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From Ashes
Gods? Godlings? These Atharim were full of themselves weren't they?

The nickname provided was hardly original, and the others had joked about it as well. But it snapped some of the enthusiasm out of Allan's sail. He looked abashed, but it didn't last long as he extended his hand. "I'm sorry. I just get excited about these sorts of things. My name is Allan. And you are Nox?" The kid nodded and took his hand with a firm handshake. There was no power play here, just a kid meeting someone new. It felt odd, all the others he'd met like him had sorta wanted to play at who is better. Well not all of them, but most of them.

"I don't mind the talking about these sorts of things, so ask away." Nox said with a grin. He looked genuine.

"You really don't know what you are allowing?"

He laughed. "I'm pretty sure I do. I'm not nearly as knowledgable as Aria or Aurora, but I'll tell you what I can."

"How did you learn to be this ... Atharim." Allan tested the word. It wasn't foreign, but it was a secret organization. Was it like speaking of the Illuminati? Or some other secret cult? Did you know? "Can just anyone become one of them?" Now that would be interesting a Rod of Dominiom and Atharim. Not that he expected the Ascendancy would ever let that happen. "I have too many questions. I should stop."
Marcus was intrigued as he wandered. In his mind he noted things to incorporate under his Consulate. Ascendancy might purpose that Vellas oversee the military wing of channeling, true. But he would make sure that his department was at least competitive. If not more.

There were also areas he noted could be improved. Not that he would suggest anything. Not yet. Territory being what it was, he could not be seen straying into places not his. But a judicious word at the right time- not from him, obviously, but rather from someone under his influence- could make him and his department all the more attractive for real innovation.

Keeping a reserved but friendly demeanor, he moved with ease through the different groups, watching how people interacted. He noted those Sanjay had spoken of off handedly, those who hungered for more or who had trouble staying in bounds. Such men could be useful levers.

He was approaching the medical wing, having noted a black coated man- one of the Rods- entering a room when his phone buzzed. The pattern was high priority.

Immediately, he stepped into a side room and read. Not from the Ascendancy. But definitely the Sphere. The video that accompanied the file was watched, the audio streaming to the bud in one ear. Not one video. A compilation.

This was bad. All it would take was one enterprising reporter to run the face through recognition software. Right now, a precarious balance had been struck. This new mode of living was being explored one day- one step at a time.

It wouldn't take much to kick off riots and chaos. Not much at all.

He messaged an affirmative, another to Sanjay not to wait, and then swept off to find the elevator to the surface. Curiously, he dipped into himself, felt the homogeneity and calm that was now there. The steel that braced him and laced through him.

The doors opened, filling the car with fresh air and Marcus stepped out of the building into the bright day light.
The Dominion was already here, and Morven caught the end of his last statement as she pushed through the door. She glanced at him, and might have easily rolled her eyes at his apparent enthusiasm, but refrained. The patient did not seem overly fussed at the interrogation, and so long as Rikovi did not become a distraction to her work she didn’t much care what they spoke about. 

It turned out she recognised the man she was here to heal, though she did not comment on it. He’d been the boy Sage Parker had been so keen to contact the night of his collapse. Questions armed her tongue, but they could wait until after. She would not ask them in front of the Dominion anyway, for the sake of privacy. Not that she was a doctor anymore, not in the traditional sense, but she’d still adhere to that.

“Nox Durante,” she said by way of greeting. “My name is Morven. Shall we be getting on with it?” She been Dr. Kinnaird at the hospital, but she required no such formality here.
Allan was curious about the Atharim that was obvious from his eagerness and questions. He wanted to know more about the monsters too. But Nox didn't really get a chance as one of Sage's doctors walked into the room. She didn't introduce herself as Doctor anything, and Nox was never good at remembering names. But he gave her a smile. "I remember you. Though the last time wasn't nearly in such a swanky high-security facility. I'm not exactly sure fitting for an arm is such a great idea while I'm still messing up the wound."

Allan laughed. "That's why Morven is here. She's going to heal you. The other guy over there will do the arm."

"Is that how you helped Sage? I think he mentioned something about it. But I've been through a bit since he got his new gizmo. No one's wiring anything into my brain are they?"
Morven arrived and got straight to work. It made Allan sigh, his chance gone - for now. He was sure he wouldn't get to stay for the trial of the new arm. The kid probably would need some instructions and the like. And Allan didn't want to interrupt that.

