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(PART THREE) [WP] Oddly enough, reincarnation is simply a character creation screen on an old arcade machine. Being a gamer in your past life, you jokingly input the konami code, which to your surprise makes a message pop up saying: "Developer Mode Unlocked."

Bullets ricocheted off the building I was levitating next to. On the ground, a sizeable police and SWAT force congregated, I could even see the army being called in.
In just a few short minutes, things would go absolutely mayhem. Having calmed down a little, now that Smith was dead, I pondered my next move, but not before being hit with a few of the bullets being shot at me.
The projectiles lodged themselves in my body, but given my invincibility, I just shrugged them off and they fell to the ground.
I had to do something and I had to do it fast, nobody likes to be dominated, especially not by a toddler still wearing his diapers.
I flew away in rapid fashion, reaching speeds that weren't visible to the naked eye. I stopped at a faraway rooftop and metamorphosed into a young businessman in his early thirties. Shapeshifting is just one of the cool things that I can do, but it takes up a lot of concentration and energy. It's not just something I can invoke out of thin air. This was my first time doing it and I was more than pleased with the results.
I was in great physical shape, lean and sinewy, just the way I like it. My nose became aquiline, my cheeks hollow and my hair was tousled in a brownish complexion.
Coincidentally, I also got a briefcase with the package and although nothing was inside, it was a nice touch. It completed the cliche of the persona I wanted to take.
Sitting on the roof of an unnamed building, I thought a lot about how to proceed from here on out. It wasn't as easy as just going against the entirety of humanity with my cheat codes. Sure, I would win, but I would have no empire to rule, no subjects to boss around. Why do I even want to take over humanity? I avenged the death of my parents, why can't I go on living life as usual?
Those were sweet thoughts, laced with honey, but I knew that things weren't as easy. Where would I fit in? Who could understand the sorrow of an immortal being? Maybe all this was a mistake from the start, maybe I shouldn't have tinkered with the controls like that... Maybe...
I'm evidently a superior breed, just like humans are to plants and animals, so am I to humans and therefore, I deserve to be at the top of the food chain. Problem is, humans are quite resilient creatures and they don't bow down that easily, especially not to something alien as I was.
''I'm an alien!'' I uttered out loudly, but nobody seemed to notice, nobody seemed to care. I was all alone, without friends and with a lot of foes on my tail. Good thing they don't know about the shapeshifting, that will give me some leeway.
I got off the building using the stairs like any normal person and finding myself on the streets, it was now time to commence my study of humans.
First thing I needed was money, so I panhandled my way into ten dollars. It took only a few minutes as I devised a story about being stranded without a ride back home. Most people shrugged me away, but an elderly women was kind enough to produce a tenner. I thanked her and vowed not to kill any old ladies, at least not for now.
I made my way into a casino and sat at the BlackJack table. The minimum bet was five dollars and the maximum? Five hundred! I exchanged my money for two red chips worth five dollars each.
I bet five dollars and as the dealer was about to reveal the cards, I stopped time and took all the money I could find on the table. Than I went to all the other tables and did the same, only I wasn't covered in dough but in chips.
Realizing just how stupid all of this is, I dropped the chips on the floor and went out, turning time on again. I could only do it for about a minute or so and I was already tired, almost heaving at the door.
A man passed by asking me if everything was alright. I gave a polite nod, saying that I was fine.
''It was just a bad stomach cramp, sir! A charley horse of the bowels!''
I walked to the nearest bank, basked in the sunlight for half an hour or so and proceeded to stop time again.
This time, I went straight to the registers, pocketing all the money I could find, also pilfering any jewelry from the petrified customers. Who knows, maybe I'm a kleptomaniac or maybe I'm just bored out of my wits. Maybe being Godlike isn't as fun as it portends to be.
As I made my way out of the bank, time flowed again and I was rolling in cash. I had about fifty-thousand dollars in cash safely lodged in my briefcase and another thousand or so in bijouterie.
Enough for a hotel and a nice, warm bath, enough to cover the tracks of my first victim.
Anyone want part four?
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Galactic Vanguard Outpost 丨 A Preview of the Master Recruits

Galactic Vanguard Outpost 丨 A Preview of the Master Recruits
Galactic legends gather to brave unexplored deep space by your side!
The Expedition returns to Second Galaxy on August 11th with ten galactic legends. They are master recruits combining diverse combat styles with impressive ships. Are you ready?
AgentZ Phantom
Nation: USSH Career: Soldier
Ships: Mashallah (Phantom), Succubus, and Doom
Weapons and Devices: 3 Sniper Lasers, 1 Energy Recharger, 1 Energy Nullifier, and 1 Precision Enhancer
The notorious Agent Phantom has left his mark throughout the galaxy: A casino owner claiming he cheated in a game to win a fortune; the royals of the Oracle Empire suing him for stealing their national treasure; even a rumor of him single-handedly busting a smuggling ring operating in the RS, the OE and the ECD.
It's perfectly conceivable that Agent Phantom’s many enemies, despite herculean efforts, have never managed to track him down. As if he could manifest out of thin air, and then vanish back into nothingness.
But one thing's for sure. His allegiance lies only with the Great Council. As for his own motivations, no one has the slightest clue.
Oh, by the way, do not make fun of that weird creature perched on his shoulder, whose name is J and is Phantom's partner.
It is said that the last thing anyone stupid enough to make such a mistake remembers is seeing Phantom’s pocket watch swinging before their eyes, before waking up half naked in a toilet.
Nation: NEF Career: Scientist
Ships: Fortress (Eye of the Storm), Gila, and Herald
Weapons and Devices: 3 Sniper Missile Launchers, 1 Energy Recharger, 1 Shield Regeneration Field, and 1 Adaptive RES Reinforcement Field
When the Expedition was first revealed, the semi-biological AI KTR.5103 attracted much attention with her striking cyborg look and unique combat style. However, many potential buyers were daunted by the high price.
Now, with the return of the Expedition, the Great Council has disclosed the core code of KTR, making it available in the public domain. Despite the fact that only a few technology companies have the knowhow to produce KTR-series recruits, there has still been a plunge in their prices.
There is no difference between KTR·SE.CC0.PD and KTR.5103, but some purchasers of KTR·SE.CC0.PD said, "She isn’t as sweet as KTR.5103."
Nation: ECD Career: Soldier
Ships: Loch (Onna Bugeisha), Rainbow, and Kirin
Weapons and Devices: 3 Sniper Lasers, 1 Energy Recharger, 1 Propulsion Jammer, and 1 Damage Enhancer
Heartkeeper’s name was Queen.
It's said that Queen was the most popular Dawnese idol in Beehive Entertainment. Her gracious manners and endearing elegance were only rivalled by her singing and dancing prowess. She was a vigorous girl with a wide range of interests, whose personal charm was well expressed through her enchanting words.
But it was the dubious relationship with her boss, rather than her talents, that catapulted her to stardom.
When her career was flourishing, however, she chose to leave Beehive for another entertainment company, even at the cost of giving Beehive the right to clone her an unlimited number of times.
Nowadays, the name Queen has faded away, but her clones have become Beehive Entertainment’s most profitable products.
The Forlorn Flame Huntress
Nation: NEF Career: Soldier
Ships: Arbiter (Predator), Vulture, and Gladiator
Weapons and Devices: 3 Sniper Blasters, 1 Shield Recharger, 1 Long-Range Warp Disruptor, and 1 Adaptive Screen
In the wake of the Fourth Galactic War, the mining area on the border of the NEF became a lawless zone. That's where Jennifer was born.
Niello Heavy Industry, Tin Hap, Wild Geese, and Maan Seon took turns to rule those abandoned mines, subjecting little Jennifer to untold miseries. But one day, an eating contest held by Beehive Entertainment changed everything.
She won first place and used the prize money to buy the mines, with Beehive Entertainment getting her genetic sample and the right to clone her in return.
—The Forlorn Flame series, glowing with the most incandescent brilliance.
Stiletto Zero
Nation: NEF Career: Engineer
Ships: Guardian (Praetorian), Cheetah, and Herald
Weapons and Devices: 3 Sniper Missile Launchers, 1 Energy Recharger, 1 Shield Regeneration Field, and 1 Adaptive RES Reinforcement Field
The Spartan Praetorian Guard has become one of the forces responsible for protecting the Neo-Europan president.
The president cloned some of them to support the Expedition project, giving them the name Stiletto.
It is believed that they are created to President Yannick's personal tastes.
Shahrukh Wrath
Nation: OE Career: Soldier
Ships: Inferno (Camael), Confessor, Omen
Weapons and Devices: 3 Combat Railguns, 1 Energy Recharger, 1 Energy Nullifier, and 1 Precision Jammer
An Oraclite epic tells of a heroic family whose loyalty lay only with the Nihad imperial family.
The family in the tale is the Shahrukhs, who, with the Avatarlis—an army of slaves—under their command, bore down on warmongers, meting out punishment to all who dared betray the imperial family and their beliefs.
They were loyal only to the imperial family, not the emperor. According to the Recorders Temple, those heroic warriors once broke into the palace and forcibly carried away the emperor from the golden bath.
It's said that the Shahrukh family holds the key to the deepest secrets in the Recorders Temple. Although the secrets are much coveted, any attempt at them will be quelled in the presence of a Shahrukh.
Enoch Ascetic
Nation: OE Career: Soldier
Ships: Jinn (Angelfish), Orison, and Doom
Weapons and Devices: 3 Combat Lasers, 1 Energy Recharger, 1 Energy Nullifier, and 1 Precision Jammer
In the Enoch Monastery, only those who have proved themselves worthy of becoming Cleansers may become pilots of Khyung or Strix destroyers. To become a Cleanser, one must lead a strictly ascetic life for over a decade.
They must visit the void, dive into the depths, lie naked on the unbearable coldness, and walk barefoot on the scorching heat.
Countless Enoch disciples have dedicated themselves to this path for generations.
Nation: RS Career: Explorer
Ships: Fagus (Bardiche), Battleaxe, and Surge
Weapons and Devices: 3 Combat Railguns, 1 Energy Recharger, 1 Shield Regeneration Field, and 1 Range Enhancement Link
-36℃ Shipbuilding is one of the most profitable companies in the Udaloy Cartel. Notably, the expensive Restoration Contract launched by -36℃ Shipbuilding in collaboration with the Longinus Foundation has become a hit throughout the galaxy.
The receptionist of -36℃ Shipbuilding is a cold beauty, who has impressed a lot of pilots, some of whom would go so far as to endanger their own ships just to be in the presence of their sweetheart.
The Udaloy Cartel seized the opportunity to create clones in her image, i.e. the Celsius-series recruits.
It's said that the clones' genetic sequences are much like that of Natalia, rather than that receptionist.
Tin Hap Captain
Nation: ECD Career: Scientist
Ships: Shower (Bolide), Crane, and Satori
Weapons and Devices: 3 Combat Blasters, 1 Shield Recharger, 1 Energy Regeneration Field, and 1 Damage Enhancement Link
Recorded in some ancient ECD tomes, the official title of Treasure-Hunting Captain is loaded with a derogatory sense nowadays. Those so-called captains raided imperial mausoleums and royal tombs for gold and other treasures, leaving a mess in their wake, much to the grief of archaeologists.
