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Finding His Friends
#1
Nox and Cruz were off playing in fancy clothes. Ana and Christian snuck out to go see a movie. Dorian was missing, which meant Sage only had Nova for company, and the pup was sitting happily at his feet on Christian's bed in the basement which he never used. Nox and Sage both stayed down there, though Nox's room had no door on it, he didn't really care. And Sage was rather fond of walking past and catching glimpses of him sleeping. Not that it happened often. Nox hardly slept.

Dorian had offered both of them a room up stairs in the house proper, but the basement was more their style. The rest of the house was always in the middle of decorating. Ana was fixing the place up but it still was horrid in places. Dorian's father was a spiteful asshole even if he was loving enough to buy the mansion for his only son.

Dr. Marcil had been busy at work but so had Sage, he had implanted tracking code in the doctors computers, his wallet, everything it was the first one he had installed after he'd gotten the upgrade and boy did this hardware hum.

Sage hadn't been sleeping much. He had a perpetual connection to the information highway and he was flying more than not. Cruz and Nox had to force him to pay attention. All those weeks without had been torture. Sage was too busy creating his scripts again, following Nick Trano and his other friends from the states.

Sage had thought about hooking up with his old friends, but The Wicked Truth was unknown. He had a lot of things to do. Sage missed his friends, but he could get those worker bees going again. It wasn't hard. But most of them he set up on his own now.

Sage had to find Connor and Ayden. He had to go on about setting up everyone else.

Most of them were easy but the software had to all be recreated. Sage was casting his nets when a certain former punk-star caught his attention. Sage hadn't been following Blarney Stoned's front man for a while. He'd avoided the dirty scandel, mostly because he had already known. Sage had watched footage of the hotel and knew something other than popular speculation had gone on. There was no profit in sharing the information. But Sage had collected it.

He'd lost all his information and it depressed him. So when an old friend was caught on a website looking up strange occurrences, that made Sage think of things Nox would hunt and do and he wondered.

Sage grinned as he hacked into the punk stars computer with a mere thought. Whoever thought they were protecting him wasn't. It was easily defeated. But there really was little that Sage couldn't get into if he tried.

Sage quickly crafted an encrypted chat application that would destroy itself when he left the system. It felt so good to be doing this again.

Sage popped open a window with a thought then sent one of his favorite punk rock stars a message.

<small>Do you want to play a game?</small>

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#2
The glare from the gargantuan, 4k monitor threw shadows on the wall behind Aiden; cigar smoke gradually rose to his right from the half-smoked Cuban, a crystal glass just beyond it holding a few swigs of whiskey and ice cubes long since melted. Wagner’s Die Walküre was playing in the background, the second act now coming to a close. Since moving to Suzdal, Aiden had sworn to throw himself into everything Russian; so he really should have been listening to Tchaikovsky... Aiden never really cared for the composer. Now, Wagner, that was an artist a man could really get lost with.

Moving to Suzdal was a huge change for Aiden; the village, because that’s exactly what it was, felt like someone tore a hamlet directly from a Medieval fantasy. Suzdal housed less than 10,000 citizens and it’s city’s design remained unspoiled by Soviet hands of the past. Onion domes lay scattered amidst a gentle rural landscape. Nuns and robed monks were a common sight in Suzdal, often rushing about the town square. Many of the streets remain unpaved, despite the rapid technological growth enjoyed by the rest of the world. The small town had become a popular tourist destination for its old world charm and that is exactly what drew Aiden to it.

Securing a decent portion of land in Suzdal had been hard until Aiden had caved and called in a favor from his Father, Seamus Finnegan. One call from him to the Russian government and the deeds to the land were drawn up the following day. It had been a small price to pay, Aiden letting his Dad in on his secret; but Dad insisted he’d keep his mouth shut, especially after learning that Aiden was planning on building his own home on the land. Just like Dad did all those years ago in Metairie, LA.

All of that had happened about a year and a half ago. As far as Aiden knew, Dad still hadn’t told anyone else that he had moved here. The tabloids and paparazzi hadn’t caught wind of it either; which wasn’t too hard when you consider only half of the residents in Suzdal had internet access. Most of them hadn’t even heard of Aiden Finnegan before he moved to the small hamlet.

The manor (Aiden’s original, modest design had inflated in size quite rapidly) was now about half finished; the only thing left to build were extra bedrooms, bathrooms, and other amenities. There was also the landscaping to tend to, of course, and the poolhouse, the guesthouse, the running track, the tennis court, and so many other small things. Thankfully Aiden had Dimitri, his part-time personal assistant, to see to many of those things; or at least hire the right contractors to see to those things. It didn’t really matter to Aiden, so long as the third-parties followed his designs for the dwelling. He had not been disappointed yet. Dimitri was very good at his job.

