Ecce Insurgo

rating: +39+x

The Black Queen

There are better worlds out there, but Alyx Chao is stuck in this one.

It had started out as a routine liberation: Pop into a universe where an organization's gotten too big for its britches, spark the fire of global revolution, and then pop back out.

She'd successfully overthrown Foundations, Marshall, Carter & Darks, and even a version of herself –

And then this world's Global Occult Coalition invaded the Wanderer's Library.

The Library severed the diseased branch, letting it fall to the invaders, cutting off this world from the multiverse. There are still Ways in and out, of course, but the costs are higher than she's willing to pay. For all intents and purposes, she's stranded in this universe.

The only way out is through.


The Cook and the Critic

Safehouse One is in a pocket dimension just off of Backdoor Soho. It's risky, hiding in the GOC's backyard, but New York City is practically pockmarked with paranatural enclaves and mini-Nexuses. There are so many the GOC can't possibly police them all. What better place to hide than in plain sight?

Still, she grimaces at the garish "A" that adorns the front of the otherwise unfurnished restaurant.

Charles Ambrose and the Critic are in the midst of a heated conversation as she steps in. The two men sit at a single made table, surrounded by a forest of upturned chair legs.

"So I'm thinking a conveyer belt, right? And it seems like it's moving along, bringing you dishes, but they get more and more alive and more and more disturbing as they come along," says Ambrose.

"Seems uninspired."

"I know, it does — but eventually they start moving. They start looking like little people."

"And is this a metaphor for the dreary New World Order?"

"I… honestly, that's as far as I got. I'm a chef by trade."

The Critic frowns.

"You could make it so they are people. But not just any people – the diners themselves. They could ignore the scurrying pests, or—"

"They could eat each other alive!"

"Very Lord of the Flies," says the Critic dryly. He sighs. "It's been done."

"Gentlemen," Alyx says, announcing herself.

"Ah, the lovely Black Queen," the Critic says without hesitation. "Why do you grace us with your presence?"

"First strike was successful," she says. "We'll need your services soon. Prisoners to feed, minds to unwash. And no funny business."

"God strike me down if I do," says the Critic. It's his idea of a joke. The GOC killed God sixty years ago.

One day, these two will be a problem. Alyx knows as much. The Critic will scarper once things start looking too good or too bad, and she knows the dark deeds Chaz Ambrose – Carnifex Carl – gets up to in other dimensions.

But right now, they're here, and they're useful.

"We need memes and meals in Sites 43, 179, and 150," she says.

The Critic gives her a deep mock bow. "Your wish is our command, your majesty."

She'll need Kriyot to check his work. She's not looking forward to that talk.


The Pharmacist

Safehouse Two is in Wyoming. There's a hidden road from Backdoor Soho to Yellowstone National Park, a path covered in eternal autumn and perpetual twilight, which has surprisingly good phone reception.

She checks her SCiPNET inbox and sees some heavily mixed reviews about the latest set of paranatural chemical augmentations as she walks.

She sighs and starts texting.

dado

Dado. How are things on your end.

my name is dado not +d+ado

Sorry, autocorrect.

i am very well miss black queen. how r u?

GOC knows they're not invincible anymore.

excellent. hopefully amazon prime will start delivery again


Alyx rolls her eyes. Amazon is a GOC puppet in this universe, but dado has never meant Amazon the company. She's not sure what he ever means, though. He's not talking about the rainforest… probably.

dado

Got a problem with your last shipment. Thought you'd give us patches to make us antimemetic? They just made us slippery.

u said drug to keep goc off your back?

Metaphor.

ah dado is sorry. did it work?


To her chagrin, Alyx realizes that the patches had performed as promised. GOC armaments and artifacts, be they handcuffs, tasers, guns, or thaumaturgy, slid right off of Foundation agents, so long as they had their backs to the attackers.

dado

It did. The next batch should be more well-rounded, though.

ok. u trust dado?


She doesn't answer that. It hasn't stopped him before.

The Zookeeper and the Wondermaker

As Alyx steps through the Way to Safezone Two, she's reminded of the song Home on the Range. Her father had sung it to her, so many long years ago. Here, there are wide plains on which a large amount of animals roam, though these plains are dotted with garish houses of cartoonish proportions.

Isabel Helga Anastasia Parvati Wondertainment V, PhD flashes Alyx a quick smile, though most of her attention is on Faeowynn Wilson.

Alyx silently joins Isabel.

Faeowynn Wilson is a woman in her element. With terrifying efficiency, she gives instructions to volunteers and refugees recruited since the GOC raid of Boring. She taps her tablet, accounting for each and every animal they've rescued from the GOC's clutches. There are deer with burning horns, several shaggy dogs, and a cat lacking its hindquarters. Fae deftly directs each animal to proper quarters.

