The Signing Of The Las Vegas Accords
rating: +32+x

April 1998

“Sir. Sir?”

Blank woke with a start and a snort. His glasses had slipped down his nose, and he took them off to rub his bleary eyes. He looked up — a blond-flight-attendant-shaped blob was in front of him. He placed his glasses back on his face and realized the rest of the plane was empty.

“We’ve arrived, sir. You fell asleep.”

“You don’t say…”

He heaved a sigh and loosened the seatbelt, getting to his feet. The plane ride from London (not the one you’re thinking of) to Vegas was nine hours and change - he’d zonked out somewhere over the 49th parallel, disappointing ghosts from 1812 everywhere. Grabbing his briefcase from the overhead compartment, he straightened his suit jacket. Then something caught his eye outside of the plane window.

“Oh my god, is that the sun?!”


The airport was a bustling hub of activity. Passengers arriving, departing, boarding and unboarding as far as the eye could see. It was April, square in the middle of Vegas’ on-season; most of these passengers were bound for a fun weekend losing their hard-earned money on the Strip. Dr. Harold Blank found himself almost jealous. He made an irritated tsk as the agent searched his briefcase, another irritated tsk as he grabbed the wrong suitcase from the baggage claim, and a final irritated tsk as he waited in line for his passport to be stamped by the exhausted-looking agent.

“Business or pleasure?”

“No.”

She waved him through anyway. The airport was fraught with kitschy decorations, signs from the various casinos and plenty of cheap merchandise for departing tourists to give their kids in lieu of a jackpot win. Overhead was a massive “WELCOME TO LAS VEGAS” sign, complete with a blinking set of neon dice.

It took an hour to make it from the plane to the arrivals concourse. In that hour, Blank affirmed that yes, he still hated Las Vegas. Clutching his suitcase, briefcase, and jacket slung over his shoulder, he wandered out into the shaded area that offered a little relief from the scorching Mojave sun. The concourse was just as crowded as the airport, with cars, shuttles, confused passengers and drivers blocking the flow of traffic. The place reeked of smog and gasoline. Where the hell was he—

Then he spotted a black Mercedes idling at the other end of the concourse. A woman in a black suit — with the edges of a Kevlar vest visible underneath — and Vegas Angels baseball cap on a mess of striking white hair leaned against the hood, holding a sign above her head: “DOCTOR HAROLD BLANK” and below it, in smaller letters “welcome back buddy!” He couldn’t see her eyes behind the sunglasses, but that was enough.

As he approached the car, the woman lowered the sign, spun around, and popped the rear passenger door before clambering inside the driver’s side. Inside the car, he could see another figure leaning against the seat. Magnanimous fuck, couldn’t even get out of the—

He leaned through the door. The man in the seat was tall and slim, a mop of long black hair resting on his head. He was wearing a black suit with a Foundation lapel pin, complete with curious white gloves. A white labcoat was balled up next to him — he was sweating like a pig, but broke into a smile upon seeing Harry.

“Oh, yes! Hello, you must be Doctor Blank. Please, get in!”

Blank narrowed his eyes.

“Who the hell are you?”

“Daniel Asheworth. Director of Site-120 in Częstochowa. Poland.” The man stuck out one of those gloved hands.

He grasped it. “Call me Harry.”


At this time of day the sun was directly overhead, baking the Las Vegas concrete and anyone unlucky enough to be caught on it. Fortunately, the Mercedes had some sweet air conditioning. Unfortunately, there was nothing in the car to distract from Asheworth doing his best to drive him insane, deaf, or both.

“The weather here is terribly hot, don’t you agree? Back home at this time of year we’d be lucky to get a few days without clouds. You are from 43 in Canada, yes?”

“Yep, that’s… that’s right.”

“I went to Canada, once. This was before my employment with the Foundation, of course, just a pleasure trip to visit some old friends. Terribly cold! Quite a contrast from here. You must be suffering!”

“You can say that again.”

He prattled on for half an hour about every meaningless thing in existence — from the difference between their Sites’ cafeterias to some sort of planned “O4” project.

“… and that’s my specialty. Quite the unique job, I think.”

Harry blinked awake. “Oh, yes, very unique, eh?”

“And what do you do, Doctor Blank?”

“Oh, me? Nothing important. Just an archival specialist. An historian, really.”

“You must be quite an important historian to be invited with the other Directors.”

At this, Harry straightened and turned to look at his travelling companion. “I’m sorry, other Directors?”

Asheworth arched a pencil-thin eyebrow at his bushy friend. “Yes, it was all in the emails. Me, the Director of 332 in… Pen-cil-vania-”

“Pennsylvania.”

