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The Mark of Cain

Sarah Tintagyl

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Vienna, Austria
Rathaus, Anke Vogel's Private Chambers
November 29th, 20XX

Pushing her fingers through her hair, Anke felt as though she was trying to rip out her scalp and maybe that would have made the pain go away. She had just returned from the Council Chambers in the West Wing of the Rathaus, where the Directorate had received Grand Vizer Wei Hei from the United Federation of the East. What had began as a meeting simply to discuss the growing relationship between the new Republic and the Federation had turned into Director Nagel calling her out on her recent forays into global diplomacy. The new alliances forged between the United States of the Island, the Republic of Noveria, and her leniency on the Germans was not viewed as reform; it had been viewed as treason. When Wei had left, Nagel had called for an immediate vote of Non-Confidence and as terrifying as it was, the vote had left the Council in a deadlock, five 'for' and five 'against'. It was a wake-up call, it was a foreshadowing that her time on the Revolutionary Council was over.

With so much anger built up in her body, Anke screamed as she swept her hand across the table. The Austrian flags, her paper work, the lamp, all crashing and breaking against the floor. "They can't do this to me." She said to herself. "I haven't done anything wrong. Because I'm not giving the United Federation everything they desire, I'm a traitor? Because I am trying to protect the civil rights of the German people, I'm a traitor? Because I'm not a Nationalist, I'm a traitor?"

"All those things would be correct, Anke. Along with more." Said a voice from across the room.

[url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t38yvMQ7X5g"]Nagel's Entrance[/url]

Anke looked up from her desk. Her quarters were dimly lit, having thrown her lamp to the ground. The only light came from the two small lamps on the table in the middle of the room. But she could make out the silhouette of a man in the doorway. She recognized the voice immediately. "I'm not taking visitors, Maik. Get out. Haven't you embarrassed me enough today?"

"Actually, I have not." He stepped forward into the dim light and Anke's eyes widened as she saw the glistening of silver in his right hand. The barrel of a pistol was pointing directly at her forehead.

"You're insane! Threatening my life? You're the one who's guilty of treason."

"Not if I am threatening the life of a traitor." He smiled, "And please don't resist. Dreher resisted and we had to kill him. You on the other hand, it would pain me to see you in such agony. After all, Anke, you have so much more life ahead of you. Traitor or not, you can still serve the world, you can still serve Austria and you can still serve your Church." She backed up slowly, sliding her hand forward to one of the desk drawers where she kept her own pistol, but Maik only smiled and continued to advance. The sounds of heavy boot steps finally beginning to echo behind him. Soon, a squadron of ten Austrian guards dressed in black had filtered into her office, their automatic weapons at the ready and she was definitely outgunned. "Back up from the drawer, Anke. I said, I don't want to kill you."

Her gray eyes flickered. "What is this? How is this happening? And Michael? What did you do to Michael?"

"You were both found guilty of election fraud and treason, a conspiracy to destroy the Austrian people and to hand them over to the weak democracies of Western Europe."

"That makes no sense, Maik, no sense at all."

Nagel smiled, "The Council seemed to have believed it. Annett was rather happy knowing that her faction will now be in control of the country. Vanessa and Anne were harder to convince, but I told them that they're lucky they got away with simply supporting you. We never bothered to look for their own fraud."

"But it wasn't fraud! And you aren't even going to be in control! What does it matter!"

"It does matter, you just aren't looking hard enough." Nagel and his soldiers had now pretty much surrounded Anke near the window. "But I promise that everything is going to make sense soon. There are greater forces at work in the world. Forces that you cannot understand, forces that even I can't understand. But we each have our part and unlike Michael, you need to be able to accept your role."

"I...I...don't understand."


Then Anke felt a strong blunt force to the side of her head as one of the soldiers knocked her to the ground with the butt of his gun. She felt the blood swirl in her head for a moment and then another hit, sent her reeling in pain. Darkness engulfed her vision and she fell lifeless on the floor. At the mercy of Nagel and his soldiers.

Edited by Sarah Tintagyl
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Vienna, Austria
[url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1JoomdrYRY"]The Catacombs of the Votivkirche[/url]


Anke groaned as the darkness clouding her vision began to dissipate, replaced with nearly the same shade of dark. The only light that she could see in her surroundings were the dim flickering flames of torches fasted against the gray stone walls. This scared her and she pushed the black fog from her head and pushed herself off the cold ground. But when her senses finally returned to her, Anke's fear grew tenfold. She was in a dungeon of some sorts, in one of the older buildings of Vienna, she assumed, but in truth she had no real way of knowing. She couldn't tell if she had been knocked unconscious for a few minutes or a few hours and there were dozens of castles and chapels dotting the countryside that could have underground foundations such as this. Jumping forward, Anke latched onto the iron bars imprisoning her in the alcove. She pulled them back and forth, using all her strength, trying to see if they could be loosened, if their age would pull the bars away from their latches. But it was no use, the bars were firmly in place and the only sounds which echoed through the halls were the vibration of metal against itself.

"Hello?" She called out still rocking back and forth on the bars. Fear and paranoia began to set in. What if Nagel had just locked her up to forget she ever existed? What if she was going to be imprisoned here forever? What if she was going to rot and die in this change like surely so many before her? "Hello?!" Anke screamed louder as her voiced screeched down the hall. She paused suddenly, thinking she heard a loud. A squeak? There were rats here. The sounds of hollow bones falling against the floor? There were skeletons here. Long, dead, historical remains. Moaning?

Jumping back from the bars, Anke put a ragged hand to her stringy blonde hair. Her clothes were covered in grime and tattered. She had cuts and bruises across her arms and down her legs and as no one answered her calls for help she fell down to her knees in desperation. "Please!" The woman screamed, "Anyone?! Hello?! Please! Someone say something!"

Her calls were answered by the sound of a metal lock being turned somewhere far down the dimly lit corridor and the grouping sounds of footsteps becoming louder and louder. People were coming, a group of them and as Anke jumped back to the bars, praying to see a friendly face or really any face at all. Her eyes shrunk back into her head as she saw the figures features become clear in the flames of the torchlight. Two guards with Semi-Automatics, dressed in black uniforms with gold crosses on their shoulder patches escorted Director Maik Nagel, Director Bernd Vogler, and a face who Anke was not familiar with, but he was dressed in red robes down to his feet with the wide brimmed cap of a traveling priest. She began to think that it would have been better off to rot in her cell for eternity.

Pushing herself away from the bars, Anke fell back in the corner of the stone cell and wrapped her hands around her drawn up legs. She looked up with wet, tear-filled eyes as the five figures huddled around the entrance of her cell. Nagel stepped forward with the same smile he had given her back in the Rathaus, though this time there was no need for a pistol, his guards provided all the firepower he needed against an unarmed opponent.

"Anke? Why the tears and the long face. I just heard you screaming for someone to be here." He chuckled, "And look, we're here."

"What do you want with me Maik? This is all very strange. Where am I?"

"In the catacombs of the Votivkirche."

"The Votivkirche? Why in the Hell have you brought me here? This isn't political anymore Maik. This is just weird. What's going on? I demand to know what's going on!" Anke said jumping up from the corner and wrapping her hands around the bars of her cell.

"I would be happy to tell you. Provided you calm down, screaming and ranting and raving isn't going to get you anywhere but deep in a hole and to be honest, Anke, that is the last thing any of us want." He reached through the bars and gently stroked her chin.

Anke glared and stepped away from the bars the moment his hand touched her skin. "Don't ever touch me."

"Of course, anyways, Bernd, open the cell. We have to go for a little walk."

As the Director of Justice moved to open the cell door, Anke looked at him helplessly. "Bernd, why? Why are you doing this to me."

Bernd Vogler lifted his head, there was no emotion in his eyes as he chuckled for a moment and opened the door with a loud cry of the rusted metal. "Because, Frau Vogel, it's something that needs to be done. No hard feelings, after all, you have a greater destiny than I could ever have hoped for in this world and in this life."

"What?" Anke jumped back away from the door as it swung open and the two guards moved in, each grabbing one of her arms and they lifted her completely off the ground with her legs still swinging in the air. "No...please...let me go. Just leave me alone! Maik! Bernd! Why won't you leave me alone! I promise I'll do anything! Just let me alone!"

"It's too late for that Anke. The Holy Father has need of you. Who are you to deny Him?" Said Nagel as they led Anke out into the corridor and began walking her, kicking and screaming, through the torch lit hallways up to the Grand Altar of the Votivkirche.

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Vienna, Austria
The Altar of the Votivkirche

Throwing open the doors from the catacombs, Anke was immediately blinded by the bright candle lights that were situated across the altar at the far end of the church. It was as if Mass had only just ended, the incense that was burning was still fresh and the candles, she could see even from a distance, all still had fresh wicks. The guards held her tightly as they marched down the aisle towards the stone stairs leading up to Christ's symbolic throne and the golden Crucifix staring down at her, along with the saints and angels by His side. Anke was dropped at the foot of the stairs and looked up wearily at the altar as Nagel, Vogler, and the red robed priest walked up in front of her. Nagel shook his head as they let her fall and picked her head up by the chin. "Gentlemen, please, Frau Vogel here is why we have come, she is the agent of our future. To mistreat her would be a grave mistake."

"Maik?" Anke said, her voice quivering. "Please, tell me what is going on here. What do you mean I'm the 'Agent of your future'? What the hell is going on?"

"For a question like that, I believe it would be best if Cardinal Conti answered you." Nagel stood up and turned to the Cardinal. "Your Eminence?"

Conti had gone up to the altar and out of his robes produced an ebony box that shimmered beautifully in the candlelight, on the top of the box was emblazoned a cross that reflected the light so amazingly, it had to have been made out of the purest gold. Carefully he opened the box and produced a metal shard the size of his hand. Laying the shard down on the altar, the Cardinal turned to two chalices, one made of brass and the second having beautiful decorations covering it and made out of gold. From out of the golden cup, he poured crystal clear water into the brass chalice and bended his head low he whispered words into the cup before drawing back. This time when he poured the liquid out of the brass chalice, it came out in shimmering crimson. The water had changed to blood before Anke's very eyes.

"No...that's not possible." She said as she tried to scoot back but Nagel and Vogler were there to hold her down. "What...what are you doing?"

"This is a piece of the Spear of Vengeance, Signora Vogel." Said the Cardinal as he dipped the shard into the chalice of blood. "This is the very metal that pierced the skin of our Savior, Lord Jesus Christ." Conti shook his head as he began to walk towards her, carrying the bloody shard in his hand. "People from all walks of life have been after this spear since Christ was crucified on the cross. People who are aware of the prophecy it tells and of the immense power that one person or in our case, one organization can wield with Christ on our side."

"Prophecy?" Anke said, still trying to struggle.

"Christ's Second Coming, the Rapture that will free the Earth from evil and conflict. The Prophecy, according to John of Patmos written in the Second Book of Revelation states that a sinner must go through an unbelievable suffering, to come to the mind that Christ shared on the Cross and in suffering and dying as He did long ago will show Heaven that the Earth is ready to receive his coming. Anke, you will be that sinner."

"What!? No!? Please! You can't do this!" With all her strength Anke tried to get away from the advancing priest, but Nagel and Vogler were too strong. "Vogler! Nagel! What is this? This isn't real!"

"The Inquisition has always looked for a suitable candidate, someone with strength of will and strength of mind." Nagel began, "You were always this kind of person Anke, but unlike the Empresses or Bridgette Saenger, you were disgraced. You were on the path to being wiped away completely. But Cardinal Conti looked at you, saw the potential of the prophecy's realization through your blood and through your tears. That is why we didn't kill you at the Rathaus and that is why you must accept this. You have no choice."

