• Crusader Kings III Available Now!

    The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.


    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

TheAnguishedOne

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On paper at least, I can't fault the logic of cutting the X-Division's funding. Of course, we know the purpose behind the budget cuts...
 

zenphoenix

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On paper at least, I can't fault the logic of cutting the X-Division's funding. Of course, we know the purpose behind the budget cuts...
That's if the smoking man and the old Syndicate were still running things. They were more concerned with staying under the radar. Pavel, though, being as impulsive and crazy as he is, might not bother with budget cuts and go straight to throwing bombs. But I'm not saying the conspiracy isn't behind this...
 

zenphoenix

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New Orders, Part 4

St. Eudokimos Hospital - 11:45 AM

Zimmerman entered Angela’s room and approached her.

“You're looking better,” he said.

“Thank you,” Angela said, “I’m starting to feel a little bit more like me."

“So how's your memory?” Zimmerman said.

“Still all just fragments,” Angela said, “I remember driving, but I can't see anything past that.”

“It happens with head injuries,” Zimmerman said, “People can lose days before an accident. The best thing to do is just to keep trying, Angela.”

“I was on my way somewhere to meet with someone, and I guess someone hit my car,” Angela said, “But…”

“But?” Zimmerman said.

“It doesn't make any sense,” Angela said.

“Yes?” Zimmerman said.

“It's as if I went somewhere and talked to someone,” Angela said, “And then after... came back to the accident.”

“Do you remember who you were going to meet with?” Zimmerman said.

“No…almost,” Angela said, “He told me something.”

“What?” Zimmerman said. “Go on.”

“I can't, uh…” Angela said.

“Try,” Zimmerman said.

“Something's hidden,” Angela said.

“Yes,” Zimmerman said, “Where?”

“I, I can’t…” Angela said.

“Where is it hidden?” Zimmerman said.

“I can't remember,” Angela said.

“That's really all you know then, isn't it?” Zimmerman said.

“Yeah,” Angela said, “Wait a minute, you’re not Zimmerman…”

“Zimmerman” grabbed a pillow and began smothering Angela.

On the ground floor, Anders and Diana rushed into the lobby, where Louise met them.

“They have surveillance of your suspect entering the lobby,” she said.

“Angie’s room?” Anders said.

“The floor's locked up six ways from Sunday,” Louise said, “Only Zimmerman is allowed in.”

“Then Zimmerman is our suspect,” Diana said.

“Damn,” Anders said, “I liked that guy.”

Upstairs, Angela continued resisting the shapeshifter’s attack. One arm grabbed his neck, trying to push him off her, while the other reached for her gun on the nightstand.

“Don’t fight it!” the shapeshifter said. “It’s over!”

Anders kicked in the door and fired off three rounds at the shapeshifter. The bullets all impacted him in the back. Liquid mercury leaked out of the wounds, but the shapeshifter didn’t die.

“At least it’s not poisonous blood,” she said, “Why do they never die easily?!”

The shapeshifter tossed aside the pillow and jumped out the window, landing six stories below on the ground. She got up and started running. Anders picked up his radio.

“Di, Louise, Zimmerman or whoever that is on the ground floor!” he said. “Get them!”

On the ground, Louise and Diana ran after the shapeshifter, who disappeared down a flight of stairs to the basement. They drew their weapons and ran down the stairs after him. In the dark, damp basement, they split up and searched the corridors separately. Louise cautiously approached a roaring furnace, not noticing the shapeshifter hiding behind the door. The shapeshifter lunged toward her from behind. Louise spun around and opened fire. Anders and Diana ran into the room and found Louise sitting down, relieved. The shapeshifter lay dead on the ground in a pool of mercury, his head blasted open.

“You okay?” Anders said.

“I’m good,” Louise said.

Diana looked at the shapeshifter’s body and picked up his shapeshifting device.


Angela’s room - 3:00 PM

Anders and Diana entered the room, carrying a bouquet. Anna followed behind them.

“Hey Angie,” Anders said.

“What’s your theory?” Angela said.

“A shapeshifter,” Anders said, “Not the alien kind.”

“Come again?” Anna said.

“Not from space, but from another universe,” Anders said, “Anna tells me Walter thinks you might have gone there too.”

“She thought I knew where something was hidden,” Angela said.

“We’ll figure it out,” Diana said, “We always do.”

“Angie, I need to ask you something,” Anders said.

“Yeah?” Angela said.

“Melius quam pater tuus,” Anders said, “You said that when you woke up.”

“I don’t remember that, but that certainly ranks up there in ways to wake up,” Angela said.

“My mother used to say that to me and Anna every night before I went to bed,” Anders said.

“And what does it mean?” Angela said.

“‘Be better than your father’,” Anders said, “By then, Walter was already gone. It was like a code between my mother and me and my sister. It meant keep your people close. Take care of the people you care about.”

“Well, you’re good at that,” Angela said, smiling at Diana.


Reichstag, Berlin - 8:00 PM

As Erich walked up the steps to the building, Anna ran after him.

“Uncle Erich?” she said.

Erich turned around. “Anna.”

“At the bar, you said they wanted results, right?” Anna said.

“Yeah?” Erich said.

Anna handed him the shapeshifting device.

“Here are your results,” she said, “Walter says this tech isn't from here. And it's broken. But it’s the proof you need, and if they can fix it, they can have an army who can look like anyone they want them to. You tell them you can get this tech, and they can have it, but they are not shutting us down. From now on, we're calling the shots. We're done reacting. We're not gonna be too late anymore. After all, somebody's got to save their butts, right?”

“You surprise me, Anna,” Erich said, “Are you sure you weren’t followed by the RSB?”

“If the RSB wanted this thing, they would’ve taken it already,” Anna said.

“Fair enough,” Erich said, “Thank you.”

Anna smiled. “Sure thing.”

Erich continued walking up the steps and into the Reichstag.


Strasburg field office

Kresge walked out of the briefing room and gathered his things. Then he walked out of the office and headed to his rental car.

“Hey, Inspector!” Anders said, running after him.

Kresge turned around. “Agent Humboldt?”

“You heading out now?” Anders said.

“Yeah, catching a red-eye back to Constantinople,” Kresge said.

“Kurtz didn’t tell you in your debriefing?” Anders said.

“Oh, he told me plenty,” Kresge said, “Yeah, he told me what you guys do. And personally, I think I’m not the guy for the job.”

“Really?” Anders said. “You’re a respected officer.”

“And I’d like to keep it that way, no offense,” Kresge said, “Personally, I think I wouldn’t do well in X-Division. We have very similar goals, the two of us. Like you, I want the truth, but I also want justice. There’s a difference there.”

“So you declined,” Anders said.

Kresge nodded. “I think I can help you guys more from the outside. As a police officer, not an X-Division agent. X-Division’s just not for me. I hope you understand.”

Anders smiled. “Yeah, I understand.”

They shook hands, and Kresge got into his car and started the engine.

“I’ll see you around, Humboldt,” he said, “I hope Agent Hansen has a speedy recovery.”

He drove away.


Walter’s lab - June 30, 2009, 9:00 AM

Anna walked into the darkened lab and paused. Olga or Walter were usually here before her. Something seemed a little suspicious…

Before she could grab the gun Angela had given her, Gene mooed. The lights turned on, and Walter, Anders, Olga, and Diana emerged from behind the desks.

“Happy birthday, Anna!” they shouted.

Anna couldn’t help but laugh and smile. She should’ve seen this coming, especially the custard tart Anders was handing to her now.

“Happy birthday, sis,” Anders said, “Helped Walter make this.”

“The best custard tart I ever made!” Walter declared.

Anna laughed again and hugged both of them.
 

TheAnguishedOne

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I don't like that the shapeshifter died "offscreen", but I'd be surprised if they could use the device on a corpse to look like their true nature. That aside, given how stressful the X-Division's work can be, I can't blame Kresge's logic.

Love the ending segment too, always nice to have some brevity for our cast.
 

zenphoenix

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I don't like that the shapeshifter died "offscreen", but I'd be surprised if they could use the device on a corpse to look like their true nature. That aside, given how stressful the X-Division's work can be, I can't blame Kresge's logic.

Love the ending segment too, always nice to have some brevity for our cast.
I will be revealing the shapeshifters' true form in a future update. But since they're not as advanced as the alien shapeshifters, they might not be what you expect.

The protagonists deserve a much-needed break now. Especially with what's going to happen in the next chapter and the subsequent ones.
 

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The Conversation, Part 1

Elias Cryonics, Vendenheim - October 8, 2009, 3:00 AM

Instead of doing their jobs, the night crew was busy loading frozen human heads into a secure van for transportation. The guards would’ve caught them, too, if they weren’t also participating in the strange theft. The clerk, Kurt, made sure the heads were all secured inside the car. Once he stepped back, a guard closed the door.

“Mind if we speed things up, Kurt?” the driver said. "I'd hate for these popsicles to melt.”

“I don't think we have to worry about that,” Kurt said, “The cargo is secure.”

They noticed a car approaching. A man got out of the car and walked up to them.

“Hey, who’s this guy?” one guard asked.

“Evening, I was wondering if I could get some directions,” the man said.

“What are you doing here?” the guard said. “You're trespassing, pal. Why don't you get in your car and turn around?”

“Yeah, sure.” The man drew two pistols from his waistband and started shooting.

“Frak!” the driver shouted. “We have to call—”

At that moment, he was shot in the back. The other guards quickly went down as well, leaving only Kurt. The man walked over to him.

“Anybody else in the warehouse?” he asked.

Kurt took the keys from the driver and handed them to the man.

“That’s everybody, Schmitz,” Kurt said, “Let me know if he’s there. You know where to reach me if—”

One of the dying guards shot Kurt, and he fell over, dead, in a puddle of mercury. Schmitz pulled the driver out of his seat, got in the van, and drove off with the cargo. The guard dropped his gun and exhaled one more time before dying.


Walter’s lab - 8:00 AM

Walter walked over to the makeshift kitchen, where Olga cut up something on a cutting board. The door opened and closed, and Walter looked up to see Angela entering.

“Angie,” he said.

“Uncle Walter,” Angela said, “Anders said you wanted to see me.”

“Yeah, he had an idea,” Anders said, “Or rather, we came up with it together.”

“Like father, like son,” Olga said, rolling her eyes.

"I think I may be able to help you retrieve your memories from the accident in Constantinople,” Walter said.

“Walter, I though we agreed that was a stupid idea,” Anna said.

“Oh, no, you decided that,” Anders said.

“I still maintain that the principle is perfectly sound,” Walter said.

Olga dumped the contents of her cutting board into a blender and blended it.

“Is that what I think it is?” Angela said.

“Yeah, he wants you to eat worms,” Anna said.

“Not just worms, flatworms!” Walter said. “The thing is, Angie, I recalled an experiment Willy and I did w-where we trained a handful of flatworms to respond to light. We then crushed them up and fed them to other worms. It was Willy’s idea.”

“Because who wouldn't think to do that?” Olga said.

“I once visited a town where people ate each other to stay young,” Anders said.

“You’re kidding me,” Olga said.

“Big industrial agricultural firms feed their livestock with more livestock to keep costs low,” Angela said.

“The point is these other worms, without having been trained, began to respond to light,” Walter said, “It seems the first worms transferred their memories to the other worms through ingestion.”

“Right, but that still has nothing to do with stimulating Angie’s memory,” Anna said, “And she already responds to light.”

“How will we know unless we try?” Walter said. “That's why it's called an experiment, Anna.”

“Thanks, I know what an experiment is,” Anna said.

“If Archimedes never decided to take a bath—” Walter said.

Angela grabbed the blender, poured a cup, and chugged it down without breaking a sweat. She immediately started retching.

“Uh, guys?” Anders said.

“I was going to mix it with strawberries,” Walter said.


Elias Cryonics, Vendenheim - 9:00 AM

Angela, Anders, and Diana met Kurtz outside the warehouse. Other agents and police officers had already surrounded the place and searching inside for evidence.

“This is what we know so far,” Kurtz said, “The manager arrived to work at 6:30, saw the bodies and called it in to the local police.”

“So the robbery took place in the middle of the night,” Anders said, “That makes three cryogenic facilities in a week, same M.O. as Stuttgart and Frankfurt.”

“Yeah, but Stuttgart was a straight break and enter,” Kurtz said, “Anyways, in all three cases, the target was the same.”

“Frozen heads,” Anders said.

"Which does bring up several obvious questions, first of which, what the hell for?” Diana said.