It is funny then that some archaeologists from Tin Hap are also known as "Captains", knowing ancient Dawnese books and artifacts like the backs of their hands.
Some archaeologists can't help but wonder how they managed to get their hands on the information. Why have artifacts and tomes appeared on the black market shortly after those Captains mentioned them?
Glory Army Mortal Kiss
Nation: NEF Career: Engineer
Ships: Condor (Black Witch), Gladiator, and Warden
Weapons and Devices: 3 Combat Blasters, 1 Shield Recharger, 1 Ion Thruster, and 1 Adaptive RES Interference Field
Mortal Kisses are Neo-Federation engineers in the Glory Amy, renowned for their technical prowess and wanted for illegally refitting ships.
Mortal Kisses have played a developing role in the Glory Army, always finding a way to improve ship performance and send those ‘mortal kisses’ to their enemies.
Most of them don't care about their employer's philosophy. All they want to do is implement their wild ideas on ships at their own pleasure.

Thank you for joining us in previewing these legendary master recruits. For more information about ship balancing, please stay tuned for our next post. If you have any ideas or suggestions regarding today's topic, please do not hesitate to leave a message below this post and share them with us! Let's make Second Galaxy a better place!
submitted by Azrael_Ze to SecondGalaxyM [link] [comments]

A thousand words wasn't enough? Here's five thousand.

List acquired here.
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A nostalgic reading of FNV's endings beginning with DLC

Honest Hearts: And so it was that the conflict between the New canaanites and the White Legs was finally resolved. The Courier's involvement had tipped the scale, shifting the fragile balance of power.
Demoralized by the Dead Horse and Sorrows attack the Courier and Joshua Graham led against them, the White Legs retreated to Great Salt Lake. Their days were numbered. Word soon reached the 80s tribe that the White Legs' spirit was broken, their war chief a dim shadow of his former self. By year's end, the 80s would overrun the White Legs' camps, scattering the tribe to the winds and claiming the Great Salt Lake for its own.
The Sorrows fought beside Joshua Graham and the Dead Horses, eradicating the threat the White Legs posed to Zion. Seeing the Courier convince Joshua Graham to spare Salt-Upon-Wounds, the Sorrows learned that retribution could be tempered by mercy. Though he despaired at the Sorrows' loss of innocence, Daniel took some small consolation in the Courier's lesson, and prayed it would take root.
Having helped eradicate the White Legs from Zion, the Dead Horses returned to Dead Horse Point in triumph. They remained neutral toward the Sorrows, but as years went on, there were periods of competitive friction, even violence, between the tribes. The New Canaanites - Daniel especially - intervened regularly as mediators, but found it difficult to reconcile the tribes' conflicts.
The defeat of the White Legs in Zion marked a turning point in the fortunes of the Happy Trails Caravan Company. Every two months, the caravan met with the New Canaanites in Zion Valley to trade. Happy Trails soon returned to prosperity. The vigilance of the Sorrows and Dead Horses in defending southwestern Utah, initially startling to Happy Trails caravans, soon proved a blessing. The tribes united against the 80s, driving them back from Highway 50, and thus opening yet another trading route for Happy Trails caravans
Follows-Chalk took the Courier's words to heart and decided that the big cities of the Mojave Wasteland and NCR were best left unexplored. Though he sometimes dreamed of distant lands, he continued to support his family at Dead Horse Point, and eventually his wanderlust faded.
Waking Cloud was distraught when she learned of her husband's death, but took comfort from her tribe, and the compassion of the New Canaanites. She forgave Daniel for having concealed her husband's fate from her, and learned to accept his fate. When her grief faded, she took a husband from the Dead Horse tribe. At her bidding, he stayed close to home.
The threat of the White Legs ended, Joshua Graham helped the Sorrows and Dead Horses tend to their fallen comrades and secure Zion. The Courier's words had stayed Joshua's wrath in his darkest hour, and in sparing Salt-Upon-Wounds, he was changed. While he continued to advocate militant opposition to the enemies of New Canaan, he sometimes showed quarter to those who crossed his family. Eventually this new spirit would diminish the myth of the Burned in distant lands - a small price for the peace it brought to Joshua Graham.
For years after the defeat of the White Legs, Daniel did his best to minister to the Sorrows' spiritual needs. Try as he might, he could not hold back the tribe's increasing militancy and reverence of Joshua Graham. Demoralized, he returned to his family at Dead Horse Point. His failures haunted him for the rest of his days.
And with that, the Courier walked out of the history of the tribes of Zion and back to the gathering storm of the Mojave Wasteland.
Dead Money:
The survivors of the Sierra Madre thought about gathering at the Fountain and waiting for the Courier. In the end, the collar's silence made them uneasy, and the fear of turning on each other made them hesitate, and leave the goodbyes - unspoken. The radio message at the fountain was enough for them, and there was no need to add another farewell on top of all they had suffered.
Dog forgot himself, as did the voice that raged within him. After their passing, a new voice spoke within the mutant's shell. It was difficult for the voice to remember the two it once was... there was the beast, Dog consumed by hunger... ...and the other in reverse... the one consumed by control. Both were driven by need for the other. The Courier brought them together, somehow, joined the two into one. All that happened at the Sierra Madre, was a faint memory to the new personality... like a flickering light in the clouds of the mind. The new voice did not think of the Courier again until the battle at The Divide reached his ears. The battle between the two couriers, beneath the torn skies and the Old World flag... each bearing a message for the other. And the mutant prayed the Courier that had saved him... had been saved in return.
Dean Domino, entertainer, singer... thief... explored the Sierra Madre not long after he was rescued by the Courier. Once he left the theater, the Sierra Madre recognized him as a guest, and many doors opened to him. He had to admit, it had been built to last. During his search, he came across the final records of Vera and Sinclair, and realized what happened the night the bombs fell. He felt strangely sad for a moment, and he had no idea why. Shrugging it off, his mind turned instead to where the Courier had come from. Vegas still survived, out there in the Mojave. Its sights, sounds... and casinos, ripe for the taking. So giving the Sierra Madre one last nod and a wink, he set off beyond the Cloud to begin again.
Christine, her mission complete, found new purpose as the Sierra Madre's warden. She watched over it silently - by choice. Over time, the ghost people came to see her as one of the Holograms. They would watch, silently, as she walked among them. At times, Christine thought of the Courier, who had kept Elijah's hand from her throat. The Courier reminded her of the other courier she had met in the Big Empty, and wondered if the two had found each other at last. She did not think of them again until she heard the legends of the Divide. The Divide, where the two messengers, the two couriers, fought beneath an ancient flag, at the edge of the world.
You've heard of the Sierra Madre Casino. We all have, the legend, the curses. Some foolishness about it lying in the middle of a City of Dead. A city of ghosts. Beneath a blood-red cloud a bright, shining monument, reaching out, luring treasure hunters to their doom. An illusion. A promise that you can change your fortunes. Begin again. Finding it, though, that's not the hard part. It's letting go.
Old World Blues:
As it had been in the years before the Great War Big MT... the Big Empty... became home to one of the brightest minds of the 23rd century. The Courier watched over the Big Empty for years to come, caring for it, and keeping its discoveries safe until they were needed to help others. Which had always been Big MT's purpose. Past the laboratories and Science, it had always been intended as a place to build the future of all mankind.
The Sink Central Intelligence Unit was impressed by the amount of exploration the Courier had undertaken. Facilities believed lost, destroyed, or ones that had simply gotten up and walked to new locations had been re-discovered by its intrepid new master. Internally, the artificial personality debated as to whether it preferred the old management to the new... and concluded that the Courier's thorough approach to research and investigation was admirable and worthy of its respect
Dr. Mobius continued his research undisturbed in the Forbidden Zone. As much as he had attempted to create better scorpions, he tried the same with humanity, with considerably less success. These failures didn't bother him overmuch. Once the rush of Mentats wore off, he forgot he had failed in any event. After all, the bright young mind who had come to visit him in the Forbidden Zone had already exceeded his expectations.
The Sink atop the Dome bustled with the voices of a small town, constantly chirping, arguing, and snarling at each other. Still, this all happened productively in the interests of its new owner. The Sink Central Intelligence Unit discovered, despite its inversion code, it was comforted by the sense of community the other personalities gave it.
The Biological Research Station, obsessed with seeding everything in sight, requested a transfer to the X-22 Botanical Garden... so that it might, in its own words, "sensually fertilize the garden's smooooth contours." The Garden sent back a polite refusal, saying it had prior commitments with a Vault it had helped infect before the war.
The Book Chute continued to devour all seditious materials until it nearly choked on a paper clip. It adamantly maintained it was a Chinese paper clip, and the whole thing had been an elaborately orchestrated assassination attempt. Whatever the reason, it slowed down for a while, carefully appraising each document and clipboard that came to it.
The light switches continued to bicker and flicker. This persisted until the day someone dropped a flashlight in the Sink, and the two of them united in their hatred of the "showboat." One of them eventually transferred to the Lightwave Dynamics plant - and began a long, unrequited affair with one of the holograms.
The Sink continued to ruthlessly scrub any particulate matter that came near it. Once it learned of the Innovative Toxins Plant, however, it gained new purpose. It sought to develop anti-toxins to flush into its drains and counteract the poisons bleeding into the soil.
The Toaster continued its psychotic spree, reducing all appliances in range to scrap electronics and spare parts. After one of its more psychotic episodes, however, the other Sink personalities decided enough was enough, and dumped the Toaster in a bathtub. Sparking and hissing, the Toaster swore its enemies would rue the day when they had bread - and no way to toast it.
Muggy did his best to collect coffee cups, although in his quest, he accidentally trapped himself in Higgs Village. It might have been the end for poor Muggy. Except... he found it peaceful there, tidying up the kitchens of the Think Tank Professors back when they had been flesh and bone. Well, except for Dr.O, who was an asshole for having created Muggy in the first place. Muggy left O's house deliberately dirty, punishing the dishes and cups that lived there in blind revenge for serving Dr. O.
Blind Diode Jefferson, with sounds the Courier brought him, created a symphonic counter-frequency that saved Big MT from sonic invasion in 2910. If you didn't hear about it - good. It was rumored by the other personalities that he had a brief fling with the light switches. Although he forgot their names once too often and was soon left in the dark as punishment.
Auto-Doc, always gentle and methodical, kept sewing up the Courier in all the right places when the skin split open from repeated wear and tear. The Auto-Doc was just glad to have purpose again. It heard its simpler brothers and sisters who got shipped to the Sierra Madre were bored out of their skulls in that toxic, dead city. In time, the Auto-Doc found a way to deactivate the Y-17 Trauma Harnesses, releasing the corpses they had held prisoner for almost 200 years.
As the Courier ran through the X-8 facility multiple times, the computers analyzed the test subject's movements. Rather than performing a superficial observation, they realized the subject barely knew what Communism was - or even what a high school was. This confused them for a time, until the facility finally realized that its research had... succeeded. So it let its cyberdogs out into the wastes to help protect small communities from physical aggression rather than communist propaganda
The infiltration program in X-13 felt spent, having repeatedly upgraded the Stealth Suit until it could upgrade it no more. It felt warm, fulfilled, and a bit sluggish. It realized not long after, the Stealth Suit had left it without so much as a note on the nightstand. So the infiltration program sent out robobrains into the wastes looking for its wayward technology. It eventually found REPCONN HQ, and set up a new research center, testing and murdering Fiends who kept breaking into the facility.