One of the guards reached down as he removed her shoes while Vogler and Nagel forced her hands to open and her palms to face the Cardinal.

"When this is over," started Conti, as he held the tip of the shard to her right palm. "The world will no peace and the Inquisition will be there to enforce God's Word. Uranicus Abbas , audite nostrum votum. Nos dedi vos is animus in vitualamen ut orbis terrarum may quondam iterum teneo vestri misericordia."

"Amen." Vogler and Nagel said together.

"Amen." Said Conti and shoved the bloody spear tip into Anke's hand.

[url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u88YpReMsj0&feature=related"]Holy Liberation[/url]

The moment the spear pushed through her hand, Anke's entire body seized up as she felt something unearthly begin to circle around her. She watched as the candles in the church began to brighten, so bright that she felt like her eyes were going to melt out of her head and perhaps they were, but she couldn't shut them, no matter how hard she tried. Trying to open her mouth to scream, she felt energy, horrible energy pulsing into her, down her throat and into the very essence of her body. Her body began to shake and convulse, trying to break free of Vogler and Nagel's hold and by this time her wild shaking had become so intense that it was not her lack of strength but the sheer strangeness of the situation that she could hear the two directors shouting incoherently. The church was becoming blurry to her, but right before darkness set in, the most intense pain that Anke had ever felt in her life culminated in her left hand and her feet. Her skin began to boil and redden before blood poured out from her palms and the soft bottoms of her dainty feet.

Finally, with the unearthly energy inside of her, Anke finally felt the ability to scream return to her and she shrieked out. Wind bellowed out of her and it was like her body was imploding on itself. Her hands shook violently, blood from her palms flying out in droplets as she flailed herself over the ground. Trying to get the pain to leave her, trying to feel normal again. In the intensity of the light and the 'possession' of Anke's body by the unearthly spirit, the glass jars holding the candles in place began to break. Pieces of glass falling over the floor while gentle flames rolled around on the bare stone floor. Everyone seemed unnerved, except for the Cardinal, who Anke watched with horrified eyes, as he held the shard in her right palm smile as if nothing was wrong. Then he removed the shard and the energy left her as the wounds began to shrink back down to small cuts and the candles lost their brightness.

"It is done." Conti said and stood back on the stone stairs, watching as Anke's body dropped lifeless to the floor.

"What the hell was that?" Nagel glared up at the Cardinal. "Was that supposed to happen?"

"She has been possessed by the Spirit. It is only a matter of time before her possession develops to the point where the Rapture can be called. Until that time, see that she is locked up."

"Of course Eminence, we will do it no-" But the sound of a gun placed at the ready, stopped him mid-sentence.

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Geyr von Manteuffel had been shocked when the dim light in the Catacombs of Votivkirche had revealed the scared and disheveled form of Anke Vogel, her usual curt and businesslike attire torn and dirtied. He had known Anke at better times in her life, when her strained voice didn't pierce his ears from the depths of the catacombs as he and the group of men had approached it. He never had heard her voice in this form, one of suffering, of terror, of fear, he had only known it in a better form. When he and her family had spent summers together in Salzburg together, on vacation. He couldn't believe what he saw when the door to the catacombs opened and the strained, terrorized voice he heard was that of an old family friend.

The rumors had been persistent about some sort of organization that was associated with a resurgent Catholic Inquisition of sorts, and the Internal Security Services of the Austrian Government was not deaf. That was why he was here, undercover, having worked his way up over the last few months to a trusted position working with the shadowy Cardinal Conti, who was at the center of the persistent yet unsubstantiated rumors. As he hauled Anke to her feet, he maintained a gentle if not caring grip on her arm, but realized that his actions would possibly not go unnoticed by the other men around him. His grip tightened on her as she kicked and screamed, luckily not recognizing them, how could she though, they had not seen each other in years, and his appearance was almost as disheveled as her own, with his face unshaven for a few days.

Geyr and his companion guard carried Anke into the church, the incense invaded his nostrils, making his throat parch as he gulped at his own saliva to rehydrate his dry throat. The candles brightly mirrored off smooth marble, making the room bright. Not until tonight had he seen Nagel and Vogler in the presence of Cardinal Conti, and he was wondering how deep this rabbit hole went. The trio strode in front of Anke as they dropped her, roughly to the ground, the other guard pulling her head by the chin up to face the trio and the Altar that sat behind them. Upon her rough treatment, and Nagel's comment to that effect, the other guard let go of her chin, and Geyr just stepped back for a moment as Nagel spoke.

As he watched the proceedings of the entire ceremony, Geyr became increasingly nervous, what were they going to do to his old friend? While his handlers at the bureau had given him strict orders not to blow his cover, as this was an important case, he could not stand by and watch an old friend be dealt a fatal blow. This feeling was exacerbated when the water turned to blood before all their eyes, and a cold chill went down his spine, and he knew that this particular rabbit hole went very deep. Conti's handiwork with the metamorphosis of water into blood even caused him to dig a fingernail into the palm of his hand to test whether he was not just in some nightmare. When it produced a small shot of pain, he knew that he needed to act, before Anke was fatally injured, or worse, as whatever was going on, was not sound.

As Conti dipped a shard of the Spear of Vengeance into the crimson liquid that had appeared from water, before all their eyes, and advanced towards Anke, Nagel and Vogler took hold of the struggling Austrian stateswoman. Geyr was stricken by inaction as he watched as the Cardinal stabbed the shard into her hand, her body contorting, the entire church began to take on an extra presence. The candles appeared to brighten, as she writhed in Nagel and Vogler's grasp, as if she was in some sort of pain, Conti continued to keep the shard within her. A deep fascination left Geyr stricken with inaction, watching as his old friend seemed to emanate an otherworldly energy that he felt like he could feel pulsing. Blood seemed to pour from previously unseen wounds in her hands and feet, and Geyr let out the slightest of gasps, his heart was racing, something had to be done.

When one of Anke's screams pierced the air, Geyr was shaken from his inaction, but the shriek was so loud, and sounded so painful, that his heart filled with sympathy. His head throbbed from the piercing shriek, and he watched in disbelief as the amplitude of her shriek, the energy emanating from within the stateswoman, shattered glass candle holders. And as soon as it was over, it was done, and her body fell from Vogler and Nagel's grasp, collapsing to the floor in a heap.

"Anke?" mouthed Geyr, looking in disbelief at his fallen friend. Nagel seemed to be almost in the same disbelief, as he looked at the fallen heap that was Anke Vogel, and he turned to look at the Cardinal, asking him about whether the ritual had actually been successful. Geyr narrowed his grey eyes as he looked at his friend, seeing that her form was still slightly moving from her breathing, her chest still rising and falling slowly. The mention of her being involved in the bringing upon of the Rapture was too much, this entire ritual had blown the lid off anything strange Geyr had seen, something had to be done.

As the Cardinal ordered Anke locked up, Geyr retrieved the Beretta Px4 Semi-Automatic pistol from its holster slowly, pulling the action back on it and aiming at Nagel.

"I'm afraid, your Grace, that isn't going to happen," Geyr said, finding the strength to speak as he aimed at Nagel.

The trio of men suddenly turned to face him, their eyes widening upon seeing the gun, and Conti spoke first, "What are you doing, Lorenzo?" Conti had known Geyr as Lorenzo Ollivetti, his undercover identity as a former Italian mobster who had 'found salvation in God', and had volunteered his services.

"This ends here, and now," said Geyr, his aim steady at Nagel. The other guard had drawn his own gun, and was pointing it at Geyr, moving to put himself between the trio of men and Geyr's line of fire.

"You cannot stop what has begun, My Son, this is for the greater good of humanity," boomed Conti, pointing his finger accusingly at Geyr. The trio had backed away from Anke's form, thinking that putting a few more meters between them and Geyr might save them from an already point-blank shot.

"You do not have it in you, Lorenzo, is it? To do this to an Austrian statesman, you don't have it in you to kill a man of the cloth," hissed Nagel, his eyes dark and foreboding.

Geyr didn't hesitate to pull the trigger twice, emptying two well-placed rounds into the other guard, who hesitated to fire at him, a mistake he would not be able to repeat, as Geyr shouted at them, "I don't? I don't have it in me, Herr Nagel!? How dare you perform these, these... things to another human being?!"

"You know not, with what you meddle, boy," said Conti, his eyes flashing dangerously. "Your hands are now stained with the blood of one of the righteous followers, you will pay on the day of judgment!" he screamed, continuing to point at Geyr.

Geyr ran forward to Anke's side, as he kept the gun trained on the trio, he quickly picked up her limp form over his shoulder and began backing away from the trio.

"You will pay for your insolence," said Conti, Nagel and Vogler looked ready to draw their firearms. Geyr knew that if both started shooting, his odds of being able to hit both while carrying his friends' body diminished greatly. As he backed away, the limp Anke slumped over one shoulder, he suddenly turned and run as soon as he got about fifty feet away from the trio. As he ran, he heard Nagel and Vogler shout in anger and the sound of pistols emptying rounds at him, echoing through the church, the gunshots causing a din as much as three times their normal sound. Wooden pews shattered with splinters as he ran, one round hit a row of candles near the center of the church, causing them to spill as he hobbled along as fast as he could. He aimed his gun behind him, and fired rounds back blindly, hoping they landed close enough for the duo to take cover.

As he reached the rear of the church, bullets thudded against the heavy oak doors as he flung them open and proceeded outside into the cold streets of Vienna. A few shots flew past him out the open church door, and he continued to haul the lifeless Anke onto the sidewalk of Rooseveltplatz, down the steps of the old Cathedral. Two black sedans, which they had used to arrive in, sat in front of the Cathedral, and he shot out one wheel on the vehicle in the back. He quickly set Anke down as carefully and as quickly as he could in the rear seat of the other sedan, before rushing around to the driver's door and wrenching it open. Gunshots shattered the rear windows of the car as Nagel and Vogler opened fire from the front door. He cursed as he finally was able to punch the key into the ignition and start the sedan, the tires peeling out as he and the stricken Anke Vogel disappeared into the dark streets of Vienna.

Edited by TheShammySocialist
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The Streets of Vienna

Anke groaned loudly as she heard the screeching tires of the sedan tear across the dark Viennese streets. Her entire body ached as she pushed her eyes open to watch dim street lights pass over head, then as she moved a bit more, the sound of crunching glass echoed from under her. Looking at her surroundings, she was covered in broken glass, from when the window had been shot out in Geyr's rescue. There were a few cuts and scrapes on her bare arms, but she quickly forgot those to turn to the intense pain coming from her hands and feet. With great difficulty, Anke leaned up from the seat and looked at her hands. A single red dot pulsed at the center of her palms and in the street lights passing, she could make out the same red wound of her feet. Historically the same places where the nails were driven through Christ.

"The Stigmata." She said quietly, her voice quaking with terror and curiosity. Then she noticed the street lights getting dimmer and the screeches from the sedan becoming softer. The driver was pulling into a dark alleyway and before she could speak he turned off the car and shut off the headlights. Only the distant sounds of Viennese nightlife penetrated the windows. "Who are you?"

She heard the driver sigh as he flicked on one of the inside lights and turned his tan face towards her. "Anke. It's been too long." His voice was friendly as were his eyes and smile and for the first time in fourteen hours, Anke felt at peace. Though she was still curious who was in front of her and if he was truly a friend or if Nagel was trying to coax her into another horrible...but the moment she thought of what had just happened, Anke fell forward and began to shake.
"Ugh...Pain...so...much...pain." Her hands were shaking and she watched in terror as the small red dots began to leak droplets of blood, running down her palms and then to the floor of the sedan, but a hand reached from the front and took her fingers.

