Exposure: 4-5

You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”

Anthony Barnes raised his head slightly. He didn’t turn around before he spoke, but he was able to look over his shoulder and see who was there.

I expected the police, but not-”

We are not here to discuss anything, Barnes. We’re here to arrest you.” Grandmaster responded with. “Do anything suspicious and and we’ll be forced to open fire.”

Anthony stood up from leaning on the wall, and raised both hands upwards. He glanced at Grandmaster over his shoulder. “I’m just going to turn around so I can see you.”

No funny business.”

Slowly, Anthony turned around. They caught a glimpse of him full and proper; the white shirt he wore was creased, sleeves hastily rolled up his forearm that stopped before his elbow. His top two buttons were undone, though his shirt was still tucked into his formal black trousers. Around his neck was an untightened tie. He looked like he hadn’t shaved in several days, and his expression looked tired and unsatisfied.

Visionary aimed for his chest, and walked around to the side. Spectre followed on her flank, until Grandmaster was closest to the door, Visionary to his right and Spectre to hers. All guns aimed on Anthony, as he scanned over them with a hint of curiosity.

I knew you were coming. Not this soon, though.”

I will not repeat myself.” Grandmaster responded, barking with authority in his voice. “This is not a pleasant conversation. Put your hands behind your head and get on your knees, now.”

Anthony paused. He slowly pointed to the half of a sandwich still on the plate on the table, and started to lean towards it as if to grab it. “I hope you don’t mind if I finish this before-”

Grandmaster didn’t let him finish. He nudged his rifle up, aiming from square in the chest to right between the eyes. “Do not touch anything. Hands on your head, and get on your knees. NOW.”

Anthony looked down to the side and lowered both arms. For a moment of introspection, he looked solemnly at the floor. His shoulders were slumped, his head seemingly unwilling to keep itself raised up. He looked defeated, and holding on by a straw to the last grasp of pride that his fingers could snag onto. When he raised his head and looked Grandmaster in where he thought his eyes were, behind that helmet, he spoke with almost total certainty.

I’m not going with you. You can try to put me down, but I’m not going with you.”

You made your choice. One round each.”

Grandmaster gave the order in those words. He pulled the trigger and his rifle fired a pulse of energy straight into Anthony’s chest. Visionary followed less than a split second afterwards, and Spectre fired her pistol after a moment of hesitation. All three hits landed with perfect accuracy, and Anthony either didn’t get time to react or didn’t bother. He did lean back, as if the bolts had registered and struck him. To their surprise though, he didn’t look any more fatigued than he had been before. The glass in his hand hadn’t even slipped out of his grip.

He looks at his chest and runs over it with a hand, feeling the button of his silk shirt. His attention went back to Grandmaster, who wasn’t lowering his aim.

The latter spoke first.

Resistance to ED weaponry. Open fire until he drops.”

There was no hesitation when Grandmaster pulled the trigger again, Visionary and Spectre complied and began to unload shot after shot into his chest. It wasn’t hard to hit a non moving target and each trio of bolts would have rendered a normal person into deep fatigue. Anthony took each hit and didn’t seem to muster the energy to looking phased by it. It wasn’t until Grandmaster counted a total of ten shots from him alone, and twice as much on top of that from the rest of the agents, before he issued the next command.

Cease fire.”

The room grew silent as blasts of Emotional Dampening fire began to die down. Everyone observed the outcome, as Anthony stared at his chest again. He had only moved from the hail of fire as a reaction to anything that would normally strike him, and the wine contents of his glass sloshed and shifted from his flinching. Anthony exhaled slowly, a noise of relief from him. His shoulders raised, giving him a posture of more composure.

Grandmaster lowered his rifle, taking his aim off him and holding it at his side with a single hand. For the moment, he hadn’t counteracted to the aggression he was shown just now. Once again, his body responded in time with his own thoughts, and he found his regular pistol, a Glock 17, firmly in his grip. Index finger slid from a disciplined point down the barrel of the gun to curling the trigger in his hand, barrel aimed to the left of Anthony’s chest. His visor filled in all the details that he needed; accuracy that was electronically enhancing his own lethal prowess with firearms. Even without the helmet, he could have landed a bullet between his eyes without consciously aiming the moment it was aligned with that spot.

He was issuing a warning.

Visionary didn’t need to look at Grandmaster to see what he was doing, and knowing that he was keeping aim at Anthony meant that she could holster her rifle. She held her pistol in a two handed grip, finger on the trigger and aimed to the right of Anthony’s chest. Spectre kept her pistol raised up, with only one weapon to keep her defended at this point gave her no option to escalate.

Grandmaster tightened his grip on the butt of his rifle, no longer holding it by the trigger but more like a weapon, a slab of heavy metal to bludgeon with.

Anthony watched and stared down the empty hole of each gun. He sounded calm, calculating.

The NFU. You know, don’t you?”

Grandmaster didn’t answer. It was his lack of commenting on that, that made Anthony certain that they knew about him. “Last chance to surrender. Don’t do this, Barnes.”

Anthony sighed again. Frustration, defeat or weariness, it was hard to pin down just how he felt from it. His gaze shifted to Spectre, whom he noticed had her original weapon on hand He raised his glass up to her, and mustered a polite smile.


His fingers released the glass, and as it fell it hung to the open palm of his hand like it was glued in place.

The tilted glass began to right itself up until it was perfectly straight in his hand. As he willed it, it shot out towards Spectre, far faster than he could have done if he’d thrown it.

Visionary was the only one capable of responding to it, her arm stretching out and lashing at Spectre like a whip. She brought her arm up and out and shoved at her with all the might that her body could produce, and she staggered over before slamming her hip into the nearby sofa. She was not quick enough to pull her arm back before the glass smashed into her elbow and shattered on impact, a hail of glass and a shatter cracking through the room as her arm buckled inwards.

Grandmaster fired his shot at the moment that he heard the collisions, and the room was a flurry of contacts; of glass to armour, of body to chair, of a gun’s deafening shot blaring through the room.

The room recovered from the sudden series of movements. Visionary’s armour had blunted most of the damage, as did Spectre’s armour save her from any potential damage that being thrown into a sofa may have caused. Anthony had no armour to protect his chest, other than a shirt with a bullet hole torn through it.

The skin beneath where the shot connected hadn’t broken.

He did stagger from the shot, and was almost as surprised as everyone else was in the room. Anthony reached down to where the bullet hit and wove his finger through the gape in fabric, running his fingertip against the frayed edges. Above all other expressions to show, he looked more annoyed about this than anything else.

I quite liked this shirt.”

The agents grew silent and uneasy as Anthony took a few steps over towards the table. Their guns were still aimed on him for seconds after he spoke, and his open body language was him expecting them to do something else. Now, he looked disgruntled, as he saw two agents aiming at him with their pistols. Spectre had her gun to her side, aware of how little it would do.

Anthony reached down towards the table and as much as he expected, Grandmaster and Visionary fired at him once again. Grandmaster had aimed for his skull and Visionary on his shoulder. Both shots hit and deflected off, tearing another hole in his shoulder as the remains of the squashed bullets impaled themselves in nearby walls. Barnes just about grabbed his sandwich before he reached to his forehead and rubbed where the slug had hit him.

Now that’s just rude.”

He acted as if he barely noticed it, as he grabbed the sandwich in hand and took a deep bite out of it. As he crunched through lettuce and bacon, he reached with his other hand to the plate and tapped on the underside to fling it up. It flicked up with far greater force than was exerted upon it, somersaulting through the sky towards Grandmaster.

His body reacted, acting with an instinct beyond his control. He brought the rifle in his hand upwards and slashed into the plate, slamming it with a parry that tore it to pieces. Painted ceramic exploded from the point of contact that pierced into the nearby walls, showering the nearby vicinity with meteors of broken plate.

Visionary fired another pair of shots at him, ringing through the room and the comms in everyone’s ear. Spectre refused to be idle any longer and a large sheet of mist covered around Anthony’s head and the head alone. It was already heated up and she increased the temperature, the scaling fog obscuring him from view.

The walls nearby already seemed to be affected, as paint began to flake and splinter from the heat radiating from her fog. Only Spectre could see what Barnes was doing beyond his body, which did not react to what she was doing. She watched as he continued to eat his sandwich, despite the contents of his food growing harder to chew and crunch through from the basking head.

Anthony raised his head up now, finishing his current bite, his gaze shooting to near where Spectre was. In an instant, the paint near the walls had stopped degrading and a sudden shock was sent up her spine. Spectre sounded appalled, almost disgusted when she spoke.

You can’t… How did you do that?!”

It doesn’t matter.” Anthony said, dropping his sandwich to the floor. “I’m leaving. Thank you for the visit.”

Anthony began to walk to the door. Grandmaster was already in his way, and brought his pistol up once again to aim at Anthony’s head. “You’re not going anywhere.”

Or else what?” He said, continuing his stride. “You’ll shoot me again?”

On queue, he fired again at point blank. He flinched and staggered back from the impact, but once again it bounced off his skull harmlessly. At this point, Anthony started to look less and less amused, and stared deadpan at Grandmaster through his helmet. He sighed again.

Are you done?”

Grandmaster paused after responding. His helmet made it hard to tell just exactly what he was thinking, but it soon became clear as he brought the butt of his pistol around and smacked it clean into Anthony’s face. He pistol whipped him with a surprising lash of force that made Anthony tilt his head sideways. And like all other prior attempts, it didn’t sell and only briefly made him reel.

Watching it unfold for a second, Visionary holstered her pistol and took out both bar maces in hand. She sprung towards Anthony and Grandmaster to intervene. Anthony watched her advance carefully and as an instinct he raised his arm to defend himself. Spectre watched and followed on her initiative, taking out her baton with a fumble and whipping it out to its full length. Visionary proved quicker than him, as her first strike with her right mace slammed into his temple, forcing him to take a step back.

As Anthony turned his attention to her, Grandmaster put his pistol in his holster and used the rifle in his other hand as a makeshift weapon. Feeling it balance perfectly in his hand, his powers guided him to use it like a club, bringing down the end of the rifle into the bridge of Anthony’s nose. Lurching back, Grandmaster bowed his head so Visionary could attack again and swiped with her left bar mace into Anthony’s neck. Cracks of metal against skin echoed through the room against the roar of the fire, as Spectre approached.

As she came with a wide swing, she made mist appear in front of Anthony’s eyes to block her from view, and swung her baton into the side of his skull with a sickeningly loud crunch. Anthony went to get up with his left arm reaching for her, but Grandmaster was already on top of him, with his knee pressed into shoulder to pin him to the floor.

The pair locked eyes for a moment, and above all things that Grandmaster could see, a resentment stood out in Anthony’s gaze as he was pinned to the floor. With his arm beneath Grandmaster, he gave a nod to behind him. Visionary put one of her maces back on her belt and reached for a pouch that contained some handcuffs.

Anthony struggled beneath Grandmaster for a moment, as Grandmaster took the rifle and pinned it against his throat to the floor. Spectre watched with her baton ready, holding it steadily in her hand. Anthony gurgled slightly underneath from the pressure on his neck, his arm flailing at the side to try and hold onto something, anything that may have helped him.

The flat skin of his bare palm pressed against Grandmaster’s armoured side and his eyebrows raised just slightly for a moment. He raised his voice, just as Grandmaster felt a tremble ripple through his suit.

Get OFF me!”

Anthony pushed just slightly into Grandmaster, and this was enough to launch him vertically off his neck and shoulder like a car had just hit him. His trajectory propelled him towards Spectre and the two of them clashed, as Grandmaster’s body floored Spectre and the both of them rolled into the opposite wall. Anthony began to stand himself up next to Grandmaster’s dropped rifle, but didn’t get very far before being intercepted.

Even before Grandmaster was flung off, Visionary was putting her handcuffs away and taking out her mace again to engage Anthony. She approached with a lot more caution now, but she brought the tip of her foot into his nose and kicked him brutally in the nose and teeth. Anthony was forced onto his back, pushing his palms down. He pushed himself up with vigour, just in time for Visionary’s left mace to smash into his face and tilt him downwards.

Grandmaster got to his knees and grabbed Spectre, helping her upright. They watched as Visionary held on, and Anthony reached out to touch her chest. She pulled back just enough for him to miss once, and a second time as well. She saw an opportunity to strike and took it, her right mace coming into contact with his temple.

Anthony had been watching, and the moment it touched his skull, a force overcame it. As it hit and would normally bounce off, it was pushed back with a tremendous amount of power. The mace flung out of her hand and left her no chance to hold on. She was thrown off balance, and her mace was impaled halfway into the ceiling above them, on the other side of the room.

In order to avoid him touching her, she dropped to the floor and began to scurry back on her hands and knees. Grandmaster had gotten to his feet and was already barrelling towards Anthony. He unfastened the battering ram on his hip that he’d neglected until this point and held it in hand, an improvised weapon, his other shoulder lowered as he rammed into him with a shoulder barge.

Anthony was pushed back but he kept his footing. Grandmaster shoved him with his arm and staggered him backwards, and swung the battering ram straight into his face in a wide arc.

The strike hit his skull with enough blunt force to throw him to his knees, after Grandmaster put all his weight and strength into it. Whilst Anthony was down, Grandmaster grabbed it and hastily shoved his arm into the battering ram as if he were going to open a door. The machinery began to register and came to life in his grip, and he stood up tall and walked the few steps over to Anthony.

Grandmaster leant down and grabbed him by the scruff of his collar and brought him up to his feet, and brought his fist back. His punch caused the extended battering ram to be forced inwards, and it responded by forcing it back outwards with seismic power. All of this power was brought down into a battering punch that slammed Anthony straight into the floor, denting the wooden flooring beneath them with an imprint of his body.

Anthony groaned from the impact and was already starting to scramble to his feet. Grandmaster had to duck low and swing at ground level with a second punch, almost turning it into an uppercut. The battering ram sprung once more, as Anthony was thrown from the floor into the nearest wall a dozen or so feet away from them; his back caved in the wall, almost causing him to go straight through it.

Impaled into the wall for a second, Anthony came tumbling down and landed on the floor with a thud. Visionary turned to Spectre and raised a hand, telling her to wait. She nodded and complied, keeping her baton raised. Visionary turned and started to retrieve her handcuffs from her belt as she walked over, watching Grandmaster tower over Anthony on the floor.

Before Anthony could get to his hands and knees again, Grandmaster knelt down and grabbed him by the throat, bringing him up to his feet and pinning him to the wall. Anthony was just about to bring his hand to defend his face before Grandmaster sent the back of his skull into the wall, bringing the battering ram into his face with enough force to cause the wall to shudder from the impact.

All whilst this happened, his helmet was running diagnostics and calculations for the combat. After each strike, each blow. Every punch of the battering ram, it came up with a message that constantly gave him cause for concern;


Even now, he was watching as Anthony brought his head back from being punched. The wall had suffered more damage than his face ever had; not a single bruise, blemish or broken bone to be accounted for after all that onslaught. Only a deepening scowl and a growing ire that emerged as a growl in the back of his throat.

Grandmaster raised his fist again and brought it down. Anthony caught it in his hand, the battering ram slamming down with enough force to force a steel door asunder, and all it managed to do was force his elbow into the already broken wall deeper. His fingers didn’t lose their grip despite this, and he pushes Grandmaster’s arm back until he began to strain against Anthony’s resistance.

Anthony cleared his throat amidst this. Visionary came to a stop a few feet away from them, and he sounded as if he was restraining himself.

I was going to just get you out of the way, as a polite gesture. Nothing aggressive, of course…”

Anthony gripped Grandmaster by the hand that was on his shirt collar, and stared deeply at Grandmaster. He grew tense on the spot and was visibly exerting himself, against something that was overcoming him. His grip on his shirt was trembling, and Anthony was starting to concentrate on his armour.

The trembling grip on his shirt seemed to stutter, shuddering in movement before the grip slowly released itself, and his arm was being drawn backwards. It looked mechanical, a direct movement that lacked any grace or finesse or even human movement, and it was causing Grandmaster an enormous deal of exertion.

Even as this happened, it looked like his other hand was torn on what to do. Trying to push itself forward and backwards at the same time, locked between advancing and retreating. His entire body was tense, trembling, fighting an unseen battle.

He’s… doing something to my… my suit.”

That was all that he could say, as Anthony kept his grip on his arm. Anthony pulled himself out of the hole in his wall and started to take steps forward. Grandmaster’s own legs seemed to try to mimic this, jerkily raising each leg and stepping back. He couldn’t even move his head, as much as he wanted to, and Anthony had fully stood up now.

Plaster and parts of destroyed wall began to litter the floor, some on Anthony’s shoulders and a spray of dust grew in the air from the destruction that was wrought. He let go of the battering ram, and kept holding onto him by the wrist.

…but after this, I’m going to make sure you’re hurt before I walk out of that door.”

Keeping a hold of Grandmaster’s arm, Anthony began to turn his body towards the door, and Visionary who was standing nearby. Grandmaster came with him, lifting off the floor like a rag doll. Anthony swung his entire body into the wall next to him, making sure that Visionary was in the path that he flew. She tried to move back to avoid the collision, but she was too close and his arc swept too far. She was sent tumbling, thrown into the wall by the door.

Grandmaster stuck inside the wall for a moment, and though his body lurched as gravity began to take a hold, he stayed stuck in the wall for the time. He let out a deep groan, but not before Anthony released his grip on his hand. His palm was still in contact with him, but he didn’t want his fingers wrapped around him when Grandmaster felt more force overcome his suit.

He was shunted out of the wall, and flew straight into a sofa. It knocked over, and Grandmaster dipped into the air before slamming into the floor. His arms sprawled out, landing on the floor next to Spectre. He let out a pained groan, his arm twitching and starting to try and drag himself up off the floor.

Anthony walked over to Visionary, who was trying to crawl away to avoid him. He grabbed her by the arm and she felt her suit seize up, her own body trying to move against a rebelling force that kept her pinned. He stood up fully and dragged her to her knees, before he lifted her up. She followed, launching upwards out of his grip and crashing into the ceiling. Her body left a hole when she dropped, and she landed to the floor with a nauseatingly loud thud.

Unrelenting, Anthony picked her up again, keeping his palm in contact with her body. She flipped around, until her body was almost standing up. Her eyelids flickered, and a deep groan from the bottom of her lungs managed to escape her lips.

He paid attention for a moment, before shunting her forward. Point blank against the wall, the power used was strong enough to have her lodged into the plasterwork; her body bent over and her arms dangling lifelessly either side of her legs.

Anthony let his own arm drop to the side of his body, and started to adjust his tie. Spectre stood as still as she could, the baton in her hand now beginning to tremble to the frequency of her own shaking body.

Inside the van, Verus and Impetus had their heads low as they listened intently to the comms in their ear. They studied each word spoken, tried to interpret each noise and sound of conflict, and had spend minutes discussing what they thought may have happened. Despite this, they hadn’t been given an order to enter, and neither of them were willing to arrive to the scene if it was under control.

There was a deep, unsettling silence after two large crashes in particular that caught their attention. They waited scant seconds to hear if anything else had happened, but nothing came. Impetus stood without saying a word, and the barrier of force that constituted his supernatural armour coated his body like a shell. Verus as well stood, nodding.

Too quiet.” He said, adjusting his hood. “I’m going in.”

The silence is bad. It means people are out cold or worse. We idled too long.”


Impetus reached for the side of the van and pulled the door open. Verus paused as he heard Spectre’s voice, before breaking into a slight jog into the open air.

Spectre? Are you okay?”

Guys, get in here. They’re… they’re both down. Visionary, she’s…”

We’re coming in, just hold on.”

Spectre, stay calm. What is he doing?”

Impetus was moving quicker than Verus, using the trick that Verus had seen to propel himself forward with his kinetic barriers. Verus similarly picked up the slack, and broke into a sprint that had them both at the front door in seconds.

He’s… he knows you’re coming. He’s waiting for you. He’s coming over to me. Shaun!”

Verus felt a pit in his stomach, an encroaching queasiness. They both forced their way through his house, seeing the damage caused through the walls and the dust that had been raised. Verus entered first, with Impetus not too far behind.

Anthony Barnes stood next to Grandmaster on the floor, and Spectre was in the corner with her baton raised. He was waiting and watching, and hadn’t done anything further. They also saw Visionary in the corner of the wall, unmoving and implanted. Streaks of blood came from the back of her skull, running down the groove of her ear and staining her cheek like a stroke of paint.

Verus could feel himself breathe, and the second that he looked at Visionary felt like a dozen, but he turned his head straight to Athony. Neither smug, nor arrogant, clenching his fists slightly, waiting.

Okay.” Verus said, a cold fury burning in his throat. “That’s pissed me off a bit.”


Exposure: 4-4

Director, Agent Visionary and her team have arrived.”

Messenger’s secretary called through the intercom for a moment. Messenger pushed the button on his receiver on the table to talk and responded, speaking lowly.

“Send them in.”

Right away, sir.”

The board room had thirteen seats, and Messenger sat on the one on the far end, his suit crisp and clean. To his right sat Grandmaster, who had his helmet removed and placed in front of him on the desk. His armour was a stark contrast, an element of field work compared to the business-like attire and demeanour of the Head Director. Messenger’s laptop, a trove of information of the NFU’s inner workings and an item of power itself, was open as he scanned over some notes that were illuminated by the back light. He raised his eyes to look at Grandmaster, who shot him a glance back; neither of them wished to speak, as awkward as the silence was in the absence of words.

The doors opened, and Visionary walked inside first. Her own mask had been pulled down, and either side of her was Verus and Spectre; the former had his hood and mask down, and the latter held her helmet underneath her arm. Visionary bowed politely, and Verus nodded his head to Grandmaster. He returned the nod, and Messenger cleared his throat gently.

“Agent Visionary, Verus, Spectre. Thank you for joining us. Take a seat.”

“Director Messenger, thank you for having us. The pleasure’s ours.”