“Yes, that’s what I said, and that of Area-179 in the same state. And of course, our gracious host. Though, the emails were a bit bare on what we’re exactly…. here for.”

“Gracious is certainly one way to describe him.”

“I take it you have history? Hah, a historian with history.” He chuckled to himself at his private joke.

“You could say that. We worked together a few times a couple of years ago. I wouldn’t call him a friend or anything.”

“He’s uh…. are you religious, Daniel?”

“Me? Oh, no. Terribly hard to be a religious man in this line of work, don’t you think?”

“Okay, good. He has some…. interesting employment policies.”

“Well, don’t we al—”

“No, I mean exceptionally interesting.”

A feminine voice interjected from the driver’s seat.

“He means that he hires demons. Like me.”

There was a moment of silence. The woman in the driver’s seat never took her eyes off the road. Asheworth coughed.

“I beg your pardon?”

One hand still on the wheel, she popped the Vegas Angels cap off, revealing two mid-sized ivory-white horns poking out of the top of her head.

“…Oh.”

Harry snorted. “First time, eh?”

“I didn’t…”

“Yeah. Don’t worry, you get used to it after the first trip. This city is chock-full of them.”

“I’d heard the stories, but it’s altogether different to see it in person.” His earlier hesitation evaporated, replaced with that same boyish enthusiasm.

“Your name, Miss?”

“She can’t—”

“I can’t tell you my name.” She spoke in a pretty accent — he guessed Irish or Scottish, it was hard to say.

Asheworth smiled. “Like our friends from beyond!”

“Not quite. We’re bound to service using our True Name. But we do get codenames.” She smiled in the rearview mirror, baring her fangs. “You can call me Agent Calendar.”


Some time later, Harry looked up from his clipboard. The Mercedes was rolling down the Las Vegas Strip; Asheworth had his face plastered to the glass like a fish while Calendar addressed the both of them. Through the window, the neon-drenched cityscape danced and whirled — crowds and throngs of people going from building to building, billboards and gargantuan neon signs advertising and luring tourists in.

“This entire city is in Hell?” Asheworth asked.

“No, not quite that simple. The density of sin in Las Vegas has formed a mirror-image of itself in Hell — Undervegas — sitting on the same position in reality.. The physics are uninteresting to me, but the result is that the two cities occupy the same space, forming the single largest passage between the two realms in existence.”

“And the largest hotspot of demonic activity.”

“Correct.” She smiled at him again before continuing, “You are both experienced with anomalous communities — particularly you with Esterberg, Director Asheworth — and you realize the unique challenges that poses to your organization.”

Blank spoke up. “You don’t consider yourself part of the Foundation?”

“Mm, more of an independent contractor. Anyway, the result is that the Foundation must maintain a presence in a city that exists in opposition to them. The Director can tell you more, but he told me to make sure you were on the same page.”

In the distance, Harry could see the ominous black pyramid of the Luxor.

“What page is that, even? We haven’t been told the purpose of this visit. Or why we needed an escort.”

She raised an eyebrow over the sunglasses. “I’m no escort, Director Asheworth.”

He flushed. “I-I mean, that’s, er, not—”

“Relax, I’m only teasing. And I’m not your babysitter — think of me more as a bodyguard. Las Vegas can be a very dangerous place for the unacquainted.”

She shrugged, and Harry was suddenly very aware of the muscles beneath the suit and the razor-sharp tips to her horns.

“A Wrath Demon at your side, you’ll never get into a fight you can’t win. Or at least, you’ll win every fight you get into. Anyway — we’re here.”

The car slowed, then took a sharp right into an underground parking garage, stopping at a parking gate. She rolled down the window and flashed something to the guard, who waved the car in.

“We’re still pretty far from the Luxor.”

“Underground tram. Parking’s at a premium.”

A number of personnel in suits and labcoats milled about the well-lit parking garage, some stealing glances at the new arrivals. The Mercedes parked in an empty spot, surrounded by a sea of small sedans and hatchbacks, as well as several unmarked black trucks. Calendar opened the door Asheworth was leaning on, and he tumbled out of the car onto the concrete. Leaning down, Calendar grabbed him by the collar and gently placed him back on his feet.

“Welcome to Site-666, gentlemen.”


The man sitting at the roulette table was amassing a small kingdom of chips and a collection of hangers-on. He tugged down the Philly Eagles cap. A woman clung to either arm as he thought for a moment before tossing a handful of chips at the dealer. “Everything on black, odds.“

The cheer a few seconds later was audible from tables away. An even larger collection of chips slid along the table, right into Director Lague’s lap. Just as well, because he was getting the feeling it was time to cash out by the way the dealer’s horns seemed to be angling in his direction.

