Chapter 1: Prologue
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Tilarmus

Tilarmus led his army through the Izimathune Canyon in high spirits. This would be a safe mission for once. The main forces of his dimension had launched a major assault on the forces of the Prime Material, but not so major as to get the Prime Material’s higher gods involved.

All he had to do was guide his force through one of the inter-dimensional backroads, an intermediary minor dimension filled with nothing but sand, and send all the mortals, i.e. everyone but him, through the portals there.

They would enter into the Prime Material and attempt to infiltrate and gather souls, while he could just head back, getting a full third of the stolen souls for only a few weeks of work.

For a relatively weak demon god like himself, it was the best type of mission—at least until he saw her.

She looked like an old woman, human, with shoulder-length white hair, blue eyes starting to get cloudy, and pale skin. She was wearing a brown battle robe and holding a cane, which she seemed to need to keep herself standing, and, upon closer look with his senses, he could see she was A rank, not a god. She was a powerful mortal, but a mortal nonetheless, and, judging from her life force, one with half a foot in the grave.

She was standing at the end of the canyon, only a few thousand kilometers away, and, as he looked at her, he saw her throw up a little blood. But, just because she was dying, didn’t mean there wasn’t danger.

She had done something to the canyon, trapped it somehow.

As Tilarmus looked around at his army, the weaker demons were starting to die and, every time they did, a black and white gas, emanating the power of yin and yang, left their bodies and entered into their neighbors. Soon the weakest demons were all dead and the next most powerful were starting to fall, unable to keep the intangible gas from entering their bodies.

When they fell in turn, the next most powerful demons started to succumb as well, and the process was quick, the entire army dead within a few minutes.

He tried to move forward, to attack the woman with the large red claymore he drew from his back, but, even though it only took three minutes for him to flash step in front of her, his body was already full of the gas from his entire army.

He couldn’t lift his heavy sword and the old woman reached up and placed the bottom of her cane against his forehead, a light force pushing him onto his back, where he quickly expired.

That small movement seemed to hurt her almost as much, however, and she threw up a very unhealthy amount of blood as she opened her status screen to check her contribution points.

“Just enough.” Speaking her final words, Xara Valin, the Yin Yang Sage, died of old age.

*  *  *

Mila

“So, your name is Li Mila and you are a Chinese spy.”

As Mila woke in the bed of the Russian oligarch she’d been sent to steal from, her training kicked in, causing her to immediately analyze the situation.

First, the man had handcuffed her right wrist to one of the back posts of his four-poster bed. Second, she was only wearing a nightgown, not exactly fighting attire. Third, he was pointing a gun at her, an American made pistol. And, fourth, he had two body guards by the door, both with rifles, yet neither prepared for action.

Finally, most important of all, he hadn’t stepped back quite enough yet.

As quick as she could move, she launched her body forward with her free hand and right leg and kicked the gun out of the old man’s hand with her left foot, the gun launching itself right toward her neck. Then she caught it in her left hand and fired at the two guards, both shots right to the face as they were wearing kevlar.

“Hand me the keys please, Dimitri,” she commanded in the flawless Russian which had helped her get into his bed in the first place.

He reached into his pocket, but it was to pull out his phone, not get the key, which his body language let her know was not on his person, but on the body of one of the guards.

“Stop, Dimitri, or I’ll kill you.”

From what she knew of the man, no other guards were going to come running from the sound of his own gun, as he’d been planning on executing her, so she had the time to question him.

“How do you know my name?” The fact he even knew she was Chinese was a surprise. The child of a Chinese man and a Polish woman, with a little hair dye and an ever so tiny bit of makeup, most white men couldn’t even tell she wasn’t fully caucasian. The idiots. They just saw the big boobs and pretty face and their hormones did the thinking.

“Do you know Aalam Alvaro?”

Mila felt her face involuntarily twitch and the oligarch saw, taking a step forward in an attempt at intimidation.

“Of course you do. You were at the top of the list. Well, your former target sent out a list of all the intelligence assets ever sent at him, a quite extensive one, in an email blast to the heads of all the world’s intelligence agencies, including my friend Ivan, and last night he forwarded it to me. It included your picture and I was able to recognize you.”

Translation, even with her sharing his bed while he did so, it still took him a minute to place her as the much more obviously Chinese woman from the picture.

“Thank you, Dimitri. That will be all.” She shot him in the neck, specifically the carotid artery so more blood would spurt out and, as he was close, her nightgown was soon covered with the stuff.

Then she carefully angled the gun and shot at the cuffs holding her right hand to the four-poster, breaking the chain and thankfully not damaging her arm. Careful not to step in the growing blood puddle on the carpet, she then walked over to the guard with the key and undid the cuff on her wrist before undoing the other cuff from the four-poster and hiding both cuffs under the room’s mattress.

Realizing she wasn’t going to be able to hide the forensic evidence showing how they’d been holding her, and that her identity was compromised anyway, she didn’t even try to clean up any more and took out Dimitri’s phone, which she’d bugged the night before. Then she called the local police and stammered out a semi-coherent string of babble about how her one night stand had been murdered in front of her by one of his guards, saying all the right keywords for them to send more than just a patrol car.

