The Once And Future Emperor
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Agent Walker always knew when things were about to go south; it was this strange tingling sensation he got in the back of his skull, like an itch springing up two inches under his skin. He always attributed it to the combination of experience and dumb luck, but so far he was always right about it. Just now, his skull was itching like never before.

Walker was at the head of the squad of Mobile Task Force members clearing out the left-hand branch of the cave. Intel had shown some sect of the Church of the Broken God was holed up here, and so far it proved to be spot on. "For once," Walker thought to himself. It was amazing how loud suppressed MP5's were in an enclosed space, a fact that made the popular term of "silencer" a joke in and of itself. The group they encountered up top barely had time to reach for their own weapons before they were reduced to crumpled heaps, but then the cave split, so the team did as well. Six down one pathway, five down the other, radio silence the whole way unless there was an emergency. Further down, a series of small explosions was heard; it took the Agent a moment to realize that it wasn't small explosions, but large gunshots. One raised fist brought the team to a halt, and Walker advanced slowly to the right-angled turn ahead. One peek around the corner showed a door, and Walker could see bright light shining through the weathered cracks and around the seams. Another silent signal was given to his troops, two fingers pointed at his eyes and then a hand covering them. Knowing the drill all too well, the Agents lowered their blackout goggles and assembled before the door, weapons ready.

One solid kick was all it took, old wood splintering around the latch, a hinge popping completely free to let the door hang at an odd angle once it slammed into the far wall. The initial thought in Walker's mind was, "The goggles aren't helping." That thought lasted a very small fraction of a second as his vision was completely consumed in blinding white light. One and a half seconds later the light faded, and Walker was equally shocked that he could still see, not even so much as a flash-glare left in his vision. He did notice, however, that the five men who were with him were collapsed on the ground, barely breathing. He also noticed the twelve bodies in the room, each with their heads burst open in a pattern indicative of a large-caliber bullet meeting one's skull from a short range.

The final image that his mind actually registered was that of a single figure still standing. He was dressed in paramilitary gear not terribly unlike those of the MTF members who had burst in upon him, and in his hand was a pistol that looked to be chambered for .50 caliber ammunition, the undoubted source of the cultists' untimely ends. Walker found himself making eye-contact with the Man, barely realizing that in the glare he had taken off his useless goggles, and soon realized he was transfixed. The face was handsome but not beautiful, he was tall but not giant, his build was solid but not bulky. All in all the Man was above-average without being enough to attract attention; all except for his eyes. Those eyes looked into Walker's, and the Agent could almost feel a hand picking through his brain, spreading out the wrinkles and brushing neurons as every memory and thought was examined individually, all within the span of a few heartbeats.

Finally, the Man smiled, and extended a hand. "Come, sit with me." He unceremoniously pushed a corpse off of one chair and retrieved another that had toppled in the brief fight. Walker sat upon one, the Man on the other; dimly, Walker realized that the Man's chair made a much louder creak as he sat on it, and he wondered just how much gear the Man carried to be so heavy. So the two sat; Walker listened, and the Man talked. He answered questions that Walker never asked, and spun tales that he could hardly believe.

The Man claimed to have been born somewhere around the year 8000 B.C.E., a time so long ago that even his immense mind was clouded by history, in an area that was now a part of Turkey. He knew from the first moments of life what his purpose was; before his conception, hundreds - if not thousands - of shamans and other mystics from around the world realized their numbers were dwindling; the ether was becoming a terrible, twisted place, and their cycle of reincarnation was becoming interrupted as more and more souls were lost to the warped beasts that began to emerge from this spiritual chaos. So, rather than eventually leaving mankind rudderless, they committed suicide, almost to the last, and all at the same instant. This influx of power overwhelmed the ephemeral monsters, long enough for the souls to coalesce and form a new entity, not a god or a demon, but a man.

That was the same Man who was now sitting before the dumbstruck Agent. Throughout the millenia, he had at times risen to power as a nearly unbeatable warlord or king, at other times he influenced from the background. There were times when he started or changed new faiths, and times when he lead great crusades to denounce them. He was particularly amused about one such attempt two thousand years ago, a cause to unite humanity as one through the love of their brothers; that even such a pure message could be twisted into an excuse for death and destruction finally convinced him that if mankind should survive, it would be as a unified and conquering army standing atop the world, and then the galaxy. He arose once in England, leading a band of peasant-knights with ideals of chivalry and honor; the same ideals would be his influence upon ancient Japan and China. He spoke of riding horseback across the great steppes of Mongolia, and creating an empire that almost stretched from the Pacific to the Atlantic, before treacherous poison caused injury that even his physiology required much time to heal. He spoke of the great leaps in science and reason that he helped usher in, of the scientists whose names he concocted for himself, and those whom he had touched and given untold insights.

