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#1 Posted by Hawkshade (4662 posts) - - Show Bio

Seven thousand feet above the Pacific soared the Celeste II. In an earlier life it had been a Jefferson class Helicarrier with a crew component of seven hundred and fifty, an air wing of sixty four F-35s and a company of US marines. Decommissioned in 2015 after its reactor took damage in an engagement with REDACTED over the coasts of REDACTED it was sold to an audacious startup who rebuilt the warship of the skies into a sun-kissed luxury resort craft that catered to the one percent of the one percent.

Richard's helicopter touched down with hardly a bump and he climbed out onto the hardwood deck. There was hardly a scuff to be seen and the glow of the sun was reflected in the polished surface. A trio of staff awaited him, unpacking his luggage and taking his jacket.

"Cigar?"

"No." Richard didn't smoke.

"Of course sir. Might I offer the gentleman a tour?"

"Also no." He had memorized the layout on the way up.

With a respectful bow the staff stepped aside, sensing he wished to be alone. Only the best were employed on the Celeste II. Their clients would accept nothing less.

He took sunglasses from his pocket and walked out to stand next to the railing. The airship drifted into a cloud and wind ruffled the black tie that wrapped around the collar of his white Eton dress shirt.

Richard took it off and unbuttoned his collar as the airship drifted out of the cloud bank. Below the ocean gleamed blue like a sapphire a flock of birds wheeled, diving and rising-- little black dots specking the surface of the gem of the earth.

The billionaire placed his hands upon the ivory and gold trimmed railing and watched the waves.

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#2 Edited by Valerie_Huntington (5259 posts) - - Show Bio

Valerie’s statuesque figure rested against the railing of the Celeste II as she coolly surveyed the men and women drifting around her. The Huntington heiress more often than not found herself in a role of natural social dominance among her peers, but today she stood in an unfamiliar position. The guests of the Celeste II had no name in entertainment, politics or even business as it is understood by the general public. They were billionaires of a different caliber, of wealth and power which moved the world with an invisible hand. Their names would never appear on Page Six or TMZ. Their names were hardly known at all, however their influence over modern civilization could be felt by anyone living under an organized government. They formed a New-Age Pantheon, and they were the small handful of individuals Valerie could call her equals.

The White Queen sipped on a champagne flute filled with crisp Dom Perignon. She had arrived only moments earlier, giving her several minutes to analyze her best options in what would soon become a battlefield of silver tongues and hidden agendas.

Valerie had brought one weapon with her which had never failed to disarm her opponent: Beauty. A couture gown by Francesco Scognamiglio allowed the modern-day Aphrodite to display her physical allure without compromising her innate elegance. The body of the dress consisted of little more than a nude bustier with matching panties. However both pieces had been adorned by a sheer cloth littered with glimmering crystals, which trailed down to her ankles. Valerie presented her runway attire with the same fierce confidence of a knight garbed in armor.

Her golden head turned to a silent figure next to her. She held out an open palm without saying a word, yet the man knew what she wanted. He reached obediently into the Jimmy Choo clutch bag he had been instructed to hold, retrieving a Marlboro Lights and a diamond encrusted lighter. Valerie placed the cigarette between luscious, gloss-painted lips before her bodyguard set its end ablaze with a flick of the lighter. 'Pretty girls should never light their own cigarettes,' a boy had told her when she was young.

“Stay close,” she instructed with an easy poise.

Valerie made her way gracefully into the crowd of her fellow Olympians. The sun’s rays, close enough to reach up and touch while on the Celeste II, tumbled eagerly from the sky to meet Valerie. Their light danced in her yellow hair, kissed the shimmering surface of her flawless skin, and set the world alight against the crystals of her dress. Her presence became immediate, impossible to disregard. The White Queen had arrived, armored in glamour and equipped with a lethal mind.

Look

@hawkshade

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#3 Posted by Hawkshade (4662 posts) - - Show Bio

Perhaps it was a change in the tone of the whispered conversations or perhaps it was some sixth sense. Maybe it was just a shift in the wind. But the small hairs on the back of Richard's neck stood on end when Valerie's heel first touched the deck.

