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Aberrant: The Middle Children of History - Keeping It Brief. [The Directive Files]

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"Alright, let's get started." The director swept into the room, the eight analysts around the oval briefing table letting drop their murmured conversations and taking preparatory sips of their coffee. The boss sat at the end of the smoothly polished surface, faint glowing lights under the black top indicating the presence of sophisticated electronics. He looked at each analyst in turn, noting how all but one of them were exhausted. "You've all been burning the midnight oil, and I appreciate it. Let's get this special intelligence estimate out of the way, and you can go get some sleep for a couple of days." he told them briskly. They all smiled faintly at that, even the one un-exhausted face. The nova analyst looked fresher than the director did, he noted grumpily. Well, the woman was damn good at her job, which is why she was employed.

"First subject on the list." The director pressed a touch-sensitive button in the table in front of him and the holo-projector in the middle sprang to life. A collage of images popped up, each one showing a gorgeous young-seeming man with flaming red-gold hair, bronze tan and green eyes. The tan was particularly in evidence, because the youth in question was wearing what amounted to a black loincloth... and that was all. The pictures and some video footage showed him smiling, laughing, flying, and moving amongst what looked like a gathering of Native Americans. The senior analyst rubbed his eyes tiredly and looked down at his notes for a moment.

"We've been able to ascertain the subject's name is Phaethon. He appeared on an island beach party of one Elspeth, also known as "The Ivory Princess". You remember we covered her situation recently, sir?" The director nodded. "Well, as near as we can determine he appeared there through some kind of warp portal and was greeted by Ptesan-Wi. He was also seen to be, uh, friendly with Infinity Jones."

"So he's a Terat?"

"We think so, sir. He doesn't seem to be one of the ultra-supremacist types, if that helps. We also have no records of contact regarding him from some of our inside people. It's like he came from nowhere. Until recently he's been living with Ptesan-Wi at Inyan Kara."

"That's not reassuring, Bob. Last time a red-head came out of nowhere, he was Divis Mal!" The director said with some heat. "And living with that Native American nutcase isn't reassuring me either. C'mon, people. Give me something better than this." The analysts all nodded hastily.

"We've been working on it, sir." said one woman, the Quantum Expression specialist. "We've compiled quiet a bit of data since his appearance." The director settled down a little and nodded. "We also have a couple of suppositions, but we'll save them for last." she went on, then pressed a button. The images changed to scenes of the young nova manipulating fire, creating a display for some applauding people.

"It's almost certain he is a second-generation nova from his quantum signature. His powers seem primarily fire-based, which is another comparison with Mal. But Phaethon's not in that class, sir. Not that we can tell, anyway." she hedged with the air of a professional analyst. "He is enhanced beyond human norms with regards to strength, coordination and the like, and can do a wide variety of things with fire. He also seems to have quantum-enhanced social abilities. Very personable, very beautiful. Nothing we haven't seen before from someone like, say, Count Orsaiz. He seems to have little inclination to do harm, though, from what Psych. Eval. says." she looked at the next analyst, who nodded and took up the slack.

"Psych department sent undercovers out there to covertly observe subject Phaethon as he went about his business. He seems to enjoy the attention of people, and likes to be around humans, showing little of the antipathy present in most Terats. He asks a lot of questions about everyday things, too. Which makes us think he was raised in seclusion, which is common amongst Terats. We honestly believe, based on the field research, that he has never tried processed foods or surfed the OpNet before his appearance."

"He also seems to be genuinely friendly. Our undercovers were posing as a tourist couple: new-agers come to see the statue of Wakinyan. He approached them openly and talked for about half an hour. Their impressions of him are favorable, which isn't unheard of for nova-level social skills, but they got the impression he really wasn't trying to put any 'whammy' on them. Whether they were fooled, or whether they are right, it puts a certain complexion on the subject's behaviour. He's either so good that they can't tell, or he's so personable on a nova level that he doesn't even need to try to make regular human beings go ga-ga." The Psych. analyst shrugged. "Six-five and pick 'em, boss." The director frowned at the news.