Dimitri had set up that entire computer system as well. Aiden had a long laundry list of features and programs he wanted to be installed on the desktop, and his personal assistant had supplied. Video games, a wide range of different writing and ‘art-making’ programs, touch monitor, the whole nine yards. Wikipedia lay open on one half of the monitor and Microsoft Word took up the other half.

“’Scholars have identified a variety of beings in folklore who share similarities of varying extent with Baba Yaga,’”
Aiden said aloud as he copied the text from Wikipedia, “’These similarities may be due to either direct-‘ wha-?”
He let out a stifled gasp as a weird, instant-messaging type of window popped up on his screen. What was this? Some kind of virus? Aiden never used any type of messaging software on his computer; there were too many weirdos out there… and trolls. Aiden hated the trolls.

Do you want to play a game?
The computer screen read, completely ignorant of Aiden’s work. It was important work. Notes for his novel. He didn’t have time for this.

That was a lie.

He had plenty of time for this. A little innocent self-indulgence wouldn’t hinder his work, in fact, it might invigorate it. Aiden took to his keyboard with vigor and responded to the stranger.

Depends… Who’s askin?


Aiden hit send and sat back in his leather swivel chair, finding new interest in his Cuban and whiskey.
Edited by Aiden_Finnegan, Aug 2 2018, 07:10 PM.

Russian Dolls and Broken Gods, a new Fantasy novel by best-selling author, Aiden Finnegan, out this December! Preorder online and instore today!
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#3
Sage smirked at the response. The rock star even hit enter like it mattered. Sage saw what he typed as he typed it. Typing was so slow.

At least this would be entertaining, Nova was quiet, sleeping actually. And the house was completely empty. It was eerie such a big house being empty. Nox had insisted the rest of the servants be let go. How dare he? Sage giggled at the thought of Dorian huffing and trying to maintain it. He hadn't seen it, though he wished he had.

Sage thought at the computer simply.

<small>You may call me The Wicked Truth. I know who you are.</small>



Sage cued up one of Blarney Stoned's top hits and played it through the extensive system the rockstar owned. It wasn't his favorite of the bands, but it worked for the purposes of his information.

Sage climbed out of bed and created his avatar again. Phaser had been an AI to most. And now with this new chip set they'd probably continue thinking he was, though The Wicked Truth wasn't even known yet. He had so much to do to get back into the world. He needed his server, if only there was some place else in this house he could get Dorian to give up. Maybe build a guest house? Sage thought to himself as he wandered around Nox's dojo. The small towers and the tennis ball shooters were dormant but the whole place smelled like it had been burnt and rebuilt.

Sage sent another message to his current playmate.

<small>Tell me Aiden, why search in a 2D world when there is so much more out there.</small>



And Sage materialized in the guise of his avatar, his own visage decoded into 1s and 0s. His features weren't 100 percent to be made out, but his form was human shaped and he moved like he would normally. Sage stepped in front of the wiki article open and he tapped on a few things and he pulled a village from the picture into the world computer screen around him.

<small>Come play, a rich man like you should have VR gear.</small>

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#4
Aiden jumped and fell into his chair, the padded leather backing crashing to the ground, carrying Aiden, the Cuban, and the whiskey along with it. Tiny embers winked into existence, floating in the air above Aiden as emotion welled up in the pit of his stomach. The tiny fireballs drifted in frantic circles.

“Oh, great… Not this again,”
Aiden said as he looked at the fairy fire dancing overhead. Responding to the commotion, Aiden’s blonde-haired boxer bounded into the room, looking for the source of the shouting. Aiden looked at the dog and spoke to him reassuringly, “It’s okay, Lasher. I’m fine. Go back to bed. Daddy’s got this.”


Lasher looked at him questioningly before prancing over to the long leather couch beneath the window overlooking the driveway. He plopped down on the soft cushions and began watching the dancing flames. Aiden grabbed a towel and hastily cleaned up the spilled whiskey, then grabbing at his Cuban before it burned the Persian rug.

Last Patty’s Day, his old band’s last great hit, began blaring on the sound system, chasing Wagner and his Valkyries away into oblivion. Lasher began barking at the sudden intrusion and Aiden jumped a second time; the remaining whiskey almost escaping his grasp again. Huffing and stumbling, he righted his chair, cut the music and sat back down in front of his monitor.

A green haze of ones and zeroes danced on the screen before materializing into the silhouette of a humanoid figure. The mysterious shape spoke to Aiden with typed words, despite showing that they had the power to hijack the speakers. Aiden rifled through a drawer in his desk before procuring a Bluetooth headset.