He turned and leaned back against the railing, the ivory and gold trim biting into the muscles of his broad back. Blue eyes swept over the deck until they fell upon her. Valerie Huntington.

She looked splendid, of course. Especially here. He thought the sun made her hair look like gold that had caught fire. She was torturing his mother. The vision flashed before his eyes and he wanted to strangle her.

Not yet. She was a telepathic goddess and one of the rulers of a mutant superpower. The powerfully built young man choked back the wave of wrath before he created an emotional disturbance strong enough to attract the notice of her psychic senses.

The wind rustled his black hair as he took a moment to compose himself. His emotions ran hot but Richard was a man of singular will and the iron inside him mastered the furnace.

Another man might have turned away and walked down the stairs to his room. Why risk an encounter with quite possibly the strongest telepath the world had ever seen? One wrong word, one emotion run wild and the consequences could be catastrophic.

Richard was made of different stuff.

So the six foot four man pushed off the railing with a shrug of his thick shoulders and moved through the crowd. Franklin Sinclair the third had a head start, at 97 the old man controlled half the fortunes of the old world and was a financial titan whose whispers moved global markets. Richard could see the old man would make it to Valerie before he would, no doubt to bend her ear about investment opportunities for Venezuela's penson funds.

He 'accidentally' stepped on the head of the old mans cane and didn't look back as the old man fell hard on the deck. No one saw what he had done and Franklin Sinclair the third vanished in a swarm of staff and well-wishers concerned for his health.

Then stepped up beside the mutant monarch, reached over and (unless she evaded or prevented him) plucked the cigarette from her lips and flicked it over the side.

"You shouldn't smoke." He said, his deep voice rumbling through the air and he did not explain. The billionaire offered a hand to perhaps his strongest enemy and said-- "Richard, Richard Vasiliev."

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#4 Edited by Valerie_Huntington (5259 posts) - - Show Bio

Generations of breeding and wealth gifted Valerie with a genetic superiority for social graces. This gift proved throughout her life to be as invaluable as any mutant gene. Her ability to elegantly weave her way through the slippery language of the .01% came as an act of natural instinct in comparison to the consciously learned skills of her peers.

Her amicable smiles always presented themselves genuinely. She extracted valuable information through conversation while tactfully reserving any tangible knowledge pertaining to herself or her family. She always retrieved that which she sought before her victims could reflect on the mental gymnastics performed over their heads. She thrived on the social dominance, like a heavyweight champion gone undefeated.

She knew she would have to rely exclusively on these behaviors granted to her through bloodline while amid the Celeste II. Although her telepathic powers certainly possessed the potential to overcome the will of the tycoons around her, she did not doubt each and every one of them had prepared their minds for such a threat. The upper echelon lived and breathed secrets, and no possessor of worldly knowledge would enter battle without either a hired telepath to protect them, or, enough training to guard their own thoughts. While Valerie could overpower both these safeguards, she risked igniting a world war in the process. This left her to utilize her powers of grace and influence as a Huntington highborn.

Smoke poured from her lips as she listened halfway to the CEO of a Chinese tech leviathan. His proclaimed advancements over AI technology weren’t of particular interest to Valerie, neither were his subtle attempts at intimidation.

She took a small sip of her glass, her eyes taking quick glances around for more interesting opportunity. She caught the shuffling of several people around an elder gentleman she recognized, from his many unwarranted advancements at Huntington social gatherings in her youth, as he fell suddenly to floor of the deck.

This commotion retrieved half of her focus, while the other half became acutely aware of what could only be described as a psychic yelling. The flair surprised her, as she assumed her companions would all have their minds directly turned inward for the event.

Before she had a moment to psychically survey the origin of the call, the face of an unfamiliar man stepped in front of her before brashly disposing of her cigarette.

“Want me to handle him?” came a woman’s voice inside Valerie’s head. The White Queen shot a quick glance at the imposing bodyguard she had arrived with, a cool assuredness in her crystal blue eyes.