"It's going to be alright. Don't you recognize me?" The man said and she looked up at the voice, trying to concentrate on the features of the face. The tan skin, the dark hair, the gray eyes. "When you and I used to talk down by the lakes near Salzburg at your family's retreat."

Anke's eyes widened in happiness and the thoughts of pain disappeared from her mind completely as she jumped forward throwing her arms around the driver. "Geyr! Oh thank God it's you! What are you doing here? What...I..." She tightened her grip on him, for fear that if she didn't, he would float away like a dream and she would be alone with the pain in her hands and feet again.

Geyr patted her back and nestled his head against the curve of her neck. "Everything's fine Anke, you're in good hands now and no one is going to hurt you again. I'm going to take you to the Intelligence Agency and let them know what's going on. We've been tracking the movements of the Church within Austria, there have been a few instances that people have talked about mysterious activities done by certain priests. They belong to some Medieval Christian Cult known as the Inquisition and apparently if Cardinal Conti is involved, along with Directors Nagel and Vogler, there's no telling how deep this organization goes." He shook his head, "But what they did to you back there, it can't be allowed to happen to anyone else." Taking her hand, Geyr looked down intensely at the wound on her hand. "It doesn't even seem natural. The Cardinal pushed the entire shard through your hand and now it's like it was never there at all."

She looked up at Geyr emotionless, "You were there?"

"I was one of the guards, I-"

He was cut off by her hand slapping him across the face. "You could have prevented this, you could have stopped them from doing this to me. The Cardinal, he changed water into blood right in front of us. I don't know if that was some magic trick, but," she paused and looked back at her hands. "This doesn't feel right. I don't feel the same."

"Of course you don't you were just attacke-"

"No," Anke closed her eyes and swallowed the fear in her mouth. "I feel unnatural."

Geyr grabbed her face softly and opened her eyes with his thumbs. "Listen, Anke, I know you're scared, but you have to understand I was as scared as you were before he put the shard into your hand. If I would have acted then, I wouldn't have known who to shoot or if they would kill you or," he sighed and shook his head. "I was scared. You're right, there was something unnatural in that church, the way the candles brightened, the way you were thrashing in the Directors' arms. But everything is going to be okay now, I promise. We're going to get you to the Kundschaftsstelle and take care of you there. Then Nagel and Vogler are going to be exposed as the thieving scumbags they are and we'll figure out what is going on with the wounds on your hands. I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation. There is for everything."

Anke smiled and threw her arms around Geyr's neck once again and hugged him tightly. "I'm just happy to have a friend right now. When this is all over, we'll have to go back to Salzburg and catch up on the ten years that just disappeared."

"I wouldn't have it any other way." He said, ruffling her hair and then spinning around in the driver seat, reached down his shirt to pull out a few wires that were taped to his chest. Anke peered over the seat and watched as Geyr began to set up a small portable radio using the cigarette lighter as a power source. The moment he plugged it in, the entire radio glowed a friendly blue color as he twisted the frequency to a government level, but one that was unfamiliar to Anke. Attaching a mouthpiece to the radio, Geyr brought it up to his mouth and tapped it twice. "Paul are you there?"

"Geyr? You aren't on schedule to report, is everything okay?" Said the voice through the radio.

"Yes, Paul, everything's fine. Bu-"

"You have to make this important, the entire Bureau is in a frenzy right now."

"Well I discovered what the Inquisition is trying to do. They've kidnapped, Anke Vogel and were holding her hostage, I-"

"They kidnapped Vogel? Geyr? You were there?"

"Yes, they tried to perform some crazy ritual on her, I was close to Cardinal Salvatore Conti so I was able to stop everything before it was too late."

"Please, tell me she's with you. Is she safe?"

"Yes, she's with me now, everything's fine. She's bleeding though from her hands and feet, like the Stigmata on Christ, it was some ritual attack or something. Paul, Director Nagel and Vogler were there, they're implemented in this, you have any idea how far this goes?"

"I'll let Commander Metzger know right away, but I've locked onto your coordinates and I'm sending a team to meet you. Everything will be fine." Then the radio went dead.

Geyr clicked the radio off and smiled, turning back to Anke. "We'll be safe in no time."

But as he said that, the pain in Anke's wounds returned as she clenched her fists. "Ugh...Geyr...no..." Then opening her eyes, she saw a different world than the one immediately in front of her. It was blurry, but she could see their sedan riddled with bullets and Geyr laying dead on the street as she was taken by Austrian authorities, only to be locked up in another cell to await the Inquisitors. Her head pounded with the pain in her hands and began to manifest in sounds.

[b]"Run Anke! You have to run!"[/b]

She jumped forward and grabbed onto the wheel. "Geyr! We have to run!"

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"Anke! What are you doing?" Geyr grabbed her hands as she tried to turn the keys in the ignition and hold fast to the wheel. "What's wrong with you?"

She fell in between the driver and passenger seats and clawed her way into the front of the car. "Geyr, we have to leave. We have to leave right now. This is all a trick, something's wrong with Austrian Intelligence. We can't stay in Vienna anymore. We have to run."

"Run? Run where? Anke, you were fine a moment ago. What's gotten into you?"

Pushing the messy strands of blonde hair from her eyes, Anke grabbed hold of her friend's shoulders. "I don't know. But after that operator disconnected, something came into my vision. Geyr, they weren't agents, they were part of the Inquisition. They shot you and then they imprisoned me somewhere in Vienna. We have to get out of here before they find us."

Geyr smiled and shook his head, but his eyes betrayed the signs of worry and concern. "So you're saying you're a visionary now? You can see into the future?" He chuckled, "Anke, I think these wounds are going to your head." Before she could respond, a bright light came over both of them as a pair of headlights turned down the alley. It was a black SUV, the vehicles that the Revolutionary Council employed for escort services, with windows painted black and government license plates on the front. Anke sighed at the sight, they had found her and she knew the vision was going to be true, Geyr was a dead man, unless she did something drastic.

He patted her on the head, ruffling her hair as he opened the door and stepped out onto the street. As he did, Anke put her head down beneath the dashboard and grabbed one of the pistols that Geyr had with him. She closed her eyes and let the pain from her hands engulf her as she tried to see an alternate route out of their situation. The blood began to run down both sides of her hands and drip onto the floor as Anke shivered. She could see the alley, blurry, but in the car across from them, she could almost make out the reflection of a golden cross inside, dangling around a figure in black.

[b]"Aim at the window Anke! The window!"[/b]

She clenched the pistol tightly in her hand as she looked up at Geyr and another man in a black suit who had gotten out of the SUV.

"So she's safe?"

"Of course Agnet Wurful," Geyr laughed, "I wouldn't lie to you, but Paul didn't let me finish explaining on the radio that the Inquisition is a lot bigger than any of us thought. Two of the Directors are-"

Wurful ignored him completely, "Miss Vogel, if you would step out of the car, we can take you to safety at the Intelligence Bureau, I'm sure you've had quite the night."

Anke slowly pushed the car door open, the pistol clenched tightly behind her back. She placed a barefoot on the ground and looked out into the headlights. The cross was behind there and it would be enough for Geyr to wake up. With a flash of movement, Anke brought the pistol from behind her back and aimed it at the SUV's front windshield. Wurful and Geyr both jumped back in shock as they moved to grab their own weapons to hold off the woman's fire. But it was too late, the pistol chimed off one, two, three shots against the bulletproof glass.

"Anke! What the hell are you doing?" Geyr screamed over as he had his pistol drawn, pointing it at Wurful who in turn had his weapon drawn against Anke. Then the passenger door opened as a shaken old man wearing a black robe with a gold cross hanging from his neck appeared and grabbed onto Wurful's arm. Geyr's eyes widened at the sight of the priest and he took a step back towards the sedan. "Wurful? A priest? What's going on here?"

Wurful's black eyebrows furrowed as he turned his head towards Geyr. "But the gun down Agent von Manteuffel. Don't make me do something I would regret."

"All of you really are part of this rabbit hole." He turned his head towards Anke, "You were right."

"Geyr! Look out!" Anke screamed as she watched Wurful turn his pistol and take aim. She fired blindly into the SUV and at Wurful and the priest, while Geyr ducked under the open sedan door as the bullets collided with the door while others ricocheted against the walls of the alley. Taking his pistol in his left hand, he fired towards Wurful and the SUV and with his right hand leaned into the car and turned the ignition. The sedan started with a roar and with Wurful and the priest taking cover behind their own bullet proof door, Geyr jumped into the car and reached over taking Anke's hand and pulled her into the car with him.

[url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_Z7BNbA3eQ"]Escaping Vienna[/url]

"Get down!" He yelled and pushed her head towards the floor as a flurry of bullets erupted from the SUV's side, shattering the sedan's windshield as Geyr threw the clutch and shifted into reverse. The tires peeled against the stone street as the sedan jumped backwards flying away from the SUV. With one hand on the wheel he steered and with another he shot back towards the car in front of them. Anke shook from beneath the dashboard as glass flew around her, cutting her neck and fingers, shards catching themselves in her hair and ripping it to the ground. She held her breath as the sedan veered left and right and the incoming bullets ripped at Geyr's clothes. A few left traces of blood behind and he winced in pain at the strikes, but nothing had put him out of commission and she could only pray that they would survive the alley and make the plunge onto Vienna's streets.

With a deep breath and a great lunge, the sedan jumped over the curb in reverse as it barreled out onto the road behind them. Anke jumped up and peered over the dashboard as the sedan spun with oncoming headlights dancing around them and blaring horns raging as cars braked to screeching stops. She heard the sounds of crashing behind the cars, while Geyr slammed on the clutch and threw the sedan into first gear as he turned onto the Lange Alle, gunning towards the Mautstrasse Exit and freedom from Vienna.

"You think we got away?" Anke said as she sat back down in the passenger seat. Then the sound of crashing cars came from behind again as the SUV barreled out onto the same road coming up fast with it's ruined windshield.

"I think that answers your question."

"Well then give me that gun." Anke said grabbing the pistol from Geyr's waist and pushed her head out the window. She fired blindly at the SUV fast approaching, but as they fired back and she felt the bullets whizzing past her head. Anke gave a sudden "EEK!" and fell back inside.

"What the hell are you trying to do? Get yourself killed?" Geyr glared at her as he turned sharply onto the side lane as they blasted up the exit ramp onto the Mautstrasse. "Give me that gun. Do you know how to drive a stick?"

"Of course I know how to drive a stick." Anke nodded looking at the wheel.

"You think you can have your little visions while we drive, we could use the extra help."

"I can try."

"Don't try, do." Geyr let go of the wheel as the sedan spun out of control for a moment, while he jumped into the back seat pointing the barrel of the pistol out the busted rear windshield. Anke lunged at the wheel and set herself firmly in the driver's seat as she gripped the stick and pressed her barefoot against the clutch. It stung her wounds and her entire body ached as the blood began to drip all over the wheel and pedals making them extra slippery. Then trying to concentrate on both the road in front of her and the road that was to come, she tried to make sense of the two visions. All at once, Anke could see Vienna in it's entirety, though only through the clouds, she could see dim headlights on the road, trailed by what seemed like thousands of lights flashing red and blue. Thousands? That couldn't be right, she thought, where was the road. "ANKE!" A sudden sound broke her concentration. "Keep your eyes on the goddamn road! You almost drove us over a bank! Christ, I've heard that women drivers are bad, but these are our lives you're gambling with."

