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Psyren’s Redemption | Ch 1 Pt 1

05/17/2017

AEGIS Agent Amelia Van den Broeke appears on scene to witness the wreckage caused by fight between individuals with extraordinary abilities. There she finds Everett Howard, an ordinary old man, unconscious, the only living witness to this attack. What follows will change both of their lives in ways neither could have ever foreseen and forever intertwine their fates.

Author's Note

Here it is! The first part of my weekly serial. I do feel I should warn folks that the titular character and protagonist starts out as a particularly hateful and racist bigot,  but needless to say he will be singing a different tune by the end of his ordeals.

I avoided using any overtly offensive terms or slurs, but Everett’s opinions are offensive in and of themselves. His views DO NOT reflect my own, so please don’t take them as so.


Official Report
February 15, 2016
Corner of 200 N Massachusetts Ave
New Hebron, California

A woman stepped out into the cold night, frost blowing out from her mouth as she surveyed the scene. A flickering street light gave off enough light to illuminate the street. Bricks, from a collapsed building had been scattered all over the place, and the wrecks from at least half a dozen cars. Those buildings that remained intact were ramshackle affairs, with boarded-up windows and doors which were no doubt havens to squatters and the like.

It wasn’t the best part of town, but then again in New Hebron there weren’t many good areas. The recession had hit the city hard and even after many parts of the nation had seen a turnaround New Hebron had never recovered. When the economy takes a hit, there are always higher crime rates, and the same was true of exemplar related criminal activity. That’s why AEGIS had such a strong presence in the area.

With a long sigh, she massaged the crest of her nose and stepped away from the car. It was rare enough to get a Friday night off, but when she did, it was, as usual, interrupted. This time proved no exception. Alex, her partner, had been furious, but in her line of work saying ‘no’ wasn’t an option.

She looked around and shook her head. It was better to keep her mind on the task at hand than to let it get clouded with personal issues when danger may be lurking in the shadows. When she considered all the wreckage, her first impression was that there had been a natural disaster or a particularly bad automobile accident, but Amelia knew better. They wouldn’t have called her in if either had been the case.

Red and blue lights flashed, casting the surrounding area in an unnatural glow, and she moved toward their source with furtive steps. They must have only just beat her as none of the officers on scene had put up crime tape. “Ma’am, you’ve entered a crime scene. You need to leave the area immediately.”

She cast a reassuring smile as she stopped dead in her tracks. “I’m Amelia van den Broeke with AEGIS. I’m here to investigate reports of an exemplar attack.”

The officer nodded and glanced back over his shoulder, toward a cluster of his fellow. “Sorry, but I’ll have to see some ID.”

Amelia slipped a hand inside her jacket and produced a badge which she flipped open with a flick of her wrist. Satisfied that the officer had gotten a good enough glimpse she slid the badge back into her coat and dropped her hands.

“Sorry, Agent you can never be too careful. Last week I stopped a spook who claimed to be looking for UFOs. He said he was with the FBI, but turns out he was just some crazy asshole.”

“Officer Harris, is it?” Amelia said leaning in to glance at the name badge on his shirt. “Why don’t we get down to business?”

Amelia jumped when she caught movement out of the corner of her eye, but when she turned to investigate, it proved to be nothing more than a pair of officers putting up caution tape. She gritted her teeth and stepped forward, her cheeks burning as she met Harris’ gaze. His featured remained blank, and he didn’t say a word as he stepped into sync with her, but somehow she got the impression it amused him.

“There’s, uh, something over this way, that you’ll probably want to see,” he threw his thumb over his shoulder to a portion of the street drowned in shadows. “One of your AEGIS friends is already on scene.”

“Thank you, officer. I can find my way.” She stepped forward, moving into the shadows with quick and furtive steps. She didn’t glance back or give Harris any more thought. The police knew to keep out of AEGIS’ way and to keep onlookers out of a crime scene.

“Van den Broeke,” a steady voice called out from the darkness and she stepped toward it her eyes adjusting as it enveloped her. She stepped through a cloud of dark mist that floated through the air like ink through water, but after a few steps it cleared giving way to a portion of street dimly lit by moonlight.

Another person, might have found the experience disconcerting, but Amelia knew what to expect. The darkness was not natural. It was a projection created by Matthews abilities.

“Sir,” she said kneeling down next to him.

He didn’t speak, instead allowing his subordinate to survey the scene. She did just that her breath catching in her throat as she took it all in. A figure, or perhaps a sculpture, composed of ice lay on the ground, one hand gripping that of an old man. Breathtaking, exquisite in every detail. So lifelike was her countenance that Amelia had trouble believing any human hand had sculpted her, but she neither could she accept she was anything beyond a simple lump of frozen water.

She looked into the sculpture’s eyes, taking in every minute detail, from her long and delicate eyelashes to texture of her iris. Amelia reached out with her mind, sensing a faint connection to the past. The woman was beautiful in a terrible, unearthly way, but there was just something so innocent and appealing about her wide-set eyes that Amelia wasn’t able to turn away. Even once she’d come to the startling revelation, supplied by her abilities, her eyes remained glued on her frosty visage.

The woman had once been a living thinking being. She was looking at a corpse. Whether that had to do with her current icy condition, Amelia couldn’t say, but regardless she was dead.

Swallowing hard, looked away and turned her attention to the old man. Ordinary in every sense of the word, he would have blended into a crowd in just about any part of the country without drawing attention. She had no idea what part he might have played in the confrontation, but something told her he might still be of some importance.

“Any impressions?” Matthews whispered on the wind.

She nodded, bit her lips and opened herself up. The world disappeared with a suddenness that might have been startling if she hadn’t experienced so many times before. The same could not be said for what followed.

 

Psyren’s Redemption | Ch 1 Pt 2

05/23/2017


Official Report
Corner of 200 N Massachusetts Ave
New Hebron, California

Bright images stuttered, blurred and quavered. The night itself seemed to shake as Amelia’s mind touched a presence so brilliant she almost lost her concentration. At the last moment, she gritted her teeth and steadied her breath. The vision solidified with one last brilliant flash before resolving itself into an image of the same street where they had found the old man and the ice sculpture.

She was looking upon past events, and despite being muddied by the strange amber hue that addled her perceptions of those incidences witnessed through the lens of time, they often proved an invaluable tool to her work as an investigator. A slow repetitive intonation, which Amelia recognized as laughter, distorted by the vision, wafted through the air as the agent navigated through the debris. Sound, was often garbled and always unintelligible altogether when Amelia was ‘viewing’, but she had used her abilities on such a regular basis she’d learned to distinguish certain sounds with a fair amount of ease.