The cybernetic canine, gender: female, designation: ROXIE sat in her guard post in X-8. That is, until her "I'm in heat" programming circumvented her "stay" routine and she loped into the Mojave. There, she ran across Rex, who had been following the Courier, just as she had. They barked for a while, and realized they had a lot in common. The two of them constructed a litter of cyberpups, a small army of Boston terrifiers that gnawed and devoured anything in their path
The Courier, organs intact, continued onwards, a little less heavy of step, but with all the organs in the right places. As they should be. After all, brains can develop a life of their own when left to their own thoughts, and the Courier's brain was more clever than most.
Dr. Klein and the Think Tank remained alive, unaware of the world outside. They looped through their daily routine, none the wiser about the world beyond... although perhaps "wiser" was the wrong word. The world outside belonged to the Courier, and if anyone would shape it... well, the Courier had already called dibs.
In the times following the Second Battle of Hoover damn however, Old World Blues took on a new meaning. Where once it was viewed as a form of sadness, nostalgia, it became an expression describing the potential for the future. It can be easy to see Science as evil, technology unchecked as the source of all ills, all misfortunes. With the Courier at the helm, Science became a beacon for the future. There was Old World Blues, and New World Hope. And hope ruled the day at Big MT.
We could say more, but the stories in the Big Empty speak for themselves. Now armed with the Transportalponder, the Courier could return to the Dome at any time and crack open the secrets of the Big Empty, one by one. The Sink sat vigilant, waiting for its master to return, shoes covered in Mojave dust. Only one road yet remained, and it was one the Courier had to walk alone.
Lonesome Road: When ED-E's circuits burned in the fires of the Divide, there was one small part that held on until the end. It was the fragment that held the Old World memories and the words of his creator in his last moments.
As his last gesture, he sent one last signal to his counterpart in the Mojave, passing along what the Courier had taught him in the Divide. There was the chance.. always, that ED-E's journey would continue, perhaps carried by another eyebot in the Mojave.....the one from which the ED-E from the Divide had been shaped. For now, the Courier knew ED-E's history and could carry it, even if the eyebot had forgotten.
Hopeville burned lightless in the night, invisible fires of radiation scorching it from within and without. It is said a man still walked its streets, with a an tattered jacket, an Old World flag etched on the back...
He remained there, perhaps as punishment for the scars he left on the wastes - or a reminder of a history he could not forget. For Ulysses... his journey was over. The Courier had been the end of his road.
As for the Courier... he turned his back on his home for the second time and made his way back, navigating the treachery of the Divide. Tunnlers and the Marked Men... avoided the lone figure, as if recognizing the Courier's right to passage... or out of fear.
The Courier walked until he/she stood again upon the edge of the Divide, the last road he/she would walk before the second battle of Hoover Dam. There beside his feet, was a final package, from one Courier to another - a footlocker, bearing a gift, and a message. But that message - it is something for Couriers to carry, and for them alone. The lights flickered across the Divide, reminders that the Old World histories persist, and find meaning in the present.
It's said war - war never changes. Men do, through the roads they walk. And this road - has reached its end.
Fallout New Vegas:
And so the Courier, who had cheated death in the cemetery outside Goodsprings, cheated death once again, and the Mojave Wasteland was forever changed.
The Courier, with the aid of Yes Man, drove both the Legion and the NCR from Hoover Dam, securing New Vegas' independence from both factions. With Mr. House out of the picture, part of the Securitron army was diverted to The Strip to keep order. Any chaos on the streets was ended, quickly. Chaos became uncertainty, then acceptance, with minimal loss of life. New Vegas assumed its position as an independent power in the Mojave.
Supporting the ideals of independence, the Courier was recognized as the man/woman responsible for a truly free New Vegas. He/she ensured Mr. House's tyranny was broken and neither Caesar's Legion nor NCR would ever gain control over New Vegas.
Tabitha and Rhonda went east, through Caesar's land. Occasionally tales of their exploits found their way back west, though few believed them. Eventually the stories concerning the duo were collected and published, and proved to be quite popular with children.
Invigorated by his travels with the Courier, Raul once more took up his guns in memory of his lost Rafaela. Soon after, the Mojave was filled with tales of the ghost-vaquero who hunts down those who prey on the weak.
Though the Wasteland became anarchic after Hoover Dam, the Boomers' display of power dissuaded fortune seekers from attempting to penetrate Nellis.
Due to their temporary truce, the Brotherhood allowed the NCR to retreat from the Mojave Wasteland without incident. In the relative peace that followed, Brotherhood patrols appeared along major roads, harassing travelers over any bits of technology they had.
The peace with NCR served to ease Veronica's worries about the Brotherhood's immediate future. Still, a distance had arisen between her and her fellow members that would never be bridged. She began secluding herself in crumbling libraries of the Old World, learning of promising technologies she knew the Brotherhood would never adopt.
Their leaders destroyed by the Courier, the Fiends scattered throughout the wasteland. Without the organization of Motor-Runner, Cook-Cook, Violet, and Driver Nephi, they were easy prey.
After the Courier ensured New Vegas remain free, the Followers found that independent Vegas was even more unstable and violent than before. Old Mormon Fort became excessively burdened by the influx of patients, struggling to provide even the most basic of services.
Arcade was tending to the locals of Freeside when he learned that Caesar's Legion had been defeated and NCR was being pushed out of New Vegas. Though he found that independence for New Vegas was not all he hoped it would be, Arcade did his best to help the locals govern themselves.
With New Vegas' independence formally declared, Goodsprings thrived. More travelers stopped by Goodsprings on their way to and from the Strip, and the locals grew prosperous from the traffic.
In the years following the destruction of Cassidy Caravans, NCR used evidence of the plot to blackmail the Crimson Caravan and the Van Graffs. NCR enacted strict trade laws with little resistance, strengthening their supply lines and their position in the Mojave.
Cass lived to see the Courier bring down three armies and by her count, that was three more than she'd expected. She'd kept quiet about that, though.
During the Battle of Hoover Dam, the Great Khans quickly evacuated Red Rock Canyonand headed north and east into the plains of Wyoming. There, they reconnected with the Followers of the Apocalypse and rebuilt their strength. Bolstered by ancient knowledge of governance, economics, and transportation, they carved a mighty empire out of the ruins of the Northwest.
Thanks to the Courier and Lily, a cure for the nightkin's schizophrenia was found shortly after Doctor Henry's experiment concluded. Nightkin and other super mutants in the wasteland flocked to Jacobstown, and the town became known as a haven where a mutant could find peace
Lily continued to take her medicine at half-doses, and although she remembered her grandchildren, her mind remained muddled and confused. Eventually, she parted ways with the Courier and traveled west, seeking the remnants of her past.
Following the Second Battle of Hoover Dam, Freeside came to be known as one of the more stable areas in the region. Ironically, NCR refugees found Freeside safer than most of the rest of New Vegas, where resentment still lingers.
After Rey's brain was transplanted into Rex's cybernetic body, it took Rex some time to adjust to the old scrapyard dog's memories. Eventually, Rex's mind settled peacefully, melding his own memories with that of long travels with Old Lady Gibson.
Shaped up by the Courier's advice, The Misfits distinguished themselves during the Legion's attack on Camp Golf. Mags was finally promoted to Sergeant, and the rest of The Misfits received an official commendation. They continued to serve with distinction for many years.
Though Novac was a low-priority target for the Legion, many of Novac's citizens died in its defense. In the weeks that followed, several Bright Followers returned to Novac to help restore its defenses, allowing it to remain independent of the NCR.
Though NCR was withdrawing from the region, Boone remained in New Vegas, finding work as a security guard and caravan scout along the highways. While he might've preferred rejoining his old unit, Boone couldn't bring himself to abandon the city where he'd met his wife.
After Hoover Dam, the leaderless Powder Gangers at the Correctional Facility vanished into the wastes, leaving the prison empty. The Correctional Facility became another abandoned ruin in the wasteland, its carcass occasionally picked over by enterprising prospectors.
After the majority of the Vault 19 Powder Gangers joined the Great Khans, the weaker members scattered throughout the Mojave Wasteland. Though a few managed to erase their pasts, most never survived the journey.
Primm Slim proves to be an able-minded, if not able-bodied, sheriff for Primm. Due to his slow speed, some crooks get away without a scratch, but Primm continues to prosper under his watchful robotic eye.
With its logs cleared and its systems upgraded ED-E remained a vigilant and constant companion to the Courier. The Followers of the Apocalypse used the information recovered from ED-E on Poseidon Energy, to develop new methods to harness the energy of the sun.
Despite distinguishing themselves during the Second Battle of Hoover Dam, the rangers' victory was short-lived due to the Courier's interference. Chief Hanlon personally directed the evacuation of the rangers to Mojave Outpost as they fell back into NCR territory. Bitter over the waste of life in the Mojave, Hanlon stepped down from his post. After a campaign in which he denounced Oliver's and Kimball's hawkish, imperialist ways, Hanlon was elected as the senator of Redding.
After their bold arrival at Hoover Dam, the Remnants disappeared as quickly as they came. Legends of their power spread throughout the southwest, a reminder of why people once feared the sight of vertibirds in the sky.
And so the Courier's road came to an end... for now. In the new world of the Mojave Wasteland, fighting continued, blood was spilled, and many lived and died - just as they had in the Old World. Because war... war never changes.
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My List Of True Crime Books That Are (Primarily) Not About Murder.

This is my third list for this sub. I hope you enjoy it.
The Art of the Steal by Christopher Mason. A true story about the auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s and how they conspired to cheat their clients out of millions of dollars.
The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine by Benjamin Wallace. The most expensive bottle of wine and the conflicting reports about its history. This is a book that would enchant wine conessi… conues… lovers.
The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft by Ulrich Boser. Author Ulrich Boser looks at the unsolved art theft case of Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed by John Vaillant. Grant Hadwin, a logger-turned-activist, fells a unique 165 feet Sitka spruce in an act of protest. John Vaillant takes the readers into the heart of North America’s last great forest to find out why he did that.
Hitler’s Art Thief: Hildebrand Gurlitt, the Nazis, and the Looting of Europe’s Treasures by Susan Ronald. Hildebrand Gurlitt was an art thief, or as he put it himself, an ‘official dealer’ for Hitler and Goebbels. But he stole from the Jews and Nazis alike. This book was published after his hoard was recently (2013) discovered which created an international furor.
The Irish Game: A True Story of Crime and Art by Matthew Hart. This book is about the art theft at Ireland’s Russborough House in 1986. The suspect, a gangster named Martin Cahill, played cat and mouse with police for years.
The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime by Miles Harvey. When you think about stealing some valuable art, do maps come to your mind? Then this book is for you. Gilbert Joseph Bland Jr. stole numerous centuries-old maps from research libraries in US and Canada.