Once he was done speaking of the past, he spoke of the future, a future which his vision and scheming accounted for in the tens of thousands of years. He spoke of the way that mankind would spread across the stars; slowly at first, of course, launching themselves near-blindly like seeds upon the wind. Miracles of science and genetics would lead to a way to pierce through that astral sea, that ethereal plane beyond even the void of space, and let mankind step between the stars in short voyages rather than generations. He knew all of this, because his sight pierced the veils of time both forward and back, and with his mind he could touch the whole of the world.

Hours before, Agent Walker would have laughed at the Man, spit upon him, fired entire magazines worth of ammunition until his chatter stopped. Somehow, he knew this Man was right. He knew those words were spoken not by one who was headstrong and obstinate, but one who knew a Truth, an idea so solid as to be inviolate. Sadly, Agent Walker's mind was not so great as the Man's, and many things escaped him. One question rose to his lips, well after the Man had stopped speaking. "How did you come here? Get past the guards?"

"Ah, yes. I merely showed them the Truth, and they allowed me to pass." His smile was as magnanimous as it was handsome.

"Why are you even here? How did you know?" Walker knew that the boys in espionage had worked months to track this cell down. The strange, clockwork cube resting in a vestibule in the back of the room was what had brought him here in the first place.

"I know, because it is my business to know. These men and their worship of a 'machine god' may have its place in the future, but it is not now. I worked very hard to fell that dragon of the void, and these sycophants trying to put it back together do not work well with my plans." Walker's eyes widened, the thought that this Man was responsible for those Scips being called a 'broken god' beyond belief, had they come from any other mouth.

"Why are you telling me all this?"

With that, the Man paused, and seemed thoughtful for a long time. Finally he smiled, and stood, placing a hand upon Walker's shoulder that seemed to make him sink into his chair. "Because even I feel the need for counsel, now and again. You have a very… Inquisitive mind, Agent Thomas Walker. And a very special mind as well, with very special abilities that I sense even you yourself are not aware of." He offered his hand, and Walker was helped out of his seat. Yanked, more like it.

"Come. I'm afraid your comrades are already dead, the cultists laid far too many traps down the other hallway." Walker did admit to hearing a number of voices over his radio during the Man's long soliloquy; the earbud hang off his vest by that point, so he didn't know the details. "I must admit, I admire the intent of your Foundation, but its aim is too narrow. It wishes to preserve things which are, at best, threats which are inimical to life, especially human life. Certain items, some creatures, they have their values yes. But if it is a threat, then it must be destroyed. I would like you to come with me, Walker. I am preparing for the next step in the grand destiny of Mankind, and for that I need men like you."

Walker did not even think about the words that came from his mouth, nor the motion which brought his head bowed lowly. "I am yours to command, Lord."

The Man smiled and nodded. "You will have new orders, Thomas. Scourge the mutant, that its deviancy not corrupt the purity of our species. Crush the heretic, that its blasphemy does not divide mankind. Purge the alien, that its kin does not stand between us and our destiny. You shall be my spokesman, Thomas. And for that, you must Know."

Thomas' eyes were wide as the light returned, and he saw the Man for what he truly was; how he had appeared so simple before defied explanation. The Man was so tall that Walker barely came to his lower chest; so broad he must have turned himself sideways to fit through the small opening to this chamber. The light seemed to radiate from the Man's head, a halo that shone with the radiance of a thousand suns. It was beautiful, so much so that Walker wept bitter tears; tears which mixed with the blood from his ruined eyes, burned from the sheer glory, burst from the minute fraction of power that the Man had poured into his new agent.

Despite the loss of his eyes, Walker could still see. The power that the Man gave him may have ruined his sight, but awoke senses and abilities Walker never imagined. He was able to sense the energy around him, and while not perfect, he walked with great assurance to the vestibule at the rear of the chamber. The Man nodded with pleasure as Walker took all four fragmentation grenades he carried and stuffed them into the compartment housing the clockwork cube, with its surface of unearthly, living metal. The pins pulled, he ran, seeking shelter behind the Man who had revealed to him a great and terrible Truth, and the explosion utterly destroyed the would-be SCP-1854. His work done, Thomas felt the touch of the Man upon his shoulder, and was vitalized.

"Come Thomas. The stars await, and we have an Imperium to found." Walker was too joyous to respond, but without a doubt he crossed his hands atop his chest, hooked thumbs forming the shape of a double-headed eagle, and bowed his head.

"As you command, my Emperor."

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