A figure, far taller than any human had the right to be, hung back in the shadows. Dozens of eye-shaped lights gave off just enough illumination to reveal the being’s hulking mass, but little else. At first, Amelia jumped to the obvious conclusion, that this creature, or whatever it was, had caused the chaos and destruction of which she had witnessed the aftermath. When she, again, heard the distorted sound of laughter and turned to gaze on the source she knew she’d been wrong.

A second figure, this time an otherwise ordinary-looking man in an AEGIS lab coat, sent out waves of destruction with a simple flick of his wrists as he hovered in the air above. A third person raced toward him, her form illuminated by a soft glow which seemed to radiate from her skin or perhaps even deeper. She came closer and Amelia shook her head as she took in her features.

She was beautiful, but in an ethereal and elemental sort of way almost as if she were a force of nature itself. Her sea-green hair cascaded down her shoulders like waves crashing against an embankment of rocks and her eyes glowed like two sapphires cast into the most brilliant light. She moved with a fluid grace as if dancing to some silent tune and each step she took was so perfect it must have been choreographed.

A cold chill trickled down Amelia’s spine when the woman turned her body and she got her first good look at the woman’s shoulder and arm, which seemed to be made of ice. Her face was the perfect likeness of the ice sculpture from the crime scene and when she saw her Amelia could only come to one inescapable conclusion, the carving and the current subject of her attention were the same.

Before the agent, ruminating further, her feet lost purchase, and she screamed out believing she was falling, but as her arms and legs flailed about she realized that she was moving in the wrong direction. She zoomed above the wreckage at a dizzying speed before stopping in mid-air and came face to face with the visage of the hovering man.

Amelia had no tangible form within the visions and could not interact with anything she witnessed since she was an observer to events that had already passed. The people she saw were shadows of the true person imprinted upon an item present during those events, in this case Mr. Howard’s clothing. They were not living, breathing, thinking beings who were aware of anything besides the events that were playing out. There was no way they could be aware of her presence, but as she looked into the man’s eyes she swallowed hard. This time it was different.

He held his hand out then closed it, drawing it in so it was just a few inches away from his chest. Amelia floated toward him, gasping for breath as she felt her chest tighten. The amber-tinged cast of the vision faded away, replaced by the tones and colors of the real world and she squirmed to break free.

The man’s face contorted into a smile so tight it gave him an inhuman, almost ghoulish, appearance, and when a high-pitched shrieking laugh pierced the air. Amelia shuddered as she drew closer to the man’s skeletal frame.

She caught movement out of the corner of her eyes, but couldn’t turn her head to get a good enough view. She suspected that it was the old man, but she had no way of knowing for sure.

“Have you been enjoying the show?”

He clenched his hand tighter and her chest constricted until she could barely draw in a breath. His grin stretched even tighter, and she turned away unable to gaze into those eyes. There was an intensity, a hatred, so deep, so overwhelming that it was far beyond any level of malevolence she would have never believed possible. She let out a scream, squirming in his invisible hold as sweat and tears cascaded down her face and from her pores.

“GET OUT!”

His voice was so loud that covering her ears did little to block out the sound. When he threw his hands out, the vision blinked out, and shattered with enough force to send Amelia hurtling across the empty street.

Psyren’s Redemption | Ch 1 Pt 3

05/31/2017


Official Report
Corner of 200 N Massachusetts Ave
New Hebron, California

Amelia gasped sitting bolt upright as Matthews came rushing toward her. “Agent, what happened?”

She grunted as she climbed to her feet and returned her gaze to her superior. “I-I’m not really sure. There was a strong enough imprint on the old man’s clothes I was able to get a fairly clear viewing, but…”

She trailed off, pulling her hair away from her face, and bit her lip as her hands brushed against something damp… blood trickling from her ears.

“Agent?”

She let her hair fall back into place and glanced over her shoulder at the sculpture of the woman. “I’ve never experienced anything like it. There was a man in a lab coat, one of ours, a woman who looked remarkably like that sculpture, and something big lurking in the shadows. I caught movement in the background. It might have been the old man.”

“The man in the AEGIS lab coat seemed to have some sort of telekinetic abilities. He was sending out waves of destruction with his hands. He saw me, sir.”

“Saw you, how?” He asked raising a hand to his temple. The ribbon of darkness that surrounded them, swirled and accelerated in a dizzying spin before dissolving into the calm night air.

“I-I don’t know, sir. Nothing like this has ever happened before. I’ve never been able to interact with the subjects of the vision until now. I think we’re dealing with a powerful exemplar. Maybe a precog of some sort.”

Matthews nodded and turned back to the corpse and old man’s unconscious form. “I checked him for ID, looks like our friend here is one Everett Howard. An ambulance should be on scene any moment now. We’ll need keep an eye on him until I can get a guard rotation set up with the local PD.”

“Is that really necessary, sir?” Amelia shuddered and slipped her hands inside her coat pockets.

“We’re not operating with a lot of information, agent. This man is only survivor and our best chance at finding out what the hell happened here. If we’re dealing with the perp I think we are, this person or persons don’t often leave survivors. This man’s life could be in terrible danger.” He said climbing to his feet and turning to cast his eyes around the crime scene.

“S-sir?”

“It’s damn near time you found out, anyway. For some time now AEGIS has been aware of a number of events associated with the name Chemosh. We don’t know if this is one person or a collection of individuals, but this incident coupled with the one at our research facility earlier in the night fits the established MO.”

Chemosh? Amelia blinked why did that name sound so familiar?

“Sir, if there was an attack at one of our facilities why wasn’t I told? I may not have been able to get a good read on this particular attack, but—”

“Agent,” he said bring a hand up and rested it on her shoulder. “The existence of the facility is on a need-to-know basis and until this moment there was no reason for you to know be aware of its existence. Besides, I won’t risk one of my best agents when it’s abundantly clear that your retro-cognizance isn’t going to be of use when dealing with this threat. If you try to view again, there’s no telling what might happen.”

“Sir, I’m willing to take the risk sir if there’s even a chance I can get to the bottom of this.”