“Thank you, Maeve, but that won’t be necessary. I’m curious," she replied to her shape-shifting associate.

She met the man’s steady blue eyes with her own—her gaze a chilling balance of beauty and steel. With a coy smile she extended her hand to meet his, her mountainous engagement ring glistening under the sun.

“And you shouldn’t trip old men,” she replied with a playful directness. As soon as she witnessed Sinclair's tumble, she had used the moment of distraction to telepathically highjack his memories and relive the experience from his senses. While Sinclair may not have seen who had caused his fall, Valerie possessed enough reasoning to suspect the athletic figure who had been closest to him at the time. “Yet here we are. Valerie Huntington.”

She studied him quietly, playing with ideas for how a man of her own youth could have attained an invite aboard the Celeste II. There was always the option of inheritance, as in Valerie’s case, however the man possessed an indistinct quality that separated him from the many trust fund children she had met throughout her life. He presented himself calm, but ready, not as someone who had been raised soft through facing little adversary to achieve their standing.

Valerie arched a manicured eyebrow, her eyes never wavering from his.

“Vasiliev? An interesting name. You know, I make it my job to make myself familiar with names. Yet yours has evaded me up until now. I feel disappointed in my oversight,” she explained to him. Her words offered innocence, her enthralling voice inviting him to divulge deeper into his identity. Valerie was a siren by nature, a beautiful creature with a thirst for blood.

@hawkshade

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#5 Posted by Hawkshade (4662 posts) - - Show Bio

Wind brushed his hair and the deck shifted ever so slightly under them. Not enough to inconvenience the Celeste's passengers of course. Simply one of the technical realities of sailing upon the sky.

Richard didn't budge, his feet were planted to the deck like roots and his powerful frame was steady as an oak while the airship sailed through a cloud.

The Son of the Shogun wasn't raised in this world. Not the world of the .01%, not the world of the average working mutant and not any other world the man or woman off the street might recognize. He was born in the sterile cold air of a lab and raised at the feet of seven secret masters and in the stone halls of the hidden fortress he learned lessons that could never be taught. Only learned.

He didn't belong here. It didn't matter what shoes he wore. How much he paid for his tailored suit. He didn't belong, never would, and didn't care for he was in the world but not of the world.

Valerie had seen that instantly. Of course she had. He met her gaze and saw things about her as well. He ignored the dress. The perfect hair. The otherworldly beauty. That didn't mean anything to Richard. The world was a veil. Valerie wore it better than most. But the secret master taught him to look under the veil of the world.

"Why not?" He asked when she told him he shouldn't push old men. How did she know? Telepathy, of course. There was no change in his expression.

As they shook hands Richard took note of how different she seemed now. No longer made of diamond. Subtle. She could see under the surface of things too; he could sense it from her.

"Ah." He said. "You could say I am new money. Bitcoin. Started mining when they were cheap, sold before the crash. Bought Avalon this month. Reinvented it. Technology. Armor. Weapons. Named it Excalibur. After the sword that cuts anything."

In the legend of King Arthur Take Me Up was written upon one side of the blade. Cast Me Away upon the other. This was important. It was Richards time to take up the sword against evil. So he had.

"But I recognize yours. Valerie Huntington of the Huntington Dynasty. Royal family of Venezuela, the worlds youngest Monarchy. You mutants-" he was a mutant himself but this fact was carefully concealed. "-are not fans of democracy I take it?"

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#6 Edited by Valerie_Huntington (5259 posts) - - Show Bio

@hawkshade:

Her curiosity had peaked. She thought back on the past two years of life, and realized they blended together in a blur of sensations shared between the glory of motherhood and the activity of her family’s reign in Venezuela. She omitted Jordan’s death from her memories, keeping her emotions in regards to the event in a glass vial tucked away in the deepest vaults of her psyche.