Nox talked about another person - a common acquaintance? A gizmo? Wiring brain? What was he talking about? Allan looked from the doctor in the corner fiddling with the arm back to Morven and Nox. The arm itself was high tech, hooked up to wires. But Allan couldn't answer the questions.

Nox continued rambling, "I'll warn you now, I don't do well with needles."

Allan chuckled, "I can protect everyone if you get violent with your power, don't fear."

The looked Nox gave him was one of almost pure hatred. His voice was quiet and distant. "I am not in the habit of losing control of my ability or using it to hurt someone." Nox's voice was much his own when he embraced the flame and the void, though he'd never been able to do one without the other.

Allan smiled. "You use the flame and the void for control. How wonderful, I want to know how you learned it." Allan was poised to continue bombarding Nox with questions.
“Aye, that’s how I helped your friend,” she agreed. Her lips pursed around unasked questions, but the business of duty came first. The reminder of her old job was not exactly pleasant, though aside from her perception of the perpetual limbo of being here, she did not much regret the turn of events. Protective instincts warred with a temper that likely would have gotten her into trouble one way or another. The only thing she regretted was the people she was no longer there to help.

Her dark gaze took in the Dominion with half a frown at how oblivious he seemed to Nox’s mood. “Rikovi,” she interrupted, “healing takes a toll on the body. I’m no Jensen James, ye ken?  Perhaps you could give Nox Durante’s ears a break and fetch some food for after. It’s not like you’ll see a thing of what I do, anyway.”

Morven had no rank. She hadn’t even passed out at the military before they had pulled her here instead, but her tone brooked no nonsense. The patient was hers, and thus this kingdom currently belonged to her. It would be unreasonable to refuse. Still, she did not soften the request with a smile.

After he had gone, her attention returned to Durante. “Have you been healed before?”
He entered the Facility with little fanfare. The denizens of the underground bunker were accustomed to the sudden appearance of the Ascendancy, but as he passed through the security features, it wasn’t undetected. A storm of activity swept ahead of him. People stood taller. Their eyes focused all the more upon their work. The gravity of their mutual atmosphere was strong as the pull toward the center of the earth. Yet for the footsteps that marked his passage, they were quickly dwarfed by the clicks of other shoes alongside. The director of the facility appeared out of nowhere, but Nikolai waved aside any cause for concern. “I’ve seen the updates. I am only here to visit,” he reassured. Nothing was wrong. If anything, the world was quite right at the moment. Here, out of anywhere, he was most right.

Seizing the power, he drew into himself enough to thrust a resonance into the surrounding chambers. It was an old trick that he took up during the initial build out of the Facility when the bunker of the Soviets was transformed into the sleek, modern bubble around them. He stood in the hallway a moment, eyes slid low, hands ever so slightly outstretched, palms open. It was as if he could sense every stone for a mile. They sang to him their solid, haunting song. Most important, there were no fissures or pressure points, anything to indicate instability in the engineering.

Momentarily satisfied, the Ascendancy traversed the perimeter of the Facility toward a pair newly refurbished doors. There were several such places in the compound, sealed up sections of untouched bunker waiting for future use. This particular exit recently attracted new construction as did the passageway beyond. To where it led, few knew.

He thrust open the doors with the push of his hands. Crews occupied the tunnel beyond. Exposed wires dangled from the ceiling. Temporary platforms made for the floor. Rock and concrete was exposed along the edges. The tunnel was clearly an older architecture. For a brief second, memories of a car park and black eyes filled his view, but he shook it off quickly, focusing on the differences. 

A pale-faced man with hard eyes looked up. It was Julian Monserre, the Frenchman Rod of Dominion selected by Michael to contribute to the construction with the hand of a god. They locked eyes, but it was the flows that Nikolai studied rather than the man from whom they radiated. He nodded his approval. Working the nuances of rocks and steel into perfect form was something Nikolai himself showed Julian when the work began, and he picked up the skill quickly. It was going well. It would be some time before the connection between the Facility and Butryka was completed, but the timeline moved on schedule.

He left the crew to their jobs and circled back through the Facility. It was a male, sporty accent that caught his attention, just as a female one jumped into the lead.  Nik entered without preamble just as it seemed the doctor was dismissing the extra bodies.