He looked her in the eyes and shook his head. “I’m not sure I am, agent. We’ll have a doctor look you over and if I’m satisfied there is no risk to your health, then I will consider it. Until then, you will follow my orders. Is that clear, agent?”

“Crystal clear, sir. What about the old man? Do you think he’s just a bystander or is he involved in this… shit fest?”

“My gut tells me he’s just an innocent, but it never hurts to be cautious. I’ve got some of our boys back at the field office running a background check now.”

“And if we need to contain him, sir?”

Matthew spun around and met her gaze before shaking his head and turning away again. “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Our medical facilities adjoined the lab that was attacked and are in disarray. Best-case scenario, they won’t be available for several weeks. I’m having him taken to the County General. If it comes to it, I’ll contain the whole damn hospital. He just needs to be kept safe and, if necessary, in line until this mess is puzzled out.”

Matthews moved away, to talk with the officers on scene and Amelia shivered against a new onslaught of wind. She folded her arms across her chest and bit her lip, feeling her teeth chatter as she waited for her superior to finish up. She grimaced and looked down at her dress and wished she’d chosen something a little warmer.  She’d wanted to look good for her date and hadn’t been expecting to spend much time in the cold.

It would be one damn long night. She slipped her hand inside her coat and reached for her holster to ensure that the button was unclasped to allow for a quick draw. She may have been safe at the moment, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that things might take a sour turn in the blink of an eye and she intended to be ready if they did.

As Matthews returned, she zipped her coat back up and turned to meet him. He approached, giving no sign of discomfort even as a torrent of wind blasted through the street strong enough to threatened Amelia’s modesty. He continued on, giving no outward sign he noticed.

“I want you to ride with Mr. Howard. The sooner the doctor’s have a look at you and make sure there were no ill effects from this incident, the better.” he said his eyes trained on something behind Amelia’s shoulder.

She turned to follow his gaze, just in time to witness the ambulance pull up to the edge of the crime scene. She glanced back at Matthews ready to protest, but stopped short when she looked into his eyes. There wasn’t any doubt in her mind, that his statement had been an order, not a request. She nodded, bit her lip and moved toward the pair of rescue workers as they arrived on scene. From there the night descended into tedium and as the paramedics did their work, first with the old man then herself. Amelia sighed and let them at it. She’d been right in at least one respect, it was turning out to be a long night.

Psyren’s Redemption | Ch 2 Pt 1

06/08/2017


Official Report
County General Hospital
New Hebron, California

The scent of Antiseptics wafted through the air, which no doubt masked the smells of death and disease that would have otherwise permeated the air. Amelia folded her arms and let out a long breath of air as she shifted position in the chair. A part of her, an almost forgotten remnant from the distant past, experienced a tinge of fear she might catch some imagined illness, but she shook her head and forced the thought away. That had been her mother’s weakness not her own.

She thrummed her fingers against the chair’s arm and sighed listening to the sounds of nurses, doctor’s and orderlies rushed through the hallway. She leaned her head back against the wall and closed her eyes and slid them open again when a voice speak her name.

“M-miss Van den Broeke?”

The nurse tugged at the ends of her scrub top, a flowered affair that to Amelia looked like something regurgitated by a houseplant, and eyed the Agent with a scowl she hadn’t quite masked. Amelia shook her head and grimaced at the nurse. She was used to those sorts of looks. It might have been because Amy worked for AEGIS or it might have something to do with information, she had no doubt, spied in her charts. While AEGIS wasn’t the most beloved of government agencies, something told the agent it was the latter rather than the former.

“Yes?” Amelia met the nurse’s gaze daring the other woman to say something. If she picked up on her unspoken challenge, she gave no sign.

“The doctor is just finishing up with another patient. He should be in to discuss the results of your MRI in a few moments. You can get dressed now.”

Amelia’s face stretched into an approximation of a smile and mumbled a thanks. In response, the nurses lips curled into a sneer and she looked Amelia up and down before swinging the door open hard enough for it to make a loud thud as the knob impacted the wall, and disappeared into the hallway without even bothering to wait for the door to latch as it swung closed again.

“Well, that was pleasant,” Amelia sighed and walked across the room to close the door, but when her hand touched the hardwood, she stopped straining her ears.

A long mournful wail permeated the corridor. She shivered and listened for it again. It had sounded so inhuman, so full of rage and pain she wondered what sort of creature might have made it.

“GALLU.”

What had been the source of those high-pitched squeals? The first and second had been so faint she almost convinced herself she’d imagined them. When a third and louder wail pierced the air, she identified it as a scream, Amelia knew it hadn’t been her imagination.

“God, is this night every going to end?” She asked the open air while letting out a single frustrated sigh.

She left the door open and scrambled across the room, snatching her gun from her bag of belongings before dashing into the chaos of the corridor without.

Psyren’s Redemption | Ch 2 Pt 2

06/13/2017


Official Report
County General Hospital
New Hebron, California

Everett heard a voice, it was deep, reverberating through his skull which throbbed as the speaker pronounced each new syllable. He couldn’t quite make out the words, but as he grew more aware of the world around him, the man’s voice became much clearer.

“–ime of night it is, Agent Hansen. Dr. Hassebroek,” expertise is needed. I don’t care how much he whines about it. Get him to County General and do it ASAP.”

The old man’s eyes snapped open, but he only saw a blur. Everett suffered from failing eyesight, so it came as a surprise that when his vision adjusted to the dim light of the room, he saw with such crystal clarity. He blinked, and rubbed his eyes, as the fog lifted from his mind.

“Mr. Howard?” the owner of the voice, who had woken him from his slumber, stepped into sight and Everett grimaced, taking in his tailored suit and ebony skin.

“Yeah, who the hell are you?” Everett groaned letting his head fall back into his pillow and as he messaged the crest of his nose.

“Special Agent in Charge Phillip Matthews with AEGIS. Do you know where you are, Mr. Howard?”

Everett let his eyes dart around the room before returning his attention to the much younger man. “Looks like the damn hospital.”

“Earlier this evening there was an attack on the city, by an individual or individuals with what can only be described as extraordinary abilities. We found you unconscious on site. Can you tell me anything about what happened?”

Everett shook his head and glanced at Matthews. “Can I see a badge?”

Matthews nodded, reaching into his suit jacket and produced it as requested, then flipped it shut and slipped it back into his breast pocket. “Now, Mr. Howard if you would help me understand what had happened it would be of great assistance to our investigation.”