I Was Vermeer: The Rise and Fall of the Twentieth Century’s Greatest Forger by Frank Wynne. Han van Meegeren became so much adapt at forging Vermeer paintings that it is said that even professional experts would find it difficult to point out his works from the originals. He earned more than $50 million by selling his forgeries – and he even swindled the Nazis.
The Lizard King: The True Crimes and Passions of the World’s Greatest Reptile Smugglers by Bryan Christy. Reptile smuggling is a big “business”. The author, a federal agent, suspected a reptile business owner of being a major smuggler and he started investigating. It was not as simple as it sounds because at one point he was chased by a mother alligator and even bitten by a python.
The Lost Chalice: The Epic Hunt for a Priceless Masterpiece by Vernon Silver. A 2500 year old cup made by the Greek master Euphronios which depicted the fall of Troy gets stolen and sold (along with 3 other such vessels). Then due to the questionable practice of some art dealers, no one can track down its last known owner.
The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr. With nothing better to do, the author embarks on a journey to discover a Caravaggio painting which was lost to time two hundred years ago.
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett. John Charles Gilkey stole rare books not because he wanted to make profit as most thieves do, but because he loved books. I guess if you want to call yourself a book-reader but don’t actually want to say… read a book, you could just steal them and show them off to your friends. But who are we to question the wisdom of “booklovers”, right?
The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean. If you thought that stealing maps is a weird “job” to have, how about stealing a rare breed of flower? We all know about the Tulipomania that gripped Netherlands in the 1630s. But this is a modern tale, and the book is perhaps one of the most popular ones on this list.
Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures by Robert K. Wittman, John Shiffman. This book is about Robert K. Wittman, FBI’s founder of the Art Crime Team and his undercover missions around the world to rescue various pieces of stolen art.
Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury. You could have a Jackson Pollock lying around in your basement, but if you can’t prove that the piece is real, you might as well use it as a table cloth (I might have exaggerated there a bit, but you get the point). John Myatt, a struggling artist, and John Drewe, a conman who knew the importance of Provenance in the art world, duped many people and museums by creating a fake paper trial that seemed to prove that the art was a real thing and not a forgery. So much so that the experts believe that there might still be some fake paintings created by Myatt displayed in prominent places as the real thing.
The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece by Edward Dolnick. Dolnick writes about the theft of Edvard Munch’s The Scream from the National Gallery in Oslo in 1994 and the subsequent investigation that took place to track it down.
Selling Hitler by Robert Harris In mid-eighties, Hitler’s diaries were “discovered” and many experts fell for the con. The backpeddling many did when it was revealed that the diaries were not real is really amusing to read about.
Shell Games: Rogues, Smugglers, and the Hunt for Nature’s Bounty by Craig Welch. This book is about the poaching of a larger-than-life clam – a Geoduck, to be precise, and the subsequent chase from the wildlife police to nab the poacher.
Stealing History: Tomb Raiders, Smugglers and the Looting of the Ancient World by Roger Atwood. This book provides a sweeping history of thefts of various priceless antiques.
Stealing the Mystic Lamb: The True Story of the World’s Most Coveted Masterpiece by Noah Charney. The twelve panel oil-painting of the Mystic Lamb is the most frequently stolen artwork in the world. It was stolen 13 times. One wonders whether they could have guarded it a little better after the first couple of times, you know. Anyway, this book describes the events of each theft.
Stolen World: A Tale of Reptiles, Smugglers, and Skulduggery by Jennie Erin Smith. Two reptile smugglers compete against each other to conquer the illegal trade for themselves. The funny thing is, the Zoos stood against them in the courts, but they had no problem buying rare fauna from the two smugglers, sometimes simultaneously.
Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession, and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California by Frances Dinkelspiel. A massive fire destroyed wines worth $250 million in a California warehouse, making it the largest destruction of wine in history. It was done by a conman named Mark Anderson, who rented storage space at the same warehouse. This book tells why he did that and also goes into the surprisingly bloody history of wine trade in California. (reads well with cranberry juice).
Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa by R. A. Scotti. On August 21, 1911, a man walked out of the Louvre with the Mona Lisa tucked inside his coat (should have painted it bigger, eh Vinci?). I am not going to spoil this book for anyone. Read it if you want to know whether Mona Lisa was recovered or was lost to time forever.
American Desperado: My Life --- From Mafia Soldier to Cocaine Cowboy to Secret Government Asset by Jon Roberts, Evan Wright. Jon Roberts, who starred in documentary Cocaine Cowboys tells his story to the journalist Evan Wright in this book. Roberts smuggled drugs to Miami for the Medellin Cartel (which will feature many times in this category).
At the Devil’s Table: The Untold Story of the Insider Who Brought Down the Cali Cartel by William C. Rempel. This is Narcos Season 3, basically. Remember the family guy who gets involved with the Cali Cartel and mops around for the whole season even though he had an unbelievably hot wife who was clearly out of his league? That character was based on Rempel. And if I must say so, the book is more compelling than that season of Narcos. Nothing can beat Agent Pena, though.
Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr, Gerard O’Neill. The story of James ‘Whitey’ Bulger – the head of the Irish Mob in Boston - who became an informant for the FBI and chaos ensued. Depp plays Whitey Bulger in the movie adaptation with a soggy tortilla glued to his face as make-up.
Blow: How a Small -Town Bay Made $100 Million with the Medellin Cocaine Cartel and Lost it All by Bruce Porter. Another book where Johnny Depp plays the main character in the movie adaptation. This book is about George Jung, who after meeting Carlos Lehder, started selling cocaine in the United States through Medellin Cartel.
Cocaine Diaries: A Venezuelan Prison Nightmare by Paul Keany, Jeff Farrell. Paul Keany was caught smuggling half-a-million euro worth of cocaine into Venezuela. He was sentenced to 8 years in prison. Now, prisons everywhere aren’t exactly fun places to be, but Los Teques where Keany was incarcerated was nothing short of hell on earth.
Confessions of a Yakuza by Junichi Saga. Junichi Saga was a doctor by profession. A patient, who was a former Yakuza, recounted his life story before him. Saga recorded the conversations, and broke doctor-patient confidentiality by writing this book.
Doctor Dealer: The Rise and Fall of an All-American Boy and His Multimillion-Dollar Cocaine Empire by Mark Bowden. A dentist named Larry Lavin builds the foundation for a cocaine empire in the United States.
Donnie Brasco by Joseph D. Pistone, Richard Woodley. Joseph D. Pistone, an FBI agent, goes undercover for six years to infiltrate the Mafia. Do watch the movie too, it is Depp’s last movie without weird make-up.
El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency by Ioan Grillo. Journalist Ioan Grillo has written, arguably, the definitive book on Mexican drug cartels. Why he is still alive is anybody’s guess.
Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh. Venkatesh, who was a sociology grad student at the time, infiltrated one of Chicago’s most notorious gangs. This is one of a kind type of book.
Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano. This book is about the Italian Crime Network called Camorra in Naples, Italy. Due to his intensive investigative journalism which exposed lot of insider information about the crime syndicate, author Saviano still has to live under constant police protection.
The Good Mothers: The True Story of the Women Who Took on the World’s Most Powerful Mafia by Alex Perry. This is a recent book, where the author Alex Perry looks inside the ruthless Calabrian Mafia of Italy and three women who want to save their own and their children’s lives. This is a fascinating and courageous look into an aspect of the Mafia which is often overlooked by most.
Hunting El Chapo: The Inside Story of the American Lawman Who Captured the World’s Most Wanted Drug-Lord by Andrew Hogan, Douglas Century. Remember when Joaquin Guzman was caught for the first time and then he escaped and then he was caught again for good? Yes? Then read this one. But this book only focuses on the operation that nabbed him for the first time. I must warn you though – the author, Andrew Hogan – is really really in love with himself and it seeps into his writing.
The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel by Robert Mazur. Mazur went undercover and actually became a money launderer for Pablo Escobar. This book is more about how bankers actively helped to launder the drug money and how Mazur helped to bring them down.
Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw by Mark Bowden. This is the best book about tracking and eventually killing Pablo Escobar. And as Walter Jr. pointed out to Walter White, it focuses on the good guys, not the bad ones. Good companion book to Pablo Escobar: My Father written by Escobar’s son.
Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America’s Strangest Jail by Rusty Young. The author stays inside San Pedro jail for months with a drug smuggler to chronicle his tale. This is one of the most popular books written on cocaine smuggling.
McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld by Misha Glenny. This is a thorough investigation into organized crime worldwide which accounts for 1/5th of total GDP of the world. This book would please readers who are into extensively researched true-crime history books, not so much a casual reader (inb4 - I just read 5 pages of McMafia and wow… just wow).
Mr. Blue: Memoirs of a Renegade by Edward Bunker. Edward Bunker had had an eventful life. Incarceration for two and a half decades, being on FBI’s most wanted list, and being a crime novelist. This is his autobiography.
Mr. Nice by Howard Marks. Howard Marks started dealing dope in small quantities while he was studying at Oxford – as you do – and then eventually graduated to dealing it in tons (what the hell was he studying there? Oh, philosophy). This is his fascinating story.
Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathers by Anabel Hernandez. Yet another book that resulted in the author getting death threats. This proves the old cliché true that the pen is mightier than the sword; until the sword comes down and cuts your neck. That’s why the author has to live under constant protection.
Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel by Tom Wainwright. Any aspiring drug lords should read this instruction manual. Just kidding. Wainwright goes deep into the functioning of various drug cartels and at the end also comes up with a plan to defeat them.
News of a Kidnapping by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Little known author tries his hand at true-crime. Pablo Escobar kidnapped 10 journalists when he was on the run from the authorities. This book revolves around that event.
The Night it Rained Guns: Unravelling the Purulia Arms Drop Conspiracy by Chandan Nandy. On a December night in 1995, someone airdropped three weapons-laden wooden pallets over Purulia, West Bengal. Who did it and why? This book tells the story about one of India’s greatest ever security breaches.
No Angel: My Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels by Jay Dobyns, Nils Johnson-Shelton. Dobyns was the first federal agent to infiltrate the inner circle of the notorious biker gang. This is his story.
Pablo Escobar: My Father by Juan Pablo Escobar. Juan Pablo is an architect and lives and practices his trade in Argentina. Even though Pablo was his father, Juan does not try to justify his actions even a little bit. This is one of the best books written on Pablo Escobar.
The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream by Patrick Radden Keefe. Sister Ping, leader of the Chinese underworld in the US, earned $40 million a year smuggling people from China. Told from the viewpoints of gangsters, investigators, and poor immigrants alike, this book provides a unique window into the world of human smuggling.
Scores: How I Opened the Hottest Strip Club in New York City, Was Extorted out of Millions by the Gambino Family, and Became One of the Most Successful Mafia Informants in FBI History by Michael D. Blutrich. I am disappointed that they went with FBI instead of Federal Bureau of Investigation in the title. Should have made it longer. Scores: How I Opened the Hottest Strip Club in New York City on the 34th Street Just Opposite the Starbucks, Was Extorted out of 4.54 Millions and 55 Cents Plus Taxes by the Gambino Family, and Became One of the Most Successful Mafia Informants in Federal Bureau of Investigation History by Michael Dostoyevsky Blutrich
Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan by Jake Adelstein. The author, working as a reporter in Japan, writes about the seedy underbelly of crime in the country.
