figures, one male, two females, approaching the facility. The male spoke to the security guard on-site, and the guard seems to have given the total clearance of the facility.”

“Control Centre, repeat. Total clearance?”

Affirmative. Security gave them total clearance of the facility after the male spoke to him.”

Visionary paused again. “Do you have visuals on the trespassers?”

Affirmative. We’ve got identification. Visuals and profiles point to the ‘Ten Granders’.”

Visionary looked up to the speaker, eyebrows raised. Tether spoke before she did. “Flare’s gang.”

“Who?” Shaun said, looking between the two with a stark confusion.

“Control Centre.” Visionary raised her voice. “This is a major incident dispatch, not an incident dispatch. Why has it been assigned to my team?”

Agent Visionary. Your team has been flagged for major incidents. You have been given authority to arm.”

Visionary, stunned by being told this, raised her voice past her professional demeanour. “What?Dispatch, my team is not ready for major incidents.”

Flagged by… Director Sage.” He paused. “Reason for flagging… Presence of Shaun increases danger threshold to major incidents.”

Shaun felt all eyes on the room drawn to him. He looked between Visionary and Tether, quickly deducing that they weren’t accusatory stares. They looked worried.

“Control Centre, allocate another team to the incident. My team isn’t experienced enough.”

Agent Visionary, all other teams are currently dispatched are an hour to an hour and a half away after their incident has been resolved. You are the only team available and you’re within 10 minutes. Incident was logged 1 minute ago.”

“So they’re still there.” Shaun said, looking to the side.

Visionary let out a sigh of frustration and rubbed her forehead. She began to turn to the side, looking between Shaun and Alex. There was a mixture of feelings on her face that she had trouble hiding. Concern was the greatest and easiest to spot. Shaun stood up from his chair now and walked over, patting her on the shoulder.

“Visionary. We’ll have to deal with it. We’ve got this.” Shaun nodded. “We’re the only team able to take the call. Me and Tether might not be experienced but we aren’t going to be dead weight. We don’t have a choice and we don’t have time to argue about it.”

Tether nodded in agreement. “We might be able to bring them in. How cool would that be?”

Visionary looked between them and nodded. She took a single deep breath and raised her shoulders slightly, regaining some composure, and spoke in a professional tone once more.

“Control Centre, we’re on the way.”