Visionary walked over and sat opposite Grandmaster. Verus took a seat next to him, and Spectre sat next to Visionary, dividing the genders equally.

“How was morning handover?” Grandmaster asked, rubbing his hair. He felt unusual without his helmet on, stripped bare in a way.

“Just fine, thank you. How many more are we expecting?”

“We’re expecting one more agent.” Grandmaster said, shooting a glance to Verus. Verus looked sideways, but didn’t say anything. “Knowing him, he’ll probably be late.”

Director, Agent Impetus has just arrived.”

“That’s a first.” Grandmaster said. “On time for once. Must have had a good night’s sleep.”

Messenger gazed at Grandmaster for a second, before replying back to his secretary.

“Send him in as well.”

A few seconds later, Impetus walked inside. He bowed formally, almost ostentatiously so. Messenger bowed his head politely.

“Agent Impetus, have a seat. We’ll begin this meeting immediately.”

Impetus took a seat beside Spectre and leaned back, taking stock of the room. His eyes wandered from Verus to Grandmaster, and he nodded in such a way that it addressed both of them. They returned the gesture.

“This meeting is brought to session at 08:52am, December 4th of 2015. The meeting is being recorded over the laptop, and notes will be taken once all proceedings are accounted for. Everyone has been gathered here today regarding the on-going investigation of Anthony Barnes and the crimes brought against his name. We’ll be discussing the nature of his crimes and making a decision on what to do next, based on a group verdict of some of the highest Agents in the National Farside Unit, who are currently sat in this room.”

Verus looked around slowly, from Visionary to Impetus.

“For the purpose of the record, I’ll state the names of all individuals currently present and their rank. Head Director Messenger, myself. Agent Grandmaster, Kai Rhodes. Agent Visionary, Yuhong Yui. Agent Impetus, Giles Mavros. Agent Verus, Shaun Larson. Agent Spectre, Katrina Dobson. As a precursor, I’d like to apologise on Director Sage’s behalf for not attending, despite her wishes to do so. She has spoken to me about this meeting, and advised me on the matter accordingly.

“Grandmaster, would you please state the current evidence you have and the criminal offences that you believe Mr. Barnes has involvement with?”

Grandmaster nodded. “Yes. Anthony Barnes has strong evidence that point to the following criminal offences; Conspiracy and theft of prototype MAGI-Tech. Conspiracy and theft of Fartouched animals belonging to the National Farside Unit,. Intent of nullification of Farside-Born abilities. All such crimes accused have sufficient evidence that can warrant an arrest, in the form of an audible confession by Anthony Barnes to Michael Burnham, who has provided a confession, along with video and audio recordings of his dealings with Anthony Barnes.”

“In addition, Anthony Barnes had legally binding dealings with Artifex to modify the prototype engine for the purpose of nullification of Farside-Born abilities. Artifex has provided the legal documents that prove that Anthony Barnes requested and paid for these modifications, and we have video evidence that these modifications were made with the intent of said nullification. The evidence overwhelmingly points to a single chain of events.”

“Anthony Barnes hired Michael Burnham to steal Fartouched animals with the intent on testing nullification of Farside-Born abilities on them. He also hired Michael Burnham to steal a prototype engine, then made a deal with Artifex to modify the engine towards the purpose of nullification. It didn’t work as he’d anticipated and told Michael to destroy the evidence. Michael held onto the evidence so he could use it as a means to lighten his own prison sentence for his involvement. At this present time, we are lead to believe that Anthony has the engine in question. Its whereabouts is currently unknown.”

“Thank you, Grandmaster.” Messenger said. “Whilst the visions of any precognitive Fargraced aren’t admissible in a court of law, so to speak, Director Sage told me that this evidence is largely correct. As far as I can see, the evidence points clearly to Anthony Barnes committing these offences.

Messenger looked across the room broadly. “Amongst the people in this room, does anybody disagree with this assessment?”

Visionary was the first to say no, followed by Impetus and Grandmaster. Verus waited a few moments after to say the same, followed by Spectre.

“It’s agreed as a general consensus that Anthony Barnes has sufficient evidence against him to issue a warrant for his arrest for these criminal offences. With the nature of such an offence as nullification of Farside-Born abilities, it was a wise idea to bring it directly to my attention. I’m willing to issue a warrant for his arrest.”

Grandmaster nodded to himself.

“With this agreed upon, we can move onwards. A warrant for his arrest will come by tomorrow. Director Sage advised me that haste is important regarding this arrest, so we’ll formulate a general plan on the arrest here today, and go into specific details tomorrow. The arrest will take place on the 7th December, 2015.”

Grandmaster takes over. “Director Sage has told us that Anthony Barnes will be in his home in Wilmslow, Cheshire, for the entire day. The general plan will be to manoeuvre slowly and convene on his location, then send in a team to arrest him and bring him in.”

“Upon advise from Director Sage, we’re going to forgo the use of officers as the initial force of the Containment Team. We will have all Agents assembled here today to form the initial Containment Team instead, and have three other teams as back-up. In addition, you’ll be separated into two teams. Agents Grandmaster, Visionary and Spectre will be the first team to engage. Should they require additional assistance, Verus and Impetus will be nearby to lend assistance.”

Impetus glanced around the room and spoke up in the pause between sentences. “If you’ve no objection to me asking, Director Messenger. That seems quite excessive for one man, does it not?”

Messenger nodded. “Whilst I agree, this is under Director Sage’s advice. In this matter I’d rather be entirely certain that we’re over prepared instead of under prepared.”

An uneasy air settled into the room. Looks were exchanged to one another, but no words were truly spoken between them. Everyone seemed to settle after a moment of uncomfortable silence.

“I’m with Impetus on this one.” Verus said, bringing the room’s attention to him in the process. “He’s just a politician, right? What are we supposed to expect by sending over a full team of Fargraced and three backup teams?”

“Director Sage didn’t disclose the reason why. He may have bodyguards or hirelings, or even potentially turned the prototype engine that he’s stolen into a weapon. All that I was told was that she thinks I should be, and I quote, ‘totally one hundred percent sure that the arrest will happen’. The Director’s aware that I over-plan things, so I’m certain she said that with the knowledge that I’d act accordingly.”

Verus nodded. “All I’m saying is, if she told us what we’re gonna go up against, we’d definitely get the job done. It’s weird that she tells us to be prepared, but not what for.”

“As much as I’m inclined to agree, Agent Verus, we currently don’t have that information, and we have to trust that Director Sage has told us only what we need to know. Be that as it may, we can’t always depend on her abilities to predict every situation. We’ll make sure to properly assess the situation to see if and what dangers may be awaiting us, and plan and act accordingly.”

People in the room nodded slowly, some more hesitant whilst others remained thoughtful. Messenger continued.“As a final precautionary act, for this arrest I’ll be personally giving you authority to arm, before we undertake the arrest.”

“I would like to pose my concerns as well.” Visionary said, after a moment of pause. She puts her hands on the table gently. “If Director Sage was aware of how you’d act, and knew that you’d give us such authority, then she would be aware that Anthony Barnes poses a serious threat. If we’re authorised to use firearms for this arrest, it implies the potential to use them, almost a necessity to resolve any conflict. I don’t like what this implies, is what I’m trying to say.”

Messenger nodded slowly. “I’m aware that you’re concerned, and you have every right to be. This is a matter that you’ll have to trust Director Sage and myself about. I have an understanding with the Director that should something like this arise, she’d immediately inform me of any casualties or costs. She hasn’t done so, so I take it in good grace that nobody should come to any grievous harm. I know that Director Sage also agreed to say something similar to you as well, Agent Visionary.”

Visionary nodded in response.

“Can I just add-” Verus waited for a second, finger raised upwards, to see if he’d get a moment to talk. After a pause and Messenger nodding, he continued. “-that I’m normally really sceptical about Sage and people who can see the future that don’t tell you everything, but I’m kinda… with Messenger. The Head Director Messenger, on this one.”

Impetus almost looked surprised, and everyone listened with optimism.

“Think about it like this, yeah? Sage said what she did, knowing we’ll go in with guns and whatever, and knowing that we know about what it’s implying or whatever. If this guy needs us to go in with guns, he’s probably dangerous enough to need them.” Verus looked around the room for a moment, then brought his hands together. “Look, I’m probably not gonna care how powerful or strong this guy is, and I’m definitely not taking no gun, but if a person who can see the future or whatever she does says something, knowing the man in charge is gonna give us guns because of it, then I’d rather make sure everyone else is equipped. If he’s nothing to worry about, no harm. But if he needs guns to take him in, well.”

Verus tried to find the words, and everyone continued watching before a few seconds passed.

“…well, I’d rather you guys have them, just in case. I can’t be everywhere at once. And who knows what he’ll do?”

“Better to have it and not need it.” Spectre said with a nod.

The room began to nod in agreement, and Verus leaned back in his chair. He averted his gaze from anybody else’s own, meeting Visionary’s own after a few seconds. He noticed she was smiling, and turned away to look at Messenger as he started to speak.

“Does anybody else have any concerns or questions to raise regarding this operation?”

Verus, Spectre and Visionary shook their heads. Impetus leaned back, and Grandmaster was the first to speak. “I think we’ve got everything covered.”

Messenger pulled back the sleeve on his suit jacket and glanced at a gold-coated watch on his wrist. “I conclude this brief meeting over, at 09:08, on December 4th of 2016. Agents Visionary, Grandmaster, and Impetus. Your duties today will be planning and training with Agent Verus and Agent Spectre on tomorrow’s arrest. I trust in your ability to prepare and execute this operation. Whilst I won’t personally be a part of it, contact me should you have any problems.”

Messenger pressed a button on his laptop. “Meeting adjourned.” He tapped the key again, and the older agents raised out of their chairs. Taking the signal to leave, Verus and Spectre did the same. Belongings were gathered and they went out of the room. Impetus first, Grandmaster second, followed by Visionary with Verus and Spectre in tow.

As they closed the door behind them, Messenger typed on his keyboard and began to wait after hitting enter. What he did afterwards was unknown to the agents, who had begun to walk away and lost sight of him. The adults began to talk amongst themselves, discussing basic and vague plan ideas for tomorrow.

As the group walked past Messenger’s secretary, Verus gave her a nod before he turned his head slightly to Spectre.

“Normally you’re the first one to talk. Bit quiet in there, anything up?”

Spectre glanced back. “I learned that when the boss of your boss of your boss is in the same room as you, you keep your mouth shut unless you need to. Besides, it was way too serious. Let serious people talk about serious shit.”

“Fair. How you feeling about it all?”

“Good. Getting thrown into the deep end helps me show I can swim. Don’t wanna use a gun though.” She turned her head to Verus. “But it’s gotta be done, so I ain’t slacking now. What about you though?”

“What do you mean?”

“Big man on team two here.” Spectre nudged his arm with her elbow, and he rubbed it slightly. She smirked. “If the damsels in distress start calling, our white knight gets to ride in and save the day.”

Verus glanced sideways. “Emphasis on white, huh.”

Spectre smirked again, looking ahead. “Now you’re getting it.”

“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to it. What do you think he can do?”

“Ain’t got a clue. But I ain’t gonna underestimate him. Might seem like I am, but I ain’t. You don’t have meetings and get told by people who can see the future to hold onto your ass, and not grab as tight as you can.”

The collective group stopped before an elevator, and the door opened instantly. They all poured inside, brushing shoulder to shoulder as Grandmaster leaned over Verus to push the button on the panel.

“You’re good at making colourful images, y’know that?” Verus said, cocking his head to the side.

“Lots more where that came from.”

As Spectre responded, they both shared a smile. The doors began to close, and they were instantly drawn into the other conversation going on. The feeling of light-hearted banter was fickle, and fled from them as they began to prepare, to plan for the next coming day.

C-Team Two, this is C-Team One. Agent Grandmaster here. Status update, over.”

Verus turned to Impetus, who was opposite him. He hadn’t got his barrier up yet, his head resting against the back of the black leather seat. Verus couldn’t tell if his eyes were open, but the sound of Grandmaster’s voice brought him to life. The van besides them were empty, including the driver, who had left to join up with the other men and women who would back up the agents. Verus tugged on his hood and mask again, trying to adjust them to be more comfortable.

After dragging himself forward, Impetus put his finger to his ear. “C-Team One, Agent Impetus here. Permission to speak less formally.”

Permission granted. What’s up?”

“It’s been fifteen minutes, Grandmaster.”

Gotta pass the time somehow.”

“I thought your memory was starting to go in your old age. Do your powers work on a zimmer frame, Grandmaster?”

Another voice came through the comms, one more distinctly female belonging to Spectre.

Oh snap, son. You gonna take that?”

I’d probably be just as frustrated as him if I knew the country of my birth was in that much debt, too.”

G-Master’s bringing the heat tonight. Impetus, what’ve you got to say to that?”

“I think Grandmaster’s using the comms channel immaturely, Agent Spectre. Let us focus, shall we?”

Verus sat forward and reached under his hood, pushing into his comm. “Grandmaster, what’s Anthony- the target doing?”

Target has been in the kitchen for the past ten minutes. I assume he’s making a sandwich or something.

Knowing these rich white guy types,” Spectre added, starting to mock a posh accent near the end “He’s probably having a caviar sandwich, with a side of oysters.”

“Isn’t caviar fish eggs? Who’d even eat that? Sounds gross as hell.” Verus asks. Impetus smiled in response. “What are we waiting for, anyway?”

Visionary responded. “Our agents are currently making sure all ways that the suspect can leave are blocked off and covered. The roads leading to his house have been diverted away as to not interfere with the arrest. We’ve pre-emptively evacuated the nursery next door as well, to be absolutely safe.”

Verus took a look at the monitor to take a look at his surroundings more clearly. He knew the road he was on was called Dean Row Road, but he wasn’t aware of a nursery. The van he was in was parked between that nursery and the building where Anthony Barnes was currently staying, next to a lamppost with a 40 mile per hour sign on the side. Both sides of the road after the pavement were fenced off my wood fences and hedges, green trees recovering from the worst of the English winter weather. The front of the building was guarded by a brick wall, with an electronic wooden gate blocking the path. The building behind it was large, layered with orange bricks and a light grey roof.

“Wonder how much a house like this is worth.”

“More than we would make in a lifetime, a sad thing is it not?” Impetus leaned back on his chair, putting his hands behind his head. He let out a deep sigh, almost weary in nature.

“Can’t believe we’re gonna storm some guy’s house who makes more money in a month than my family make in a year..”

“As much as everyone thinks money makes you above the law, it is not important if you make ten thousand or ten million a year. This is why men and women become police officers, or agents of the NFU, if they have the gifts for it. Some people do believe that men like him are not above the law.”

“And what’s stopping men like us being men like him? Who makes sure we’re not above the law?”

“Quit custodiet ipsos custodes?”

Verus blinked slightly. “Is that Greek?”

“Latin. Do they not teach you that in school?”

“No. There’s not much point, latin’s a dead language and all.”

Impetus smiled, and leaned his head back again. “Who guards the guardians? Who watches the watchmen, Verus? It is that very question that many have asked.”

He leaned forward, bringing both his arms on his knees and interlocking his fingers. “Both the police and the NFU are monitored, by outside forces. It makes it so that this does not happen to us, Verus. We are accountable, and organised. There are things in place to help us, and to prevent these things. If we did not have them, we would look like America.”

“Yeah. It’s like a comic book over there.” Verus added.

Impetus nodded. “Their Fargrace, they are not organised. They all act as groups, or just by themselves. Though some work for their government, the majority do not. They answer only to themselves. They market themselves, whether they consider themselves ‘hero’ or ‘villain’. Just like Sovereign.”

Verus nodded slowly. “What’s the deal with Sovereign, anyway? Why isn’t he part of the NFU? He’s like, just like you said and all.”

Impetus smiled slightly, but shook his head afterwards. “When the NFU was founded, Sovereign was just starting out as a ‘hero’. The NFU offered him a position. It was ideal and would work for everyone, but he turned them down. We have asked him many times, Verus. Many times, and he has said no each time. He says he works better alone, and he would be restricted to fighting crime just for Farside things. Not crime as a whole. It doesn’t matter, really. He still works alongside us at times, and if he is fighting crime instead of causing it, then we do not care.”

“He is the first Farborn of England, and the first Farborn superhero.” Impetus continues. “And he walks a very thin line. We are grateful that he is a force of good, because there is nothing that can control what he does. People with powers, these heroes, must be held responsible for how they use them.”

Silence filled the van. Impetus stares at the ceiling. “I don’t think Sovereign is a hero for that reason. There are no heroes, Verus. Just men who break the law, men who bring them justice, and men who watch.”

“That’s pretty pessimistic of you.” Verus leaned back, resting one arm on the back of the chair. Grandmaster’s voice suddenly became clear through their comms.

As much as I hate to interrupt Impetus detailing out his depressive views on the world, I need to announce something. I’m picking up a Farside energy signature from his house. I thought it was the engine that he stole at first, but it’s coming straight from him.”

Impetus brought his head from rest and turned over his shoulder, as Verus and himself looked up to where the house was relative to them. “He’s Fartouched?”

I’ve got every reason to think so. But this ain’t right, it’s different. Saw him at his window and the signature I was getting from him was… strong. Stronger than anything else I’ve seen. It’s like the Farside energy in him is twice as strong as anybody else.”

Verus and Impetus shot each other a look. “Doesn’t this guy want to remove Farside powers? What the hell?”

“Guilt?” Impetus responded with. “Only he can say. It would explain why the Director wanted us to be overly careful, would it not?”

“That’s so messed up. This guy’s a Fartouched and he wants to… what the hell’s going on?” Verus leaned back on his chair again.

All C-Teams, this is C-Team One. Fargraced protocols are now in effect. Subject is assumed to have Farside-Born powers of unknown ability. No classification to be given at this time. Keep comm channels open at all times. Over.”

Verus reached to the comm device in his ear and pushed into it for five seconds, and heard it make a beep. The channel was open to him, and Impetus had done the same.

A female voice came through the comms.“C-Teams, this is C-Team Three. Perimeter secure. Out.”

C-Team Three, roger. Arrest in progress. Stand by for further instructions. Out.”

“And now, we wait.”

Impetus leaned back in his chair and rolled his head back. Looking to the screen opposite from him, Verus just nodded slowly, watching the screen and the flickering image of the house and gate, as three figures began to approach.

Grandmaster lead at the front, and on his hip was a rifle, two pistol holsters and a Hardware Bug. Visionary carried the same, and Spectre was only given a single pistol. Whilst the collective rifles were the standard that the NFU normally used, the Emotional Dampening Rifles and Pistol, Grandmaster and Visionary bore a regular pistol on their opposite hip. On top of that, Visionary had her normal bar maces, and even Spectre had an extendable baton within arm’s reach.

Over his right arm was a third weapon, if it could be called that. It looked like a conventional battering ram, but it had two large metal straps that could be fixed to the arm, as well as held in the hands. It was thicker and built sturdier, and had some type of machinery fixed inside of it. In his spare hand, he held a Hardware Bug, thumb over the head of the device.

Visionary and Spectre took to covering him and began to unsheathe weapons; rifle and pistol, standing guard as Grandmaster approached the electronic keypad that barred them from entry through the front gate. He pushed the head of the Hardware bug in and slapped it to the keypad, and after a few seconds of it working, the gate itself unlocked.

With a nod, he led on and took out his pistol, leading them down the drive. As subtle as they wanted to be, the drive was a long path of gravel that split to the right to the garages, and to the left to the swimming pool and tennis court that were part of the building. Cover was scarce, other than a single sculpted shrub halfway between the gate and the front door. As they made their way to the door, they constantly checked to see if they were being observed through the windows of the house, until they all repeated the same position as before at the front door.

Grandmaster took his rifle and checked the charge was full before slinging it over his shoulder, and nodded to Visionary and Spectre. They held their weapons ready, and before Grandmaster brought his battering ram to the door, he pre-emptively touched the door handle and pushed it down. It gave way, much to their surprise. The door wasn’t locked. He removed the battering ram from his arm and fastened both parts to his belt and leg armour, to avoid it from moving about, before he slid the handle down and pushed the door open.

He took his rifle to hand and pushed open the door without so much as a sound, and made a single gesture for Visionary and Spectre to follow. Spectre covered the back whilst Grandmaster forced his way into Anthony Barnes’ home, and whilst he swept around one way, Visionary swept around to cover him. The interior was various shades of beige and cream, with dark wood lining the staircase ahead of them and three doors ahead; two closed directly in front and one open to the right, and between that door and the wall was a large polished mirror. The shelf beneath it was lined in vases and a large, brass statue of a horse.

Grandmaster moved over to the open door whilst Visionary and Spectre covered his back, and after a moment of waiting he moved into the next room. The room turned right, a wall closing off any way to the left. As they walked inside, they were in one of the living rooms. White walls contrasted with wood panelling on the floor, and the room was neatly separated by a ring of three dark leather couches. In the middle was a table with magazines littered in an unorganised pile next to a plate with a half eaten sandwich on top, and above them was a projector. The screen that would roll down was above a gold-lined fireplace on the opposite wall, that was currently roaring. Spitting out ash and sparks of fire, the only noise in the still air being the crackle and crunch of burning wood. Anthony Barnes stood, with his back facing to the door. Beside him was the stolen engine, currently turned on.

In his right hand, he was holding a wine glass that had but a single sip of red wine left inside of it. The other was helping him lean over the fireplace. His hair was grey, neatly groomed and long; slicked back with dry wax. He was propping himself up, as if he was going to fall over into the fire if his concentration fell.

All three agents levelled their weapons to him and Grandmaster’s entry allowed the other two to get behind him, forming a neat triangle. Grandmaster didn’t give him chance to respond before he spoke, and his helmet distorted his voice until it boomed out, sounding more machine than human.

“Freeze, NFU!”

Anthony didn’t respond in the seconds pause that he was given.

“Anthony Barnes, you are under arrest.”

Exposure: 4-2

“Good morning, Agent Verus.”