“Police recovered ten shell casings from a nine millimeter,” Kurtz said, “Looks like a single perp rolled up and dropped four men, two of whom were armed.”

Walter wandered over to them. “Excuse me. Can I see the body bleeding silver? Fascinating.”

They walked over to the corpse, and Walter began collecting samples.

“Perfect, daughter,” Walter said, “It has the consistency of mercury.”

“These robberies are obviously connected,” Anders said, “We should pull the files on Frankfurt and Stuttgart.”

“I'll make some calls, tell the local agents we're taking over the investigations,” Kurtz said.

He walked away. As Anders walked over to her, Angela felt a sharp pain in her head. She suddenly felt dizzy. Her mind raced, conjuring up images of Wilhelm Tesla with a notepad in his World Trade Center office. The images disappeared when Anders reached her.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’m good,” Angela said, “So, um, what does Uncle Walter think?”

“Walter thinks it's actually mercury,” Anders said.

“Mercury?” Angela said.

Over by the corpse, Louise joined Walter as he collected more samples.

“Agent Kazdan, hello,” he said.

“Hey,” Louise said.

“You alright?” Walter said. "You look pale.”

“Yeah,” Louise said, “I didn't get much sleep last night."

“Oh,” Walter said, “I may be able to help you with that... you know, a little cannabis before bedtime does wonders, huh?”

Diana knelt and took out a small device from the corpse’s pocket.

“I recognize this,” she said, “This is the device the shape-shifter used.”


Strasburg field office - 9:30 AM

Kurtz paced around the situation room, looking at the shapeshifting device on the table.

“Why?” he said. “Why are shapeshifting soldiers from another universe stealing frozen heads?”

“The most likely explanation that we can think of is they're looking for a specific head, but they don't know where it is,” Anders said.

“Okay,” Kurtz said, “Then who?”

“We don't know,” Angela said, “These facilities pride themselves on secrecy. So despite the thefts, none of them have been willing to give up their client lists. What about the other device, the one we found in June? Did it give any indication who these people are?”

“Unfortunately, the other device is still broken,” Kurtz said, “We asked Tesla Dynamic to see what they could make of it, but apparently they've been stumped.”

“Well, this one doesn't appear to be damaged,” Diana said, “So maybe Anna can figure something out.”

“I suppose she knows someone?” Kurtz said.

“She knew enough about engineering to fake her way into LIT,” Anders said.

“Well, let me know if you learn anything,” Kurtz said, “In the meantime, I'm considering giving you a protective detail, Agent Hansen.”

“Why?” Angela said.

“The last time we had one of these devices, its owner had just tried to kill you,” Kurtz said.

“I'm not worried, because that was back in June,” Angela said, “So if a shape-shifting assassin wanted me dead... then I would be. I’ve survived worse too.”


Walter’s lab - 10:00 AM

Walter grabbed a scalpel and wheeled the shapeshifter corpse under a large lamp.

“Let's see how this thing operates,” he said.

“What do you think this is?” Olga said.

“This is certainly not human, rather a highly advanced technology,” Walter said, “A mechano-organic hybrid. I suspect that they produce, or possibly ingest the mercury, and that it controls the tissue, instructing it to take, and maintain shapes. My son surmises it was reverse-engineered from more advanced alien technology. But everybody knows aliens don’t exist.”

“What?” Olga said.

Walter suddenly stopped and realized something. He turned to them.

“We have to call Angie,” he said, “I need to talk to her right away.”


9:45 AM

Angela and Anna sat in the computer lab. Anna checked the shapeshifting device again and made sure it was still hooked up to Angela’s computer. Once the wires were secured, Angela typed into her command line, running one of her programs. The shapeshifting device beeped and blinked steadily.

“You know what this reminds me of?” Anna said. "Did you ever see that old movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers?”

“Yeah,” Angela said, “Anders showed it to me a while ago.”

“My mom used to show me and Anders that movie,” Anna said, “I remember when I saw it, I was so scared, I didn't sleep for a week. I was convinced if I fell asleep, I would be replaced by a pod person.”

“Is this your way of trying to ask me if I'm scared?” Angela said.

“No, of course not,” Anna said, “I mean, I figure if you were scared, you'd tell me, right? Besides, I figure between the two of us, you're the one that carries the gun.”

“I gave you a gun,” Angela said.

“Yeah, but not the license,” Anna said, “Thanks for making me go through all those certification programs just to not be swarmed by the government.”

“It was Anders’ idea, by the way,” Angela said.

The device started beeping rapidly.

“What the frak?” Anna said.

Angela checked her computer. Numbers were scrolling across the command prompt window.

“Looks like this thing is streaming data…lots of it,” Angela said.

Olga walked into the room.

“Hey, Walter needs to talk with you,” she said.

They followed her back to the lab, where Walter stood in front of the corpse.

“I've got good and bad news,” he said, “Bad news is the shapeshifter's blood is 47% mercury.”

“Does it always have to be 47?” Angela said.

“And what does that mean?” Anna said.

“Well, I'm not sure, but I went back and re-examined the autopsy reports for the first shapeshifter from Constantinople,” Walter said.

“And?” Angela said.

“And…his blood sample is perfectly normal,” Walter said.

“It was the real Zimmerman,” Angela said, “Not a shapeshifter.”

“So the shape-shifter is still alive, which means it could still be disguised as anyone,” Olga said.

“And you could still be in danger, Angie,” Walter said, “Would you like to hear the good news? I think I know how to find him. Becky Kibner. If she was able to identify a shapeshifter before, she may be able to do it again.”


Tesla Dynamic, Frankfurt - 12:00 AM

Diana walked into Mina’s office and put the device on her desk. Mina looked at the device and then up at her.

“You found another one,” she said.

“Anna says this device is transmitting a lot of data, and she and Anders believe it's possible these devices store the pattern of their last victim,” Diana said.

“Our scientists have the same theory,” Mina said, “In fact, they thought they might be able to extract an image, like a face. They also theorize each device is tuned to a specific user, which suggests since the shape-changer that tried to kill you no longer has his device, he's trapped in his current body. Our scientists have been working on revealing that shape-shifter's identity, but with the damage to the other unit…”

“Don’t bull-scheiße me, Mina,” Diana said, “This one is intact. Get it done.”

“Then let's take a look, shall we?” Mina said, pushing a button.

A young man in a lab coat walked in. Mina handed him the device.

“Bruno, can you fix it?” she asked.

“Do you understand you're asking me if I can repair a piece of technology that isn’t like anything that has existed here on Earth?” Bruno said.

“Bruno?” Mina said.

“Now that I have one that works, I can do it in three hours... tops,” Bruno said.

“Good, then get started right away,” Mina said.

“Yes ma’am,” Mina said.

Bruno hurried out of the office.

“Okay, so I'm heading back to Strasburg,” Diana said, “Will you call me or Angie if it works?”

“Oh, I can do better than that,” Bruno said, running back inside, “I can set up a rendering program and patch you in... in real time. If you want, you can see it all for yourself. A computer, from your cell phone, I can log you into our server.”

“Ahem,” Mina said.

“The public one,” Bruno said, “The public server, of course... if it's okay with you.”


Walter’s lab - 12:30 AM

Classic rock blared over the loudspeakers, while Walter danced around the lab. Anna and Anders attached electrodes to Becky’s head, while Olga checked if the equipment was working.

“Just a couple more,” Anna said, putting on another electrode.

“Actually, that one goes more on my temple,” Becky said, adjusting that one.

“You're an old pro at this, huh?” Anders said.

“Drug-infused mystical awakenings, guided by your father, aren't exactly something you forget,” Becky said.

“You sure you want to do this?” Anna said. “I know it was quite sudden just knocking on your door a couple hours ago…”

“Oh, it’s fine,” Becky said, “I get paid like before, right?”

“Yeah,” Anders said.

Angela walked into the lab and approached them.

“Hi, uh, I’m Angela Hansen,” she said, shaking Becky’s hand.

“Rebecca,” Becky said, “Just call me Becky.”

“Thank you so much for doing this,” Angela said.

“Sure,” Becky said.

“Walter, you said you wanted to start her with Salvia,” Olga said, “We don't have any Salvia.”

“We don’t?” Walter said.

Becky pointed at one of the walls. “You used to... um, in that cabinet on the second shelf, over on the right.”

Olga reached into the cabinet and took out a bottle of Salvia. “Got it.”

“Ah,” Walter said, looking down, “Oh. I don't suppose you recall where I left my slippers.”

Angela’s phone beeped, and she picked it up. Diana had sent her a text.

“Anders, could you log into the Tesla Dynamic server?” Angela said.

Anders sat down in front of a computer and logged on. “Got it.”

“Connect to my phone,” Angela said.

Anders typed some more commands. “You have the Tesla Dynamic app?”

“Yeah,” Angela said.

He hit the enter button, and Angela’s phone beeped. She pulled up the app, where an image was slowly being built up with better and better resolution.

“It’s working,” Anders said, “They’re rebuilding the image from the broken device.”

Walter injected Becky with LSD.

“This is the first of the psychedelics,” he said, “Ready to begin?”

“I’ve been ready since forever,” Becky said.

Walter turned back to the others. “When Belly and I first did this, we prepped her for 36 hours. But I'm thinking... for this type of spatial disorientation, we can reduce it to a few moments.”

“Isn't that dangerous?” Anna said.

“More than injecting her with substantial amounts of untested, homemade psychoactive drugs?” Walter said. “Olga... get me three syringes of Phenothiazine. It's on the top shelf, under "a" for "antipsychotics." And two vials of Valium... just to be safe.”

Olga got the vials and syringes ready.

“Ready?” Anna said.

“Yes, daughter,” Walter said.

Anna leaned over Becky. “I want you to tell me if this starts to get uncomfortable, okay?”

“Thank you,” Becky said, “I met you once before. You were just a kid, but... I swore I saw…”

She convulsed as the drugs coursed through her system. “Ohh! Ohh, here we go!”

“Becky, focus on my voice,” Walter said, “Concentrate on the people who don't belong.”

Becky gasped. “You mean... the ones that change their appearance?”

“There's no need to be afraid,” Walter said, “You can see them, but they can't see you.”

Becky panted and whimpered.

“Listen to my voice,” Walter said, “I'm going to take you over the threshold. We're walking into the quad. Can you see it? It's autumn, and it's late. The leaves crunch under our feet. Past the statue of Gutenberg.”

Becky breathed heavily.

“Now we're passing University Hall,” Walter said, “Memorial Church is up ahead.”

He picked up a bell and rang it. At that moment, Angela fell to the floor and blacked out. Everybody rushed over to her.

“Walter!” Anna shouted.

Anders and Olga shook Angela.

“Angie?” Anders said. “Not again…”

Angela wasn’t fully unconscious, or maybe she was. Their voices faded away, but Angela still felt conscious. She opened her eyes and found herself in an office…Wilhelm Tesla’s office in the World Trade Center. The man himself stood in the corner, smiling.

“Angela,” Tesla said, “After all these years, it’s so nice to finally see you again.”
 

TheAnguishedOne

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Not gonna lie, I was half-expecting Angela to just start getting worms' memories as a gag. Also, I am so happy that Walter of all people is a skeptic of aliens.
 

zenphoenix

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Not gonna lie, I was half-expecting Angela to just start getting worms' memories as a gag. Also, I am so happy that Walter of all people is a skeptic of aliens.
Anders: incoherent screaming :p
 

CaptainAlvious

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I´m now wondering, what would the Angeloi Tagmata been like in relation to the Loyalists and OTL´s Wehrmacht? I imagine that Angelos and his generals would´ve wished to drastically reorganize the Roman military structure in order to make it more efficient for his new doctrines like Blitzkrieg, but I also think the Tagmata wouldn´t be the same as the Wehrmacht (I picture the Angeloi naming all of their branches like the air force and navy with Latin designations instead of German or Greek in an attempt to cooupt Classical Roman imagery) and would wish to distinguish itself from the loyalist military in several ways like command structure or personal or industrial production (like tank designs).

How would Molotov´s interpretation of Equalism differ from that of either Trotskyism or Staninism? Considering that Trotsky, even as Molotov established his cult of personality, continued to have influence Moltov´s policies until his death even in retirement, I think that Molotov´s brand of Equalism would´ve been an extension of Trotkyism for the frist few years of Molotov´s reign, which would eventally form the basis for Deromaniazation I imagine. I´m pretty sure even Trotsky already incorporated aspects of Stalin´s Socialism in One Country during his own time in power, so I imagine Molotov would´ve had a weird blend of OTL Trotsky´s Permant Revolution ideal and Socialism in One Country with some touch of Nationalism in there. I personally feel that Valentin would´ve been a lot closer to Stalinism than Molotov, Through both would still believe in an Equalist World Revolution and Class Warfare like Lenin and Trotsky.