"I'm sorry. I've never had to drive under this kind of pressure befor-" A sudden hit from the side sent her mind reeling as another black SUV plowed into the side of the sedan. They had them nearly surrounded now and the sounds of bullets whizzing around as they drove was both terrifying and defining. "Geyr!" She screamed back. "We can't do this! There's no escape!"

"There has to be! Think! Envision! What can we do?"

Then she saw it, the barge floating up the Danube as they crossed the Mautstrausse along a bridge over the river. It was a foolish idea and her vision was blurry, but it was the only outcome she could see being even close to favorable and favorable for her at this point was death, so long as she wasn't in Nagel's hands. Pressing her bloody foot on the gas and shifting into fifth gear, the busted sedan tore off at one hundred kilometers an hour. Anke watched as the window on the SUV to her left began to roll down and a pistol protruded out of it.

"No, not like this." She turned the wheel as far as she could as the sedan barreled into the SUV. The larger car smashed against the guard rail and ruined it enough for the sedan to have enough kick to jump over top of the jagged metal. "Are you ready to go for a swim, Geyr?"

"What? Anke! No!"

She let her hands fall free of the bloody wheel as the sedan flew silent through the air, silhouetted against the outline of Vienna and then crashed with a silencing splash in the dark water below.

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[url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bde-xwJDSI"]Nagel's Problems[/url]

Maik Nagel stared over the wreaked railing on the Mautstrausse at the dark water of the Danube River and shook his head. The sedan slowly emerged from the depths, pulled up by a crane system. Water poured out from the doors, but at a closer look both Anke and Geyr were missing and Nagel let out a deep sigh as Vogler came to his side. "That's it then I guess. No one could survive a drop and impact like that." He turned towards the Director of Justice, "Your men said they saw nothing come up after the car hit the water, correct?"

Vogler nodded, "Nothing. The car went in and that was it. I guess it's a success though, better her dead and unable to be used by Conti, then alive and possibly able to implement us in this operation."

"The country wouldn't believe her even if she did, we have total control of the Council and Annett Schiffer wrapped around our fingers. Anke was a dead woman from the beginning. The difference was, she was a dead woman with a purpose." The Director of Defense reached into his suit pocket and pulled out his cell phone. He placed it up to his ear and waited for the pick-up on the other line, when it happened, his body tensed as he walked out of earshot of the agents gathered around the bridge. "Your Eminence, it's Director Nagel. Have you been watching the news? I believe, Anke Vogel is dead."

Conti sighed on the other side of the phone line and then gave a light laugh. "That is impossible Nagel, you may have let her get away, but she is most definitely not dead."

Nagel's eyes narrowed as he put his hand over the phone. By this time Vogler, with a worried look on his face began to walk towards him. "Impossible? Your Eminence, her car went over a bridge. There's no sign of her anywhere, she didn't come up with the car, she didn't come up at all. She must have drowned. How can you say she isn't dead. You haven't seen what we've seen."

The Cardinal laughed again and inside his limousine driving out of Vienna, he opened the small black box where he kept the bloody shard. It still ran with blood as if he had only stabbed Anke's hands minutes ago. "Because, my dear Director, the presence of the Spirit has not abandoned her yet. Otherwise the shard would have stopped bleeding. As I said, you let her get away, but she is not dead."

Clenching his free hand, Nagel turned back towards the railing violently. "But how? That can't be?"

"You underestimate the power of the Spirit, Director. You underestimate the will of a sinner to escape her destiny. No man wants to carry his or her cross, no man wants to go through such pain and I can assure you, the pain that Signora Vogel is going through and will go through, will be like nothing she has ever experienced."

"Then that should make it easier for her to be caught."

"There are certain, gifts that a person with the power of the Spirit within them will possess. Clairvoyance being one such power, the touch of Healing being another. Do not treat this woman as a ailing dog, Nagel or you will never catch her. This is why it was imperative for her to have been locked up, but you failed in that as well. I implore you Director, do not continue on this path, the Church grows tired of your shortcomings. Now, if you will excuse me, I have other matters to attend to. Farewell, Director Nagel." Said the Cardinal and with a soft click the conversation was dead.

Nagel shut his phone and ran his shaking hand through his slick black hair. "She's alive Bernd, we let her get away."

"She's alive?"

The Director of Defense turned angrily and pointed at his comrade. "Did you not just hear me? Yes, somehow she's alive and she has to be found. We're treading on thin ice now. I can't afford another mistake, neither of us can. I want you to head to the Rathaus, put a notice up that all borders are to receive two times their normal garrison. We can't let them escape the country. I want a patrol on the Danube and investigations in all towns to the east and west of Vienna. I want them found, Bernd, I want them found today."

Vogler nodded and smiled, "I have an idea as well, someone who I think would be very pleased to have such a task. I think these kinds of thing are his very calling."

"Do whatever you have to do, just make sure Anke Vogel is in the hands of the Inquisition." He said and turned down the highway towards a waiting limousine.

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"Well where [i]is[/i] she?" The exasperation in Thomas' voice was clear. He right fist clenched tighter around the bottle of Finger Lakes Riesling in his hand, a gift he had brought for Anke on a surprise visit. Stopping in Vienna on his way to watch the Crimson Lions play in the Quarterfinals of the Cup of Nations may have seemed like a roundabout way of doing things, but he figured it was the only way to get to see her.

"As I said, Emperor Atkinson-Asgeirsson, Director Vogel is not here, and she is not taking any visitors." The secretary's calm tone was even more infuriating to Thomas than if she had been screaming at him.

"Yes, I get that she is not [i]here[/i]. I am asking where she [i]is[/i]. And when I get there, she can decide if she is taking visitors or not." [i]I will kill you, !@#$@#$ secretary lady[/i]. The thought ran through his head but was quickly banished. This was Europe, not North America. Appearance and decorum were of the utmost importance here, that's what Mother had always told him. And that's why Tom Dobbs had failed here.

"I am sorry, Emperor Atkinson-Asgeirsson, but there is simply nothing I can do. I will let her know you called when she returns."

"You'll let her know I actually showed up, or we'll exchange some unpleasantries." Thomas turned on his heel and walked out of the building. A light drizzle, barely noticeable, began falling as he stepped outside. [i]Perfect[/i], he thought, [i]at least I didn't bring flowers. This would really seem like a bad romantic comedy then[/i].

Leaning against a vintage dull orange sports car with two Pravus Ingruo flags on the front corners, Thomas placed the bottle of wine on top of the roof and pulled out a cigar. He cut the end, lit it slowly, and took a long drag on it. [i]Great, now what?[/i]

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Most everything, to Anke, after the sedan plunged into the Danube was a blur; a dark and frigid blur. She knew that the water was cold, painfully cold, like thousands of sharp knifes stabbing into her skin. The world went black as darkness enveloped her, but there were brief instances where she could hear sounds around her and feel warm bubbles against her face. A glimpse of Geyr shot through the darkness and she felt herself being pulled out of the encasement of the car, while her feet seemed to fall further and further to the depths of the river. What seemed to be an eternity later, she felt the chilling cold of freezing air and strong arms wrap around her waist. She could hear shouting, screaming, and sirens going off all around her, but all she could see were quick flashes of light against the dark water. Was this what dying felt like? Because Anke felt as though she couldn't continue through the biting air and murderous water.

"Anke...reach...you...up...grab..." She could hear sounds push through her air, but they were indecipherable. Nonsensical noise. She just wanted to die.

[b]"Anke! You have to reach up! Move your hand! It's in front of you!" [/b] This voice however was not nonsensical and came from within her. Summoning what remaining strength she had left, Anke threw her arm in front of her and felt her palm latch onto something cold and metallic. It made her hand throb as it tinged with cold, but Anke was so exhausted by this point that even the darkness clouding her mind began to wisp away into nothingness. She had no clue where she was and she didn't care if she was alive. Her body was numb and so was her mind. It was bliss.

When her eyes finally did open, Anke found herself laying on a pile of cold dead leaves with the warmth of a small fire licking her face. That warmth, however, only made her realize just how cold the rest of her body was and how miserable she really felt. She moved to sit up and her arms felt like noddles as she fell back into the leaf pile with a quiet swoosh. Turning her head to her right, Anke could see the small fire and Geyr sitting next to it, shirtless and shivering in the cold. But as she scanned her surroundings, her eyes were drawn to her arm. It was pale white, ghostly white with the red bloody marking in her palm in sharp contrast to her pallor. The sight made Anke sick and she twisted her body to the left and vomited into the mud. As she choked and gagged, the sound of Geyr's chuckled tickled her ears.

"You know, that's the loveliest sound in the whole world."

"Why's that?" Anke groaned, "I don't know if I'm going to survive the night."

Geyr stood up and walked over to her laying body and picked up her head. His hands were warm and she didn't want him to let her go. "You've been sleeping for twenty-four hours Anke, I was worried that the Danube's temperature did you in, it almost killed me. You're a lot tougher than I thought."

"What happened? Where are we?" She used Geyr's hands to sit upright in her makeshift bed. "Everything kind of went black as soon as we hit the river."

"Your face hit the wheel pretty hard." Said Geyr as he ran his finger along a new cut that ran down Anke's forehead. She flinched away and covered her head with her own hand. "But you were unconscious and the car was going down to the bottom of the river. But we had to stay under long enough to get away from the spotlights on the river. Honestly I don't know how we made it, you landed close enough to the barge that we only had to stay under for a minute or so." He said and hugged her tightly, the warmth radiating all through Anke's body now. "Thought I was going to lose you though when we got to the ladder on the barge. It was hanging low, an unloading device or something, but I knew you had to get out of the river or you were going to die. I kept telling you to grab the ladder, grab the ladder, but you were too weak and then you just opened your eyes suddenly, hoisted yourself up and fell asleep hanging there. It was amazing."

Anke blushed, a bit of color returning to her ghastly face. "It was my mind, that...I can't explain it."

"Your visions?" His face grew soft as he ran his fingers through her ragged hair.

"Yes," she said quietly. "They told me to grab the ladder and I had a burst of energy and then, well, I don't remember anything after that." Anke looked down at her hands and sighed. The two wounds were becoming slightly larger. "I don't know what the Cardinal did to me, but honestly Geyr, I'm scared. I can see some minutes into the future and I can hear voices in my head. I'm turning into something and I don't like it at all." She looked into his eyes. "I need to cure this or stop these wounds from happening, I need to get back to a normal life and stop what Nagel is doing. This is all so strange. We need to go to a church, maybe a priest would know something."

Geyr stroked his chin thoughtfully, "You think that's safe, Anke. They're going to be looking for us."

"They're going to be looking for us wherever we go, I just want to know if someone can help me. I'd love to get back to normal, but it might never happen. I just want this pain to be gone. I want to know what the Cardinal did to me."

"And you think any priest would know. Forgive me for being cynical, Anke, but what Conti did doesn't seem to be something that a run-of-the-mill priest would know how to do."

"Do you have a different idea, Geyr? If I recall, the Intelligence Agency betrayed you and at the moment we have no friends."

"You think a priest, who works for the Catholic Church is going to be any different?"

"It's worth a shot and we're going to get into trouble again, it might as well be trouble of our own choosing." Anke started to push herself up to her feet. Slowly and painfully, but she finally stood, her bones cracking, with Geyr's help. "Where are we?"

"I'm not sure. When morning hit and things started to warm up, I got ourselves off of the barge and drifted back across the river to here. I'm assuming we're still in Austria though. That barge was moving slowly and we weren't on it for more than three hours. But when I was scouting out the area when you were asleep next to the fire, there was a road not too far off, I'm sure there's a town nearby."

