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Back in Action
Nicholas made a mental note to move the VulpesNet offices somewhere closer to the ground. The elevator ride to the hundredth floor of a skyscraper felt like an eternity when you were set to talk to a few hundred million people. You'd think it would get easier, with time, but that elevator ride up - or that walk from his office - it always felt the same. It wasn't a good feeling. And then afterwards, there was the wait to see if what you said or did even had the right effect. In a lot of ways, that one was worse.

It hadn't taken more than a few days' worth of Nicholas sitting on his ass watching the world heat up for the waiting to become unbearable. He had three doctors telling him to take it easy, and a half dozen bodyguards beside - prancing around in the real world after showing off your magic demon powers is a nice way to get shot. And clearly, judging by the sling his arm was in and the noticeable limp when he walked, bullets were about as effective towards wizards as silver is to werewolves. I wonder if I'm going to run into one of those soon, too.

He was leaning against the glass wall of the elevator, looking down on the city below. You could see how much it had changed in the past thirty years. Old Aberdeen hadn't had a building taller than ten stories. Now all along the old city limits, skyscrapers and stadiums and all the other hallmarks of a well-to-do metropolis had taken hold. The world had changed a lot since his childhood. In a few seconds that door behind him would open. He was about to do something crazy - something stupid. But if it worked, well, the Custody missed its golden opportunity.

The doors opened. People cheered. He smiled and waved.


It took about an hour before everything was set up. It had been almost a month before he'd broadcasted live - and the people at the office had been expecting him to stay in exile for at least another couple weeks. But a limp and a sling can work wonders in politics. Especially if you have a winning smile to go with them.

He was standing on the stage, next to the desk he'd sat behind for the last few years. The lighter fabric of his sling stood out against the dark blue of his suit. The camera man gave him a thumbs up. It was on.

"Afternoon, America. It's been a few weeks. I'm sure you're all wondering where I've been, what I've seen,"
a jerk of his right arm, "How I managed to get shot three times..."
He paused and glanced off to the side, before looking the camera directly in the eyes. "So I'm going to tell you everything. You might want to sit down, America, it's going to be a while."
With that, he turned and walked behind his desk, making damn sure not to exaggerate the limp.

Once seated, he continued. "Around December first, I got a message from the Custody's - press department requesting that I come over and follow Nikolai Brandon around for a while. "
Nicholas smiled. "I guess they really saw a connection during that interview. I turned it down, and a few days later some very persuasive people showed up at my house and convinced me to accept. It probably wasn't supposed to be a surprise when it turned out one of my staff members was a Custody agent. After all, it's a hallmark of a civilized country to spy on people who are willing to openly question the actions of dictators."
He went on for a while about his time in Russia - the squalor of Moscow and the Machiavellian political machinations of Nikolai Brandon. He figured it best to skip over the dead body that'd shown up in his suite.

"I only stayed in Russia for a couple weeks before they sent us all down to Saudi Arabia. At the time, Brandon must have thought Mohamed Al-Hasan wasn't much of a threat, because he decided to try assassinating him before the talks. Clearly, that didn't work, so I found myself in the very uncomfortable position of an infidel trapped in Mecca during a revolution.

The Custody tried to evacuate everyone before things heated up too much, but that fell apart right after the first few planes got off the ground. I remember sitting at a bar in the airport waiting to get out of there when the first car bombs hit. I can fault the Custody on a lot of things, but their soldiers fought hard out there. Still, they were being pushed back.

I had just barely convinced everyone in that bar to quiet down and move into the maintenance hallway when a group of rebels started charging in. I was pretty sure I was about to die. Then they did. A squad of Custody Knights came in behind them and lead us to safety. Safety turned out to be a concrete walled storage area."

Nicholas held his left hand in front of him. "Now here's where the official Custody story deviates from reality. I know most of you have already seen the recordings."
Fire leaped from his palm and rolled across the stage, inexplicably burning everything but him. "The Custody's been lying to you all, and I can tell you why."
He stood up and walked past the remains of his desk, fire still all around him but not touching him. Then with a cutting gesture of his hand, the flames slammed to the ground and went out. "Nikolai Brandon has been using his powers for years, in secret. And he's strong."
Nicholas smirked. "Yes, the Earth has its own evil wizard emperor. But Brandon can't keep this one secret. In just the past two months, I've seen magic popping up all over the world. One of them tried to kill me in Mecca."

Nicholas looked the camera in the eye. "So why am I painting a target on my back to tell you all this? That's what I'd ask me."
He assumed a conversational tone. "It's because this is the Sickness. I had the Sickness - and I was just barely lucky enough to survive it in the sick bay of a Destroyer.

In the Custody, people with the Sickness just die, or disappear. There are no recorded cases of Sickness survivors. So why would a man like Brandon go to all that trouble? It looks, to me at least, like he's building an army."

Nicholas shook his head. "That's the last thing this should be used for. This power - it's amazing. I've barely scratched its surface and I can already see its potential - free energy, limitless construction, industry on a scale we've never seen. We can use it to build something great. Brandon just wants to tear the free world down."

Edited by Nick Trano, Sep 20 2014, 12:00 PM.

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