Operation Inundation: London Conclusion
Cheddar's Flat, Barbican Estate, London...
Griffin's on Cheddar's sofa, feeling very tired after having several bullets magically taken out of him and watching the news channels to see the full extent of Overshadow's attack. Which looked very thorough. There's a knock on the door.
Cheddar opened it, saying "Hello, Officer Benbow."
Officer Benbow asks "Is Griffin there? I need to have a chat with him."
Cheddar replied "He's in the living room but he's a bit tired. Having a few bullets taken out will do that to you."
As Officer Benbow entered the living room, Griffin sat up and said "Officer Benbow, what a surprise! Cheddar let me in willingly, you can ask her. How did you know I'd be in here? CCTV? Telepathy?"
Officer Benbow told him "No. Because I already knew that Cheddar lives here. I got a text saying that a major fight broke out in the Museum of London. Imagine my lack
of surprise when I saw evidence of what looked like two separate major
fights having broken out! What are you doing here?"
"I was in Woolwich when I saw Overshadow's declaration of war on the BBC Big Screen they have there. Stopped some yobs from burning down a church by knocking them out. After that, I heard an explosion in the direction of the Royal Artillery Barracks. Before I could react, I got a message from my commanding officer telling me to get my arse to St. Paul's Cathedral ASAP. I flew straight there and I helped Britannia get rid of a SHADOW APC, killing their entire assault team. After that, I made my way to the Museum of London to protect the London Stone."
"The London Stone?! I thought it was just a really old stone, nothing worth putting your life on the line over!"
"That stone is the 'Palladium', the spiritual heart of London fed by multiple ley lines that intersect at its cupola in Cannon Street, where it's normally meant to be. It'll take a while before you actually need to put it back. The legend goes, 'so long as the Stone of Brutus stands, so long shall London flourish!' And I've seen things that mean I can't honestly dismiss it as superstition! And as you've seen, I'm willing to give my life
for my city, my country and my world! Anything less would be an act of cowardice and of treason against humanity! I encountered Cheddar and Ms. Magus at the Museum and we killed several SHADOW soldiers who weren't going to give us any quarter!"
"That doesn't explain why I found the Akimbo Assassin bleeding out in the Museum."
"I was searching for survivors in hiding, calling out in multiple languages that it was safe to come out now. My sword was on its belt and my wings were out so anyone who saw me could tell I wasn't a slave of SHADOW. That was when I was shot in my left wing. The bullets went clean through, but I lost a few feathers. I drew my sword and I demanded that whoever fired at me from behind show themselves. That was when the Akimbo Assassin came out of the Debtor's Cell. I only realised it was him because of his twin bayonetted pistols. I knew he'd taken a contract recently, but I didn't expect to be the one his employer was after! His response was 'Very well, Mr. Griffin. Consider it your last request to know who killed you, if not why.' I charged at him. I had every reason to believe that only one of us was getting out of there alive and he did attack me without any other apparent provocation. I focused on keeping him in the cell, because I was aware of his acrobatic feats from LiveLeak and keeping him inside the cell would keep him from actually using most of them properly."
"That does make sense when fighting an acrobat."
"When the Akimbo Assassin fell, I put him in the recovery position, picked up a mobile that someone else dropped and I used it to tell you where to find him. I put the phone back where I found it. Cheddar led me here. She and Ms. Magus both did a ritual to teleport AA's bullets out of me. They then cast healing magic on me to stop the bleeding and fix my wing. I fell on the sofa to have a lie down and here we are. I'm going to rest for a couple of hours and then go and help quell any rioting that's kicked off. Something like this, you know a lot of people are thinking 'That thing we couldn't get away with before? Now's the time!
' You only need to loot a single rifle or pistol to make it look like SHADOW did it!"
Officer Benbow asked "You said that you nearly killed the Akimbo Assassin? If you want to leave here uncuffed, then I want to know where I can find evidence proving your claim that he shot first."