Everett sat up, surprised at how limber he felt. He flexed his hand, which was always throbbing with pain and frozen up because of arthritis and shook his head staring up at the other man with a scowl on his face as Matthews reached out to help steady him.

“Don’t touch me! You—” Everett stopped mid-sentence, stopping himself before a slur escaped his lips. He gritted his teeth before shaking his head and sliding away from Matthews as far as the tube in his arm would allow.

“You want to know what happened?” He sighed cupping his face in his hand and messaged his forehead. He looked up at the other man and shook his head. “I’m not sure you would believe me if I told you. We all know about exemplar freaks and the things they can do, but this… it was something different, something else. There was a man, he hovered around in the air. He said his name was Kamash, I think.”

“Chemosh… we’ve had run-ins with that individual before.” Matthews stopped, staring at the wall and with slow careful movements slipped a hand inside his suit jacket.

“Mr. Harris, I need you to get down.”

He spoke in a soft tone that was only distinguishable from his previous timbre save it had the barest hint of steel, but it wasn’t until Matthews produced a pistol that Everett complied, dropping flat into the bed quicker than the Agent could blink. When the other man fired his weapon, and he heard a high-pitched shriek, a shiver trickled down his spine.

He turned his head to watch as something the size of a cocker spaniel slid down the wall, staining it with a trail of putrid green fluid which must have been blood. Everett didn’t get a look at the creature, other than a flash of fangs and a pair of pale yellow orbs that might have been eyes, but he was sure it wasn’t a damn dog. Another creature slunk through the wall leaving nothing but a dark orange stain on its unmarred surface as it appeared inside the room.

“GALLU!” It screamed, turning toward both men, its jaw hanging open revealing three rows of razor-sharp teeth. It stood hunched over on two legs, vaguely man-shaped, but not human. Matthews opened fire again, peppering the beast with bullets, but it slunk forward and the projectiles passed right through it blowing tiny holes in the floor.

“GALLU!” It repeated its horrendous screech and leapt atop the bed, leaving a trail of orange slime in its wake.

Everett rolled from the bed, taking the creature down with him and tearing the IV needle free from his arm. He howled in pain and clutched at his appendage. He scrambled to his feet, marveling at how spry he felt even as he dodged about. He avoided the creatures lunges with an ease he couldn’t even have achieved in his prime.

He leapt and jumped, ran and dodged, but each time the creature kept until it had him cornered. Matthews opened fire again, but the beast shifted to the side letting the bullets pass through it and into the floor again.

Pain radiated across Everett’s body and he fell to his knees, his insides shifted and turn as the creature came soaring through the air toward him. He held his hands up to block it, even as ribbons of pain shot from head to foot and his eyes widened in disbelief when the creature froze in the middle of the air.

Sweat cascaded down his body in beads and all he watched in horror as the little monster scratched, bit, and clawed at the empty air between them. A convulsion wracked Everett’s body, and he clutched one hand over his stomach as the fat there twisted and turned under his skin. The creature let out another screech and Everett threw his hand out sending the thing soaring across the room.

Matthews raised his weapon to open fire, but someone beat him to the chase. The creature let out one last misery-filled screech and collapsed dead its blood splattering against the floor and nearest wall. A woman wearing a hospital gown, came tearing into the room a handgun clutched in her hands.

Everett let out a sigh of relief, but soon realized that it was premature as a high-pitched wail sounded from the hallway and he doubled over in pain feeling his insides burn as the creatures’ onslaught continued.

Psyren’s Redemption | Ch 2 Pt 3

06/20/2017


Official Report
County General Hospital
New Hebron, California

“Sir, I don’t know what the hell those things are, but they’re all over the hospital,” she said looking around the room with wide eyes. “I killed three on my way here.”

“That makes five.” Matthews nodded, unfazed by the entire thing. He eyed, the woman and glanced back toward the door, as a slender hand reached up to adjust his tie. “Agent Van den Broeke, given your current… attire, I believe it best if you remain out of sight. You stay and keep any eye on Mr. Howard and I will get a handle on the situation outside the room.”

“Yes, sir.” She replied, wiping sweat from her forehead as her superior moved through the room toward the exit.

“And agent.” He paused at the door, tugging at ends of his suit coat sleeve. “Fair warning, our friend here has exhibited telekinetic abilities.”

“Understood.”

Matthews departed the room and Amelia, closed the door behind him. “My name’s Amelia van den Broeke, with A—”

“AEGIS, I know.” Everett cut her short his hand trembling as he stared at her with wide eyes. “I’m Everett How—”

“Howard, I know,” she smiled casting a furtive glance at the door before glancing back at him. “I was there at the crime scene where you were found unconscious.”

Everett doubled over, letting out an ear-splitting scream as another creature appeared, this time oozing through the window before lurching toward Amelia. Forced to defend herself against the minuscule threat, Amelia could do nothing to help the old man whose cries of pain grew louder with each passing moment.

Everett knew of the threat from the beast, but with each subsequent burst of pain, his awareness to anything but the changes to his body were so diminished as to be almost non-existent. He heard sounds, grunts from the agent, growls from the creature, and the sound of gunfire, but he wasn’t even capable of understanding what those noises meant. The only threat his mind registered was the one that was quite literally consuming his body.

While, the pain radiated across his entire body, the transformation didn’t happen in one place at once, focusing in one area before shifting to the next. It started in his stomach, fat rolled up his chest and down his side, in globs no large than plums, but in many sizes, collecting around his hips and chest. Bones, popped and cracked shifting in size and position, first in his back, forming a curvature that was decidedly feminine, his hips, pelvis and thorax all shifted at once, generating another burst of pain so much stronger than the previous ones that Everett almost lost consciousness, but as black creeped along the edges of his vision he gritted his teeth and hung on for dear life.

The darkness receded, but he remained conscious. It would have been a greater mercy had he fainted. His legs changed next, starting with his knees which popped out of joint as they shrunk and only reconnected once the surrounding bones and muscles had shrunk to fit his new joints. Next the changes shifted up, moving up his rib cage, his shoulders, arms and hands until it reached his head. As his face contorted he screamed, but gasped for air when his throat shut off. When it opened again, he screamed, but this time it came out as a high-pitched wail which was unmistakably female.

Had Everett been functioning on more than a primal level, he would have put together the clues long before that moment, but it was only then that the more rational part of his mind kicked back in and he recognized what was happening to him. Unfortunately, a rational understanding was not enough to help him stop or even accept the transformation.

