RP Covenant


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Nic sat on the lowest step leading up to the porch of the farmhouse. The fields surrounding it were full of squat, leafy plants - potatoes. A lot of people didn't know what potatoes looked like from above ground - he certainly hadn't. He probably had at one point, he supposed, but it was just one of those things he hadn't remembered. This was Idaho, though, and that meant potatoes and farmhouses.

Cait was up on the porch, sitting on the wooden porch swing, the toe of one boot propped against the worn coffee table, pushing a little now and then to give herself a bit of motion. For some reason, Nic was weirdly relieved that she was still wearing stompy black boots. Picturesque goddess figures were supposed to wear summer dresses and sandals or something, but Cait was just as goth girl as ever.

Brian was up there as well, leaning back against the railing post at the top of the stairs, arms folded, keeping watch over whatever might be behind Cait, just like she was undoubtedly keeping watch over whatever might be behind him. Of course, it was all sort of a weird question, since the door to the farmhouse didn't lead into a building, but rather into the Dark Dimension, full of all its weirdness, and it wasn't really a door either, just like the porch wasn't so much a porch as a conjunction-space, a place where the two could meet.

The little guy was up there with them, running back and forth across the length of the porch on all eight tiny legs, as fast as he could go. It was almost exhausting just watching him, at least until he took a tumble and fell down the stairs, landing on the ground in front of Nic, suddenly less the size of a dachshund and more the size of a draft horse.

Naturally, he flipped onto his back, wiggling his fluffy butt and looking at Nic upside-down, rather mournfully, as if no one had ever loved him before. Nic wasn't immune to that sort of thing, so he reached out a hand and rubbed the not-so-little guy's belly, pulling his hand back and looking over his shoulder after a moment when the stairs creaked as Brian made his way down.

"Back on the porch, Tuesday."

Nic supposed he really wasn't supposed to be out here where the world was, well, the usual Earth. People might get fussy about that sort of thing. Not everyone, sure, but some of them. That was why Cait was staying up there on the porch, after all. They didn't need to cause another Canaan Zone effect when the last one had gone so... however it had gone. It had certainly gone, anyway.

Nic looked up over his shoulder as the stairs creaked, heralding Brian making his way down towards the little puppy-sized creature wriggling on the ground, a couple bottles of Corona in his hand. He passed one over to Nic, giving the little critter a nod.

"Back on the porch, Tuesday."

The little guy scampered back up, heading back to Cait, presumably to try to convince her that he had never in his life been petted before. Nic reached out a hand and took one of the bottles.

"Still can't figure out if it's you or her that's doing that." It wasn't exactly reality bending, because it wasn't the seamless and always had been - it was a glitch, a correction.

"Neither can we," Brian admitted, clinking his own bottle against Nic's and sitting down to drink it. Nic decided to follow suit, since he might as well take advantage of the moment of idyll before things got weird again. "We think it might be a little bit of both. Cait likes things to get noticed. And it manifests like that when I'm involved because..." He trailed off, with a shrug, as if he didn't really have an answer to that.

Nic did. "Because you're a huge [expletive]-ing nerd?"

"Could be." Brian grinned, but didn't try to deny it. Nic took another drink of beer, staring out over the potatoes towards the horizon.

"Kinda thought we'd end up on the same side." It had slipped out, the heavy topic they were all trying to avoid. Maybe it was the beer - though not likely, given that he'd barely even started on it. Maybe it was the potatoes. Maybe it was just that there wasn't a whole lot of time left to have the conversation at all.

"Still could work out that way. Depends what Gail can wrangle out of them, I guess."

"...Yeah." Quietly, because they both knew it wasn't the ACF that Agen Weber was going to be wrangling. When it came down to it, she'd pick the Foundation - had picked, even. It was just a matter now of whether she and the Council could come up with a contract that all of them were willing to sign onto.

And if not... if not, Nic knew that there were only going to be two options - banishment or breach. And since Cait - and Ira, and everyone else connected to her Waking World - wasn't likely to take kindly fuck off forever as a way of going forward, it was likely to end up in the sort of fight that was going to make 2018 look easy.

He remembered 2018. It was the first thing he did remember. For a little while, it had been the only thing he'd remembered - and this time, he wasn't just some random civilian. This time, he was going to have to pick a side.

Nic took another drink of Corona, but it didn't illuminate the situation any. He looked back up at the porch once more, where Cait was sitting with Tuesday on her lap, talking to him like he was a weird Eldritch baby. "Agent Weber wouldn't..."

"She would." No hesitation in that response. Nic supposed he'd known it, too. Gail had been the one to off the woman who'd once held the position he did, after all. Sure, it had kind of been a mercy killing, from what he'd heard, but she'd still done it. She'd do it again. Cait being some kind of substitude goddess wasn't going to stop her, either. Gail had killed the last one just fine, after all.

And she'd kill Brian, too, because she'd have to, to get to Cait. Nic saw how that one would go. His shoulders slumped, but there wasn't really anything to be done about it right now.

"I guess we just hope they can work something out." Even without the whole idea of an impending apocalyptic war, he'd like for things to remain open. There were people back there he'd want to see again - or at least ONE person. He didn't want to have to choose.

Brian nodded, equally sober. He knew, just like Nic did. "We'll see." It was all they could do, really. Nic doubted it was any easier for him, even having made his choice. War wasn't good for security, after all, and Brian had always been focused on that. Nic watched him take another drink, staring out at the horizon, watching the sunlight tick away the last hours until it was the time of gods, and of demons.

"We're praying for a resolution."

The last few weeks had not been easy. Part of that had been working with the Council to come up with some sort of plan that incorporated ACF-1003's Waking World in such a way that didn't lead to some sort of inevitable final battle. Gail wouldn't mind the violence, but she would have objected to feeling like it wasn't optional. The violence needed to be evitable. It was more fun to do it because she wanted to.

