The agent they all called ‘Lurch’ stood and stared, dumbfounded, at the fistful of cloak he held - his suspect no longer in it. The rest stared out the window, discussing among themselves - at varying degrees of intensity and volume - what precisely had just transpired, and what S.O.G. protocol said to do about it.
All except for Ben, who’d been there when the technology was first acquired, and was in the process of calming the part of his mind that berated him for not recognizing it instantly.
He was halfway across the dark, dimly orange-hued room when a normally quiet new hire - possessing some uncanny dexterity - seized his arm.
He squinted his already-squinty eyes at him. “Can’t help but notice that you haven’t said much about this.”
Ben shook the guy’s hand off, reluctant to actually grab it - a crippling habit developed from being so close to LN4372. The bastard knew it, too. By now, everyone knew.
Lurch was, of course, by far the most distraught. As the others departed to search the building for any sign or evidence of the intruder, his eyes shifted over to them. He took a few steps that way and pointed listlessly at the window.
“That was an EMP.” He always did like to state the obvious.
His kind, calm voice conveyed very little of the panic that his eyes did. They darted from one to the other. “Tell me there’s a plan here.”
The guy who’d actually pulled a gun on the obvious amateur rolled his head towards Ben, suggesting that he had the answer. So he shrugged, and gave them one. “Call Laherty.” He held out his hand to take the cloak and moved away with it, adding nonchalantly, “Find a way.”
Captain Sure-Shot let the others follow the suggestion-slash-order, folding his arms in defiance. He watched from the corner by the window as the last of the other lower-ranks left to carry out the order.
Lurch, however, turned away, towards the device. He circled it once, eyeing the switch and all other visible parts closely... silently.
“All this is highly classified,” the new guy pointed out. “How did he even know about it? Much less how to make it work...” He lifted his chin to make yet another unsolicited conclusion. “He had to have been involved with its creation - or its seizure.”
“A valid assessment,” Ben granted. Still intently analyzing the garment, he used sarcasm on the issue. “Can’t help but sense some accusation behind your words, friend,” he shot back. “Yes. I was there. But I didn’t tell anyone else. Seemed like just another egomaniac genius lusus case to me.” He returned the favor by hinting, with a glance at the agent’s hands, at his suspiciousness. It was only a matter of time before it caught the attention of someone with the power to order a test...
Ben dipped his head to the side, appreciative of the silence he’d created. “Yeah I’m gonna go talk to the guy that actually caught him.” He followed Lurch’s path.
Unusually wary, the seasoned multi-purpose operative was crouched down low, just a few inches in front of the switch, holding his combat knife at the ready.
Suddenly he shoved it into the casing, braced with both arms, and applied his entire strength to the task of prying it open. His face contorted with the effort, the initial frustrated growl becoming more of a battle-cry. Though he couldn’t see it with his eyelids tightly clenched, it did bow under the strain - but didn’t give. His yelling gained volume, then broke off when he finally allowed himself to be repelled, sapped of strength. Nobody tried to discourage him. His personality was such that no matter what was said, he would still need to try.
Breathing heavily, he turned back and looked at them. He was glaring, tense with anger. But what Ben saw in his eyes was also fear. Fear of being powerless, and therefore useless. Inferior. It was a feeling that Ben knew well.
He gave him a grin and shook his head. “Lusies.”
Lurch lowered his brow and looked away.
He waved his hand at it all. “So. Do we have any idea how they got in?”
He turned back and stared for a moment - but there was already a disarming smile on Ben’s face. In no way did he blame him for failing against what was probably another uber-LN nutjob. But it was better conveyed without words.
He raised his eyebrows slightly, shook his head and threw a hand up in defeat. “No, but... the situation was pretty strange.”
They both listened intently.
“I didn’t really see him as malicious. He just seemed kind-of... lost. Way too inexperienced and exposed to be doing this on his own.”
Ben raised an eyebrow, nodding slightly in encouragement.
“Once I realized he hadn’t even seen me I just stopped at the door there and waited.”
The one in the corner spoke up. “For what?”
“An accomplice... to see what he’d do... I don’t know,” he snapped. “Turns out he did have his own mission. Nobody ever told me what this was.” He shot Ben an accusatory look - which he ignored. “He had the code...”
He shook his head slowly, pondering. “But he didn’t attack, or even run. So I just grabbed him to stop him from doing anything else. I even offered him our protection. He pulled some moves - advanced ones - to try and get away.”
Ben’s eyes widened ever-so-slightly. Something he hoped Super-Sleuth wouldn’t notice. “Did you get a good look at him?”
“Not really. Green eyes, I think. The kid was covered head-to-toe.” He paused, analyzing his own response. “I say ‘kid’ because of the size, I guess. He was real small. But there was something... off, about him too. Those eyes... I mean, he wasn’t happy about being caught of course. But when he looked at me there was a - a darkness...” He shook the image from his head. “Disturbing. It wasn’t just an angry, defeated enemy staring me down.” He sighed. “‘Evil’, is the only way I can think to call it.”