Also how would Roman academics see the relationship see between Fascism and Equalism here? I mean both would be regarded as Totalitarian systems with possible similarities with each other like ethnic persecution, but unlike Stalinism and Nazism, but also have a lot of distinctions from each other being on different sides of the authoritarian spectrum. Either that or the Roman public would lump the Equalist and Facists together under the board spectrum of Totalitarianism and ignore their distinctions. It could be something that is debated a lot by Roman historians and open to contention and controversy.

Considering that Ocelotl Nochtli and Af-Quetzalcoatl got their starts attacking the CSSA and the fall of the PARA, what effect did the Equalist regimes in North Eimerica have on the rise of Mexicanism and religious extremism in the Eimericas besides reaction from Eimerican Palluism?

How is Republicanism seen at this point? I know that because of the Palluist Republics, Equalist Republics and Kanatan Corporate Republic that Republicanism would be stigmatized as another form of authoritarianism, but what about non Authoritarian Republics? Considering that there is only the failed Persian Revolution and the failed Democratic Indonesian Republic in the 70s, I think Republicanism would be seen pretty much how we see Communism in real life as a inherently flawed system due to lacking a monarchy as a check on the abuses of government corruption.
 
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zenphoenix

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I´m now wondering, what would the Angeloi Tagmata been like in relation to the Loyalists and OTL´s Wehrmacht? I imagine that Angelos and his generals would´ve wished to drastically reorganize the Roman military structure in order to make it more efficient for his new doctrines like Blitzkrieg, but I also think the Tagmata wouldn´t be the same as the Wehrmacht (I picture the Angeloi naming all of their branches like the air force and navy with Latin designations instead of German or Greek in an attempt to cooupt Classical Roman imagery) and would wish to distinguish itself from the loyalist military in several ways like command structure or personal.
The tagmata would be named after the ancient legions and use the medieval legion system (which wasn't exactly like the original legion system). Each military unit would be made smaller and integrated with air and armor units for increased mobility. Each military branch would have a Latin name with an ancient Roman symbol and something like eagle standards. Command structure is highly centralized and politicized, with Angeloi party officials wielding significant influence at all levels of command. This ensured the troops' loyalty to Angelos but also reduced their efficiency and free-thinking, especially in the later years.
How would Molotov´s interpretation of Equalism differ from that of either Trotskyism or Staninism? Considering that Trotsky, even as Molotov established his cult of personality, continued to have influence Moltov´s policies until his death even in retirement, I think that Molotov´s brand of Equalism would´ve been an extension of Trotkyism for the frist few years of Molotov´s reign, which would eventally form the basis for Deromaniazation I imagine. I´m pretty sure even Trotsky already incorporated aspects of Stalin´s Socialism in One Country during his own time in power, so I imagine Molotov would´ve had a weird blend of OTL Trotsky´s Permant Revolution ideal and Socialism in One Country with some touch of Nationalism in there. I personally feel that Valentin would´ve been a lot closer to Stalinism than Molotov, Through both would still believe in an Equalist World Revolution and Class Warfare like Lenin and Trotsky.
Originally, Molotov's interpretation of equalism was similar to what Lenin originally envisioned for Russia. But after working closely with Trotsky for many years after Lenin's death, he incorporated some elements of Trotsky's interpretation. After taking over from Trotsky, he initially kept most of Trotsky's policies, particularly socialism in one country mixed with the permanent revolution idea he had (invasion of Yavdi, revolution in North Eimerica, Occupied Territories). But as the war and Trotsky's death moved further away from the present, Molotov put his own spin on Trotskyism, returning elements of Leninism not present in Trotskyism such as heavy emphasis on industrialization, nationalism, and opposition to the Reich. Deromanization evolved from a combination of permanent revolution and wartime nationalism/opposition to the Reich. He toned down the gulags and secret police so they weren't as bad as in Trotsky's time (but were still bad regardless). Valentin would've been even worse than Trotsky and focused more on permanent revolution, class warfare, and Russian nationalism than either of them.
Also how would Roman academics see the relationship see between Fascism and Equalism here? I mean both would be regarded as Totalitarian systems with possible similarities with each other like ethnic persecution, but unlike Stalinism and Nazism, but also have a lot of distinctions from each other being on different sides of the authoritarian spectrum. Either that or the Roman public would lump the Equalist and Facists together under the board spectrum of Totalitarianism and ignore their distinctions. It could be something that is debated a lot by Roman historians and open to contention and controversy.
Horseshoe theory is still a fringe theory among academics, who tend to put fascism and equalism on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum. They consider the two ideologies as arising from reactions to each other (fear of equalism fuels fascism, fear of fascism fuels more equalism, which fuels more fascism, etc.) and adopting useful ideas from the other (nationalization of certain industries, persecution of minorities/scapegoats, strong central authority, omnipresent secret police/mass surveillance, suppression of free expression and press, lack of human rights, etc.) while nominally in polar opposition.
Considering that Ocelotl Nochtli and Af-Quetzalcoatl got their starts attacking the CSSA and the fall of the PARA, what effect did the Equalist regimes in North Eimerica have on the rise of Mexicanism and religious extremism in the Eimericas besides reaction from Eimerican Palluism?
I like to think of the conflicts between the North Eimerican equalists and the Mexicanists as the collective equivalent of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, only it was a loose grouping of conflicts and insurgencies and not a full-scale war. Mexicanists got their start by opposing the extremely atheist equalist authorities, considering equalism an insult to the gods. The collapse of equalism gave the Mexicanists a boost, as they saw their struggle and faith was apparently validated. But with the equalists gone, they needed a new target, so they chose the Paulluists (who were relatively similar to the equalists) and the Reich (which they saw as morally decadent).
How is Republicanism seen at this point? I know that because of the Palluist Republics, Equalist Republics and Kanatan Corporate Republic that Republicanism would be stigmatized as another form of authoritarianism, but what about non Authoritarian Republics? Considering that there is only the failed Persian Revolution and the failed Democratic Indonesian Republic in the 70s, I think Republicanism would be seen pretty much how we see Communism in real life as a inherently flawed system due to lacking a monarchy as a check on the abuses of government corruption.
The only successful non-authoritarian republics in this timeline were the old League of Mayapan and the Republic of Nsorala. Both were relatively successful until Mayapan fell into some bad economic times and elected a strongman who started the monarchy while Neurhomania invaded and annexed Nsorala. The only recent examples of republics are Paulluist and equalist ones. I guess republicanism would be seen in the same way as monarchies are seen today. Constitutional monarchies in real life are generally accepted but considered to be perpetuating an outdated social hierarchy. People here see the Mayan and Nsoralan republics as extensions of the ancient Greco-Roman republics. They have nothing against the idea of a republic in theory, but they wouldn't want it in their country (since it would mean ending the monarchy) and they consider it perpetuating an outdated social hierarchy (they believe a republic would eventually lead either to a breakdown of social order, as happened in Nsorala to some extent, or to the centralization of power in a wealthy elite, as happened in Mayapan). They also believe an officially apolitical monarchy is better equipped to act as a check on government overreach and corruption. Paulluism has also discredited the modern republican movement by associating the it with the Paulluist dictatorships and showing the system was easily manipulated by strongmen.
 

zenphoenix

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The Conversation, Part 2

“You'll have to forgive me,” Tesla said, “The method by which I brought you over here was crude and difficult and hard to explain, and I'm sorry for that, but there were people who wanted to prevent our meeting. This is not at all the kind of reunion I had always envisioned.”

“The reunion you had envisioned?” Angela said. “Dr. Tesla, I have been trying to meet with you for over a year.”

“Please, call me Wilhelm, if that feels warmer to you,” Tesla said, handing her a cup of tea, “How do you like your tea? They do it differently here.”

“I don’t want tea,” Angela said, “I want answers.”

Angela suddenly felt dizzy, and the room spun around her. She heard a loud rumbling noise. Tesla simply chuckled.

“You're still a little disoriented from the time slips, aren't you?” Tesla said. “Happened to me when I first came here, using the same method you just used. By nature of that technology, you’re, you're out of sync with this side. You're lucky. Most people who cross universes, without your natural talent or the proper equipment, are simply torn apart.”

“Well, luck isn’t the word I would use, “ Angela said.

“Ahh,” Tesla said, “I don't know how much Walter's told you by now. I don't know how much he remembers from before.”

“He told me what you two did to me when I was just a girl,” Angela said, “How you conducted drug trials on kids.”

“We weren't trying to hurt you, Angela,” Tesla said, “We weren't trying to hurt anybody.”

“Hey, guess what?” Angela said. “You did. I've met some of the others. To say that they are permanently damaged would be an understatement.”

Tesla nodded. “Yes. In any search for knowledge, there are always unintended consequences, victims, you might say. But not you. I can see that... just by looking at you. In fact, you're just coming into your ability. I've seen history repeat itself enough times to know a war is coming, just as we predicted, Walter and I, years ago, and we knew that we had to prepare a guardian, someone to watch the gate."

“The gate?” Angela said.

“Between this side and yours,” Tesla said, “I would like to say 'ours', because that's where I came from, but I'm afraid I would sound disingenuous.”

“Go on,” Angela said.

“For reasons that will become clear in time, I cannot go back yet, maybe not ever,” Tesla said, “But now we know how difficult it is to cross over. I can count on my hand the number of people who've done it safely. But on this side, they've become more insidious. Using technology reverse engineered from certain sources within the government, they designed partly biological machines that can do things humans can’t. They can change shapes, disguising themselves as anybody they want. Over here, they call them the first wave.”

“So you're saying that these machines are already on our side,” Angela said.

“I know it's difficult to grasp,” Tesla said.

“Oh, I can grasp it just fine. I don't trust you, Dr. Tesla, or Wilhelm, or whatever cutesy name you think might appeal to my childhood instincts,” Angela said, “I’ve gone through hell in the last twenty-five years. I’ve been shot at, trapped in a burning city, abducted by people who experimented on me, separated from a daughter I never knew I had, got cancer, got my grandparents and fiancé and sister and best friend killed, and made a fugitive and sent on the run. So don’t patronize me, because this is nothing compared to everything I’ve been through. Your company has been involved in, if not directly responsible for, some of the most horrific things I’ve ever seen done by men or women, and that’s saying a lot, to say nothing of the fact you just yanked me into a parallel universe to warn me about an inter-universe war I think you started. So what I want is not warmth, or tea. It's the truth, like I’ve always wanted.”

“The truth will come out,” Tesla said, “It always does. Angie, you don't have to trust me. You don't even have to like me, but you can't deny I have a unique perspective, shaped by having lived in two worlds. I know the difference a wrong choice can make... or a right one. For example, this building is still standing because different choices were made. So, Angie, if you can look past your anger, you may find that I am more of an ally than you think. A last great storm is coming. And when it is over, I fear there will be little left of our world. The shape-shifters on your side are looking for someone, someone to open the door between universes, and if they find him, there will be no stopping them, and that is why you must find him first.”

“Me?” Angela said.

The rumbling intensified.

“You are the one, Angela,” Tesla said, “Of all the children Walter and I prepared, you were the strongest of them. You were always the strongest.”

Tesla drew a symbol on a piece of paper.

“Remember this symbol,” he said, “It's hidden on their leader. That's how you'll know him. Show this to Mina Schaefer. She can help you.”

The rumbling intensified more.

“We're out of time,” Tesla said, ringing a bell, “Angela, you should stand. I think it'll be less painful that way.”

Angela stood up. “What will?”

“And remember this, melius quam pater tuus,” Tesla said, “Tell that to Anders and Anna. You're going to need them by your side. Tell it to them. They’ll know what it means.”

He sat back down at his desk and typed on a tablet. “And I'm afraid there's no avoiding what has to happen next. I pulled you and your car over here momentarily, but my equipment was crude. I had to send the car back first, to a millisecond after I pulled you over. I won’t be able to send you back to the same time, because this isn’t a time machine. But I must send you back to the car now, because otherwise you’d fall out of the sky. Momentum can be deferred, but it must always be paid back, in full. As I once said to Walter, you do not frak with physics. Physics fraks with you."

---

Anders continued shaking Angela’s head.

“Angie!” he shouted. “Can you hear me?”

“Olga, nitroglycerine, thirty C.C.s,” Walter said, “Anna, turn the head to the side, make sure she can breathe.”