As his face continued to shift and change, he brought his hands up to touch it. His wrinkles and sagging skin remained the same, instead it was the structure of his face that was being metamorphosed. Starting with his square chin and jaw, both of which softened, then moving on to his nose which had been broken more than once in his seventy-two years. There was a loud crunching sound before it inward about the same time there was a burning sensation in his eyes and was forced to close them.

The pain sub-sided to a large extent, and Everett’s awareness of the surrounding room returned with a suddenness that left him breathless. Agent Van den Broeke was fighting for her life, doing an admirable job combating three of the creatures at once. If the half a dozen or so corpses she’d left in her wake was any indication she’d had one hell of her fight on her hands while Everett had been in the throws of his transformation. He stood on his feet, more than a little aware of the changes that were still taking place within his body, but also aware that that danger presented by the creatures was too great to ignore.

When he tapped into his abilities, again, he had no idea what he was doing. Before, when he accessed them it was for the first time and he hadn’t even realized he had them. He didn’t take time to speculate on where the abilities had come from and the how or why they might be tied to his transformation, but instead threw his hands out and sent the remaining three creatures soaring away from the agent.

The creatures’ ability to phase through objects seemed to only work when they were moving. Using his own new ability Everett kept them in place allowing the agent to take them out with ease.

Amelia, was drenched in sweat and more than a little blood from the creatures, stopped dead in her tracks when she got her first good look at Everett. He was certain he was an odd site, given he was only part way into his transformation, but there was no judgement or revulsion in her gaze as he would have expected, just surprise.

Neither had time to speak before Everett doubled over as his crotch and stomach, flaring with renewed pain. ‘This is it,’ he thought at the exact moment something long, soft, and slender slid down his left pant leg followed by something more irregular shaped. Bile rose in the back of his throat and he kicked out sending both his penis and scrotum flying across the room and into the opposite wall.

He lost all control, losing the entire content of his stomach in a long stream of vomit. He staggered back, only able to keep his balance by leaning against the wall as more even vomit spewed from his mouth. This time it wasn’t the contents of his stomach, but something much stranger, yellow chunks of god knew what, blood and what must have been his own flesh. His body was discarding it had left over from the transformation process and it wasn’t a pretty sight.

“GALLU!”

A long drawn out shriek pierced the room and another creature wormed its way through the door and lurched toward Everett with reckless abandon. Agent Van den Broeke opened fire, but the creature kept moving, shifting between its solid and semi-solid form as a trail of bullets followed in its wake. Each one of them either missing it or passing through it. Everett threw his hand out to send the beast rocketing away, but nothing happened.

He threw his hand out again and again, but nothing came… and the creature came closer.

Psyren’s Redemption | Ch 2 Pt 4

06/27/2017


Official Report
County General Hospital
New Hebron, California

As the beast lurched closer Everett’s transformation entered its final stage, his skin marred by wrinkles and more than its fair share of sagging, tightened and in a moment decades of wear disappeared from his face and body. His skin became as soft and unblemished as that of a newborn.

The creature jumped forward letting out another shriek and this time neither the agent nor Everett could do anything to stop it. Everett dove out of the way before it reached him, but it’s slime dribbled on his chest. He landed atop his new breasts with a grunt before rolling onto his back to face the creature. It hadn’t wasted time dropping to the ground beside him and he was certain he was witnessing his last moment.

Time slowed to a crawl as an awareness expanded inside his mind. He could sense the creature and others like it, their minds were alien, so cold, so full of malice, but there was a surprising amount of intelligence which only sent cold shivers down his spine. They teetered upon the cusp of sapience, not quite able to think and reason on a human level, but close.

There was a unity to their thoughts that would have never been possible in humans. Each of them functioned as separate individuals, but there was no dissent among them. It was almost as if dozens of humans, all with the same passions, the same goals had their minds fused to each other, but could still operate independent of each other. There was a malignancy to these creatures, a cancerous hatred that would have consumed a human, but was for these creatures a simple matter of who and what they were.

The creature nearest to him pounced ready to make its killing thrust, but Everett reached out to the group consciousness and focused hard. The result was unlike anything he could have predicted, the creature stopped in the mid-air and let out a high-pitched scream so intense, so powerful that even covering his ears did little to block it out.

He strained his senses, tightening his focus on the creatures as the one nearest to him writhed and shrieked against his continued onslaught. He kept at it, not letting its continued cries weaken his resolve, until there was a release of pressure, resulting in not only a break in the link between Everett and the beings who were attacking the hospital, but a literal explosion of blood and gore from the one who had been about to attack him.

“I-I think it’s over.”

Everett shook his head as he looked down at his hands with wide eyes. One last change had taken place while the creatures had occupied him, his pale and pasty skin had taken on a much darker hue. He stared at his long and slender hands flexing them over and over turning them this way and a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.

“What the hell is this?” He asked look across the room at the agent. “What did you people do to me?”

Van den Broeke shook her head staring back at the new woman with wide eyes. “It wasn’t us. I think you’re innate exemplar abilities have awakened. I’ve never heard of it happening with someone…”

She trailed off shaking her head before locking gazes with Everett, again. “So old, but it’s the only thing that makes sense.”

Everett reached up to cup his breasts, filling his cheeks burn. “You mean, I’m stuck like this. I look like some ghetto hooker.”

Van den Broeke blinked, looking like she’d just been slapped in the face. “Ghetto hooker?”

She clasped her hand around the door and swung it open with a lot more force than was necessary.

“Agent?” Matthews, who was standing on the other side of the doorway when Amelia opened it, stepped through glancing across the room at the transformed Everett before returning his attention to his underling. “The threat seems to have passed. All the creatures appear to have erupted. Can’t say what caused it, but from the looks of it the same thing happened here.”

He glanced at Everett again, pursed his lips. “Something tells me your experience was more… Interesting than mine.”

Amelia nodded following Matthews gaze and lowered her weapon. “Sir, that’s Mr. Howard.”

“Yes, I surmised as much since she is wearing the same gown as the old man, Agent. Something tells me there’s a lot more going on here than either of us have guessed. We’ve stumbled onto something big and it looks like… Ms. Howard may be the key.”

“Ms. Howard? I might look like some…” He paused between gritted teeth looking back and forth between the Agents and shook his head. “Some girl to you, but I’m sure as hell not. As it is, I don’t have any damn idea what the hell is happening!”