The Untouchables by Eliot Ness, Oscar Fraley. Where’s Nitty? He’s in the car. Great movie. How Eliot Ness and his team started the downward spiral in criminal career of Al Capone. A somewhat embellished account was also written in the book, but nonetheless, it is a gripping tale.
Veerappan: Chasing the Brigand by K. Vijay Kumar. Koose Muniswamy Veerappan was the last big outlaw of India. A sandalwood smuggler who lived in the forest to evade the police, Veerappan killed hundreds of policemen and civilians. K. Vijay Kumar, the officer who led the task force that ultimately brought down the brigand, is the author of this book.
Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family by Nicholas Pileggi. I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you? Goodfellas is perhaps the best Mafia movie ever made, so read it in his own words why Pileggi might fold under questioning.
Zero Zero Zero by Roberto Saviano, Virginia Jewiss. This Saviano guy must have a death wish. But as a handsome list-writer once eloquently said, “If bitten already by a King Cobra, what difference it makes if you French kiss a Black Mamba?” Since the publication of his book on the Italian crime syndicate, Saviano has to live under constant police protection. So to make sure they don’t slack off, he wrote a book on Cocaine Cartel, this time acquiring lots of admirers in Latin America.
The Art of Making Money: The Story of a Master Counterfeiter by Jason Kersten. The Art of making money is to make other people work for you; not the other way round. But more scrupulous method of making money would be to counterfeit it. Art Williams did exactly that.
Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake by Frank W. Abagnale. Maybe the most popular book on this list, Abagnale Jr.’s book is not to be missed even if you have watched the movie starring the actor who had sex with a bear (no, not Tormund).
Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam by Pope Brock. One “Dr.” John R. Brinkley, set-up a medical practice to surgically insert goat glands in human testicles to restore their fading sex drive. I am not joking, this happened.
Conman: A Master Swindler’s Own Story by J. R. Weil, W. T. Brannon. Known as “Yellow Kid” Weil was a master conman, who duped public of more than $8 million 100 years ago. He’s called by many as the greatest conman of all time (second to the companies that charge service fees on the internet, of course).
Eyeing the Flash: The Making of a Carnival Con Artist by Peter Fenton. Fenton was a math student until he turned into a carnival con artist. How many bananas he stole from the monkeys? How many bales of potatoes from the elephants? Read this book to find out.
Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England by Sarah Wise. If you have any annoying friends who romanticize the Victorian era and say that they would have liked to live there, tell them to read this book and get back to you after that.
The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Impostor by Mark Seal. This is the true story of one of the greatest impostors of all time. The man could have impersonated a chihuahua if he wanted to.
The Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower by James Francis Johnson. Viktor Lustig sold the Eiffel Tower not once, but twice. I still have the relevant papers that my great grandfather left us. I’m going to shift it to Nauru or Detroit.
The Mark Inside: A Perfect Swindle, a Cunning Revenge, and a Small History of the Big Con by Amy Reading. This is a revenge story of a man who sets out to con the conmen who conned him twice. Unfortunately, the book could have been written better, but it is still worth having a look at.
Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud by Elizabeth Greenwood. I once tried playing dead in a meeting when asked about the progress on my project. But there are people who fake their death for lesser gains, such as insurance fraud and debt fraud. Author Elizabeth Greenwood journeys into the dark world of death fraud to find out more.
Ponzi’s Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend by Mitchell Zuckoff. Charles Ponzi was so successful in duping people that we have immortalized his name by terming such swindles after him. At one point, he was raking in $2 millions a week. How many weeks would it take you to earn 2 million dollars at your current income? (sorry, that got heavy fast. It hurt me too).
A Rum Affair: A True Story of Botanical Fraud by Karl Sabbagh. One botanist claimed that some species of plants on the islands south of Scotland survived the last Ice Age. Another botanist doubted him. This might not sound like a big fraud if you are not into plants, but believe me when I say that the 2 botanists who just read this threw their phones away in disgust and disbelief.
Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest by Gregg Olsen. A quack doctor named Linda Hazard developed a technique called “fasting treatment”. The story focuses on two sisters who fell for the quack’s assurances that they would be cured of all the diseases - real or imagined. This book is quite infuriating to read. Hazard was a despicable human being.
Swindled: From Poison Sweets to Counterfeit Coffee – The Dark History of the Food Cheats by Bee Wilson. Wilson looks from ancient Rome to current times for food frauds. And she finds them aplenty (companion read - while having a nice snack).
A Treasury of Deception: Liars, Misleaders, Hoodwinkers, and the Extraordinary True Stories of History’s Greatest Hoaxes, Fakes and Frauds by Michael Farquhar. This is a good bathroom book about fakers through history.
The Woman Who Wasn’t There: The True Story of an Incredible Deception by Robin Gaby Fisher, Angelo J. Guglielmo Jr. Have you heard about Tania Head? If you haven’t, I urge you to skip this book. Tania Head duped survivors of 9/11 and the whole world alike into believing that she was one of the survivors from the South Tower of World Trade Center. I feel enraged just by typing this. So just read this book if you want to know more about her. There are a couple of documentaries out there too.
The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage by Clifford Stoll. Long before internet became a place for cat memes, Cliff Stoll was working at a research lab as a systems manager. One day he found 75 cents of accounting error. This made him alert that an unauthorized person was logging into the system. Thus began his lone effort of tracking down the spy.
Exploding the Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws Who Hacked Ma Bell by Phil Lapsley. Before there was internet, or even personal computers, mobsters and teenagers hacked the telephone system.
Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker by Kevin D. Mitnick, William L. Simon. The book tells the story of one of the best hackers of all times, Kevin Mitnick, and his cat and mouse game with the FBI.
The Spider Network: The Wild Story of a Math Genius, a Gang of Backstabbing Bankers, and One of the Greatest Scams in Financial History by David Enrich. A group of bankers manipulated daily interest rates just a fraction here and there on loans worth trillions of dollars and made some serious cash for themselves. This book also rocks one of the ugliest book covers of 2017.
Batavia’s Graveyard: The True Story of the Mad Heretic Who Led History’s Bloodiest Mutiny by Mike Dash. I was torn whether to include this book in the list as the history of Batavia’s mutiny is littered with corpses. But as the focus is on the mutiny, I am going to keep it here. This event could give the Medusa’s raft a run for its money.
The Floating Brothel: The Extraordinary True Story of an Eighteenth-Century Ship and its Cargo of Female Convicts by Sian Rees. Poor girls in England, most of who were petty thieves, were given a chance to sail to Botany Bay in Australia to create a new life for themselves and the male population of New South Wales. But the real story happened at the sea on board the ship Lady Julian.
The Last Outlaws: The Lives and Legends of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid by Thom Hatch. Butch: What happened to the old bank? It was beautiful. Guard: People kept robbing it. Butch: Small price to pay for beauty. The book might not be full of memorable dialogues as the movie, but if you want to know more about the legendary outlaws, give this book a chance.
Lost Paradise: From Mutiny on the Bounty to a Modern-Day Legacy of Sexual Mayhem, the Dark Secrets of Pitcairn Island Revealed by Kathy Marks. Mutiny of the Bounty is perhaps the most infamous of mutinies that occurred at sea. Even after the event and hundreds of years later, the descendants of Fletcher Christian and his sailors continue to live a crime-filled life like their forefathers on Pitcairn Island.
The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd by Richard Zacks. This book will change your perception of Captain Kidd, that’s for sure.
To Hell on a Fast Horse: Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and the Epic Chase to Justice in the Old West by Mark Lee Gardner. This non-fiction book concentrates on Sheriff Pat Garrett’s chase in pursuit of the bandit Billy the Kid. If you like reading westerns, this one and The Last Outlaws are not to be missed.
Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates by David Cordingly. Cordingly takes a look at life among the pirates. Some of your romanticism would be squashed, but there were some good things about being a pirate too. Life among the pirates was neither black nor white; it was beige.
Arms and the Dudes: How Three Stoners from Miami Beach Became the Most Unlikely Gunrunners in History by Guy Lawson. Three kids won a 300 million dollar contract – legitimately – I must add, to supply ammunition to the Afghanistan military. They had no money, but still they almost pulled it off. I don’t know, read this book, and if you’re a US citizen, visit the websites mentioned in the book, see if they are still doing business the same way, and if you want, you can become a supplier to the army too. Don’t forget to send me my cut (the movie War Dogs was trash).
The Brother: The Untold Story of Atomic Spy David Greenglass and How He Sent His Sister, Ethel Rosenberg, to the Electric Chair by Sam Roberts. Even if you’re not a United Statian of American (USians?), chances are you might have read at least something about the execution of the Rosenberg couple as spies. This is probably the best book about the subject.
Curveball: Spies, Lies, and the Man Behind Them: How America Went to War in Iraq by Bob Drogin. How many weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq? If your answer is “what’s that?” then congratulations, you’re not unlike one of your former presidents. Who told the USians that there were WMDs with Saddam? Curveball.
The Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins. Perkins was an economic hitman, who at the instruction of US intelligence agencies and giant corporations cajoled and blackmailed other country leaders to serve US foreign policy and award lucrative contracts to American businesses (now that job has been transferred to the White House).
A Kim Jong – Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator’s Rise to Power by Paul Fischer. Say you want to make a big movie for your country. But there is no one in your country who can handle such an ambitious project. What do you do? Hire some talent from other country? But you’re Kim Jong – Il. Oh. Then you just kidnap them, and force them to make the glorious movie of yours. Read this book. It’s pretty absurd (the movie they eventually made for Kim was utter shit. The Room would look like Gone with the Wind compared to that abomination).
The Nuclear Jihadist: The True Story of the Man Who Sold the World’s Most Dangerous Secrets… And How We Could Have Stopped Him by Douglas Frantz, Catherine Collins. One day a man Abdul Qadeer Khan caught a plane to Pakistan from Europe. With him he had blueprints of the mechanism that could prepare weapons grade Uranium that he had stolen from the lab he worked at in the last 3 years. He would make the first atomic bomb for Pakistan with that information. Then he sold the tech to stable countries like Iran, North Korea and Libya. How can someone get away with stealing such powerful information? Read this book to find out.
Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America by Annie Jacobsen. This is a pretty controversial topic that has only gained wider acknowledgement in recent decades. Read this book to know in detail how bogus the claims of justice being served to the perpetrators of the Holocaust were. Basically, if you were a scientist, you were very likely to be acquitted from any War Crimes allegations.
The Real Odessa: How Peron Brought the Nazi War Criminals to Argentina by Uki Goni. How did most of the Nazis who managed to escape from Germany ended up in South America? Read about the collusion of various entities and institutions that made it possible in this book.
The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell: A Dyslexic Traitor, an Unbreakable Code, and the FBI’s Hunt for America’s Stolen Secrets by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee. This is the true story of a mole in FBI, how he attempted to sell classified information and how FBI tried to track him down.
Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts by Julian Rubinstein. If there is one thief in this list that I admire, it is without a doubt, Attila Ambrus. Ambrus was known as a gentleman thief, who would ask – no, request - the teller to fill his bag with money. If you read this book, it would be hard for you to dislike Attila even though he was a thief.
Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief by Bill Mason, Lee Gruenfeld. Bill Mason looted many famous personalities in his long career as a jewel thief. In this book he tells how he did it.
The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk W. Johnson. Do you know there are people whose hobby is fly tying? The feathery thing that you attach to the hook to catch fish? But these are not your average fly tiers. They use feathers from exotic birds to create different ties whose total cost could run in thousands of dollars. Moreover, many of the most coveted birds are either protected or extinct. So one night a man named Edwin Rist broke into Tring museum and took hundreds of bird skins, some that belonged to Darwin, to fuel his hobby and even getting rich by selling precious feathers to other tiers. Don’t miss this book.
Finders Keepers: The Story of a Man Who Found $1 Million by Mark Bowden. Who hasn’t dreamt of finding a big bag of money? It couldn’t have happened to a more clueless person. Joey Coyle, to be exact.
Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by Scott Andrew Selby. The theft from Antwerp that still raises many questions.
Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde by Jeff Guinn. The truth is not that romantic.
The Great Pearl Heist: London’s Greatest Thief and Scotland Yard’s Hunt for the World’s Most Valuable Necklace by Molly Caldwell Crosby. Pearls, more valuable than the Hope Diamond, are stolen by thieves in Edwardian London.
The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton. My favorite Crichton book. Stealing gold from a running train! Watch the movie too that stars the great Sean Connery.
Heist: The Oddball Crew Behind the $17 Million Loomis Fargo Theft by Jeff Diamant. How hard is it to steal 17 million dollars? As far as these thieves were concerned, not much. Getting away with it was another thing altogether. The movie was pretty average, I think.
Into the Blast: The True Story of DB Cooper by Skipp Porteous, Robert Blevins. Is Tommy Wiseau DB Cooper? If only that was true. Read the book but don’t expect any clear-cut answers (I think most people would agree that the clumsy bastard died after he jumped from the plane).
A Pickpocket’s Tale: The Underworld of Nineteenth-Century New York by Timothy J. Gilfoyle. True story of George Appo, a pickpocket living in nineteenth-century New York.
Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History by Ben Mezrich. A guy steals moon rocks from NASA and then had sex on them with his girlfriend (how the hell is that comfortable?)
The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel. The last hermit was not a hermit in true sense. He didn’t rely on land to feed himself. He stole from the nearby community. Before someone says I have spoiled the book for them, it is revealed in the first chapter that he is a thief.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou. The Steve Jobs impersonator, Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos, and her old boyfriend, Sunny, are some of the most vile people that I have come across while reading about corporate crime. This is one of the best books that I have read this year.
Den of Thieves by James B. Stewart. This is probably the most famous book written about those Wall Street scoundrels.
Empire of Deception: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation by Dean Jobb. The story of Leo Koretz, who created one of the longest running Ponzi schemes in the 1920s Chicago.
The Informant by Kurt Eichenwald. Mark Whitacre becomes an FBI informant against his own corporation. But as time goes by, the FBI starts to realize that Mark is not as truthful as he seems to be, and he has his own agenda (they made a movie with Matt Damon).
Octopus: Sam Israel, the Secret Market, and Wall Street’s Wildest Con by Guy Lawson. Sam Israel’s hedge fund was making heavy losses. So naturally, he fabricated fake returns to fool the investors. Then he heard about a secret market from where he could convert his millions into billions. That’s how he lost the last 150 million dollars of his invertors’ money.
Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill Browder. Only thing you are going to learn from this book is don’t do business in Russia.
The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean, Peter Elkind. Bethany McLean asked one simple question in her article when everyone else was going gaga over Enron. “What does Enron actually do?” Nobody knew. Even Enron couldn’t give a specific answer. They were not just committing accounting fraud; they were looting ordinary people by creating fake shortage of electricity and driving the prices high. The documentary is worth watching too.
Stung: The Incredible Obsession of Brian Molony by Gary Stephen Ross. The guy Molony debited huge amounts of money from the bank he worked at to feed his gambling addiction. Oh, and he took the money in other people’s name who held huge accounts there. This is one of the best true-crime books that I have ever read.
Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way by Jon Krakauer. You know the man who builds schools in remote regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan? Great guy, right? Krakauer doesn’t think so. And he’ll tell you why in this short book.
The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust by Diana B. Henriques. 65 billion dollars. That’s the amount that Madoff swindled from people through decades of fraud. I think I can buy a small island country with this much money. The idiot is in jail though. I don’t know, maybe after a couple of billion, skip to a country with no extradition treaty and live the rest of your life without the fear of being getting caught? But then, these types of people don’t know when to stop.
American Roulette: How I Turned the Odds Upside Down --- My Wild Twenty-Five-Year Ride Ripping Off World’s Casinos by Richard Marcus. The guy ripped-off casinos all over the world by stealing gaming chips while maintaining an illusion of a highroller to lend his eventual take required legitimacy.
Breaking the Rock: The Great Escape from Alcatraz by Jolene Babyak. Written by the daughter of a guard at Alcatraz, this book tells the story of the infamous escape from the prison island. Don’t forget to watch the classic movie too.
Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions by Ben Mezrich. The movie 21 was based on this book. But if you want to know the real story, without the whitewashing, you have no choice but to read this book.
Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy by Kevin Bales. Kevin Bales estimates that there are 27 million people worldwide who live as slaves, right now. And yes, slavery still exists in United States of America in case you were wondering. This is a depressing book.
Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man’s Prison by T. J. Parsell. Rape in prison is absolutely overlooked almost everywhere. Read this book if you can endure reading about helplessness page after page.
Hotel K: The Shocking Inside Story of Bali’s Most Notorious Jail by Kathryn Bonella. Prison systems in developing world differ from the developed one in one regard that the guards and officials there are more corrupt and hence are likely to look the other way when something bad is going down amongst the inmates. Kerobokan Jail in Bali is one of the worst among those.
The Hot House: Life Inside Leavenworth Prison by Pete Earley. The author interviewed inmates from Leavenworth Prison for two years. The book is the result of that labor.
The Laundrymen: Inside the World’s Third Largest Business by Jeffrey Robinson. I have a perfect idea to launder money. Laser Tag! Robinson looks at the third largest business in the world. The book was published a while ago, but still hasn’t lost most of its relevancy.
Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer. Jon releases the Krakauer on one of the most relevant subjects of today. Rapes in colleges. These institutes would do anything to sweep things under the rug to maintain the illusion of clean image in the public eye.
Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing by Ted Conover. The author worked as a prison guard for a year at one of the most notorious prisons of the United States. This book is about his experience.
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Damage Control Chapter 2

First chapter here:
So, this one's going to be a deep cut. If you haven't read the novels I've done before, this story throws you in at the deep end, and it spoils at least one major plot point from the 6th novel, Skin Hunger, as well as several other major plot points from other novels. If you want to catch up with that stuff, check it out here.
If you'd just like to jump into things, this is what matters: There are Atlanteans, an apparently fish-like race who have recently revealed themselves to humans, who have a population of approximately 50,000 and who are on the verge of extinction, and who were recently partially responsible for a near-catastrophe involving a war between a psychotic god of dreams and a primordial entity of stasis, and are trying to make amends. There is supernatural craziness. There is a top secret branch of the US Military- or possibly intelligence services, or maybe even just running loose- referred to as the Esoteric Forces of the United States.
There's a lot of damage to control.
Chapter 2: Surt
USEF Report Dagon, section L (Linguistics), Paragraph 1-3, Rank HEL-6
The Atlantean language is surprisingly familiar, and offers great insight into the spread of language across the world, and a common origin to many languages. Proto-Indo-European is well known as one of the most common 'base' languages, and its influence can be seen everywhere from Portugal to Persia. (also, technically, nearly a thousand miles east of Persia, but leave me my wordplay to enjoy.)
Atlantean language spans a substantially greater range. The first instincts of linguists, confronted with it, is an odd pidgin or creole of German and a variety of Polynesian dialects, a combination which is as bizarre as it is improbable. These two cultures had absolutely no contact for most of human history, recorded or not, and little if any combined culture.
It could simply be a vast coincidence. It could be a consequence of the Atlantean diffusion. It could simply be one titanic joke being played on linguists the world over who think that word-choice has meaning. Nevertheless, it provides us with an easier jumping-off point than if we did not have the connection in the first place. Atlanteans have shown a surprising facility for picking up human languages, one which has eased integration substantially.
Chief Researcher Cherry H. Verne
"The problem with big, open deserts, and remote ocean bases, is that on top of being a pain in the ass to supply and staff, they are not actually all that secret in an era of high altitude spy planes and satellite photography," said Miller, sitting in the front seat of the heavy pickup truck. I sat next to him, wearing my yellow rain-slicker, shivering a bit as we drove through the snow-dappled forest. "Sure, it's all well and good to be a thousand miles from the nearest community, but everyone's going to know you're up to something. And thus..." He gestured upwards.
Atlantis had modest plant-life. Kelp, algae, a coral system. All quite attractive, in their own ways. But no natural thing there had grown like these. The trees were sleek and rough-barked, growing to tower above the rough and sandy road, creating a canopy. It was both like coral, and utterly alien. "What did you say this place was called?"
"The Pine Barrens." He grinned. "Lots of legends around this place. Hell, going all the way back to 1909. Now, I'm fairly sure the Menagerie was built in the 90s, but who's to say it was the first facility the EFUS had here? There isn't a lot of history or facts kept on archive about the EFUS, but I've seen case files dating back to the 1700s. Probably just a hoax, someone's idea of a joke, but..." He shrugged. "That's the thing you learn about this special ops work. Everything gets denied, and the things that are admitted are usually just there to distract you from something bigger."
"Distrust seems... very difficult. I prefer things simple and straightforward. Hunting, knowing your prey, knowing how to find it." I looked out the window, frowning. "I fear that may make me a liability."
"Hell no. You handle the tracking and the tasering. I'll get between you and the politics." He grinned. "It's what a good Sergeant should do." He leaned back in his chair and made a low, contented sound, a growl low in the back of his throat. He seemed perfectly at ease, despite the thick bandages wrapped around one hand, cloaking it in white linen that had been stained black here and there.
"Does that hurt?" I asked, softly.
"Eh. I don't have pain sensors built in. The damage was only, well..." He chuckled. "Skin deep." He was quiet for a moment, and looked over at me. "You know, you barely reacted to seeing my hand stripped bare like that. I'm pretty sure your kind don't make much in the way of advanced cyborgs. I was expecting... Well, hell. I don't know. A little prejudice. I get plenty of it among humans. Just scares them to see this kind of thing."
"I can see what is human in you very clearly, Sergeant," I said, looking out the window. "All humans, Atlanteans included, rely on their tools to define themselves. Tattoos, piercings, clothing, weapons- Is there anything different about a prosthetic? They are still a part of you, even if they are not flesh."
"Hrn," he said, ending the conversation on an ambiguous note. "There it is."
The road ended in a large, wide concrete foundation, covered by some sort of canvas fabric which had been raised with tent poles. A large circle drawn in chalk with a massive H in the center dominated one side of the foundation, with a bank of large elevators beyond it. Miller got out of the truck, and I followed, shivering in the cold. The two of us approached one of the elevators. We stepped in.
