Ethical Man

Graham moved a hand slowly through his hair as the alarms screamed throughout the facility's hallways. The announcement repeated from the speaker mounted to his desk, while the sounds of a riot pierced the door to his office.

"Attention, personnel," came the PA system. "Site-17 has suffered the containment failure of an anomalous entity. The threat priority is currently classified as low. If you are in the Administrative Wing, secure the exits to your office and remain there until the all-clear signal."

Graham's eyes traveled to the doorknob of his office, fastened into expensive oak, the locking mechanism flipped upright. He didn’t move to correct it. As he waited, he heard gunshots from down the hall and the sounds of radio communications from various security personnel. The gunshots halted before resuming with panicked frequency, now joined by several others. Bullets struck unseen surfaces as he heard the cries of panic increase at a dramatic rate, echoing down the metal walls of the hallway. An explosion rocked his office, and he righted himself in his chair.

"Low threat, indeed," he muttered.

The silence was broken by the steady sound of footsteps on metal, coming closer to his office with deadly resolve. Eventually, they stopped outside his door, and he heard the man outside muttering to himself.

A series of brightly glowing runes burned themselves into the wood of his office door, hissing with magical energy as the material began to fold and corrode under them, twisting in impossible dimensions before the obstruction disappeared entirely. Standing on the other side of the threshold was a very, very angry cultist.

"Graham!" His voice struck like a physical force which threatened to ruin the Site Director’s composure, seeming to contain unfathomable the malice and indignation. The man's heavy tattoos contorted over his well-toned muscles as he walked towards his target.

"Nikolai," Graham replied. “I see you’ve grown dissatisfied with the interrogation.”

The man halted three feet from his desk, visibly seething as the tattoos on his right arm began to burn red.

"The hell kind of game are you playing?" Nikolai spat out. "Containing me is a sign of war against the Children of Kam! We will come from every corner of the Earth and raze your sorry Foundation to the ground."

Graham eyed the glowing tattoos wearily, standing up from his chair before replying. "To be quite honest, Nikoli, I haven’t been following your containment all that closely. I mostly left the details up to Kenneth —"

Nikolai roared at the name and stamped his foot into the ground with such force that he might have fractured the flooring. "Andrews is a poor excuse for a doctor! Do you let all your researchers run about unsupervised?"

Graham waved away the question while stepping out from behind his desk, face to face with the cultist. "Regardless, I can see you're upset. Now, the Children of the North are a smaller group in terms of the Foundation's scope of operation — no offense — so I don't know much about your organization. Would you indulge me?”

Nikolai's eyes flared in anger. "The Foundation will know us just fine when I return with a hundred master thaumaturgists to break down this facility's walls, coward. Unfortunately, I doubt you'll be there to see it."

Graham's eyes narrowed as he saw Nikolai's open hand jab towards his neck, reaching and clawing at his jugular. Symbols of arcane origin were burned into his fingers, imbuing his forward jab with speed and precision. The fingers loomed out at him, and beyond them a pair of murderous, red-tinged eyes.

Graham reached back and took hold of Nikolai's forearm, using his assailant's momentum to fling him back into his bookcase and pin him against the wall. Nikolai's arm was wrenched backwards, causing him to howl in pain; Graham's fingers burned against the red light of Nikolai's tattoos, but he contained himself. Leaning forward, he spoke into Nikolai's ear while the man struggled against him.

"I'll let you in on a secret," he said. His voice was cold and apathetic, giving Nikolai pause as he listened. "When I became the Director of Site-17, I made a number of changes to problems that my predecessor had preferred to leave unattended. First, I scaled back a few of the regulations keeping my researchers tethered to the shifting foundation of ethics; for the purposes of science, you see. Second, I spoke with the men in charge of the on-site nuclear detonation system. Yes, we have such a thing. I then underwent a procedure that implanted a little chip in my heart that beeps quietly every minute of every day. Do you know what it does?"

Nikolai’s eyes narrowed as he began to understand. "You monster, you didn't —"

Graham chuckled softly. "Careful, Nikolai. You’re the cultist who just wounded my security force. I'm sure you're more of a monster than I am for creating a little insurance policy. If you kill me now, this entire site goes boom, and you right in the middle of the explosion."

Graham loosened his grip on Nikolai's arm and and stepped back, allowing Nikolai to stand and shake off the rubble of the plaster wall from his clothes. While he waited for the cultist to recover, he adjusted a paperweight on his desk which had fallen in the commotion.

Nikoli's eyes betrayed his trepidation, but he gritted his teeth and replied.

"There is... a thing beneath Hong Kong," he said. "That is all I can tell you."



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