She realized she had grown out of touch with the real world. Her and her family had become untouchable, or so they imagined, drifting from day to day dealing with matters involving their country and legacy with little awareness of changes in the outside world. Any politics not pertaining to her son or the mutant populous seemed to have slipped through Valerie’s careful fingers. She mentally reprimanded herself.

“Bitcoin? Very nouveau riche of you. I can’t say many of the dinosaurs here will understand it,” she grinned playfully. Valerie’s eyes possessed insight behind the beauty, as though she always carried a desirable secret she was daring you to ask for.

She shot a quick glance at her attendant, who immediately replaced her disregarded cigarette with another spark of fire. The cigarette rested between her fingers lazily, her other hand rising to her lips as she sipped on the champagne.

Beneath the visage of effortless glamour, the White Queen’s astute perception continued trying to make sense of Richard. She didn’t believe for a moment the simple story of his rise to fortune. His every word, every movement, came with a precision too refined to belong to a man who stumbled across internet cash in the age of new fast money.

His mention of Avalon disturbed a sleeping wound in the Valerie. She let it pass as quickly as it had arose. But for a moment, her thoughts existed in a different time and place. Kamelot, Quintus, a life of hers that no longer felt as though it had really transpired.

She let out a small laugh, the sound of her amusement ringing from her as if crafted by a heavenly choir.

“Mr. Vasiliev, I refuse to believe you so naïve. No one is really a fan of democracy.”

She leaned forward as she spoke, resting her forearms on the railing of the Celeste II to look out across the sailing clouds. The gentle wind tugged at the golden hair falling jauntily around her visage. Leagues below them the blue shades of the ocean matched Valerie’s own vast and unpredictable eyes.

“Since mankind stumbled into existence he’s wanted to be told what to do, then to find a way to feel self-accredited for it. First he called it instinct, then God, now government. The guiding voice in the back of his mind he can swear is his own. This voice is always cultivated by forces outside of himself.”

She looked over her shoulder at Richard. Even in weighted topics she managed to maintain an unshaken grace.

“I’m merely giving people what they’ve always unknowingly desired. Mutants want freedom, and they want to feel they achieved it through self-will. But they don’t possess the will my family and I have to actually make it happen. History has taught us to view monarchies as evil. But there is no good or evil in this world. There is only power, and those too weak to seek it.”

She looked around the deck, gesturing for Richard to do the same.

“Democracy is a modern fantasy. Do you think any of these men and women would exist otherwise? Monarchy is all there’s ever been. The powerful will always control the fate of the weak. We only invented democracy so that a sheep can send in a ballot and feel as though it ever had any other choice but to be prey for the wolf.”

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#7 Edited by Hawkshade (4662 posts) - - Show Bio

For the first time since their meeting Valerie genuinely surprised him. The emotion cracked the iron bolts that kept his emotions in check and surprise leaked into his deep blue eyes. Surprise, amusement and genuine approval.

"Agreed." He said. "Democracy is not a position for government to take, democracy is a direction and that direction is always and invariably, corruption. Both of the people and of the leadership."

He turned to face the ocean, clasping his hands behind his back, suit stretching over his broad chest. "The people are lead by the politician who must seduce them for their votes. What is the most efficient way to do this? Bribery of course. And so inevitably arises a man who desires power at any cost and he bribes the people. These bribes come under pleasant names. They seem so sensible at first. Welfare for all. A military expansion that guarantees jobs for his constituents. Free healthcare."

"The people are bought and having learned they can profit at one another expense (for what politician bribes the people with his own money?) they develop a lust for the plunder of democracy and the state becomes nothing but a system of extracting and distributing the resources of the people."

"The people allow themselves to be bought and become corrupt. Decadent. Weak. The most unscrupulous and those with the least shame offer the biggest bribes and attain the most power, ensuring that the nation is always lead by its worst instead of its best. By this means both the people and the leaders become corrupted."

He turned to face her and looked into the eyes of what might as well have been a telepathic god. "Democracy is a sickness. Those afflicted rarely recover before both the body (the people) and the mind (the leadership) are corrupted entirely. I congratulate the Huntington family upon having the foresight to rescue your people from the memetic plague of democracy."