Anna turned Angela’s head to the side.

“Walter, what's happening?” Anders said.

“I think she's receiving a flood of memories,” Walter said, “Could be too much, too fast. We have to shock her heart. There's a vial of adrenaline, Anders.”

Anders grabbed the adrenaline syringe and readied it.

“Okay,” Walter said, “Into her heart, between the ribs. Count to three, one, two…three!”

“Sorry, Angie,” Anders said, stabbing her with the syringe.

Angela gasped and shot awake.

“I need to speak to Mina!” she said.


Tesla Dynamic, Frankfurt - 1:00 PM

As she walked down the hallway, Mina picked up her phone. “Hello?”

“Mina, we need to talk,” Angela said.

“Agent Hansen?” Mina said. “I thought Di got the answers you need.”

“Look, I'm on my way there now,” Angela said, “I just got on the plane.”

“I'm sorry,” Mina said, “I'm just about to leave for Nanjing.”

“I have a message from Wilhelm Tesla,” Angela said.

Mina lowered her phone and turned to her assistant. “Cancel the plane.”


Walter’s lab - 1:15 PM

Louise walked into the lab and met Olga near one of the desks.

“Hey, Agent Kazdan,” Olga said.

“Where is everyone?” Louise said.

“Uh, Anna and Walter are out, Anders and Diana went home, and Angela went to Frankfurt to see Mina Schaefer,” Olga said, “I can call her if you want me to. She just got on the plane…”

“No, that's okay,” Louise said, looking at Anders’ computer, “I’ll fly up there and tell her. I just made a breakthrough on the shapeshifter. I might be able to find out who it is. By the way, what’s this?”

“Oh, that's the Tesla Dynamic server,” Olga said, “Diana had them rebuild the image from the broken device.”


Tesla Dynamic, Frankfurt - 2:30 PM

Angela drew the symbol Tesla had shown her on a whiteboard. Mina looked at it.

“Tesla showed you this?” Mina said.

“Yeah,” Angela said, “Have you ever seen that before, that symbol?”

“No,” Mina said.

“Well, that's what he told me,” Angela said, “He said it would be hidden somewhere on their leader's body.”

“Well, I suspect it would be on his head, assuming that's what the cryogenic raids are about,” Mina said, “And that's all he told you?”

“He said that the man with that mark would try to open a door between our two worlds, that a storm was coming, and the only way to stop it was for me to find him before they did,” Angela said.

“A storm?” Mina said.

“Yeah, what?” Angela said.

“It was a phrase he used,” Mina said, “When Tesla realized the existence of the other side, the thing he dreaded most was the inevitable collision... if our two universes ever came together.”

“Collision?” Angela said.

“The Pauli Exclusion Principle means no two objects can be in the same space simultaneously,” Mina said, “Tesla was afraid that if the doorway between the two sides was ever opened... that the unavoidable conclusion... only one world would remain, and the other would be destroyed. It's what he called the last great storm.”

Angela heard a high-pitched ringing noise in her head, and she clutched her ear. She heard Tesla say something, a name…

“Lazarus Cryonics.”

Her phone rang, and the ringing subsided. She looked at the text from Louise.

MINA IS THE SHAPESHIFTER
Angela put away her phone. “I'm sorry. I have to go.”

She walked away.

“Angela?” Mina said. “Whatever Tesla Dynamic can do to help, we are at your service.”

Angela took the elevator down to the lobby and walked outside, meeting Louise in a side alley.

“How'd you know?” Angela said. “We literally didn’t know it was still alive until this morning.”

“Listen carefully,” Louise said, “My car's around the corner, there’s a SWAT team inbound. As soon as I verify you're out of this building, they're going to shred this place. Let's move.”

“Louise, I almost told her everything, frak,” Angela said, “I have to call Kurtz.”

“What do you mean almost?” Louise said.

“Well, I just realized where it is, the head they're looking for,” Angela said, “Tesla told me. It's at Lazarus Cryonics.”

Angela’s phone rang. She picked it up.

“Hello?” she said.

“Angie, check your phone,” Anders said, “They finished reconstructing the picture. Are you getting the same thing?”

Angela looked at her screen. The picture was of Louise.

“Angie?” Anders said. “Please tell me it isn’t who I think it is.”

Louise punched Angela in the face. Her phone flew out of her hands, and she slammed against the concrete wall. Louise kicked her in the stomach, and Angela screamed in pain. She tried reaching for her gun, but Louise punched her again, knocking it away. Angela tried punching back with her other hand, but Louise caught the punch and pushed her back against the wall. She then took out her phone and dialed a number.

“It’s Lazarus Cryonics,” she said.

While she was distracted, Angela bolted for her gun. Louise noticed and ran toward her. Angela reached the gun first, aimed it at Louise, and shot her in the head. Mercury blasted out of the shapeshifter’s head, and it fell over.


IU Strasburg quad - 4:30 PM

Angela sat on a bench on the side of the quad, opposite the statue of Gutenberg. Students walked around her, heading to classes or to a friend’s place and eagerly chatting with their friends along the way. A lifetime ago, she would’ve been one of them. It was hard to imagine herself as a young and optimistic college student in the 80s. Her younger self was almost like a different person to her now. Most of the people she knew back then were distant or dead. That was how things were. Everybody she knew invariably suffered because of her. And Louise was the latest to fall victim to her curse. She was a good agent and a good friend. They’d known each other since 1994. She had a happy family and fulfilling career. And now she was dead, all because she was unfortunate enough to have known Angela. It was unfair. But then again, the universe had never been fair to her.

“You had no choice,” Anders said, sitting next to her, “If you didn't kill him, he would have killed you. It's not your fault. Whatever that thing was, it wasn't Louise.”

“This is ridiculous, Anders,” Angela said, “What are we even doing here?”

“We’re finding the truth, Angie,” Anders said, “We’ve always been doing that.”

“Yeah, but we’re covering it up now,” Angela said, “We’re not even dealing with Sentinel, and we know that’s real. This…this just gets everybody we know killed, and for what? We don’t even know who these people are, what they want. We didn’t do anything to them.”

Anders sighed.

“What?” Angela said.

“We sent Di and Olga with a SWAT team to protect Lazarus Cryonics,” Anders said, “By the time we got there, the entire place had been gutted already. They got everything.”

“Damn it,” Angela said, “Wilhelm Tesla pulled me to another universe to give me a warning. That's how important this is, that they don’t find whoever they’re looking for. And I failed.”

Anders put a hand on Angela’s shoulder. “Angie, we'll find them. We’ll figure it out. We’ll make sure Louise didn’t die in vain.”


Unknown

The shapeshifters searched through the frozen heads until they found the one with the symbol on its forehead. They picked up the head, that of a balding man with brown and gray hair, and walked over to a table, where a headless mechanical male body lay. They attached the wires in the “neck” to the wires in the head and began sewing the head onto the body. After they finished, the shapeshifter opened its eyes. Another shapeshifter approached him.

“Welcome back, Sebastian Thomas,” he said.
 

TheAnguishedOne

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You know, these shapeshifters might not want to come to this universe if they knew just how hostile it could be over here. Alien civil wars, angels and demons clashing, multiple world wars... Must be awful in their universe.
 

zenphoenix

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You know, these shapeshifters might not want to come to this universe if they knew just how hostile it could be over here. Alien civil wars, angels and demons clashing, multiple world wars... Must be awful in their universe.
Well, since we all know what universe it is, things will get really awful in about a few years.;) But things are already bad right now, as upcoming chapters will talk about.
 

zenphoenix

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The Operation, Part 1

Heideger Mental Health Institute, Strasburg - December 10, 2009, 1:00 AM

Joseph Slater sat quietly on his bed in his darkened room, staring ahead at a concrete wall.

“A girl in a red dress,” he said, “Flowers in her hair.”

His head had been cut open, exposing parts of his brain. Sebastian Thomas stood behind him, operating on Joseph’s brain. Joseph didn’t feel much, even though Sebastian didn’t use anesthetic for the impromptu surgery. Normal surgeons didn’t use anesthetic for brain surgeries, and there were no pain receptors in the brain anyways. He didn’t feel anything at all. Meanwhile, Sebastian calmly continued operating.

“Hmm,” Sebastian said, "What kind of flowers?”

"Uh, I'm not sure,” Joseph said.

Sebastian picked up a pair of forceps. “Thank you, Herr Slater. It will come.”

“Heidi, the flowers in her hair,” Joseph said, “The fl, flowers in her hair are Heidi.”

“Oh, I think so,” Sebastian said.

Sebastian turned to his aide, who handed him a container full of a nutrient solution.

“Hold very still, there will be no pain,” Sebastian said.

He reached deeper into Joseph’s brain and pulled out a loose piece of tissue, which he dropped into the container. He took off his gloves.

“Alright, let’s close him up,” he said.

The aide checked his radio.

“Hold on,” he said, “We have activity.”

The aide loaded his gun and walked out of the room. An orderly walked inside, and the aide shot him twice in the chest.

“Damn it,” he said, “We have two minutes, maybe three.”

Sebastian turned back to Joseph, whose brain was still exposed. “Oh, my sincere apologies. I’d rather not leave you in such a condition. Where I come from, all of this would’ve been unnecessary actually.”

He and the aide packed up their equipment and ran outside, where they got into a waiting van and drove away.


9:00 AM

Angela drove the Impala up to the gate of the clinic and stopped in front of the security guard. She held out her badge.

“Special Agent Hansen with the Athanatoi,” she said, “This is Special Agent Humboldt, that’s Special Agent Frank, and those are our consultants, Anna Humboldt and Dr. Walter Humboldt. We’re here to investigate the break-in.”

The guard looked at Walter. “And you're Doctor Humboldt?”

“Yes,” Walter said, “And I'm perfectly sane.”

They drove through the gates and parked at the curb. Walking inside, they met one of the doctors in the lobby.

“I’m Dr. West,” the doctor said, “You’re the agents?”

“Yeah,” Angela said, “Could you tell us more about Joseph Slater?”

They walked down a hallway.

“Joseph Slater has been a patient here for the last fourteen years,” West said, “When he was admitted, he was diagnosed with acute paranoid schizophrenia.”

“His file said he suffered from delusions, false memories, severe emotional swings,” Diana said.

“Every classical symptom of the condition,” West said.

“Until last night,” Anders said.

“That's right,” West said, “And within an hour, after discovering what had been done to him, the change in his behavior is nothing short of remarkable.”

“So basically, two guys broke in, cut a hole in his head, and what, made him sane?” Anna said.

“As unlikely as it sounds, yes,” West said, “And just as strange, we can't find evidence that they did anything to him. Mister Slater's brain is structurally intact. We ran blood tests, tox screens, nothing came back unusual.”

“We'll need to see his medical reports,” Angela said, “And also his personal history, of course.”

A patient dropped something and screamed, attracting Walter’s attention.

“Sir?” a caregiver said. “Oh, boy. Everything’s going to be fine.”

“Doctor, I’d like to see the patient,” Walter said.

“That's where we're going right now, Walter, to see Herr Slater,” Anders said.

“No, Anders, we're seeing a sane man,” Walter said, “I'd like to see him when he was a patient.”

They walked to West’s office, where West put a CD into his computer. A video of Joseph Slater in the office played.

“No, no, no, the girl in the red dress... chrysanthemums in her hair,” Joseph said, “Her mother grows them in a box on the window sill.”

“And where does this little girl live?” West asked.

“Across the street,” Joseph said.

“No, Joseph, she doesn’t,” West said.

“She, she moved,” Joseph said.

“She was never there,” West said.

Joseph lunged across the table. “What did you do with her? What did you do? What did you do with her? You give her back. Give her back! Bring her back! Bring her back! Bring her ba—”

West paused the tape.


9:15 AM

“...and you can't describe either of the men?” Angela asked.

“No,” Joseph said, “To be honest, I can barely remember them. My first clear memory of last night, I was turning from my window, and Frau Holger was standing there, one of the nurses, she was scared. And they raced me to the medical ward. But what struck me was that I felt unburdened, like my mind had had a spring cleaning, like I was suddenly…"

“…free,” Walter said.

“Yes,” Joseph said, “And I seem to remember them being... pleasant, polite even, but beyond that, nothing. I'm sorry.”

“That's okay,” Anders said.

“Anything else?” West said.

“No,” Angela said, “Not right now. Thank you.”

"Okay, in that case, Herr Slater, your wife is here,” West said.

“They tell me that she came to visit me twice a week,” Joseph said, “I think I remember being horrible to her.”

“I think it'll be fine,” West said, "She's right outside."