"These things always take forever," he growled. "I'm convinced the base is just a few feet underground, and they make them slow as tar so it feels like we're going into the center of the earth."
I watched the glowing electric cables through the walls. I could only see the closest through the thick stone, but he was right. They were moving very slowly indeed. "You've stabbed the shark in the gills there, sir."
He grinned. "Finally. I'm going to rag Cherry about that to no end."
The base itself was the kind of clean, sterile white that humans seemed to find soothing. Personally, it reminded me of being trapped under a glacier, and the office of Chief Researcher Verne, paneled in wood and filled with books and other gewgaws, made for a very pleasant change. The unconscious demon strapped to her table muddled the effect, though. She smiled as the two of us entered.
"Good job bringing this one in, you two. Far as I can gather from examination and venom samples, it's a brown recluse spider. Damned if I know how exactly one got the spiritual energy necessary to become a demon, considering the lifespan and shyness towards humans. Examining the web revealed distinctive patterns- We think it was using the webs as a sort of food storage, slowly terrorizing a human while using the energy gained to weave webs, which it would then survive off of in a low energy state..." She frowned. "Very curious."
"Great, Cherry. Can we keep it from attacking people?"
"The new class of implants should take care of that. After that fiasco with your cortex bomb, the Colonel was able to argue for a strict need-to-know policy. The only people with the transmitter codes to activate it will be you, me, and the Colonel himself." She smiled. "Nice and trustworthy. It'll shut down all electrical impulses from the thoracic vertebrae down, until the counter-signal is sent. So, even if it is used, it'll be less... You know, immediately fatal. I wouldn't leave it on for long, though- She won't be able to breathe." Then she sighed, and clicked her tongue. "For gods sakes, go to the bio-lab, get that hand fixed. It's morbid as hell."
"Yeah. Stick here with the doctor, Yeagerta, she'll fill you in a bit more while I'm busy," said Miller, with a nod to me, before ducking out through the door. I was left alone with the rather intimidating woman
"So," said Cherry, a sly smile spreading across her face. "You're an Atlantean." She held a small welding torch, and the smell of burnt flesh filled the air, making me wince. It was not a healer’s room. It was the room of a destroyer. That was okay. I felt at home here.
"Heard a bit about you. We've got half a dozen Atlanteans working in the menagerie, easily a hundred times that in the US government as a whole. I don't buy the whole 'I want to do good' thing- There are a lot of ways you could do that without risking your life." She looked up at me, an eyebrow raised. "So what is it? Deathwish? Sadism? Secret plan to destroy humanity?"
"We are both a part of humanity. Those who thought otherwise, on both sides, were merely ignorant to the truth. As to my reasons… Every society needs violence.” I sighed, and shook my head. "So long as dissent is possible, so long as violence is possible, there must be sanctioned violence to counter it. The more peaceful and serene that society is, the further that violence must be kept from those who benefit from it." I waved a hand at the demon lying across the ground. "This is a violence hidden from the public, but still necessary. I know that our two races' fate will hang on the balance of how we use that violence. If I want my people to be safe, I must be that violence."
"If you want a thing done right, you have to do it yourself," she said, and smiled. "I can dig it."
"And what of you, Chief Researcher Verne? How did you come to be the kind of person who could slice open a seemingly human creature's spine, and insert a device to control their body, while-" I raised an eyebrow, as I noticed a curious white container, producing an aroma suggesting blended spices, "-you eat your lunch?"
She smiled. "Well, three things. First, this woman's murdered at least a dozen people according to open police reports and the bones we dug up around the house. Second, she's not actually human, and is part of a species that doesn't usually have sentience, let alone sapience. And finally..." She fell silent for a moment, and set down her welding torch. "You know, I've discussed a lot of subjects, but I don't think I've talked with Atlanteans about space travel. What do you know about the stars?"
I shrugged. "Distant lights. We did not have them in Atlantis, and even in our heyday, we knew only that they were unimaginably distant. The revelations of this universe- worlds beyond measure- has been... Not precisely transformative, but unexpected."
"Worlds beyond measure," said Cherry, her voice soft, as she stared pensively into the distance. "A good phrase. Do you know, when we first learned about your existence, when we first confirmed that you were a group capable of forming pacts, empowering gods, and reproducing normally- In other words, not a supernatural species- It was the first time we'd ever found anything like that? And when we found out that you were humans, genetically equivalent, an offshoot changed by your exposure to another world, it was such a profound..."
Here, she paused, sighed, and looked down at the unconscious figure lying across her desk, the corners of her lips pulled down into a melancholy frown.
"I am sorry," I said, not sure what else to say.
"It's hardly your fault. But the prospect of alien life, truly alien, something from another world, something not human..." She sighed. "This poor creature in front of you is the closest we come to finding it. An animal infected with a human mind, with human thoughts and needs and instincts, with no choice in the matter." She looked up. "Countless worlds. And only one sapient species that we know of. Broadcasting our existence is simple- child's play. The universe has been conducive to intelligent life for fourteen billion years. And yet, all we see out there is... silence. Unbearable, unending silence."
I didn't answer. As the air conditioning hummed, and Cherry H. Verne's soft brown eyes held mine, I studied her for the first time. I saw the frantic, white-hot belief in her. Among my people, she would be notable. Among humans, she was close to unique. All of that belief, and nowhere for it to go. "It suggests an ominous possibility."
"We have a name for it," she said. "The Great Filter. The unknown enemy of sapience. Countless theories, of course- Perhaps life is rare. Perhaps sapience is rare. Perhaps we destroy ourselves. People have concocted fanciful tales of galactic empires and berserker probes, but I don't hold with that. Those would be localized. There would be evidence, elsewhere. But everywhere we look, there's... silence." She tented her fingers. "Perhaps we've weathered the storm. Perhaps it was life or sapience or disease or the atomic bomb that was the great nemesis. But it would be an act of absolute arrogance to believe that humans are special." She shook her head softly. "I don't think we're out of the woods yet."
"So, you joined because..." I prompted her, feeling unsettled in the pit of my stomach by her statement.
"H.P. Lovecraft was a popular writer, though only after he died. He believed that the universe was cold and inimical. I'm inclined to agree. He believed that humanity was fated to change, to become twisted, and horrific. That the only way life could survive was to lose everything that he saw as worthwhile in it." She smiled. "He was a bigot and a short-sighted fool. Life demands a harsh toll, but there's little we stand to lose by changing ourselves." She looked down at the demon. "So, Yeagerta. You ready to put her unconscious if that implant doesn't work?"
I blinked at the sudden change in subject. "What-" But Chief Researcher Verne was already snapping her fingers.
The creature's eyes snapped open. They flicked from side to side, panicked, feral, mad. The rest of her body didn't move in the least. The Chief Researcher smiled. "Good morning, sunshine. Do you want a job?"
"What?" asked the creature, its voice blunt. "What job?"
"Simple enough. You killed people. You probably thought you had to do that to survive, but you were wrong. I'd wager you fed off of fear. The connection you maintained with humans as their captor, offering them a hope of escape, the only face they saw as they slowly starved to death." She looked up at me, and smiled. "I imagine you're finding yourself quite hungry at the moment."
"My purpose," hissed the creature, its head lolling to one side to glare hatefully up at me. I returned its gaze without emotion.
"Yes, yes. Now, you have a choice of a new purpose. You can serve, and earn the right to be a human." She smiled, and there was something chilly as the silent universe in her expression. "Or you can refuse, and earn the right to be... laboratory material."
"Survival," hissed the creature. "Warmth. Food. A mate. Another day."
"That's the spirit," said Verne, the cold vanishing from her face like frost in the sun. "We'll get someone in to debrief you and explain the terms of your survival. For now, we've got a meeting."
The two of us walked through the corridors of the complex, Verne carrying a binder under one arm. I passed the time by watching the cables. The arrangement of the corridors were such that the sense of direction quickly became confused- Favoring sixty or hundred degree angles for corridors, rather than 90. If not for my ability to track the wiring in the walls, I would have quickly become lost. This topmost floor appeared to be primarily made up of research labs, medical quarters. It was all so... repeated.
"Getting used to the industrialization thing?" said Verne, a smile running across her lips. "I'm told it's disturbing to Atlanteans. The whole... sameness."
"To be unique, to be cherished, is to be strong. We don't go in for... mass production."
"Yeah. We noticed that," said Verne, smiling. "It explained a lot, learning about your people. The inability to mass-produce enchanted objects, the relatively short lifespan of magically enhanced equipment. Hell, we've got an artificial intelligence program here that's designed to take advantage of the tsukumogami principle. Still not much luck with that."
"Such projects often take years at a time," I said, softly. "And the coordinated input of many thousands."
"Yeah. It's a pain in the ass." She sighed. "This meeting is mostly bureaucratic. Our closest allies on the continent are- naturally enough- our only two neighbors. Canada's Royal Mythic Police and Mexico's Cuerpo de Fuerzas Extrano share a common issue- Primarily, the remaining supernatural beings left behind by the various Native American civilizations."
"Of course," I said. I was no stranger to humanity's genocidal tendencies. There was a reason my people had left. The rest was all Greek to me. I hadn’t memorized 90% of the states, let alone the countless other countries of the world.
"The Mythies are relatively easy to get along with, sharing a belief in rehabilitation, but they're kind of a soft touch. They're far less willing to lean on supernaturals. Lot of guilt. Recent upswing in native recruits, which has helped their knowledge base, covering some of their weaknesses in actual field assets. The Cuerpo..." She frowned. "They're a bit more hardline. There's a lot of history here, but what you fundamentally need to know is that they sprung off of the government forces dedicated to fighting the drug cartels. The cartels drew upon supernatural resources, and as such, the government forces have a... Well, bluntly genocidal approach to things. Even making pacts is illegal. They rely more on military hardware bought from the United States, and a relative lack of oversight." She sighed. "Messy."
She stopped at a door, little different from any other, and pushed it open.
"-is an unconscionable violation of human rights. Sentencing without hearings or the right to a qualified attorney-"
"Human rights, abuelita. There's an important word there."
The room was spacious, light filtering in through windows. I could see the powerful electrical sources behind the windows- The light was thoroughly artificial.
A mahogany table sat in the center of the room, with close to a dozen chairs around it. Three were currently occupied, one by the Colonel, the other two by the two women who had just been speaking. The one opposite the Colonel was a small, wizened woman, with long, silver-white hair, dressed in a loose dress that looked inappropriately breezy even for the air-conditioned room, let alone the weather outside. Seated between the two, facing the door, was a younger woman, whose eyes were hard as flint. Her hair was cut nearly to the scalp, leaving a thin fuzz of black, interrupted above her left ear by a scar that ran from near the eye, all the way to the back of the head.
"Well, well," said the scarred woman, her eyes twinkling, leaning back in a refined and dignified military uniform. "The offshoots. What are you staring at?"
I tilted my head. "I thought pacts with the supernatural were illegal under your government," I said, my eyes drifting across her. I could see it, there, the dull gray of the supernatural pact dimming her belief. One of the risen dead.
"Keep your gaze from my soul," said the woman, her voice even and sharp as a knife's edge.
