“We, the unwilling, follow the unqualified, to kill the unfortunate, and die for the unthankful.”
“Half the time….my battle is to do what I used to do…..to feel and go down deep with them and take the sadness away…but now I have to fight my own desire to stay there with them.”
“That’s all any of this has ever been.”
VERIFIED SIGNATURE: W. Halls
To: Treublatt, Rovena
From: Halls, Wander
SYSTEM APPROVAL: GRANTED (PERSONAL MESSAGE)
Office of Dr. Halls, Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Sheppard Pratt Hospital
TRANSMIT (ENCRYPTED) —————————————– INFORMATION HIVE
SIGNAL STATUS: INACTIVE (TIME OUT) —————————- ERROR
To Director Treublatt,
I am messaging you in regards to one of your recent recruits.
I am overjoyed to hear of my sister’s employment with the Phoenix Group and, though I may predict you already possess this knowledge, feel obligated to let you know personally additional details to best empower her status, as well as provide further notice to forfeiting her Arbiter status among the Templars. I remain an Executor among this Order, and will be working with our faction handler to expedite her transition as smoothly as possible.
Please let her know that she will be missed.
I am sure Elana will have already spoken of me at least once during your interview process. It goes without saying that we keep in touch regularly, and of hearing her placement within your Medical Division, offered my time in teaching her rudimentary Blood techniques throughout this transition period.
As follows, please see below my recommendations for her best practice:
Supplements: I strongly recommend providing Elana with additional essential iron and erythropoiesis stimulating agents throughout her training and in fieldwork. Synthetic erythropoietin will suffice in addition to hydration and electrolytes.
Exsanguination: Elana MUST minimize the extent to which she draws from her own vitals to sustain others. A regular briefing of each members’ blood volume and levels of hemoglobin and hematocrit before deployment will be helpful in preventing this. The aforementioned supplementing may help if this is not an option, but at a minimum, she must be aware of her own limits before exceeding them.
Anima: Beyond her very rudimentary skills in Blood practice, she will be categorized by a much more prominent characteristic: empathetic sensing and mimicry, directly influenced to her more natural, acquired affinity to Chaos.
It is strongly recommended that you provide a partner or group with a strong Will or mental fortitude, however defined, to mitigate risks and stress. She will be her calmest when she is with me, but I am a non-combatant and remain within my Order and my duties.
A follow-up note on her current condition:
Elana’s empathetic capacities were fractured during the event as seen in last July. She has undergone considerable rehabilitation as well as training from additional Chaos practitioners and empaths to learn and automate new responses to Filth-related threats.
My sister is no longer fully autonomous to her mimicry. She has been known to take on the moods of those around her, good or bad, and occasionally suffer temporary dissonant episodes. These are often manifested in fits of panic, depression, or mild confusion.
If she cannot be calmed down, her mind will protect itself usually through a rapid expulsion of Chaotic energy, or falling unconscious indefinitely.
Some trauma have her waking in less than an hour, but others (re: Egypt, 5 days; re: Kaidan, 33 days) depend on the magnitude of exposure.
Lastly, as I understand it Director Treublatt, you worked among the team that built the Council of Venice’s training simulations before your role as Director. Elana had a few tests remaining to pass among the Templars if she were to be granted clearance to ever return to Kaidan; it is up to you if you wish to adhere to those tests, or at a minimum, allow me to provide recommended conditions of stress testing:
– Crowds, riots, large gatherings of people united in common elevated emotional states;
– Anarchy, chaos, these same gatherings but now each individual in a personal elevation of panic and scrambling;
– Filthy humans, aggressive humanoid creatures, filth corrupted creatures;
– A copy of myself, a colleague, friend, in a life-threatening situation;
– A copy of myself, and so forth, but allow the simulation to provoke inevitable casualties.
These parameters may sound strange, especially from her next of kin, but they are the common themes Elana had yet to face in her final stages of recovery. She must learn to retain her focus and personal agency in dense populations, in episodes of Filth exposure, and even in the scenario of a significant other’s injury or death.
The Elana you met and hired has come a long way from the sister I have grown with. But if she is to expand and truly become her own person, please provide the stress, bending and thresholds of tolerance that myself, as her brother, could not do.
I trust that this information will be useful to you for your mission planning and deployment.
Wander “Psychikos” Halls, MD, M.P.H
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Sheppard Pratt Hospital, Maryland USA
Scribbled below with Wander’s signature:
Sheppard Asylum, 1870
“Like two birds of golden plumage, inseparable companions, the individual self and the immortal Self are perched on the branches of the selfsame tree. The former tastes of the sweet and bitter fruits of the tree; the latter, tasting of neither, calmly observes.”