“Thank you,” Joseph said, walking away.

"He's a lucky man,” Walter said, "Seventeen years that I was in St. Clara’s, not a single visitor.”

“Uh, Walter?” Anna said.

“Oh, I wasn't trying to make you feel guilty,” Walter said, “It was just an observation."

“Uncle Walter, have you had any theories on how this man is suddenly sane?” Angela said.

“No. Not yet, but I'm eager to,” Walter said, “A remedy for insanity, as you can imagine, I have thought long and hard about it.”

Elsewhere, Olga and Diana stood in the security room, where they watched the footage recorded last night. Diana pointed when she saw Sebastian and his men enter the building, easily breaking open an electronic lock.

“There,” she said.

“You saw that lock?” Olga said. “Top of the line. Military grade. Developed by the KGB, perfected by the RSB. And these guys broke it like it's a bicycle lock. Whoever these guys are, they're very smart, very rich, or very well-connected. Possibly Sentinel.”

Angela, Anders, and Anna walked into the room and looked at the footage. Angela recognized one of the men.

“Pause it,” she said.

Diana paused it on Sebastian’s face.

“I know that face,” Angela said.

“From where?” Olga said.

“Lazarus Cryonics,” Angela said.

“The theft of the frozen heads?” Anders said.

“Yeah,” Angela said, “Wilhelm Tesla told me the people from over there, the people who tried to kill me, who killed Louise, they were looking for someone.”

“They said they were looking for their leader,” Diana said.

“Well, I've been combing through their files, trying to figure out, of all the heads they took, which was the one that they wanted?” Angela said. “I've been looking at these faces for the last two months.”

“Are you really trying to tell us that he is one of the heads that they stole?” Anna said.

“It’s not the craziest thing we’ve come up with,” Olga said.

“But still, frozen heads don't just get up and walk into places,” Anna said, “I mean, the dead don't rise out of their graves and perform midnight brain surgery.”

“Well, they just did, which means he’s not dead,” Angela said.


Strasburg field office - 10:00 AM

“Okay, so what do we know about Sebastian Thomas so far?” Kurtz said.

“Beside his name, absolutely nothing,” Angela said, “Sebastian Thomas was the name on record at Lazarus Cryonics. But it was an alias. It led nowhere. Now, Wilhelm Tesla told me the man with that marking would try to open a corridor from our universe to the other side. I managed to infer that the results would be less than desirable.”

“Exactly how much less desirable?” Kurtz said.

“As in everybody dies,” Angela said.

“So what's that have to do with sneaking into a mental hospital to perform brain surgery on a random schizophrenic?” Kurtz said.

“You're leaving out the part where they cured him,” Anders said, “As opening moves go, that one's pretty strange.”

“Where's Dr. Humboldt on this?” Kurtz said.

“He's trying to figure out exactly how they cured Slater,” Anna said, “If he can do that, maybe we can anticipate Thomas’ next move.”

“There's no maybe,” Angela said, “I don't know what Thomas’ up to, but I know we have to go stop him.”


Walter’s lab

Walter paced around his lab while Diana and Olga watched him.

“Herr Slater's referring doctor was a psychiatrist called Simon Franzen,” Walter said, “Let's see if you could locate Dr. Franzen. I have some questions about Herr Slater's medical history before his admission.”

“Why, what are you looking for?” Olga said.

“Not sure,” Walter said, “Something that would induce the delusional thinking.”

“Something?” Olga said.

“Something or someone,” Diana said.

Olga sat down and typed on her computer. "You mean you think that someone made him crazy on purpose?”

“It’s a theory,” Walter said, “The truth is there is no cure for madness, it's a fantasy. The road back from madness is a struggle. Only the luckiest of people find their way, more or less, back to the world you live in. And from what we saw of Herr Slater, well, my only supposition is that he was never mad to begin with.”

“There is no Simon Franzen in the Imperial Medical Association database,” Olga said, “He's not on the membership roster. Does that mean he died?”

“It shouldn’t,” Walter said, “Even if he had, there should still be a record. Um, his RX number will be on Herr Slater's initial prescription when he was admitted. Check the pharmacy records.”

“Why would someone do that, Walter, make someone crazy?” Diana said.

“Any number of reasons,” Walter said, “It would make them insusceptible to interrogation.”

Olga looked at her computer again. “Huh, according to this, fourteen years ago, Dr. Franzen set up an indefinite prescription of certain medications for Herr Slater. No termination date. Now, this is interesting. In the same week, he wrote the same prescription for two other patients.”

“In the same week?” Walter said.

“At two other hospitals,” Olga said.

Diana took out her phone and dialed Anders’ number.


Dingsheim - 11:00 AM

Deborah sighed and looked at the floor.

“...and when I woke up, I felt like I’d been out drinking last night,” she said, “Only the night lasted fourteen years.”

Angela pointed at a file. “It says here that you suffered from a severe form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder."

“Yeah, ‘Arithmomania’ they call it,” Deborah said.

“You're obsessed with numbers,” Anders said.

“Just one, actually,” Deborah said, “I'd see it everywhere, hear it everywhere. I could never get it out of my head. 28, 28. Then, uh, a couple days ago, I woke up, and it was gone, just like that. Suddenly I was free.”

“And your doctors have no explanation?” Diana said.

“Between you and me, I think that's why they're keeping me here,” Deborah said, “One of them is probably hoping to get a paper out of it. So what does this have to do with the Athanatoi?"

“We're not sure,” Anders said, “Maybe nothing. But do you mind if we look at your head?”

“My head?” Deborah said.

“It should only take a minute,” Anders said.

Deborah turned around. Anders pulled back her hair to reveal a scar.

“What are you looking for?” Deborah said.

“It's here,” Anders said.

Angela looked at the scar. “A fresh scar, but there are no sutures. Looks more like the burn from a surgical laser.”

“I don't understand,” Deborah said, “What kind of scar? What are you saying happened to me?”

“Did you have any visitors during your stay here?” Diana said.

“My husband, my son,” Deborah said.

“But what about the doctor who referred you, Dr. Franzen?” Angela said.

“No,” Deborah said, “Never. I only saw him a couple times before he sent me here.”

“But he diagnosed the Arithmomania, right?” Anders said.

“Oh, no,” Deborah said, "He saw me for mild depression, postpartum. Told me I needed to rest a few weeks and sent me here. The Arithmomania just started one day.”


Downtown Strasburg - 11:30 AM

Angela drove down the highway, while Anders read through their files on Dr. Franzen.

“Third patient, Eduard Geiger,” he said, "Just like Deborah Kraus. Fourteen years ago, Dr. Franzen refers him to a mental hospital with the psychiatric equivalent of a cough, which then develops into full-blown schizophrenia. Two days ago, he miraculously recovers. Apparently Herr Geiger thought he was the actor Sigmund Groenstrasse and walked around the place quoting Casablanca, both the book and movie. That's funny.”

“What?” Angela said.

“He looks a lot more like Peter Lorre,” Anders said.

Angela punched him in the arm.

“You know, all my life I’ve understood how people feel…what drives them, their emotions, like greed or envy or revenge,” Angela said, “But Thomas, these people we're up against... how can I fight what I can't understand?”

“We’ve done this before,” Anders said, “We’ve always gone up against things and people we don’t understand. It’s our job.”

“Angie, I know you think you’re alone in this,” Diana said, “Maybe that's because of what Tesla told you. Maybe that's just your personality. Maybe it was the last eight years. But this isn't just your fight. You’re not alone. You never were.”


Walter’s lab - 11:35 AM

Walter looked over the files, confused.

“I must have missed something,” he said, “When did Herr Slater have an organ transplant?"

“What?” Anna said.

Angela read the file again.

“One of the drugs Doctor Franzen prescribed was Sirolimus,” she said, “An anti-rejection drug only given to organ-transplant patients.”

“Absolutely useless for a paranoid schizophrenic,” Anders said.

“It suggests that not only has Doctor Paris vanished, he's a quack!” Walter said. “Unless…he’s actually a genius.”

“Here we go again…” Anna said.

Walter ran over to a cabinet and took out a jar containing half of a brain.

“Behold, the human brain!” he said. “Well, half of one. But it's useless dead, because when you remove brain tissue from a living body, you can only keep it alive briefly in a nutrient solution. But eventually it will die. It's a problem I've tried to solve many times without success.”

“Yeah, I saw that Doctor Who episode,” Diana said.

“And that really old Star Trek episode,” Anders said, “What is brain?”

“It's very tricky,” Walter said, “You see, it's not enough to simply give it blood and oxygen. You have to give it electrical stimulation as well. But... Dr. Franzen found a solution. He stored the brain tissue inside another brain.”

“I'm sorry, I don't follow,” Olga said, "What brain tissue?”

“Our mental patients’,” Walter said, “Herr Slater, Frau Kraus, and Herr Keiger.”

“Geiger,” Angela corrected him.

Walter put down brains scans from the three patients on the table.

“These are a few years old,” he said, "But you see the slight discoloration here?”

“Yeah,” Anna said.

“Normally that would be interpreted as machine error,” Walter said, "But this is definitely not machine error. This is foreign tissue.”

“That's why they were all on anti-rejection drugs,” Angela said.

“So the surgeries Thomas performed…” Diana said.

“He was removing transplanted brain tissue,” Anders said.

“And my hypothesis explains the patients' madness,” Walter aid, "Putting the tissue of one person into the brain of another is, it’s like putting a motorcycle engine into a car and expecting everything to work fine. It's simply incompatible.”

“Of course, because the host mind has no way to process the new information,” Angela said.

“Thus, the mental distress,” Anders said, "The false memories, delusions. But as soon as you remove the foreign tissue, then they're fine.”

“Correct,” Walter said.

Diana’s phone rang, and she walked away to answer it.

“Well, that just leaves more questions,” Angela said, “Why cut out someone's brain and store it inside other people? And whose brain is it?”

“That's a good question, of course,” Walter said, “And I have no idea.”

Diana walked back over. “Walter, you said you never had any visitors at St. Clara’s, right?”

“That's right,” Walter said.

“According to their records, Dr. Franzen visited you on six separate occasions,” Diana said.

Everybody started at Walter in shock.

“You mind if I take a look at your head?” Anna said.

Walter turned around, and Anna pulled back his hair to reveal a scar.

“It's there,” she said.

Anders looked at it. “It’s different. It's older. But there's definitely a scar."


Heideger Mental Health Institute - 1:00 PM

“From your chart, it appears you've been through this procedure before, several times, in fact,” West said as Walter lay down in front of the MRI machine.

“This is not a good idea, Anders,” Walter said, “These MRI machines have magnets that rip the metal out of the patients. And I have that tracking chip implanted in my neck, the GPS locator.”

“You have absolutely nothing to worry about, because it's made out of silicon,” Anders said, “I called in a few favors from Mina. And you know as well as I do it won't be affected. Maybe some Valium would help.”

“You know, I don't do Valium nearly enough,” Walter said, “That's a good idea. I'll have 50 milligrams, please.”

“Well, that’s, that's quite a high dosage,” West said.

“I have quite a high tolerance,” Walter said.

“Alright,” West said, injecting Walter with the Valium.

"You're going to be fine,” Anna said.

“Yeah,” Walter said.

“It's a routine procedure,” Anders said, "And the Valium will take care of any claustrophobia you might be feeling.”

“I'm not worried about claustrophobia,” Walter said, “What do you think that man did to me?”

“I don't know, Walter,” Anna said, “But we're going to find out, okay?”


1:30 PM

Anders and Anna sat alone next to the MRI machine, waiting for West to process the scans from the procedure. Angela entered the room and joined them.

“You okay?” she said.

“Yeah,” Anders said, “Walter wanted to stick around and wait for the results, but there's Walter on drugs, and then there's Walter on drugs. I had Olga take him home.”

“You see the look on his face when we were talking to Herr Slater?” Anna said. "What do you think that's like for him... wishing that he could turn back the clock to before he went crazy? He's just sane enough to realize how much he's lost.”

“I don't mean to sound callous, but... from what I’ve seen of Uncle Walter, going crazy made him a better person,” Angela said, “It certainly made him a better father.”

“I should have visited him in St. Clara’s,” Anna said.

“So should I,” Anders said.

“I think you're making up for that now,” Angela said.

She looked around the room.

“I miss this,” she said.

“Being a doctor?” Anders said.

“It feels different these days,” Angela said, “They did things differently twenty years ago. I tried helping out Dr. West earlier, and all I felt was confusion and a little panic. There’s a lot of stuff I had to catch up on.”

