Separate Ways

« End of an Era | Separate Ways | TBD »

rating: +19+x

Creed

August in Portland was hot and dry, the city baking in the sun of a cloudless sky. Traffic hummed and honked on the nearby Hawthorne and Marquam bridges, while children and their parents crowded the riverfront of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Despite the heat and lingering smell of human sweat, the air was abuzz with children's laughter and casual conversation. A long-retired submarine by the name of the USS Blueback waited for them in the murky water below. Eager to show them the tools of war from a bygone era, the sub was a staple exhibit for those making the trek to the museum.

Slinking through that crowd was a team of three plainclothes agents. Each was a member of Task Force Tau-51. Or, as those in the know more fondly called it, "Urban Brawl." At their lead was a slender man with short blond hair and a neatly trimmed beard. His eyes were ringed by several weeks of limited sleep. A world of worry sat heavily on his brow. His name was Damian Creed, Tau-51's commander.

"Alright, let's give this another try," he sighed and gestured for his two companions to follow. Without another word, they seamlessly wormed their way to the back of the main museum building, passing like ghosts out of sight of any onlooker.

"How does this one work, Dwyer?" Creed asked, the trio stopping in front of a Staff Access door.

"Simple passphrase and key set up," a stocky man with a shaved head replied. "But it is inside the maintenance corridors."

Creed nodded and tugged at the handle. Locked.

"Lawson?" he asked. A tall woman with black hair in a neat bun nodded and quickly set to work. Within moments the door opened.

"Record time," Dwyer snickered.

"It's a pretty shitty lock." Lawson stood up. "Though, to be fair, this isn't exactly 19. You're up."

Creed nodded, stepping inside with a deep breath. The corridor soon arrived at a dead-end: a brickwork wall totally inconspicuous outside a small hole around chest height, roughly in the shape of a flower. Dwyer gingerly pulled out a small wire frame rose from their pocket and fit it into the indent.

"Keep Portland Weird," Dwyer said as they stepped back from the wall. The three agents held their breath, waiting for something to happen. Seconds trickled into minutes. The brick wall remained unchanged.

"Keep Portland Weird," Creed repeated. He approached the wall, pressing on the wire to make sure it was correctly placed in its slot.

"Keep Portland Weird!" He shouted now, his hand flying back as he began to smack the artificial rose.

"Keep! Portland! Weird!"

The wall continued to remain unchanged. Creed looked at the tiny cut marks on his hand and clenched his fist. Another route to Three Portlands dead on arrival.

"Another dud, Creed," Lawson said. "I think we need-"

"No!" Creed snapped back. "We still have half the Ways in Washington Park we can check. We are not done yet!"

"Creed, we've checked over two hundred of these things-" Dwyer began.

"And we haven't even begun to touch all the ones in Old Town, let alone the Shang-Hai tunnels-" Creed still went on, ignoring the growing protests of his fellow agents.

"Creed…"

"One of them is bound to work!"

"Creed!"

"We just have to-"

"Damian!"

Creed stopped. His two companions frowned. Dwyer shook his head, while Lawson placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Look, Creed," she went on, "I know you loved her, man. Who wouldn't? Ross was fantastic. But you need to face the music. She's gone. Three Portlands is gone."

"No amount of Wayfinding is going to change that," Dwyer said. "It's a wild goose chase. I'm sorry."

Creed looked between the two of them, then closed his eyes. He let out a sigh and shook his head.

"You guys go home," he said softly. "I'm going to go check a few more."


Ross

International Center for the Study of Unified Thaumatology libraries were the dream of any scholar. Books upon books, scrolls upon scrolls, and all media in between on any subject mundane or occult stretching off into infinity, rivaled only by THE Library in terms of scope and breadth of knowledge. The ICSUT library at the Three Portlands campus was no different, with the added benefit of its location behind the veil allowing more unusual volumes to be stored there. Unfortunately, the year 2024 had not been kind to that temple of knowledge. An incident resulting in the 'death' of the Mayor of Three Portlands had set the world outside unglued. The very fabric of reality in the city was unraveling at the seams. Once dedicated staff of the library had long abandoned their posts to seek a lifeboat to flee the sinking ship. The numerous volumes were unattended and free for looting. That is if someone could dispatch the security golems that remained behind.