She then put on a pair of socks, the only article of clothing she’d been wearing the night before which was at all practical, and put a few obstacles in front of the door, so the other guards would need time to get in once they came.

Then she waited until she heard sirens, took out a belt from Dimitri’s closet, and headed toward the room’s large windows, opening them up to the night air.

Dimitri’s room in his palatial complex was on the third floor, but, even before sleeping with the man, she’d already looked out from the window and figured out how she could escape.

There was a large tree out there, leaves bare as winter was starting, but, due to Global Warming, it wasn’t too cold for the skimpy attire she was wearing, so she wouldn’t risk hypothermia by going out.

Taking the belt in her right hand, she jumped out of the window, throwing the other end of the belt over a branch and catching it with her left hand. Then, when her momentum was fully arrested, she angled her body and let go of the belt with her left hand, pulling it off the branch and then sending it around another, again grabbing the other end with her left.

She did this a total of three times and then landed lightly on the grass, not having a single mark on her body. Then she left the belt and avoided security cameras and the lines of sights of distracted guards while she made her way to the front gate, where she ran up to the cops a blubbering mess.

It was pretty easy to not answer the questions she didn’t want to, as almost all the cops were male and her breasts were slightly visible through the sheer fabric of her nightgown, but escaping their custody was a bit harder, what with all the staring. She was forced to call several of them perverts and act like she was scared before enough stopped looking that she could escape and make her way to the nearby extraction site, jumping into the backseat of an unmarked white SUV with tinted windows.

“What happened?” one of the two men in the front seats, the driver, asked in Chinese, and, as he was her handler for the mission, Mila told him the facts of the night.

“Thank you.” The other man, the one she didn’t recognize, turned to look at her, a gun in his right hand and, as she’d put on her seatbelt, she wasn’t able to dodge, a bullet entering into her chest. “With your identity out, however, you are no longer an asset.”

*  *  *

Aalam

“This is potentially treason, Mr. Alvaro.”

Aalam Alvaro looked over at the member of the US Senate, one Mr. Tom Taylor, who looked like a cross between a tortoise and a humanoid blob monster, and shook his head slightly. “Respectfully sir, that’s not how treason works. Even someone like you, who’s been taking money from three Russian oligarchs for the last ten years in exchange for political favors, technically isn’t committing treason. Tax fraud and a few other crimes, yes. Treason, no.

“Do you understand this?”

Tom Taylor looked scared, the C-SPAN cameras catching it, and Aalam internally congratulated himself again for making his interview with the Senate Subcommittee on Intelligence public.

“Does anyone else have any stupid questions?” Aalam, a young man of 28, half Iraqi half Argentinian in heritage, 100% American in documentation, looked at several of the other members, all of whom he also had dirt on. “I put a Trojan into my own computer system, not yours, not the Chinese’s, not the Russian’s, nor any of the other governments and businesses whose internal files have now been leaked online. They and you stole my research, along with said Trojan, and, through said illegal act, released their own information onto the internet.

“All I did was look at these publicly available documents and then send an email out with the information of all the individuals used to spy on me, including members of the CIA and no members of the FBI, which raises a whole lot of red flags, seeing as I’m an American citizen.”

Aalam moved his messy shoulder-length brown hair out of his eyes as he continued to glare. “Now, I’ll ask again, why am I here? The information about your corruption is already out there, so dragging me away from my research doesn’t seem to serve any purpose.

“In case you’ve forgotten, the world is facing three pandemics and a global climate crisis, but, as you all won’t pay with the money you are exploiting to solve these problems with my current solutions, I need to go try and make everything cheaper.”

“Mr. Alvaro.” Doctor Penny Smith, one of the few senators on the committee without any skeletons in her closet, at least not any Aalam had yet found, sighed as she spoke to him. “Do you realize the implications of what you’ve released?

“I understand you’re in pain. Your girlfriend lied to you for years, your sister is sick, and everyone keeps going after you with a political agenda when you’re just trying to save the world, but the secrets you’ve released. It seems we’re almost on the verge of thermonuclear war.”

“Yeah.” Aalam leaned back in his seat, his previous anger replaced by a deep depression as he looked down at the desk in front of him. “I didn’t mean to do that.”

“Judging from your past accomplishments, you seem to be a very, very smart man.” Doctor Smith looked at him with fearful eyes, but of a very different kind of fear from Tom Taylor, or at least that’s how it seemed to Aalam, fear for others rather than fear for oneself. His sister often had those eyes. “Do you have any ideas to stop what’s coming?”

“I do.” Aalam continued looking down as he took out his phone and placed it in front of him. “I just don’t like it very much.”

“Anything you can do, Mr. Alvaro. Anything.”

Aalam messed with his phone for a few seconds, sending out a signal to a half dozen receivers hidden throughout the Capitol building, and, less than 30 seconds later, the Capitol building, and Aalam and all the senators with it, was gone.


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