"After all, even should your family become corrupt and plunder the state for wealth it is easier to sate the greed of a single family than it is to satiate the fiscal lusts of an entire people."

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#8 Posted by Valerie_Huntington (5259 posts) - - Show Bio

One of Valerie’s eyebrows arched in amusement.

“That’s an awful lot of political insight. For a bitcoin tycoon,” she purred. Any suspicions she had concerning the man’s rise to success had been confirmed in the brief conversation. Who the hell was this Richard Vasiliev?

Around them the guests of the Celeste II shuffled into the ship’s interior. Inside a fabulous dinner accompanied by a charity raffle would conclude the extravagant gala. Something to raise charity for some cause that only made the Celeste II’s passengers more wealth. Money and power had a way of exploiting those without it.

Valerie did not move to follow her peers. She had become too invested in the stranger.

“Monarchy allows my family to burden the weight of the mutant movement. I cannot speak for all of my blood, but, when it comes to the mutant people, my people, I have no interest outside of freeing them from social and economic persecution.”

Her gaze evolved into something softer. A vulnerability in her pale blue irises revealed itself. A rare warmth within the icy White Queen.

She turned away from him, wrapping one arm across her body to protect herself from a cold breeze.

“Genetic difference should not withhold any person from basic human experiences. We all possess individual abilities, human or mutant or any sentient being. Does this effect our primal needs? Our minds, our hearts, our souls? Mutants separate themselves solely by their power over their world. Their desire for human fulfillment is no different.”

Frigidness returned as she turned back to look into his eyes.

“If I have to conquer this world to change it, so be it.”

@hawkshade

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#9 Posted by Hawkshade (4662 posts) - - Show Bio

"What can I say." A shrug of his broad shoulders. "I was insightful enough to see Bitcoin coming. A long term perspective is one of my specialties."

That was a lie. A necessary one; part of his cover story as a self-made bitcoin billionaire. But he hadn't cared about money or bitcoin when that bitcoin farm had been set up all those years ago. Arrachtach, his mother's constant companion, had set up the server farm to ensure a supply of anonymous, untraceable money to fund his mothers anti-human terrorist campaigns. The servers had been abandoned in one of his mothers lairs when she ascended to the throne of Venezuela and Hawkshade had found them as he searched for her.

Many of the other guests went indoors. Richard tracked them out of the corner of his eye, memorizing their gaits, their faces and various other vital details-- a unique ring that was a gift from a beloved relative, a distinctive scar, an exotic accent. All were filed away into the vaults of his memory palace but the precision machinery of his disciplined mind were on autopilot. His focus was on Valerie.

He listened as she spoke.

Sincerity. It surprised him. Perhaps he had assumed the worst of her without justification. Assumed she was driven only by a lust for power. Wealth. Status.

But there were hidden depths. Facets to her personality he had not accounted for.

Conquer the world. He scowled. An instinctive response bubbled up in him but he filtered it through the persona of a ruthless billionaire. "Where is the profit in that?" He asked. "Save your people, that I can understand. But millions would die in a campaign of work domination. And just think of the trillions in wealth that would be consumed. Destroyed. Gone forever." He didn't give a damn about the money. Just the people who would die.

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#10 Posted by Valerie_Huntington (5259 posts) - - Show Bio

@hawkshade:

His graveness seemed only to amuse the mutant goddess. Her enchanting demeanor remained infallible even in the depths of their grim discussion. It proved impossible to shake or move the charming Valerie.

“You speak in ideals, my friend. I deal with realities. No man is born to live forever. He knows he will die someday, therefore he spends his life seeking something worth dying for.”

She continued to study Richard, her gaze softening. There was something in his confidence she admired. She rarely found a man or woman who could hold a conversation with the White Queen without flinching. He remained rooted in his thoughts, unafraid to counter her. He refreshed her bored mind.