"Anything else?"

"Well, there is something mentioned in the field report. Both agents got the impression that the subject is a complete innocent."


"No, really sir. Not as in 'stupid and naive', but as in 'genuinely good, couldn't understand why people do bad things' sir." The analyst shrugged again. "That's the exact words of one. The other one said she wanted to adopt him."

"Adopt him..?"

"Yes sir."

"Christ." The director put his hand over his face for a moment. "Okay, now what else?" The senior analyst leaned forwards.

"Subject left Inyan Kara in early December and headed to Chicago with Ptesan-Wi. Caused quite a disturbance there: apparently a lot of Windy City folk thought it was Procyon returning, due, we think, to the proximity and association with that woman. After a brief conversation with Julii of the Knights, they returned to Inyan Kara. Phaethon left again the following morning." The analyst looked at the display and pressed a button, altering it again, showing a bright line moving across the continent. "He flew up, going super-atmospheric, then flew down again heading for, ultimately, Los Angeles. He made the trip in slightly less than 35 minutes. The top speed seemed to be around three thousand kilometres an hour, according to NORAD."

"That's fast. We've seen faster, but thats fast, especially for a kid. Or someone that looks like a kid."

"Yes, sir. Then, when he got to Los Angeles, he clearly displayed the reason for his arrival. We've all seen the footage, but analysis suggests that the created letters and designs of fire, approximately 100 meters in dimension, at 5000 feet above L.A announcing himself to Infinity were an impressive feat for someone who hasn't demonstrated any real power as yet, other than the flying speed. Our Q-Expression department hypothesize that he could perhaps cover a kilometer in area with flame, should he be so inclined."

"Jesus. We don't need that in L.A."

"No sir. He disappeared again shortly afterwards, but we're keeping an eye out. Someone like him isn't exactly subtle or mysterious. Honestly, sir, he seemed to be little more than a young man paying a call on a girl by his actions so far."

"All well and good, but what happens if she dumps his half-naked ass. Keep digging, people. I want to know more about where he came from and who his parents are." The director looked around the table and nodded.

"Right, next subject." He pressed the button, wiping away the video loop of Phaethon's sky-writing and replacing it with something else...

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The images that came up next weren't especially impressive. None of them were especially clear, and none of them seemed to be taking place within a specific context. A blurry picture of some vaguely identifiable figures entering a building. Some grainy footage from a security camera showing what appeared to be the same figures looking only slightly more recognizable as they moved down an utterly nondescript hall. There were others, some of them of better quality, some not. There were also a handful of images scanned from photographs so old, they looked like they belonged in a historical exhibit of some kind. Almost all of them, however, seemed to be displaying the same, short, wrinkled old Asian man hobbling about with his cane. Whoever the old man was, he looked the very definition of harmless, and it was difficult to imagine why he was being discussed by Senior Analysts at a Classified Directive meeting.

The Director looked to his staff expectantly and asked, "so, what've we got?"

The Senior Analyst looked back down at his notes, looking unhappy at whatever he saw there. "We think the elderly gentleman with the cane is named Guo Zhenglai-", the Analyst stumbled over the name as he said it, clearly having trouble with its "ethnic" pronunciation, "- a Chinese citizen, last recorded living in Buddhist monastery outside of Lhasa, Tibet. He popped up on our radars several months back after causing quite the ruckus in both Hong Kong and Tokyo." The Senior Analyst looked back up at the Director and paused.

The Director read the look on his analyst's face and asked, "we're talking about that ‘incident’ back in July, aren't we? The one that nearly sparked a full-scale war between the NG and the HTT?"

The Senior Analyst just looked at him and said, "yes, sir."

"Jesus. Okay... you said you think that's his name. Why is that?"

Here the Senior Analyst looked to one of his underlings for help. The younger man cleared his throat and jumped into the discussion, "we're fairly certain that's his real name, sir, but we can't prove it yet. There's just not much to go on..."