“Well then, Mr. Howard, we have best get to bottom of it. If this attack is any indicator, your life could very well depend on it.”

“Goddamnit.”

A single cold shiver trickled down Everett’s spine as he looked the man in the eyes. It hadn’t even occurred to him until just then, but there must have been a connection between the events earlier in the night and the attack on the hospital. If that were true there was only one thing, or person, both had in common. Everett.

Those creatures had been after him, and if they had come once they might come again. His new abilities were impressive, but he didn’t seem to have much control over them, if they attacked him again he wasn’t sure he could fend them off. For the time being at least he’d have to play ball with these damn AEGIS spooks. What other choice did he have?

Psyren’s Redemption | Ch 3 Pt 1

07/06/2017


Official Report
County General Hospital
New Hebron, California

Everett cursed under his breath as his hands reached up to touch his breasts and dropped them. For the last hour he’d been alternating between staring at his hands and touching his new equipment. It made him feel like a damned pervert copping a feel inside some young girl’s dress, but he couldn’t help himself, his whole body had become so alien that every movement reminded him how different it had become.

The office they had shunted him off to was small and windowless and given it bore so little decoration and had collected enough dust he doubted the hospital staff used it on a regular basis. He had been waiting for hours and his curiosity had gotten the better of him. Looking through the lone file cabinet and desk had done nothing to make the time pass and given that none of the documents he found were the least bit interesting or informative he had gave up on that pursuit.

So he spent the time, turning in the less than comfortable office chair and staring up at the ceiling as he fought his growing curiosity to strip naked and have a look at his voluptuous new form. The only thing that stopped him was the police guard outside the door and the impending return of the AEGIS agents. That didn’t mean his hands didn’t wander. He slipped a hand inside his shirt or down his pants and each time it only took a few seconds before he forced it back out again.

Though would live another fifty or sixty years, all he could do was scowl. His transformation had stripped away his manhood and that humiliating enough, but finding himself a member of the race of people who’d spent the last twenty years hating which was the harder pill to swallow. As he sat there alone, he couldn’t help but think it must be a punishment.

“Ashtar.”

He whispered the name, his light feminine voice, still sounded so alien to his ears. An image of her face so terrible, so beautiful and so fierce flash through his mind. She had been like a force of nature given human form and had he not witnessed her passing with his own eyes he would never have considered she would be extinguished. She was responsible for his transformation he knew it as sure as his name was Everett Benedict Howard.

Everett heard a thump on the other side of the doorway and turned in time to see the door swing open, revealing the officer guarding the door before two figures stepped inside the room.

“About damn time!” Everett exclaimed jumping to his feet as Matthews and Van den Broeke stepped inside, the latter dressed for a night out on the town while the former looked much like someone about to enter a buisness meeting.

“Mr. Howard,” Matthews said putting more than a little emphasis on the first word. It grated on Everett’s nerves, but he supposed it could be worse. He didn’t look like a mister anymore. It wouldn’t be long before people started using female honorifics and pronouns.

“My apologies for the delay. I hope you understand. The hospital was in shambles after the attack from those creatures and as the only representatives of AEGIS on scene it was our duty to work with local officials to get things under wraps.”

Van den Broeke nodded taking a seat across from Everett on the other side of the desk. Everett grimaced and slumped back down into the office chair at about the same time that Matthews seated himself beside Amelia.

The young agent shivered, pulled her coat tighter, but left it unzipped as met Everett’s gaze. “By now, I’m sure you’re aware of the implications of your transformation. So, I won’t go into great detail. The Agency for Exemplar Governance, Investigation, and Security or AEGIS as it’s more commonly known, was formed in response to the growing concern over vigilante justice and so called mega-criminal activity within the exemplar community.”

“And as a newly minted exemplar I now fall within your agency’s purview.” Everett folded his arms across his chest and dropped them with a long sigh. Damned breasts.

“Right,” Matthews said. “Make no mistake AEGIS is not just a policing agency. We provide aid to people, such as yourself, whose awakening have resulting in drastic changes, cope and when necessary create for them a new identity, but–”

“It sounds too damn good to be true. What’s the catch?” Everett finished thrumming his fingers against the cold metal surface of the desk.

“All things come with a price, Mr. Howard. The point is we’re here to help you. Matthews and I are both exemplars. We wouldn’t be working for the agency if there was an agenda contrary to our best interests. Some exemplars are very powerful and frankly all AEGIS asks is that people like us live and act within the constraints of the law as any good citizen would,” Amelia replied shifting in her seat as Everett’s eyes narrowed.

“And the price?”

Matthews nodded a smile touching the corner of his lips before he spoke. “In exchange for a new identity and help adjusting to your new circumstances, you will sign a non-disclosure agreement. As far as anyone else is concerned Everett Howard died today. You will never disclose your original identity to anybody.”

“That’s it? You can’t expect me to believe that’s the only catch there’s gotta be more to it.”

“From time to time, AEGIS has been known to seek assistance from those exemplars we’ve helped adjust to their new lives. It’s an addendum to the non-disclosure agreement you will sign. Call it a… consultancy clause.” Agent Van den Broeke smiled reaching a hand across the desk to touch Everett’s fingers as they danced across the surface of the desk.

Everett jerked back, almost slipping his hands away from the agent, but instead allow her to clasp her fingers around his palms. She had a sweet little smile and as Everett looked into her eyes, he saw real compassion looking back at him. “It must be hard. Adjusting to exemplar abilities is never easy, but you’ve undergone an incredible physical transformation which makes it so much harder. Let us help you.”

Everett’s cheeks flushed, and he felt a sensation he accepted he’d never again experience again, sexual arousal. Van den Broeke was quite attractive even if her figure leaned toward the boyish side. As his nipples hardened, he smiled back at her and nodded. He had the libido and sex drive of a healthy young woman and if his attraction toward the agent was any indication it would be one hell of an adjustment.

His smile melted into a frown as took in several deep breaths. He was a woman now and still attracted to the fairer sex. Did that make him a lesbian? It turned his stomach, and he scowled at the agent a new sense of revulsion settle in.

“Something wrong?” The agent blinked and cast a furtive glance toward her superior.

“Everything!” Everett closed his eyes and took another deep breath letting the revulsion and sexual tension slip away. “I’ve been thinking. This consultancy clause you spoke of… What will it entail?”