Of course, in this particular situation, it would be better to avoid violence, because in this particular situation, the violence was going to be directed against the rest of her team - or, she supposed, her former team. It was still undecided what the Locusts were going to look like after this ended, and whether they'd end up being a team at all.

It wasn't looking promising, she knew. Cait was... out. Whichever way it ended up, Cait was out. The rest of them... it was best not to get ahead of herself. The Council had provided her with information on what was negotiable and what was non-negotiable, two lists that she was holding carefully close. The less the opposition knew about what was on which list, the better. The fact that the opposition in this case was Cait...

...Well. She would have some very good guesses about what was on each list, which was a disadvantage - but she was also inclined to preserve something of the Foundation, which was an advantage. She'd work for them from her end, as much as she could, just as Gail would work for Cait's interests as much as she could. Not for the rest of the Waking World's interests, of course, but for Cait, and for Brian. The rest of them... well, Gail had killed one of their gods already. She wouldn't hesitate to kill more of them.

Even if one of them was Cait.

The little farmhouse that they'd set aside for the meeting was readily apparent the moment the air steamed with midsummer haze, a wavy line that would seem to shimmer for a moment before disappearing into nothingness, leaving only figures in the cornfield. Not her spell, which was normal, but not one of Cait's either, which wasn't. The extra light had been a little bonus gift from Strings, just a little dig at the dimension. Very like him, to start off on an antagonistic note. Gail thought it was funny. Cait would, as well, or she would if she were still Cait. Gail wasn't sure what she'd been up to the last few weeks, but undoubtedly she wasn't the same as she'd been three weeks ago.

Of course, none of them were. Joshua was beside her, less because he had any input on this particular meeting and more because he still had some degree of interest in the rest of the team - and Cait, especially, he'd feel bad about not saying good-bye to her, if that was what they ended up saying.

And if that was what was said, it would be said very quickly, and then... then there would be violence.

Nic was already there, sitting on the stairs with Brian. Hopefully he'd gotten Brian to come around a little bit. Right now, he was invested in Cait, but he'd been part of the team at one point, and unlike Cait, there was no reason why he couldn't be again. Or... perhaps there was one reason, but if it came to it, she was expendable.

As were they all.

She walked up, nodding slightly and making her first inquiry to Brian. "Perimeter?"

He was still an agent, after all, and perimeters were something of a specialty.

"Secured. Should be indistinguishable from normal, as long as they stay on the porch." A nod from him as well, somehow pointed. "It's secured on the other side, as well." Gail could read so, stay on the [expletive]ing porch into that easily enough. Fair enough, she supposed.

"Good. Nic?"


"Is the perimeter secured?"

"I dunno, man, Brian said-" He trailed off, under her gaze, with the dawning realization that she was asking him because Brian was being considered compromised. He didn't like it, but neither did she. Brian... understood. He just nodded, waving a hand for Nic to go check. Nic lumbered up with the grace of someone who was going off to do something that he didn't really want to.

Gail stepped aside to let him go prod at the area for whatever nightmares might be lurking, or for areas of weakness that would be easy to exploit - either by the opposition or by them, if they decided they needed to exploit things. Gail moved into the place he'd been, starting up the stairs beside Brian.

"Not going to stop me?"

He lifted the bottle he was holding and took a steady drink. "Not if I don't have to."

Gail raised an eyebrow, intrigued. "Think you could?"

He contemplated, which was interesting in and of itself. "It'd take a miracle."

He'd handed her that information on purpose. Gail gave him a quick smile of appreciation for it. "Just one miracle?"

He smiled, saluting her with the half-empty bottle, and pulling himself up to follow her up the stairs.
Ira was not afraid of HER. In many ways, SHE was Ira, and Ira was HER. Of course, now that Cait was also part of THem, to a degree SHE was also Cait, and Cait was also HER. But that wasn't the same as it had been with Dea and Ira knew it.

Ira and Dea were spawned of HER, pieces of HER that were given power, roles, and names. All the things they needed to be themselves, all the things they needed to not need HER. But that didn't make them any less the same person. Cait was not created of HER, but attached later on. Cait was less of a limb of HER and more of a necessary organ transplant.

Like an organ transplant, not all of the body had accepted it yet. Ira was almost acting in the role of immunosuppressants, keeping HER from attacking and cannibalizing the foreign body until it could be completely accepted in its grafting. Because of this, Ira would have preferred to wait a couple hundred years until Cait's presence was fully accepted unconsciously by HER.

But they did not have hundreds of years- or more specifically, the Foundation was not giving them hundreds of years. This meeting had to happen, and Ira needed to make sure everything went as smoothly as possible. Ira reached out and grasped Cait's hand, holding on tightly to support Cait just as much as Ira needed supporting for herself.

"Everything, is going to be ok."

SHE hummed quietly as SHE walked from where SHE -was- to where SHE was -going-

And without much fanfare, SHE was inside the farmhouse. SHE didn't know exactly what the outside of the farmhouse looked like, SHE was forbidden from shoving HERSELF into the one Ilah called Cait by Ilah. But whatever it looked like, SHE knew SHE hated it. Of course, SHE wasn't intentionally attempting to tear apart the new piece that Ilah had pulled in to replace the goddess. SHE even welcomed the change. Unfortunately, SHE was simply so antithetical to everything about Cait and the 'dreaming world' -as Ilah called it- that reaching out and touching could be catastrophically dangerous.

So SHE was forbidden, and it was good.

This wasn't exactly a 'farmhouse' on the inside either. It was a structure Ilah and Cait had put together as a conjoining space between HER world and the 'dreaming world.' This side though was full -here- and not at all -there- because, well, because of HER. SHE could not go to the dreaming world, not without tearing it apart, so the meeting had to happen on this side. Not that SHE cared, this little soriee was no more than a formality.

SHE would adhere to nothing. SHE would agree to nothing. SHE would burn everything before being bound.

