During the second world war the OSS (and, for that matter, several other nations) had had a few very special agents. Men with strange powers who had answered their countries call rather than the lure of the exotic paths that had opened before them. Most had fallen, fighting the things that came to feed at the death-camps charnal fonts. Of the remaining handful, fully two-thirds had vanished after the war, whether because they choose to forget the horrors that they had seen, because they found themselves drawn to paths that normal mortals could not follow, or because – in a few cases – frightened men such as Stalin found ways to have them suppressed or eliminated.
The few who remained were almost always… lesser. They were low-grade psychics, men who dabbled in alchemy and ritual, astrologers, and other seers.
But governments have rarely willingly let go of secret lore. Despite the efforts of the Illuminati and the Elemental Masters, what had been released was almost impossible to wholly suppress. In a hundred hidden locations tiny projects continued to pass on fragmented lore, occasionally even adding to the secrets they possessed.
Doctor Alex Rainer worked at Area 51, studying the relics of wonder that had come into the government’s care. His clairvoyant and divinatory talents – however limited – had been enough to secure him a covert invitation to an EPA commission meeting, and the “language amulets” had been more than enough to catch his eye.
Someone who was capable of making devices with at least a modicum of genuine power was apparently going to talk about it publicly! On the record! And answer questions! Usually… no one but the wild talents dared go public; there were groups out there with plenty of power who didn’t like it – and so, when the special powers got too blatant, it was best to stay away…
That entity had turned out to have an astounding amount of raw power (no doubt why he felt free to ignore the opposition), and had handed out enormously powerful amplifiers for psychic powers and “magic” – and had demonstrated the power to terraform worlds with little more than line of sight and a few gestures.
Getting a budget increase was no trouble at all after that. They could even afford to reopen the long-shelved projects – and with the amplifiers they even had a reasonable chance at getting somewhere with them! And even at making more amplifiers, even if it would take some time. The things even explained their own design! They’d been handed the keys to a thousand mysteries!
A17-J had been shelved for some time. Sure, it seemed like it had once been a living thing – but it was now little more than a virtually indestructible statue. But with an amplifier… perhaps he could at last probe through the network of stasis-energies that preserved it and examine it’s structure to see how it differed from a normal human!
A safety barrier and a few guards were in order of course. When you were meddling with this stuff you never quite knew what was going to happen!
And as his probe threaded delicately through the intricately interlocked energies wrapped around the statue to touch it’s surface… those fields unlocked. The “statue” shimmered, it’s composition shifted from Jade to Jadelike Flesh – and it sat up, looking around in some startlement.
(Statue, in Old Realm; fortunately, the scientists knew a bit of it) “What in the Deeps?!?! That stasis-stunt actually worked? Who… THAUMATURGY? Whoever you are, come out! I am Exploration-Commander Forging Thunder! Who has awoken me without the presence of the Search?”
That was a considerable shock – but Doctor Reinier was a scientist, and curiosity overcame shock in moments, although he did put up a ward before coming out.
(Reinier ) “I’m Doctor Alex Reinier, with Area 51. I’m… just as surprised as you are.”
(Forging Thunder) “What, a human? You show surprising skill for a human… Do you carry the blood of one of the more powerful races? That’s the usual reason!
A17-J AKA “Forging Thunder” was stretching – and shedding a few flakes of the once-molten stone that had gotten tangled in his hair and layered on his skin after the crash. His physique was impressive – almost literally “sculpted” – and he had a few items that evidently were NOT a part of the “statue” after all – some sort of light breastplate, some complicated bracers, a belt, a “kilt”, and a short-handled hammer of some sort. That could be a problem if things turned ugly… not that that seemed very likely at the moment.
(Reinier) “I’m just a normal human, as far as I know. Fascinating… your gear usually does that when you go into stasis?”
(Forging Thunder) “Of course! It is of jade alloy, and bonded to my essence… that which affects me will affect it! Hmm… Your Guardians need not be so nervous! You have done nothing deserving of harm!”
(Reinier) “Sorry, we keep security pretty tight around here.”