"Well, aren't we bold?"

The short, scruffy blond man speaking from next to him was in jeans and a Steelers jersey. "Then again, you seem to be having enough luck to back it up, huh?"

"Yeah, you're tellin' me. I'm so balls-deep in these chips I could-"

Wait, Pittsburgh?

Paul's eyes floated up to the man's face again. "Wait, do I know you?"

The man turned and smirked at him, setting down his beer on the edge of the roulette table. He poked his hand out after rubbing it on his shirt.

"Hey, Paul. Long time no see."

"Jay! Goddamn, what're the chances?"

"Pretty fuckin' good, don't you think? We got invited to the same event."

Lague raised an eyebrow as he placed another bet. "Oh yeah? I didn't know you're coming."

"I flew in yesterday. So that makes what… 4 of us? And then our mystery host."

"Fuck you even know about this guy? His deputy told me he's been in the Portlands for a week."

"No idea. He's young though, a little younger than we are. And we're already pretty goddamn young for the job."

Lague looked around the casino floor. "Mus' also be fuckin' insane, running a Site out of a casino."

"I don't think they have a choice. The entire Strip is one of the densest concentrations of the anomalous outside of of 19 and the Pacific Northwest."

"Shit. So what you been up to? I haven't heard from 179 in a hot minute."

"Oh, this and that. The anomalies we've integrated into site functioning are performing well, but it needs constant attention — I don't get a lot of opportunity for vacations."

"'Bout the same for me. This'll be a nice break. Play some cards, lose some money, meet some girls."

"I doubt it. Five power players in the same hotel? This is a business call, I bet my a…."

His sentence trailed off, his eyes fixated on a point just over Lague's shoulder. Out of the corner of his eye, he sensed movement and turned.

A tall demon in a three-piece suit and armor was being followed by two men — a pudgier guy in his thirties who seemed severely unimpressed and a tall, lean guy gawking at everything around him. The party was headed to their table. Dune spoke in a hushed, awed tone from behind him.

"Holy shit. Who's she?"

"Right, you ain't met Calendar yet. She's good people. Well, she ain't people, but still."

"I'm not even gonna ask about the name. Goddamn, I'd let her bench-press me."

Lague grimaced. "Jesus Christ, keep a lid on it, you freak."

The group stopped a few feet from him.

“Director Lague. And you must be Director Dune.” She nodded at them in turn.

"I- uh- yes, that's uh—"

Lague cut off his babbling. “Hey, Calendar.” He snapped his fingers, calling over one of the dealers and whispering in their ear for a cash-out before sending them away with a friendly back-clap. “These our new friends?”

“Correct. I’ll go see if the Director is ready for you.” She turned on her heel and melted back into the crowd.

Well, this guy’s a douche, Harry thought.

As if on cue, the douche stuck a hand out, along with his friend (who seemed to be recovering his wits). “Director Paul Lague, Site-322 in Philadelphia. Friends call me Paul. And you must be…”

“Harold Blank, forty-three.”

“That your site or your age?”

“Funny.”

The blonde man smiled at them all. "Hello, Jay Dune. Area-179's big baller shot caller."

Blank's traveling companion stuck out his hand, tearing his gaze away from the vaulted ceiling. “Asheworth, 120.”

Paul furrowed his brow. “Where is that ‘gain? Yugoslavia?”

“Poland.”

“…Right. Okay.”

The exchange of introductions, handshakes, assignments and business cards took a few minutes, but eventually it was over and all were acquainted. The foursome stood around in awkward silence — or as close to silence as it ever got on the gambling floor of the Luxor.

Asheworth was the first to break it. “So this entire Site is-”

“A casino, yeah. Damn if I’m not jealous.”

“Sounds stressful, if you ask me. I’m perfectly happy in the woods.” commented Harry.

Dune shook his head. “You’ve gotta admit there’s a certain degree of impressiveness, isn’t there? Running a Site is hard enough without running a legit business literally on top of it.”

Harry snorted. “I wouldn’t know.”

Paul nodded slowly. “…Right, you’re the archival guy. Okay.” Blank scowled.

Dune raised a quizzical eyebrow. "Wait, you're not a Director, Harry?"

"No. An historian. But I'm… people listen to me up at 43, and that's what matters."

"Fair enough, fair enough. You're obviously welcome at the big boys' table, which is good enough for me."