“You know… in my novel, this would be a trap… But, really, what can they do? It’s not like they can suck me into the computer… Okay… I’ll bite…”
Aiden said confidently before setting up the VR goggles. It all really was foolish, especially after all of the horror movies Aiden had seen. This probably was a trap of some sort.

Slipping the headset on, Aiden responded.

Is that supposed to scare me? What is so important that you have to invade the privacy of my own home, stranger?




Edited by Aiden_Finnegan, Aug 2 2018, 11:22 PM.

Russian Dolls and Broken Gods, a new Fantasy novel by best-selling author, Aiden Finnegan, out this December! Preorder online and instore today!
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#5
Sage laughed as he watched the man fall. It never got old and Sage had missed the double vision, seeing the streaming video and reading the data as it came in, all those ones and zeros actually meant something to his brain and it had fed his need for so long. Sage was immersed in the knowledge that was all around him.

He had a stream on Nox and Cruz but right now they were all black, the cameras were inside their pockets which meant they were having a good time, and the sounds were all muffled when he turned on audio, so it didn't really matter. Sage could hack the Kremlin again, but what would that prove except that Phaser hadn't been caught and then the search would continue for him. And Sage rather liked living life in the open and with his computer in his head.

Aiden came into the scene but once he was here Sage just grinned at him through the avatar.

"Nothing is important other than information. That's what you seek yes?"


Sage didn't wait for an answer as he created the scene. "Let's see what you can do in a life or death situation."
Sage's avatar grinned as he did. "It's a game of course."
Except that it wasn't. It was a simulation of things that had happened to Nox. He'd recorded everything on his land warriors. The ugly creatures in the bowels of the city were nothing like Nox had ever seen, and when you are a monster hunter, that's pretty scary to think someone was making these things Nox still hadn't gotten to the bottom of that dilemma, being outed a god had kinda nipped that in the bud, but he still had the data and Sage was about to put it to good use.

Around them the bowels of the tunnels formed. "You are deep with in the bowels of Moscow, you hear scratching sounds, and then suddenly, in the darkness you see a glowing eyes, one, two, four, ten. All around you. And like a black wall they come at you."
With each word the simulation changed mimicking what Sage said. And then the wave of black bodies came at them.
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#6
The figure made of ones and zeroes grinned mockingly at Aiden, making his blood run hot. A voice came from the thing, issuing vague statements and questions. Cocking an eyebrow at the thing, Aiden opened his mouth to answer but was cut off as the village scenery around the pair shifted to an eerie tunnel system.

Black shadows swirled around Aiden, cutting him off from the digital stranger.

“Did Dimitri put you up to this? Is this a new video game I haven’t heard about? Perhaps I’ve been selected for Beta testing?”
Aiden called out to the stranger, sounding more confident than he felt. Anger still raged in his veins, but a primal feeling started to mingle with the rage… It was fear.

The stranger began speaking out loud and the virtual scene responded to its voice. Ten sets of glowing eyes appeared in the dark shadows that surrounded Aiden. Sparing half a second, Aiden glanced above his head and was shocked to see the fairy fire manifesting in the simulation. Countless balls of fire darted overhead, in quick, frantic motions and sometimes swelling and shrinking in size. They looked more unstable than Aiden had ever seen them.

“Uh…”
Aiden murmured and then the shadows darted at him. He let out a blood-curdling scream as his hands tried to pry the VR headset off, but it wouldn’t budge. His eyes slammed shut as he pulled frantically at the headset but to no avail. A sharp pain began forming in his side and on his limbs. His scream deepened, but he dared not open his eyes.

Then it stopped. The pain in his limbs was replaced with a warmth as if he was standing directly under a summer sun. Hisses and snarls sounded around him, but those were also quickly replaced with a sharp sizzling noise. The warmth faded.

Aiden opened his eyes to see a black tar-like substance covering the ground at his feet. It stretched out a few feet from where he was standing, forming an oily circle around him. Aiden exhaled, not realizing he had begun holding his breath. The fairy fire was nowhere to be seen.

Did I do that?
Aiden thought to himself. That fire keeps appearing, but I can never control it... It always just dances overhead... It's never attacked me or anything else... What is going on?


“Just what exactly was that!? Who are you!? What do you want!?”
Aiden demanded of the stranger, who had been watching the entire scene. Aiden took a step towards the silhouette but jumped back as the tar-like substance at his feet began to writhe and shift.

I swear… If more of those shadow monsters pop up… And why can’t I get this stupid headset off!?
Aiden thought to himself, eyes wide as the oily stuff continued to stir.


Edited by Aiden_Finnegan, Yesterday, 5:28 PM.

Russian Dolls and Broken Gods, a new Fantasy novel by best-selling author, Aiden Finnegan, out this December! Preorder online and instore today!
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#7
Sage watched the scene play out like it was a movie. Simulated fireballs floated above Aiden's head. WHA?? Did everyone possess this power of the gods?