Shaun looked at the young man on the security desk, with neatly parted brown hair and a scar over his left eyebrow. His badge said his name was Adam, and a second passed before it processed in Shaun’s mind what was just said. He glanced off to the side, chuckling under his breath subtly.

“Took me a second. Morning.” Shaun said, nodding his head.

“It takes time to get used to it.” Adam smiled, running a keycard through a scanner before hooking it into a lanyard and handing it to Shaun. Shaun held it in his hands and studied it for a second, glancing over the small purple gem in the corner above his portrait and reading the text.



ID: 19628 / VERUS


Shaun looked up to Adam and returned the smile. “I can imagine. It’s growing on me. The more I hear it, the more I like it.”

He slide the lanyard’s chord over his neck and nodded again, giving Adam a wave as he walked off. Two other men who were next in line walked to the desk, and Adam repeated the process to verify and allow them secure access.

Shaun didn’t waste any time. His first visit was to a vending machine to grab a bottle of cold water. Once he had something to drink, he begun his journey for morning handover.

As Shaun turned the corner to go to the final corridor, he found Visionary already waiting for him in the middle of the walkway. Her hands held behind her back and her mask over her face, Shaun could still tell she was smiling through it.

“Oh. Hey Visionary.” Shaun stopped walking, raising his eyebrows.

“Good morning, Verus.” Visionary said, bowing her head politely.

Shaun smiled, putting a hand on his hip. “Did you come out here just to call me Verus? Because the guy at the desk, what’s his name, beat you to it.”

“Not entirely. There’s another reason.” Visionary said. “Morning handover will be delayed for a few minutes. There’s something you’ll need to do first.”

“Oh, right. What’s that?”

Visionary’s smile widened. “Suit up.”

Shaun frowned for a second before his eyes widened. “It’s here?”

She nodded. “It’s in the equipment room, ready for you to wear.”

“That came quickly. I thought it was gonna be another day at least.”

“Sooner than we all thought. Go and get changed and we can have morning handover. See you there, Verus.”

Visionary didn’t lose that smile, even as she turned away and walked down the corridor. Shaun waited until she opened the door and went inside before he let out a sigh, brushing some hair out of his face.

“Let’s go face the music, then.” He spoke out loud, before going back from whence he came. Down the corridor, taking himself to the equipment room.

Shaun stared at the door, wondering how he felt about this. It definitely wasn’t trepidation or fear he felt. He wasn’t even worried if it didn’t fit properly or made him look ridiculous, as he’d come to peace with the decisions being made about that. The closest thing that he could call it was a change he was uncertain about, or a change that he found tough to accept. Not for any particular reason, other than change was just not in his nature. It could be the feelings of dislike and animosity for being considered a ‘superhero’ of all things, having attained his new armour. As far as he felt though, he was able to push those thoughts aside like any other nagging voice in his head.

He disregarded those feelings and pushed open the door, stepping inside.

The costume was hanging directly in front of him, hung up in several sections on steel coat hangers, with his boots on the bench beneath the legs, beside some black clothes that’d already been folded. A paper note was left on top of them, and he stepped forward to pluck it up and read the contents.

To Verus:

I knew I’d win you over in the end! This suit is absolutely darling and I’m sure you’ll love it. No need to thank me though. Just have a few selfies with me in your inauguration ceremony and we’ll call it even.

It shouldn’t ride up too much, but wear some clothes underneath just in case. I ‘d recommend some black silk; a shirt and some trousers. Coincidentally, I’ve left some here for you. Hope the measurements are right! Now go and show it off to the rest of the world.


The Designer.

P.S. Instructions on the back.

The note left a smile on his face and turned it over, briefly spying the instructions that detailed what to put on in what order. He looked at the outfit and let out a sharp whistle, surprised at how impressed he was with it, leaving the paper on top of the black clothes. He took one of the boots in his hand and lifted it up without issue, thought looked at it curiously.

“They weren’t kidding when they said this’d be heavy.”

To prove his point to himself, he released it. It hit the ground with a lifeless thud, barely even moving once the sole had hit the floor. The changing room sounded like somebody had dropped a car tire instead of a boot, and Shaun picked it up again.

He stripped down his normal clothes first and moved the note, and put on the black clothes that had been left for him. They were snug, form fitting without being too tight nor too lose, and he was curious how the Designer was this accurate with the fitting process. Donning the rest of the armour took time, not only because it was more intricate than putting on a shirt and some jeans, but because Shaun wanted to make sure it was done absolutely right, and to memorise the order without having to keep the instructions with him every morning.

Once he was fully garbed, he tested the flexibility. He hadn’t much appreciation for the art of armour making or even clothes, but he could notice all the work that’d gone into his suit. Stretching his legs and bending his knees made him aware of how his knee-length boots cut off just before the knees, so they didn’t dig into the tendons on the back of his thigh. Bracers on his arm didn’t interfere with his wrists rolling, and the design was confined to the forearms, so they wouldn’t get in the way of his hands or elbows. Even the triangular design that peaked near the back of his hand bent with his wrist, like segments of dragon scales adapted to his movement. The under-armour of his chest and the jacket felt like any other, but was made with mobility in mind. Despite the material, Shaun hadn’t noticed any deficit with the range his arms could move as he rolled shoulders about and stretched them.

He pulled up the covering and tugged up the hood, and saw the rim in his peripheral vision, but otherwise didn’t notice it beyond a slight dampening of the noise around him that covering his ears would naturally do. He even stretched his jaw to be thorough, and could honestly not fault anything he felt so far.

Shaun walked over to the full body mirror near some of the lockers and studied his form, the aesthetics of the design. His eyes traced the lapels of his jacket that slid behind his neck. The raised triangle of fabric that almost looked like a cloak on his chest and the shield placed over where it met. The brick-like pattern in a single section down the middle of his abdomen. All these little features that he remembered in detail, noticing them in the order that the Designer had presented to him and others before.

He never thought he’d feel a little excited, almost proud when he saw himself. He even stood more upright, as if to emphasise his form, nodding at himself as he turned around. The one thing he noticed that he didn’t see before was a belt, with several secure pouches for essential components of his job. He could assume what went where, like handcuffs and even rifles, but the space was minimal; designed knowing that he didn’t need weapons, only the pure essentials.

Shaun made sure to put his clothes away in his locker, and folded the note to tuck it in his jean pocket, before he departed.

He left the changing room, expecting Visionary. Spectre stood there as well, helmet underneath her arm and her hip cocked out to the side. She let out a sharp wolf whistle between grins, and Shaun’s features were all but covered, except for the slight frown now on his face.

“When did you get here?” He asked, folding his arms.

“’bout five minutes ago. What were you doing in there, making your suit?”

Cocking an eyebrow, Verus put a hand on his hip, pointing at her. “That’s hilarious. They should call you the Comedian instead of Spectre.”

“Maybe they should.” She said, blurring the line between mock jest and serious. “I’m pretty goddamn funny.”

“A riot.” Shaun replied with. “What do you think?”

He spread his arms out and turned slightly on the spot, and allowed himself to be studied by the pair for seconds.

“You look great.” Visionary smiled through her mask.

Spectre nodded as well. “Lookin’ good.” She glanced down to her own suit. “Feels weird being the whiter one for a change.”

Verus took a second to register what she said and looked at his suit, then to Spectre’s unmasked face.

“Don’t think too hard on it, shield boy.” She began to walk past him and patted him on the shoulder with her free hand. “Now you’re dolled up, we’ve got handover to get to.”

Visionary stepped to be beside Verus as they watched Spectre walk ahead of them leading them to the room where they had handover. They both began to walk, only a dozen or so feet from her. Verus leaned in towards Visionary, his voice already hushed by his mask and further hushed by his tone.

“Who made her the leader?”

Visionary didn’t look at him, but Verus knew he had her attention.

“I think she did.” She turned to him after she spoke, with a quaint smile behind her mask. Verus shrugged, tugging down his own mask and hood to reveal his face.

“It would have been nice if Tether was here to see me. I’m sure he’d love it.”

“We’ll send him a picture later.”

“Yeah, sure.” Verus said, trailing off into his own thoughts for a moment.

They had all assembled in the handover room, and Visionary took out two sheets of paper. She glanced at Verus, who elected not to say anything this time; he knew if she looked at him, she was making him know that she was looking at him. She spoke though as if that small mental exchange never happened.

“Let’s commence the handover.” Visionary said, with a curt nod, as she read off the first piece of paper. “Today’s planner is a little different. I’ve been preparing you for today, and we’ll be getting ready to go on patrol as soon as we’re done here. We’re going to be the Recon team for an operation to remove an Eldritch that’s currently on the border of Cheshire and Greater Manchester.”

Visionary puts the second piece of paper on the table. They were greeted with a picture, a high definition picture of the Eldritch in question.

It appeared quadrupedal, long enough to just about dwarf a sperm whale. Its skin, a pale brown with hues of blue, appeared to ooze down its body and limbs and gave it an impression that its flesh was closer to water than a solid consistency. A flat head-like appendage was surrounded by a flap of thick skin, a mane that formed behind to make a crest of spines extending out as long as one of its limbs. It had no hands nor feet on the end of its appendages, just fleshy stumps that moulded around the floor. Spikes covered along the body, numerous enough to add some texture, and enough of these clustered around the beast’s mouth that if you were far away enough, it could be mistaken for having a mouth.

Verus and Spectre looked over it, and the latter pointed at the picture as she spoke.

“It doesn’t have eyes. That’s fucked.”

“Yeah, little bit weird, but that’s Eldritch for you.” Verus said, with a nod.

“It’s trending over social media right now. The Eldritch doesn’t appear hostile, so people have taken a lot of pictures of themselves with it. We’ve given it a codename.” Visionary paused for a second. “Pudding.”

“Pudding.” Verus reiterated, deadpan.

“Pudding.” Visionary said with a nod. It was easier for her mask to cover up her smile.

Spectre and Verus were both amused, but Spectre was more open about showing it with a giggle under her breath. “Who gets to name these things? Like, pudding, for real?”

“It came up in a meeting that I was a part of, that we need to call it a name. We wanted something that wasn’t threatening, so people wouldn’t consider it dangerous.”

“So you were one of the people that named this thing ‘pudding’?” Verus asked.

Visionary glanced to the side, smile growing wider still. “I may have suggested the name.”

You named it pudding.” Verus stated this time, pointing to her.

“It was an official decision, but I may have been the one to suggest it.” She nodded, and carried on before the other two could continue. “Regardless of the name, I’m going to briefly discuss the operation we’re going to undertake to remove the Eldritch and escort it to a more secure facility. The area has been sealed off from the public, so we’re going to be leading the Reconnaissance Team that will go in first to determine if the Eldritch is hostile. Once we’ve ascertained if it’s safe to approach or not, we’ll call in the Containment Team. If it’s safe, we’ll use our Containment Team to move the Eldritch into a transportation lorry and take it to a secure facility.”

“And if it’s not?” Spectre spoke up.

“We hope we can contain it before it causes any damage. We’re in luck that it’s hasn’t moved from the location where we found it. It’s in a field in Wilmslow, called Bruntwood Park. This may require us to fight the Eldritch, in which case we have Verus and several other agents on standby, near the location. It shouldn’t come to that, but we’re prepared in case it does. This is why we’re doing whatever we can to keep it calm and not do anything that may agitate it from its docile state.”

There was nods all around.

“I’d also like to make a small point that this will be the first public appearance that the both of you make. I don’t need to tell you this, because I know you two will do fine, but remember that you represent the NFU.” She nods. “If any journalists or reporters ask you about this, just inform them that we’ll be discussing this operation in an official press conference and that they may ask their questions there, but until then we won’t be making any comments.”

“What about people?” Spectre asked. “You know this is going on Youtube and Facebook. Do we tell them ‘no comment’ too?”

Visionary thought for a second. “If they ask about you, try to be discreet but friendly. You can talk about yourselves, but not the operation.”

With a shrug, Spectre nodded and agreed.

“All other details will be discussed in transit and when we equip ourselves. We don’t know how long this operation will take, so we’ll discuss what we do with the rest of the day once we reconvene. We’ll have lunch before then, so there’s no rush. This is your first operation after all, and there’s a potentially greater risk involved. I want you two to relax once this is done.”

Verus glanced at Spectre and they shared a look before they both nodded.

“If there’s no further questions regarding the operation?” Visionary posed, but neither Verus nor Spectre had anything further to add, so shook their heads. “In that case, best of luck today, agents.”

With a smile, Visionary took the picture of the Eldritch with her and folded the paper into her pocket. One by one they left the handover room, and made their way to the equipment room to begin equipping themselves.

Whether they were truly ready, Visionary wasn’t sure but she hadn’t let either of them become aware of any doubts. Instead, she put her faith in their hands unwittingly, knowing what sort of task she has entrusted with them. To her, it felt more like she’s thrust it upon them, and she silently prayed that they could handle the undertaking.

“We’re here.”

The black BMW pulled down a road in the middle of Bruntwood part and came to a stop, just where a pathway on their left began to open into the main body of the field. To their right, a lake was obscured by a barrier of dense trees and a stone fence, and before them on their left was an old lamp-post of rusted copper and several wood blocks that reached just to the top of the car’s tires. The midday sun was in the pale, bright sky, and offered little warmth for the cold winter weather that the sun was betraying.

Verus had his mask and hood down, as well as his window on the back left seat of the vehicle, arm resting in the open gap to relax. Spectre’s helmet was on her lap, and Visionary never removed her mask. The driver, a middle aged gentleman with blonde, parted hair, nodded to the agents before stopping just before where the field is blocked by a tunnel of trees. Behind them, a single NFU van followed them. Beyond that, several men of a Containment team were helping to guide a lorry reverse down this road, as this only came from an arterial road; it lead to a skate park further inside, and had one road to get in and out of.

As the driver pulled up on the handbreak, Verus raised his head.

“We’ve got pudding.”

Visionary was already looking, but Spectre wasn’t. She turned and looked out the window, staring at the grotesque monument of the Eldritch lazing in the park. Even from here, they could make out the details from where they sat, as well as several men and women of a Containment Team trying to escort members of the general public away, as safely as possible.

“I thought they yellow taped this area off.” Verus asked, pulling up his mask and adjusting his hood to be comfortable.

“It is.” Spectre said, putting on her helmet. “You think some people are gonna let that stop them getting their next profile picture with an Eldritch behind them?”

“Anything for a good selfie, I guess.” Verus said, turning to Visionary once he spoke. “We good to go?”

Visionary nodded, turning on her comms for a moment. “C-Teams, this is R-Team One, Agent Visionary here. Radio Check, over.”

After a few seconds, the members of the Recon Team heard the returned broadcasts.

R-Team One, this is C-Team One. I read you five by five. Over.”

R-Team One, this is C-Team Two. Roger, Agent Visionary. Over.”

R-Team One, C-Team Three. Loud and Clear. Over.”

Once confirmed, Visionary nodded. Verus and Spectre nodded back, and left the vehicle. It drove further up the road, and once they all stood on the grass, the NFU van came beside them. The side door was pushed open and several NFU agents carrying rifles started to clamber out of the vehicle. There was little haste in their decision to leave and once outside, they began to talk amongst themselves.

The man, whose voice was familiar from the broadcast he just said, spoke to Visionary.

“The other teams will wait for our signal if things turn south. We’ll wait here meanwhile.”

With one final nod, Visionary turned and walked in the direction of the Eldritch. Verus and Spectre followed. The NFU agents that were escorting the public away were clearer now, and they were no older than Verus was. They weren’t behind held, nor bound in handcuffs or any other ill treatment. They eventually crossed paths and they stopped, with the Fargraced agents to their side and the Containment Team blocking their way back to the Eldritch.

“Are you guys Agents?” One girl asked, with shoulder length ginger hair and a red plaid shirt on.

Verus turned to Visionary for confirmation, and she nodded. She continued walking and Spectre followed, leaving Verus to talk. He squinted slightly as he watched her walk away but turned to them, and looked to each of them in turn.

The one with ginger hair to her shoulder was in between a boy in a t-shirt with a city skyline on it, and grey skinny jeans, and his hair was short on the sides and long on top. The other was a girl with dyed black hair, box frame glasses, a nose ring and a black band shirt with “Glass Movie Show” written on the front, and denim shorts with leggings underneath.

Verus was certain that he’d never heard of this band before.

“Yeah. I’m Verus. That was Visionary and Spectre.” Verus turned to the people in question, who were approaching the Eldritch and talking amongst themselves. “You should go. We’re about to move this thing.”

“Can we have a picture with you?” The girl in the band shirt asked. Verus turned his head as if to look at Visionary but she wasn’t at his side, so he thought about it for a second.

“Maybe. If you’re still around when we’re done.”

“Awesome.” She replied. “That’d be cool.”

Verus watched the way she looked at him, and he could recognise how she saw him despite not willing to admit it; she looked at him with some admiration. It made him think about what he was going to say, amongst other things.

“For now, you should get out of here. Just to be safe. Like, it’s probably not gonna do anything, but just in case, y’know?”

The three looked at Verus and nodded slowly, though as scant seconds passed he realised they weren’t moving, and just looking at him. He shot a glance to the side and awkwardly waved in the direction of the footpath.

“C’mon, go.”

After reiterating, the three nodded hastily, and the NFU containment team continued to escort them away. Verus turned his attention back to the Eldritch and broke into a jog, hustling over to reconvene.

Verus stood beside Visionary, with Spectre on the other side. They stared at the Eldritch, which was certainly moving; the flesh and skin seemed to hold a shape, but was malleable and sinking with the force of gravity. What could be said was its head was turning around, bristling the spines that made its mouth. For moments, they studied the beast, dwarfed by its size and growing less threatened with each second.

“…so what’s it actually doing?” Verus asked, turning to Visionary. “Is the pudding doing anything?”

“Nothing, by the looks of it. It’s just lying here.” Visionary squinted, eyes darting back and forth with unnaturally quick tugs that always returned to the centre of her vision.

They were a foot away from the Eldritch, and Spectre with her folded arms raised her head slightly. “Not even gonna put up a fight. Am I the only one a bit disappointed by that?”

Verus took a step forward. “Probably a good thing if it isn’t.”

Visionary turned her head as Verus reached his hand out, and she managed to make him pause before his fingers and the Eldritch connected. “Verus, be careful. You may agitate-”

As she spoke, Verus pushed his hand to the surface of its skin. There was a brief moment of pause from everyone, until nobody responded. Not even the Eldritch responded, and merely carried on with idle movements.

The flesh beneath his palm felt just organic enough to be considered real. Like a thick, leathery balloon full of custard or ooze, his hand sunk an inch at least into its flesh before he pulled it out, like a child retreats their hand from an open flame.

“That’s so gross. Holy crap, that feels so weird.”

“Well, it ain’t doing much.” Spectre said, bringing her arms down to her side. “Total let down. What now?”

Visionary raised her finger to her ear. “C-Teams one, two and three. This is R-Team. Eldritch is very docile, unresponsive to any external stimuli. Begin removal procedure. Over.”

The three teams confirmed and after a minute, men and women of the containment teams began to approach. Each team had eight members total that had their weapons holstered. One of the teams carried a large, dark grey tarp that required four of them to carry the rolled up mass of material. The other teams began to haul some large steel cables with them, though none of them seemed long enough to reach the lorry that the third team was preparing; lowering down a ramp and setting up cables to secure the Eldritch once it had been relocated.

One of the members of the containment squad, nodded once preparations were made. The roll of tarp was beside the Eldritch, with cables hooked securely into the sides. She was female, judging by her voice as she spoke.

“Team one, lift the Eldritch. Team two will begin to roll the tarp underneath.”

Containment Team one nodded compliantly and began to make their way into position, and went to reach for the Eldritch. As their hands went to grasp into the flesh, they found themselves engulfed up to the wrists before many of them forcefully yanked themselves out. The remaining two that were brave enough to hold steady concentrated for a second, before removing their own hands.

“We’re unable to… grab the Eldritch, ma’am.” He turned to her, then back to the Eldritch. “We just sink into it.”

One of the men nearby was trying once more, and failed to hold the Eldritch without his hands sinking into it. The Eldritch’s flesh made a low rumbling noise from whenever something was pressed against it; a slow, deep sloshing noise as it undulated after they applied force to it.

Verus, Visionary and Spectre were watching and Verus began to rub the side of his eye with his finger. “This isn’t going good. It’s not even fighting us and we’re losing to it.”

After several attempts, the female Containment team leader started to clap her hands loudly, in order to get everyone’s attention. Everyone stopped, and turned to face her.

“This isn’t going to work. Moving onto the second plan. Prepare to slide the tarp underneath the Eldritch by force.”

The containment teams began to remobilise and approached the Eldritch differently. Whilst two people began to roll the tarp out flat so it would lie beside the Eldritch, it became clear that the tarp had several holes with metal hoops put inside them, for the others to snap the hooks on the end of the metal cables with. One hole in each corner, two holes on each side. They only hooked the holes closest to it, and the ones on the two inner cables hooked the other end into the same hole.

They unfolded these loops of cables and began to move to the front and back of the Eldritch, and began to feed the circle of cable underneath, tugging and pulling so that it eventually encircled it. As they tugged and pushed, the flexible nature of the Eldritch allowed them to sink it underneath, and once it was in position, they called over. Two other members of the containment team unhooked it, then took the hook and lobbed it over, landing on the field in a straight line underneath the Eldritch. As the corner cables were hooked and more simply ran underneath with less resistance, everyone reconvened.

“You can’t just call it the ‘Eldritch’ any more.” Verus said, putting a hand on his hip. “It’s called Pudding. You need to be respectful that it has a name.”

Spectre let out a snerk under her breath and even Visionary was smiling, though she nudged Verus in the side and said his name, and he shook his head.

“Okay, okay. Just saying, y’know.”

It was hard to tell if the containment team leader found it amusing, with her helmet obscuring her face from view, but the tone of her voice sounded slightly more animate when she spoke.