The Mundaka Upanishad
Someone has contacted me this week in regards of seeing a particular entity. A new immortal. A young immortal. And as it happens, he hasn’t been taking it very well.
To meet with new and different immortal variants is by far the highlight of my life’s work. There is much to learn, beyond the acquisition of immortality itself, to hear and explore whether by oral tradition or material culture anything surrounding that individual’s life course, how it shaped them, how it could influence further shaping.
Immortality anxiety, grief and immortal existentialism were the focus of studies I took on two years ago in Egypt. It was beautiful, fascinating work that has shown me multiple paths to negotiating an emerging immortal identity.
It is, in some cases, a ‘death’ experience: the loss of previous mortality. And I’ve seen this death come about in many ways, a story for another time. Either way, many flow through the same coping experience: denial of immortality, anger to those responsible or to those they will outlive/will be living indefinitely with, bargaining to what could have been done to avoid it, depression and loss over both the past in a mortal life and the indefinite future of an immortal life; and finally, an acceptance, whether it is a substantial resilience that will continue to grow and change or a floundering that seeks oblivion in the form of comfortable monotony.
I understand, however, that my research takes the particular characteristic of individuals facing their immortality alone or with a small cohort of supports, and not within the wide network of greater ‘factions’. Many lacked prior information in the negotiation of their acquisition (and I refer to the creation/becoming/receiving of immortality as the ‘acquisition’, from now on) and that is exactly how they discovered me in the first place. Please do take this in mind, and while I am often sent to meet those lost and struggling, many -have- taken to the previously mentioned ‘substantial resilience’ of acquisition, optimistic, thriving, and becoming their own change agents of self-actualization.
This current variant is struggling with how their identity will change in regards to their mortal companions, as well as recollecting the factors of their negotiation of the acquisition, from which it seems has been purged from his memory.
He wants me to take him through my research and what I have seen, experienced and learned in the field and see if it jogs anything that could give a sign. His mortal kin are conspicuously silent.
That’s all for now.
Elana took a slower, longer path home after her inaugural flight with Colonel Daklan, her visitation to Prometheus, and her interview with what were soon to be her future employers. That morning, she dressed in attire professional yet unsensible for the heat of Egypt–now it was the civil twilight of Essex in mid-February, her shivering barely kept at bay by her passive, stirring Anima.
She walked with her arms tightly crossed, her face twisted in exhaustion and worry as she continued along one of the many scattered roads bordering the town of Saffron Walden. It had been at least two years since she had discovered the future she was to inherit, going out of her way considerably to find it: first, there was the property her grandparents used to live in, so much dust to remove and so many memories of a life she never knew they lived; the St. Mary’s Cathedral, where they had been married, and found a place to match their colour-faded wedding photos, the only evidence they shared of themselves in her childhood; the cemetery on Thaxted Road, where they had actually been buried, leaving Elana to wonder just who was lowered into those grave sites back in Canada, and so much more that still remained out of her grasp–her best leads remained meticulously tucked away, stowed, or concealed by decades-old wards she dared not touch in her own home.
To live in an inheritance property a half-hour’s walk from a small town of 14,000 residents was what she needed to rest from each and every day’s exposure to people–all of their little flickers of mood and impulse that used to disturb her, but now only caused a gradual discomfort. Every few minutes, a shipping truck or taxi would catch Elana’s sulky walk, slowing to lower a window and shout if she was okay–Elana would turn her head, pulling out the best fake English accent she could that she didn’t need help, and if that wasn’t enough to content the driver in question, her eyes would narrow and gaze into theirs for whatever empathetically-supported reassurance or threat was just enough for them to drive away.
The moisture in the air curtailed the pleasant ozone smell that resulted from utilizing her Chaotic, emotional abilities. She didn’t know how long this particular walk would take–switching roads and paths home was a very regular thing she did at the end of most workdays. What was harder for her, in every sense of the term, was revisiting older paths, fearing what she might run into again.
But this night, the road was framed by deep woods and undergrowth in ditches that separated scattered farmlands and even larger, richer properties–she often took the hollow earth’s path of golden branches that led her to Gamage’s Wood, sneaking past the well-groomed tourist trap of Audley End before making her way home–instead, she took a main road, allowing any assortment of mundies and Templars emeriti–and there were many in this town–to take as many fleeting glances and disdainful headshakes to her as they wished.