But Aiden didn't look like he was controlling any of it. His eyes were clamped shut, he must have done it in the real world. He tugged at his helmet that was invisible. The game rendering what he was doing in the real world. It all happened very fast.

The faked creatures melted almost literally on the fire. Sage had never seen anything like it. It was just ones and zeros but the translated program was not of his doing. It was interesting and Sage filed it away for later to think about.

The goo stuck Aiden in his place and Sage quickly changed the scenery to reflect Aiden's own home. It was comfortable the goo was gone.

<small>"Those firey things, you do that whenever you want?"</small>

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#8
Aiden looked at the stranger incredulously, “Do you hear anything I am saying!? Is everyone in the First Dominance this mad!?”


The scenery shifted quickly, the goo disappearing. Within the blink of an eye, Aiden and the stranger were standing in Aiden’s study. Lasher was dozing off on the long leather couch, exactly where he would be in the real world. The anger pumping through Aiden’s veins started to fade a little as he grew a bit more relaxed. Seeing familiar surroundings really did help his nerves.

“And the fire? You don’t look surprised. Is this something you’re used to seeing? Well, let me assure you I cannot control it. I don’t even know what it is! Whenever I get angry, surprised, horn- wait a second. Why am I telling you this when you have been obviously dodging all of my questions? First you summon some cyber demons to attack me and now you’re asking private questions! What gives?!”
Aiden said in a rush. He came very near to shouting at the silhouette. The remaining anger turned to annoyance.

Three feeble fireballs popped into existence above Aiden’s head and slowly drifted down. The three rippling orbs danced lazily around his cranium, lightly grazing his nose. Aiden batted the fireballs away in a huff.

“You’re not going to tell me who you are, are you?”


Russian Dolls and Broken Gods, a new Fantasy novel by best-selling author, Aiden Finnegan, out this December! Preorder online and instore today!
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#9
Sage smirked a little as his form coalesced into his persona. Still digitized but you could make out his features, his face. He'd be recognizable again. "I can hear you just fine. And I'm an American visiting."
Though Sage really couldn't go back home. He had nothing to go back to Bryan's capture took everything he owned. His server, his home, everything. Sage was essentially homeless, if it weren't for his thinking a head and leaving Nox all his money he'd be a poor boy just like the former Atharim hunter. Now that would have sucked.

"I won't tell you my name, but you'll figure it out. Those fire things are called Channeling if I'm right. Whatever the fuck that means, but my friend, he can show you what it's all about. You can die from not knowing how to use it."
Sage hoped that was enough of a warning.

The next thing he did was pop open a window on Aiden's computer and gave him Nox's contact information and his name. "Name and number of my friend. He's an ass more often than not so forgive him, but he can help. He will help if you are honest with him. Lying won't help you."


Sage and his avatar laughed. "Oddly enough, he can help you out with whatever research you are planning there. He can help you with real facts not the hidden truths they give us."

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#10
Aiden’s annoyance disappeared as the silhouette revealed it self to be a handsome young man. His American accent now showing through as well, “Yeah, well, I am too… sort of. Once I’m granted citizenship, though…”
He said that last bit almost to himself. It was all but guaranteed, Aiden was just waiting on the last bits of paperwork to go through the system. If everything happened the way he wanted, he could retain dual-citizenship.

The lazy fireballs disappeared as the stranger identified them. Aiden cocked an eyebrow, looking from the spot the fireballs had just been and then back to the stranger. “How can I die? What… is the Fairy Fire going to turn on me eventually?”


“And, again, how do I know this isn’t some elaborate trap? I don’t know you and I don’t know your friend, but you’re telling me it could be the difference between life and death that I go meet this second stranger? You know, American to American, we both know how bad this sounds. I know what the First Dominance used to look like… The USSR sounded like a scary place to be. How do I know the ‘secret police’ aren’t still sulking about out there? I don’t know what they’d want with me, but I am no stranger to stalkers and the like… How do I know I can trust you? Either of you?”
Aiden crossed his arms in a huff.

Somewhere in the real world, Aiden’s Cuban was still burning off to his right. He fumbled with his hand, not seeing what was before him, until he burned his index finger on the butt of the cigar. Taking a long puff of the Cuban, Aiden relaxed and looked at the strange man again, “You must realize how crazy all of this looks to me… right? Sure, you might not be the Secret Police, but how do I know this isn’t a video game or some prank?”




Edited by Aiden_Finnegan, Today, 1:12 AM.

Russian Dolls and Broken Gods, a new Fantasy novel by best-selling author, Aiden Finnegan, out this December! Preorder online and instore today!
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