Several of these very same golems recently began to litter the halls of the main lobby. One sprawled across the librarian's desk. A still steaming and crackling hole had been placed through its main chassis where a bolt of lighting had devastated its internal workings. Another had been slammed through a reference shelf. Its once glowing eyes were now dark. A burn mark had been placed on its head where a skilled hand had sucked out its life force. A third was partially melted to the floor, its one remaining arm left frozen as it attempted to desperately claw away. Several bullet holes in the back of its head indicated the fruitlessness of that endeavor. Finally, one was still standing at its original post. Scratches and gouges criss-crossed its external plating where a pack of wraiths had ambushed the poor machine before ripping out a handful of vital components. Standing in the center of this carnage, still panting from their efforts, were two women.

The first had an athletic build and neck-length red hair. Her eyes were obscured behind thick goggles, and her work boots and plain clothes had been tattered across multiple weeks of fighting and surviving. A standard issue Foundation pistol was holstered on her left thigh, its supply of ammunition running increasingly short. A black glove, newly supporting several holes, adorned her left hand. Her name was Agent Beatrice Ross of MTF Tau-51, and she was an ICSUT-trained evoker.

The second was a dark-skinned woman with a ravaged red raincoat. A skeletal raven sat perched on her shoulder. A heavy bag adorned her back, full to bursting with occult components of every kind. Multiple flasks of colored tonics and tinctures firmly rested in holders on her belt. A shotgun stolen from an owner now far too deceased to care was held tightly in her grip. Her name was Dr. Annabelle Lee, PhD. A private practice necromancer, also ICSUT-trained.

"NEVERMORE!"

The skeletal raven left its perch and flew deeper into the library, leaving the two mages behind to survey their carnage.

"I thought you said the plan was to do this quietly," Anabelle said with a sigh as she reloaded the shotgun. Just as with Ross's pistol, her supply of ammunition was running down. "Anyone within a mile of the campus would've heard all that."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Beatrice shivered. Her body temperature slowly restored itself as the thaumatological backlash from her castings wore off. "I'm sure they'll be able to tell the difference between our explosions and the rest of the ones in the city. Besides, anyone who isn't stupid or insane is likely at the camps Thorne and the UIU have set up. We'll be fine for now. It's not like we haven't already had to deal with idiots thinking they're on Fury Road. Or paranoid assholes who think a studio apartment qualifies as a bomb shelter!"

The agent approached the great oak doors at the entrance of the library and peered outside. Hills were appearing where there had once been fields. Trees ribboned and spiraled skyward before vanishing into the ether. Buildings warped in on themselves into Escherian shapes or slowly vanished toward singularities altogether. The footpaths around the campus turned tacky, like fly paper, or semi-solid like quicksand. Fortunately, the surplus of EVE that permanently surrounded the library seemed to ward off these effects. For now.

Beatrice sighed and closed the great doors with a long creak. She quietly reset the latch, barring the chaos outside from entry.

"Really think this will work?" the agent asked her companion. "We might not be able to get out of here if things go south."

"Neither of us are conjurers," Anabelle shrugged, "so probably not. Still, if any Way was fortified enough to survive, I imagine that where the Library overlaps with Three Ports will probably be it. At the very least, we can try to send a message. Maybe."

The skeletal raven returned and resumed its perch on the Necromancer's shoulder.

"NEVERMORE!"

"Alright, the coast is clear. Let's see what we're working with."


Creed

Hey there, Damian.

You and I always knew our time together would be limited. Just the shelf-life of MTF agents in the end. The question was always 50/50 as to who would leave who behind. If you are reading this then I guess it must have been me. I'm also guessing that you must be absolutely hurting right now. I'm so sorry to have caused you such pain.

Thank you for everything over these years. Of all the games we ended up playing for the Foundation, the ones I played with you were always my favorite. You made me feel welcomed and loved in ways that I hadn't been for a long time. I feel like it's not too much of a reach to say that feeling was mutual.

Keep up the good fight.

Love,

Bea

Agent Creed held the note tightly in his hands. His fingers trembled slightly as he read the words to himself over and over. The rest of Tau-51's shared office at Site-64 was empty, allowing him the chance to grieve in private as he put the final touches on Agent Ross's MIA report.

He returned the note to its envelope in his inbox. He was unsure if it was something he should take home and frame, if only as a memento to her.

"How are you holding up?"

Creed snapped from his fugue to see Assistant Director Sasha Merlo. A sad smile appeared on her lips as she slowly approached the mourning commander.

"I've been a hell of a lot better. We lost Three Portlands," he said. "And with it, my… most valuable agent."