"Fuck's sakes, Pagan, everyone in this room knows you're on the supernatural take," said the Colonel, taking a pull on a cigar, bent over the table with an expression of supreme aggravation. "Way to buck the stereotype there, by the way."
"The subject at hand," said the scarred woman, brushing off the mockery without any sign of annoyance or uncertainty. "The Atlanteans."
"You know that one was taken out of our hands," said the Colonel, a slight grin spreading across his lips. "How many times have I complained about that unpredictable prick? He got involved in something too big, and wound up making a good impression. Luck of the draw. Could have happened to any of us." He puffed on the cigar, and his eyes flickered to me. "Hey, Niwha. Can people fool that vision of yours?"
"There are techniques. They can be shared. Difficult, but possible." My eyes flickered to the two women. "The more people who know of such techniques, the less useful they will become. That is the nature of secrets."
"Well, our allies can keep secrets, can't they?" said the Colonel, grinning toothily. "Listen, I'm not interested in any of the tribalism shit. We've got bigger fish to fry."
"Ah, yes," said Pagan, the scarred woman, her expression empty. "The 'Horsemen'." She raised both hands as she said the word, palms flat, and crooked the index and middle finger of each hand twice.
"You know," said the old woman, a slight smile running over her lips, "I remember my parents talking about the Soviets. Those mysterious monsters on the far side of the world. The reason why we had to leave our home, and get settled in that barren shithole that I grew up in." She narrowed her eyes. "It was shit then, and it's shit now. The 'gods who rule above the gods', dedicated to our destruction. I've met fucking gods." She produced a slim cigarette and a purple plastic lighter, flicking one to light the other, and puffed twice. "They didn't do much good for me."
"Not this conspiracy paranoia shit, Smith," growled The Colonel. "The Paradise situation-"
"A U.S. superweapon- One which we were told was foolproof- going haywire," said Pagan, holding a hand over her mouth and coughing delicately. I sympathized. The smoke in the room was acrid, and growing thicker by the moment. "I fear the United States' carelessness far more than I fear any mythical bogeyman."
"God save me from arbitrary skeptics," growled the Colonel. "We're sharing the fucking resources. The research we gain from the Atlanteans, any breakthroughs, and personnel willing to volunteer. I know the situation has been unstable. That's why I'm trying to build us a little goddamn faith. Now, Cherry, take a seat. Yeagerta, you too. Tell us about the discoveries you've made on the Atlanteans."
"Thank you," said Verne, taking a seat next to the Colonel, setting down a large binder labeled USEF Report Dagon. I sat down next to her, trying to follow the hierarchy as best as I could. "First-"
The door burst open, Sergeant Miller standing there, his damaged arm covered in pale, somewhat sickly looking flesh, a few shades lighter than the rest. "Colonel. Emergency. The demon we were interrogating was made by an Archmage."
The colonel stared silently at Sergeant Miller. He chewed the cigar slowly. "Sergeant, our allies are in this room." He nodded his head towards Pagan, and Smith, who were staring with equally deadpan expressions. "As I'm sure you understand, evidence of an Archmage is... excruciatingly sensitive. Rather like being grabbed by the short hairs, and yanked. I'm confident that you wouldn't be grabbing me by the short hairs in front of our allies and giving me a firm yank without incredibly good reason."
"We've been tracking someone who matches the description. Small-time Native American hustler we thought was cheating casinos. We had a pair of agents watching him in Lousiana. If he's an Archmage..."
The colonel's pupils had shrunk, and he stared at Miller. The cloud of smoke hung around his features as he slowly removed the cigar from his mouth. "Motherfucker." He let out a slow breath. "Contact them-"
"Already did, sir." Miller's brow furrowed. "No response. They-"
"Get their video feed working. Shit. Motherfucking balls!" The colonel stood up, and sprinted out of the room, Miller shortly behind on his heels.
"Archmage?" I said, in the scorching silence of the room.
"A standard wizard is a mortal who has made a pact with a supernatural being. Immortality- so long as the pact lasts- and magical power," said Verne, her expression ashen as she slumped back in the chair. "An Archmage is- Well, they're theoretical."
"Nowadays," said Smith, the wizened old woman showing a slight grin. "The legends say they used to be a lot more common."
"Relatively," growled Verne. "An Archmage is any wizard who is spiritually powerful enough to, in the course of a single lifetime, create a supernatural being. Usually demons, though undead and fairies are theoretically also possible."
"Which is significant be-" I paused, and my eyes widened slightly. "Capable of producing their own immortality."
"Exactly. Unbeholden to a supernatural force. Capable of creating a personal supernatural companion, a Familiar." She looked up at Smith. "Could I get one of those?"
Smith shook out three cigarettes, offering them, in turn, to Pagan, Verne, and myself. I was the only one to refuse. "Understandably rare. What kind of person dedicates themselves so thoroughly to another, sufficient to discover the power that rests within them? Even if Archmages are still born, their talents would likely never become obvious to them. But with that much power, even the most minor supernatural being could become... spectacularly dangerous, in their hands."
"A brown recluse spider," I said, and frowned. "What is their lifespan?"
"About two years, at the outside," said Verne. She lit the cigarette, and puffed it twice, blowing out a cloud of smoke and coughing raggedly for a second before continuing, voice hoarser. "Even with the raw state of the spider-"
"A very powerful Archmage, who was active at least forty years ago," I said. "He is also most likely a member of a people who you committed genocide against."
"Life," said Smith, and the old woman chuckled. "It certainly does bite us in the ass, doesn't it?"
The door opened. The Colonel entered, his expression hard as flint. He sat down at the front of the table, and pressed a button. There was a click, and a blur of light spread across one wall as Sergeant Miller entered and sank into the chair beside him. The blur slowly came into focus. "This is the feed from their security setup in the hotel room."
It was an image, slowly moving. A hotel room. I had seen several like it, even in the short time I had spent among humans. Well-furnished, with a beautiful view across a sprawling human city that I did not recognize on sight. Two men sat inside. One raised his head, and drew his gun, turning towards the door. The image became unfocused, crazed patterns of black and white fuzzing the scene out, distorting it as the two men twisted in the strange interference, until it was entirely unintelligible. It was like that for perhaps three minutes, then it abruptly came back into focus.
I could see signs of what had happened. The bullet holes through the windows, crazed fractures spread out around them through the glass. The beds unmade, slashes visible that had gutted them of their stuffing. An arm was visible, hanging out from behind one of the beds. On the wall, in brilliant red, five words had been painted.
"Shit," said Sergeant Miller, his voice soft, his expression stormy.
"Sergeant," said the Colonel, "you're going to need to assemble a team. Track the man down. Hunt him like a dog. Capture him if you can, kill him if not."
"Kill him?" Said Smith, her eyes narrowed. "Not a fucking chance. I'm coming along, and he's to be captured. He's not a U.S. citizen, and he is a human."
"Oh, come now, abuelita," said Pagan, her expression dancing with amusement. "We know this is not a matter of mercy or justice." She flicked a hand towards the image. "Will you be sharing that resource with us, Colonel?"
"Of course," said the man, gruffly, nearly biting through the cigar.
"Well, I shall be happy to come along on the mission. To make this mission more... multilateral."
"Your help is appreciated, Major, but-"
"Good," said Pagan, her eyes narrowed.
It was obvious, the true reason for the tension. This Archmage was dangerous, certainly- deadly. He had killed. But that alone was not enough to cause the people in this room to be on the verge of killing one another. It was not the reason the Colonel had been angry.
If Archmages were still born, then to be able to find them, to know how they were found, would be supremely useful. It would provide an incredible advantage to whichever nation broke the code first. The Atlanteans had been an incredible resource, too. But this one could be taken secretly.
If he could be captured, subverted, interrogated, studied, he could lead to the discovery of more. That kind of advantage could be... phenomenal.
I stared up at the screen silently. I looked across at Fetu Miller, and his eyes met mine.
Change. The kind that could destroy. The kind that had to be killed, before it twisted humanity beyond recognition.
"Are you with me, Yeagerta?"
"Yes, Miller."
USEF Report Albino Monk, Section X (Threat Assessment), Paragraph 1-8, Rank SURTUR-9. OLDMAN clearance required; If you are reading this and are not the Colonel, there is probably a gun aimed at your head right now.
In spite of Sergeant Miller's ongoing vouching for the former FBI agent, he is not to be regarded as an ally by EFUS personnel. This is an unfortunate political reality. His actions have directly destabilized the US government in places, and he is directly responsible for the destruction of two Cities. The fact that both of these cases saved a majority of the population of the Earth is, unfortunately, not worth much to our threat assessments.
There are three parts to this issue. First, his status as a pawn of War. Regardless of any other connections he has made, he started as a catspaw for one of the Horsemen. Her supposed defection only increases the suspicion. The Horsemen are marked universally by a level of long-term planning that can be best described as 'psychotic'. Even the apparent good done in this case may be in service of a longer term plan.
Second, despite his good intentions, his actions have brought the world of gods and the world of men closer together. Our current state of instability, and the growing awareness of and interference by supernatural forces, is entirely his fault. He may save us, only for the consequences of his actions to plunge us into a greater crisis. The increasing tensions we have reported from the remaining Cities corroborates this. Good intentions paving the way to hell, and all that rot.
But let's be honest with ourselves, shall we, Sir? We both know that these are secondary concerns. The real problem is Nash himself, and the power he has accumulated. We have him on record as having confronted several gods of a power that the entire EFUS military apparatus would be hard-pressed to even distract, and defeating them. As of this moment, he is probably the single most effective countermeasure to the Gods, should they mobilize fully.
And behind all of this is his personality. An emotionally crippled boy raised by a mentally ill single mother. His anti-authoritarian tendencies hidden behind a level of detachment that verges on the psychotic, he managed to get hired onto the FBI and come across as little more than a somewhat dull, but otherwise harmless young man with a thirst for justice. Given access to power, he proceeded to unveil a violent streak a mile wide. The man assaulted the U.S. Secretary of Finance. Granted, the traitor was a Horseman plant, but nonetheless.
We can't depend on this man. We can't allow him to act unhindered. His concept of 'justice' is, at best, childishly simple, and more prone to destroying power structures than making anything to replace them. In his own way, he could be as dangerous as the Horsemen- perhaps moreso. They, at least, consider the consequences of their actions. The fallout of his breaking open of Hell is yet to unfold entirely. How long until one of the Damned wind up causing a major crisis? Admittedly, their fear of him seems to have held them in line so far, but if he should show any weakness, the result will be catastrophic.
All of this is compounded by the aforementioned power. The Gae Bolg weapon proved entirely useless against him, which is a situation we frankly did not foresee. He seemed confident in his ability to counter the Pugno Dei as well, and regardless of whether that was bravado or not, we can't afford to drop another asteroid on him. For the moment, we don't have a countermeasure for him. If he should decide, tomorrow, that the President of the United States is as great a threat as the Gods of the Cities or the Horsemen, there is precious little that anyone can reasonably do to stop him.
For now, our chief strategy is surveillance and avoidance. He can be avoided. He can be worked around. He is, effectively, a natural disaster. We can at least try to forecast him.
Chief Researcher Cherry H. Verne
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