“We wouldn’t be expecting you to put on tights and jump across a building in a single bound if that’s what you’re worried about.” Amelia replied. “From time to time, we may call on people with certain abilities to assist with an investigation. For instance, I’m what’s called a psychometric retro-cognizant. I can view the past by touching objects present during those events. If you had that ability AEGIS might call you in to get a read on a crime scene. That’s just one possibility, if you happened to have powers similar to someone who was struggling to control theirs we might call on you to help them master them.”

“I need time to mull it over.”

“We can give you a full copy of the NDA before you sign it and help put you in touch with legal council so you’re aware of the ramifications,” Matthews said.

“In the meantime we need your help. If you could tell us what happened. My retro-cognizance wasn’t particularly helpful this evening and there’s some concern that whoever or whatever was at work here may be planning something big.”

Everett bit his lip and tightened his grip around the agent’s hands. There was something soothing about her touch and it helped him to still his raw nerves as he told his story. He spoke glancing around and paused between sentences, influenced by a faint fear that the creatures might return and attack. Nothing happened and as he continued, he grew more confident.

He had only been at it a few minutes when a random thought popped into his mind as he leveled his gaze at Agent Van den Broeke. ‘This woman can help me.’

‘Yes.’ A voice responded. It did not belong to him, nor either of the agents. He blinked and looked around before something tugged at the back of his mind. Amelia tried to pull away, but without even trying his hands clamped down onto hers and her eyes widened as the world around them twisted and turned, before everything washed away. Matthews called out their names as the darkness consumed them both, but he was already too late.

Psyren’s Redemption | Ch 3 Pt 2

07/12/2017


Official Report
County General Hospital
New Hebron, California

The past called to them a distant whisper carried across the winds of their minds. At first there was nothing save the voice, blackness stretched out as far as either could see. The only confirmation they were not alone was a general awareness of the other’s presence. Neither Amelia nor Everett spoke, they didn’t yet know how to communicate.

Neither knew it yet, but they had entered a realm of pure thought. Even if they knew, they would have never understood the implications and how it would mold the rest of their lives. Time passed. One moment it was dark and the next bright.

As both watched, a scene resolved itself before them. It was one familiar to Everett. He was looking upon recent happenings through his own eyes. For the agent, it was a look at events the import of which she had only just guessed at and in which she wouldn’t understand until much later in her investigation. It did, however, offer an important glimpse into Everett’s character and personality.

“Get a room,” Everett voice echoed through both of their minds as the faint ‘thump’ of a pair of elevator doors proceeded it.

‘Dammit every damn time with those two. Did either of them ever think that maybe the rest of the world doesn’t want to see them slobbering all over each other? It’s disgusting!’

At first Amelia thought she was listening to Everett’s thoughts as he expressed them, but as his voice rattled around inside her mind she realized that they were musings that had already passed from his mind.

She’d never been fond of public displays of affection, but the more she heard the less she agreed with the old man. It became obvious he had a strong bias against these women and Amelia as she witnessed these events, her ire grew from irritation to anger.

‘It’s about time they each find husbands and nip this same sex relationship nonsense in the bud.’

Under other circumstances, that would have been the final straw, but the agent had no control of what she was seeing. A sense of resignation settled over her and she watched her anger bubbling under the surface. She became less and less aware of her own thoughts and feelings until there was nothing but the vision for either herself or Everett.

Everett, winced and leaned on his cane, every day it got harder and harder to move about, but that night was of particular importance to him. The old man didn’t need to go far. He gripped the bouquet in his free hand and limped forward. When he reached the end of the hall, he paused, checking to make sure he had his keys on him, before proceeding to the exit.

The sidewalk was littered with the usual trash. Not actual garbage, but people. “This neighborhood’s gone to hell,” he muttered under his breath then joined with the throngs of people. His pace was slow and arduous and he had as little patience for it as the ill-mannered youth that passed him. It was the quickest pace he could manage, but for someone who had once prided himself on his physical prowess it grated on his nerves to move so slow.

Several blocks away from where he had started, he knelt down on the sidewalk, his knees popped and threatened to give in, but he leveraged himself with his cane and kept himself from toppling over. He gritted his teeth, then set the bouquet down, on an innocuous portion of sidewalk. It was that spot, almost twenty years ago that he’d lost her, his daughter the only person in his life who’d meant anything to him after the death of his wife.

He closed his eyes, letting tears cascade down his face before he shook his head and opening his eyelids again. He wiped the tears free and climbed back to his feet.

“Sir are you okay?” A hand touched his shoulder and he looked up to see a man staring down at him.

“Don’t touch me you damn—” he cut himself short before uttering that last word. Slurs like that, the one that started with an ‘n’ could get a man killed in the wrong part of town.

“Whatever man, I just checkin’ to see if you were alright.” The stranger stepped back holding both his hands up. For just a moment when he’d seen the stranger’s chocolate skin he believed he was looking on his daughter’s murderer, but no he was too short and barely out of his teens, far too young to be the one responsible.

Everett groaned, but with considerable effort climbed to his feet. He scowled at the stranger than watched him disappear into the crowd. For a moment, he lingered, staring down at the flowers, fighting back more tears, then he stumbled back toward the apartment building. Only halfway there when the ground started to quake, he lost his balance and fell down on one knee.

An earthquake? No, that wasn’t it, the tremors continued, one large shake after the other almost like… something very large had been running through the city. The thudding became stronger, and Everett struggled to his feet.

His gut told him he needed to get out of there, but before he’d taken a dozen steps a great hulking mass appeared from around a corner. It was a thing of nightmares, a giant with dozens of blood-red eyes, and skin as dark as the night. It had a massive cube in its arms and it appeared to be fending off attacks from a much smaller opponent.

Everett froze in place and watched the monster spin around to face the other fighter. Every fiber of his being told Everett to get out of there, but it was almost as if something were calling to him. Exemplars were nothing new although it was only in the last few decades they had come into the public eye. Some calling themselves heroes, wore outlandish costumes and ran around in a cape wreaking all sorts of havoc. Many of them were well meaning and Everett would say they were fools. They were not the ones who concerned him, however, it was the ones who used their powers to do terrible things.

A statuesque woman, dwarfed by the massive hulk, stood in direct opposition to it. She had flowing teal hair that whipped and whirled in the air even though there was no wind. One arm, and part of her chest sparkled as if made from ice or perhaps some form of crystal and was, from the looks of it, was inert. She held her other hand out and a shimmering bubble of blue energy appeared around her just before the giant’s fist came crashing down.