She placed a hand on his shoulder. He sighed and offered an empathetic smile in return.

"How about you though?" he asked. "I know Holman was like a father to you. You holding up?"

"Been a hell of a lot better, Creed," she replied in kind. "Certainly seems-"

"It's ridiculous they handed over command to whoever this Moretti person is." Creed's voice raised as he cut her off. "Criminal even! If anyone was trained to take over after him, it was you. Fuck, that is what Holman himself would have wanted! We certainly have a way of shooting ourselves in the foot in the Foundation. God damn."

Merlo chuckled.

"To be honest, I'm not sure I would have wanted the job under these circumstances I'm not sure I'm the steady hand the site needs right now. We'll see."

Creed shrugged.

"Still, you're the real Site Director in my eyes. Always will be. Fuck the O5."

"It really means a lot to hear you say that, Damian. You're too kind," Merlo said. She reached into her blazer pocket and placed a neatly folded piece of notepaper on the table. "Let me know if you or the rest of the Brawlers need anything. We have to stick together during these trying times."

Merlo left the room soon after, leaving Creed behind to browse the note.

Secret Crest Pub.
Tonight at 2100.
Ask for a Blackbird Special.
Be prepared for possible interference in attending.


Ross

Beatrice and Anabelle stood before an isolated door in an otherwise mundane alcove within the ICSUT library. A small keypad rested on the wall next to it. It had taken them two days to find out what the code had been changed to since both of them had graduated. Fortunately, Three Portlands was absolutely riddled with ghosts and long-passed spirits that a skilled necromancer could quickly bind to seek such things. Twenty minutes and a half-dozen spirits later, they had their answer: A sticky note left underneath a desk by a forgetful librarian with the last three codes written on it.

Another day passed with both mages entering the empty closet behind the door and reiterating the passphrase in different ways: "By this art you may contemplate the variation of the twenty-three letters."

Even with this effort, the two were only able to reach a frustrating conclusion. Despite this Way still occasionally sparking with activity, for all practical purposes it was as dead to them as a means of escaping Three Portlands. Still, the fact that there was still a hint of a connection to the Library suggested that perhaps they could at least jury-rig a one-way message to the world beyond.

Anabelle sat at a nearby desk, poring over a stack of theoretical and applied conjuration texts. She scribbled out notes for a planned spell that likely would not work. Occasionally, she would take a break and glance out a window to examine the continued warping of the world outside. A strawberry pink smog had recently rolled into the surrounding neighborhood. Figures would dash in and out of it briefly. While they were hard to make out, the vast majority of them appeared to be security golems. She was never quite sure if it was a single golem she was seeing over and over again, or if someone was amassing an army just beyond their door.

Beatrice returned from the depths of the library. A bag of supplies and components she had managed to scavenge from various nooks and crannies was slung over her shoulder.

"So, what, we're just going to drop off a letter into the Library, and hope it makes it to its destination?" The agent placed the bag down gingerly, so as to not disturb the many fragile contents inside. "That's more of a longshot than any of my plans."

"Things lost in the Library have a way of arriving at their appropriate destination if someone wants them to be found," Anabelle said. "And I don't hear you coming up with anything better. Perhaps instead of critiquing me your increasingly limited time would be better spent, I don't know, preparing the message you want to send?"

Beatrice pulled out an envelope from her jacket pocket.

"Already ahead of you."

"Touche," the Necromancer chuckled. "Love letter to your boyfriend?"

"A notice that Three Portlands is still here to the Foundation," Beatrice corrected. "We had a pretty solid interest in using Three Portlands as a containment cell of sorts. They wouldn't just let us vanish. Not Holman anyway."

"How do you know the Foundation didn't cause this whole mess to begin with?" Anabelle asked. She raised an eyebrow and looked up from her notes. "You guys aren't exactly saints, and wiping Three Ports out of existence would save you all a lot of time, money, and headaches."

"Kind of goes against the whole 'Protect' part of 'Secure. Contain. Protect.' Don't you think?" Beatrice asked. "We're not the Coalition. Not that you'd ever see the nuance…"

Anabelle shrugged. "Look, all I am saying is don't hold out too much hope your boy toy and the rest of the Suits are going to come riding in here on a white steed."

"Yeah? Okay! And who are you reaching out to, pray tell?"

"Oh, just some colleagues I networked with a while ago." Anabelle smiled. "Big on serpents and their various appendages."