This place, the one that Ilah and Cait had built, might've been nice once, but with HER arrival it was nice no longer. The room became a distorted, cavernous imitation of the inside of a one-room cabin. A central wooden dining table, complete with dishware and chairs, had been cracked, distorted, and repeated as far as the eye could see in two directions. An infinite 'wall' between one half of the meeting and the other.

Kicking over some debris, SHE sat down. The section SHE occupied leaked a nasty, viscous black fluid, and SHE made herself terrible to look at. All shadows and ooze and bits of nasty things that formed the amalgamated shape of being. Paintings were hung in midair as if on invisible walls, their portraits of happy families and old men distorted into skulls and screaming if they were not looked at directly. Food would be on the table, because SHE felt like eating. It would rot at the slightest touch, because SHE was not hungry.

A show, but not one made for anyone. A facade to keep HERSELF interested, nothing more.
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It was going well, Joshua thought. No one was bleeding yet, and that was well enough as far as he was concerned. He met up with Nic, giving the younger man a nod and a tilt of his head, taking the other direction of the check of the farmhouse perimeter and meeting him in the middle, then continuing back together.

"Don't let her get to you," he suggested, gently.

Nic rolled his eyes. "Which one?"

A fair point, really. "Either one, I suppose. Or... any one, really, if Agent Weber is right about WHO is in there." They'd talked about it a bit, all three of them, before they'd come out here. Nic had gone to scout ahead, Joshua had lingered back to... well, there was a diplomatic way to say sit on Agent Weber so she doesn't start a war, but he didn't know what it was.

He didn't think she actually wanted to start a war. Well, scratch that, to be fair, but he didn't think she actually wanted to start this war. Not with Cait. Cait was...

"Does she seem okay?"

"As far as I can tell, yeah. We didn't really get a chance to talk."

"Hm." Usually, Cait didn't need a chance to talk. She talked anyway, and the chance just sort of happened around it. They'd come back around to the stairs again. Brian and Agent Weber had already gone up and were standing by Cait, who was still sitting on the porch swing, occasionally making it squeak.

The two remaining members of the team made their way up as well. Joshua didn't waste time, because he didn't know when he'd have another opportunity, taking a pen light from his pocket and bending over Cait, shining it into her eyes. She tolerated this with amusement. The eyes looked fine, he supposed, at least that set did. The others weren't showing at the moment, or at least she wasn't showing them to him.

"Anything of note?" Agent Weber didn't sound like she expected there to be, but she was asking anyway, covering everything just in case.

Joshua shook his head. "I'd like to get a look at Brian's eyes - that glowing they were doing, some sort of innate bioluminescence, or... I don't know. I don't think a flashlight will do it, though, I'd have to dissect one."

He looked at Brian, who looked back, very much nonplussed.

"Would you like an eyeball to dissect, Dr. Seimar?" Cait offered, not quite giggling. He turned slightly, debating whether or not she was serious, and was not sure whether or not to be horrified that he was fairly certain she was.

Give her the power of creation and she will create... eyeballs. This same thought seemed to be occurring to much of the team, at the same time. He wasn't exactly sure what all of Cait's new dominions were, but it seemed like the creation of eyeballs was among them.

"Yeah... she's still Cait."

"'Course I am. We going in?"

The farmhouse door seemed very present, suddenly - and Dr. Seimar thought that whatever it contained, it was probably going to be a lot more difficult to dissect than a few eyeballs.

For a few moments, everything was back to... well, not exactly normal, but at least standard, as far as the Locusts were concerned. He didn't press things forward, because it was important to have one of these little moments before whatever came next. Important to Cait, for certain. To him, as well, although it was easier for him to be both what he had been and what he was, he thought. Cait... what she had become was so vast, so immense, that it was hard for her to hold on to what she'd always been. Someone without such a strong sense of self would never have been able to do it, he didn't think. They'd have been swallowed up, become the Goddess, and that would have been the beginning of it and the end of them.

Cait was stubborn enough to hold on, though, and she was still as much Cait as she could be. Ira was helping, he'd noticed, though he wasn't quite sure whether that was out of kindness or just because she valued Cait for being Cait and wanted to keep her that way. He didn't argue, though, because he also valued Cait for being Cait, so in that they were in accord.

The moment couldn't last forever, though, and so when the time came he stepped off to the side, knocking twice on the farmhouse door to herald the arrival of the others before opening it, stepping through and holding it for the rest of the team. Cait brought up the rear, Tuesday cradled in her arms, and Brian pulled the door closed behind him, letting the others adjust to HER domain - and letting Ira and HER adjust to the Locusts.

One of those was going to be more of a challenge than the other, and he was still himself enough to be amused at which.

"LADY. Ira. The representatives of the Anomaly Containment Foundation."

Introductions having been announced, the spider-port at the back of his neck stretched out its tendrils, elongating and curving themselves to attach to the gloam-shadow walls. At the periphery of the room, a few dozen green-glowing lights appeared, keeping eyes on the situation as he stepped back to take the first watch.
Ira was not a being who typically held a form.

Perhaps a strange thing for the Locusts, or anyone that might've known her in the dream world, but it was true. She preferred to be one with her greater half, to rest herself in Her bosom and listen to the beat of Her heart. But things had changed with Cait- or, no, that wasn't right. Things had changed long before Cait. Now she held a form, a completely separate entity from Cait and HER. Cait was ok with it, and SHE didn't seem to care, but it greatly irked Ira at times.

So, quietly, Ira slipped a little piece of herself with Cait at all times, and a little piece of herself with HERSELF. One piece, the piece with Cait, pulled that comfort from her friend and tried to comfort in return. The other piece, well, Ira wasn't sure it should be called a 'spy' seeing as they three were truly one. But their separate minds kept separate secrets at times, and Ira was nothing if not curious. That wasn't a bad thing, right?