She knew this much about herself in that moment–that she was alone, that she needed to think, that she needed more time to herself than usual to be alone in her thoughts, and that her life was about to change. The listlessness she used to carry–one that pitied her for the amount of time it had taken for her to recover from her mind’s collapse in Kaidan, was replaced now by an uncertainty for her decision to join the Phoenix Group.
She wanted a change, she knew that well enough. How many times had she complained to her friends, her brother, her employers, that she can’t be stuck in the Red’s low-priority, high risk profile anymore? Anger flashed through her thoughts as she tried to blame someone higher-up for their decision to throw her in Kaidan for counsel work; the anger left her just as quickly as she remembered very fondly that she was still new, still curious, still felt invincible and capable, and the Templars wanted answers.
She proved herself useful in her initial sequestered months at the Hall, calming down other young, green agents shaken by their first glimpses of horror. But Temple Hall and Susanoo’s were very different. It was not the safehouse her employers thought it would be–they forgot the factor nearly everyone did in the occupational hazards of empathy: nearly each and every refugee she was asked to meet was grasping onto the thinnest, most shallow membranes of normalcy and reality, and there existed one particular day in that past that she joined them in their despondence. Many hours of deep medical sedation and an airlift later, she was condemned never to return and isolated in her own headquarters for analysis, until her brother stepped in to break her out and take her on as his patient.
She blinked as memories began to slip in her mind’s eye. Silhouettes of human forms gathered in small, scattered cohorts; she was in the fetal position, he was inebriated and on his nth bottle, she was closing her eyes and savoring Akashi’s food; they were holding hands and walking in the outer limits of the property, he was on his phone….
The man on his phone. He would never stop texting on his broken phone. He apologized to his family and his God over and over. He’d scream at the top of his lungs if you tried to take it away. Elana remembered his name as it escaped her lips in remorse: “Toru.”
Toru was the pseudonym for the last client Elana saw before she collapsed in July. His pain seemed different, his coping methods of rituals and regression a spectacle. She was part of a skeleton crew that night and had to look after his instrumental tasks of eating, sleeping and hygiene.
And one night, he was inconsolable, and she had to engage her powers substantially to calm him down.
Elana stopped walking, standing still as her vision began to shake. Not one part of her rehabilitation asked her to remember what happened. But now, she was finally past that rehab, about to release herself from the administrative hell that was interfactional bureaucracy, and there was a chance at least -something- could make sense, of how she was broken.
She clenched her fists and tried to slip her self-pity away into ambition, just for the time being, channeling more Anima into her feet as she broke into a mad dash from the safety of the highway road straight into the direction of fields and trees that would lead her to her home.
A clean, expensive-looking filing cabinet contrasted against the rustic antiquity of her grandparents’ old house. Elana reached the front door, opening and closing it swiftly as she continued past the front entranceway into an open living room, where the filing cabinet stood as a jarring, red-metallic reminder of who she once worked for. She thrust open the lowest shelf, flipping through pages immediately to find the right ones.
“Toru….he’d be…this one. Perfect.” Elana grasped her hands around a worn file folder, opening onto a nearby wooden table the crisp white pages of a facsimile: Toru’s report. For what was worth the cost of work to the Templars, the cost of dropping out of grad school to swallow a Bee–alphabetizing was a small victory.
Elana’s eyes darted back and forth as memories returned in great clarity:
“44 years old. Male. On-site 27 days, recovered from third party safehouse contamination. Documents on person were a cell phone and wallet…”
“Wallet reveals personal documentation that ‘Toru’ is not a permanent resident of the Tokyo region. Client is from Kagoshima Prefecture, Okinawa. Cell phone was found broken on person. ‘Toru’ refuses to dispose of the phone.”
She knew that much already.
“‘Toru’ can be seen holding and interacting with his phone when not engaged with other refugees or staff. Client likely regresses into fixations of past events, implementing ideations into reality by the hand gestures observed on his phone.”
Hand gestures? Elana shut her eyes imagining Toru thumbing a cracked black screen in a distinctive pattern. What the hell would he be trying to say? To who?
“Otherwise, ‘Toru’ engages in repetitive murmurs to family, employers, and religious faith. Client’s grieving is erratic and primarily following a context of guilt over family and religious beliefs. Refuses to talk about himself, directly.”
Elana gasped, covering her mouth in anguish. She remembered he was so distraught that night, she had to use her Anima to put him to sleep.
Elana sat that night in one of the diner’s many tables, her hands squeezed tightly against Toru’s will as she focused in on him, channeling warm Anima between their hands. Toru was a slobbering wreck who let his arms fall limp, silently crying and shaking his head in an endless “No” gesture in front of her. She started slowly and carefully, like she always did, trying to insert any semblance of comfort his mind would take: security, softness, bravery, silence, release….