A thousand tests had failed – but this WAS a military facility; there were two guards, but they had sent for more!
(Reinier) “Anyway… what do you remember from before the crash?”
(Forging Thunder looked at him rather oddly) “Immediately? Ordering the three crewmen to use their survival systems and eject before I tried to set the ship down! Sadly… the wyld energies probably overcame them; they would have had little power to resist them. A complete hash…. the lost one we had come for turned out to be nothing but a wyld mirage, and those same forces disrupted out drives! The Brenschailin must have thought me dead, and numbered me among the lost! But enough! You have done me a favor by awakening me – but I must know where I am, and if you know how long I have slept in stasis!”
Reinier was considering… well, a basic answer couldn’t do much harm and he did want to keep this friendly if that was at all possible! Besides, there would be more important people along soon though!
(Reinier) “You’re deep within the Nevada Test Range, in the United States of America. You’ve been asleep since 1947; we found you near Roswell, New Mexico.”
(Forging Thunder) “Still at the center of Creation then! But I do not know to what “1947” refers… has it been years? Decades? Centuries? Eons? And are there un-united states then?”
(Reinier) “Well… the current year is 2013, so that’s 66 years. And the United States has been around since 1776.”
(Forging Thunder) “Ah! Not so long at all – and a youthful federation then! So… I have been brought here because…?
(Reinier) “We’ve been… studying you all this time. Most of us were sure you had once been a living thing, but couldn’t prove it – our equipment kept giving strange readings.”
(Forging Thunder) “So! You have only recently discovered the arts again?”
(Reinier) “Magic, you mean? Well, I suppose so… I had thought this level of power was unheard of.”
(Forging Thunder, looking at his own arm) “Judging from the traces… it is fairly high for a human! Especially if no major ritual was involved… So: Your federation of “states” has only recently rediscovered the arts – yet you have been collecting things of mystery for some time! Your guardians here… appear very organized for a local force; so your federation feels threatened; you likely do not dominate your world! So you will seek some advantage from my unexpected awakening will you not?”
(Reinier) “You’re a savvy one… I’m not sure what my superiors will be wanting from you. I’m sure they have ideas. Training, at the very least.”
(Forging Thunder) “Humans were made weak and fearful by the Elder Ones of Times Dawn to play their role in their games. Humans have grown since then – but no one within the patterns of the world can entirely escape their heritage! Let us go and see your superiors then!”
Reinier nodded to the soldiers, and call them in-best to keep the alien as contained as possible.
(Reinier) “Elder Ones? They… don’t have tentacles, do they?”
(Forging Thunder) “Well, some of them! I take it that there are visionaries or ancestral memories among you?”
(Reinier) “We usually call them psychics.”
(Forging Thunder) “I see!”
Somehow – in violation of quarantine – Forging Thunder had things moving towards a conference room when the local base commander turned up.
(Commander) “What the HELL?!?! Who let whatever-it-is out?”
(Reinier) “Huh? What the – how did you do that!?”
(Forging Thunder) “Do what? Speeding-The-Gears-Of-Progress is a simple trick!”
(Reinier) “Argh! We need to get you back to quarantine – sorry about that, but it’s regulations.”
(Forging Thunder, reflectively) “Nothing like the Inevitably-Of-Success… What, to waste time? It will not be more than a few more years will it? I would not wish to spend more than a century or two away from my duties! But if we must appease She-Who-Lives-In-Her-Name with an offering of time, then we must…”
They headed back to quarantine – where Forging Thunder smacked his hammer on the floor, pulled up a table and chairs, and requested lunch…
(Reinier) “So you hit the ground with it, and it summons stuff? What do you eat, anyway?”
(Forging Thunder) “It is the Efficient-Workplace-Shaping pattern… And much the same things as you do I imagine! You are, after all, very near the center of creation – and as such more or less unchanged from the beginning!”
Reinier sent for sandwiches and hamburgers from the lunchroom – which Forging Thunder found rather dull.
(Forging Thunder) “Dear me! Do you eat this sort of stuff all the time? I believe we have… some sort of ground-up fatty meat shaped into a patty, a dab of paste, a bit of pickled vegetable, and… is that supposed to be cheese? As an interrogation technique it’s not bad!”
