Something was wrong.

She couldn't precisely place it, not now. As she walked through the encampment, the faces of the inhabitants looked more than friendly. So why were they setting off every alarm bell in her brain? Archivist Diana Evelynn shook her head, clearing out her suspicions. Spending too long out in the wilds of the rooms and in the presence of Knights filled her brain with doubts and worries. Clearly, she'd finally let them catch up with her. Opening the flap of the tent, she strode in to set her bag on the counter. "What brings you in today, Archivist?" The storekeeper, Otis, was already sitting at the counter, ready for merchandising.

One of the few things the Backrooms hadn't been able to get rid of was capitalism, or, more specifically, bartering. As much as the M.E.G. would like to be able to provide for everyone, they had to give to each according to their need as sparingly as possible, with a lack of resources. Hence, most bases had begun to rely on a storehouse of materials, with an impartial judge deciding what was fair and equal trade in and out of the storehouse.

"Unfortunately, I'm here in camp on rations duty. My new, er…. office… is running low on supplies. I'm looking for as much as you can accommodate, upwards of… a week for 3 people?" The shopkeep stared blankly. "Oh, and, er… I can probably make it worth it. Here." Diana opened the bag, and dropped two items onto the table: a generic thumb-drive and an engraved black dagger. "This should do."

"Unfortunately…" Otis said, lifting his hands from the surface of the desk to pick up and inspect the dagger, "I cannot precisely appraise the value of these items if'n ya can't be a might more specific." Diana nodded.

"The USB drive is a detailed listing of Black Knight whereabouts and abilities. I've been cultivating it over the past month or so. You can add it to the archives; it's pre-edited. Ignore the margin notes in Russian, though." She points to the second item. "That there is a bonafide Black Knight tactical utility dagger. A Svartalkniv."

"Tactical? But it's engraved. That has no field advantage whatsoever!" Diana starts to interject, but Otis raises his hand. "Alright, alright. This and the file for enough Spummy & BEVERAGE to last 3 weeks." He begins to reach down below the desk to grab the supplies.


Otis looks at her. "Uh, what?"

"I said, wait. What do you have down there?" Diana asks. Her hand moves subtly to her weapon.

"I thought you asked for supplies? I have them below the desk. You want 'em or not?"

She squints. "You have 3 weeks of rations under that tiny desk, ahead of time, with no announcement of my arrival before I got here?"

A single bead of sweat beads on Otis's brow, which falls gently down onto the desk. He looks down, noticing the moisture on the plywood surface. Diana takes this as an opportunity: she plants a boot on the edge of the desk, pulling it forward and dropping the dagger and flash-drive into the carpet of the Rooms. The racket was startling, but was less startling than the walls of the tent immediately coming down, with the population of the town behind them brandishing weapons. Clubs, bows, even what could have been a firesalt flintlock, all aimed directly at her. Unfortunately, Diana was ignoring all of them in order to look at what Otis had been doing under the desk, inching a hand closer to a sigil carved into the underside: Runic Script bearing the word "BEACON".

The silence is palpable, for a moment, until Diana asks "So… anyone want to explain exactly what's going on, or am I supposed to gather why I'm being threatened from context clues?"

"You're no longer worth the trouble, Ms. Evelynn." The camp director was the only one who spoke up. "We heard what happened up in Level 654, and when we got a similar note pinned to a tent-pole, well… you're not worth what you used to be."

It was a delicate balance from here on out. Too much focus on getting out of this situation, and she'd risk giving away whatever plan she had. Too much focus on the distraction, and she'd never come up with a plan at all. "Not worth what I used to be? I'm still bringing needed info in, aren't I?" She moved surreptitiously closer to the dagger on the ground, raising her hands in mock surrender.

"About the Knights, yes. But, and I think I speak for a lot of people here…" she said, looking around to meet the gaze of a couple dozen nodding survivors, "… when I say that's less than an issue than a lot of other things around here. You've not even supplied us with an article on anything unrelated to the Black Knights since you started documenting them, and it's not like they're picking us off left and right. You stay away from them, they stay away from us. It's all on the paper."

Diana plants a foot firmly on the handle of the blade, and crosses her arms. "All on the paper, right. So, you're just willing to… bow to what is, more or less, a terrorist threat, and in the same breath say that they'll leave you alone if you do the same?"

"One life for ours. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." She lowers her crossbow. "Or, maybe they won't need to kill you. I have no clue why they want you. But you're gonna come with us, willingly or unwillingly."

"What if, just a suggestion: I left here, immediately?" There's a beat, as her company decides what to make of that, before the gentleman to the right of her thinks to try and grab her. Before this can happen, however, she kicks upwards the dagger she'd been stepping on, before catching and then throwing it directly into the carpeted floor at her feet. The man gets a handful of hair as she falls, but not enough to prevent it coming loose, fistfuls of oily blackness remaining.