"Okay, then let's start moving." Anke looked down at her clothes, her white dress shirt was ruined, coated with mud and torn in various parts, exposing her pale skin. Her dress pants looked just as terrible, with blood stains and cuts running down her thighs, she was barefoot and her face had a large scar running down her forehead. The only positive Anke could see was that she was no so indistinguishable that just by looking like the living-dead, she had the perfect disguise. She took a step and nearly fell forward, but Geyr caught her and wrapped his arm around her waist. "Thanks." She coughed.

"No problem, just don't die on me now. We've come too far." Geyr said throwing on a white shirt and wrapped Anke in his jacket, now dry by the fire. Then the two began to hobble away from the river, through the woods and down to the road where civilization lay beyond the hills. A light snow covered the ground and Anke left bloody footprints with each passing step.

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Zwentendorf, Austria
December 1st, 20XX

The sun had all but disappeared behind the western mountains when Anke and Geyr hobbled down the main street of the village they had come across. It was in reality only two miles from where Geyr had built the fire to Zwentendorf, but given that Anke could only walk inches at a time the small journey became a three hour long trek across snowy roads. Eventually, Geyr threw Anke into his arms to walk the rest of the distance as it was painful to watch her steps and after each movement the drops of blood she left on the white ground. The problem however, after they reached the town, was that a town this size had no real places to put up for the night and Anke needed shelter. She had survived one night cuddling next to a fledgling fire, but it was doubtful that she could survive another.

"Go to the church, they'll take us in there. They have to." She said shivering in Geyr's arms as they staggered down the main avenue towards the largest building in the town. The white church was covered in snow, but through it's windows the orange and red lights beckoned warmth. Taking a deep breath, Geyr pushed himself up to the wooden door and slammed against it with his shoulders, having no desire to put Anke back onto the cold ground. But there was no answer, only the echo of the knock. He hit it again and then again and once more, but still the pound just flew off into the wild wind that was starting to pick up around the village.

"I don't think anyone's home Anke, we have to try somewhere else. Someone else will let us in."

It was the last thing that Anke wanted to hear, she dropped her head limp as her eyes pulsed. She wanted to cry, but didn't have the energy to make even one tear. "No. They have to let us in. Help! Please! We're out here! Help us!"

Geyr picked himself up a fourth time and with strengthened determination slammed against the door. He would slam until someone answered or until the door broke down. Either way, Anke was getting into the building and they were both going to get warm. After the sixth slam, the sounds of rushed footsteps sounded from the other side and a great lock was turned before the door opened and a rush of fiery air overwhelmed both Geyr and Anke.

"What is the meaning of this?" Said an old man with large glasses wearing a white night robe. But he barely had time to ask questions before Geyr and Anke stumbled inside, falling to the ground.

"Sanctuary." Was the only word that crossed Anke's lips before she fell asleep on the floor.


[url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdllDyGQwaE"]Rest for the Weary[/url]

When Anke's eyes parted she felt instantly refreshed, it was an indescribable feeling and the first thought that came to her mind was that she had died and that Heaven was nothing more than a goose-feather bed with a fire crackling in the background. Yawning loudly, she stretched her arms out and rolled herself in the covers. Then she remembered her hands and that the blood would get everywhere, but when she looked down, Anke found they had been bandaged up and that only a small bit of blood had leaked through the white cloth. She sat up in surprise and pulled off the covers, a coarse, white cloth nightgown hugged her body and two bandages were woven around the wounds on her feet, as well as smaller bandages that ran up her cut and bruised legs.

"You're up. Good," said a voice from the corner of the room, near the fireplace. "I knew your friend would be okay, but you I was not so sure, but it seems you've made a full recovery." The voice chuckled, "But I expected no less from someone blessed with the very wounds of the Savior. That said, I am very curious to make your acquaintance, Miss Vogel."

Anke jumped in the bed, leaning frantically up against the backboard. She looked around the room, finding the elderly priest who had opened the door, placing another log onto the fire. The room was quaint, her bed took up much of the middle, while a few old rocking chairs sat quietly to the right. A table was situated at the left corner, with a small Bible sitting on top, while a Crucifix stared down at Anke from above the bed. Both the walls and floor were made from finely polished wood and she couldn't help but feel cozy in looking through the small window at the snow fall outside. However, everything the priest said made her heart jump, he knew who she was after all and in that he was a priest it would be grounds for being placed back in Nagel's clutches.

"How do you know who I am?" She asked, her voice quivering and her mind toying with ways to escape.

The priest turned back and smiled warmly at her. "Yours was the face that declared Austria a Republic was it not, one does not just forget our Foreign Minister." He frowned, "Though I have seen in the news that you are a wanted criminal and convicted of election fraud and murder. Do you know the reward for your capture is one million thalers?"

"I was unaware," she said glaring at the priest, who placed his hand over his heart in surprise and embarrassment the moment he spoke.

"Oh, my child, I'm terribly sorry. I didn't mean to sound like that, you have sanctuary in this church, even if you did commit those crimes. No one will harm you here, I doubt anyone knows you're even here. But someone with such a soft face, I have trouble they are capable of any such thing." He stood up from the fireplace and walked over to the bed. "But forgive me, I never even bothered to introduce myself. I am Father Niklaus Wiesz, the Pastor of St. Erentrude Parish." He extended his hand for Anke to take, which she did, however not without suspicion.

"My friend and I thank you for your help Father," she sighed, "You are right, I probably wouldn't have made the night if you hadn't been here."

"There is nothing to be gloomy about, Miss Vogel," he took her hand. "Visits like these happen for a reason. However, in taking you in, I am very curious just how a woman of your stature and background acquired such wounds as the stigmata. It is another reason I can't imagine you are guilty of the crimes the Republic has placed on your head, only the holiest of people receive such wounds and they only come with divine meaning. They say you stabbed them into you, but," he undid one of the bandages on her hand. "Wounds heal, this has not."

Anke closed her eyes and ran her thumb over her bleeding palm. "Do you believe that a priest can literally turn water into wine Father Wiesz?"

"I believe I misunderstand you, Miss Vogel."

"Would you believe that I was stabbed with a shard of the Spear of Vengeance once and three wounds appeared in my left hand and two feet. After a Cardinal of the Church literally changed water into blood?"

Wiesz face went stark white as he gripped Anke's hand tightly and looked into her eyes. "The Mark..."

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It took about five cups of coffee along with a few shots of whiskey between the two travelers and the priest for Anke to thoroughly describe her entire adventure. She included everything, no detail was too small, except of course for the parts of the story where she was unconscious, but Geyr was able to provide an accurate retelling that even made Anke question how they were still alive. After they finally finished the tale, coffee rings were scattered across the old wooden table in the chapel's kitchen and Father Wiesz's mouth hung open in disbelief and awe. He blinked a few times before pouring another shot of whiskey into his empty coffee cup and threw back the liquid like a man who had lost everything in the world, in a way, he had.

"The Inquisition," he took off his glasses and folded them on the table. "I always thought it was just a myth. Something to make those of us who question our faith to fear our faith and to fear the Church. But this," Wiesz said reaching over and grabbing Anke's hand. "Is just too much and Cardinal Conti was the one who did this to you?"

"I wouldn't lie to you Father."

Wiesz shifted uncomfortably in his chair and ran his hand across his head. "Salvatore Conti is Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. He is essentially the Vatican's Police and rumor has it that if Pius dies. He is a strong candidate to become the next Pope. If Conti is part of the Inquisition and the Inquisition becomes directly tied to the Papacy. Nothing good will come from the Church."

"The Inquisition isn't tied to the Papacy already?" Asked Geyr, "I would have imagined it was a department of the Church's bureaucracy."

"It is a cult, nothing more and a heretical cult at that. Christ said it himself, no one knows the hour of his coming. To create an entire organization based on making the Rapture occur is not only heretical but insane."

"But if no one knows Christ's coming, then these wounds?" Anke said looking at her hands and feet. "What is my part in this if the Coming is only natural."

"Because, Anke," Wiesz looked at her softly, but with sorrow in his eyes. "Evil men do not need permission to create evil, nor do they need permission to cause the End Times. Evil, this kind of evil waits for no one, because in a way, nothing is more natural. This prophecy, of you being the centerpiece of the End of Times is true. When you were wounded with the Spear of Vengeance, Lord only knows how Conti got his hands on such an artifact, you were imbued with the very essence of the Holy Spirit. It is what gives you the ability to see a few moments into the future and it is the voices of the Spirit that you hear in your head. The prophecy concludes that upon your sacrifice to the Beast, the flood gates of Hell will open and the Spirit will be vanquished. For Conti to think he can control something like that," Wiesz looked up at two across the table with their mouths as open as his once was. "I'm sorry, too much for both of you?"

"You know all this and we're supposed to trust you?" Said Geyr.

"I was a bit of an oddball at the Seminary, a Theological Conspiracy Theorist you might say." The priest chuckled to hide his embarrassment, "But the idea of the world coming to an end always fascinated me. Not so much that I wanted to see it occur, but that such an event existed at all and now you two show up on my doorstep and prove so many of my fascinations true."

Anke groaned angrily as she clenched her fist shut as blood began to soak through the bandages. "So your saying there's nothing I can do, that I just got forced into a cosmic adventure, completely against my will and have to just accept it? Because that is the most !@#$%^&* theory I've ever heard." She looked at Wiesz with glaring eyes. "Look, Father Wiesz, I came here, we came looking for a priest because I want cured. I don't want the essence of the Holy Spirit inside of me. I'm already a criminal in my own nation and people are hunting me, probably both religious and political. I've given up on a normal life, but this," she shook her head. "I just want to be healed. Isn't there anything you can do?"

"Me? No, there isn't anything I can do. You need an exorcist and a very powerful exorcist at that. Unfortunately, to my knowledge the only person powerful enough to remove the Spirit's essence," he paused and took a deep breath. "Would be the Pope himself."

Anke's head nearly fell to the table in hopelessness as she massaged the bridge of her nose with her fingers. "Of course. The Pope. This is just great."

Geyr reached over taking Anke's hand and squeezing it tightly. "Why are you complaining? You survived the possession, jumping off a bridge and the winter air. Now we're safe for once and have an actual goal. We have to leave the country anyways and now we know how to solve this problem Anke. You can't lose hope now. We're so close."

"Close? How the hell are we close, Geyr? Rome is a couple hundred kilometers from where we are and we have no car. We're going to walk to Rome from the Danube?"

Wiesz smiled and folded his hands on the table. "My dear Anke, considering that Cardinal Conti is the one trying to bring about the Rapture I would say this is a Papal Emergency. I believe that His Holiness would be very interested that the Inquisition is very much alive and within the Papacy, as such is my duty as a preacher of the Word, I would be happy to drive both of you to Rome to see you cured Anke and to see that the Church and the world is saved from ruin." Then he paused and chuckled. "Though the ride might be a little tight."

[url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLUwdvDMhus"]The Beginning of Adventure[/url]

The next day, Anke stood in the courtyard of the chapel as Geyr and Wiesz loaded three large backs into the trunk of an ancient Yugo. When Wiesz had first brought the car out, joking that he hadn't driven in years, both Anke and Geyr were amazed that it even started up. The red paint was peeling off and the muffler let off a thick cloud of jet black smoke into the air. It would be a surprise, Anke thought, if the car made it out of the village let alone to the Austrian border. Beyond that, her clothes had been completely ruined and while Geyr was able to fit into the large clothes of the church gardener, Anke had to settle for more traditional and religious clothing. She was a nun now, dressed in long white habits with a white hood covering her head, long brown boots covered her feet along with coarse wool socks, and a rosary that dangled from her neck. Wiesz had told her that it would help in her disguise as no one would see Anke Vogel in religious habits, more so, he believed that since she was filled with the essence of the Spirit, she should at least try to look the part.