He wore the suit of his empire’s uniform, plain black with a white button-up, orange and gray tie, and the double crescent pin on his lapel. He was certainly no doctor, and the men at least would be aware of the approach of a channeler if their newest doctor did not. He didn’t recognize her except to approve her admission to the Facility at the recommendation of others involved in the specifics of her situation. Military, she was, and a physician with the ability to heal. Indeed, she was not Jensen James, which reminded him to threaten Scion with the loss of his head if the preacher went unreturned much longer. She was valuable, though.

Upon entering, the power seemed to flex inside, aware of the presence of two others with whom it sought to clash. To alleviate the tension, he released it. Nox asked as much of him the last time they spoke. The (former) Atharim seemed nervous, but he was otherwise calm. Allan was there. The inquisition Nox must have endured would have been untenable.

“Allan, Nox.” He said, greeting each, then turned toward the doctor. “I am interrupting your work, doctor. I won’t be long,” he said with a charming smile for the newcomer. Most people found him charming when he wanted them to, though in the underground bunker, intensity danced with mirth in his eyes.
Morven dismissed him. He wasn't being a pest... Though he did look at the man in front of him. He had entered the flame and void to what? There was something more there. It was a means of controlling the power but did it have other uses. The emotions rolled off. Allan frowned and nodded and was about to leave when he felt the power of the Ascendancy drawing near, there was no mistaking it even before he graced the doorway with his presence. Allan smiled brightly at being addressed. "Ascendancy, sir." He gave a slight nod of his head in deference. Not a bow exactly but it could have been. "Always a pleasure to see you."

There was a slight stab of jealousy as the man had addressed him and Nox both in equal familiarity. There was no flinging of last names and formality. "I think I have over questioned our friend." He admitted, "Or offended him in some way, unintentionally. Morven suggests I obtain food." He looked to Morven. "I will gladly show Nox to the mess hall when he's done. I'm sure whatever training Dr. Weston's people have in store for him can wait while he feeds his hunger."
Nox felt the power in the distance even as he wrapped the newly found calm around him. Allan had the fucking audacity to say he'd lose control. He might have been trained here in the bowels of the facility but Nox had been in the real fucking world. The calm prickled with the power at the far reaches. He knew it could be only one person and his eyes drifted. The darkness growled in his anger and it was truly all he could do to mash it down around the edges with the calm. Allan asked strange questions before Morven sent him away. But the Ascendancy came in blocking his path and giving the slightly meek man a little more power to him.

Like the presence of the god the Ascendancy thought he was made him a god in return. No wonder he had assumed that was what Nox had meant. He growled, "You think?" Nox referenced Allan's last statement offense but he didn't elaborate.

Nox gave the Ascendancy a tight nod. "Ascendancy. I felt you coming." He smiled as best he could in the emptiness fighting the darkness was never easy. "The darkness appreciates your actions." Though that was a lie, it had retreated, but it grumbled about it too. It wanted power, it wanted to take control and after yesterday's adventures he was not include to let it take over again. Or he might never see the sun again.

Nox turned his attention back to Morven. "I have. As you can imagine being a self taught weapon forged by my Atharim training I damaged myself many times. Thankfully my sister could heal or I'd probably be dead." There was no probably about it. Nox had fallen and would have died if Aurora hadn't healed him. Her sickness came and went before they knew what had happened. It wasn't until the second time that they knew.
Nox tentatively accepted his presence, but the Ascendancy was unworried about the reunion. He had no reason to believe sanity frayed, although the comment about darkness hinted at manifestations rising.

Nik maintained a light-hearted tone, amplified by the hopefulness of present days. The Custody was stronger than ever. Despite darkness rising, or at least, writhing beneath the city, he was confident the cause for concern was short-lived. He glanced at the nearby philosopher, “Ah, and what is darkness, Allan but an absence of light? Darkness is comfort and calm. Light is pain and heat. Or maybe it is the intersection of both where the danger lurks?” he could speak on such things for hours, and the remark hinted that they may take the conversation elsewhere while the doctor did her work.

Thinking of the doctor, she should be forewarned. “Take care, doctor not to wake something in him you’d rather let slumber,” he said with theatric warning. He wasn’t overly concerned, however, or Nox would not be there. It was the Ascendancy’s generosity that the ex-Atharim was the recipient of such a priceless gift. Then again, Nik owed him a debt.

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