“Everyone, around. Six on each cable.”

The leader joined the other members of the containment teams as they moved around and begun to take a cable each, divided with six people on three cables and five on another, until she joined with them. The agents walked around as well, watching with curious intent, staying out of their way for the time being. She made certain that everyone had a firm grip before counting down to three, and on three they all began to heave.

As their combined strength pulled on the cables, it immediately looked as if they weren’t achieving anything. A few seconds passed and the cable began to pull from underneath the Eldritch; a gruellingly slow struggle that tensed and trembled the cable under their struggle. A total of five seconds of this passed before Verus spoke, cutting through the tension in the air.

“Do you guys just want me to do this?” They turned their attention to him, and slackened on their pulling for the time being. “I’m just standing here anyway. Might as well be useful.”

The leader looked to Visionary, then gave a sharp nod. The rest of the containment squad understood and released the cables to the ground, stepping back. Verus rolled his shoulders as he walked from the first cable, picking it up and holding it underneath his arm, to the second, where he held it with the first. He put the other two cables underneath his other arm and walked backwards until they were fully tensed, and continued to walk. What was a struggle for them to cope with the weight of the Eldritch didn’t seem to phase Verus, who simply walked without resistance nor struggle, until the tarp was fully underneath the Eldritch.

Verus let go of the cables and turned to the containment squads, giving them a sharp nod. “I’ll pull it over to the truck as well. Can you hook it up for me?”

The leader nodded. “Containment Teams, prepare the Eldritch for Verus to move it.”

Visionary watched with a smile on her face, with Spectre standing next to her. By now, the younger agent was busying herself by looking elsewhere, enjoying the sights of the park on a sunny, yet cold morning. Whatever Visionary was thinking was interrupted by a rumble coming from Visionary’s belt. A second to register what it was, and she took her phone off her belt to spy the name or number of the individual calling her.

A call from Grandmaster made her raise an eyebrow and she took a step away from the Eldritch, as the containment teams finished hooking the cables for Verus to begin dragging it back, and turned her back. A low shudder became the background noise for the phone call, as Verus began to escort the Eldritch to the lorry.


Visionary, Grandmaster here. I’d normally have a chit-chat, but I need you back in HQ once you’re done with the Pudding, ASAP.”

Visionary’s face contorted with concern, taking another step away and lowering her voice. “Is it urgent?”

Urgent in a sense that once you get back, you need to see this. How soon can you head off?”

She glanced over her shoulder. Verus has manoeuvred the Eldritch around, and was beginning to slide it up the ramp of the van.

“A few minutes. Pudding is secure. I’ll meet you in your office?”

Yeah. My office, right.”

The phone died with a click, an uncharacteristic cut-off from grandmaster that had her concerned.

She turned her attention to Spectre, who was at a side angle. Once Visionary made it clear she was paying attention to her, she turned to face her properly.

“We’re needed back at headquarters. Our work here is done.”

Spectre nodded. “I’ll grab Superboy.”

Visionary began to walk back to the black BMW as Spectre went over to the truck, and Visionary glanced once at her phone before clipping it back to her belt. One set of worries faded, another had arisen, and all of it was still hidden behind her mask. She could only begin to imagine as Verus and Spectre finally joined her in the vehicle, occupying the back seats. She turned to the driver with a curt nod.

“To Headquarters, please.”

Discoveries: 3-6

“Sure.” Shaun said. “Sounds great.”

Artifex nodded to himself. Visionary was smiling, as was Sage. Messenger hadn’t responded, but The Designer’s face lit up. She clapped her hands together, very rapidly without much force behind any of them.

“I knew it!” Her grin widens. “I thought these designs would catch your attention. Truly, my greatest work yet. Shaun, why don’t you elaborate on what you like about them for the rest of the meeting?”

Shaun glanced around the room. “Okay, put me on the spotlight, why don’t you. The name’s good. Just like you said, it’s not too out there, but it sounds cool. The costume doesn’t make me look stupid either. You said it better than I did.”

Sated with that answer, The Designer nodded. “Great! Just fab. I knew it would be a winning combination. Artifex, would you go over the final bits? The more nitty gritty details.”

Artifex nodded, then cleared his throat. “Right. Just final details needed. The suit, it’s unique. I was told to design a material that was tougher than anything else. You see, when I design armour, I think about three big things. Flexibility, durability, weight.” Artifex raised a finger for each word he said in that small list. “If you improve one, the other two are sacrificed. You make it more flexible, you have to lower the weight and make it weaker. That’s not problem, you design armour to individual. With this boy, I can make really heavy, moderately flexible armour. It’ll just be really heavy, but for him, not much of problem. Needs to be tough enough to take what he gets hit with. That I don’t know, so I made it as tough as I could.”

“I was working with an experimental material. Much like others, but was too heavy for conventional modern body armour. It showed amazing properties, normally very tough and still has the non-newtonian properties of other armours, but it wouldn’t work. Not for anybody else. All it took was the basic design, which The Designer gave me, few days ago. Should have it all ready in a day or two.”

Sage turned to Artifex, the first time she’d spoke in the meeting. “That’s very quick of you, Artifex. You do work fast.”

“Like I said, was already working on it. Had the material, computer scans of boy when he visited my lab provided basic measurements. The Designer confirmed them, gave the initial prints for work. My 3D Printers have been working on it for the past three days, non-stop. One, maybe two more and it’ll be ready.”

“Excellent.” Sage responded. “We’re happy to have such excellent service contracted to our organisation.”

“Eh, you pay well and on-time, have had much worse partners.” Artifex shrugged, leaning back in his chair “More than happy to for the NFU. This one, it was interesting at least. Something different than normal. Usually it’s just a different type of weapon, different gun modifications. This one was much bigger, it kept my attention more.”

“I believe we’re concluded then.” Messenger spoke, bringing his hands together. “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. The Designer, Artifex. You’re free to go.”

The Designer nodded, then clapped her hands together. “Artifex, darling. Would you help me move these easels for me?”

Artifex grunts slightly, and stands up. He grabs his jacket off the back of his chair and puts it on hastily. “It’s not like you can’t do it yourself.” Despite this, he goes over and lifts one of the easels up, taking one in each hand. Sage watches him with a curiosity, though she looks more through him than at him. The Designer takes the last one in her hands, and bows her head to the Directors as she starts to shuffle out of the room.

“Always a pleasure. Do let me know if you’ve got more work for me, new agents who need names and outfits.”

Sage nods and smiles. “We shall. Your work for the NFU is greatly appreciated.”

With a grin, The Designer and Artifex make their leave out of the room, heading for the elevator.

Messenger stands up and tugs on the lapels of his suit jacket. “It’s been a pleasure to meet you, Shaun.”

Sage turns to Messenger and stands up as well, nodding her head. “Before we’re concluded, Messenger. Might I have a word? It doesn’t need to be private. I figured as we’re here, face to face, I might as well enquire.”

In response, he nods. “Of course.”

“I requested a week off on holiday after the next week. Would you authorise that for me?”

Messenger studies her face for a second. “I see no issues with this. I’ll make sure you’re entirely off-call for that week. Nobody should contact you. Continue investigating in peace”

Sage nods slowly. “That’s all I wanted to know. Thank you. I’ll report what I find back to you on the following morning.”

Messenger nodded, and they both walked out of the door. Sage stopped just before Shaun and looked at him for a moment, before widening her smile and walking outside.

Shaun turned his gaze from her to Visionary, and leaned back on his chair. “What do you think they were talking about?”

“I wish I knew.” Visionary responded, starting to stand up. “I feel when we’re meant to know, we’ll be informed. Until then, all we can do is speculate.”

“Did you get the feeling she said it then and there so we knew?”

“Possibly. I try to question it less and assume they know what they’re doing.”

Shaun puts his hands on the table and pushes himself up. “You put a lot of trust into her.”

Visionary nods. “Her powers give me a lot of reason to have some blind faith.”

Shaun nods slowly. “I don’t think I could have that much trust in her.”

“You’ll get used to it. It takes time.”

Visionary stood up herself, and she and Shaun walked out of the room with her in the lead.

“I guess we’ll be calling you Verus from now on.”

“Looks like it.” Shaun turned his head to her. “What do you think of it?”

“I like it, personally.” Visionary smiled. “I think it’s fairly unique. It’ll catch attention.”

“Yeah, maybe. Hey, we’re doing training afterwards, right?”

Visionary nods, whilst pushing the button to operate the lift.

“I left my bottle of water in the handover room. Is it okay if I grab it and meet you there?”

“Sure. I’ll meet you in the training room shortly.”

Shaun nodded. When the lift doors parted, they walked down a corridor briefly. They parted ways for the time being with Shaun picking up the pace and almost jogging to make his way back to the room where they had handover. After making his way back, he swiped the bottle and walked outside, screwing open the cap. He lifted it up and drank, swallowing it down until the plastic was empty, and wiped his chin from the stray streak of water that escaped his lips.

He discarded it into the next bin he found, before doubling his pace and making his way over for training.

23 new emails.

4 missed calls.

11 new messages.


From: Anna

Today, 11:36am

Steady trending increase of ‘eldritch powered cars’ on social media. 28.1K tweets on Twitter. Stocks up by 1.83% in MAGI-Tech. – Anna

Delete message?


Artifex lay his phone down on the table. He looked upwards and around the cafeteria of the NFU, glancing at the bustling activity around him. Despite how busy it was, he was sitting on a table by himself. Laptop to the left, phone to the right, and a ciabatta sandwich on the middle of his plate, dead centre next to his can of Coke. He was used to noise above all things, and constantly needed it around him as it gave him a strange sort of focus, but it was the kind of noise where it was more quiet than anything he really knew.

People moved around him, socialised and walked past his table, but nobody was doing so with him. It was a unique kind of busy silence, where he could enjoy a few moments to himself and actually think about what he wanted to do, without the constant stream of questions of interns, probing his latest ideas or being unable to take initiative and requiring him to point everything out to everyone, one at a time.

On the laptop screen was a PDF file, a blueprint design. It appeared square in nature with a large purple gem embedded in the centre, and several wires leading out of the device with no specific end to where they lead to. Along side it were a list of calculations of performance, power generation and longevity. He glanced over them for another moment, before he closed the file on his laptop and tilted the screen down until it fully closed.

He dug up his ciabatta and took a single bite, and the enthusiasm he had for chewing on it slowly died down. He stared at the middle of the bread, a tangled mass of pulled pork and coleslaw, and put down the sandwich whilst swallowing. If one could swallow in an annoyed fashion, Artifex had somehow managed to do so effortlessly.

“To angielskie żarcie jest do dupy. Wolałbym schabowego niż to gówno.”

He dropped the sandwich onto the plate, and it fell lifelessly onto the ceramic. He washed it down with a drink of coke, and gently let the can clank down onto the table. He spied somebody familiar walking past, and lifted his head up. When he caught their attention, he beckoned them over.

“Ah, yes. You, the boy. Come here.”

Shaun walked over with a full bottle of water, his marl blue hoodie unzipped and one hand in the pocket of said hoodie. He looked surprised more than anything, and Artifex snapped his fingers before hastily pointing at them to the chair opposite him.

“Come, sit. Don’t stand about gawking.”

“Okay?” Shaun said, complying and taking a seat. “Why?”

“We didn’t get much chance to speak before. Both times, when you came to the lab, and when we were upstairs. That is business though. No business here, just talking, chit and chat.”

“Why though?” Shaun reiterated. “Did you want to talk about something specifically, or what?”

“Nothing. In particular, anyway.” Artifex leaned back on his chair. “The way it is seen to me, you. You don’t care.”

Shaun blinked. “I care about a whole lot of things.”

“No, no. Not in general sense. You don’t care. Not for impressing others, not for kissing ass to get on better terms with boss or whatever the fuck people do to step on others to climb up business. None of that. You give proper opinion on things, honest answers. None of the normal bullshit you get.”

Shaun stopped, a pause lingered for a second. “Thanks, I guess?”

“Not problem. It’s nice when you get to speak to somebody that will tell you how it is. You ever get that feeling? Everyone trying to have own agendas, do their own thing and try to hide it. Full of shit, that’s what I think.”

“I know that feeling.”

Artifex nodded. “Good. We’ll get along fine. I’ll be honest with you then. I know a bit about you. Enough of what the files tell me.”

“Files?” Shaun asked.

“Yes. NFU, they gave me some files. They always do it when designing unique things, give me as much information as possible. Pretty sure you didn’t know that they have extensive files on you, your life, all that sort of background stuff you take for granted.”

“Not telling me everything is sort of the norm when it comes to this place.”

“Exactly. Can’t stand it.” Artifex grabbed his can of coke and took a sip. “I’m very… honest, is the best word in English. Many times I’ve had to ask one of my assistants what they think about something, and they just nod and say it’s great. So I have to ask somebody to tell me the fuckin’ truth and they tell me it’s shit, so I have to ask the first assistant ‘Why the fuck did you tell me it was great when it’s shit?’.”

“We both know they’re trying to save face, stay on good side of the big boss man. That’s bad for business. Sometimes, you need to call people out on their shit. If everyone’s too busy kissing your ass, you’ll never improve or get better.”

“I know exactly what you mean.” Shaun said, nodding. “I’m not even the boss of anybody and I feel like everyone’s trying their hardest to get me to stay, or not say something to offend me. Treading on egg shells.”

“Exactly the point.” Artifex agreed. “That’s why I think, you and I will get along. Maybe.”

Artifex’s phone vibrated again, sending out a beep. He promptly ignored it, as Shaun gave it a quick look.

“Like, this sandwich-” He grabs the ciabatta and holds it up in the air, giving it a shake before dropping it back onto the plate.. “-this sandwich is shit. You tell me this is the great British food that everyone speaks about? It’s crap. Who the fuck puts this white stuff with pork?”

“Coleslaw?” Shaun asked.

“That shit, Coleslaw. Disgusting. I mean, it would have been a perfectly good sandwich, but they add things onto it. Unnecessary ingredients, like, a normal chicken sandwich, but you put tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, those green things you get on burgers.”


Artifex snaps his fingers. “Yes, those. Put on some spicy sauce, what’s it called…”


“Yes, that’s the one. You pile them on, then how do you taste the chicken? It’s just a mass of fucking vegetables. You might as well go outside and eat some fucking grass. Way too complicated. Maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s my powers, but everyone tries to make things too detailed, too overblown. What’s wrong with just, make it easier? Make it chicken and a bit of sauce. Or in this case, don’t put this coleslaw dogshit on my sandwich.”

“That’s a very nice rant about two pieces of bread and some cafeteria filler in the middle, Artifex.” Shaun said, leaning back. “But you’re getting really passionate about a sandwich.

Artifex snorted a little. Shaun hadn’t seem him smile up until this point. “Maybe you’re right. I have to enjoy something, even if it’s… ranting about a piece of shit sandwich.”

“It’s cafeteria food, you can’t expect it to be the best English food you’ll ever get. Kinda like buying a phone charger off ebay for a few quid and wondering why it blows up in the middle of the night.” Shaun added. He unscrews the cap of his bottle and takes a drink.

“Oh, yeah, then what do you think is good British food then?” Artifex added, reaching for his can of coke.

“You ever tried an oatcake?” Shaun asked, leaning forward.

“What’s an oatcake?”

“It’s like a pancake made out of oatmeal. You make them hot and you put cheese, bacon sausage, even stuff like eggs in them. Some people put jam or bananas in them, but those people are wrong and need to stop making oatcakes.”

“Hm.” Artifex’s phone went off again, and he ignored it again. “Doesn’t sound bad. What else?”

“Black pudding?” Shaun asked.

“What that?”

“It’s blood sausage. Made with pork and offal, I think it’s got oats in it as well.”

“Well that sounds fucking disgusting.” Artifex snorts. “That’s the worst pudding I’ve ever heard of. What’s the deal with people in Manchester and oats? Everything had oats in it.”

“Oats are delicious, that’s why.” Shaun shrugged. “You’re the genius here, you should know that. How long have you been in England, anyway? Shouldn’t you know what food we do?”

“A long enough time. Yes, and no. I’ve tried the fish and chips, the Full Monty English breakfast. I mostly go shopping in Polish shops. The food, it reminds me a little more of home that way.”

“You ever going to go back? Home, I mean.”

“Soon, yes.” Artifex glanced up and down Shaun. “I don’t get many holidays. When I do, I’ll go back. Visit the family, relax for a week or two. I’d like to think I’d do nothing but I’d probably have to keep myself busy. Hard to stop when you start.”

Shaun nods. “I’ve got a question. If you came here to do that presentation and you think the food sucks, why are you still here?”

Artifex raised his head up slightly. “Other reasons as well. I came to do a small demonstration on some upgraded items I’ve made.”

Artifex had a briefcase beside his feet and reaches down, taking it from beneath him and putting it on top of the closed laptop. He wheels the combination into place and opens it with a click, then takes out something and puts it on the table. Shaun takes a look at it for a moment; it’s about the siz and thickness of a smart phone, with a switch on the side. The front appears to be glass, and Artifex lifts it up. It has a large camera on the front, and Artifex turns it a few times in his hand to show it off.

He turns the switch on, and the camera lens opens. A high definition picture flushes onto the screen, showing them the wall to the right of them, as well as a bin where somebody was scraping off food into.

“Looks like a camera.” Shaun added.

“It is.” Artifex added, then held it out in his palm for Shaun. “Point it at me.”

Shaun did with a nod, and held it up to point at Artifex. The image of him wasn’t entirely clear. Inside of him, as if he were a silhouette was a shift of movement. Something permeated with him, that crackled and flecked off in shades of mixed reds and purples. Around him looked like static, as if he had an inch-long outline of shifting pixels.

He raised his eyebrows, looking surprised. Artifex seemed to smile again. “What you’re using is a device that lets people see if you’re Farborn or Fartouched.”

Shaun lowered it down, and offered to hand it back. Artifex took it and turned it off, slipping it into his pocket.

“Lots we don’t know about the Farside, but we know a good few things. We know that Farborn, Fartouched have some energy inside of them. Farside Energy, it is called. Not something to easily recognise, but it gives off certain signals. Sort of like a type of radiation. This device picks up on it, turns it into a visual display on the screen. You can use this to see who has been touched by the Farside. It also can scan Eldritch as well, but not the main point of it.”

“That’s really cool. What do you need it for?” Shaun asked curiously.

“Few things. Hospitals use it, to see if children are Farborn or for health checks. Sometimes, police scans need them. That sort of stuff.”

“Oh, yeah.” Shaun nodded. “I think if you wanna become an MP, you need to be checked to see if you’re Fargraced. People were worried they’d use some mind control to take over people and get voters, give them too much of a position of power.”

“That’s true. How do you know that?”

“My sixth form media class. I’m doing about the effects of the Farside on modern life. One of the things I had to check was the effect on politics, and I found out that they don’t allow Fargraced to be politicians.”

“Hm. Smart little man. Good thing you value your studies. That’s important.” Artifex added.

“Working here cuts into my school time, a lot.” Shaun said.

“Mmm.” Artifex added. He took another sip of coke. “The device. This is an upgraded model. Turns out that the old model had an issue detecting small amounts of Farside energy in people or things. Lots of things saturated with the Farside, could be an Eldritch stayed in one spot for a while, who fucking knows. The newer version will be rolled out soon, one that gives off more accurate readings, doesn’t overload, better picture feedback. Might even add a camera feature if I get time. I’ve come to give the NFU a product demonstration, and to sell it to them. I mean, I already have the first shipment ready. This is more of a stress test more than anything.”

“Makes sense. The NFU are pretty relaxed with using MAGI-Tech stuff. They seem to be the only people who use it a lot.”

“People don’t trust it.” Artifex said, waving the device around like a phone in his hand. “They don’t know how it works or what it really does, so they don’t trust it. I mean fuck, we could have cars powered by Farside energy. Reliable, renewable, efficient. With my designs, it would be safer than anything on the road. People can’t even trust electric cars, let alone anything else. I mean, the only reason I’m even making one is to prove them all wrong and because I’m personally funding it.”

“I could make a phone with a battery life of weeks. These phones-” He puts down the device and holds up his mobile. “-they work for one, two days, then they run out of power. Phone companies think this is acceptable product. That’s why they don’t want to work with me, because they know I’d run them out of business in a year.”

Shaun nodded again. He hadn’t responded much, though Artifex seemed more happy to be able to speak with somebody listening more than anything else.

Artifex took his phone and unlocked it, looking at the time. He nodded to himself and shoved the phone in the opposite pocket that held the device he brought with him, then took a stand. He begun to pack his effects away into his briefcase.

“Another meeting at twelve. Good chat. Look forward to seeing you around.”

Shaun nodded again. “Yeah, nice chat.”

Artifex grabbed his loaded briefcase off the table and turned, walking out of the dining hall. Shaun was left with the remains of his leftover ciabatta and an empty can of coke, and he stared at the space in front of him for a good few seconds.

“Well, that was something.”

Shaun scrunched up his nose with a sniff, then took another swig of water. He stood up from his chair and looked around, then scratched the back of his head. “I should probably head up, we’ve got to look at previous cases of Eldritch or whatever.”

He flipped the bottle in his hand, catching it as the remaining liquid sloshed about in the container. Shaun glanced at the sandwich on the table and shrugged before making his leave, heading upstairs to the lecture room.

Shaun and Katrina sat next to each other, staring ahead at the vacant table. They were the early ones for once, both being ten minutes early and managing to settle down fairly quickly. Katrina’s helmet was on the table, whilst Shaun didn’t have much in the way of any protective armour just yet. That he’d have to wait for, though he was already aware that he’d have to wear it a good majority of the time, as long as he worked here.

As the idea struck him, he decided to turn to Katrina and ask her. “Hey. Do you always have to wear your armour?”

She inclined her head to him, and shook it briefly. “Nah. Most people do. Might get called out and they don’t wanna have to gear up and waste time.”