"CCTV from the Museum, including the camera that I saw inside
the Debtor's Cell, will clearly show that the Akimbo Assassin attacked first. It'll show that my back was turned and my sword was sheathed and on its belt and I was calling out, hands to mouth when he shot me. There is simply no way a reasonable jury is going to think that I was being an immediate threat to him! And SHADOW troopers wear their own uniform, so anyone with a working eye can't mistake me for one of them. The bullets are on the table there. Ms. Magus knows how to handle them without contamination. With his arrest, the CCTV from the Museum, the confiscation of his guns and those bullets, you now have hard evidence
that the Akimbo Assassin clearly attempted to murder me! Even if you can't do him for his previous murders, you've now got something that'll actually stick this time! That's a collar that'll help your career. How is he, by the way?"
"When we put him in the ambulance, the paramedics said that he was critical but stable. Given his injuries and the fact that we have his guns, it'll be a very long time before he opens fire again. I have to ask..."
"Why did you not kill him outright? You had him right where you wanted him!"
"When the Akimbo Assassin hit the ground, he had lost consciousness and was completely helpless at that point! I only touched him to check he was still breathing and to put him in the recovery position. I left his guns untouched so the only prints I know for a fact were on there when we left the Museum are his. Killing a completely helpless target, that is one of the few lines I can't cross and still call myself a human being afterwards!" Griffin sighed "I've never seen myself as a hero, Jill. Only someone lucky enough to be in a better position than most to get things done and actually keep them done. There's something I ought to tell you."
"And that would be?"
"When we fought SHADOW at the Museum, I received a divine revelation when Cheddar thought she murdered their men. SHADOW clones have cranial implants that trigger a massive neurotoxin dose."
"Are you absolutely certain?"
I've never known my Lady to lie to anyone, and I wouldn't be surprised if she can't.
Those implants - codenamed the Umbral Protocol - activate under certain conditions. These include attempting to betray SHADOW, taking a severe enough blow to knock them out and getting their minds read. If it remotely looks like they'll reveal anything at all or be taken prisoner, the implant activates and their enemies will still be in the dark. That would explain why they fight with lethal force like fanatics. Because anything that could keep them from fighting or being loyal to SHADOW will lead to their deaths."
"Why would knocking them out set it off?"
"To waste an enemy's manpower, of course. And since SHADOW uses clones, Overshadow doesn't really care at all if he needs to lose a few to maintain security! Knowledge of the Protocol helped me calm Cheddar down and keep her from going suicidal or even worse! You remember when those little ponies came to town?"
"That was... unusual to say the least."
"If some selfish knob or even a villain got there first, what do you think
could've happened?! I knew that it was my obligation as a human being
to genuinely and honestly help them, regardless of the personal risk or cost. By making sure that Hexenhammer was taken down and that the ponies made it safely home, we showed Celestia that there are people around here who actually give a toss, you know?"
"Yeah, I know. Why do you think I joined the Ministry? Someone's
got to keep you lot from going too far!"
"As good a reason as any to join them, I suppose. Are you here to arrest me, Jill?"
"No, because I don't have proof of wrongdoing. I'm just very concerned about you, Griffin."
"What's concerning you, officer?"
"It's your use of lethal force, Griffin. The only reason I haven't already
tried to arrest you is because there's too much evidence of your current usage - that I'm aware of so far - appearing justifiable under the law to go through the drama of an arrest and trial. And when we in the Ministry arrest someone, we want to be absolutely certain that we can prove you actually did something wrong first! I'm worried that you're going to cross the line one of these days. I know you're trying to do some good, that business with the ponies showed it."
to go non-lethal, Jill. But sometimes you simply have no choice but to kill or die - as today clearly proves - and the scenarios I find myself in tend to be the sort where no-one else in the immediate area can actually do anything effective in time, forcing me to act at once to prevent unjust injury or untimely death. As for me crossing the line... I'll tell you what I told Britannia earlier today. You need to remember that a very powerful individual who cares about humanity has a vested interest in me behaving myself, is capable of keeping an eye on me at all times and has the power to instantly do
something about it if I mess up. If I get violent without just cause, I'll immediately get in the sort of trouble you wished
you could arrange for a power who's mad enough to hurt an innocent!"
"What sort of trouble do you mean?"
"The absolute worst you can do to me is kill me, Jill. The worst my Lady can do to me is kill me, throw me into Hell
and make sure I can't get back out again, I've actually seen her do it!