The conversation stopped there as a large clatter filled the halls: The sound of the great oak doors of the library being blown in off their hinges. Anabelle's smile vanished.

"NEVERMORE!"

The skeletal raven returned, flying in from its watch post at the library entrance.

"We have guests," she said.

"No shit?" Beatrice drew her pistol. She slid her letter in front of Anabelle. "How much time do you need me to buy you?"

"20 minutes, maybe more. We should have everything now though."

"You better get cracking then," Beatrice sighed. "Good luck."

"You too, Bea."


Creed

Hot August days turned into hot August nights. This was not, however, why Agent Creed was sweating heavily as he weaved his way at a brisk pace through the crowded streets of Downtown Portland on foot. The reason - for both the sweat and the brisk pace - was the pair of individuals in nondescript clothes some twenty paces behind him. He already suspected it was no mere coincidence thirty minutes ago, but after having doubled back for a third time, now he was certain. They were tailing him.

Going to need to make a break for it eventually…

Creed picked up his pace and managed to barely cross the street before the light changed. A strong flow of traffic separated him and his stalkers. For the first time that night, he was able to finally get a good look at the two of them. Both were built like linemen and were cloaked in heavy dark jackets despite the heat. They frowned as he made eye contact with a fake smile and wave. Neither was kind enough to return the favor. As a truck passed through the intersection he turned to sprint away. He zigzagged through the crowds and nearby park to provide some minuscule degree of protection from simply being capped.

Great going genius, now what the fuck is your plan? Hope they lose sight of you and just give up?

As he emerged on the opposite side of the park, he felt panic rise in his stomach. His smile from before turned into a mouth agape. Two more stalkers appeared ahead of him on the path. This time one of them did wave, and offered a smug smile at his attempt to flee. She was a tan woman with short brunette hair and a jagged scar running from her right temple to the left side of his chin. Along with her partner, she drew a silenced pistol.

The pair opened fire. Creed nearly slid on the pavement as he made a sharp turn. The brickwork behind him cratering as the rounds whizzed past, sending him darting down a nearby alley.

Sprinting up its concrete path, he reached for his sidearm. As he did so, someone stepped out from behind a corner and grabbed him by his shirt. Using the agent's own momentum against him, Creed was to sent crashing into a nearby dumpster. The air left his lungs as he bounced off the green metal with a dull metallic thud. The sharp pain of what was one or two broken ribs followed. Creed's pistol slipped from his grip and clattered out of reach.

He looked up to see the tan woman standing over him, pistol in hand. Terror filled his eyes as he briefly contemplated how she could have cut him off so quickly. The agent scampered backward on all fours. In a panic, Creed slammed his hand in his pocket. Crushing one of the contents, he quickly tossed it at his assailant. She watched it stick to her torso before she could step out of the way.

Looking down, she saw a black orb. No bigger than a marble. A tool used by many Foundation operatives who needed to quickly get rid of a body. The stranger's color drained from her face as her eyes widened.

"You fucking bastard," she managed to get out. Her form snapped and crackled as it collapsed into the marble. The orb itself vanished into a singularity prior to hitting the concrete. The hand that gripped the pistol was the only part to remain, neatly severed below the wrist in a clean, round cut.

"Fuck me, I am so screwed!" the agent mumbled to himself.

Footsteps could be heard approaching. Creed shakingly pried the pistol from the severed hand and leveled it at the bend in the alley. He opened fire before they even rounded the corner. The tan woman's partner arrived with only seconds to realize the tables had been turned. A series of dull thuds filled the air. Creed continued to pull the trigger on an empty magazine. Both assailants fell to the concrete below. Blood slowly pooled around them as the light left their eyes.

The agent quickly got to his feet and threw the pistol away, collecting his own. It was at this point the remaining pair of stalkers phased through nearby walls, to cut off his path at the end of the alley. The pair opened fire upon him without a moment's hesitation. Creed zigzagged as he sprinted. Backtracking his way out of the alley, he emerged into the Portland city streets once more. He dashed into the traffic of the adjacent street, narrowly dodging the oncoming cars. A light-rail car had just pulled into the nearby stop.

The agent used his last burst of speed to try and close the distance.

"The doors are now closing."

The automated voice of the car sounded as Creed slammed into the other side of the interior. The doors sealed shut behind him. He struggled to catch his breath, watching from inside the railcar as it sailed away, leaving his stalkers behind.

The agent ignored the dozen or so concerned looks he received from the other passengers and briefly closed his eyes.