And that’s when it happened. Elana slipped from the table holding Toru’s open intel as she collapsed to the ground of her home, smacking her head on one of the table’s legs, gripping her temples and clenching her teeth.
Sliding deeper within the mind of Toru was a sensation Elana could only describe as a broken record, spewing endless chatter in a language she could not understand, something vicious, threatening, teasing, and commanding. Reluctantly, Elana crept her senses closer in, her heart quickening as she exposed herself to the unadulterated and raw madness of her companion’s trauma.
Each cold, sharp sensation translated into shivers, tears, and mumbled mantras from the outside. Mantras she eventually started repeating in unison with him. Tears that eventually dehydrated her, assaulted her head with a migraine and a river of sinuous thoughts beyond comprehension before losing her balance out of her chair and curling up in helplessness and fear.
Elana glowered as she forced her palms to ground, channeling Chaos beneath her as the aged, wooden floorboards shattered immediately beneath her hands. Breathing deeply, Elana’s vision returned to the sight of splintered wood, her bloodied skin, and patches of her hair against her knuckles. She brushed a shaky hand through her hair–an alarming number of strands came wrapped around her fingers. Hair loss, numbness and anxiety were typical signs that she couldn’t control her powers. Cursing under her breath, Elana leaned back into a sitting position, drawing her knees up to lean against her forehead, exhausted.
She knew this much about herself in that moment–that she was alone, that she needed to think, that she needed more time to herself than usual to be alone in her thoughts, and that her life was about to change…
and that she needed, beyond anything, to find out who Toru was. Any possible word or trace of where he once was or could be. Whether he didn’t mean to do it. Whether he did. Whether or not he found his family again.
And whether or not he was planted there on purpose.
Elana returned a hand to her chest and grasped at her sweater with a clumsy fist. A nervous smile came to her face–maybe this was the change she was finally looking for.
No matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away.
At the top of one of the several hundred blue mountains that rose from the ground in that distant planet, under a night of stars and dreams, above a sleeping city, a conversation began to take place.
“Do you know what day it is?” A man of silver skin and shining eyes asked without turning.
“No…” A young mind answered, one which had been born into an eternal body, ignorant of the millennia that preceded him, without thinking much on the questions he was hearing.
“Today is the day we remember the dead.” The voice of the prehistoric man explained, his voice resonating in the valleys between the mountains.
“What’s that?” The gaze of the young mind turned to the man that was with him, trying to remember an instance in his life in which that word was used.
“It’s the day we remember the people that were here before us. You know… we weren’t always made of silver, we haven’t always lived here, in the center of the galaxy. Everything you see here hasn’t always been… and some of us that were, are not anymore.” The man rose from the ground and pointed towards a barely visible dot in the zenith. Amongst the millions of interstellar fireflies, an almost imperceptible light stood out in his eyes. A yellow light, a distant light, a light so ethereal that it was almost impossible to remember the warmth that emanated from within it. “Up there… that’s where things die, that’s where we must look upon, that’s where we come from and where many stayed behind.”
“Is that Earth?” The young mind watched the almost invisible light of the star where his ancestors had sprouted from, where the silver man, who stood next to him, had spent his first years, or so they said. “Do you remember something?” He dared to ask.
“I remember…” He said without lowering his hand, staring at the star above his shining finger. “I remember the crickets singing every night. I remember the dances we would go to, everyone was there, we laughed and we remembered things from another past. I remember her, her spectacular smile, her pleasant laugh, her deep eyes and her good soul. I remember the lush tree under which we sat to talk for hours.”
“What’s a tree?”
And even though the man had heard the question, he ignored it. “I don’t remember the things we said anymore, I remember her face, but not her voice. I remember her hair, but not her body.” For an instant the man wanted to smash his eternal body, for a moment he wanted to rip his face off and cry the tears accumulated across thousands of years. But crying was no longer possible.
“Why do we remember them?”
“Oblivion. Oblivion is the place where things that are forgotten go. Oblivion exists beyond the last star of our galaxy, it exists beyond even the borders of our universe. We can keep defying it, we can keep believing that we’ll be alive even after everything else has disappeared. We can pretend that we are gods and that nothing will ever end us, but end comes for us all. At the end of all things oblivion will be waiting for us in the darkness.”
The man of silver lowered his hand, and again the yellow light of that ancient sun drowned into the sea of stars. He sat back down and after a pause he said: “We remember them to give them back their lives… we remember so that they can walk with us in our journey, we remember so that they’ll live forever with us and so we can postpone the oblivion that will one day consume us… for another moment with them… for another moment of life.”