If I ever have to choose between an action I knew would annoy you and one that would annoy her... It won't be anything personal at all, Jill. I bet you tried looking in her head when you met her in the Guardhouse, against my advice."
"I did. I've never witnessed a mind that old or that... sharp before! I've seen all sorts of stuff in this line of work that could've had a more mundane explanation, but this... this was one of the few things I've seen in my life that simply had no other rational explanation. I would've noticed it if she had any signs of being affected by hypnosis, mind control, mental illness, delusional, psychotic or neurological disorders. I couldn't find anything that would give me cause to question her sanity!"
"When you try reading the mind of a goddess, you're lucky if she lets you keep your sanity afterwards..."
"And before you ask, the answer's yes, this means I know for a fact that you're on the autism spectrum, Griffin."
So you know my greatest secret, Officer! You know why it's in my best interest to keep that quiet?!"
"No, I'm afraid I don't."
"Because I want people to judge me by my actions, NEVER
by that! Do you understand me, Jill?! I can't let this get out!"
"What are you going to do about it, kill me?"
"Even if I wanted to, I can't! If I use violence on a Ministry officer regardless of whether I had just cause - and this isn't anywhere near it - it'll prove the critics right when I'd rather they be proven to be a bunch of perma-noobs who don't know what they're on about and it would irreparably damage the one thing I need besides my powers and my sword to get anything done to any degree worth the bother of doing it at all!"
"What would that be?"
I need people to know and to trust that I can not only get something done, I can do it right and actually keep it done, Jill! The Equestria Incident is an example of this. Getting those little ponies into the Guardhouse was getting it done. Preventing Hexenhammer from killing everyone in the Guardhouse was doing it right and getting the ponies back home was how I kept it done. Princess Celestia publicly praising us on video of her own accord was just the icing on the cake, the sort of thing that proves I'm not an idiot in the face of death and danger!"
"Were you absolutely sure Hexenhammer was going to kill the ponies?"
"Yeah, he was! And you can look inside my head if you don't believe me!"
Officer Benbow said "Since I have your permission, this shouldn't hurt a bit..."
That was when Officer Benbow touched Griffin's forehead... and knew everything about the caper from his point of view. From the summons to picking the ponies up at Woolwich, the train ride, picking up the two books, the tour of London from Trafalgar Square to the Bottle, the escort mission, taking out the van of cultists, the duel with Hexenhammer, slaying him, dragging his hammer into the infirmary, beseeching his Lady to pass judgement on him, ending with Celestia's appearance.
Officer Benbow went "Griffin?"
"Did you really
have to blind the cultists who were in the van?"
"It wasn't permanent! And it caused less drama and drew less heat compared to killing them! I used a bullethole they made to make it easier to keep myself out of the blast radius and then they were knocked out."
"Why did you slash their tyres and impale their engine? We needed a breakdown truck to move that van!"
"In case they recovered before the police got there, of course! Even if they got better in time, they couldn't get far. You need be thorough and vigilant in this line of work."
"Don't you mean paranoid?"
"No, I don't. Those cultists were a legitimate threat to the girls, meaning that my reaction was simple, basic vigilance! And in both our lines of work, you're either vigilant or you're just a dead man who simply hasn't fallen down yet."
"That's one way to put it. Now for the one thing I'm concerned with."
"And that would be?"
"Was there any way you could've taken Hexenhammer alive?"
"No way, Jill!
You heard what he said! Holding back or retreating would've likely killed me, the ponies, the Guardians, you...
It was the first time I've ever been in a scenario where deliberately
taking the life of a sentient being was a justifiable and understandable response. I don't
regret killing him, Jill. But I never
enjoyed it either. I knew before but I understand
now that the act of killing is a serious
business and only a psychopath would ever enjoy such an act!"
"I understand. How did you feel after you killed Hexenhammer?"