"Oh yeah," he said under ragged breath. "I'm fucking screwed."


Ross

Upon entering the main lobby of the ICSUT library, Beatrice found a tattered man, flanked by over half a dozen golems. The great doors of the library littered the floor around them in splinters as though each had been run through a wood chipper.

He couldn't have been outside his 30s. Greasy blond hair was stringed behind him in an unpleasant mane. His jacket had the faded logo of Golemancy United on the lapel. Several guns covered his wiry frame as he finally noticed the agent slowly approaching him with a gun drawn. He snapped his fingers, setting one of the golems into a defensive stance in front of him. The remainder continued to ransack the lobby.

"Library is closed at the moment," she said. "What's your business?"

"How about names first?" he replied. "I'm Calvin."

"What is your business here Calvin?" Beatrice maintained her aim.

"Same as yours, I imagine." he smiled. "Access to the Way to the Library. A way out of this mess."

"I feel for you, I really do," Beatrice said, "but for the foreseeable future that Way is in use. We have maybe one shot at what we are trying to pull, and I won't let you muck it up."

"What I am hearing is that there is maybe one shot for me to get off this dumpster fire then." Calvin took a step forward. The golem did as well. A shot rang out from Beatrice's pistol, punching a hole through the automaton's chassis.

"That's the only warning you're going to get," she said. "We are trying to send a message to people who can help us. All of us. I will not let you jeopardize that."

"No one is coming," Calvin replied calmly. "A whole city vanishes out of reality and you think the people who could do something about that didn't notice? No one is coming for us, regardless of whether you can get a message out. Have you looked outside lately? It's everyone for themselves now. I killed a goddamn sphinx to get in here. I am not leaving empty-handed."

Calvin snapped his fingers. All remaining golems dropped what they were doing, and set themselves into attack positions.

"Last chance," he said. "Stand down."

The agent lowered her pistol in her gloved hand, the other raising up in surrender.

"Have it your way." she smiled. Then flicked a fireball into the crowd before her.

Calvin remained still. His initial two golems obediently stepped in front of the blast and were subsequently reduced to molten bronze. He sighed and snapped his fingers once more. The remaining golem's eyes glowed red as they quickly set into attack mode, and set off after the evoker who was now fleeing deeper into the library.

Beatrice shivered as she ran. She shook the thaumatological backlash from her frame as she rounded a corner and took aim.

"NEVERMORE!"

The agent jumped. She swore under her breath as Anabelle's skeletal familiar landed on the bookshelf above her.

"Tell Anabelle we have maybe five minutes before our guests are on top of us!" Beatrice shouted at the bird. "Urgency would be appreciated."

"NEVERMORE!"

The bird flapped away swiftly. Beatrice fired the remaining contents of her magazine into the first approaching golem, stunning it long enough for her to send a bolt of lightning through its head.

"Oh shit-"

Beatrice's stomach dropped as she realized she had just taken the bait. The golem behind her most recent victim had already let out a mighty punch into the adjacent bookshelf, sending it toppling onto its neighbor like a domino set. The agent dove away from her collapsing barricade and kept running, fleeing further into the library once more.

* * *

Anabelle put the finishing touches on the teleportation sigil at the base of the Way and smiled to herself at a job well done. She began to turn for the final spell components when wings only she could hear swooped down onto her shoulder.

"NEVERMORE!"

"Already? Goddess help me, she's supposed to be a fucking battle mage. Isn't this what she trained for?

"NEVERMORE!"

The necromancer let out a frustrated sigh and moved as quickly as she dared with how delicate her current surroundings were. Gingerly she placed a series of envelopes into the circle's center and closed the closet door. Channeling what little conjuration she remembered from school and her brief crash course over the last twenty-four hours, she intoned the Way's passphrase:

"By this art you may contemplate the variation of the twenty-three letters."

The circle glowed a brilliant blue, then vanished with a clap of thunder. Anabelle quickly rushed and pressed the combination into the keypad. With bated breath opened the door.

The envelopes were gone. As was the rest of the interior of the room. Ideally, both were now on a one-way trip to the Library.

"Hells yes," she said with a sigh of relief.

Her celebration was brief. A loud crash echoed down the hallway. A limping and bleeding Beatrice stumbled toward her with several golems in hot pursuit.

"A little… assistance.. would be appreciated!" Her companion shouted between deep breaths as she struggled to keep ahead of the lumbering automatons behind her.