Pulling on the white lace gloves, Anke tapped her foot. "Are we ready yet or do you both need me to help arrange those three bags?"

"We don't have a lot of room to work with here, Sister Anke." Geyr mused back as he forced a bag into the car and with all his might slammed the trunk shut. "See, it fits."

"I do apologize to you both, a priest's salary isn't much, if anything at all. This is all I could afford." Said Wiesz as he pushed himself into the car. "It's a bit tight, but it'll do."

Fitting into the car was like putting misshapen pieces into a puzzle and even after wiggling around for five minutes, it was an uncomfortable fit for everyone, especially Geyr, who could barely fit into the car at all. Yet with a blast of black smoke and a shuddering of the Yugo's frame, the car sprang to life and began to putt down the village road towards the exits leading onto Austrian highways heading south. For Anke, who had gotten used to seeing the greater world in her travels as a diplomat quickly found herself staring intently out the fogged up windows of the car at the rolling hills of the Austrian plains south of the Danube. It was a beauty she had never appreciated before in all her years of growing up in the Austrian countryside and now that she finally did appreciate the scenery, she realized that she very well might be leaving the country forever. Soon the repetitive white hills began to lull her to sleep, but just as Anke began to fall into her dreams, the car sprang alive again and then began to let loose another stream of black smoke.

"Oh goddammit!" Wiesz cursed as he drove the Yugo gently over to the side of the road. "Geyr, get out and help me with this." He reached into the back and after digging around in the pile of luggage for a bit, pulled out a roll of duct tape. "This should only take a minute."

Anke only shook her head. "Not even Jesus can save me now."

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The heat was blasting and his iPod was blaring as Thomas drove through Austria. The bottle of wine sat on the passenger seat, unopened. The fact that he was lost, and knew he was lost, really didn't matter. He figured he'd find his way back eventually. The car had a lowjack system on it so that if he was needed, Professor Solo knew how to find him. With his bomber jacket, still with Captain's insignia, and aviator sunglasses on, driving a vintage sports car, Thomas fancied himself something out of a cheesy 80s military film. He was right, of course.

And that's when he saw the car on the side of the road. It was an old jalopy, a Yugo if his memory served. Smirking a little, Thomas muttered to himself, "What a piece of junk." As he pulled in slowly behind the car, Thomas reached over to the glove box, pressing his thumb against a keyhole, and pulling out a pistol. Others were in there, along with some more weaponry concealed in the trunk, but he didn't want to alarm those in the car. He was just looking out for his own safety. Leaving his car on, the low rumble providing a fitting backdrop to the driving rock music from his sound system, Thomas opened the car door and stepped out into the cold Austrian winter air.

He shut the door with a dull thud. The pistol was slipped into the back of his pants, covered by his jacket but easily accessible. The hood of the Yugo was lifted, but as Thomas approached, he could see the two men, one who was dressed in religious garb. He put out both hands, palms forward, to show he was no threat. [i]I hope these guys speak English[/i], he thought.

"Father... you guys need any help?" Thomas stopped a few feet behind the driver's side door, just slightly out in the street.

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As Thomas approached the car, Wiesz and Geyr both looked from their work. "It would depend, sir, are you any good at fixing old, beat-up European cars?"

Thomas laughed, his breath forming wisps in the air as he came closer. "Old European cars? Only if they are anything like old American cars." He pulled his hands out of his pockets and blew on them as he came closer.

Then as he walked closer, Anke who had been watching the entire ordeal finally pushed open the car door and clumsily stumbled out onto the road. Her religious shawl blew in the cold winter air and the rosary beads around her neck lightly jingled. "Thomas Asgiersson? Emperor Thomas Asgiersson from Pravus Inguro?" She said standing behind him.

The sound of someone saying his name, a female no less, startled him, and Thomas turned on his heel, his left hand starting to reach towards his lower back. But it stopped midway as he saw the woman get out of the car. "Anke? Anke is that you?"

The nun ran forward and while Anke had only known Asgiersson for a brief few days during her time in North America, he had been one of the friendlier leaders during her tour. She grabbed his hands tightly and hand cupped them within her own. "What are you doing here? Especially out here in the middle of nowhere."

"I was in Vienna to see you and drop off a bottle of wine on my way to the Cup of Nations and then I left and got lost and..." His sentance stopped as he looked down at their hands and then back up at her. "What the hell happened to your hands?"

She took a long, deep breath and turned away from the Emperor. "It's a long story. Haven't you seen the news? I've been convicted of voter fraud and murder. It's what I'm doing here, trying to get out of the country before I get locked away forever."

"You do yourself disservice, Anke." Said the priest from behind the hood. "You make yourself seem like a common criminal and you are definitely nothing of the sort."

She looked back at Thomas and frowned. "It's the stigmata. The wounds that Christ suffered on the cross. They're on my feet as well."

"In the past two days I've been flying on a plane, arguing with a most unhelpful secretary over your whereabouts, and driving with my iPod blasting... so no I hadn't heard the news." He listened to what the priest and Anke said and then looked at her hands again. "Father was never all that religious, so I'll take your word for it. However," Thomas smiled and winked at Anke, "If you really are a criminal now, well, let me just say dangerous women are the better women."

Anke slid her hand down her face at the gesture and shook her head. "Thomas, as much as I appreciate the compliment, this really isn't what I need right now. I'm running for my life from the government and a bunch of religious nuts who," She stopped and composed herself. "Let's just say life has been really hectic lately and even that doesn't really describe it at all."

Geyr stepped out from the hood after Wiesz, "I apologize for interrupting the reunion, but Emperor Asgiersson, do you think you could take a look at this?"

"And that's why you need to laugh a little." He flashed his lopsided grin, something he'd learned from his father, and then looked back at Geyr. "Not a problem. And please, call me Thomas." Letting go of Anke's hand, he walked over to the hood and leaned over. "Yeah... that's not good."

"You think it's fixable at all?" Said the priest. "It's our only car and we're trying to reach the Athenian Border."

Anke dropped her head. "Are we stranded?"

Thomas looked up at him. "Sure, I could fix it... with a proper garage, the parts, and about three days." He turned to Anke. "No, we're not stranded. We have a perfectly good American muscle car idling behind you. Not the most inconspicuous getaway car in the world, but it'll get you to the Athenian border a hell of a lot faster than this will."

"You'd be able to take us Mr. Asgiersson?" Said Wiesz, "Four of us jammed into that car seems rather tight, along with all the luggage we brought."

"Can't be as bad as the Yugo," added Geyr.

"Depends on the luggage," Thomas cracked. "The Stinger doesn't have a lot of cargo room, no, but it'll probably fit a suitcase or two. And the two people in the back will be snug, but they can fit. It's not some pissant little two seater."

"Well then, I believe we can make it fit. Geyr, come help me with the luggage. We'll let Anke and Mr. Asgiersson catch up a bit." Wiesz began unloading the broken Yugo, placing the bags into the Stinger.

As they did that, Anke walked over towards Thomas and tapped him on the shoulder. A small but meaningful smile crossing her face. "I really appreciate you doing this for us. It means the world to me."

"Don't jostle the spare back there too much. My own luggage is hidden underneath there." Thomas smiled at Anke. "Never can be too careful, especially when travelling with people who have a price on their head." He flashed the lopsided grin again as he removed his aviators. "Don't mention it. You're far too pretty for a jail cell."

"I just don't want anything to happen to you for doing this, Thomas. I know you're not going to believe me when I say this, but really bad stuff has been happening starting with these wounds." She undid the bandage on her left hand showing the growing puncture.

Thomas looked over Anke's shoulder at the other two men for a moment and then reached behind him to show Anke the gun he had tucked there. "I can take care of myself, Anke. I've faced odds you wouldn't believe and come out alive. Evading some politicians and holy men on the way to the Athenian border shouldn't prove too much of a challenge."

She wanted to tell him everything that had happened, but it felt strange, he'd look at her like she was crazy and for someone who wasn't religious, he could never believe such a thing. Instead, Anke only leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you, so very much."

Thomas smiled, turning his head slightly towards hers, but not making any movement forward. "No problem." He held there for a few seconds, letting the closeness linger, before looking back. "Now common, I'm getting cold. Time to kick the tires and light the fires."

She turned with him as they headed back to the car, after Father Wiesz and Geyr had loaded the luggage. "You don't think taking this flashy of a car will be a problem? It's going to cause a lot of turning heads." She said as she looked at the interior.

Thomas laughed. "It'll turn a lot of heads... and they'll wish they could catch it. Besides, it isn't just a sports car. She's got a few tricks up her sleeve. I've been working on her for years."

"So which way now Father?" Anke said as she sat down in the car. Geyr and Wiesz were in the back, while Anke and Thomas rode in the front. "Should we stick to the Alpine route or do you think we should change things up." The nun looked at Thomas. "What do you think?"

Thomas grinned as he held out the wine bottle he had brought to her. "I've never been known for subtlety. I saw we get to the border the quickest way there is..." He cranked the car into gear and swung the Stinger around. "Right through Venice."

"Venice?" Wiesz's eyes widened in shock. "Don't you think that might be rather dangerous, Mr. Asgiersson."

Thomas laughed. "Probably. But I've got enough weapons to supply a special forces squad in the trunk, Father. And unless the police have a Ferarri, they won't be stopping us."

All three Austrians leaned back and sighed. Anke closed her hand and feigned a smile as the pain began running up her arm, but a light grunt and no one would know. It was getting worse and she needed to get to the Vatican soon. "Venice...It should be a dream."

"I always thought about Venice for a honeymoon... but running criminals seems so much more appropriate for me. Buckle up; we're going for a ride." Thomas slammed the gas and the Stinger took off, heading for the border.

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While the Stinger was probably a better vehicle and probably even afforded his legs a teensy-weensy bit more room then the Yugo, Geyr was not exactly happy to be crammed in the back of it or even in the situation he was in. The arrival of this Emperor of Pravus Ingruo had been flashy, too flashy for his liking. He was an agent with internal security, with a number of years behind a desk, in the field, and undercover. As he bundled himself into his corner of the backseat, he patted the chest-holstered semi-automatic he carried. He was nervous, and when he was nervous, it made check to see if his sidearm was always there, even if he had done it a hundred times before. The trusty Px4 had stayed where it had been for the past few days, and his body seemed to lose a tidbit of its tension.

Thomas Atkinson-Asgeirsson's entrance was, for the most simplest and easiest of terms, flashy, and [i]flashy[/i] was something that internal security agents loathed. The more noticeable the person, the more likely you were to turn heads. It was a fact of life for people who worked against internal threats to a government, and Geyr had been in the business long enough that he knew that while Thomas' appearance was timely, he could also prove to be a danger for his kind-mannered act. As the Stinger peeled out and away from the broken down Yugo and the Emperor treated Anke to another one of his haughty hotshot remarks, he smirked to himself.

[i]Both flashy and a smooth talker[/i], thought Geyr, as the car switched gears. While the second attribute could be both a blessing and a curse, you had to know who to turn the charm on to, obviously for this portion of their journey, Anke would have to bear the brunt of it. Geyr hoped that he didn't have the same attitude when they came to an Athenian border crossing, or they could be stopped and their identities [i]thoroughly[/i] checked.

The trio of travelers that Thomas had 'rescued' at least looked normal and didn't pose much of a threat, Geyr was wearing insulated jeans against the cold and a simple button-up sweater, beat up winter boots, and a knit hat. His eyes surveyed the Stinger as he settled into his new mode of transportation, they had to do something to alter their appearance or something. There would be something fishy about the Emperor of Pravus Ingruo carrying three vagrants into the Athenian Federation. While Geyr appeared to be resting, the gears in his mind were turning slowly, as he went over mental checklists he made in his head. The Athenian Federation was friendly with Austria, that was certain, but what side they were on in this new crisis was unknown to him, and with Anke Vogel now a sworn enemy of the Austrian State, she could possibly be the most wanted person in Europe.