“War, while guised as terrible, has always given men a purpose to their life and death. Those who oppose me have died a hero’s death, in their minds, while those who offer their lives in support of me find bliss in the afterlife as martyrs. They have both died for the sake of one ultimate outcome. They are, without knowledge of the fact, the same."

The Celeste II carried them above the world as two gods seated on a golden chariot. The mortals below them knew nothing of the divine plans being crafted in the heavens above them. It amused Valerie, she thought, that any hero thought themselves different from her. Whether Richard, this mysterious and righteous man, or any other opposed her motives, they could not deny they existed in the same pantheon as her. They made decisions for lesser men, used their power to shape the world as they saw fit.

“The world is nothing but a cycle of death and rebirth. Millions may die, but millions will replace them in time. Me, my family, we are something tangible for politicians and world leaders to point fingers at and call the bad guys. A smarter man would see we are only carrying out the natural processes of life. I believe God put war on this earth for a purpose, to give two men the opportunity to die for a virtue they both equally believe is righteous. Neither of them know their deaths could not have changed what was already fated to become. The world endlessly evolves, darling, ignorant of good and evil.”

The topic began to dull her. She wondered for a moment what had possessed her to divulge so openly in her thoughts. It was then she decided she would not let her new acquaintance drift far from her inner circle. While she could not yet decipher his motives, nor his true identity, she felt instinct whisper to her that their fates would remained intertwined until some end.

“So, tell me, Richard? What is it you would die for? What virtue possess you to see me as a villain?”

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#11 Posted by Hawkshade (4662 posts) - - Show Bio

@valerie_huntington:

To impulses warred within him. The first called for him to denounce Valerie's goals in clear and unambiguous terms. To explain his philosophy of right and wrong and attempt to turn her from the murderous path she had set herself upon. The other impulse screamed at him to maintain his cover as amoral newmoney, concerned primarily with profits and political power.

He turned to look out over the sea, eyes narrowing as pondered how to answer the question and navigate the conversational minefield in front of him.

"I reject your premise. God has not created war. Man created war for his own advancement and war has become so destructive as to be unprofitable. Billions can be made selling weapons for all-out war but these wars destroy trillions in infrastructure. Then they end. Should one power attain dominion over all of the earth I would be out of business for my company, Excalibur, would not be able to sell weapons to those who were threatened by one another. One cannot have arms races if there is only one racer."

"As for what I would die for, I would die for honor." Richard mixed truth and falsehood, fabricating a fiscal reason to oppose a world war to cover for his true moral objections while being honest about (one) of the things for which he would sacrifice his life.

"You are correct that life is nothing but a cycle of life and death and that death is inescapable. You are also correct that mankind needs a worthwhile purpose for which to spend their lives." Truth be told he was surprised at her insight here; she was a woman of uncommon perception. "But a world war is not a purpose with meaning. To move the borders of a nation, this is nothing but the shuffling of lines upon a map. To change the leaders of the government is nothing but a legalistic game."

He shook his head. "No. True meaning is to embrace an impossible battle. In this I pity you your power for you all things may be possible for you, meaning that you will never experience what it is to drive yourself into an unwinnable war at all hours of the day and night with no thought other than victory but with no possibility other than defeat. It is the forge of the spirit and from such a crucible the soul transcends life and death and time and space."

"You speak of power. But what is power except control over those weaker than you? I have no interest in those weaker than me. I am interested only in the strong. To seek power is to be obsessed with the weak. I would rather debate with you than rule a nation for a nation is nothing but the common man but you are an uncommon woman."

"And what is control except an elimination of chaos? I do not fear the chaos of life or seek to decrease it. I seek to test myself against it."

"Why do I see you as the villain? Because our goals are opposites. You seek power over the week. I seek conflict with the strong. You seek to eliminate chaos. I seek it out and grapple with it. You seek an end to conflict. I seek an eternal war of the soul. You seek a material change in the external world. I seek a spiritual perfection."

"You are a creature deeply immersed in this world. I am just passing through."