(Reinier, sighing) “That’s cafeteria food for you.”
Forging Thunder made no real secret of his goals; he wanted to get in touch with the Search and call for a pickup – but he wasn’t being particularly unreasonable in the meantime.
Reinier was researching rather frantically… the additional information that he’d managed to download from Aden’s archives during that visit had been nowhere’s near what was available – but that helpful librarian-program (possibly a genuine artificial intelligence?) had helped him pick out some of the most “informative” and “useful” texts…
It didn’t take him long to narrow it down to the “Jadeborn”.
Meanwhile, the Base Commander had a far more direct set of questions; much of this new information, and amplifiers for the minor psychic abilities that turned them into a fabulous array of fantastic powers, had come from a single entity – which had also demonstrated the capacity to transform entire worlds in seconds and who was apparently running a variety of trans-national projects around the world! Even if that entity was apparently benign, having an independent source of information to cross-check with was invaluable! How many high-powered “magical” species were out there? What would one of THEM say that “Charles Dexter Ward” was? What was this “Search” that their… “friend” had mentioned?
Forging Thunder was an Artisian-class Jadeborn (most were since these days, since the new ones weren’t cursed and far outnumbered the old ones). The discription of what could only be a world-body was enough for him!
(Forging Thunder) “Hm… It almost sounds like you have a newborn Elder One on your hands! I have never heard of such a thing, but only the Elder Ones exist as entire worlds of their own. As for their powers… those are almost without limit; we do not believe that more than a few actually participated in creating the universe, and one alone expanded it to it’s present size. As for powerful “magical” species… they are of little concern compared to an Elder One, but there are my people of course, and the Raksha – who are active on this world or there would not have been a wyld mirage! – and a few others, but they are scarce; and are scattered far across the greater cosmos; most races are basically just more humans! I think they need not concern you though; here alone in all the worlds known to the search, the Elemental Vanguard remain in numbers!”
(Commander) “Tell me more about this Search… you mentioned that a lost one bought you here?”
(Reinier) “And I think I know what you mean by Elemental Vanguard: air, earth, fire, water, and wood?”
(Forging Thunder) “Ah, you know of them at least… Your people are in many ways fortunate! When you die most of you are reborn automatically, with no difficulty – and you can increase in numbers! With mine… our souls lodge in stone, and must be sought out and released – although we do get to bypass the awkwardness of “childhood”.
(Reinier) “And you said that we are at the center of the universe… So Earth is indeed a linchpin of existence?”
(Forging Thunder, with some surprise) “You didn’t know?
(Reinier) “Well, I suppose we’re at the center of what we can see, but I had no idea!”
(Forging Thunder) “From what we have been able to tell… the rest of the universe was established as a buffer zone, to protect the local group of galaxies in general, and the earth in particular.”
(Reinier) “So we are the core… have you found the other ‘poles’ these texts mention?”
(Forging Thunder) “Those lie far beyond our reach; the search covers only the area where our people are reborn – and that is a mere fifty or sixty million light year radius of the Earth. The poles… Lie far, far, beyond that.”
(Commander) “And you’ve been doing it since that ‘Reshaping’ happened…”
(Forging Thunder) “Of course; even now… the Search is thinly spread, and my people may wait decades or centuries for rebirth.”
(Reinier) “So, assuming you’re eventually let out, you’re going to call for rescue. I’m not sure how people would react to that.”
Although, the way things were going, even more bizarre things were scheduled to happen! Those Stargates just for a start! A lot of the secrecy would be pretty meaningless at that point!
(Forging Thunder) “Why? They would simply transport me aboard if they can find a location clear of interference or send a small ship – and those are easily concealed.”
(Reinier) “Fair enough.”
That area of negotiation was more the Commander’s responsibility than Reinier’s – but it looked like their “guest” would be perfectly willing to serve as an advisor for a decade or so; he seem to think that he owed his “hosts” a favor, and diplomatic relations with the people of Earth might be quite useful to the Search!