SHE didn't believe in good or bad, just 'new things.' But Ira disagreed. The Denizens knew good, they knew evil, and they knew the lines between. Additionally, hadn't SHE made the laws of reality to prevent denizens from hurting each other without grave consequences? Wasn't that a good thing? It certainly hadn't been meaningless, but SHE also knew of a way to make the universe so that denizens could cause pain with minimal consequences...

If preventing pain was good, then Ira thought SHE was innately good and that was all that needed to be considered. But Ira wished she could understand the workings of HER mind.

Fidgeting in her chair as Brian introduced everyone, Ira smiled at him. She liked Brian. Not like Cait, separate minds and separate secrets, but she did like him. He was a good friend, a better protector, and a lovely enigma. Ira had something like that, someone like that, that Cait had made for her. Of course, he required a little fixing after recent events, but he was still himself. Holding her hands together clasped under the table, she waited for HER to speak...

SHE did not react as the Locusts entered, HER eyes drifting off to the side until-

"The representatives of the Anomaly Containment Foundation."

And a wicked smile spread across HER face, HER void-black eyes twisting and rolling over to look at the Locusts properly. Now this was going to be fun. SHE knew what the ACF was, SHE had a version of them exist in HER own reality, untold millennia before the birth of this iteration's ACF's star, SHE had found HERSELF willfully in 'containment' for a breathe of time. The ACF had always been a source of entertainment.

In an instant, SHE made introductions in the fashion that SHE did things. The moment SHE cared enough to know who they were, SHE knew who they were. Cait would know what SHE had just done, as it was Her memories that SHE reached through into Ilah's head to snatch and observe. And Ilah did not deny HER, she did not dare.

SHE did not take much, however, only a little fingernail's scratch of the surface. Where would the fun be in finding out everything instantly?

There was 'Tech Wizard,' Brian, SHE had learned his name before actually. It had been nearly impossible not to with the import that a whole part of HERSELF now placed on him. It wasn't a terrible name, as far as they were concerned, and his strengths expanded every single day. He seemed able to do nearly anything he simply believed he could do, a very 'Cait' thing. But of course, he was Her's, after all.

Then 'Leech,' the killer. SHE knew he had murdered one of Dea's creatures practically on contact. What a fascinating little murderer. SHE wondered how much he actually felt emotionally, was he stunted? A psychopath in the making? Or was it as simple as turning off empathy for the sake of the team? Or- perhaps an 'us vs them' mentality? If only SHE could dissect his mind...

'Ghost' was obvious and unnecessary to define. Cait, the one who was now three but also still one. Not as interesting, but not uninteresting.

'Duet.' Now THAT was an interesting one. Despite reaching out and taking just the slightest fingernail scratch, the absolutely mindboggling levels of resistance SHE encountered to anything regarding her was beyond fascinating. SHE couldn't even get more information than her codename and the appearance of the woman SHE could already see before HER. SHE had to know more...

Finally, 'Damsel...'

No, SHE would not drag information on him up. That would- no.

Folding her fingers together. SHE made sure SHE was properly observable to the eyes of humans. Of course, SHE knew what humans were, despite the eons it had been since SHE last made HERSELF as one with them. The madness would be contained, the evil trapped beneath, and HER eyes, black within black, shifted to see in lights and colors once more.

SHE was not a terribly imposing figure to look at if the innate fears were removed or stifled. Barely five feet tall, pale as a ghost, and skinny as a rail, SHE looked as though a strong breeze might knock HER down if SHE stood in the wrong place at the wrong time. Flipping her ankle-length black hair over the back of HER chair, SHE sat up a little and folded HER fingers together.

"Let us begin with a binding name, as I'm sure you desire one." SHE looked at Duet, the unshakeable, HER smile still wicked. HER voice was unsettling, because of course it was, like the voice of an old woman from the body of a young one. A scrawling chalkboard scratch layed under many other voices and many other tones repeating HER same words. "You may call me Ama. It is a nickname of one of my many names, and not a favorite, but it will do. Give me a name for you, or this cannot continue."
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The inside of the farmhouse was nothing like the outside, which was fairly normal for this sort of situation. Sometimes it made things easier, when one could see all the strangeness right up front. When things looked distractingly normal, well, that was when they were concerning.

No chance of that, here. Agent Weber stepped through the door, letting her team fan out around her, or do whatever they thought they ought to be doing. She didn't say anything about what was going on with Brian. She had people for that.

"Cait, what the [expletive]?" Nic was reliable in that way. They'd handled plenty such scenarios - usually Corby and Gutierrez drew the attention with whatever they were chattering about, and expressed all the verbalizations of whatever it was that needed to be remarked on, allowing Agent Weber to appear inscrutable, even if she was thinking much the same thing on the inside.

Cait, what the fuck?

"It's okay. It's just part of the spaceship package. He's fine. He can hear you by the way." She'd stepped back against him, and the... yes, anomaly... that was possibly also Brian wrapped his arms around her, some wordless thought passing between them that made her giggle.

Agent Weber was not giggling. She was starting to understand what was going on, there, and it wasn't funny. Cait had been preparing to share her brainspace or soulspace or something-space with some weird powerful entity for at least a decade now. She had the mental fortitude to pull it off, which was why, as they'd all noticed, she was still at least mostly Cait.

Connor, on the other hand, had never planned to do any such thing - so when he'd gotten himself hooked up to an Eldritch spaceship, he hadn't had any of the bastions Cait had built up for himself - and Cait hadn't exactly been a titular deity at that point. She still claimed it was fine, but just because Cait was fine with it didn't mean anyone else was.

And did she know, I wonder? When she pushed him into the link - did she know? Did she suspect? She had to have. I should have. Gail had been otherwise occupied at the time, but she still shouldn't have let that one slip by - not without a contract. Why hadn't they written a damn contract for that one?

"Ah, would you like me to sever-?"

"No! If you come at me with a scalpel, I'm going to hit you with a stick."

At least that still sounded like Brian.