Ben frowned. “So if you had Pandora by the hair, who opened the box?”
He clenched his jaw shut for a moment, but spoke patiently, as always. “Like I said. Expert moves. He - or she, I guess - went to extremes. He wasn’t gonna touch it. Not at first...”
Ben threw his arms up in frustration. “It’s a big room, Lurch. Why would you even let him get close to that kind of technology?”
The look he got in response was positively caustic. “Hey, I didn’t see you there! Me and this one are the only ones who even noticed. And anyway, what would you have done? Single trespasser, small, jumpy, otherwise unarmed... Look me in the eye and tell me you’d have pulled a weapon.”
As soon as he raised his voice, Ben began to slowly, discreetly close the distance remaining between them. Of course, Lurch felt the need to stand, despite being a good foot taller. But he allowed him to finish his rant. Then he said darkly, “Absolutely.”
A whole bunch of insubordinate questioning now surely on his mind, he pointed and opened his mouth. But he stopped suddenly, his attention drawn instead to the young female agent sprinting towards them, having somehow acquired a working tablet. Deftly she shoved between them, and held the screen up so they could see.
Though small, the scenes it showed were clear enough to briefly stop Ben’s heart. Laherty had told her where to get it. He was the only one who’d think to keep a shielded device somewhere. Which meant he was on his way.
The scenes took place simultaneously, all at recognizable points around the world. Armies... well-armed soldiers out of time, humanoid but freaking huge, and all with dark, greyish-blue skin. They seemed to come out of nowhere. Short battles took place with a few of the more militant countries’ armies, but one way or another, all the major cities they encountered were occupied.
They were met with little resistance. None would be effective. Not against forces summoned by extra-dimensional aliens...
As if to purposefully shatter all remaining thoughts that this was not, in fact, his worst nightmare, another feed appeared - forcibly interrupting all the others. It was none other than the ‘war-criminal’ Loptr. Only Laherty called him that. Only Laherty insisted on it. But sure as shit, there he was, an image in perfect agreement with what little had been described in the mythology... complete with lip-sewing scars.
This time he wore a Viking-style helmet and flashy armor. He paced about some camera-laden studio somewhere, several restrained and incapacitated innocents at his feet. Ben could only watch... but he did so very closely, as the being addressed the whole of the world at once.
His voice sealed the deal as far as believing that’s what he was. Unsettlingly-smooth, and commanding... one fit only for a God of Lies.
“Good evening, denizens of Midgard.” He’d appeared with an expression of sympathy... completely unreadable though, when it came to how much was real. He placed a hand on his chest. “I would ask of you first, not to panic. To cause this is not my intent. In fact, my kind have made a very specific point, over the centuries, not to disrupt your sense of peace. Your interactions, musings, conversations and connections. However, this missive is vital, to a more... widespread understanding, of immediately impending events.”
He paused a moment, eyeing the more conscious of his victims. “Recently, certain factions have made the very unwise decision to effect an act of war. To attack a human child - my ward - for no reason other than that she possessed an innate gift. She and hers have long been hunted by several such rebel entities... amongst them, those called ‘S.O.G’.”
Fuck. A fucking bullseye, in one mention. Intentional? His tone took on a hint of mockery at them all, really - equally.
“Of course, this is merely the epitome of a countless multitude of reasons for my presence. Your privileges as custodians of Midgard have been revoked. Your betters will now take command.”
He paused to look down in thought. ”Who am I, you might ask, to make this proclamation. Not something of your world, that much is clear...” He dipped his head, as if he wouldn’t blame his audience for their ignorance. “I am the one called Loptr - though, I have many names in your legends. I am ancient. I am wise. And my hand has been forced. Once and for all, I must take action against your ways.”
Both his thin red eyebrows lifted, indignantly. “I would advise against attempting to resist my warriors’ actions. For though it is also not my intent to take lives, you’ll find that, as in stories, I’m not above it. The control of all technology, resources, and especially of her kind, will be relinquished to me.”
He stopped his anxious pacing in front of a tightly-bound, weeping woman, who looked away from him as he gracefully lowered himself. He lifted her chin, gently wiped a tear away with his thumb, and spoke as if only to her. “Not to worry. When given due respect, I am quite the benevolent ruler. I will see to it that the necessary changes are made as quickly and painlessly as possible. And in time, you will come to realize that it was for the best interests of all.”
He released her, righted himself, and disdainfully waved away his audience. The screen returned to its original function.
Ben’s thoughts went in all directions at once. Laherty’s coming. He wants answers. I have no answers. Make it right.
His fingers made an audible, leathery creak as they tightened around the handle of the gun he’d unwittingly half-drawn. The kid. She wasn’t just the unprecedented, special LN threat that house Laherty had built. Now she was much more dangerous. A political weapon; a tool. An unsuspecting means to this being’s vicious end. They should’ve known. The second she disappeared, they should’ve known.