Venice was certainly a nice destination, there was no doubt there, but Geyr felt like Thomas was treating this was going to be some romp around the countryside, of course he thought that crossing borders and treating himself to the luxuries of life while undertaking a quest like this was normal. That being said, they were now locked in a nitty-gritty race against time to get to Rome and cure, if you could actually [i]cure[/i], the ailment of Anke Vogel. This was life and death, he had seen the ritual, the water become crimson, it was all very unsettling and scary what else could come from this entire situation.

"I would ask that we not try to pull out weapons, even if we do have a significant amount of them hidden somewhere in this vehicle," remarked Geyr, after the silence had begun following their abandonment of the Yugo a few kilometers back. "We already have the Austrian authorities after Anke, to start a gunbattle in the Athenian Federation, who could also be looking to capture Anke, and extradite her back to Austria, would be an unwise move. I do not protest driving through Venice, but before we get there, we have another pressing matter, Thomas; getting across the Austro-Athenian border."

Edited by TheShammySocialist
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Arnoldstein, Austria
December 2nd, 20XX

The moment that the Stinger took off from the Yugo on the wintry roads of Central Austria, Anke could feel the tension in the car. Thomas Asgiersson happening on them, stranded on the side of the road seemed initially a blessing but the way Geyr spoke to him and Thomas' carefree attitude about the entire situation, Anke could see where that blessing could quickly become a curse. He was drastically misinformed about the current news in Austria and from what Thomas had said earlier, he was a religious skeptic which assuredly was going to make everything harder when he found out what was actually going on. She sighed to herself as the sports car journeyed up the Alpine Slopes into Southern Austria, he probably thinks I gave these wounds to myself, Anke said to herself and watched the mountains rise from the ground in front of them.

It was about five o'clock in the evening when the sun began to set and the travelers passed a sign alerting them that the Italian border was only some seven kilometers down the road. The town of Arnoldstein was the last thing that laid in front of them and a higher degree of freedom in the Athenian Federation; that, and the heavily guarded Austro-Athenian Border. Anke hadn't paid much attention to the eventual border crossing as she had too many other things on her mind. In just three days, she had nearly died twice and had been possessed by the Holy Spirit. For all purposes, she was exhausted. However, when Geyr had brought up their crossing with Thomas, she thought of the border with much more detail. She had a disguise and maybe they could trade in Thomas' car for something less inconspicuous along with getting him more native clothes, as well tossing most of his 'special operations' arsenal. How he got into Austria with such war material and wasn't questioned was amazing, but that was a question best saved for another time. Getting into Athens would be another story entirely. Then she realized what else they didn't have.


"What?" Said Father Wiesz groaning from the backseat of the car.

"We don't have passports," Anke voice began to crack. "How the hell are we going to get across the border if we don't have passports, or at least, even if you all did. How am I supposed to get across?"

"I'm sure that if we head up into the mountains, there's some mountain path that isn't guarded or at least heavily guarded and we could sneak across there." Continued the priest.

"Up there father?" Began Geyr, "People are going to be able to hear gunshots if it is guarded at all, they'll swarm us before we know what to do. Plus, I don't think we're fully prepared to go hiking through the Alps. We'd have to outfit ourselves for that kind of climb. I also don't know if Thomas here would want to scrap his car cause we most definitely can't take it over the mountains."

"I don't know what you're all worried about." Thomas chuckled, "You're with the Emperor of Pravus Inguro, they're not going to question us, it's a state visit and I'm bringing friends I met in Austria over the border. Neither the Austrians or the Athenians, we'll be fine."

"A priest, a nun, and," Geyr paused, "Whatever I'm dressed as. That's not going to look suspicious?"

"You know my father served in the Italian Federation's air force."

"You mean the nation that started out with a leader from Pravus Inguro, I'm sure the Italians loved that." Geyr scoffed.

Thomas threw on the brakes and turned around glaring. "What's that supposed to mean tough guy?"

"All right! That's enough out of both of you." Wiesz bellowed as he stuck his hands between the two younger men. Anke could already feel the tears starting to form in her eyes as the priest laid a hand on her shoulder. "There's a diner over there," he said as they pulled into the town. "Anke, how long as it been since you had a good meal?"

She sniffed, clearing the snot out of her nose as her eyes welled up. "At least four days, but it doesn't matter because we're no-"

"Quiet, Anke." Wiesz interrupted her, "Once you get some food in your stomach, you'll feel better and we can solve this passport or sneaking over the Alps problem after dinner. But until then, I don't want anymore complaining or anymore fighting. We're here to help Anke stay safe and get her back to normal as quickly as possible. So if you two argue again, I'm going to beat both of your faces in."

The car went silent as Thomas pulled it into the diner and the odd group of travelers entered into the small diner, sitting down at one of the far booths on the far side of the building. It was fairly empty as Anke looked around, there were a few old men at the long bar at the front of the diner and a younger, but much grungier man sitting a few booths away from them, nursing a cup of coffee. The smell was enticing and as the waitress brought menus over, Anke could barely keep her mouth from falling open. Warm eggs, cups of coffee, toast, sausage, schnitzel, wurst of all kinds, and a full selection of beer. She didn't even know where to start, but when she checked her habit, there wasn't a thaler to be found. However, before Anke could burst into tears, Thomas took out his charge card and handed it to the waitress.

"My friend and I," he said motioning to Geyr, "found these two broke down on the road. They eat for free."

Anke looked up with red eyes and grinned as she handed the menu to the waitress. "I'll have a little bit of everything, Miss. I'd been ages since I've had a meal."

"Humble eating not part of your itinerary, Sister?" The waitress said smiling.

"I'm sure God can forgive me, just this once."

About fifteen minutes, the table was filled to the point of breaking with each one of the travelers, but especially Anke, tearing into the food brought to them. No one talked, they simply ate and ate for a good half hour, before Thomas fell back against the booth's seat and groaned happily. "Well that was one of the better meals I've had in a long time." He pushed himself up and wiped his mouth. "So if you'll excuse me for a moment, I'm going to use the little boy's room and then we can discuss how we're going to get over the border." Thomas started to walk away before Wiesz picked himself up as well.

"That's a good idea, I'll be right back." Said the priest, running off, leaving Anke and Geyr alone.

They stared at each other for a long moment before Anke dropped her fork on the plate and breathed a long sigh. "I just don't see how this is going to work Geyr. It was going to be hard when it was just you and I. Now we have Father Wiesz and Thomas in tow and really we need them both. Thomas is the only way we're going to be able to financially survive over in Italy and Father Wiesz is our only way into the Vatican."

"Not to mention that I don't think Thomas would leave your side." He smirked.

"Please, Geyr, not now." She shook her head, "We can't sneak over the mountains, it's just not going to work. Father Wiesz is too old and I think I'm too weak."

"How are your wounds holding up?"

Anke looked down at her hands, the blood was beginning to seep through the bandages again. The pain had subsided only a little and she felt that it wasn't so much it was going away, but that she was becoming used to the pain itself. "I need to be cured."

"What about if your visions could get us across the border?"

"There's a reason I've been so nervous Geyr, the only visions I've seen or tried to see, have been us being caught and most of you killed for helping me. We need passports and we need identification cards or we're not getting across to Athens." It was at this time that Anke finally noticed the man with the coffee staring over the booth at her. He had a mysterious smile on his face and a look of desire an danger in his eyes. "Can I help you?" She said, glaring, trying to get him to turn back around.

"I don't think so Sister. However, I do believe if you're looking to cross the border. I can definitely help you."

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[b]OOC: I apologise for the delays, as I mentioned to Sarah, something came up which required my time instead. I fear I have delayed others progress too much already so I am posting this now without all the re-formatting I'd have liked. I might come back and tidy it up a bit later.[/b]

"I know a very generous friend, who helps tourists who have [i]lost[/i] their passports."
Pointing to Vogel and Geyr he continues on "after you finish your meals, come with me"

A silence befall the meal as everyone hungrily wolfed down their food. Anke and Gyer were the first to finish and agreed to go on ahead, the trio left their places and walked off without a word.

Night came very fast in December and by the time they left the diner it was pitch black and bitterly cold. Fortunately it was a brief walk up the road to this man's house. A quaint little cottage adjoined to the back of a small printing press. It was too dark to make out the sign, but the house seemed warm and inviting in the December chill.

Their guide knocked on the heavy wooden door several times and waited a moment before knocking again.
From inside the house a man shouts "I'm coming, I'm coming. Who is it at this time of the day?"
The heavy door opens and warm light streams out into the dark, an older man standing in the doorway.
"Ahh, Johan, It's good to see you again. I see you brought some friends"
"Yes Klaus. These [i]tourists[/i] lost their documents, I told them you could help them with their passport problems"
"Very good, very good, come on in you two. Klaus, I will see you later"

Anke steps inside the cottage, looking around. "Your friend said that you'd be able to help us."
* Geyr_von_Manteuffel steps in behind Anke_Vogel, looking around the cottage warily, his arms folded.
<Klaus> Yes, Johan is a good kid.
<Klaus> As you will understand, Fraulein Vogel, it's not every day I get the most wanted poeple in Austria step into my home.
* Klaus gestures at the news on the TV in the background
<Klaus> There will ofcourse, be a considerable fee for these services rendered
<Anke_Vogel> Yes...well...a lot of things aren't they way we want things to happen.
<Anke_Vogel> What kind of fee are we talking about here?
* Geyr_von_Manteuffel looks at the news on the TV, sighing when he saw his portrait as well on the screen, frowning.
<Klaus> Yes, yes, I've heard that before. Things never go as planned.
<Klaus> Normally, I could do these things for ten grand
<Klaus> In your case, fifty thousand thalers, at least.
* Geyr_von_Manteuffel raises an eyebrow.
* Anke_Vogel nearly drops to the ground. "Fifty thousand?"
<Anke_Vogel> We barely made it this far with our lives and you're asking for fifty thousand thalers?
<Klaus> Forging a passport is not cheap you know and it's not just that
<Geyr_von_Manteuffel> You do know that the charges we have against us don't include bank robbery, right?
<Klaus> There are bribes to pay
* Geyr_von_Manteuffel finally breaks his silence and glares at Klaus.
<Anke_Vogel> Would we be able to renegotiate? Perhaps pay on interest at a later date?

Having entered the small cottage with the priest, just in time to hear the price Thomas felt the need to interject.