"Great," muttered the Director, pressing two fingers to his temple in frustration, "so he just 'came out of nowhere', like that Phaethon kid?"

"No, sir! Quite the opposite. If he is who we think he is - and we're all but positive that he is - then he's just been around so long that he's, uh... well, if you'll pardon the expression, sir, he's become 'a part of the scenery'. So to speak."

The Director narrowed his eyes. "I might pardon you, son, if you can explain to me just what in the hell that means."

The young man gulped hard, tried to not to meet the Senior Analyst's burning gaze, and pressed forward. "Well, sir, according to the best intel we can gather he's actually older than the modern system of records keeping. ELINT on this guy is nonexistent, PHOTINT is slight and next to useless, which means no real IMINT either. Most of the information we’ve got has been from old fashioned over data collection, and HUMINT. It honestly looks as though the reason we can't find much on this guy is because there's just not much to find..."

The Director looked hard at the grainy images of the little old man who'd sparked this strange debate, and then asked his gathered staff, "so what have we found?"

The Senior Analyst jumped back into the discussion at this point, saying, "records from a local prison in Danjiangkau, in the Hubei province of China, list a 'Guo Zhenglai' as having been incarcerated there for a nine month period for... uh-" he flipped through some pages in a file, looking for the record he needed, "- huh... for petty theft. Guess the laws were harsher back then. The records indicate that he was twenty-eight at the time. That's the first reference to him we've uncovered so far. Three years later we've got conscript records listing him as a volunteer soldier with the KMT."

"The KMT?"

"Kuomintang, sir. The Chinese resistance army that fought against the Communists, and the Japanese, during World War II."

"World War II... ?! What year did we say this was?"

"The prison records are from 1932, sir."

The Director just whistled at this news.

"If we accept the age listed in those records, then we can reasonably assume he was born sometime in 1904, but thus far we haven't been able to uncover any birth certificate. Actually, we haven't even been able to determine the names of his parents."

"1904?”, asked the Director in an incredulous voice. He was a man who looked to be at least in his late fifties, and had probably been nearly thirty before the turn of the millennium. “My Grandfather wasn't born until 1922!"

"Yes, sir. Again, this is only extrapolation, based off the Intel we have to go on."

But the Director seemed to have already wrapped his head around the ancient nova's age, and waved the Senior Analyst's hedging away with his hands. "Ok, ok, I get it. He's really old, but we don't know how old. Fine, I'm not happy about that, but I can live with it. What else do we know?"

"Not... much, sir. We came across some references in 1939 to another 'Guo Zhenglai' being sought for questioning regarding the murder of a known member of a local Triad gang in Sichuan province, but we can't confirm it's the same man. After that, he disappears for over a decade. He pops back up on our radar again in 1952 working for - get this - the CIA in Tibet. Seems he was trying to help them overthrow the Communist invasion forces there.”

"Christ! You mean he's with the CIA?!", shouted the Director, "why'd you wait until now to bring this up?"

"He's not with them, sir, at least not anymore. They cut him and his wife loose in '59 when it all fell through. Apparently, though, they were never captured or found out, because it looks like he and his wife moved onto a temple compound a few miles outside of Lhasa, and were still living there as of ‘24."

"Wait, he's got a wife now?"

"Had a wife, sir. According to our information, her name was Jurong Chan, but we don't know when they met or when they were married. We do know that she died of brain cancer in May of 2024. We've already gathered some preliminary HUMINT from the area he was living in, and it appears that the first indications of his being a nova began shortly after his wife's death. Psych Department thinks her death may have been the trigger for his eruption.”

“And how old would he have been then?”

“Assuming our intel is correct? One hundred and twenty then, one hundred and twenty-one or -two now. That would make him the oldest confirmed nova alive, and the second oldest human being in recorded history - that’s if we can confirm it.”

“That’s incredible…” At this point there was a brief moment of silence, as everyone in the room contemplated what it would be like to be that old. “So this guy’s been living in Tibet for what - seventy some-odd years? What’s he been doing there all this time?”