”And what about you, Mr. Asheworth? Thoughts?”

“It’s very, uh…grand. Did you say on top?”

“Yeah, most of the important stuff is underground — dangerous containment, personnel dorms, labs and offices. Though I’m told a few of the suites up top are reserved for the more high-class anomalies. Wild stuff.”

Asheworth gave him an odd look. “How long have you been here?”

“Arrived a few days ago. Been enjoying the city.”

“Have you seen the Director yet?”

“Nope. ‘parently he was in Portland for the past week, jus’ flew in a few hours ago. And as you can see-“ he motioned to the throne of chips behind him. “I been indisposed. Jus’ as in the dark as you guys, though — they ain’t told me shit about what they want. Though I got a feeling that-”

Calendar appeared out of the crowd again. She had slung the suit jacket over her shoulder, now dressed in the kevlar vest over a shirt and tie. “He’s waiting for you, gentlemen. Come with me.”

All four of them exchanged glances before following the demon through the crowd. Somewhere on the floor, a slot machine paid out big; the cheers of excitement rolled through the gambling floor like a wave as they made their way to one of the far walls of the pyramid, cramming into the elevator. As the doors shut, Calendar reached out and swiped a card into a reader and entered several numbers into the buttons. The elevator began to descend into the bowels of Site-666.


The elevator let out after a noticeable delay. Asheworth expected something like Site-19: a concrete-and-steel bunker that looked less like a scientific facility and more like a military base. When the doors opened to reveal a lushly carpeted corridor with sconce lights, he cocked his head. Interesting.

They quickly moved through the winding hallways, Calendar leading them. Through the doors, they could see into smaller rooms — offices, more normally decorated, and even a few armories and mass containment lockers. Personnel milling about, several with the same horns extruding from their skulls. Daniel gulped.

After a few minutes of walking, they arrived at yet another elevator at the end of one such corridor. Again they piled in and again, and the elevator began to rise.

“Why’d we bother goin’ down if we’re jus’ gonna go up again?”

She shrugged. “Security.”

Dune muttered under his breath: “Douuuchebaaag.” Harry suppressed a snicker.


The elevator let out again — this time directly into an office.

Harry raised his eyebrows.

They must’ve been on one of the highest floors of the building. The spacious office had floor-to-ceiling windows plastering one wall, gazing out over the Las Vegas Strip. By now, the sun had set, and the neon lights of Paradise had come out to play. The Strip was an amalgamation of hundreds of lights, signs, headlights, and other sources of illumination, all in a shifting mass. The silence projected a false sense of calm.

The office itself was tastefully decorated; tile flooring, chairs and coffee tables, and a set of couches on the far wall. A television set on a table. A mahogany table with several chairs around it completed the ensemble.

A young, dark-haired and olive-skinned man was sitting behind the mahogany desk. He couldn’t have been older than his early 30s. A three-piece suit with an angry red tie, and a small lapel pin — even from a distance Harry could tell it was obviously a stylized pentagram. He looked up as his guests entered and broke into a smile.

“Oh! Welcome, welcome!” They all shook hands, in another roundabout exchange of names and Sites.

“Director House, Randall House. Welcome to Site-666, I hope I haven’t kept you waiting long. Directors Lague, Dune, Asheworth, fantastic to finally meet you. And welcome back, Harry! I haven’t seen you since the Mecha Jackson Incident, how are you?”

Harry grunted. House led them to the sofas in the corner.

“Please, have a seat, anywhere you like is fine.” They settled into the low seats. “Thanks, Calendar.” She nodded sharply and left the office through the same elevator.

“So. How were your flights?”

“Me, I jus’ drove.”

“Wonderful. Daniel — do you mind if I call you Daniel? Harry? Jay?”

“Fine, I suppose. It’s rocketing through the air in a metal tube, what’s not to love?” Harry said flatly.

"Pretty good. The drinks made it tolerable."

They chuckled awkwardly.

“So, I imagine you’re all wondering why I’ve dragged you all out to the middle of the desert, right? Well, you have my apologies for any schedules I’ve interrupted. But I think you’ll want to hear what I have to say. I don’t know how familiar you are with the situation in Vegas, though I told Calendar to brief you on the way.”

Asheworth spoke up. “The city lies partially in Hell, doesn’t it?”

“That’s… mostly correct. In actuality, Las Vegas sits on top of a mirror-image of itself in Hell. The titular Undervegas. The boundary is weak and unclear at the best of times, and they regularly leak into each other. We’re surrounded by demons and all manner of hellish influence every hour of every day. The Site itself functions as an anchor, preventing the city from crashing back into Hell and causing a massive incident. We got lucky and pulled it out one time, though I doubt we’ll have that kind of luck again. But I digress.”