“Makes sense. Just thought it was a bit weird that everyone always wore it.”

“We’re always on duty. We’re not called out a lot ‘cos we’re still all training, fresh blood, y’know?”

“I hear you.” Shaun said, nodding firmly.

Visionary opened up the door and bowed her head as she saw Shaun and Katrina. Shaun offered her a nod in return, Katrina waved. She was wearing her armour as well, and Shaun knew that soon, he wouldn’t be the odd one out in normal clothes. Of all things, he wasn’t sure if he felt relieved by the thought of that. She had a laptop bag with her, and she put it on the table to unzip it, and retrieve it to set it up.

“I’m glad we’re all here early. I hope you’ve all had a good lunch and eaten well.” Visionary said, her smile obvious behind her mask. “This won’t be too difficult. We’ll go over the basics of previous encounters we’ve had with similar Eldritch. All Eldritch are unique in their own way, so it’s guidelines and principles that you need to take in from this.”

They both nodded. Shaun sat upright, looking a little more focused than before.

A knock came through the door. The masked face stared inside with glowing, pale blue eyes.

Before even being given permission to enter, Grandmaster already pushed the door aside, the distorted echo in his voice sounding clearly through the room. Under his arm, a file was tucked away in his grasp.

“Afternoon. Hope I’m not disturbing anything.”

“We hadn’t even started yet.” Katrina said, rolling her eyes with a bit of a smirk.

“That’s swell. Visionary, I need to borrow you. Two minutes, tops.”

Visionary paused for a second. Her eyes flicked twice in opposite directions, darting out before being pulled back to her gaze on Grandmaster. “Of course.” She turns to Shaun and Katrina, taking a stand and bowing her head again. “I’ll be a few moments.”

Grandmaster lead Visionary outside, out of the line of sight of Shaun and Katrina, who were both equally confused. Visionary looked over him with concern. “What is it?”

“Nothing too pressing. Well, it kinda is. I’ve cracked it.”

“Cracked ‘it’?” She asks questioningly.

“I got that Technomad piece of garbage to tell me who got him. Ryan Macey coughed up who he was working for.”

Visionary nodded. “How did you manage to get him to talk? He’s very stubborn.”

“I’m persuasive. Nothing I’d like to go into detail here and now, mind you. But I’ve got a good lead, and my helmet told me he wasn’t lying or coercing me.” He tapped his visor.

Grandmaster showed Visionary the file and handed it to her. On the front, it was labelled with a name. Michael Burnham. She flicked open the file, her eyes darting downwards before pulling back up to Grandmaster. His picture was a man in his fourties, unassuming and very plain, other than a receding hairline and a thick nose.

“Michael Burnham?”

“Yup.” Grandmaster said with a nod. “The very one. The black market guy. Police normally deal with the scum bag but if he’s involved in this, he’s become our jurisdiction. I did a bit of research as well. He’s normally big on arms deals, even prostitution. Apparently, word gets out that he’s starting to focus a little bit more on MAGI-Tech a few months ago. He dropped everything to focus on it, broke off contacts and fobbed off a lot of big players. Really big change of plans if you ask me.”

Visionary nodded. “That’s great news then. What’s your next step?”

“I’m going to find him tomorrow and drag him in for questioning.”

Visionary paused, so that the silence was audible. “You’re going to find a well known black arms dealer and detain him by yourself, tomorrow. Forgive me for sounding like I’m having trouble believing you. I know you like to work quickly, but this is quite something else.”

“Okay, okay. Let me just explain.” He holds his hands up. “I managed to get the information out of Macey. I coerced Macey and got him to call up Burnham and told him that he wanted to meet up with him at the last spot they met. Some pub in Stockport, the Red Bull pub. Midnight, tomorrow. He agreed to it, for whatever reason. And, I’m not going by myself.”

Grandmaster pointed to the door.

“I want Shaun to come with me.”

“You want-” She turned her head, looking at the door. “-Shaun, why? He’s new, he hasn’t gone through any Out of Uniform training.”

Grandmaster nodded. “That’s exactly why I want him. He’s an unknown. Nobody knows who he is, and I can’t have somebody with noticeable powers. It’ll look too much like a sting if we have anybody with external powers with me. He’ll definitely be able to take care of himself. Perfect fit. But as his team leader, I need your permission to bring him with me.”

“This is a bad idea.” She says, handing the file back. “I don’t endorse this. This is almost reckless. Grandmaster, I’m aware that you’re driven but this feels like you’re acting instead of thinking it through.”

“This isn’t something I need to think about. Burnham doesn’t know we have Macey in for questioning. If he finds out, he’ll get the hell outta dodge and we might have a bigger problem on our hands.”

“Over a few specific thefts in a few warehouses in Manchester? It’s far-fetched.” Visionary folded her arms. “And you’re chasing at best, a gut feeling on the matter.”

“Nobody steals MAGI-Tech like that, prototype stuff and specific things if there wasn’t something going on. Nobody hires Doppler to do it if they weren’t planning something and needed a guaranteed hit. Something just doesn’t add up here, and you know it. Especially if we’re talking about this jackass putting his irons in this fire.”

Visionary paused, then shook her head. “Even so, we need to approach this carefully. This is a potentially dangerous situation.”

“You’re right. Which is why I wanna be standing next to the toughest guy in the room.”

They both shared a stare at each other, locking eye contact. Grandmaster spoke again.

“Either he comes with me, or I go alone. Either way, I’m seeing Burnham tomorrow at midnight, with or without. If Shaun’s not there to help me if shit hits the fan, can you honestly say that you want that on your conscious?”

Visionary frowned a little. “That’s a little dirty, even for you.”

“So, that’s a yes to the guilt trip?”

Visionary shook her head again, her poise covering up the defeat in her voice. “I’ll have to make sure he’s unassigned from patrol and training tomorrow to do so.”

Grandmaster leaned in and patted her vigorously on the shoulder. “Visionary, you’re a star. I owe you one, big time.”

“If this ever comes back to you in a negative way, I expect you to say I’ve had no involvement with this whatsoever.”

“You know I’ve got your back. Go break the news to him, I’ll see about arranging transport.”

Grandmaster reached over, and Visionary handed the file back to him. He gave her a flick-point with his free hand and turned on his heels, walking away with a spring in his step. He whistled down the corridor, oddly distorted by his helmet.

Visionary took a calming breath and turned around, re-entering the classroom.

Shaun and Katrina hailed her as she came in, and she took a seat.

“My apologies about that. Before we begin. Shaun.”

She turned her head to him, and he nodded. “Yo.”

“It’s come to my attention that there’s been a change of plans for tomorrow. We’re going to be scheduling you in for tomorrow evening, a very late shift. You’ll be working with Grandmaster. Is that okay with you?”

Shaun shrugged, then nodded. “Yeah, sure. My armour won’t be here yet, right?”

“I’m sure that won’t be a problem.” She said, with a nod. “I’ll make sure he debriefs you by the end of today on what you’ll be doing tomorrow.”

Visionary propped open the laptop and turned it on, eventually connecting it to the wireless projector overhead. She stood up and dimmed down the lights, taking a seat once the room was darker and the images on the board behind her were much clearer. She made sure she was sat in a way that her head wasn’t blocking any of the view before she opened up a slide show, and finally begun the presentation without interruption.

Discoveries: 3-5

“It’s time you should go to bed, Shaun.”

Shaun turned his head from the television, looking at his mum. Anne was standing in the doorway, still wearing the tabard she wore when she was looking after his grandmother. Shaun had been watching movies since he sat down this morning, only taking breaks to walk Button. The dog herself had retired to bed long before, a few hours ago when Shaun had temporarily changed to music channels to flick through. It passed an hour or two of time. Shaun had intended to do nothing this day, and he certainly managed to keep that mental promise to himself.

He looked to the television again and pressed the button to bring up information on the show he was watching. The credits for Antman were beginning to roll up the screen, showing the time to be 11:23pm. Shaun turned back to Anne and shrugged slightly, bringing one of his legs up and tucking his foot beneath the other leg’s knee.

“I was gonna stay up tonight. That okay?”

Anne frowned at Shaun, a facial expression he’d picked up from her over time from questions like these. “You didn’t get any sleep last night.”

“I know. I’ll be fine.”

“You’re going to end up hurting yourself.”

Shaun raised an eyebrow. “Kinda doubt that.”

Anne gave up on her current train of thought and tilted her head, folding her arms. Her tone sounded defeated. “If there’s one person in God’s green earth that can hurt you, it’ll be yourself.”

“I guess I’m my own worst enemy.” Shaun cracked a smile.

“You’re a bloody cheeky sod, that’s what! Alright, fine. Just don’t make too noise. Craig has work in the morning.”

“I’ll keep the noise down. Thanks, mum.”

“If it were him, he’d tell you no.”

“That’s why I asked you.” Shaun said in admittance.

Anne walked over and gave Shaun a kiss on the forehead, and he made a demonstration of wiping it off with a bit of a groan. “Night, love.”

“Night, mum.”

Anne retreated away with a weary sigh, taking flight up the stairs.

Shaun changed the channel again, and began to flick up to see what other films were on to pass the time. After flicking through a few channels, He settled on watching Kingsmen: The Secret Service, and shuffled back on the couch to get comfortable.

Once the film had ran through and those credits were rolling, Shaun eventually removed himself from the sofa. He stood and stretched upwards, then shook each leg out to the side. He glanced at his phone, having a quick look at the time. It read 01:34am, and the battery was approaching its final lifelines. He took a small stroll to the opposite end of the room, by a small table near a power socket where a spare phone charger was left. He plugged it into his phone and left it on the table, then did another small stretch with his arms outwards.

“I should practice. I actually kinda feel like I want to.” He whispered to himself. “Giles did have a point. I need to make up for lost time.”

With this in mind, Shaun put on some trainers and walked to the kitchen, swiping the keys off the side near the back door to let himself out. He stood and took a look outside as the night air lapped against his face, brushing through the trees and plants with gentle rustles of movement. The light on the back of his house flickered on, illuminating the area and the sandstone tiles he took a step onto. The grass beyond that reached out a good twenty to thirty feet in length, until it reached a wooden fence that separated it from the gardens of houses around it. An old garden shed lingered in the far right corner, from where Shaun was standing. The windows showed signs of mould and cobwebs, and the bark was beginning to peel away.

Shaun stepped onto the edge of the grass and looked around. He observed the space he had to work with, then reached up to scratch at his chin. The small amount of facial hair he had made the noise sound much more coarse than on bare skin.

“Hm. Can’t exactly try running here.”

He looked upwards, then stepped onto the grass. He turned to the left, then to the right. Eventually, he turned to his house, and sized it up slowly. An idea sprung to mind, as he spied the edge of the guttering around the roof.

“Could practice my jumping. What about… the house? Can I?”

Shaun stopped to think about it.

“Well, yeah. I should be able to.”

Shaun stood back on the harder sandstone floor for better support, and kept his eyes on the upper reaches of the roof. He pointed up, still talking to himself.

“I just… jump. That’s all I need to do. Let’s try a smaller jump first.”

He rolled his shoulders, and stretched out his legs again to make sure everything was working properly. He started with a smaller vertical jump, bouncing on the spot at a regular height. He landed, and the next jump he performed had him reaching twice as high as before. He landed with his knees bent, staying crouched for a second before standing up. He mused, considering the difference in force needed to push him into the air, and looked at the house to estimate the distance.

Taking another step back, he aimed for the roof and shunted himself up in the air. Shaun launched himself up and towards the roof but only got so far as a foot below the guttering. He hung in the air for a second, letting his foot push into the wall and staying still, before gravity claimed him again. Pushing himself away made sure he curved away from the wall, and he landed onto the paving with a dull thud.

He was staggered, but his balance was okay. He looked at the ground; to his luck, the ground didn’t seem cracked in the slightest, undamaged by his landing. With a sigh of relief, he set his sights up again, and now had a good idea how much force he needed to apply.

With this in mind, he bent his knees, and jumped over the roof of his house.

It wasn’t a feeling he could have described before. An unusual mix of freedom in those seconds he was in the air, and a total lack of control as he felt himself being pulled by the trajectory he made. He arced over the house and landed at the front, slamming into the concrete a few feet away from the family car. He didn’t hold his balance well, so he force himself to tumble forward on the ground. After his roll, he got himself to his feet and tugged on his shirt, letting a few small stones cascade from his shoulders, and some dirt to clog the air around him.

He would have turned around sooner, but his gaze was locked on the torn remains of a stump where the lamp post used to stand near his house. Once he registered what he was seeing, he turned around and stared at the house, face full of surprise and mild wonder.

“Huh. Wow.”

A smile grew on his face, and he eyed up the house again. With less time to work himself up, he sprung himself over the house once more, travelling back the way he came in a single leap. The second landing had a little more grace to it, but he landed onto the grass part of the garden and left two large footprints embedded into the soil.

He yanked his feet out of the ground, almost losing his shoes in the process, and walked onto the sandstone. Shaun was kicking the ground beneath him to dislodge any soil on his trainers, and winced as he saw the holes in the ground.

“Aw, shit.”

He thought about what he was doing for a second, then turned back to the house.

“It’s not gonna be easy to jump over here, and jumping over to come through the front door is kinda awkward.”

Shaun looked down at his shoes. Even in this light, he could see the dark tinge of dirt still coating them.

“Should be fine for now. I did something new, anyway.”

Shaun laughed under his breath. He made his way to the door and went inside, and made sure the door was locked. He made sure everything was turned off, his shoes were taken off downstairs and his phone off the table off the table, before he finally decided to give in and get himself some sleep. The last light to go was his bedroom light, and with that gone, the Lawson household went still once more.

As normal, Shaun’s mother had already gone to work by the time Shaun was up. During these dark winter mornings, the sun wouldn’t be in the sky until Shaun was at work and beginning to settle. His morning shower felt just as refreshing as the one he took yesterday, though he had much less time to indulge himself and enjoy it. He even had enough time to warm up some Pop-Tarts in the toaster and make a brew before sitting down, and having a quick check of what’s on T.V.

Shaun sat down, slipping the remaining half of a frosted strawberry pastry between his teeth. One hand held his mug of tea, the other the remote. He changed it from the movie channel he was just on prior to last night to the morning news, and put the remote on the arm of the couch.

Shaun took a bite out of his Pop-Tart and hummed to himself as he munched it down, speaking after swallowing.

“When did I start watching the news so much?”

Shaun stared at his tea for a second.

“When did I start talking to myself so much?”

With a shrug, he crammed more pastry into his mouth, and watched the news. Broadcasting on BBC1 was a gentleman in a suit, with neatly parted black hair and a London accent. He was in the main room, sitting at a desk by himself.”

The APBIF, the American Paranormal Bureau for the Investigation of the Farside, are continuing to engage in an investigation into the nature of disappearing Eldritch from all over the south of the United States of America. Nobody is quite sure why they’re vanishing all of a sudden or what the cause is, but it’s enough that people are beginning to notice the absence. There isn’t a state of emergency at the present time, and the Bureau has yet to issue a statement regarding their findings or their position on the matter.”

From what we can gather, spots where many Eldritch are held, such as the New York Eldritch Zoo remain unaffected. No Eldritch have gone missing yet, but some of the larger ranches in Texas have been cleared out, with not even the smaller Eldritch spared. Who or what is taking them is currently a mystery, but what we do know is that it’s only affecting the southern states. No animals or people have been reported missing en masse. There is however, nothing concrete just yet.”

This has been Scott Young, reporting on foreign affairs-”

After consuming his remaining Pop-Tart and drinking his tea, Shaun turned off the television. His curiosity had been piqued for the moment but he felt the pull of interest beginning to wane.

His phone began to vibrate, and he tugged it out of his pocket to check. He’d received a text, from Visionary.

Shaun, change of plans today. Handover w/Spectre in morning, then big meeting with The Designer after. Very important, Directors will be present. No patrols today. – V

“Huh.” Shaun had a tone of curiosity. He slid his phone back into his pocket, then took a stand “Great, I bet my costume’s gonna look terrible, and my name’ll be even worse.”

He went to the kitchen and ran his mug under some water to give it a rinse, and put it on the side to drain away. On days like these when nobody was going to be in the house for most of the day, their elderly neighbours, the Colemans, would make sure she was looked after. As Shaun’s grandmother required more care over time, they found they were in need of their services more often, steadily growing until they were sure Button recognised it as a second home. Both retired, Marc and Cath enjoyed the extra company, and the walk helped them to keep active and fit. It worked for everyone involved, even if Craig and Anne felt it was a burden for them.

When Shaun looked down and saw Button was sleeping, he assumed that she would have to go next door when Craig got ready for work, and didn’t worry more about it from that point onwards.

Shaun wandered to the living room and took a peek out of the front window. The sun had started to climb the sky, and he saw the headlights of a black car waiting outside, parked up and ready. He grabbed his hoodie and jacket and donned them, making sure the hoodie was zipped, and tapped the front pockets. From the feel of things, his earbuds were still there, and with all criteria satisfied he dredged his key from his wallet and took it to the front door.

Unlock, step outside, lock up. Shaun put his key away, and quickly shuffled over to the car. He took one last look at home before he opened the door and slid inside, and buckled up for the journey.

“They just slip through, just like that?”

Katrina walked side by side, looking at Visionary. Both were wearing their respective suits of armour, though Katrina held her helmet underneath her arm as they walked down the corridor. Visionary’s face was covered with her mask, and she turned her head as she spoke to maintain eye contact.

“As far as we know. Eldritch just appear. All evidence points that they come from the Farside and emerge into our world, or universe, or whatever the distinction might be. Nobody has known an Eldritch to return back, but with what’s happening in America, it might even be the case.”

“Scary thought.” Katrina replied. “Less work for us to do. I’m not complaining if it lets us focus on the real scumbags.”

“It’s something to take note of. Until we hear news from overseas, we’ll have to remain focused on the Eldritch we have here. We’ve got initial reports that a large, docile Eldritch has been seen on the border of Cheshire, Bayard or Hecatonchire-class. We’re organising an effort to contain it and bring it in safely in the coming week. If it’s docile, I’ve asked that my team be the Recon Squad in lead of the operation.”

“I’m all over trial by fire. Throw me into the deep end, see how well I swim.”

“Try to walk before you run, we have ample time to train you. We’ll also need to go over the proper radio terminology for you.”

They approached the door for the small room where they had morning handover, and Visionary pushed the door open. Already present, Shaun sat there with steepled fingers, watching them as they arrived.

“Visionary, Spectre. Glad you could make it. I bet you’re wondering why I’ve gathered you here today for this meeting.”

They were both surprised, and Katrina smirked at Shaun’s attempt to sound authoritative. He took the half full bottle of water that was next to him and screwed off the lid, taking a swig.

“You’re in early, Shaun.”

“You made it sound like it was a big day today. I thought I’d get in early and be ready.”

Visionary nodded and moved into the room, unblocking the doorway for Katrina to come in as well. They both took a seat, and Katrina rested her elbow on the back of her chair, bringing her foot underneath the opposite thigh.

“Very well. I’ll get started with the handover then.”

“No laptop today?” Shaun asked, glancing over Visionary’s personal effects effects. She lifted up a folded piece of paper she withdrew from her belt and began to unfold it.

“As much as they encourage us to make a paperless office, one sheet isn’t going to cause any harm.” She said with a smile. “As per standard handover, we’ll go over any events of importance. Katrina, Shaun and I will be attending a meeting today with The Designer. It was due to be on Monday but she had an apparent ‘breakthrough’ and urgently called it in, so we acquiesced, and the Directors agreed to it. We’re not sure how long it’ll take, so I’ve asked Grandmaster to give you some basic training on radio signals and code words, as well as basic comms operations. If that’s not any trouble for you.”

She shrugged in response. “Sure.”

“Great.” Visionary nodded. “We’ll be going as soon as handover is complete. I had other plans for us today for some initial preparation but we’ll have to postpone them for later. Other points of note, we’ve heard over social media this morning that there’s a large Eldritch on the border of Cheshire and Greater Manchester. We’ve had no reports that it’s hostile and size reports are inaccurate at best without pictures. We believe it to be docile, so Bayard-Class to Hecatonchire-Class in size. Oncw we’ve gathered some more information, we’ll fill you in.”

Both Shaun and Katrina nodded in unison.

“Today’s planner will be as follows. After handover, Shaun and myself will meet with The Designer and the Directors to discuss his identity and aesthetic as an agent of the NFU. Katrina will learn about comms with Grandmaster meanwhile. We’ll see how long this meeting takes and break afterwards, then do some physical training up until eleven. An hour’s lunch, then we’ll go over previous reports and recordings of Eldritch containments from twelve until one, as well as learn the basics of Eldritch protocol for another hour, until two.”

“As we’ve had to be taken off patrol for various reasons, we’ll consider it an early finish today.”

“Sound.” Katrina contributed.

“That concludes the handover. Katrina, if you’d go up to Grandmaster’s office, Shaun and myself will attend this meeting now.”

Katrina pushed her chair back and stood up.

“Ta-ra a bit.”

She grabbed her helmet and gave Visionary and Shaun a mock salute, before turning on her heels and escorting herself out.

Visionary nodded, then folded up the paper and put it back from whence it came. Shaun stood as well and stretched his arms out a little, whilst Visionary took point and they back to walk out of the room.

Shaun had a vague sense of direction, of where they were heading to. They went down corridors, passing people with generic and brief greetings, nodding heads and smiling several times along the way. As they entered the lift, Visionary pushed the button for the topmost floor, and after the doors closed they began ascended up the building.

Shaun had seen the top floor of the NFU headquarters only a few times, and today they weren’t going to the same room he knew from before. They took a right before they got there though, and they walked into a much larger conference room.

Instantly, Shaun recognised The Designer, who was standing next to two large easels. Each one of them had a sheet of paper, A2 in size. She wore a grey sweater and a long black skirt down to her knees, and over that she wore an oversized pearl necklace. Her hands were behind her front, and a grin was on her face.