"Everything I was ever taught about killing someone said that I was supposed to regret it. But I didn't. All I really felt was that I did what I had to do. I gave Hexenhammer a chance to leave peacefully, you heard me give him one! It was hardly my fault that he really was crazy enough to choose death instead! After I killed him and was dealing with the shock of having just straight-up killed a man for the first time, one of the gunmen went 'What- What in the name of God are you?!' That question helped me shake off the shock, Jill. I revealed my wings and told them who I was and on whose behalf I was acting. Those guys were religious extremists. And their leader had just been killed by an angel who could prove on the spot that he really was
serving the God they falsely claimed to worship. How quickly do you think they realised their mistake?"
"Very quickly, I suppose."
"Indeed. I kept an eye on their trial and I can see why they all pleaded guilty to attempted murder and then asked for a lot of other crimes to be taken into consideration. It's pretty much the only way they can be reasonably certain to not bump into me again. So I dragged the hammer into the Infirmary, using a rope that Red Mage gave me to avoid touching it myself. The security measures in there are strict! I'm talking about you needing Dr. Green's permission to get in or
out of there. With her reputation and her usual research subjects, I'm not surprised. I couldn't see any, but I'm willing to bet that she had Sakura and Red Mage place a few wards here and there to make sure. I went down on both knees in prayer, asking my Lady to pass judgement on Hexenhammer. That is not something I do lightly, Jill. A flash of light and there she was. The one Lady I owe more than anyone."
"The only one you fear."
"Not just fear, Jill. I actually respect her and I owe her even more than I owe my own family. You see, my Lady made me an offer earlier this year. If I swore to serve as her Chosen, she would give me the one thing I haven't been able to find or make for myself, something that no amount of money can ever hope to buy: a purpose to my life.
And she has indeed made good on her end of the bargain. She sparked me up and in return, I do whatever assignments she gives me. Anyway, my Lady said I wasn't in trouble with her over that fight. It seems that Hexenhammer had been giving her a bad name for the past six hundred years, Jill. No one was as glad as her that I put Hexenhammer down and brought him before her at last. She picked the hammer up and told me to stand up and bear witness. She spoke to Hexenhammer in what sounded to me like an archaic German dialect, probably the one Hexenhammer spoke back when he still had his original body. If he didn't believe who she was before, he certainly did afterwards! She told him how disappointed she was with him. He was going to stand before her and explain himself. It was sad enough that his own actions and choices besmirched his own character. But falsely claiming to serve the Lady while killing innocents... She'd still give him a fair hearing, don't get her wrong, but it wasn't looking too good for him. My Lady then told me to bring everyone to the Guardhouse's library. She then disappeared in a flash of light, taking the hammer with her. Hexenhammer isn't coming back, Jill. After that, you know as much I do."
She was only gone for a few minutes! How could she properly
pass judgement on him and get back to the Guardhouse in time?!"
"Time itself actually works a bit differently on the other side, Jill. I'm sure you heard about me having the near-death experience that made me what I am. I was professionally diagnosed as being DEAD
for about 8 minutes over here. You know long that is over there?"
"An hour? Two hours?"
"No. Try eight YEARS.
I spent eight YEARS
learning how to be an angel, Jill. By the time my dad found out that I was even gone, I was already back on Earth! And they know that I'm a power by the way, told them the very same day I got out of the hospital and swore them to secrecy. Once my Lady got back to Heaven, she quite literally had ALL the time in the world to properly pass judgement on Hexenhammer, make sure he knew and understood exactly why he had that particular judgement placed upon him and send him wherever he was meant to go. And no, I don't know where he went exactly. I was a bit busy as you might recall."
"About this meeting..."
"I'll have to mention everything you just told me to my superiors, who are quite aware that I'm here by the way."
"Fair enough. Can't guarantee they'll believe it, though."
"The thing is, Ministry files - including the one we already have on you - are sealed by law. They require signing the Official Secrets Act just to look at, you need to convince the Ministry that it's in the national interest for you to see the file and act on the knowledge of its contents and it's against our rules for anyone to be alone in the room where we store the files. You won't have to worry about some journalist reading it."
"You have no idea how much I appreciate that, Jill. Thank you."
"What did your Lady mean exactly, when she said that she Chose you?"