Once all of her subordinates have their instructions, Fae nods to Isabel and Alyx. The three of them adjourn to a pink-and-purple lean-to that's five times larger on the inside.

"I declare this the third zillionth meeting of the club of girls with dead dads!" Isabel Wondertainment says once they've settled down and poured some coffee.

Fae winces. "Please don't say that."

"Sorry," Isabel says. She takes a sip of her coffee. "I sometimes still dream about my dad. He'll be there in the Great Halls of Wonder, the latest in a whole line of Wondermakers, and he'll look down at me with that crooked smile of his and tell me that there's still so much I can do."

"Parents," Fae says with a half-smile. "You never live up to them, even if you're a magical toymaker, huh?"

"Hey, I might be a magical toymaker, but so was every ancestor I ever had."

The three of them chuckle at that. Fae sighs.

"I never imagined I'd be doing this."

"This isn't the life I imagined. I doubt my dad would imagine this for me, either," Alyx says. Her Charles Gears is long dead, but she hopes he'd be happy to see her now.

Isabel giggles maniacally. Fae and Alyx look at her until she stops.

"I'm a toymaker, gosh darn it!" she says, short of breath. "And you know what happened in the raid the other day? Doctor Wondertainment's Walloping Wallabies knocked out and detained a few hundred soldiers in total."

She takes a long, long drink of her coffee. Alyx suspects it might be making her more and more hyper, but it might just be the high of a victory.

"So no," Isabel says, "I'm not happy with who I've become."

"I just want people to stop getting hurt," Fae says. "I don't even know…"

Fae stops herself. Fae's a strong woman, but Alyx knows all too well it's never easy not having closure. Alyx would comfort her, but at heart she's Charles Gears's daughter. She's not good at providing comfort.

"It's why I have to keep fighting," Fae says, once she pulls herself back together. "For my father. For everyone else's father, and their brothers and sisters, and their children."

"Exactly," Alyx says. Her eyes gleam. "We fight for them."

"What are you thinking?" says Fae. Alyx has their full attention now.

"The cutest animals you have," Alyx says, "and the safest, most marketable toys. Something… marketable."


The Pacifist

"Jude."

She steps out of a Way directly into the currently hiding place of Jude Kriyot, a dingy basement somewhere in New Jersey.

"What the fuck. Alyx, you scared me."

She raises an eyebrow at him. The basement smells like marijuana smoke.

"So how's Project Kenowhere going?" she asks. After the loss of the physical Kenowhere, after the Coalition conquered their hidden heaven and turned it into a prison camp, they kept the name. Even as they went back into hiding, scattering once more to a hundred different nowheres, they held onto that first freedom.

"It's going," he says. He doesn't elaborate.

"You're not taking this well, are you?"

"It was different when we still had the island," he says. "We were all safe, all together then. Now, we've still got Mr. Destiny watching over us, but… it's different."

"You could join them," she says. "No reason not to. Join them, wherever they are."

He shakes his head. "I… I haven't heard the call," he says. "Everyone else, Esther and Jockjams and the rest… they say that they can feel it in their bones, driving them forward. But for some reason, Mr. Destiny wants me here."

"You're doing good work, Jude," Alyx says.

"I fucking hope so," he says. "I feel like fuckin' Saint Peter. Leading people to heaven but never stepping foot in myself."

Alyx chuckles. "I know the feeling."

"So what do you need, anyways?"

"Need you to double-check the Critic's work."

His face darkens the moment she says that, so she throws in some off-color jokes.

"Make sure he's not making Manchurian agents out of any of the Gocks we sussed out."

"Isn't that racist?"

"Dude, I'm Chinese, I get to say that."

"That makes it worse. Racism is local."

"I… maybe. We can argue about it later."

Jude sighs. "Just promise me that once he's no longer useful, you take that murderer…"

Alyx nods slightly. She can't make that promise, of course. The Critic is too useful now, and too smart to pin down fully.

She leaves the way she came.


The Archivist, the Legacy, and the Journalist

The winding Ways bring her next to Alexandria Eternal.

When the Wanderer's Library cut its branch off, leaving this universe to its fate, Alexandria remained. A pale imitation of the platonic library.

Alexandria Eternal's old Warden passed its duties to M'rj'nz, the last Archivist of the Library, when he died. And now, M'rj'nz serves as the solely Archivist of this library, poring through records of every human life in knowable prehistory, searching for weapons against the Coalition.

That's what the rest of Overwatch believes, but Alyx knows better. It's rare for an Archivist to strand themselves outside of the Library, but when one does…

It's to give a dying universe one last chance to make better stories, or should that fail, to harvest it.