Shaun recognised the two others, but the one he hadn’t seen before caught his attention. He looked in his early fourties. His hair was trim, neat, waxed and parted to one side, and he looked freshly shaved despite showing the signs of stubble already. The suit he wore looked expensive, and he had noticeably high cheek bones and a stern gaze. Beside him was Sage, who turned her head and smiled at their entry. She wore the same robes as usual, the same kind smile.

Opposite them sat Artifex. He wore a suit as well, with the jacket on the back of his chair and his sleeves rolled up just before his elbows. He looked at Shaun and Visionary for a second, and seemed to not really care either way before turning to The Designer again.

“Shaun, this is Head Director Messenger.” Visionary said, making room. Messenger stood up, and Shaun took a step forward and bowed his head. They both extended hands and shook them, and Messenger had quite a firm grip and shook twice, nodding his head as well.

“Shaun, a pleasure to finally meet you.” His accent was hard to pin down, though he was well spoken and articulate. He broke his hand away and resumed seating. Besides Sage and Artifex were a spare chair each, and Visionary was the first to sit next to Sage. Shaun took his seat next to Artifex, and The Designer brought her hands together to clap them together once everyone was present.

“Fantastic! Everyone’s here, we can begin. Thank you all for joining me today. Now I know what you’re thinking.” She folds her arms. ‘The Designer, you said you’d be ready on Monday!’ The truth is, you can’t predict things like this. Inspiration just hits you out of the blue, and suddenly everything’s already laid out in front of you. I was as surprised as any of you were. Needless to say, I fast tracked the process to get it all done. The sooner everyone sees what I’ve created, the sooner we can get Shaun’s new identity out in the open.”

“It was a tough process. I had to take everything that Shaun gave as feedback, as well as keeping my own signature flare and the ever-growing aesthetic of the National Farside Unit’s agents. Firstly, I’d like to personally thank Artifex, for lending his resources and helping to make the body armour that your agents wear. With my designs, of course.”

“Yes yes, of course. Let’s get to the point where you reveal it. I’ve been sitting here for half an hour already.” Artifex rubbed his upper lip. “I’m only here for a single announcement and because I was asked to come.”

The Designer frowns, and holds her hands together. “Oh, Artifex. Can’t you just turn the grumpiness down for two minutes?”

“We could be done in two minutes, just show the suit already.”

The Designer shoots Artifex a death glare, before she clears her throat and turns sideways. She touches her finger to the pad of paper in the middle, and colour begins to seep into the image. At first, they begin to form into the shape of the NFU logo, with shadows and shading to give off the illusion that it was floating off the page. The logo then began to move and shrink, moving away into the upper left corner.

The Designer smiles and speaks. “The National Farside Unit is an organisation founded on integrity and a simple mission, to protect the common person from any threat of the Farside that would endanger them. To this end, the agents of the NFU have to look the part. They not only have to look strong and tough enough to take on whatever the Farside can throw at us, but also to protect them. Most importantly, they need to look trustworthy. The normal man needs to look upon the agents of the NFU and say ‘Wow, this person has my back. With Shaun, we’re going to make sure that’s more clear now than ever.”

The scene on the paper changes. The area begins to darken, but a figure begins to glow out of the pitch black depths starting to permeate the page. Features become clearer, a monochrome figure that begins to seep with skin tones, a hairstyle matching Shaun’s own. Midnight blue clothes begin to form over him, starting with a defined set of boots that cut off just before the knee, and bracers that travelled halfway up his forearm. These bracers split into three segments each, and then began to form downwards like triangles, with the lowest one forming the tip near shaun’s wrist, and the topmost one became a scale on the outside of the arm that pointed in the opposite direction. These arm-guards and boots started to change colours, growing lighter until they reaches a Glaucous blue.

The figure’s upper half soon became wreathed in a jacket, with the fastenings on the right side, much the same design as Tether’s own. The fastenings on the side slid up and to the left, just at the sternum level, where they formed into prominent lapels that curved around the neck into a collar. From the top of the shoulders, down to the point where the ribs and the stomach met, formed a triangular shape of raised fabric. Forming over that tip in the centre of his chest, a three pronged shield formed over it that matched the same colour as the arm-guards and the boots. The way the upper layer formed gave off the illusion that it formed into a cape, though nothing of the sort existed on this design.

Two stripes formed down the side, separating where abdominals would be from the rest of the torso. That section remained the same, but around on the lower level became embossed with a brick-like pattern. The armour underneath the jacket started to travel upwards from behind the head, until it formed a hood. Likewise, along the front it travelled up until it covered the lower part of the face. All that was visible were eyebrows and eyes.

The image became a little clearer, until it almost looked as if it was pulled from life itself.

“Artifex and I have had to go through a very different process with this suit. Artifex, now’s the time you’ve been waiting impatiently for.”

Artifex dismissed the comment and spoke as he intended to. “Yes, you see. With most people, you think about things like… what sort of things they’re weak against. We made Tether’s armour to resist punches, kicks, knives, that sort of stuff. He has to get close, so we make him good at being close. This one, the boy’s armour, is different. We don’t have to worry about that. I made a suit of armour that could withstand him.”

Artifex points to Shaun, who looks surprised at suddenly being called out.

The Designer took over. “We made the armour much heavier, and just as flexible, so it’s a lot more durable. Shaun doesn’t care about weight, so it works in our favour. And now, for the important part! The name.”

The design shrunk again, and moved lower down. Five blocks appeared in white, slowly starting to form into the shapes of letters, and rapidly sped up until they formed a glowing, single word.


The silence deafened the room.

“Verus. Latin for truth, what is right and just. Verus was also a gladiator, but we’re looking at the more literal version of the word than the person behind it. It’s not too formal, not too casual. It’s easy to say, and it stands out. It’s not flamboyant and it’s not a word that people will instantly know. It even rolls of the tongue, and sounds gentle enough to people. It fits all the criteria I was given. The design of the armour is everything you wanted. No capes, a jacket, and something that says you’re strong, you’re tough, but you’re here to protect the common person. This is the image the NFU wants, a young man with the public in mind, who’ll stand up to any challenge and who’ll never back down.”

The Designer took her hand off the paper, and the images became still. All people of the room began to nod amongst themselves. Almost all at once, their heads turned to Shaun, who found it dawning on him that they were suddenly waiting for an answer. He sat a little more upright in his chair, and studied the designs for a second.

The Designer smiled widely, and waited in awkward silence. “Well Shaun, what do you think?”

Beginnings: 2-8

Shaun had, for the better part of ten minutes, been trying to fold his clothes properly and put them in his suitcase. He’d tried putting his jeans and trousers in first and putting his shirts on top, then the other way around. He had attempted to put his toiletries in and fit the clothes around them, then put the clothes in and squeeze everything else to fit their mould. Regardless of how many attempts he made, it always looked cluttered, and something wasn’t going to fit. With a dismissive wave, he left it on his bed for the time being. He’d hope that his mum would see his attempts and take pity, and do it for him instead.

He shot a glance to the other beds. He was up earlier than his mum, who was still sleeping peacefully. Craig had already gone to work today, and he was the person stuck in the middle getting up and ready. He’d showered and cleaned himself up, inspected the stubble growing on his chin with a bit of weariness. A bowl of cereal was freshly washed after he consumed nearly a quarter of the box by himself and brushed his teeth afterwards. With a fresh set of clothes, his marl blue hoodie and fleece-lined jacket ready, he was prepared as he’d ever be to go to work. If he could even call it that.

It technically counted. He was paid and he did them a service, even if the payment had yet to come. He hadn’t been there long enough and he didn’t really care enough to ask at this moment.

A quick final check on his phone and he kitted himself up, putting on his makeshift costume. With his hoodie and jacket on, he made his way out, making sure the door was locked before he absconded downstairs.

There wasn’t much haste in him. He put his hands in his hoodie pockets and casually hopped down the stairs, two at a time. They were on the second from the top floor, though Shaun always took the stairs if he had the chance. His parents normally took the lift, which meant he didn’t get much opportunity to get a bit of exercise.

Shaun finally entered the main lobby after a small trek and gave a court nod to the female receptionist at the front desk, who smiled and gave him one back in return. He had to wait a second before the rotating doors would allow him to leave, and when he did he smiled slightly at the feeling of cool morning air on his skin.

Light was starting to filter in from the heavens. The sky was a screen of soft clouds that filtered out the harshness of the sun from scolding the eyes. Shaun looked up, staring right at the sun itself without flinching or blinking, noting all the pastel colours of blues and pinks and streaks of pale gold in the sky that weaved through the clouds.

It was only a minute of waiting, where Shaun never took his eyes from the sun for lack of better things to watch at this hour. The same black car pulled in and drove up close. Shaun had seen the license plate enough times to know it was the same car, though which driver it was behind the tinted windows was yet to be seen.

He pulled the door to and hopped in, bouncing lightly on the leather seat and buckled up. He cast a glance to the driver; this one, a male in his late fourties with neatly parted black hair, barely spoke.

“Morning.” Shaun said. The driver cast him a look, with no particular emotion behind it, and nodded back. That was all he got, and the driver put the car into gear and pulled off away from the hotel without another word.

Shaun’s pocket buzzed at him. He pushed up on his phone in his pocket, through his jeans, and it ejected into plain view for him to take it out and quickly check to see what merited his attention.

Alex had texted him.

Hey Shaun. Hope you’re alright 🙂

Shaun snapped him a quick text back.

hi yeh i’m good, whats up?

He stared at the screen and waited for a reply. Alex didn’t disappoint, sending a text as quickly as Shaun sent his.

Good to hear 🙂 Visionary wants us to go on patrol half an hour earlier tonight. Thought I’d let you know man.

Shaun perked a brow. He replied back inquisitively.

not standard. know why?

Shaun waited until his phone went black to conserve power. A second after, he got another text, and tapped in the passcode to take a look.

No idea. Important? Vis + GM took out Technomads earlier this week. Might be related.

Shaun tapped a much quicker response, and they continues exchanging words.


Gang who steal MAGI-Tech stuff. Most were caught in a raid. GM grilling boss man for information.

sucks to be him i guess

Big time. Don’t think we’re going after them. Few weren’t there.

sounds like jolly again. vis not telling us wats gonna happen. bet we’ll be heading somewhere specific

That’s what I think. Might not be. Who knows. 🙂

k. thanks for info. lemme know if owt changes

Will do. 😀

Shaun lifted his finger to lock his phone again, pausing before he put any pressure down against the button on the top of his phone. He took his headphones out of his pocket and slotted them into his mobile and wired them into his ears. He brought up Chrome on his phone, and began to search with a bit of purpose for a new song, contemplating a change of ringtone. He shot a quick glance to the driver, who was busy doing his job, and figured he had enough time in the journey to utilise the silence between them to listen to a bit of music, and wonder what sounded good right now.

He’d removed his earbuds the moment he stepped inside, so that he could go through the several security checks required to enter the NFU headquarters. He squinted slightly as he spied around the foyer that extended past the reception and notices how active this building was for such an early start in the morning. He had his key card lanyard issued to him as normal, just as his previous entries had been, and begun making his way to the room where they had morning handover.

Shaun glanced at a vending machine as he walked past and spied the contents. He was already digging for the coins in his pocket and paid for a bottle of water, and cracked it open to take a quick drink. He paused before leaving, then decided to grab a can of Monster as well and hauled both of them with him.

The journeys inside were more pleasant, now that he had some idea of where he was meant to go and more people had begun to know him. There was still a little unease from people, either out of not knowing who he was or even knowing who he was and what he was capable of. He recognised those that did know and were sceptical about him, from past experiences of how people treated him before. Shaun thought nothing of it, though he was observant to the reactions of others.

Pushing the door open, he saw Yuhong was sitting opposite from him and Alex was sat at the table. There was a seat next to him for Shaun to sit at, and Yuhong was looking at her laptop with a mug of coffee next to her. It was still steaming, Shaun estimated they hadn’t been waiting long. He gave a nod to Alex and Yuhong, who was armoured for everything but her face. Shaun skipped the traditional greetings and went straight for the issue at hand.

“What happened?” He asked, sitting down. He whisked out the can of energy drink and put it next to Alex, who’se face lit up. The can cracked as he opened it, taking a swig with a hum that was too enthusiastic for such a concoction of energy, sugar and miscellaneous chemicals.

Yuhong’s cheek was blue with dashes of purples, with a sickly green near the edges that was starting to form. “Just a minor injury. Nothing to worry about.”

“Battle damage.” Alex said, laying the can on the table. “See, man. This is what happens when we’re not around. The untouchable becomes touchable.”

In jest, Alex and Shaun shared a smirk. Shaun chipped in. “Never thought I’d see the day. Did you get that when you raided the Technomads?”

“Yes.” She said, finishing typing something on her laptop. Her eyes didn’t leave the screen, even as she spoke. “Word spreads fast.”

Shaun shot a glance to Alex, who seemed to have a coy expression on his face. “You could say that. I only know you did a raid. Nothing else.”

“Good.” She finally looked at the pair and smiled. “We’ll discuss it in today’s handover. I hope both of you have been well?”

Alex nodded. “Yeah. Cool on my end.”

Shaun mirrored the nod. “I’m good.”

“Good as well. We’ll cover a few areas this morning.” Yuhong turned around her laptop so everyone could see, showing a slide show presentation. On the first slide was a list, black text on a white background, and she verbally spoke through it in order. “Firstly, if there is any general information about the NFU, we’d talk about that. I can tell you there isn’t any major news in the last few days, so we can move on from that. Then, we’ll discuss the latest operations that have been undertaken. We also need to have a brief discussion regarding our squad, and something relevant to Shaun. Once that’s done, we’ll move onto what we’re planning to do today.”

Shaun and Alex both nodded. Yuhong pressed the left button on the touchpad, bringing up the next slide. She annotated it verbally once more.

“As you’re both aware, we recently performed an operation on Tuesday to apprehend several members of a small gang known as the ‘Technomads’. The operation was a success, with no casualties or heavily injured personnel. We’re currently detaining all members for the next four days before they’re transferred to the police, and will be awaiting trial for their previous convictions. We’re currently undergoing a long interview with their leader, in the hopes that he may provide some information to us.”

She pressed the button again. A slide came up, this one detailing regarding matters about the team.

“A more important matter for us to discuss in particular, is the team. Despite our last major incident, the NFU are pleased with our progress. They had some initial doubts but they’re growing to warm to us. They’re willing to take a small leap of faith, and they want our team to expend. Because of this, we’re looking at getting a new member for the squad.”

Shaun and Alex shared a glance.

“Whilst we have a good dynamic, an extra person will allow us to undertake more operations with less risk. As it stands, we’re going to be taking on a new recruit. The decision is largely out of our hands but I have been pushing for a specific individual to join our team.”

Alex spoke in the breach where Yuhong had paused. “Katrina?”

Yuhong smiled lightly. “Yes. I had mentioned to the Director’s board that I want her for this team. You seem to have gotten along with her fine when you were being lectured by Grandmaster.”

Shaun decided to speak as well, and sat up slightly. “It wasn’t a coincidence that she was there as well.”

Yuhong shook her head. “No. I knew you’d pick up on it. It wasn’t the most subtle of nudges but we had to see if you’d get along.”

Shaun and Alex both shared another glance, and Alex nodded and spoke. “She’s cool. No problems for me.”

Shaun nodded again. “Yeah. I’m not complaining. Why her, though?”

“Because.” Yuhong said. “We have a capable team. We all provide something for this team, be it strength, utility, experience. As we stand, we’re a very physical, close combat team. Katrina will add some more utility and a little more range, as well as some area control. She can use her vapour to block line of sight, to blind enemies, grant us cover. She can also heat up her vapour, which we’ve seen her do in training to make walls that people can’t cross without burning themselves. I believe she’ll be a valuable asset.”

“Makes sense. Sure.” Shaun said, with a light nod.

“Her costume is finished, and she’s been given a name. Her designate will be Spectre.”

“Spectre.” Shaun sounded incredulous, though Alex looked quite pleased.

“Yeah.” Alex said. “Like, I’ve seen her in training. She makes an area of vapour and you can’t see her through it, but she can see through it clearly. When she’s walking around, she looks like a ghost. It’s really cool, really creepy.”

Shaun shrugged nonchalantly. “Works for me. I’m not in charge of that.”

“That does bring us onto our next point.” Yuhong says. Shaun caught her gaze, and noticed it was weighing down on him. “Shaun.”


“We’ve been in touch with The Designer. She says she’s finished your name, and she’s doing the last touches to your costume design. She said she’ll be ready to present them after the next week, on Monday.”

Any enthusiasm on Shaun’s face had left him, and he stifled a grunt of displeasure.

“Joy.” He said, his tone mirroring that lack of enjoyment.

Yuhong tilted her head slightly. “You’re still concerned about it.”

“A little, yeah.”

“This is what these handovers are for, to discuss these things. If you have an issue, by all means.” She made an open handed gesture to the table.

“I don’t know. It’s like, what if she picks a name that sounds really bad? Like, it could be pretentious, it could make me sound like an idiot. I don’t mind it, really, but I’ve got to live with that. That’s the name the newspapers will call me. It’ll be the name my parents see when they look to see how I’ve done.”

“The Designer’s good, man.” Alex said. “I know you’re not big on the whole name and costume thing. I mean, I was. I didn’t have any trouble because it felt really cool to me. But she works to a high standard. I know what sorta design process she does, so don’t fret it.”

He gave him a reassuring pat on the shoulder. It settled Shaun down a little, and he resigned to nod back. “I hope you’re right on that.”

Yuhong waited for a moment to interject. “Just so you know, Shaun. Those that enrol and pass probation by January will be officially inducted. It’s more like a press release where we inform the general public of our new agents. There’s a small ceremony, and you’ll likely have to do an interview or two afterwards.”

Shaun raised his head up. “Interviews.”

“Yeah. That’s why it’s important for The Designer to make you look good. You’re like, part of the NFU. She’s been paid to make you and the NFU look good.”

Shaun responded with just a shrug, a non-committal gesture that he didn’t elaborate on.

“We’ll discuss your inauguration later.” Yuhong said. “It’s not going to be for a while, so we can talk about it at a later date.”

Alex took a sip of his monster. Shaun had left his bottle of water on the table, not having taken a drink from it since he sat down. Yuhong presses the left button again, and a daily planner comes on the screen.

“Today will be as normal. We’ll be doing some paperwork practice from eight until ten, focusing on doing post incident reports. We’ll break for ten minutes, then from ten past ten to eleven, you’ll be doing some criminal study. Learning about the different Fargraced criminals you’re likely to meet. Following that, we break for lunch for an hour. Twelve to half one, you’ll be doing some training. I believe today will be a focus on group training, and Katrina will be joining us for that.”

Shaun takes his bottle of water and eventually has a sip. It’s warming up, but still refreshing.

“Right at half one, us three will be going on patrol. I’ll fill you in on the details in a minute.”

Alex tilted his head slightly, picking up his can. He shot Shaun a knowing glance before he spoke. “I know you told me before about going on patrol early. Like, isn’t that a bit different? We’re supposed to have two hours of training.”

Yuhong paused for a second, and locked eyes with Alex. There was an uneasy pause before she spoke, as if she was thinking on what to say.

“Normally, yes. Today, I have a specific route I wish to patrol on. It’s all been cleared and authorised. There shouldn’t be any issues, at least not on the management side of things.”

Shaun took another swig of water before he spoke. “Seems a little odd, going half an hour early.”

Yuhong paused again, musing on something for a second. “I don’t believe it’d be right to hide the reason why from you. It was requested that we attend half an hour earlier, from Director Sage.”

Both Shaun and Alex perked up at this. Shaun was the first to respond. “Which means something is going to happen, because Sage doesn’t pull stuff like this normally.”

Alex nodded. “Thought so.”

“What happens if we don’t go?” Shaun asked. “What if we like, didn’t go where Sage said we’ll be going? What’ll happen then?”

Alex frowned a little. “Man, I don’t want to think about that. Way too early to talk about that sort of stuff. It’s not even half seven and you wanna talk about fighting some destiny you think you have. She probably knows we need to be there for a reason, so it’s probably a good thing if we go.”

Shaun holds up both his hands, defensively. “Alright, alright. Good point. We’ll talk about it later.”

Yuhong waits for them to finish. She turns her laptop around to her, and closes down her presentation as she speaks. “I believe there may be a confrontation of some kind. You should know in advance to expect that. What we’ll face, I’m not sure. She didn’t specify, possibly for a reason. Whilst we do our training, I’d like to emphasise quick analysis of a situation, and being prepared for anything.”

“It would have been nice for her to tell us what we’re up against, if she wants us to win.” Shaun commented on. He was swirling the liquid around in his bottle, half drank already, before taking a swig.

“I’m not sure of her intention, but we have to trust they’re in the right place. Director Sage wouldn’t endanger us. She did assure me that we wouldn’t come to any great harm.”

“I’m not worried about that. For me, I mean. There’s no chance of whatever happening hurting me. You guys though? I’m more worried if Sage is going to lead us into a place where you might get hurt.”

Yuhong smiled gently. “I share those concerns as well, Shaun. I’ve spoken with Director Sage on the matter. It’s why she came and told me about it.”

Shaun paused. “…really? Huh.” He brushed some hair to the side of his face. “I guess that’s not too bad, then.”

Knowingly, Yugong smiled wider as a response. She folds the laptop up and takes a sip of her coffee. Luke warm, but good enough to take a good, few mouthfuls. She puts the laptop in a black, plain messenger bag, making sure it’s securely inside.

“That concludes the morning handover. We’ll be heading up to the communal offices at eight, so have a rest until then and meet me at my office, and I’ll take you up there.”

“Paperwork, not my favourite thing in the world.” Alex says, before lifting his can skywards and starting to chug the contents. In his own way, a means to show that this meeting was over. It took him half a dozen seconds, and he covered his mouth to shield everyone politely from the incoming belch. As much as he tried to let it pass through, it was noticeably loud. “Hah, sorry.”