<Thomas_Atkinson-Asgeirsson> "If I may be of service..." Thomas stepped forward, raising a hand. "I can make the payment. All it will take is a bank account and a phone call from me."
<Klaus> Yes, well I run a very comprehensive service, and if you can't pay me know, then you can travel several hundred km to the next border and try your like with Wilhelm, and no, I don't make it a habit to take IOU notes from criminals.
* Geyr_von_Manteuffel grumbles at being labelled a criminal, scoffing at the irony that this entire process is criminal.
<Anke_Vogel> Thomas...are you sure?
<Klaus> Aha, so the rumours are true, The emperor is indeed aiding and abetting criminals. How amusing. I'm sorry Herr Asgeeirsson, but that is far too traceable for this kind of business.
<Klaus> Perhaps we could make a trade.
<Geyr_von_Manteuffel> Why can't you bribe the same officials for ten thousand, what is the difference?
* Geyr_von_Manteuffel glares at Klaus.
<Thomas_Atkinson-Asgeirsson> "Rumors, sir, remain rumors until such time they become fact. And if you honestly think I can't make the money look like it came from somewhere else... well..." Thomas chuckled. "What is your proposal?"
<Klaus> Because Athens is a police state. You think they will only check your ID at the border?
<Thomas_Atkinson-Asgeirsson> "Of a world leader on vacation? It wouldn't shock me. Then again, the Empire has quite an open society."
<Klaus> Sir, world leader or not merely invites more suspicion upon these people. I don't think you realise the severity of the situation.
* Thomas_Atkinson-Asgeirsson sighs
<Thomas_Atkinson-Asgeirsson> "Do you have a proposal or is this simply another lecture?" Thomas looked over at Geyr.
<Klaus> That sports car out there. That is yours no? It must be worth at least fifty-five. I will take it, and everything in it right now. In exchange, I will provide you with the best passports, and licenses you can get on this side of Europe, nondescript transport, a backstory and appropriate clothing.
* Geyr_von_Manteuffel raises an eyebrow, and looks out at the Stinger.
* Thomas_Atkinson-Asgeirsson blinks for a minute, and then looks back at Klaus.
<Anke_Vogel> But...that's our only car.
<Thomas_Atkinson-Asgeirsson> "I've had that car since I was a boy... I put in the modifications myself. I couldn't simply..." Thomas looked over at Anke, and then back at the Stinger. He somehow knew it was the only way to get this done. "Fine. Provide what you promise, and the keys are yours."
* Anke_Vogel frowned, "It's still our only car, we're going all the way to Rome. We can't just walk."
<Anke_Vogel> Surely there must be something else, something less limiting to us.
<Thomas_Atkinson-Asgeirsson> "He said he'd provide nondescript transport, Anke. I'm assuming he means another car."
<Anke_Vogel> Is that right Klaus, another car?
<Klaus> Indeed. I have a volkswagon for you. It's a bit old, but I would guess it's tad roomier than what you were in before.
* Thomas_Atkinson-Asgeirsson grumbles something under his break about a Volkswagen compared to a Stinger.
<Klaus> Now if that is agreeable, it will take two days to prepare the papers. I suggest you lay low until then and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
<Anke_Vogel> And if they don't work?
<Klaus> They will work.
<Geyr_von_Manteuffel> If they don't work, we'll probably be entering the Federation, just in chains.
<Klaus> Herr Nagal didn't complain when I helped his mistress become his secretary
<Thomas_Atkinson-Asgeirsson> "If they don't work, then I'll do what I do best... pull strings."
* Geyr_von_Manteuffel shrugs, "So either way, we'll get in, just depends on what manner we'll be entering."
<Anke_Vogel> I'd rather not enter Italy in chains, albeit, either way is better than being in Austria.
* Geyr_von_Manteuffel nods in agreement, with a low chuckle.
<Klaus> Now, I take it you will not be parting with that weapon on your
* Klaus nods towards Geyr_von_Manteuffel
<Anke_Vogel> Is that it then Klaus, we'll give you the car and you and provide us with a passage over to Italy?
<Klaus> I will need to bribe the guards anyway, but I think that will be the limit of what they allow.
<Geyr_von_Manteuffel> I'd prefer to remain armed.
<Klaus> And yes, I shall get to work as soon as the stinger is in my garage.
* Klaus puts his hound out.
<Thomas_Atkinson-Asgeirsson> "Better bribe them double then, Klaus." Thomas pulled his handgun slowly from the back of his pants. "I'm not leaving this behind as well. You already have my car. You're not taking my gun." Thomas pulled the keys out and tossed them to Klaus. "I'll need to get a few things out of it, but otherwise, it's yours."
<Klaus> That was not the deal.
<Klaus> Everything in it right now.
<Anke_Vogel> You must be joking.
<Anke_Vogel> That's not even fair
<Anke_Vogel> the car is worth way more than the amount to make those passports and to provide a Volkswagen
<Anke_Vogel> and you know that.
* Thomas_Atkinson-Asgeirsson Thomas laughs.
<Thomas_Atkinson-Asgeirsson> "Unfortunately, there are some matters of state security in that car that I cannot allow you to get your hands on."
<Klaus> Oh very well, but only because I am generous.
<Anke_Vogel> Thank you Klaus, we appreciate that.
* Klaus goes to a closet and brings out a pillowcase.
<Klaus> whatever you can fit in this, you can keep
<Thomas_Atkinson-Asgeirsson> Thomas took the pillowcase and scowled. "Very well."
<Klaus> Now, that you are done ripping me off
<Klaus> Can I get to work? Or shall I just go back to watching my shows
* Geyr_von_Manteuffel chuckles when Klaus mentions that the group is ripping him off.
<Anke_Vogel> That will be fine, we'll be on our way. Thank you.

Taking the keys, Klaus drove his new stinger into the previously unseen garage behind the building and allowed his customers several minutes to gather clothing, documents of state security and minor sentimental items into the pillowcase - chuckling to himself as one of them attempted to fit a veritable armoury into the bag in addition to every one else's belongings - naturally they wouldn't fit although he did manage to get another pistol in and some ammo. Afterwards, Klaus too passport and ID photos for the forgeries and various biometric measurements recording in a passport.

They left that evening in a 1989 5 door Volkswagen golf featuring a "powerful" 1.8L petrol before stopping in the local inn. Thomas was very surprised to find it to be one of the supercharged variant, but continued to show disdain towards the vehicle.

Klaus on the other hand was set to work especially hard. He was not about to cheap out on this one, and set to work. One of the reasons he could charge so much is because he had original versions of Austrian printing plates used in the official printing press. He used up the last of his good papers and ink - taken directly from the factory, before he "died in a horrible accident". When the documents were completed, they may as well have been the real thing - they effectively were, if not for the details on them. After artificially ageing the documents just the right amount, all they required was to be signed.

Two days later, they would meet again in that diner with young Johan, who handed them several manilla folders without saying a word. The first contained their passports and identification cards, all immaculate. The second their false backgrounds to go with their new names, An Austrian priest and nun, on a pilgrimage to the Vatican. Their guide, an American backpacker who was hitch-hiking with them. The final folder contained what appeared to be 20,000 thalers, a few maps and a note.

"If you wish to cross without a thorough inspection of your luggage, go on Friday evening, when Hans and Boris are at the post. Provide some strong alcohol as a gift in the cold night, then half of the cash. The money is of course counterfeit - Austrian notes are so simple, but I have been bribing these dumb drunkards with fake money for decades now. I suggest you find some fool to exchange the other half for real drachmas - Good luck!"

Seeing as it was Friday already, and starting to get dark, they finished off their meals and Hurried to get ready and set off to meet with the guards after purchasing some of the goods mentioned.

Edited by Shan Revan
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The Austro-Athenian Border
December 4th, 20XX

Driving away in the new Volkswagen, Anke could already tell that Thomas was upset. It was a manual with a supercharged turbo and enough gadgets within to make the car expensive, in addition to being much roomier than the Stinger, but it still wasn't the flashy car of the young Emperor's childhood and dreams. She watched him as he took the bends leading from Arnoldstein up into the mountains with gusto. The car would swing it's tail end far to the right and to the left as they climbed higher into the mountains, the Emperor pushing the Volkswagen as fast as it could go and even beyond it's normal limitation. Wiesz was sleeping in the back and Anke was too nervous to say anything with the check point coming up only miles ahead. Geyr on the other hand was quick to protest at the speed they climbed the icy road.

"You know, you're taking a bunch of pilgrims to Rome, hot shot, you might want to slow down."

Thomas gripped the wheel tightly, his white knuckles pressed against his skin. "Listen, Geyr, leave me alone. I could have left all of you back in Austria and I'd still have my car." But when Anke flashed out of her near trance, looking at the forged passports, his mood immediately softened. "I didn't mean that, I"m sorry. That car, it just meant a lot to me, I had it since I was a boy. I'll get over it, promise."

Geyr nodded and patted him on the shoulder. "No, I understand. Just try to take these bends a bit easier, big guy. We're trying to cross a border. Not win a race."

"Auroa Tascano." Anke said after tucking her identification card into her habit. "I'm going to have to get used to that name. I can't believe we're almost free though, so close to Rome I can almos- ugh..." She leaned forward suddenly and clenched her fists together tightly. "Ah, damn."

The moment this happened, Thomas slowed the car down to a crawl, just a little ways near the Austrian and Athenian checkpoint. His headlights just touched the guard house and after a few moments, the shadows of the guards manning the border, both Austrian and Athenian were heading towards the car. Thomas lifted his head before turning to Anke and cursed. "Damn it, we're too close, they saw us stop." Then the turned back to the bleeding nun. "Is everything okay? How bad are you bleeding?"

"Not that bad, I think I can clean it up with a bandage, just give me a momen-" Then she went silent. Anke's eyes went wide as she watched the world blur in front of her. She saw thousands of scenarios pass in front of her, all of them ending the same. The three travelers shot dead by Austrian and Athenian guards and her extradition back to Vienna, after discovering her identity and the weapons that Thomas had. They would discover the pillowcase, then detain the car for a day, imprisoned in the guard house. Then Anke watched as her friends were taken from her and as the visions began to fade, almost as fast as they had arrived, she could hear the voice.

[b]"You must distract them Anke! Get them away from the car! You will be safe but you must act!"[/b]

"Anke? Anke?" Geyr shook her from the back seat of the car as Wiesz sprung out of sleep. "Are you okay? You're having a vision?"

"Wait, the guards are coming? Do we have our papers?" Wiesz whispered, starting to sweat.

"Everything," Anke paused and nodded, "Everything is going to be fine." Then she gripped the handle of the car door and threw herself out into the snow, holding her hands and making sure her body writhed in pain. The moment she hit the ground however, in the whirling snow that flew through the air that winter's night in the Alps, every guard drew their weapons, pointing them at Anke on the ground and the car sitting idle.

"Everyone! Stay in the car! Miss! Put your hands in the air!" Said one of the Austrian guards as they started to move close to where Anke was laying in the snow. The ground around her already beginning to redden with the blood on her hands.

"Please, I was attacked on the road. Christian fundamentalists." She said in near perfect Italian, with a near perfect accent, it amazed even herself. "The ones who you are looking for, Vogel and her ilk. They've been attacking churches all throughout the Austro-Italian Provinces. I'm traveling with the pastor of our church and two travelers that picked us up along the road. We were heading towards Italy, just to seek refuge. Everything has gotten so crazy in Austria since Vogel's treason."

One of the Austrian guards narrowed his eyes as he approached her. "We haven't heard anything of an attack by Fundamentalists."

"Jesus, Franz, can't you tell she's injured." Said one of the Athenians walking along side his Austrian counterpart.

"We're on the look out for anyone who crosses this border Boris, this could be one of Vogel's lackeys." He pointed at the car. "All of you in there, out, with your proper papers."

As everyone in the Volkswagen was getting out, Boris leaned over towards Anke and once he was close enough, she grabbed him desperately and slid the dracmas and two small shot bottles of vodka into his coat. "Please, help me, I beg of you."

She watched him look at the two Austrian guards and then turn back to her eyes and smile roughly under his beard. "What? Everything here appears to be in order." Then lifting her to her feet, he called over to the Austrian. "Everything seem to be in order Franz? The girl is good, Aurora Tascano. Her papers check out."

The Austrian nodded, "It seems okay. Well then I guess we should report that there have been attacks back to Vienna. You're all free to go. So get out of here."

Anke nodded as she walked back to the car and bowed. "Thank you and God Bless you all." And as they drove through the checkpoint, heading towards the Italian Highlands to the south, Anke breathed a sigh of relief. Someone, someone up there, was watching out for her.

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