"Get down!" she shouted in reply. Her eyes darkened until they were orbs as black as obsidian.

Beatrice slid to the ground. A wave of purple energy rushed forth, soaking the closest two golems. Anabelle raised her shotgun and fired two shots. The slugs hit each golem square in the carapace, and upon exiting at the other side, carried their life force with them. The golems collapsed in a heap of parts.

"Messages away," Anabelle said. She helped her companion to her feet. "Let's get out of here."

The two dashed towards an exterior-facing window and smashed it. Anabelle tossed two of the bottles on her belt to the ground below, one blue, and one yellow. As soon as the tinctures inside contacted one another, they formed a thick green foam that rapidly expanded upward into a large cushion.

Beatrice and Anabelle turned back. Calvin and four of his golems had just turned into view. The former's eyes seethed with rage. The latter drew four telescoping bronze javelins from compartments in their arms and leveled them in preparation to throw.

"Kill them both."

The two mages both flipped him the bird in unison before jumping to the awaiting safety below. Four javelins sailed above them harmlessly into the smog. From there, they put distance between themselves and the library.

"Talk about out of the frying pan," Anabelle chuckled. "What now?"

"I think we should pay Thorne a visit," Beatrice replied. "They'll want to know what we just did."


Creed

Secret Crest Pub
~
Established 1971

Currently closed due to staff shortage - Will reopen tomorrow.

"Well, fuck," Creed mumbled. The agent slid down against the door, head in his hands. "That's just about how today has been, hasn't it."

Several minutes passed. Eventually, he ceased feeling sorry for himself and pulled out his phone: an attempt to reach Merlo to see if things had been rescheduled. It was then the door behind him opened, causing him to tumble backward over the threshold.

"What were you going to order?" a voice whispered.

Creed peered upwards. A middle-aged bartender who looked inexplicably familiar stood over him, a revolver in hand. His gaze narrowed as he awaited Creed's reply.

"I, uh, guess a Blackbird Special?" Creed stated. To his surprise, the old man stepped aside and offered him a hand up.

"You're late. Hurry up and get to the basement, the last door down the hallway."

Creed nodded and got to his feet. Had he more time he might have appreciated the charm of the bar itself, which would have reminded him of some of the old-school pubs he had seen in his many travels. Instead, he beelined to the basement door and promptly descended a well-lit stairwell into a musty, brick-lined basement. At its center was a large table covered in maps and documents. A corkboard adorned with countless faces connected by various colored strings adorned the far wall.

"Glad you could finally join us, Creed," Sasha Merlo said, sitting near the far head of the table.

Beside her, on her right, was a blond woman sporting thin-rimmed glasses and shoulder-length hair done back in a ponytail. Creed recognized her as Agent Clarissa Shaw, MTF Commander of Gamma-13. Across the table from her was a pale, gangly man with messy hair and deep rings of sleep deprivation around his eyes. Creed recognized him as well: Researcher Jacob Conwell, of the Site-64 Anomalous Materials lab. Interspersed between them were several other agents and researchers Creed had seen around Site-64, but either due to obligation or circumstance had never had the opportunity to formally meet.

"So what is all this then?" Creed asked. "And why the flying fuck were Alpha-1 agents trying to grab me this evening?"

"They were the ones who killed Holman," said Merlo. "And because I picked up where he left off they are going to kill us too if we're not careful."

Creed nodded along.

"Yeah, okay…" he said, "but why?"

The eyes around the table looked down, different amounts of regret, sadness, and rage coming over everyone else in the room.

"Because," Merlo finally answered. "The Foundation is purging itself of anyone sympathetic to the anomalous. Which, by the nature of your relationship with Ross, includes you. The disappearance of Three Portlands at the same time is also no coincidence."

Creed's mouth hung open. He made several attempts to speak, but for once in his life he was fully without words.

"Welcome aboard, Damian."


As Dr. Annabelle Lee has once stated, things lost in the Library had a habit of arriving at their intended destination, so long as the person who left them there wanted them to be found. Whether this was the work of the many Librarians, magic, or another force entirely was still a hotly debated topic in some cells of the Serpent's Hand. The academics would have been quite interested, then, in the unmarked envelope that arrived, completely unseen by any security cameras, in Agent Damian Creed's inbox within the depths of Site-64

The contents, when the agent finally returned and had a chance to open it, were a densely packed handwritten letter that began:

Damian,

I'm writing this from inside Three Portlands. All of us, the people who live in the city, are still here. We are still alive…


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