1. What is your name?
2. What is your real name?
“…it’s still Elana?”
3. Do you know why you were called that?
“I heard it was kind of loosely taken from my mom’s name, which was Alaine. Put the letters in a blender and that comes out, I guess. Better than my brother, he always gets asked if he’s lost.”
4. Are you single or taken?
“I haven’t had that talk yet…but I haven’t exactly been spending my time with anyone else but him in such a way.”
5. Have any abilities or powers?
“I don’t think you’d ask this kind of question if you didn’t know the answer already. It’s been an interesting journey , for sure.”
6. Stop being a Mary Sue.
7. What’s your eye color?
8. How about your hair color?
“Dark brown. I like to darken it with henna every few months.”
9. Have you any family members?
“My big brother is still around. He doesn’t live or work in the same country, though.”
10. Oh? What about pets?
“I consider myself too busy and self-absorbed to be able to look after a pet right now. I do have a number of easy to care for plants around my house.”
11. That’s cool I guess, now tell me about something you don’t like.
“I don’t like sarcasm. And people who stir up trouble for the sake of it. What a huge waste of energy.”
12. Do you have any hobbies/activities you like doing?
“I used to swim a lot. When I first moved to the UK I soaked it all in like a tourist and walked everywhere. I adore the bike rentals all over town.”
13. Ever hurt anyone before?
14. Ever….killed anyone before?
“Directly, and indirectly.”
15. What kind of animal are you?
“….squirrel! Because they’re resourceful and stuff. And I like them.”
16. Name your worst habits.
“I’m shy when I shouldn’t be. I go into up and down waves of total happiness to being withdrawn and depressed.”
17. Do you look up to anyone at all.
“I look up to my brother a lot. And I look up to my grandparents.”
18. Gay, straight, or bisexual?
“I’m pretty straight. A two on the Kinsey Scale, I like to think.”
19. Do you go to school?
“Oh sure, high school and then I finished a Bachelor’s degree. I was supposed to be in the UK for just a couple years to work on a Master’s degree. I’ve long since dropped out of that now.”
20. Do you ever want to marry and have kids one day?
“I think about it sometimes. That ‘one day’ seems more and more distant. I enjoy looking after my friends’ kids though.”
21. Do you have any fanboys/fangirls?
“If I did…? They’re awfully quiet, then.”
22. What are you most afraid of?
“I’m afraid of losing my brother. I’m afraid of isolation, loneliness. I’m afraid that after a particular incident 7 months ago that I’ll never be back to the old normal I used to operate on.”
23. What do you usually wear?
“I’m pretty casual. I like boots. I wear similar stuff from when I first moved here, but I’ve swapped out all my crappy cotton stuff for synthetic or sports wicking stuff.”
24. Do you love someone?
25. When was the last time you wet yourself?
“In my early teens. I’m pretty sure there’s a fair reason why my brother eventually chose the medical path and Psychiatry. I’m sorry he had to deal with me back then–I took the death of my grandparents very, very badly. I regressed quite a bit. I’ve never had a very strong emotional constitution. The only difference is that I do not openly pity myself in front of anyone anymore.”
26. Well, it’s not over yet!
27. What class are you? (High class, middle class, low class)
“Uhh, middle class I think. My brother and I had to sell our childhood home and split our assets in order to stake out new lives for ourselves. We never had things super easy, but we are good planners.”
28. How many friends do you have?
“Maybe three. I don’t know.”
29. What are your thoughts on pie?
“Pie is nice.”
30. Favorite drink?
31. What’s your favourite place?
“My cottage. Or well, my grandparents’ cottage that they decided to keep completely out of reach for over two decades.”
32. Are you interested in someone~
“Yes. And the interest is mutual.”
33. What’s your bra cup size and/or how big is your willy?
“I don’t have the latter….but the former is average, I guess.”
34. Would you rather swim in the lake or the ocean?
“Ocean. Lakes are nice….but oceans. It’s not just about the ocean. It’s also about the beach.”
35. What’s your type?
“According to who is in my life right now? Oh, the misunderstood hungry party type. Probably because by default I end up seeing past it…horns and all.”
36. Any fetishes?
“I’m surprisingly quite vanilla. But even then I’d prefer to keep that to myself.”
37. Seme or uke? Top or Bottom? Dominant or Submissive?
“I’m a mix of Storge and Ludus. The partner is more Agape and Eros.”
38. Camping or indoors?
“Indoors. Too much of my work is outside already.”
39. Are you wanting the quiz to end?
40. Now it’s over!