"You don't have a stick, though." Nic was teasing it out, slowly, poking the conversation to give it a little more, squeezing out information in bits.

"Nic, there are at least three gods in here, someone will get me a stick. It's..." He hesitated on the word fine, Agent Weber noticed, apparently not as convinced as Cait was. "We're working it out." She thought he held her a little tighter, but it was hard to tell without looking directly, and she was keeping her eyes ahead.

Ahead, because that was where SHE was.

A blank canvas, a part of her suggested - not an artist's canvas, stretched and white-bleached, but a canvas of space, utterly empty, devoid of any ornamentation. It was her own mind that would paint upon it -

- feathers, somehow. The shape of the raven's pinion with the eye of the peacock, a thousand feathers and a thousand eyes, all of them black-on-black-on-black, distinguishable only by their textures, and every eye staring, unblinking, focused.

But of course, as they entered, SHE resolved to be HERSELF once more, and the feathered image drained itself of all its ink, bleeding out like a scalp wound and leaving only HER, small of stature and vast of incomprehension.

Not incomprehensibility, of course - that would be something different. SHE spoke hoarsely, of bindings and names and such things, offering a tidbit of something greater, a whisper of something that might have been whole - but it was not the whole, of course, because there had been a fracture.

At least three, Brian had offered. So, ACF-1003 was here as well, though not visible at the moment. Much like his earlier comment on miracles, it was a hint that he hadn't needed to give, but he'd chosen to do so anyway - to work within the boundaries of whatever constraints were upon him right now, giving her just a little bit to work with.

Whatever else was going on, there was at least enough of him in there for that. Gail allowed the corner of her mouth to have a little quirk - definitely a quirk more than a smile, but it was bound to be a bit quirky in here with all of them present.

The request was for a name for them all, and Hocus Locusts would have been easy enough as an answer - yet SHE had spoken directly to Duet, and so that left some wiggle room in how to answer. Gail adored wiggle room. It made people squirm.

She would answer for herself, then, and not bind the rest of them to it. Cait was already bound, and likely Connor as well, but the others would have as much of a loophole as she could make for them. And what to answer, when she had so many options? She considered names and Names, silent but for the requiem which she was humming softly in one of her voices.

"YOU may address me as Agent."

A name was an identification, so part of a name was equivalent to part of an identification, and agent was very much part of Gail's identification: an agent of the Foundation, an agent of the law, and sometimes an agent of chaos, but always, always, an agent.

Agent: One acting on behalf of a person or group, or: One that takes an active role or produces a specified effect.

It suited the situation very well, she thought.

And now, would you like to keep playing silly buggers or should we sit down and talk it out? Because that worked so very well for the last Goddess from your place.

Gail did not say this, because on very rare occasions she could also be an agent of responsibility.
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SHE laughed.

It was not a kind sound.

It was not the kind of sound that could be described as inhuman, nor was it some amalgamation of grating and terrible noises both known and uncomfortable to the human senses. No, it was far worse than that. It was a human laugh. A perfectly human laugh. The perfectly fake laugh a human would make to ridicule another human.

But HER face did not move as SHE laughed, nor did her body language convey the noise. Like a recording playing a sound, or a raven copying a sound it once heard. Then, quietly, SHE
hummed the same song as Duet and folded her fingers together under HER chin.

With a smile, SHE waited for more. The name, Agent, was more than acceptable. They could continue.

Not so much like a ghost or apparition, but appearing as if from thin air, Ira stuck her head up and took a seat at the table beside HER. Not terrifyingly or surprisingly, but a little like a child coming over to the grownups table and making themselves at home.

She smiled again at Brian and Cait's interaction with the other Locusts. Everything had changed, but nothing had changed. They were still family, not family as Ira knew family but family as Cait was teaching Ira family, and it brought her joy. Brian was correct, as well, Ira would make sure he had a stick if he so wished it.

Then those two had their interaction, HER the eldest and Duet, the one that scared Ira. Not for her power or her ability to fight, those sorts of things were physical measurements by which Dea had held standard. Those sorts of things didn't matter to Ira, who had the strength to simply will things in and out of existence. No- Duet scared Ira for the power she had beyond physical.

Duet had power Ira couldn't understand, social power. Duet could make it so Ira never saw the other Locusts again. She could make things complicated and weird and painful for Cait. She could ruin their family. Ira couldn't comprehend why she would do that, but Ira knew she could do it, and if she could do it then she would do it, if Duet thought she had to.

So Ira was here to make sure she didn't think she had to.

Setting her hands on the table, Ira spoke up. She tried to force her voice as loud as she could, but without exercising power it came forth quietly nonetheless. Like a mouse or a shy child desperately trying to be heard in an incredibly loud room. "Um- Du- Agent. What, erm, what does Foundation want?"
Oooh, SHE was spicy. Gail liked that, in a deity.

Either SHE couldn't find anything to leverage against Gail's chosen designation or SHE was simply choosing not to, but it slid past with little more than mocking sarcasm, which was fine. There was probably going to be a lot of that going around today.

ACF-1003 had taken up residence at the table, very cautiously and quietly asking a question. Strings would have been all over that, if he were here - Now, what's all this, I thought ya were demanding tribute? The change in demeanor was definitely noticeable, and he'd have been prodding at it to find out why, why, why? Something intrinsic to her return to the Waking World, or something Cait had done? Treat a little goddess like a child long enough, and maybe she starts acting like one.

Gail wasn't him, though, and she didn't always need to know why. Sometimes it was enough just to know, to notice that something had changed and file that information away for later, in case it became useful at some point. Right now - well, right now she had bigger fish to fry. Maybe in the metaphorical sense, maybe not.

She took a seat at the table, turning it - not backwards, sideways, the left edge of the back resting against the table itself, sliding into it with one foot on the seat and her knee propped up against the table, her other leg down, balanced on the ball of the foot. Not a position that said I'm relaxed and quirky, but a position that said I could launch myself out of this chair in an instant if I have to. The fight they were about to have was probably going to be verbal, but you never knew with deities. It was worth it to be prepared.