The kitchen table in Castle 783 barely takes the force of her landing, after she falls from the ceiling. The knife lands on her back, thankfully with pommel down. Eyes closed, she takes a few seconds to breathe. She only gets up when Natasha opens the front door a couple minutes later, the carcass of some unknown beast of burden slung over her shoulder. "How was hunting trip, friend?"


The large woman takes a stride closer and pats the Archivists head gently. "First, I go claim skin of bear. I wear this to hunt, as bear is apex predator. Also, this is becoming of me. I do not understand why."

She hops down off the table. "I'll explain when you're older. How old are you, anyways?"

Natasha dodges the question. "No worries. Some day, you come with me and I show you hunting technique of great warrior. You may bring home large skot as well. I have need of kitchen, to prepare and butcher. I may need help, will you be available to assist?"

Diana stretches, taking off the tattered lab coat. Holding open the lid with her foot, she places it loosely in the trash can. "Yeah, I just need to do a little laundry first."
















"Kevin, what are you doing? Please, this isn't you! The… the medication is affecting you. Please, wake up!"


"You have to snap out of it! Wake up, Kevin! Wake up!


The newly christened Kevin Datetree woke in a cold sweat, screaming. He'd been thrashing around in his bed, armor reattached and his limbs held in place on either side by Diana and Natasha.

"Hey! Hey! Calm down, it's alright."

"You must not with the thrashing and such. You may hurt yourself, or worse, the Ms. Evelynn."

He looked around, breathing slowly returning to normal. "What did… what?" He spots the pack attached at his hip, and tries to fumble with it. "No, I… no…" he lets out feebly.

"Kevin, you- no, you- stop. Stop." Diana holds his hands down. "That's keeping you alive, letting you get better."

"But that's…. Ebonichor…" he manages, before passing out again, his muscles going limp.


Scrub. Scrub. Scrub.

"You have one goal…"

Scrub. Scrub. Scrub.

"Complete and total elimination of insurrectionists and their ideals among us."

Scrub, scrub, scrub.

Some tiny spark of him was tickled by that statement. Deep in the darkest depths of his soul, Jared found something oddly charming about the phrase "among us". It didn't stick around. He wiped away the blood from his single exposed hand with a cool rag, and examined it. Through the faceplate of his helmet, and the heads up display within, he could scarcely tell what color his blood ran at this point. Despite that, he knew his time hadn't quite come yet; the viscosity was still completely off. He wasn't and wouldn't bleed black for at least another week if the projections were right. A sudden fit caught him, and he doubled over, coughing.

"Cadet?" A gauntlet was laid on his shoulder.

"I'm fine, Knight Commander. Just adjusting to the serum."

His commander gave him a deep sigh. "I disagree with your clinician's approval to move to a higher bracket. I don't think it's healthy for you to be taking too much Ebonichor."

"I'm still not taking enough. Can't you see that?" Jared pointed towards the water with his armored left hand, hiding his single exposed hand from view. "I'm not clean yet."

"Nonsense. You are clean in mind, and it will not be too long before you're clean in body as well. As the first Native to embrace our ideals, I would call you a massive success. Were it not for the laws, I would be proud to call you a member of my attack coalition."

"I am clean in mind because I'm intelligent enough to realize there is not only no other way, but that I have been mistreated by all but this order. You alone have earned my respect."

The Knight Commander knelt beside him, and laid a hand on his shoulder. "That is why I am offering you a place on this mission, even before your full Cleansing. You deserve a chance at retribution." Jared swiftly but cautiously turned his head.

"I will be a member of the hunt?"

"Yes, my page. You will be allowed this. We are not parsimonious in nature, as you know."

He stood at once, retrieving his blade from a nearby pedestal. The heavy, single edged sword was a sickening sight, not only in image but in purpose.

"That terrible weapon will finally see its intended use, in good time."

Jared looked over his shoulder at his mentor. He felt disappointed at that phrasing. "Knight Commander… that's the first time you've said anything of my handiwork. I was rather hoping…" he began, but he was cut off by a raised hand.

"Any knight's blade is to be respected. Do not misunderstand my phrasing for malcontent. Many who form an opinion on your work do not understand the intention, but I do. If I found myself in your sabatons, I would hardly have done differently. A knight's forged sword is a reflection of their intentions, and an armor breaker such as yours sends an intimidating message to those in our Order."

"But you know it's purpose."

"I do. And she deserves every bit of your ire and more for what she did to you. Take this blade and go with your fellow trainees." The Knight Commander walks in a calm hemicircle around Jared to the wooden paper door, sliding it open. "The rest of them are simply for support of your ideals; I doubt it will be anyone but you to sunder the stolen property of Diana Evelynn's."

He nodded curtly, replying "She will have done to her what she is owed, for abandoning me to die. Thank you, Knight Commander." Behind the door, the flat stone beckoned. Jared closed the gap by hurtling his sword through the air to plunge deep within the rock, leaving a shimmering point in space behind. With steeled resolve, the rest of him followed shortly.

rating: +11+x
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