Her barrier held, but as soon as the creature’s fist smashed into, it flexed like it was ready to burst. Its fist came down again, and against her bubble held, but this time she staggered back as if it had done her actual physical harm. The whole thing entranced Everett, and he knew without being told what the outcome of the duel would be.

“No!” Everett screamed out as the massive beast’s fist came down a third and final time. The woman’s shield popped, and the fist crashed into her with devastating force. Everett dropped his cane and before he even knew what he was doing he ran. Not away from the chaos, but toward it. He wasn’t sure where he found the strength to dash, or to stay on his feet unsupported, but it was as if all the pain and weakness in his knees had evaporated.

The hulk mass lifted its fist then stared down at the woman inert form before turning away. A short man in a stark white lab coat, the same man Amelia had seen in her previous vision, knelt down next to the indentation left by the giant’s fist and Everett was just close enough to hear him speak.

“Ashtar, I must admit I’m impressed that you’ve lasted this long, but now as you lay bleeding there on the ground and your body slowly turns to ice I can not help feel that there was something more I might have done to make your death even more unpleasant. Farewell Ashtar, I’d love to stick around and watch you die, but well… I have more important things to do.”

He grinned then spun away, his face contorted into a hideous and unnatural grin. His massive companion stopped just long enough to scoop him up then the two sped away at a pace Everett would have thought impossible for such a huge creature.

He collapsed at edge of the hole and looked down at the woman. At first, Everett believed she was dead, but then she turned her head and looked at him. Her body was bent and broken, and there was blood everywhere. Bones, jutted out in several places, and he turned his head and loosed his lunch all over the side of the road.

“Everett. T-Take my hand.”

He didn’t stop to question her, somehow he knew she intended him no harm. Everett never thought to question how she knew his name. He reached out and touched her hand, and gasped, pulling his arm away. Though made of ice, it didn’t seem to be melting.

She gasped and gritted her teeth. “The other one. H-hurry, there isn’t much time.”

He complied, but nearly dropped it when he clasped hold of her hand. It was pulsing, and its warmth extended into his arm and into his chest.

“So much anger! Hatred courses through you and threatens to blot out a once gentle spirit. You blame many for the acts of one. Let that go… for the sake of humanity. Put your bigotry aside. There is still hope for you. Your hatred is so very small compared to the terrible acts I once committed. If I can find redemptions so can you. Forgive me for what I am about to do.”

Her grip on his hand tightened, and the pulsing grew more intense. He tried to break free, but despite being so close to death her grip was like iron. Her body glowed and became so bright it blinded him. He tried to bring his hand up to guard his eyes, but it had no effect nor did closing his eyelids. Something stirred inside him, coupled with a brilliant stabbing pain.

“Don’t forsake them you are their only hope. You. must. stop. Chemosh.” A series of coughs interrupted her last words, but when the final utterances escaped her lips, the world descended into darkness and Everett a blissful warmth overtake him.

Psyren’s Redemption | Ch 4 Pt 1

07/20/2017


Official Report
County General Hospital
New Hebron, California

The agent was the first to come awake, sitting bolt upright with a suddenness that prompted Matthews to jerk back and land on his posterior. Amelia gasped and looked at her hands. More than a little relieved to find they were not the gnarled and wrinkled one she’d witnessed in the vision.

“S-s-sir,” she said struggling to pronounce that one syllable word.

She traced her hands along the grout between the tiles in the floor, realizing for the first time she must have fallen from her seat after loosing consciousness.

“I saw what… happened… A-ll of it… I can… confirm it was Che-Chemosh.”

Each word was a struggle. She paused for breath far more than she normally would have and stopped short before she went into more detail. Breathing was hard too, but as she took in breath after breath her chest loosened up.

“Agent?”

“I’m fine… Sir. Just give… Me a minute to…”

She gritted her teeth and turned her head to watch as Everett came awake just a few feet away. He emitted a soft feminine groan and Amelia shook her head in disbelief. Had she not been there to witness the Everett’s transformation she never would have believed the young woman who was sprawled face first on the ground was the same person as the old man.

If the effect on Amelia had been drastic, it was worse for Everett, who struggled so hard to bring in air he could only breathe in short, jagged bursts. As his breathing slowed the two locked gazes and the agent’s own breath caught in her throat as a wave of fear slam into her with such strength it almost seemed to have taken physical form.

Never to one to be cowed by fear, she gritted her teeth and fought it, baffled by its sudden onslaught. Realization was slow to come, but when it struck, it left her breathless. It was not her own fear she was experiencing, but Everett’s.

Her trip into Everett’s memories had consequences she never would have dreamed possible. She grabbed him by the shoulders and looked him in the eyes his fear subsided as he looked back. A sense of awareness had formed between the two and it was far stronger than either would bring themselves to admit. Their feelings were an open book, either could sense the emotions emanating from the other, but thoughts were a different matter.

“Amelia, what the hell just happened?” Matthews grabbed her shoulder and pulled her back.

“Sir, I don’t know how, but I got pulled into Everett’s memories. I witnessed the entire attack through his eyes.”

“A new extension of your abilities?”

She shook her head and let her other hand slide free from Everett’s shoulder. Matthews held his hand out and she took it allowing him to pull her up from the ground. “No sir, I think, it might have been my abilities interacting with Everett’s.”

“Everett? I was unaware you two were on a first name basis, agent.”

She shook her head trying to erase the fog that clouded her mind, but try as she might she couldn’t quite shake it. “Sir, there’s more. I don’t know if it’s an after effect of being pulled into his memories or if it’s something else, but Mr. Howard and I seem to have developed an empathic bond.”

Matthews ran a hand over his domed head and let a sigh escape his lips as he stared at the pair. “This new development makes me more than a little uneasy. After Dr. Hassebroek has finished with our friend here, I want him to give you a look over.”

Amelia looked like she’d just swallowed something foul, but didn’t utter a word in objection. She nodded and uttered a single ‘yes, sir’ before her superior shuffled out the room. He didn’t offer a reason, but Amelia believed she knew why he’d left in such a hurry. Matthews was reporting to their superiors.

“Who’s Dr Hassebroek?” Everett asked rising to his feet and staring at the doorway that the other agent had just vacated.

“He’s a doctor we keep on staff. He’s a bit of an ass, but you get used to him.”

“Great, can’t wait to meet him.”