“But you still miss it,” Anna said.

“A little,” Angela said.

West walked into the room. “I've reviewed the scans of your father's brain.”

“And?” Anders said.

West handed them the images.

“You should take a look,” he said, “I, I've never seen anything like it. Three scars, all on the same side in the left temporal lobe.”

“These incisions go all the way down into the gray matter,” Angela said.

“I'm not following,” West said.

“Walter didn't have brain tissue implanted,” Anders said, “He had it removed."

“Yes, from the hippocampus,” West said, “And as far as I can tell, there would be no medical reason for it.”

“The hippocampus controls our inhibitions,” Angela said, “It helps store long-term memory, contributes to our sense of spatial awareness.”

“Doctor, do you have the scans of the other three patients?” Anna said.

“Sure,” West said, handing her the other scans.

Anna put the scans over Walter’s scans. The incisions in each patient’s brain matched perfectly.

“Take a look,” she said, “It’s a perfect fit.”


Anna’s house - 1:45 PM

Walter clutched his head and sighed while Olga handed him another cup of water.

“I took too much Valium,” he said, “Confusion, dizziness, nausea. I think I must have miscalculated the dose.”

“Maybe we should take you to a hospital, Walter,” Olga said, “I could call Angela.”

“I don't want to go to a hospital,” Walter said, "I need Normaal.”

"Walter, you're not making any sense,” Olga said, “You can’t just ask to be normal.”

“My dear, Normaal... it's a band,” Walter said, “Their debut album, from 1975, always helps me come down from a Valium high. It's in the lab. We should go…”

He groaned again.

“Walter…” Olga said.

“No, you, you do the driving,” Walter said, “I might puke in your car."

“Why don't you stay here and rest and let me get it?” Olga said.

“That might be the best,” Walter said.

“I’ll be back,” Olga said, getting her keys and leaving.


Heideger Mental Health Institute

“It’s Franzen,” Anders said, "He must have removed pieces of Walter's brain. But why? And, and why preserve them?”

“Memory,” Angela said, "The hippocampus is memory storage. Tesla told me Thomas wants to open a door to the other side, right? Well, we already know Walter's done that, from what David Jansen showed us. He just can't remember how or why. That is why he can't remember. He literally had the memories removed. But how would Thomas read them then?”

“In theory, he shouldn't be able to,” Anna said, “But in theory, he should still be a frozen head. So in the Bureau of How to Make Impossible Things Possible, what would he need to do? He would need to... implant the memories into a brain that could interpret them.”

“…Walter,” Anders realized, “Frak.”

They ran out of the hospital and got into the Impala. Angela started the engine and drove away as fast as she could, while Anders dialed Diana’s number.

“Hello?” Diana said.

“Di, where are you and Walter?” Anders said.

“I left him with Olga, because Alex fell at school,” Diana said, “Call her.”

“I’ll do that,” Anders said.

He hung up and called Olga.

“Hello?” Olga said.

“Olga, where’s Walter?” Anders said.

“I'm going to the lab,” Olga said, “He's at Anna’s house. He sent me to get him an album.”

“How long ago?” Anders said.

“Five minutes ago,” Olga said.

“You've got to get back there,” Anders said, “Walter is in danger. We’re coming over.”


Walter’s house - 1:50 PM

Walter got out of his chair to answer the loud knocking on his door.

“Calm down, Agent Kirova,” he said, “You don’t have to wake the whole neighborhood.”

He opened the door and found Sebastian standing outside.

“Hello, Dr. Humboldt,” Sebastian said.

“Oh, hello,” Walter said.
 

TheAnguishedOne

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A creative way to make someone forget important information. A creative, horrible way.
 

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A creative way to make someone forget important information. A creative, horrible way.
That's not even the most creative memory erasing method I put in these updates...;)
 

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The Operation, Part 2

2:00 PM

Angela, Anders, and Anna burst into the house, but it was empty. Olga stood in the doorway, gloomier than usual.

“He was already gone when I got here,” she said, “I’m sorry. Damn, I should’ve stayed. I could’ve taken them.”

“It’s not your fault,” Anna said, “You didn’t know.”

“I have an idea,” Anders said, “Remember Walter got lost downtown last week? He did exactly what you’d expect him to do. He put a transponder chip into his neck so if he ever got lost, Anna or I could find him. He can't be far. Let's go.”


Downtown Strasburg - 2:30 PM

Angela drove down the streets of Strasburg, while Anders looked at his tracking device.

“Turn left here,” he said.

Angela turned left just as her phone rang.

“Hansen,” she said.

“Angie, what’s your 20?” Erich said.

“Two blocks south of the U-Bahn T stop,” Angela said.

“Police is sending an Entry and Apprehension Unit,” Erich said, “I’m sending them to your location now.”

“Got it,” Angela said, hanging up.

“Keep going,” Anders said, “Keep going, and take the next left you see.”

Anna picked up her phone and called Olga.

“Hello?” Olga said.

“The transponder’s pointing at the nearby subway station,” Anna said, “Get ready.”

“On it,” Olga said, “They’re not escaping us.”


Unknown

Sebastian put a neural ring on Walter’s head, connecting it with electrodes and needles puncturing Walter’s scalp.

“The human brain is a fascinating organ,” Sebastian said, "But it's not static. Removal will damage a section. It reroutes the connections and grows in new pathways. Now, figuring out where the old connections once were can be very tricky.”

He connected the ring to his computer, which was connected to a jar containing the extracted brain tissue, and pushed a button.


Downtown Strasburg

Angela stopped the Impala in front of the station entrance, and she, Anders, and Anna ran out, joining Diana, Olga, and the apprehension team at the entrance. They ran down the stairs into the station, where Anders looked at the tracking device. He pointed in the bathroom.

“He’s there!” he said.

They stormed the bathroom, searching in every stall. But the bathroom was empty.

“Walter!” Anders shouted.

Angela looked at the sink and saw the bloody transponder sitting on it.

“Frak,” she said, “They found it.”


Unknown

“I'm going to show you a series of photos,” Sebastian said, “When you see an image, I want you to tell me the first thing that comes to mind. There are no right or wrong answers. But please tell me the truth. If you don't, I'll know.”

“You're using associations to map my brain function, locate my neural pathways,” Walter said, "Are you trying to fix me?”

“I'm afraid I can’t,” Sebastian said, “Tell me what you think when you see this.”

He showed Walter a picture of a test tube.

“My first semester of Organic Chem, freshman year,” Walter said, laughing weakly, “My lab partner and I used to sit up in the back, sniffing benzine fumes.”

Sebastian showed him a picture of a young girl throwing a baseball. Walter smiled.

“Anna,” Walter said.

Sebastian showed him a picture of a custard tart and orange juice.

“Anna,” Walter said, delighted.

Sebastian showed him a picture of a coffin. Walter’s smile disappeared.

“Anna,” he said.

“I'm sorry,” Sebastian said, “I know this is difficult.”

“It's not working,” the aide said, “He's not making the connections we need. Should I recalibrate the machine?”

“No,” Sebastian said, “We need to find something more powerful to stimulate his memory. Of course. Human memory is sensory based. Vision alone is not the strongest trigger. Sound and smell actually work better. We need...proper context.”


Downtown Strasburg

“Okay, Uncle Walter said brain tissue can't survive for long outside a human body,” Angela said.

“Which means they have to be close,” Diana said, “Kurtz raised the alert level at every hospital, emergency care facility, and outpatient clinic in the Rhineland. He’s even calling veterinarians.”

“That's assuming that they need a hospital to complete the procedure,” Anders said, "With their level of technology, we can't know for sure.”

“It's a start, and if we're wrong, we'll have to get creative,” Olga said.

“…the girl in the red dress,” Anna said.

“The who?” Angela said.

“How did I miss this?” Anna said. “The girl in the red dress, 28, 28, Sigmund Groenstrasse. Doctor Franzen's patients, they all had obsessions. Slater was always ranting about the girl who lived across the street, the one that we thought never existed.”

“She did exist,” Anders said, “She lived near us when we lived at Grandpa’s place in Mainz, after we moved from Bremerhaven. Her name was Sigurda. She lived at 2828 Groenstrasse.”

“So those were Uncle Walter's memories,” Angela said.

“Exactly,” Anna said, “Memory is all about, it's all about context, all about association. Every time Walter asks for a piece of food or music or art, he's trying to recreate a moment in time to help him remember.”

“If they're trying to get him to remember how it was he built a door to the other side, maybe they’re taking him to the place where he did it.”

“Our place at Reiden Lake?” Angela said.

“No, that’s where he opened the door, but it's not where he had the thought,” Anders said, “He thought it up at Grandpa’s house.”


Conrad’s old house, Mainz - 4:00 PM

Walter opened his eyes. He was still in the chair Sebastian had tied him to, but he was now in the living room of Conrad’s house.

“Last time I was here, it was a different season,” he said, "The leaves were falling.”

“Yes, this place exists in both worlds,” Sebastian said, “But on my side, the trees in the Rhineland died long ago. And the same thing killed the grass. It was a blight that devastated the entire state. The drought that accompanied it diverted the Rhine itself.”

“That’s terrible,” Walter said.

“Yes it is, isn’t it?” Sebastian said. "Now, Dr. Humboldt, I can see which areas of your brain can make sense of the data that's stored in these slivers of flesh. This is the only way we can reconnect these pieces of your brain.”

He pushed a button on his computer, and electricity buzzed through the electrodes. Walter shook and spasmed to the stimulus. Then the shocks subsided.

“Connection complete,” the aide said.

“Now, Dr. Humboldt, you do know where you are, don’t you?” Sebastian said.

“Of course I do,” Walter said, proudly, “This is my home. My father’s home.”

“It’s working,” the aide said.

“Where’s my wife?” Walter demanded. “Where’s my son? Where’s my daughter?”

“I have a question for you,” Sebastian said, “You once built a door, a door that let you walk between worlds. Tell me how you did it.”

“How are things on your side?” Walter said.

“Worse, I'm told,” Sebastian said, “I know why you built it, the door. I know what you lost. Now, are you going to pretend that you're willing to lose it again? Now, tell me about the door.”

The aide looked out the window and saw the Impala parking at the curb, Angela and Anders getting out. A motorcycle pulled up behind them, and Diana and Olga got off.

“We got company,” the aide said, “They found us.”

“That’s okay,” Sebastian said, removing the equipment from Walter’s head and putting it away, “We got what we needed. My apologies, Dr. Humboldt.”

He took out a syringe and injected Walter with it. Walter fell to the floor and convulsed, while Sebastian and his aide walked out the back door. Angela kicked down the front door and ran inside with Anders, their guns drawn. Anders quickly ran over to Walter.

“Walter!” he shouted, slapping Walter’s face. “Can you hear me?! Walter!”

Walter opened his eyes groggily. “Hello, Anders, would you help me?”

Angela saw the back door was open and ran through it just in time to see Sebastian escaping over the fence. She jumped the fence and fired off one shot, hitting the aide in the back of the head.

“Freeze!” she shouted, pointing her gun at Sebastian. “Athanatoi!”

Sebastian stopped and turned around, raising his hands.

“Keep your hands where I can see them,” Angela said, “You so much as twitch, and you won't have a head left to refreeze.”

“I think there's something you should know,” Sebastian said, "It's about Walter Humboldt. He's going to die unless you do exactly what I say. I injected him with a neurotoxin, and unless he gets the antidote in four minutes, it will kill him. Call it my failsafe to ensure my escape.”

“You’re bluffing,” Angela said.

Her phone rang, and she picked it up.

“Yeah?” she said.

“They poisoned Walter,” Anders said.

“Damn it,” Angela said, “What did you do to him?”

“Ask him if he sees a medical kit I left behind,” Sebastian said.

“Hey, do you see a medical kit nearby?” Angela said.

“Yeah, there’s one here on the table,” Anders said.

“There are three vials in the kit,” Sebastian said, “If injected in the correct order, they neutralize the toxin. If not, they kill him. Painfully.”

Angela pressed her gun against Sebastian’s head. “You tell me.”

“Not yet,” Sebastian said, “You have about two minutes until Dr. Humboldt dies. At a flat run, I estimate about forty seconds until you get back to him. Now, hand me your phone. When I hear you go back into the house, from Anders’ phone, I'll tell you what to do."

“You're crazy if you think I'm letting you go,” Angela said.

“He’s dying, Angie,” Anders said, “We need your help.”

"The choice is yours,” Sebastian said, “You can have me... or Walter Humboldt.”

Angela sighed and threw her phone at him. “Go frak yourself.”