Yuhong was standing up, and hooked the messenger bag over her shoulder. She held the coffee cup with the palm of her hand covering the top of it, holding it in her fingers. “Nobody particularly enjoys it, but it’s a necessary part of the job.”

“Can’t you like, delegate it?” Shaun says. He stands, simply grabbing the bottle of water and depositing it into the inner pocket of his jacket.

“I would, but then the person I delegate it to might not get it right.” She offers him a broad smile. Shaun perked his brow as he heard her response, nodding once.

“Good meeting. I’ll see you at eight.”

After they left the room, they parted ways for the time being. Visionary went one way, Shaun and Alex went another.

“Hey, do you think we can get a game of pool in before we have to go?” Alex enquired. Shaun took out his phone, and gave a quick glance at the locked screen showing the time.


“Might be able to, yeah. Still don’t feel great that Sage knows what’s gonna happen. How are we expected to like, deal with these situations when we’re thrown into them? No warning, just ‘be careful’?”

Alex shrugged. “We can’t see the future, man. Just gotta trust the boss lady.”

Shaun grumbled. “For the record, I’m starting to dislike anybody who can see the future.”

“Precogs. That’s the term you’re after”

“Precogs. I’m starting to dislike precogs. That sounds about right.”

It was five minutes to twelve, and Shaun and Tether had finally made their way to the training area that they were growing accustomed to. At this time, most people would be on their lunch, so it wasn’t as densely packed as it normally could be. Of all the people here, Shaun recognised none but Visionary, who had donned her face mask and was standing by who he could assume to be Katrina, or Spectre as she’d be known as in future.

She wore an outfit that wasn’t like anything Shaun had seen before, entirely unique to her. All agents wore the same bodysuit beneath their armour, though hers was a light grey as opposited to the dark navy and black that others had. She wore shin high boots, of the same colour as her bodysuit. The top half of it had sleeves that looked more at home on a jacket, though around the biceps and upper arm area it was properly form fitted. On her hands were gloves, matching the material and colour of her boots.

The armour was a brighter white, and there was a single curved pauldron over her shoulder that allowed room to move her arms about without being hindered. The chest armour was segmented twice, with a plate covering from the ribs to the collar bone, and another plate on top of that over from beneath where her breasts would be, to a small distance away from her sternum. There was a single section covering her torso, in a straight line. That too was segmented into six sections, a visible abdominal effect, for maximum flexibility. There was further sections of raised armour on the front and back of the thighs, on the shins and calves, as well as on the upper arms. Her forearms had no such protection.

Hoods seemed to be a common theme. Hers was light grey, with the inside being a much lighter white. She wore a helmet that covered her face in what appeared to be a ceramic, expressionless face. There was a pair of oval holes for her eyes to see, though up until they approached, they couldn’t make anything out underneath. There was a nose hole and a small gap for the mouth, looking creepily organic in nature. Beneath it, there seemed to be a filtration system of some kind, as there was no flesh visible other than her eyes.

When Shaun and Tether approached, she offered them a mock salute. The way the armour was designed, there wasn’t much sign for the curves of her body. She looked female, but it was hardly feminine, suited for its primary function.

“Glad you could join us, boys.” Despite the rather striking appearance of her costume, her accent didn’t help much with any angle of intimidation. It sounded out of place. “Keeping a girl waiting?”

Shaun shrugged lightly. “We’re early. Cut us some slack.”

Visionary smiled beneath her mask. “You’ve all met before. Katrina will be joining our team, so we’re going to do a few exercises to establish a bit about your powers, and working together. Spectre has volunteered first. Shaun, Tether, would either of you like to go first?”

To everyone’s surprise, Shaun raised his hand almost immediately.

“Shaun, excellent.”

“Sure. I’ve not seen her in action yet. It’ll be good.”

Visionary ushered them over to a clear space, where they had ample room to manoeuvre. Spectre took the lead and stood in the ring, beckoning Shaun over with a single curled finger. Shaun, with a perked brow, walked over. They were roughly ten feet apart at this point.

“This will be simple. Shaun, this will be a test for you. Spectre will douse the area in vapour. You simply need to catch her.”

“Sounds easier said than done.” He pointed loosely in her direction. “She’s not got any trouble seeing me.”

“That’s the intent. You might not be able to be hurt, and your enemies may know that. They’ll attempt to misdirect you. You need to stay focused, and overcome any setbacks.”

Shaun nods firmly. “Got it.”

“Try not to go easy on me.” Katrina said, as she raised her hand. White vapour began to smoke and drift off her fingertips, intensifying in thickness near her clothes. Even from this distance, it was easy to see that the colour of her clothes helped her to blend into the white smog she generated.

“I don’t have a choice.” He said, bluntly. It made her clench her hand in response.

“I’ll count you down. Spectre, if you would cover the area.”

She nodded, and she held both her hands out. Smoke began to seethe out from her; from inside her hood, the outline of her body from where Shaun was facing, trickling outwards through each fingertip. It seethed outwards, though as Shaun began to observe just exactly what she was going, he noticed that the entire area was quickly blanketed by the fog. It didn’t necessarily have to come with her, and was most likely done for effect. A large circle, spanning twenty feet from the point right in the middle of the pair, covered ten feet into the air.

Inside, it was oppressive. The vapour gave off excessive cover, and Shaun couldn’t see Katrina from where she stood before. He held his hand out to check, and he even noticed that his fingertips had become obscure. He pulled down his hood, in order to get a bit of an edge on his peripheral vision.

Visionary waited a second, then began to count down. “Three, two, one. Go.”

Shaun stood where he was for a moment, even though he heard the signal clearly. He inhaled the vapour to get a feel for it, and it reminded him of inhaling an electronic cigarette. He wafted his hand through the mist, watching his fingers go through the obfuscating mists.

He started to take a few steps forward, glancing around left and right. He heard somebody speak, Katrina, coming from the left, and his head darted in her direction.

“Are you even trying?”

Shaun was waiting for some signal from her, and he made a sprint in that direction. He went a second forward and stopped, having found nothing where he thought she might have been, and his head turned to his right. Thinking he saw movement, he moved the same distance in that direction, and found nothing yet again.

“Much easier said than done.” He muttered to himself.

As if to taunt him further, he felt a sudden rise in pressure near his face. As far as he was aware, she was generating more vapour around his face, though this felt much warmer. It was hot, even, and would have been uncomfortable to him if he were able to feel such a thing. It was the lessened sight that was more of an annoyance, and he swiped at the air around him to try and ward it off.

“Come on, Shaun. I’m right here.”

Directly ahead. Shaun took a step forward to get out of the smaller patch of heated vapour that she made, and took a stop. He paused, and glanced from side to side. There was a lot of ambient noise, of people working out, of weighs clanking against each other, and he tried to pinpoint her more by her footsteps. Even then, she could see which direction he intended to take, and could move quicker than he could, whilst he was effectively blind.

Shaun exhaled deeply. For a second, he watched as his breath displaced the air and pushed it to the side. It gave him an idea, crude at best, but worth a try. He took another step forward, acting as if he was going to move, and waited. He heard the footsteps, gentle taps from beneath him, veering off to the left.

Quickly, he inhaled deeply. Just as quick, he exhaled with much more force.

Shaun’s breath was a gust that blew away the vapour, dismantling the white darkness in front of him like a cleansing cone of air. It was powerful enough to cause Spectre to stagger a little, buffered by the wind. He saw her now, covering one arm to her face to defend herself, and he spared no time in trying to close the gap and tag her.

Spectre wasn’t so easy to catch, and she made a sprint for it. Between them, in the path they shared, she conjured a thick line of vapour, a foot above and below Shaun’s head. As she did so, she moved as if she were going to the right, and Shaun tried not to be fooled again so quickly. He responded by trying to weave out, sidestepping to the right to get out of the blanket of vapour.

There was a gap of air, followed by another cloud of vapour. He plunged inside and moved, up until he went through one end and out the other.

She had feinted him, goaded him into going into the other direction. He turned directly left and looked, at the barrier she’d made.

From her hands, like a spray from a hose the vapour surged out, and covered where she directed it to go. She could evoke it where she pleased however, and she gave a glance to Visionary and Tether, as if to make sure they were watching. She took a few steps to the right, then raised a hand to the slice that Shaun had carved out with his breath. The vapour reformed in that area, and she walked over quietly and sunk within its depths.

Shaun, deciding to be a bit more reckless, broke out into a sprint again, and barrelled through the diversion she made. He appeared out of the other end and regained his sight, blinking as he looked around to try and find her. He saw Visionary and Tether, who seemed to be watching with a great deal of interest.

“Oh for the love of-”

Before he finished, he turned back. The gaps that were left from before were slowly starting to contract, as more of the mists began to seep out and flood the area. Even larger than before, a daunting cover of roiling fog.

“-pain in the ass.” He finished, after a moment’s pause. Right now, he was aware she may have been watching him, and noted no footsteps from before. She was most likely in the thick of it, near where they began. He had a second to think of something, and Visionary watched as she could see him trying to think of something.

With a nod to himself, Shaun walked back into the mists.

He counted fifteen paces and looked around. He took in a deep breath, then exhaled gently. He paused, and heard a scuffle of feet as he breathed in. It sounded like she was to the left of him.

He raised both his hands above his head. A second later, he’d brought them down near his chest, and slammed them together.

The noise was deafening, a thunderclap that shook through the room and caused the floorboards to tremble. The force tore through the air, forcing air and vapour to be violently pushed aside in a great cone in front of Shaun.

Infront of him stood Spectre, who was staggering and on the verge of falling backwards from the force Shaun put out. Shaun pushed back with his foot and shunted himself forward, crossing the distance in a single leap to her, and landed with a slight stumble to the left of her. She was starting to get her balance back, but Shaun had just a second’s advantage on her. He raised his hand, and brought it down onto her pauldron with a gentle slap.

Shaun turned his head to her, with a bit of a smile. The only response he could see was a single blink beneath her mask, her expression cold and unreadable otherwise.

Visionary began to clap, and Tether joined her a moment later. She seemed impressed, at least pleased.

“That’s new.” Tether said, turning to Visionary. “Shaun’s been learning tricks.”

Shaun took his hand off her shoulder. She rolled it, just to be certain, and she started to walk back to the others.

“Not bad, not bad.” Spectre said. With a raise of her hand, the vapour began to fade into nothingness. She and Shaun had a glance around; a few stray eyes had caught them, though more seemed curious about what the noise was, before carrying on with their exercise routines.

“I just thought. I watched that Hulk film that came out a little bit ago, where he did that clap and it blew out the flames. I could blow the vapour away, but she’d still be able to run. I needed to stun her, or just keep her still.”

Tether rolled his eyes slightly. “That film kinda sucked.”

“It seemed okay to me. Lots of action, the whole Farside energy bomb thing, it wasn’t bad.”

“Better than the first one, but it used to be a gamma bomb, not a Farside energy bomb. They totally retconned him.”

“Wow, okay, captain nerd. I don’t care that much.” Shaun grinned slightly. Tether did as well.

“I’m not the one that just copied a comic book character.”

“That… is a good point. You can have that.” Shaun shrugged it off, pretending it didn’t matter. “I didn’t say it was great. Just that it was good. Gave me an idea or two.”

“It’s good that you’re learning, all of you. Shaun, excellent work. Spectre, nice use of bait and switch tactics.” Visionary nodded. “Shaun, thank you. If you’d like to take a moment to rest. We’ll try Tether next.”

Shaun nodded, then looked to Spectre. Politely, he put out his hand, so they could shake. She hesitated for a moment, then raised to meet it, giving him a firm grip.

“Guess you don’t disappoint. I’ll make it harder for you next time.” Spectre said. Shaun could see her narrow her eyes slightly, though there was a competitiveness in her tone. Her body language seemed a little confrontational.

“You do that.” That was all Shaun said, and he walked back over to Visionary. Tether walked over, and Shaun raised his hand up. Tether put his low, and Shaun effectively tagged him in, taking up a spot next to Visionary.

Tether and Spectre distanced themselves. Tether tapped the rope on the side that he had; a meteor hammer not unlike his own, though this one had rubber weights on the end. Much lighter by the looks of it, and less lethal. The rope was made out of some grey material, giving off a faint impression of carbon fibre. He ran his fingers over it, until he could reach the part where it clipped from his belt.

Spectre raised her hands, and imitating what she’d done before with Shaun, she started to flood the area with vapour, coming directly from her before dousing the entire area.

Visionary turned to Shaun and nodded, and he returned the nod. He was watching, listening to the action inside.

“Three, two, one. Go.”

“We’re here.”

Visionary started to pull the car over.

Shaun peered out of the window. They were in another industrial estate in Greater Manchester, half an hour’s drive away from the headquarters. It could easily have been fifty feet tall, an imposing square block of grey walls, with a large hanger door at the front and ‘MAGI-Tech Testing Facility’ on the front in large, white letters above it. It was a populated area, with several other equally tall buildings nearby, lorries and vans carting down the roads to their various destinations. Shaun and Tether peered out of the windows for a second, before the former took his phone out of his pocket to check.

“We’re on time. This is the place you were told to come to?”

There was a row of parked cars at the front, and unusually there was also a congregation of people standing outside. Lined in a row, with a few other people starting to walk out of a door at the side of the larger, vertically opening hangar door. One man, who seemed to be organising what was going on, counted the last few people as Visionary pulled over in the middle of the loading bay, where lorries and vans would park in first.

“This is it. Remember, we don’t know what to expect. Be on guard.”

Shaun and Tether nodded, and she cranked up the handbrake to park the car. They were hurried to get out, not too hasty as to seem in a rush. There was an serenity, a focused calm shared between the three.

They were out in the air in seconds, and Visionary was already taking out her badge with one hand, pressing a button on the car keys with the other to lock the vehicle. She was already drawing the eyes of people who had gathered outside, with a hushed murmur between them. Shaun tugged up his motorcycle mask, to give him some cover. Tether didn’t need to worry, with his hood up and goggles firmly on.

When she approached the man in charge, she saw his features. By all accounts quite nerdy, with thick brim glasses and an unkempt beard. He was wearing a white shirt, tucked into black trousers and a plain tie. More office attire than a testing engineer. When she flashed her his badge, he nodded, and a serious look drew over his face.

“I’m Agent Visionary, of the National Farside Unit. We have reason to believe there is suspicious activity in this area.”

The man coughed, clearing his throat. “Agents. I’m Grant Peterson, the current shift manager. We’ve just had a fire alarm go off, and we’re performing a fire drill. Do you think it’s a fire?”

“We’re not quite sure.” Visionary kept her eyes on him. He saw them flick from side to side as she spoke, always returning to the centre once they’d flicked out. “We’re going to have to investigate. Has everyone left the building?”

Grant nodded. “Everyone is out.” He turns on his heels to the line of people, and quickly scans them from left to right. “Looks like it.”

“Everyone needs to stay outside whilst we investigate. What’s being tested in this facility at the moment?”

Grant cleared his throat again. “Cars and motor engines that run on Eldritch power cells. Artifex has a prototype engine he wants to test, unique design.”

Tether turned to Shaun. “Think that might be it?”

“Could be.” He said, looking towards the building.

“Are there any other exits?” Visionary asked.

“Just one at the back.” Grant responded with. “The building is split into two main areas, and offices on the right hand side when you enter.”

Visionary nodded to him. “We’re going inside. Thank you for your cooperation.”

With a polite bow of his head, she turns and starts to break into a jog, heading towards the open door that everyone else had previously entered through. Taking their cue to leave, Shaun and Tether followed her, quickly catching up.

Visionary darted through the office, and neither Shaun nor Tether could take in what was going on around them. They moved through the front reception area, past a large desk which a receptionist had abandoned and through the door on the far wall. Through here, they wove through offices, past computer desks and filing cabinets, with clear glass windows observing the large, open floor of the testing facility. The ringing of the fire alarm started to grow, from a dull hum in the background to a droning buzz.

They saw onto the main court of the area; a white tiled section in the middle of the warehouse, sanctioned off with a border of white blocks, tables with a pair of draws each on them, locked in place by pegs and plates extending either side of them. There was a large gap where one had been removed on the north, south, east and west side of the square. In the middle, surrounding the shell of a car chasis, were several machines. Large arms with several heads, of screwdrivers, magnets, claws made to grip and tighten. They were in the middle of working and assembling the machine, abruptly stopped and returned back to a neutral position.

Large lights hung from above, drenching the area in artificial light. Visionary had walked over through the remaining offices and was investigating a panel on the side of the wall nearest to her. Shaun and Tether followed inside. She was accessing the panel for the fire alarm, and in a few seconds she’d suppressed it. She reached up to her ear, pressing against her comms, speaking clearly now that she didn’t have any noise to contend with.

“Control panel, this is Agent Visionary. Squad has entered the building. No signs of danger yet, but fire alarm has been set. Possible intruder. Requesting Containment Squad to attend site as precautionary measure, over and out.”

Tether took out his meteor hammer and started to swing one of the ends. A second later, all three heard the response.

Agent Visionary, roger. Dispatching Containment Squad to your location. Over and out.”

With a beckoning motion, Visionary started to advance on the door on the far side of the room.

As they approached, they began to hear the rumble of voices behind the wall. The door itself was open, and Visionary guided her team so they were behind it and out of view. From here, they could hear somebody more clearly. The accent was distinctly cockney, rich with accented and emphasised words.

“…turned that bloody alarm off? Well, no bother. We’re keepin’ her cover so she can dash off and secure the prize. Once we’ve ‘eard back, we’ll dash off. Easy dosh, fella. Easy dosh.”

Visionary’s eyes widened, though she didn’t move, and neither Shaun nor Tether had caught onto her surprise. She lifted her head, and they both looked up to her, awaiting an order. She was taking her bar maces out, one in each hand, steeling herself. She gave a nod, then began to tap her foot. As much as they’ve been trained, they were aware of what this meant, as she counted down from three, two, one.

Visionary was out first. She didn’t run inside, much like Shaun had expected her to. It was a much more controlled, calmer walk inside, as if making her presence known. Once she was inside, both the men spilled in inside of her, looking around to gauge their scenery before doing anything else, whilst they walked forward.

It was the same design as before, though this room had been split into four smaller areas where machines had been constructing stuff. Shaun noticed the car parts that were being made; the machines furthest away on the left were constructing an engine, which he’d never seen before. The closest to him on the right was working on parts for brakes, the furthest side to the right working on suspension. He’d visited factories before that made car parts, and this felt small, extremely personal, as if all parts were being delicately handled and manufactured to specific needs.

The last table on the left, closer to them, had been working on something. Whatever they were making seemed to be missing, and a pair of figures stood by them. Their attention caught by the NFU agents, and they turned to address them.

A few inches taller than Visionary, this man had a smug expression on his face. He looked suspended in time from another era, sporting a tan coloured longcoat made of faux leather. His trousers, waistcoat, longcoat that reached to his knees were all the same colour of a grainy light grey. Underneath he sported a clean white shirt and a dark grey tie. His shoes, pitch black, showed signs of being recently polished. His hair was dark, styled to be messy, and he sported dark stubble over his chin and top lip that didn’t connect. He himself was white.

Beside him was another man, above six foot tall. His skin was a dark brown and he wore the same type of suit as his colleague. He lacked the waistcoat, and the coat in general. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbows. His head was bald, apparently recently shaved and he had no facial hair, also recently shaved. His eyes were flicking from side to side, cautiously.

The more formally dressed man out of the two raised his hands and began to clap them together slowly, laughing underneath his breath.

“My, my! What a surprise! Truly, I’m surprised. How nice to see you once more, Agent Visionary, and her two new colleagues.”

“You know him?” Shaun asked, glancing over him carefully.

“We’ve met. Doppler, leader of Doppler’s crew. Mercenaries” She motioned to him, pointing her mace in his direction. By the look on his face, such a gesture seemed to have offended him.

“That’s what they call me, back in your little headquarters. Quite frankly, I’m not much of a fan of the name, sounds a bit poncy if you asked me. I’m a professional man, and the name’s not doing well to sell that sort of image about, now, is it?” He said, with a certain flare. “Still, can’t complain. The name comes with a reputation, and people know I’m a man of my word, to the letter and the law itself.”

Visionary turned her head to Tether. “Doppler’s Fargraced. He makes doubles of himself that last for about one to two seconds. They can act as he does, and they have all the momentum that their actions would normally have, as if they were already doing them. He can also choose which double to occupy once the other fades.”

“Oh, ruin the big surprise!” Doppler raised his hands, then dropped them. He mocked being defeated. “I didn’t even want to show you this time! I wanted to get the bloody ‘ell outta here, head off home, then have a brew and a biccy and watch the footie. Do you like making my afternoon more of a pain in the arse than it has to, Visionary?

“When you’re setting off fire alarms and stealing, yes. I’d definitely do that.”

Doppler tutted and shook his head, turning to his companion. “This is the kinda shite you’ll have to deal with, fella. Nothing to worry about. Wouldn’t have taken you on if I didn’t believe you could handle a few of the NFU’s lapdogs now, yeah?”

Doppler slapped him with a backhand on the shoulder. He frowned

“Who’se that guy?” Alex asked.

“Unknown. Must be a new recruit.” Visionary responded.

“See, you’ve got two unknowns, I’ve got one unknown.” Doppler interjected. “It’s sort of even in a way.”

“Even.” Shaun said, with dry sarcasm at the edges of what he said.

“I’m all about fairness, believe you me.” Doppler bites a bit of skin on his lip, then pulls back the sleeve on his coat to spy at his watch. “I’m afraid though, Visionary my dear, that we’re on a tight schedule. Much as I’d love to indulge in a bit of banter, I’m afraid we’ve got to make ourselves scarce. If you’ve no further objections, we’ll have to be on our way.”

Doppler went to turn. Visionary spoke the moment he was starting to spin on his heels, and be suddenly stopped.