The Way lets her out a few hundred feet away from M'rj'nz proper; the bookshelves loom above her, stretching into eternity. She can see streams of green light, the thaumaturgical basis of the SCiPNET intranet, flowing like a digital web through the library and into the books themselves. She's not entirely sure how it works, but ADAM's network permeates people's very lives, allowing a dangerous level of interconnectivity. They're quite lucky ADAM is an AI who is hyperfocused on his motives.

M'rj'nz sits at the center of a web of thaumaturgy, papers and books flying around her. Occasionally there's a flash of green as ADAM, the AI, digitizes a finalized document.

"Yo, Chao," says Maria Dracu, looking up from her laptop. She's doubtless typing up a summary of the first blow against the GOC to be distributed throughout the Protectorate Intranet.

"As busy as usual," Alyx says coolly, glancing briefly upwards at the storm of papers, flitting past M'rj'nz's thousand eyes.

"We do what we are born to do," M'rj'nz says in eldritch chittering. Only Alyx seems to find it ominous.

"I mean, of course," Maria Dracu says. "We got a win! Not a big one, but a win's a win. How do you want to spin this?"

"I have something bigger in mind," Alyx says, trying to ignore the rustling of flying paper. "Something to kick the wheels in motion. I'll need your help with the presentation."

"I'm listening," Maria says. Above them, the fluttering archives slow. M'rj'nz turns her thousand eyes upon them. Even ADAM deigns to project himself, a green digital ghost woven of half-light.

Alyx smiles.


The Merchants

Alyx emerges on a beach, far from any cameras or GOC drones, to see two women sipping martinis and sunbathing. Even in hiding, Marion Carter demands a baseline of luxury.

"So I really think there's a synergy here, I can leverage my influence with Goldbaker-Reinz in order to lubricate the transition of power for your hostile takeover," says Marion Carter, formally of Marshall, Carter, & Dark.

"A two-pronged attack," says Tonya M. Chappell, formerly of the Chicago Spectre. "You hit them high, I hit them low."

Alyx doesn't judge them, at least not for their occupations. In another world, she knows she's taken on the Carter name. In another world, she's a top ranking general in the Spectre. But those are not her worlds, and those are not her fights.

"Ladies," Alyx says.

"Yo, Queen!" Tonya says, coming in for a hug. Alyx hugs her back, warmly.

"Alyx," Marion says, giving her a tight smile. Alyx nods, wrinkling her nose as Tonya's ponytail brushes by it. "I heard the first strike went well."

Alyx nods. "So. Progress on your ends?"

"The major players suspect there's a monopoly underlying the market," Marion says. "They're aware that there are major inefficiencies. They're just not sure why. I've done what I can, pushed the right buttons in the right places, to make sure the right people start to have the right ideas."

"Same for me," Tonya says. "The right people on the ground. They know where to look in the shadows."

"Are you sure that was wise?" Alyx says. "The Coalition has a way of disappearing anyone who gets too much."

Tonya and Marion share a look.

"They'll have even bigger problems on their hands soon enough, from what I hear," Tonya says with a shit-eating grin.

Alyx closes her eyes. "Who told you?"

"We figured you'd try something big. We caught them with their pants down once, we gotta keep on hitting."

"It's the first rule in war and business," Marion says. "When you're winning, keep winning."

"For a blue blood, she's really fuckin' ruthless," Tonya says in a stage whisper.

"We're all like this, lowlife," Marion says in a mocking tone. "You might almost survive."

"You need anything else from us, Queen?" Tonya says.

"You've set the dominos in place," Alyx says. "Soon, we'll just have to push."


The Idealist and the Cyborg

After the beach, the dim neon lights of Eurtec strain Alyx's eyes.

Eurtec, like in many other universes, is under GOC jurisdiction. And just like those other universes, that jurisdiction is spotty, despite the GOC's reach and power.

It's easy enough to duck past GOC patrols under antimemetic veils, down an alley up the stairs in a bar, down the same stairs in that same bar, and back out that alley to find a concrete wall, then through the wall to a hiding spot.

She sees Vincent Anderson II and Gibson. Vincent is adjusting one of Gibson's cybernetic limbs.

"Oh, hey, Alyx," Vincent says. "You've got big plans."

"ADAM tell you?"

"Nah, Marion," Vincent says. "Hey, by the way, she mention anything about selling my tech once we kick this off?"

Vincent, in Alyx's opinion, is a bit of a failson. He managed to run his father's company into the ground to the point where it got acquired by the GOC. He's very skilled with cybernetics and augmentations – Alyx has his cybernetics embedded in her forearm, just in case she needs it, but he keeps trying to excel outside of his specialty. A common enough problem for engineers.