"A very ancient treaty among pantheons allows each god or goddess to empower one mortal to directly serve them on Earth and they're the only ones who can legitimately
claim that they do things in their God's name. The exact criteria used naturally tends to vary from patron to patron. Those so empowered are traditionally known as the Chosen by those who've heard of them. Thinking of Chosen as real-life paladins or like clerics from Dungeons and Dragons isn't off-base, Jill. I only know of two Chosen who are currently active within London. Myself and Sakura of the Guardians. There may very well be other Chosen out there.
"Sakura is empowered by a god as well?"
"By Amaterasu, the Kami of the Sun to be precise."
"I see. Are there any rules that dictate who can be Chosen?"
"The only hard
rule I know of when Choosing someone is that you can only Choose one mortal at a time. You need to Unchoose - and depower - someone before you can Choose someone else. Mutual agreement, gross disobedience, betrayal of your divine patron and the death of the Chosen are all known reasons for being Unchosen. Anything else you want me to tell you?"
"No... No. You've actually given me a lot to think about, Griffin. I've got to go, stay out of trouble!"
"Good luck out there, Jill!"
When the door slammed shut, Cheddar and Ms. Magus re-entered the living room. Cheddar said "I didn't know you were on the spectrum, Griffin!"
Griffin said "It's not the sort of thing I share with anyone
, Cheddar! And you can't say I don't have a reason to keep it quiet. Someone could take advantage! It's only because Officer Benbow's a telepath that she even found out at all! And if either of you tell anyone,
you'll come to regret it!"
Ms. Magus replied "Well, you seem to have a grip on it. And I can't believe you didn't get arrested! How'd you do that?"
Griffin told her "Jill's a telepath and she literally got inside my head. And she was dumb enough to look in my Lady's head. Everything you two just overheard me tell Officer Jill Benbow of the Ministry of Powers... was true. All of it."
Ms. Magus asked "Are you really an angel?!"
Griffin fully extended his wings, saying "Yes, I am indeed an angel of the Host of Heaven and the current Chosen of the Almighty. There's no need to be afraid of me."
Ms. Magus went "My God..." while sinking to her knees.
Griffin helped Ms. Magus up, saying "No I'm not. I do not deserve your worship, Cass. I never did."
"You saved my ass and Cheddar's, so I still feel like I owe you."
"I saved you because it was my duty.
If you feel like you owe me, I know of a way you can help me if you wish. Early next year, I'm planning on doing a world tour and I'll be heading to New York. during it."
"And let me guess, you'd need a place to stay?"
"If that's okay with you. I don't want to impose. I can even cover the relevant expenses if that's an issue."
"It's no trouble at all. I've got the room for it. But I've gotta tell you, I don't live in Manhattan. I'm from Brooklyn."
"Maybe you can show me around then. I wouldn't mind getting a look at all the Five Boroughs."
"I've gotta ask though, do you have a visa?"
"I went through the Visa Waiver Program, good for the next two years. Applied for it on the U.S. embassy's website. The waiver does allow me to legally enter America for business and tourism purposes for 90 days and it's much easier to get a hold of one. It does have a few restrictions, though."
"What are those?"
"I can't appeal for an extension to the waiver like actual visa holders can. At the airport, I must present both my ticket into the States and my ticket back out again. I don't need to go to the same country I come in from as long as I'm gone before the 90 days are up. I can't enter Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean islands unless I'm at least a permanent resident in those places. And I must use an approved airline to fly in and out. Good thing British Airways got on that list!"
"Seems like you're not a noob at this kind of thing. I've gotta ask one question, though."
"Go on, Cass."
"How in God's name are you getting that blade of yours past Homeland Security? If they find it, they'll know who you are and you'll get a glove up your ass at least!"
"Leave that to me, Cass. If my idea on the subject holds water, they won't know a thing! Now if you and Cheddar excuse me, I still have my duties to perform. Thank you, Cheddar, for your hospitality. If you need to talk, you've got my business number. Feel free to give it to Cass."
Cheddar went "Bye, Griffin!"
Ms. Magus said "See ya later, Griffin!"
Griffin told them "Farewell, see you both later."
That was when Griffin got out on to Cheddar's balcony and took off…
Griffin gets 2 PP, which he saves up, totalling 7 PP.