“Doppler, you know that won’t be happening.” Visionary said, twirling her mace in her hand.

“Figured as much. Predictable little bugger you are. I’ll make it clearer for you then, love.” Doppler turned, and started to adjust his tie. Slackening it slightly, whilst staring directly to Visionary. “We’re going to be leaving, and if we have to kick the shite out of you to do so, we will. So, I reckon you’ve got two choices. You either stand down, realise that this won’t be good for either of us, and let us on our merry little way.”

Doppler takes a single step back, raising his hand to put it on the dark skinned man’s shoulder.

“Or me and my good friend here, are going to dismantle your little attempt at arresting us.” He grinned. “And having a butchers at you three, I already know the answer you want to take. So, shall we have at it then, lady and gents?”

Beginnings: 2-2

Alex went to raise his hand and got about half way through the air. In hesitation, he slowly pulled it back down. It caught the attention of Grandmaster, who smiled slightly in response to what he saw.

“Alex. What do you think it is?”

“Uh.” Alex sat up a little, adjusting his posture. “I think it’s something like… I dunno.” He seemed to trawl for an idea in his mind. “Like why I can’t tether two people together.”

Grandmaster’s voice raised a tone. This seemed to be something he knew about enough to show interest himself. “Bingo. The Farside Effect is a term for the theory of why we can’t just use abilities on each other. You’re not entirely right though, but good effort, Alex.”

Alex perked up a little. “What do you mean?”

Grandmaster nodded in his direction. “You can tether two people together. Well, sorta. The Farside Effect is a pretty complicated subject. ‘Lotta theory work, ‘lotta guessing, ‘lotta experimenting. The basic thing is, you can’t use your powers on other people. Not always. You try to use your powers on somebody directly, nothing happens.”

He claps his hands together, making a sharp noise. “But you can. The reason it doesn’t work is because, in order to use your powers on somebody else, you need to focus. You need to focus and channel all of your strength, your willpower, and push yourself to your absolute, 100% limit. And when you do, it’s only about a tenth as strong as doing it any other time, when it’s easy.”

Grandmaster scratches his chin. “Doesn’t matter how good you are with your powers or how far along you are. The only way you can use your powers directly onto somebody else, is if you’re staying still, you can focus on them for a minute or so, you do absolutely nothing else, and you push yourself so hard you’re totally exhausted afterwards, and even then it’s gonna be so weak you wondered why you bothered. When you’ve got some bastard with a knife to your throat, doing that isn’t feasible.”

Shaun looked to Alex for a moment, then spoke without raising his hand. “I can punch a person as easy as a car, what about me?”

“You-” Flick point. “-are in the group of people who don’t activate their powers. Anybody who doesn’t need to activate their powers don’t have to give a shit. Again, nobody knows why. This isn’t of course taking into account other things. People blast each other just fine. Katrina can superheat the air around you with mist and slough the skin off your face. It only works if you’re doing it directly to them or inside them. So people who make force fields can’t make one in your stomach without the Farside Effect fucking them over. But they can make one around you just fine.”

Grandmaster begins to pace to the left, and afterwards to the right as he talks.

“Which brings us neatly to our next point. The most successful Fargraced out there know about this, and they know how to get around it. And if I’m teaching you anything, it’s how to think outside the box. If you’re going to be part of the NFU, you need to know exactly how to use your powers. That’s why we train you.” He comes to a standstill, and brings his fist down into his palm. “We don’t teach you the same shit, day in and day out. We train you so much because it helps you understand your abilities, the abilities of the guy to your left and right. And when you know what you can do, and what they can do, then you can work together and do shit like combining abilities.”

“Alex.” Grandmaster walks to the side of the room he’s on, and stands at ease in front of him. “Visionary told me that when you were training, you managed to link her glove to yours, then pulled her to the floor with your powers.”

Alex widened his eyes and nodded slowly.


“That’s what I’m talking about. Creative powers mean you win fights, and can take what’s thrown at you. Always assume your enemy knows more about their powers than you do.”

Alex nodded, with a hint of pride in his smile. Grandmaster paced to the middle of the room.

“Now, before we do some practical. The NFU are going to be rolling out a new way to briefly classify Fargraced. It’s a simple two part thing.”

He raised a finger in the air. “The first part describes whether or not the abilities are something that just happens, or if they have to consciously use their abilities. Active, or Passive. Shortened to Act, or Pas.”

Grandmaster raised another finger. “The second part is whether or not the effect is affecting them, or people around them. If it’s something that’s only going to altar the Fargraced in question, we consider that Internal. If it’s anything but the Fargraced, then it’s External. These are shortened to Int, or Ex.”

“After these, briefly describe the person in question. So.” He brings his raised fingers down, to point at Alex. “Act-Ex, links objects and kinetically pulls them.”

He sweeps over to Shaun. “Pas-Int. Extreme strength and durability. Upper limits unknown.” Shaun raised an eyebrow at that and grunted.

Grandmaster pointed to the last person in the room, Katrina. “Act-Ex, Nephokinetic. Generates and controls unknown vapour.”

With his thumb, he points it to his chest.

“Pas-Int. Intuitive weapon and improvised weapon mastery.”

Grandmaster brings his hands together, the clap rings around the room.

“That’s it. We tried with a number system but it got too confusing. Things are too situational, too many variables, and what the hell are you going to measure anyway? How powerful they are compared to who or what?” He shrugs. “No fucking clue. Takes too long. Keep it simple. The extra second you’re yapping away is a second you’ve missed getting the drop on somebody.”

“Now, we’re gonna do a little thought experiment. Shaun, no offence or anything, but you don’t exactly need a whole lot of creativity with your powers.”

Shaun shrugged slightly, leaning back in his chair. “None taken.”

“I want you to contribute though. I want you to give the others ideas of what you can do, to use your powers a little differently. It doesn’t have to be something violent. The more outside the box, the better.”

They began to talk between themselves, whilst Shaun wasn’t the one to speak about his own powers, he did focus on the others in the room.

“So you can make vapour, yeah?”

“Yes.” Katrina raised her eyebrows, blowing out a ring of vapour, with a grin to follow afterwards.

“Okay, vapor evaporates, doesn’t it?” Shaun asked.

“Yeah, normally it does.” Alex contributed, raising his hand.

“Mine doesn’t. When it’s around, it keeps things wet or hot but when it goes, any moisture goes with it too.” Katrina explained roughly, and demonstrated. Thick strands of white smoke began to billow from her open palm, engulfing Shaun’s desk in a lapping motion. It spilled over the edges like a liquid, and she let it cling for a few seconds. Alex watched intently, as she dismissed it with a wave of her hand. Water droplets that clung to the surface of where her mist touched appeared for a second, before the vapour vanished and took it with it.

“That’s so cool. Where does like, the water go?”

“If you ever find out, tell me?” Katrina teased.

“I’ll let you know, totally.” Alex said, shrugging with a grin.

Grandmaster leaned back on his desk and observed, and a pleased smile spread his lips. For now, he just observed and watched as they bounced ideas off each other, discussed limits and strengths. He waited a good 15 minutes and let them carry on, content to burn off some time this way. It wasn’t until Tether was trying to test to see how strong he could launch a chair into Shaun, who willingly allowed himself to be demonstrated on, that Grandmaster clapped his hands and interrupted.

Shaun and Alex turned around. Alex has his hands in the air, about to bring a chair from one side of the room into Shaun’s shirt, who he’d tethered together just a few seconds ago.

“Okay, enough of that. I’m afraid I can’t let you damage NFU property. Even if it would be a good thing to watch.”

Shaun and Alex slumped their shoulders, and joined together to say “Aww” at the same time. Katrina was giggling, and looked as if she was eager to see the demonstration herself.

“Wrap up time. You know what you’ve learned and what you can take away from this. We’ve got fifteen minutes left, give or take. We can finish up quickly and you can head out with a bit of free time.”

Alex cleared his throat slightly. “Hey, Grandmaster. Personal questions okay?”

Grandmaster raised an eyebrow, folding his arms loosely. “Shoot.”

“Your armour. Artifex grade?”

“Good eye.” He said, slightly impressed. “Artifex grade. Custom commissioned, with NFU discounts. The man made it himself.”

“Oh, wow. That’s so cool.” Alex walked over, and began to run his eyes over the design. Shaun and Katrina shared a glance, as he fawned over the details. “Looks like he’s improved on his Carbon Shear Armour. This must have cost a lot of money.”

“I don’t know what it’s made of. All I know is, it stops me from being killed, and there’s enough gadgets to make the MAGI-Tech boys cry their asses to sleep.”

“Huh. Didn’t know you were such a nerd.” Shaun says with a grin, folding his arms.

“Nah, Artifex is just… He makes art, and I love art. I got to see him at work on a visit, when he was working in the NFU workshop. He’s got so many things he’s working on. There was so much to take in.” Alex moved over and began to look over Grandmaster’s helmet. “No expense spared. So cool.

“He’s working there for the next month or two.”

“He is?” Alex widened his eyes and stood up fully, resisting to grab the helmet. “Do they still do the site visits?”

“Yup. You should mention it to Visionary, I’m sure she’ll let you see him again.. But you know the rules. One supervisor, one visitor. He doesn’t like visits, but as long as he’s got a contract with the NFU, he’s contractually obliged to do them.”

Grandmaster looks to Shaun and Katrina. “You two fancy it?”

Shaun shrugs, nodding. “Sure, why not? Might even be interesting.”

Katrina nodded and smiled widely. “Of course.”

“I’ll get something sorted out. Alright, you three, go out early. You’ve not done bad today. Keep practising, and don’t skip training.” Grandmaster reaches behind for his helmet, and brings it into his lap.

Alex offers a hand out. Grandmaster takes it with a firm grip. “Great lesson, thanks.”

As Alex leaves, Shaun comes over and does the same, though his grip is much stronger. “Yeah, I expected it to be boring.”

He can’t help but to smile at that, and nods his head.

Katrina comes over and offers a hand too, though her shake is much less firm and done more as a courtesy. “Good lesson. The practical really worked.”

With everyone departing the room, Grandmaster waited a minute before he slotted his helmet back on and it sealed itself shut. He took a feel for the room again, and the User Interface soon lit up.


“Call Visionary, again.”


Grandmaster sighed.

“Visionary. Call Agent Visionary.”

CALLING Agent Visionary (mobile).

“Grandmaster. Your lesson ended early?”

“Hey. Yeah, I let them out early.”

“How did it go?”

“I think it went well.” Grandmaster stood up and walked over, taking the chair that was left on the side which Alex tried to fling at Shaun, and hauled it back to the correct place. “’course, I wouldn’t know. You’d best ask them.”

“I think you did just fine.” He noted the honesty in her voice.

“Gonna need a favour. Three of them.”

“Favours? That’s not normally something you ask for.”

“Yeah, well. These three got talking about Artifex, and they want to see him at work.”

“I imagine Alex was the one to bring him up.”

“Yup.” He threw the chair back in place.

“I wouldn’t call it a favour. It can be arranged. He’s due a few site visits. I’ll get it organised. I think there’s an opening tomorrow.”

“Great. Job’s a good ‘un.”

“What did you think of them?”

“The kids?” Grandmaster was walking to the door, and he paused for a moment. “They’re good. You’re being a good mentor to them.”

“Thank you.” He could almost picture her smiling as she said that, judging by her voice alone.

“When can I expect you back on my team?”

“I don’t know. Director Sage was pushing me to the Mentor program. When it comes to her, there;s always something going on.”

“Yeah, tell me about it. Pisses me right off.” Grandmaster coughed. The volume adjusted, and quietened to soften the impact over the phone. “Damn shame. I enjoy having somebody worth sparring with.”

“I’m afraid you’ll have to live with that. I’m enjoying it.”

“The girl, Katrina. Is she going on your team?”

“I hope so. Strategically speaking, she’s very useful. Her training is almost complete.”

“I can tell. She’s good with her whole, vapour powers sort of thing.”

He left the room, and began to walk down the hallway. His fingers dug into a belt pocket, fishing out a pair of coins.

“Oh! By the way. Have you heard anything?”

“Nope.” There was a vending machine close to him. He pushed in the coins and scanned the machine, spying a few of the energy drinks along the way. “Bit of a weird one. It might just be Alpha and her love of animals, but it’s still suspicious. I’ll give you a heads up if I hear anything.”

“Okay. Thank you.”

“Anything else I can do for you?” A bottle of Coke crashed down to the bottom, and he dipped his hand inside to retrieve it. He held the lid between two fingers and walked along, letting it swing freely in his grip. “Maybe you’d like me to do the rest of your job for you whilst I’m at it.”

“I’m sure you’d love to take all that credit for yourself.” Her tone was clearly teasing.

“Oh, now I take offence to that.” He was grinning, just a little. “I’d at least put in a good word for you. Maybe two words.”

“Goodbye, Grandmaster. Take care.”

“You too.”

The call cut out.

Grandmaster flicked the bottle into the air and caught it in the flat of his hand. At least now, he felt happier that he’d actually taught something. But, for now, he would have to think about it later. There were more pressing matters to look into, and he made his way to the Evidence room. He was intent on sifting through some footage, for an incident in an NFU testing facility that happened a week ago, that was now brought to his attention.

The Best Western Plus was a building that exemplified the rustic aesthetic of the potteries. Etruria Hall stood out, and the red bricks that coated the outside had only lost a bit of their dullness over time. The triangular roofs, square chimneys, even the lawns enclosed with rings of concrete and gated, spear-topped fences all seemed to be a step back in time to the 18th century. The interior was much more modernised, having being developed into a hotel in a somewhat recent span of time.

Shaun was already quite familiar with his room, having spent the last week there as their house was rebuilt. Half the walls were a Taupe colour, the other half a pale cream, with a blue-grey carpet beneath them. The room was spacious in a modest sense, with a small living room area divided away by a single wall in the middle of the room, with space either side to manoeuvre around it. It had the general assortment of hotel furnishings, from a polished wood desk with a chair and a television on top, to a small dining room table with three blue felt chairs held together by wooden frames. The sofa, at least, was a darker shade than the other. Sadly, the room wasn’t divided to the point where all the bedrooms were separate, not that it really mattered.

He took the lift up to his room and used the key card to let himself in. To his surprise, he saw his mum and dad sitting on the edge of the bed, taking off their shoes. Shaun closed the door behind him, to which his mum came over and wrapped her arms around him.

Shaun reciprocated and smiled. “Hey. Mum, dad. Mum, aren’t you working?”

Anne finally let him go, letting her hand linger on his shoulder. “Shaun! Oh, nice to see you’re okay. They gave me and your dad the week off work. Me and your dad went to do some shopping.”

“Aye. Bloody clothes, again.” Craig passed the comment as he left his shoes at the bedside.

“Oh, come on!” Anne said, walking over to Craig. He laughs and pulls his shoulder back as Anne gently slaps him there, a mocking tease to her tone. “It’s been months since I’ve had the chance to go shopping. I might as well enjoy it!”

“I know, I know.” She finds herself in his arms for a second, giving her a firm kiss on the lips. “Dunnae be daft.”

“Guys, if you’re gonna be like this, I’ll just go back out.” Shaun reached out for the door, grinning slightly. Craig rolled his eyes, whilst Anne just giggled. “Seriously. If you want the room for yourselves-”

Anne gasped dramatically. “Shaun! You dirty sod.”

Shaun just grinned, and slipped his shoes off in a swift pair of motions, before throwing them in a lose pile by his bed.

“It feels weird coming in without Button here.”

“Aye. Kennels are looking after her, for now.” Craig said, giving Anne a tight squeeze for a second.

“So what did you learn today?” Anne walked out of Craig’s arms, over to the kitchen counter and snatched the empty plastic kettle that was standing there. “I take it you’ll want a brew.”

“Yeah, that’d be lovely, ta.” Shaun made his way and slumped down on one of the sofas, taking up another cushion by sprawling a leg over it. Craig decided to join him, and swatted at his leg. After Shaun pulled it away with a grunt and a smile, Craig occupied the far end.

“Alright. Today was just a bit of a normal day so far. As normal as a week’s been. We didn’t go on patrol today, instead we did some workshops. Basic training and all that stuff.”

“What do you need training for?” Craig spoke incredulously.

“Technique?” Shaun stated, making a widening motion with his hands, that turned into a slight shrug. “They try to do it anyway. It’s a bit more about teamwork. Looking at everyone else, see how they work, get to work better with them, and know how they’re going to act. It’s fun. I mean, they know I don’t need much help but I’ve been working on throwing stuff. Getting my aim better, so I can do something at a distance.”

“Aye? You’ll have to join our darts team then, down at the pub.” Craig nudged Shaun’s shoulder with his knuckles.

“The Griffon’s a crap pub, dad.” He said, rolling his eyes. “

“That’s our local-” Craig frowned heavily, almost looking insulted. “-and it’s your nan’s favourite has been since she were your age.”

“Yeah.” Shaun said, with a bit more of a sombre tone. “Guess so.”

Anne joined them now, and drew a chair out from under the table and sat down, body facing the pair whilst the kettle boiled. “Don’t interrupt him, Craig. Go on, Shaun.”

“Anyway. We watched some of the Containment Squad training drills, and after that me and Visionary went to a design meeting. They want to give me a costume and a name.”

“Ooh!” Anne seemed excited. “Looks like they really are making you a hero.”

“Mum, I’m not- I’m not a hero, mum. Not some superhero or anything like that.”

“Shaun, you can be.” Anne raised her head up, and smiled warmly. “We’ve always told you that you’re special. You want to be a normal kid, and you are! By gosh, you are. But you’ve got a gift, a power. And if you wanted to, you can make a difference to this world. How many people can really do that?”

He contemplated her words. “Not many, I guess.”

“No, not many at all! A lot of people wish they could. But you can be a hero, Shaun, and you can still be ‘Shaun’. You can be a superhero and you’ll still be you. We know you can.”

Her words warmed him and he smiled slightly. “Yeah. You’re right. I just… don’t wanna look like an idiot. You know I want to make you proud.”

“And you do!” Craig interjected with a bit of boisterousness. “Even if you were dressed like one of them nutters.”

“Thanks dad. Reassuring.”

“Just helping how I can, son.” Craig reached over, vigorously patting Shaun on the knee a few times.

“Alright, appreciated. Anyway. We met this guy, one of the higher ups, called Grandmaster. He was wearing this suit of armour, really modern stuff. He looked kinda cool, and he ran us through some practical tips. Oh, and there was a girl with us, Katrina, she was in that lesson too.”

“A girl, eh?” Craig grinned slightly.

“Not like that, dad. We just met and we train together. Geez.”

“I know, I know.” He said in justification.

“It was actually a pretty good lesson, I got to hang out with Alex a bit more as well.”

“Good for you, Shaun.” Anne smiled. The sound of roiling water could be heard on the other side of the room, followed by a neat click. She took her leave for now, and went to pour out a few mugs of tea for everyone.

“School’s alright then? We dinnae get chance to talk about it yesterday.”

“Yeah, it’s alright. Boring though. We’ve been talking about politics. I had to talk in front of the class about politicians and the Farside. People like Anthony Barnes, who are trying to get us all locked away in the Unit because he thinks we’re all ‘dangerous time bombs, waiting to explode.’” He spoke with some passion, though there was vitriol blended into his words.

“He’s not wrong. A lotta them are Dangerous.”


“I meant the other ones. Not you, Shaun, you’re alright, I meant the bad ones.”

“There’s bad people everywhere. Farborn or Fartouched or not, a person’s gonna be a dic- bad person either way.”

“We’ll go with that.” Craig said, much to Shaun’s constant frowning at him for the past half a minute.

Anne came back with mugs of tea, and handed them out to Craig and Shaun. Craig gave her a kiss on the cheek and said “Ta.”

Shaun was a little more formal with a classic “Thanks” before taking a heavy sip.

“Is Josh okay?” Anne asks, taking a sip.

“Yeah. We haven’t been talking much but he seems okay. Been a bit quiet lately the last few days.” Shaun shrugs. “Oh, yeah. Not related but i’m going out tomorrow, there’s a special thing going on at the NFU.”

“Going there again?” Anne said. “We were hoping to go for a day out, just the three of us It’s been a while since we’ve all had the chance.”

“I know. I’m sorry. Day after?” Shaun attempted a compromise. “I get to meet Artifex.”

“Who?” Craig said, furrowing his brow. He took a slight sip from his mug and sighed deeply.

“He’s the guy that makes all the Eldritch technology. He funded that MAGI-tech company. They’re the ones trying to bring Eldritch stuff into the public view.”

“Dunnae bloody trust that stuff. They’re trying to make cars like that. Cars!” He scoffed. “Engine’ll probably blow up when you start it.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s what they’re trying to avoid.” Shaun takes another large gulp. “I get to meet him and it’s apparently important, and he supplies the NFU with a lot of stuff. It’ll be interesting. Maybe.”

“As long as you’ll be okay.” Anne sipped her tea as well, never bringing it far from her mouth.

“I’m actually looking forward to it.” Shaun nodded.

“Aye. Well, you’d best get a good night’s rest then. None of this staying up late like you’ve been doing the past few days.” Craig leaned over to the side to put his mug on a small table.

“Yeah, okay. You tell me that all the time. Even on my days off.”

“A good routine is what you need.”

Shaun necked the rest of his brew, and exhaled a little steam. He stood and slid his mug on the table.

“Maybe an early night wouldn’t be bad, just tonight.”

Shaun slid his hand into his pocket and brought his phone out, bringing it up to his face for a quick look. It was still on the last message he sent, and a quick flick up the screen revealed some of the previous messages. Shaun started with a message of his own, then glanced down.

you sure your okay man? just checkin youve been quiet for days

lk im fine stop asking. fuck

okay geez fine dude sorry for giving a shit. you be an asshole if you wanna


With a grunt, he turned it off and shoved it back into his pocket. He gave a quick glance to his mum and dad and smiled a little.

“Maybe not a bad idea at all.”