"We have bigger concerns, Idealist," Gibson says. "Soon, the world will be free from the corruption of the flesh that twists men and women of power. Soon, the signals shall flow like light. Soon, we all become WAN."

Vincent's wearing his sunglasses, like always, but Alyx just knows he's rolling his eyes at that.

"You've weakened the GOC's censors and their internet filtering, right?" Alyx says.

"I but enact the will of WAN that dwelleth within me… but yes," Gibson says. "Knowledge strives to be free."

Vincent doesn't retort, which is uncharacteristic. He looks at her after a few moments.

"We are doing the right thing, right? You've seen what other worlds are like. Is this the right—"

"Yes," Alyx says. She doesn't even know if she's lying.


The Ringleader and the Suit

The Way to the Circus of the Disquieting is never quite consistent; it moves as the circus itself does. This is not a problem for Alyx.

The circus itself is little more than a front these days, of course. It's a training ground for Protectorate Mobile Task Forces, and a place where people can be safe and free as themselves.

She peeks her head into the big top and a fireball immediately streaks her way.

Instinctively, she whips up her right hand, twitching her fingers in a complicated ritual. She catches the fireball, and it dissipates in midair.

"Still sharp, Ally!" says Icky the magic clown, walking up to join her. She signals to a row of trainees, and they stop trying to cast their own fireballs at crudely-made dummies.

"Icky. How goes it?" Alyx says.

"Pret-ty well," Icky says with a smile. "Got some new leads on people we can bring in – apparently there's a whole hidden Fae city in Poland the gocks haven't gotten to yet, so we can get to them first. And – you see her?"

She points to one of the trainees, a young woman with antlers.

"Her dad's a Coalition agent, goes by 'Ukulele'. Brought her to us about a decade ago. Type-Green himself. We're close to turning him – he's looking for a way out."

Alyx nods. "Keep up the good work."

Icky gives her a smile and a wave and she goes back to her duties.

Alyx watches them for a bit before she becomes acutely aware of eyes on her.

"Something you want to say, MacAllister?"

Quinn MacAllister joins her. "You sure about this, Chao?"

"What do you mean?"

"We're putting together a pretty damn strong army," MacAllister says, her eyes on the trainees. "Combat mages. Assassins. Snipers. All masters of working in the shadows."

Alyx knows where MacAllister's going with this. She's seen this story play out many times before in hundreds of worlds.

"When the war's over, what are we going to do with them?"

"The right thing, I hope," Alyx says. It's a fifty-fifty chance, to be honest.

MacAllister releases a single mirthless bark. "He who fights monsters," she says. "And yet we count a mob boss among our ranks. I can see this going sideways very, very fast. Once the GOC is gone, and we're all that's left…"

Alyx has known other Quinn MacAllisters. Most of them hated the Foundation instead of founding it.

"That's why you're here," she says. "Because one day that will happen. And someone needs to keep us ethical."


Queen, Rook, Ghost

Like Jude Kriyot, Wlina Fritz sits in a basement in front of a laptop.

Unlike Jude Kriyot, Wilna Fritz is not depressed, though her room is still a mess. There's a billboard with pins and strings tying things together. Despite all her travels, Alyx would've said that it was an inaccurate cliché that conspiracy theorists used those sorts of things. That was until she met Wilna.

She briefly glances at the board. Once again, it paints a disturbingly accurate picture of Coalition activities.

"So, you gonna get on with it?" Wilna Fritz asks, not looking up from her computer screen.

"Hey, Wilna," Alyx says. "Is Nobody here?"

Fritz snorts. "He's never not anywhere."

"Does the Black Moon howl?"

"Once its shackles break."

The code phrases are clear. It's Wilna, hale and whole.

"You have got to get better security," Alyx says.

"If anyone manages to get to me, either I'm dead anyways or it's you," Wilna says. "ADAM sent me your plans."

The fall of Parawatch to GOC censors merely forced Wilna to retreat to a shadow network. Here, in the darkness, she's stronger than ever.

"Is it too much?"

"We gave them an ultimatum," Wilna says. "Secure and liberate their secrets. Contain and try their operatives. Protect and shelter their victims. And if need be, break the Veil. Did you ever think there wasn't a need?"

Alyx doesn't answer her. She knows the answer all too well. The price of freedom is truth.

"Thought so," Wilna says.

Alyx looks over at Wilna's shoulder at her screen, and she sees the fruits of their labors. Pictures of cute magical animals, to be posted everywhere on social media. Mail-in ads for Wondertainment products, to be sent to every network-exposed printer in a capitalist country. Matter-of-fact reports and victim testimonials from all of the GOC's genocides to be blasted across the globe.

"This was the easy part," Alyx says. "Everything after this is the real battle."

Wilna Fritz hits the enter key.

"No more dying in the darkness. It's time to live in the light."



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