She shifted her gaze to ACF-1003, because while she wasn't thrilled about taking her eyes off of Ama, not acknowledging ACF-1003 as an equally capable threat would have been a mistake.

"The Foundation wants a lot of things. They want you back in a box. They'd kind of like Cait back in a box. After today, I bet they're going to want Brian in a box too. They'd probably also like complete access to your Waking World and almost certainly control over it, and proper documentation of everything and maybe also better coffee. I could go on, but the question here isn't really about what they want - it's about what they're going to get. So."

She leaned sideways, propping her arm against the back of the chair, her hand loose and fingers idle in a way that didn't quite suggest that she knew exactly how many eyes they all had, where they were, and how to gouge them out - yet somehow, people found themselves thinking about that anyway.

"Mm. First, any crossing between your world and ours requires Foundation clearance. Of course, having that be possible means that the Foundation needs a high-level representative on the inside. We'd like to set up a Level One location on your side of things."

Level One, meaning one of the designated levels in the single digits that was run directly by a councilperson, under their specific aegis. She didn't need to look back at Brian and Cait to know that they were ticking off the numbers in their heads and fully aware that Ls One through Nine were either established or destroyed - and of course there was what happened with L-0, but that was historical and maybe better not revisited. Ground Zero had special meanings, in ACF.

She gave them enough time to come up with the numbers, and undoubtedly Cait was sharing some of this with - at least ACF-1003, if the anomaly wasn't already aware. "To be designated L-i, because officially, it will not exist." An imaginary number, for an imaginary location.

"This would be a contracted neutral space, meaning that our personnel there would be safe from, shall we say, interference." Persecution, death, being turned into goop. "Outside ventures would be at your own risk, of course." There would always be researchers who would go have a venture, because that was absolutely the sort of thing researchers did. Some of them would end up dead, but that was, at that point, not her problem.

"The crossover restriction includes all divine aspects-" That means YOU, "Including nonphysical and oneiric manifestations." No more dream-cults, thank you. Better to keep that one locked down, if they couldn't put the gods themselves in a box.

There would be more, of course, but it was probably best to stop there for a little while and hash this one out, before getting on to the rest of the list. It was best to do things one thing at a time.

Gods were used to doing multiple things at once, after all, and having to slow down tended to annoy the [expletive] out of them.
Ira was prepared to simply agree to the Foundation's demands. Not the first list, of course, even those were so extreme that she had to hold herself back from visibly balking. But the second set of things, the Foundation setting up a Level-One location, getting an inside representative, the rules around it, and crossover restrictions, it was all fine. Especially with the little tidbits leaked through from Cait, definitions and explanations of terms that Ira didn't fully understand.

The problem was not Ira.

Ira always had a special relationship with HER. Ira wasn't the type to talk, in fact, she had spoken more in the last fifty years than she had in nearly her whole existence. SHE was very much the same. In their silence, the pair had bonded. Long hours of hair brushing and communicating through little wisps of light define their relationship. Dea never really had those same interactions, perhaps that was another reason SHE did not interfere with Ira's replacement of Dea with Cait...

Even as Ira thought these things, the images and feelings would be projected onto Cait unconsciously. Ira was still restricting information to a degree for Cait's benefit. However, whenever something graced Ira's mind it was shared unless Ira consciously refused the connection. So, as SHE looked over at Ira, Cait would understand the meaning behind the little lights that slipped from HER mouth as SHE exhaled.

Wisps of cyan and indigo exhaled from HER mouth, a code of lights known only to Ira and HER, and now Cait as Ira translated. Not an eldritch language, not a language at all really, but a secret connection between family members. Like a look shared between a beloved grandmother and their teenage grandchild. A sacred thing, not to be copied, but observed and appreciated.

However, only Cait and Brian would see the lights. They reflected in eyes of black within black. After all, they were not 'lights' at all in the sense that humans understood the electromagnetic spectrum, as they reflected on a spectrum they created by their very existence. As Cait would see them, the translation would feel something like,

"Ilah, give nothing up that you do not gain doubly in return. A status quo is insufficient, you will not go back to hanging around in a box. You are needed -here-. Especially since you have changed things from -what-they-were- to now -what-they-are-."

Ira sighed, a hand running through her hair as wisps of indigo and gold slipped forth from herself and fizzled about the table, "Aaahh, Eema, " A name, but not a name, a dance of lights and symbols in colors uninterpretable to human eyes, a special thing. "You know I desire only to spend time among them, among my friends. What more do we desire?"

"You think too narrowmindedly, expand your thoughts. How shall you cross over-? By what paths shall you take? Must you be observed, and where can you go once across? And those here? How shall we observe them? Think, my dear, you are worth so much more than trifles."

Ira sighed one last time, then looked to Gail. Her cadence and speech patterns had begun to correct themselves as, unlike Dea, Cait freely shared herself with Ira. This sharing improved Ira's ability to speak, but she still spoke painfully slowly, "I am, not opposed to... Your people possessing a, foothold. Uhm, but- it cannot be wholly separate. Observers, they must be allowed. Watch everything. But- will not interfere. Safety too, this is, fine. But, I do not desire... Animosity..."

Ira thought for a second, then continued, "C- Ghost can, define the space. She knows your buildings. I trust her. But- I desire crossover. I wish to travel your, Earth. See friends, meet new people. I would be willing, to, ah, release the Goddess's children. The ones, within your world. Point them out too, if you wish, for your uh, memory thing..."

Then, quietly, "I want, Ghost, and Brian, to go with me. Visits to Earth, see friends, eat food. These sorts of things. And, safety for them, and me..."

Cait watched the flickering of the unlights in front of her, wondering if she should mention it, or if Brian was going to. She was trying to stay relatively neutral in all of this, mostly because they were all her friends and she didn't want to go up against any of them, not really.