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#12 Posted by Valerie_Huntington (5259 posts) - - Show Bio

@hawkshade:

Valerie watched as ribbons of clouds around them melt into the soft blue surface of the sky. She remained still and silent, no longer feeling it necessary to express her distaste for his views. Her thoughts had begun to drift elsewhere. She turned to look at him, her brilliant blue eyes as soft as the sky around them.

“Don’t be alarmed by this, darling. Perhaps it will help you understand better.”

She extended a hand, resting her index and middle finger on Richard’s temple before he had time to reject her.

The two new acquaintances suddenly found themselves at an entirely new setting. They stood on an abandoned hillside in the middle of a massive clearing. Dark clouds gathered above them to envelope the landscape in the promise of malevolence. Lush grass grew beneath their feet, painting the entire countryside green. The earth itself radiated with history, deep sadness reaching up from the soil to mix with pride and violence hanging in the air.

Valerie stood atop a dirt path where grass no longer grew due to years of passage. Her elegant garbs had been dissolved. The Princess of Venezuela now displayed a modest fur trench coat in white, matching the white heeled boots on her feet. Her blonde locks fell in pieces from underneath a white fur hat to rest at her face in unceremonious glamour.

She studied Richard to ensure his reaction would not be volatile.

“Don’t be alarmed, Richard. We’re still back on the Celeste, physically. I brought you here only in astral form. I have some things to show you.”

Her lovely head turned to take in the portrait surrounding them. A short distance from where they stood on the path, a noble structure occupied the land. Its appearance did not compare to the size or opulence of other famous castles, however its presence possessed a chilling power that permeated the air around it. Moisture blanketed the air and clung to Valerie’s clothing as heavily as the memories the place had endured.

“I’ve brought you to the oldest standing home of the Huntington family. Here, somewhere in the German territory of the Holy Roman Empire, my ancestors began their conquest of the modern world,” she explained. She continued to scrutinize his response. It was foreign waters for Valerie to invite a complete stranger into the private vaults of her family, but, for some reason, she felt providence had delivered her to Richard to uncover an answer to the civil war currently raging among her blood. She decided she would wipe his memory of it if need be.

“Shall we, darling?” she asked, offering to lead him into whatever dark secrets rested within the remains of the old Huntington Castle.

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#13 Posted by Hawkshade (4662 posts) - - Show Bio

@valerie_huntington:

Richard started to speak but the world changed between one blink and the next. The tall man blinked. In the astral world his blue eyes burned like brilliant electric lasers embedded in his skull. Burning coals of sapphire swept across their surroundings. A fist the size of a lunchbox clenched at his side; the instinctive reaction to a potential threat.

Omega-level psychic powers. He reminded himself.

Astral projection? So she says.

Then he looked down at his hands. His suit was jet black, unnaturally so. A black so deep and dark it couldn't be replicated in the real world. At his left hip hung a sword with a silver hawk for a pommel.

Richard opened his fists and counted his fingers. Ten. He looked up at the sky and back down. Counted again. Ten.

Not a psychically induced dreamstate.

Broca and Wernicke’s area in the brain controlled symbol perception and interpretation, including counting. During dreamstates those areas in the brain shut down. Counting his fingers twice and arriving at the same number each time told Richard he was still awake.

Astral projection or telepathic manipulation of the visual cortex?

He didn't know but the Strigidae had initiated him into the mysteries of the mind and he resolved to watch for faces he couldn't recall. The visual cortex could not fabricate a human face. It could only recall them. If he saw the face of someone whom was not recorded in his memory palace than he was no longer in his own mind-- he was in the astral plane.

For now there was nothing to do but wait and see.

The Son of the Shogun turned his attention toward the White Queen. Streams of information poured into his mind. Charles the 5th. The Reichstag. He didn't mention any of it. This wasn't about him. He could sense that.

He filed away everything he saw in his memory palace. No clue was too small.

Then the man turned again to Valerie. (She was beautiful in the simple white fur. Pure. He couldn't help but notice. The thought disturbed him-- he remembered the visions of torment she had shown him in their last meeting.)

Richard offered her an arm. "Let us."