“Teaching kung fu to Buddhist monks of the Gelugpa sect, sir.”

“Come again?”

“They’re a sect of the Tibetan branch of Buddhism, the other being -”

“Yeah, I don’t care about that. You said he’s teaching kung fu? Like as in -?” Here the Director made vaguely kung fuey chopping motions in the air with his hands, and gave his analysts a look that seemed to say, ‘are you shitting me?’ They all turned a little red in the face.

“The Chinese martial arts? Yes, sir. Specifically Chen and Yang style Taijiquan, and Yin style Baguazhang. Within certain circles, he’s apparently regarded as the greatest living practitioner of all three.”

At this point the Director covered his face with one hand and muttered, “I don’t get paid enough for this…”

Lifting his head back up, the Director forced himself to get back to the matter at hand. “Ok, so basically, this guy’s Mr. Miyagi with a node.”

Most of those gathered were still in their twenties and thirties. “Who?”, several of them asked.

“Never mind. Alright, moving along! Let’s get the meat of this particular feast, shall we? Aside from the fact that he’s older than God, why exactly has he been brought to my attention? C’mon people, details! Never mind what the old fart’s done, what can he do?”

“Uh…”, began the Quantum Expression specialist, looking very unreassuring, “well, that’s what has us worried…”

The Director clenched his fists, and silently ground his teeth.

“We’re not at all sure just what the scope or power of his abilities are, but conservative estimates place him at Hercules Class at the lowest and Titan Class at the highest. Our best guess is he’s closer to Olympic Class.”

“That sounds ominous…”

“Our sources inside the Nakato Gumi and HTT all indicate that he has significant superhuman attributes in nearly all areas, though they particularly emphasized his social and mental faculties.”

“Okay. That’s not too bad. What else?”

“Eyewitness reports indicate he can open spatial warps with apparently intercontinental range.”

“Damnit! Just what we need, another nova that can go anywhere he pleases, anytime he pleases! What else?”

“Unconfirmed reports indicate he has some degree of psychic abilities, sir, but we can’t say for sure how potent they are, or what their scope might be. Judging by the reports though, we’re going with the assumption that they’re rather more powerful than not.”

“Christ. What else?”

“You’re not going to like it, sir. Apparently - and all eyewitness accounts agree on this - he’s a precog, he -”

SUNuvabitch!!” The Director cut himself off before his outburst got out of hand. After a moment to collect himself, he wagged his hand at the analyst in a ‘go on’ gesture, indicating that she continue.

After swallowing a lump in her throat, she did so. “He - uh - he was apparently relying on visions of the future throughout the incident last summer, and we have multiple eyewitness accounts of him possessing knowledge he shouldn’t have had, which he claimed he’d gained it through his visions.”

“I’m getting an ulcer! What else?”

“That’s - that’s it, sir. That’s all we have. Um… we already covered the kung fu angle, didn’t -?”


“Then that’s all, sir.”

The Director sighed deeply, and brooded for a moment. Then he asked, “and what happened after this wonderful ‘incident’ last summer? Where is he now?”

“We… we don’t know. Sir.”

The Director‘s fist slammed down onto the conference table with a bang, making everyone jump. “Unacceptable! You find him, and you find him now! Jesus Christ, you tell me we’ve got a god dammed precog running around loose out there, wreaking all kinds of havoc with two of the largest, most unstable, and most dangerous criminal organizations in history, and you don’t know where he is!!! I want Mr. Miyagi found by the end of the month, you hear me? I want him nailed to the wall like a bug in a display, with a fucking magnifying glass so far up his ass we know what he ate yesterday! Do all of you understand?”

There was a resounding chorus of ‘yes sirs’ and ’certainly sirs’ all around the table, and so many heads wagging up and down it was disorienting.

“Good!”, said the Director, with finality. “Next subject!”

The Senior Analyst hurried to wipe the images off the display, and replace them with their next topic of discussion…

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