She ran back to the house, where she knelt next to Anders and Walter. She took Anders’ phone.

“Okay, you motherfrakker,” she said.

“Blue, yellow, red,” Sebastian said.

Angela took the vials and injected them in the correct order. Walter gasped and shot awake.

“Anders…” he said. “I have a terrible headache... and a sudden craving for chicken wings.”

“And, Angela, now I know how weak you are,” Sebastian said, hanging up.

“If it helps, I sent Olga and Diana after him,” Anders said, “They should be

Outside, Sebastian rounded a corner and immediately ran into Olga and Diana, who pointed their guns at him.

“Stop, now!” Diana demanded.

Sebastian instead lunged toward them with an inhuman speed, and in two punches both of them were on the ground. He dusted off his coat and continued running away.


Strasburg field office - 5:00 PM

“He was right,” Angela said, “I made an emotional choice. I chose family over responsibility. And we have no idea if Uncle Walter gave Thomas the plans for the door. Uncle Walter still doesn't remember, and the brain tissue Thomas extracted is dead.”

“And Doctor Franzen?” Erich said.

“Nothing,” Anders said, “He's vanished. So all we have is more questions. I mean, who is Franzen? How did Thomas know about Uncle Walter's memories? And why did they let Uncle Walter live?”

“I suspect that's the way this is going to be,” Kurtz said, “The more answers we get, the more questions they'll lead to.”

“It’s always been this way,” Erich said.

“We didn't get any answers,” Angela said.

“Sure we did,” Kurtz said, “We've given our enemy a name and a face. That's something. And you saved Dr. Humboldt’s life. That's something too, because despite what you think, you made a rational choice, not an emotional one. If you had captured Thomas, or even killed him, that wouldn't have been the end of this. But there's only one Walter Humboldt... and we'll need him before this is over. Don't be so hard on yourselves.”


Heideger Mental Health Institute

Walter settled into the MRI machine for another diagnosis, while Anna sat next to him.

“They just want to make sure everything's okay,” Anna said.

“I know,” Walter said.

“I should have visited you, Walter, while you were in St. Clara’s,” Anna said.

“Oh, that's okay, Anna,” Walter said, “If you had, I probably wouldn't have remembered.”

“I'll be right outside if you need me,” she said, getting up and leaving.

Walter relaxed and closed his eyes. A flood of memories suddenly returned to him. He looked up and saw he was on an operating table. Two doctors stood over him.

“He’s ready, Dr. Franzen,” one said to the other.

Franzen looked at Walter and took off his mask, revealing he was Wilhelm Tesla.

“His system is completely clean?” Tesla said. “No sedatives, no antidepressants?”

“The electrodes are in place,” the doctor said.

“Good,” Tesla said, “Hello, Walter. Are you comfortable?”

“Comfortable?” Tesla said. “I'm frightened, Willy.”

“I wish there was another way, but what you've accomplished... it's just too dangerous,” Tesla said.

“But what if we ever have to go back?” Walter said.

“Don't worry,” Tesla said, "Your memory, I'll put it in a place that only I can find. Now, listen to me, Walter. You designed a door to the other side. I want you to think about that door.”
 

TheAnguishedOne

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Tesla is going to have quite the apology for Walter by the end of all this.
 

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Nantes, Part 1

Konstanstadt - January 21, 2010, 6:00 PM

It was the early evening at the five-story brownstone business office of Dodst & Rathje Architecture Ltd in downtown Konstanstadt. The other architects were starting to leave, but Ted wasn’t one of them. As he walked back to his desk, he sipped from a cup of coffee, attracting Pauline’s attention. She put down her jacket and looked at Ted.

“Hey,” she said, “Thought you were getting out of here.”

“Afraid not,” Ted said, “It'll be a late one.”

Pauline pointed at the cup of coffee. “Wait a second. Is that…is that real coffee? Where the frak did you get that?"

"I don't know,” Ted said, “I have my sources.”

She followed Ted back to his desk and found bags of coffee beans and a coffee machine covertly hidden underneath.

“Aha,” she said.

“I have a cousin in the colonies,” Ted said, “She has a secret stash. She sends me stuff every…”

The building suddenly rumbled.

“This is ridiculous,” he said, “What is that, six since yesterday?”

“Yeah, well, I'm from California, so I'm used to it, you know?” Pauline said.

“But this is Greece,” Ted said, “Don't you think it's strange?”

“Not really,” Pauline said, “Though it is certainly strange there are so many of them lately."

“What are they saying on the news?” Ted said.

“That they're just these little quakes, you know?” Pauline said. "Microquakes. A byproduct of global warming and strip mining in Africa and the Balkans and Anatolia or something. Well, see you tomorrow. Oh, and if you, uh, have any extra coffee... call me.”

She walked away.

“Good night, Pauline,” Ted said.

Ted turned back to the plans on his table, which were for the New Pentagon Annex IV. He was so excited his firm got the contract to rebuild the Pentagon. He had a lot of ideas for what the building should look like. The Emperor would be very pleased with the final results.

As he took another sip from his coffee, the building shook even harder. Ted covered his prized coffee, while car alarms sounded outside. The shaking only intensified, dislodging dust and then debris from the ceiling, shattering Ted’s desk and destroy his coffee cup, spilling the precious coffee all over his plans. Ted ran for the door, but a metal beam fell out of the ceiling and impaled him.

A while later, Ted weakly opened his eyes again. He looked down and saw the metal beam still running through his stomach, pinning him down.

“Hello?” he said. “Somebody? Help!”

He tried lifting his arm, but it felt twice as heavy. He looked down to see what kind of rubble was pinning it down, only for him to realize there was no rubble. There was a second arm fused to his right arm. He looked to his left and saw another arm sticking out of his lower torso. He could also see legs sticking out at unnatural angles from his normal legs. He screamed, both in pain and in horror.


Anna’s house, Strasburg - January 22, 2010, 2:03 AM

Anna walked down stairs, her phone to her ear.

“You’re kidding me,” she said.

“Congrats, sis,” Anders said, “You've just won an all-expenses-paid trip to the City of the World’s Desire.”

“I thought I told your people to take me off your contestant list,” Anna said, pouring a cup of coffee in the kitchen.

“Not according to our records,” Anders said, “It says here you're a really big fan of fine dining and excitement.”

“Do you have a supervisor?” Anna said. “Anybody there I could complain to? This has to stop.”

“Did I mention there's excitement?” Anders said.

Anna walked back upstairs to Walter’s room.

“Walter, wake up,” she said, “We just won an all-expenses-paid trip to Constantinople.”

Walter smiled. “That’s fantastic. I've never won anything before.”


Constantinople - 8:00 AM

Angela drove down the busy streets of Constantinople, checking her GPS for directions, while Anders and Anna tried to show interest in Walter’s theories.

“An earthquake in the Ostend,” Walter said, “It's possible. Greece is one of the most earthquake-prone parts of the Reich. But in Constantinople itself, highly unlikely. Perhaps a small comet.”

“Any witnesses?” Angela said.

“Witnesses outside felt the ground shake, but no one saw what happened,” Erich said.

Angela parked among the emergency vehicles outside the building, and they got out.

"What about the people inside?” Anders said.

“Emergency services secured this entrance into the building, scouring the place for survivors,” Erich said.

“How many did they find?” Anna said.

“Zero,” Erich said, “Very few bodies.”

“Hey, are you seeing this?” Diana said, walking from around a corner and pointing up.

They looked up at the exterior.

“It looks…” Anders said.

“Rearranged,” Walter said, “Extraordinary.”

Olga emerged from the doorway and took off a firefighter’s mask. “All clear.”

They followed Olga into the building, where they found a woman’s body lying on the floor, her face fused with a man’s face coming out of the side.

“What the frak?” Angela said.

“I don't suppose you have any idea what could have caused this?” Erich said.

“Quantum tectonic event would be my guess,” Walter said, “Until now, this phenomenon has just been theoretical.”

“A quantum tectonic event?” Erich said.

“Well, yes,” Anders said, “Imagine a sudden momentary disturbance at a subatomic level. The energy disperses the atoms, literally tearing the very fabric of reality itself.”

“The atoms come apart, but when they reassemble, they come together wrong,” Anna said.

“So what are the odds of something like this occurring naturally?” Angela said.

“Oh, it's possible,” Walter said, “But if so, God has a far more disturbed sense of humor then even I could have imagined.”

Olga rushed down a flight of stairs to them. “We got a survivor!”

They ran up the stairs and to the third floor, where they found Ted still lying on the floor, impaled on the metal beam.

“He says his name is Ted Prenzlau,” s paramedic said.

“Help, please,” Ted said, trying to raise one of his fused arms.

“Hold still, sir,” Angela said, “It's important you try not to move, okay?”

“Please help,” Ted said.

“I don't know if we can cut him loose from that beam,” Angela said, “He might not survive.”

“Call my wife,” Ted said, “Someone please call my wife. I just want to hear her voice.”

“Herr Prenzlau, I'm Director Hansen with the Athanatoi,” Erich said.

Ted looked at him in confusion. “The what?”

"We're going to do everything we can to find your wife and get you out of here,” Erich said, picking up his phone.

“Athanatoi?!” Ted said.

“Herr Prenzlau, it would help us a lot if you could describe what happened here,” Anders said.

“Tremors,” Ted said, “Just like the other ones. Then a really big one that just kept getting worse. I'm so thirsty.”

“He can't drink anything,” the paramedic said, "Maybe some ice, but no liquids.”

“I'm on it,” Angela said, getting a first aid kit ready.

Meanwhile, Walter looked at the damaged New Pentagon Annex blueprints on what was left of Ted’s desk, as well as the fragments of his coffee cup.

“Herr Prenzlau, did anything unusual happen before the disaster?” Anders said. “Maybe someone in the building who shouldn't have been here.”

“No,” Ted said, “Just the same things everyone saw. Yesterday, the dogs all started howling. Then all those little tremors. The microquakes.”

“Did you hear about any tremors in Constantinople?” Anders asked Diana.

“No?” Diana said.

“What’s Constantinople?” Ted said.

Erich put down his phone.

“Ted Prenzlau doesn't have a wife, and it appears he never did,” he said to Angela.

“Makes sense,” Angela said, “Trauma from his injuries. He’s delirious.”

“I don’t think so,” Walter said, walking over to Ted, “Sir, what year is it?”

“2010,” Ted said.

“And who is the chancellor?” Walter asked.

“Merkel,” Ted said.

“Good,” Walter said, “Now, I’m sorry to do this…”

“Walter,” Anna said, "Hey, Walter. What's the point of this?”

"I'm sorry about this, but it is very important,” Walter said, “On November 9, when the terrorists attacked the Reich, where did they attack?”

“Hofburg Palace,” Ted said, “The Munich Stock Exchange.”

“And I sincerely apologize, but who is the Kaiser?” Walter said.

“Claudius,” Ted said, “Third of his name, of House Anniona. Holy Roman Emperor. Solar Celestial Chrysanthemum Emperor of China, Japan, and Tawantinsuyu, Descendant of the Twin Suns, Defender of the Faith…”

He closed his eyes and fell limp. Angela felt for a pulse, but there was none.

“I think I know what happened here,” Walter said.

Angela noticed a moving lump under Ted’s shirt. She cut it open and saw the face of this universe’s Ted as he gasped for air and also died. She closed both sets of eyelids.

“My theory was wrong,” Walter said, “This wasn't a quantum tectonic event at all. We're standing in two buildings. One of which comes from the parallel universe.”


9:00 AM

Angela met Anders and Diana outside the building.

“Walter asked them to send Herr Prenzlau’s bodies back to the lab,” Anders said, “Maybe they'll provide some insight into how this thing happened."

“I think I know how this happened,” Angela said.

“Yeah?” Anders said.

“Two universes colliding,” Angela said, "This is what Wilhelm Tesla warned me about. He said Thomas would try to open a doorway from our universe to the other one and that when it happened this would be the consequence.”

“Two objects trying to occupy the same space at the same time,” Diana said.

“This was Thomas,” Angela said, “I'm sure of it. He was here.”


Walter’s lab, Strasburg - 3:00 PM

Olga stared at the abomination that was formerly Ted Prenzlau and Ted Prenzlau. Angela knew she wouldn’t vomit, but she was surprised by how horrified Olga looked. Diana barely held back a snicker, while Anna looked away and Anders pretended to be busy with the evidence boxes. Olga quickly ran over to the boxes and began searching as well. Angela put on her latex gloves and picked up a scalpel, ready to help Walter autopsy the bodies.