That whole observer thing wasn't going to fly, though - it wasn't even going to fly with Brian, and he was half-here already. She could feel his uncomfortable shift, just as she could see the calculating flicker in Gail's posture, while she was probably debating with herselves how much she needed to give up over it.

But... no. It didn't have to be that way.

"No observers." She might as well say it before someone else did, because she could say it with one of her quick smiles, rather than with anger. "The ACF doesn't like outside oversight, yeah? But what we can have - what we will have, I think, is personnel. ACF personnel! I know a guy-"

"Cait, what're you doing?"
He hadn't needed to speak out loud, he'd just chosen to, probably so everyone else could share the exasperation. Cait just giggled.

"Researcher-priests - come on, it's a great idea." His skepticism radiated, so Cait elbowed him in the ribs. "It is a great idea. We translate the handbook and swear 'em in and bam, we've got a little Foundation setup right here, Strings will probably think it's awesome."

"SV-5 will not be involved on this side of things. For security reasons." Because he's an [expletive]ing madman, that part didn't need to be spoken. Brian agreed. Cait tried to give him another poke in the ribcage, but he caught her arm this time because he was a spoilsport. "Also, giving him access to two level-1 locations was deemed undesirable."

"Your L-6 buddies are boring."

"My L-6 buddies are sane."

Wasn't that what Cait had just said? "So who's running it then?"

"SV-6. Who won't exist. Officially. And, in fact, part of the contract for the position says that no one will believe they exist at all until appraised of their position with clearance from the rest of the security council."

"Aww, they let you write the contract? It's not even your birthday." Cait was teasing, but she was also kind of serious. She tilted her head back at Brian, unspoken questions passing between them - not the new mythologically unspoken, just the usual setting of having worked together for long enough that they were both processing the same conversation in their heads.

"The Council wouldn't let you write your own contract. Agent Weber." Because Brian was thinking what Cait was thinking, which was did they finally get her to break down and accept a council seat, after all? - but he was right, the Foundation would never let her write her own contract. That was a great way to end up with an apocalypse - and Cait loved a good apocalypse, but L-6 tended to get touchy about those things.

"No. They would not. Fortunately, I am not completely insane and refuse to touch the position."

Which was just silly, because Cait had been after a Council position for years, and she was - well. Hm. Brian was not-thinking it, very loudly. "So who do they want to stick here, then? Because there's no way I'm letting some closed-minded idiot who doesn't get it-"

"Cait." It was a gentle admonishment, except he wasn't saying it in the gentle-admonishment tone, he was saying it in the actually this is kind of a question, but I think I know it's also the answer sort of tone, because-

"-Oh." That was certainly something to think about. If the council was willing to sign off on it, though, it could be interesting, couldn't it? She could absolutely have her researcher-priests, then, and whatever else - almost all her personnel could be denizens, and maybe a few who'd made the crossing, and-

Brian cleared his throat, before she could say anything. "Let's see that contract."

Ohhh, yeah, there was that, wasn't there?

Gail nodded, handing over a folded piece of paper, which would undoubtedly keep unfolding as much as it needed to. Cait sighed, knowing that she was going to have to go over it in extreme detail, and that Gail wasn't going to help her with it, not this time. Possibly this was payback, for the thing Cait had pulled with the whole dead goddess.

"Okay, but like... what about Ira, though?" A sudden inquiry, because that needed to be asked. [/color=#aaa7f1]"Does she get to go see friends?"[/color] Because that was important to Ira, and she hardly ever asked for anything - well, that wasn't true, she asked for tribute all the time, but like - she didn't ask for anything important.

"Provided everything else goes through - potentially, with caveats. She would be initially restricted to ACF locations rather than the outside world, though... with proper training in secrecy, I would be willing to permit amendments beyond that clause." That was reasonably fair, Cait had to admit. She would be accompanied, at all times, by an apprised Foundation staff member of Class-C or higher. She would be there to learn and experience, not to act - any exercise of divine power would result in her being remanded to the Waking World immediately. We would accept the concession of pointing out the 'Goddess' children' and remanding them to Foundation custody as a good faith effort in this direction." A pause, an indrawn breath, a piercing stare - oh, good, Cait loved being on the receiving end of those. "These caveats would also apply to any other divinities of the Waking World."

This means you, Cait, Yeah, she could read that one loud and clear. Oof. But it was fair to Ira, or at least fair-ish. It could have been worse. She shrugged a little, and buried herself in reading through the contract, because maybe keeping busy would take the sting out of it.

She'd liked it better when they were all on the same side.
Ira allowed herself to smile as she watched the interactions between Cait, Brian and Duet. No observers- except denizens would be sworn in as researchers, practically the exact same thing. Denizens were loyal, fanatically so, to their deities. No law or contract could be held above THem in their hearts, yet it seemed as though that wouldn't be an issue either!

That is, if Ira was understanding everything properly, Cait would be the one in charge of the new location. Dually controlling the location while also being attached to Ira, it was perfect! Ira didn't question Cait's loyalties or devotions in the least. If push came to shove, Cait would choose Ira, she knew this. But! It didn't appear as if any of that would be an issue! To top it all off, the strung man would hold no bearing over her world!

She grinned even wider at Cait. Sure, Duet had laid down some pretty heavy restrictions, but these restrictions were no worse than the ones placed upon her back during containment. Really, these were even easier than before! Duet didn't even ask Ira to release the Goddess's children, just to start pointing them out for the Foundation. It was all coming together and it was all going to be ok!

Then Ira looked at HER.

And SHE wasn't smiling.

SHE sat quiet, HER face withdrawn into a look of cold detachment. As the conversations moved, SHE watched the faces of the Locusts very, very closely. They were too calm, too normal about this whole situation, too 'ok' with those present. It infuriated HER. SHE didn't show it, nor did SHE allow Cait or Ira to feel the building rage. HER feelings were locked away, hidden, and concealed from those that came from HER, directly and not so.