He continued with a flourish. “The point is, Las Vegas represents a unique challenge in containment. Grabbing every demon and chucking them into a cell simply isn’t practical - we’d run out of cells in five minutes flat. And to be entirely honest with you, the demons are more powerful than we are. Our hope lies in our resources: tricking them, outsmarting them, and of course, cutting deals with them that make our jobs easier.”

“This is all well and good, House, but this is your city. These are your problems. What does this have to do with us?” Dune inquired.

“I’m getting there. Site-666 is a unique site in a unique city, but, in a strange way, that makes it one of many.”

Asheworth cocked his head. “How do you mean?”

“Well, take you, Director Asheworth. Site-120 is something really special - rubbing shoulders with an enclave of our friends of the forest. Hell, you yourself are a thaumaturge! You can’t go in guns blazing and throw handcuffs on every animal-headed schmuck even if you wanted to. It’s just not realistic. So… what do you do?”

“Well, we’ve developed a fair few ways of protecting normalcy—”

“That’s the ticket, isn’t it? You’ve developed new ways. You’ve adapted and evolved to do your job in the situation. 43, 322, and 179 are infamous for integrating anomalies into Site life and operations, completely flipping the dynamic of usual containment sites. Am I wrong?”

Harry shrugged. “It’s what we do. Some look down on us for it, but our efficacy rate is way higher than the standard. They have to accept that it works sooner or later, eh?”

“But that doesn’t mean it’d always work. We’re jus’ the exceptions, tha’s all.”

House smirked. “Bingo.” He leaned back, pulling five manilla folders out of his briefcase and passing them around. “Take a look at these.”

Lague glanced over the title page. “These are… contracts?”

“Accords. A long list of them, in fact, but I’ll give you the long and short. 666, 179, 120, 43, and 322 make up five of the most unique, exceptional Sites in the Northern Hemisphere. They’re products of their surroundings — we can’t depend on usual protocols, so we make our own. But that also means that we don’t always have the support structure of the rest of the Foundation to call upon. They don’t know how to solve the problems we face, they never can. The Council thinks we’re mavericks who risk breaches every day we go to work.”

He got up, and walked to the window. He looked out over the Las Vegas Strip, glittering like a gem in the twilight.

“Those papers detail a plan to form a one-of-a-kind support network for truly exceptional sites in the Foundation. Offering mutual cooperative assistance in developing alternative containment solutions, task force commitments, consultancy for research projects, and a shared informational database. To start, four sites in North America and one in Europe. I’m sure more contenders will come in once we demonstrate the success of the program.”

Harry was the first to speak up. “This is risky, House. Dumb, even for you.”

“I agree, Director House. This is… a gambit, to say the least.”

"I can't imagine the Council will take kindly to this sort of… Balkanization." Dune idly noted, flipping through the folder.

House sighed.

“The Foundation is changing, gentlemen. Mass-lockups like 19 are already relics of the past. We have an opportunity to be the bleeding edge here, to change the Foundation for the better. Of course it’s risky. But you don’t get to the front of the line without taking risks. We're visionaries - we change the world to suit us, not the other way around.”

It was silent for a long time. The four men still sitting around the coffee table flipped through the stapled papers.

“Even if you decide not to take part, feel free to stick around town for a while. Stay in the suites, on me. Enjoy Vegas before going back to the grind.”

Harry looked at him strangely. “I said it was risky and dumb. I didn’t say no.”

Lague said nothing, merely took out a pen, flipped to the back of the document, and signed his John Hancock in flourishing script. “You’ve got my support, Randy.” Asheworth followed suit, as did Blank and Dune.

Asheworth slipped the paper back into his briefcase. “Obviously, I can’t make an executive decision, and I can’t imagine Doctor Blank can either. But I can tell you that I will express the utmost support for this idea back home.”

Harry nodded. “Me too. We’ve needed something like this for a long time, and I expect the brass to at least give it a fair listen.”

Dune smiled as he put the papers back into the folder. "Well, I can tell you that 179 is committed to making this work. And I'm sure Paul wouldn't complain about our sites getting a closer relationship."

"No sirree."

House smiled at them.

“One problem, though.”

“Yes?”

“The name.”

“The name? What’s wrong with the name?”

“”The Syndicate”? It sounds… ominous. Evil, even.”

“Well, what do you suggest?”

Harry pulled out a pen, scratching out the header.

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