“Alright, so what am I looking for?” Olga said.

“Anything that looks like it doesn't belong,” Anders said.

Olga took out a coin. “Okay. I think this qualifies. It’s Richard Mason, the old senator. But they call him a president of a place called California. And it’s called a silver dollar.”

“Strange,” Anders said.

“So when you separate them, how are you going to tell them apart?” Diana asked.

“The Herr Prenzlau from over there was married, and he had a wedding ring,” Angela said, “Ours wasn’t.”

She looked at her own wedding ring. “I feel a little irony in this.”

“So as far as his wife will ever know, he just disappeared?” Diana said.

“Yeah,” Angela said, “Heartbreaking, right?”

“Hey, take a look at this,” Anders said, holding up a toy car, “It’s a double-decker car. So they drive these over there? A little impractical, don’t you think?”

“I suppose so,” Walter said, “Wait, I know what Thomas did. And I'm afraid I've just remembered what's going to happen next.”


Strasburg field office - 4:00 PM

Olga typed on a computer and brought up the security feed from outside the building on the day of the incident. Visible to the camera was a group of who appeared to be construction workers. Their leader was Sebastian.

“That’s him,” Angela said.

“This was taken two hours before the incident,” Olga said.

“He and his men disguised themselves as a construction crew,” Diana said.

“So how do we find him?” Anna said.

“We're running down FIN numbers,” Anders said, “We're looking into equipment rental.”

“I asked Kurtz if he could send off on sending us back to Constantinople,” Angela said.

Anna’s phone rang. “It’s Walter. Hey.”

“Anna, I need you and Anders back at the lab,” Walter said, “Angie as well.”

“Walter, we're right in the middle of something,” Anna said.

“Don't argue with me,” Walter said, "Get back here now, all of you.”


Walter’s lab - 4:30 PM

Walter handed them a scrap book dated to 1976. He flipped it open to picture of a car fused into the statue of Gutenberg.

“This is what's so important?” Anders said.

“This happened over thirty years ago right here on campus,” Walter said.

“I know,” Anna said, “I've heard this story before. LIT students fused a car to the statue of Gutenberg in the quad. It was a prank. They had to cut the car away. They never figured out how they did it.”

“This wasn't LIT students, was it?” Anders said. "This was one of your experiments?”

“When Willy and I first tried to generate a stable door between universes, our first test subject was a car, Willy’s old Porsche 911, and it did not go well,” Walter said.

“First times are always sloppy,” Anna said.

“It wasn't our first time,” Walter said, “Eleven minutes after we made the car disappear, this car appeared from the other side.”

“How do you know it wasn't just pulled from down the block?” Angela said.

“It was 1976,” Walter said, “The car had a CD player and GPS. It wasn't an option at the time."

“Okay, then why?” Diana said. “I mean, how did the car appear?”

“The technology we used demands there be a balance between what comes over here and what goes over there,” Walter said, “We sent a car over there, so a car and the surrounding air of roughly equivalent mass came back. Now, a building from the other side appeared here using roughly the same method. I calculate that a building from this side will be pulled over there, inhabitants and all, in just under 35 hours.”

"Okay, so how do we stop it?” Angela said.

“That's the thing, Angie,” Walter said, “We can’t.”

“Okay, then we need to evacuate the building,” Olga said, “So how do we identify which building it's going to be?”

“Well, the one thing Willy and I learned from our experience is that when objects from the other universe cross to our side, they have a certain energy,” Walter said, “Someone once described it as a glimmer. I believe that in the moments before the event when the fabric of the two universes is rubbing together, that the building on this side will begin to take on that glimmer.”

“So then we'd be able to see it?” Anders said.

“Well, unfortunately, no,” Walter said, “It's not visible to the human eye.”

“Then how the frak are we going to find it, Walter?” Anna said.

“We can't, Anna!” Walter said. “But you can, Angie.”

“Wait, how can I see something not visible to the human eye?” Angela said. “Because the last time I checked, my eyes were still human.”

“Because you saw it once before,” Walter said.

“Uncle Walter, when did I see things from the other side?” Angela said.

“Thirty years ago, when you were a little girl,” Walter said, "The Cortexiphan experiments. As I've said, the drug worked on perception. Of the thirty children Wilhelm Tesla and I experimented on, you were the first with the ability to identify things from the other side. We gave you the ability.”

“Walter, you were conducting illegal drug trials on children,” Anna said, "Don't make that sound like charity work.”

“Was it me who described it as a glimmer?” Angela said. "Well, I can't see it anymore.”

“Because I believe you stopped wanting to,” Walter said, “When you did see it, in 1977, there were major consequences, but I was able to elicit the ability once. I believe I could do it again.”

“Don't be ridiculous,” Anders said, "You're not experimenting on Angie, and besides…"

“I’ll do it,” Angela said.

“What?” Anders said.

“We don't have time, so just tell me what it is I need to do,” Angela said.

“First, I need a plane,” Walter said, “I need to go to Nantes, to the lab where Willy and I conducted the experiments. It's a daycare center you attended as a child. I should be able to recreate the procedure there.”

“Walter, Nantes is on the other side of the Reich,” Anna said, “I'm sure whatever you need, we can get it here.”

“What I need is in Nantes!” Walter said. “Nantes is where the process worked. If I am able to do it again, it has to be there.”


Strasburg field office - 5:00 PM

“A building in Constantinople is just going to disappear?” Kurtz said.

“Yes, that's what Uncle Walter believes,” Anders said.

“What makes him think whatever he needs is still inside the facility in Nantes?” Kurtz said.

“To conduct his tests without any interference from Constantinople, Wilhelm Tesla bought the building from the government,” Diana said, “Not just that, he also bought the land it sat on and around it. He shut it down and closed it off.”

“We believe everything is still inside,” Anders said.

"And you're sure you want to do this?” Kurtz said. “Submit yourself to these experiments?”

“I don't see another choice,” Angela said.

“Then how can I help?” Kurtz said.

“The events Ted Prenzlau said led up to the incident, the dogs howling, the small earthquakes,” Anders said, “Walter thinks that they will likely occur again and that we can use them to infer when it's about to happen.”

“I'll contact Mina, ask to her to have Tesla Dynamic enlist their Geologic Division to track any seismic activity,” Diana said.

“Sure,” Angela said.

“I’ll check with my contacts in the city,” Olga said.

“And Hansen... stay in touch,” Kurtz said.

“I will,” Angela said.


Bouguenais Naval Air Station, Nantes - January 23, 2010, 8:00 AM

Angela drove up to the cordoned-off daycare center and stopped. She got out, followed by Anders, Anna, and Walter. Walter walked up to the door and looked at the combination lock.

“5…20…10…” he said, unlocking the lock and opening the door, "I always use the same combination, though I can't remember the significance. Come.”

They walked into the daycare. Walter led them to one of the playrooms, where sixteen toys randomly sat on the floor and table.

“Do you see anything?” Walter said.

“Like what?” Angela said.

“Sixteen items in this room are from the other side,” Walter said, "Perhaps if you look closer. Come. Go ahead.”

“Nothing,” Angela said.

“Well... we should get started,” Walter said, putting on a pair of dusty old glasses, "I was hoping to avoid this.”

“I remember a lot of stuff,” Angela said, “But not this. There's just nothing that's familiar.”

“Maybe that's a good thing,” Anders said.

“You just about ready?” Walter said, holding up a syringe. "You may want to change into something more comfortable. Perception is largely an emotional response. How we feel... affects the way we see the world.”

“In Vienna during the war, I had this weird vision,” Angela said, “I ran into traffic in the middle of the city where there should be no traffic.”

“Your fear stimulated that perception,” Anders said, “Pushed you to see that.”

“Willy and I reasoned that extreme emotions would stimulate this perception, that acute feelings of fear and love or anger would heighten the awareness,” Walter said, "Open the mind, as it were. The drugs help, of course.”

“Is that Cortexiphan?” Angela said.

“Yes,” Walter said, “Please lie down.”

Angela lay down on the floor.

“Anna, start the IV drip, please, and lift up,” Walter said.

Anna connected the syringe to an IV drip.

“You sure you want to do this?” Anna said.

“Yeah," Angela said.

“Right arm,” Walter said, “No, left arm, left arm. When you're under, the drugs will generate an obstacle. I can't tell you what it will be. It will be uniquely yours. Do you understand?”

“I think so," Angela said.

"It will make more sense when you're under,” Walter said, “The point is this. Facing that obstacle will elevate your emotional state. Much as running on a treadmill will elevate your heartbeat. And then when I've got you to the proper level, well, then I'll pull you out, okay?”

“I am singing in the rain,” Angela said, closing her eyes.

“Oh,” Walter said, “The drugs are working fast. Perhaps it was the right arm.”

“What?” Anders said.

“She'll be fine, Anders,” Walter said, “Angie, I want you to open your eyes. Angie, can you hear me? If you can hear me, open your eyes. Where are you?”

Angela opened her eyes. She was in a hospital, surrounded with 1980s technology. Outside, she saw Vienna burning.

“I’m in a hospital,” Angela said, “In Vienna. 1984.”

"That's good,” Walter said, checking his computer, "That's good, Angie. Theta rhythms normal. Stable neocortex active. It's working.”

The lights in the hospital went out. Angela saw someone running by the door.

“There's someone else here,” she said, walking down the hallway.

"Is she alright?” Anna said.

“No, but she's not supposed to be,” Walter said, “In my bag, Anna.”

“Yeah?” Anna said.

“The sunflower seeds,” Walter said.

“Sunflower seeds,” Anders said.

Walter took Anders’ bag of sunflower seeds and ate them.

Angela continued walking down the corridor. A little girl clutching a Walkman appeared from around a corner and stared at her. Angela knelt in front of her.

“Hey,” Angela said, “It's alright."

“Please,” the girl said, “I don't want to do this anymore.”

“You don't have to do anything that you don't want to do,” Angela said, "You don't have to do anything that you don't want to do.”

The girl ran away.

“Wait!” Angela said, running after her. “Hey!”

“Walter?” Anders said.

“Shh,” Walter said, “She's close.”

Angela caught up to the girl and hugged her tightly. “It’s okay, it’s okay.”

“Please,” the girl said, “Make them stop. Please make them stop it.”

“It's okay,” Angela said, “I'm here now. Nothing can hurt you. That's better. What's your name?”

“Angie,” the girl said, her eyes turning dark red, “Angela.”

She morphed into a young Olga, drew a gun, and shot her in the head. Angela bolted awake with a yelp, tearing the IV drip out of her arm.

“Good news,” Walter said "It worked."

“What the frak is wrong with you?” Angela said. “You did this to little children?”

“We should get to work,” Walter said.

Angela looked at the toys, but they looked normal.

“Anything?” Walter said.

“Nothing,” Angela said, "Now what? Should we find some more kids to scare?”

“I have no idea,” Walter said.

He walked into another room. Angela’s phone rang.

“Hello?” she said.

“It’s me,” Diana said, “Mina just called me, and Olga’s contacts can confirm. Dogs are howling across Constantinople. It’s started.”

“Okay,” Angela said, hanging up.

She walked into the other room and found Walter watching an old video of Angela cowering in the corner of a scorched room.

“Is she okay?” Tesla said.

“She is fine,” a woman said.

“Hell, do we know what triggered it?” Tesla said.

“Obviously she was upset, Wilhelm,” Walter said, “It’s okay. It's alright, Angie.”

Angela recognized herself. “That's me. What happened?”

“This was the first time you saw the other side," Walter said, “You were frightened. Started a fire with your mind. This is what Willy and I were preparing for.”

“You abused us, Walter,” Angela said, “Me and those other children.”

"No, we were trying to help you,” Walter said, “We wanted to make you more than you were.”

“Is that what you were doing?” Angela said. “Or were you searching for answers to questions that you shouldn't have been asking in the first place? Always asking if you could but never if you should?”

“I was a different man then,” Walter said.

“I was a defenseless child,” Angela said, “Your own niece.”

“Yes, you were,” Walter said, “Yes, you were. Angie, I think I'm starting to understand why the process didn't work. You are different. You're not that frightened child anymore. I thought all we needed was a heightened emotional response from you, but I was wrong. We needed a specific one. Fear. And you're not capable of that anymore. Well, not like she was. What we did to you, you found a way to protect yourself, because of Vienna. You channeled your fear into anger, which is why you are so good at your job. But if you want to save those people, you have to find your way back to that scared little girl.”

“And how do we do that?” Angela said. “Restart the war and drop me in Vienna again?”

“I don't know,” Walter said.