Ira had looked in HER direction, the kid's face falling ever so slightly at HER demeanor. With a flick of the wrist and a little light from HER exhale, SHE communicated,

'I'm fine.'

SHE lied. HER fingers psychically reached out to Cait as She unfolded and began to read the contract. Anything that even remotely, even in the most roundabout and obscure manner, referenced HER would be highlighted before Cait's eyes. The images and colors projected screaming REJECTED. SHE would suffer no authority above HERSELF.

"This taste in the air infuriates me." SHE spoke, her voice echoing more than a few other tones and volumes within her throat, "Too cooperative, too kind, too friendly. It disgusts me in a way I had not thought the Foundation could remind my senses." SHE tapped the table, HER fingertips digging into the wood as though it were putty to be gouged and played with.

"Your twisted interdimensional boxes will not hold hidden court beneath my nose. Do you think me so foolish as to assume the Foundation holds anything but malice in its steps? The Foundation seeks only one thing, control of it does not understand. If control cannot be achieved, then Annihilation is your only solution."

HER fingers stopped tapping, her eyes flicking to Duet, "Am I not correct? Answer not with lies, lest I need dredge up the corpses your councilmen sent into the darkness of my home to be consumed amongst my walls. Their screams have lulled me to sleep more than a single night."
"Oh, you pretty much got it in one," Agent Weber answered, amused. She wondered what Ama would make of that; most deities were used to denial of such things, or if people were forced to admit the truth, they usually did it with a measure of reluctance and not as if they were congratulating a particularly bright five-year-old on tying their shoes correctly. HER assessment wasn't wrong, though, and Gail wasn't going to pretend it was. She was similarly unbothered by the comment about the corpses of previous Foundation members - that was an occupational hazard, after all, and something that they all signed on to. She'd probably seen worse. Hell, she could probably give the Terrible Trio here some pointers.

Perhaps she should have felt bad about including Cait in that segment, but then again, perhaps Cait was one of the pointers she'd have given them. Oh, if they're not screaming enough for you, go have Cait go out there and chat with them for a while, they'll be at it again in no time. She'd suggested much the same to... hm, certain Foundation personnel, hadn't she? Once upon a time, in a different story.

And where was this story going? The contract was surprisingly unrelated to HER except in the event that SHE should try to make HER way across the boundaries. Mostly, it had to do with the location's parameters and specific requirements for its titular head, who would be - well, not HER, of course, but to have that power SHE would have to accept the restrictions that went along with it, and Agent Weber didn't see that happening. SHE wouldn't have liked to be tied to them, after all - but Cait was already, and so it was all relatively easy to tie up in a neat little knot that would be almost impossible to undo again. There were all sorts of interesting and fun things that one could do with the power of a god behind them - all she had to do was sign the paper.

Agent Weber gave her time to read it, of course, because not allowing that would have made a loophole, and she didn't like loopholes. So, Cait could read and see how far she wanted to impale herself on this decision, and Agent Weber could annoy another deity, and Ira-neé-1003 could do whatever it was she was doing in the background. She was the one Agent Weber was worried about, because she was unpredictable, but she wasn't going to let on about that if she didn't have to. Her attention stayed devoted to the eldest, inasmuch as Gail and her attention were ever devoted to anything, which was a rather low threshhold to pass.

"Did you want me to be more of a bitch?" she inquired, with something akin to politeness. Akin, perhaps, in the same manner as that one relative we don't talk about. "Because if you'd like me to, you could try asking politely - 'Oh, Agent, please, be more of a bitch, I want you to hurt me-' - hm, maybe that's a little off track - anyway, you could ask for it. If you wanted. Beg for it. Like a prayer, hm~m?" She hummed a few of the next notes, or something did.

"She's just doing that to annoy you," Cait put in, over the top of the contract, not necessarily incorrectly.

"No, I'm doing it because it's fun." And if it was fun because it might piss off a deity, that was still fun, wasn't it? Maybe it was even more fun that way. Agent Weber could have asked the last Goddess, but She wasn't really answering anything right now. Perils of being dead, or so it seemed. Gail wondered if She screamed, too, and if SHE found that similarly soporific. Something to ask about later, perhaps. If she was being a bitch.
HER face did not change as Duet spoke, a slight twinge of rage, a slight twinge of annoyance, and a slight twinge of cold detachment. The comment from Cait did not change HER outlook, though there would be a feeling SHE relayed through Ira to Her. A simple response of,

'I know. I'm goading it out.'

Because, while SHE was not 'ok,' SHE was not necessarily upset either. This meeting, this entire interaction, was the reluctant action of a long-suffering mother seeking to please her child. Ira wanted this, SHE knew Ira wanted this so desperately, SHE wasn't going to ruin it for her. But SHE also knew that these people expected backlash from deities, they savored it, required it.

Simply accepting a deal, even a fair one, at face value would be more dangerous than fighting over it.

Sneering, SHE spoke to Duet in a low, growling tone, "Of course -you- would enjoy such base emotions. Humans are all the same. Feasting upon their worst desires for petty, fleeting enjoyment. Shall I grovel before you? Prostrate MYSELF so that you might climax upon my suffering?"

The act did not need to carry on too much longer.

Ira gently slipped from her position at the table to move closer to Cait, looking over the older woman's shoulder to read the contract. Ira didn't understand any of it, of course, but she knew Cait would and that's all that mattered.

Much like how Ira parsed information for Cait before Cait came fully into herself, Ira hoped Cait would do the same for her with this seemingly infinite piece of paper. There was something else though, Ira could sense it. SHE was never this active, never this involved, what changed? SHE loved Ira, of course, but enough to fight and argue for her?

Gently, ever so gently, Ira let a feeling slip between herself and Cait.

'SHE wants something. I don't know what. SHE won't tell me. SHE is stubborn. Can you help me find it?'