And finally we have the last "chapter" of my character prologue for The Secret World. Just a bit of a disclaimer before we get to it. I am "skipping" ahead in time. I am not describing the events depicted in the game where your character is awakened to the "secret world." For the purposes of my character, I consider the sequence depicted in the game introduction as "canon" and will not seek to explain it or elaborate on it. Thus this final portion picks up after she has experienced the "Tokyo Flashback" and is undergoing her initial training with the Templars. I realize this may be a bit confusing for those who are following the story but not actually playing the game, so hopefully this helps explain things somewhat. Enjoy!
Awakenings (one week later)
"Dead? What do you mean dead?" Medina shouted at the stone-faced Templar auditor who was calming typing away at his computer. "What about my family? Samantha?"
"The flat which you were occupying has burned down," the auditor replied without looking up from his keyboard. "You died in the fire. This was reported in the news and relayed to your family and acquaintences."
"A fire? But I didn't..." Medina stuttered and tried to compose a response.
"Of course you didn't," the auditor was beginning to sound exasperated. "What part of 'secret' did you not understand? Did you think we would just send you home with a 'Hi, I'm a Templar' t-shirt? They said you were college educated. I am beginning to wonder." After everything else she had been through in the past week, the attack on Medina's intellect was particularly damaging. She flinched as if physically struck.
"I just don't understand..." she whispered softly, holding her head in her hands. "I don't understand anything anymore." The auditor finished typing and finally looked at her.
"Good. Then perhaps there is hope for you after all." He tapped one final key on his keyboard and the large mahogany doors behind him opened. "Your profile has been uploaded. Report to Mr. Sonnac for further instructions." Medina took a moment to try and compose herself. She tugged on her ponytail, straightened her jacket, and walked as steadily as she could towards the large double doors. As she was about to pass through them the auditor spoke one last time. "Ms. Zhon?" She stopped and turned.
"Welcome to the Templars."
She managed a wan smile and a nod and continued into the office of Richard Sonnac. It looked like something out of one of her history textbooks; immense paintings, bookshelves filled with archaic texts, elaborate chandeliers. It all conveyed a sense of power and knowledge. Knowledge, Medina thought to herself as her eyes scanned the room. I thought I had knowledge. I thought I understood the world. She sighed and focused her eyes on the only other occupant of the room, seated behind a large, oak desk. I am such a fool. Politics, philosophy, history... what does it all mean? Nothing. It was all a lie. I devoted my life to understanding a lie.
"Ms. Zhon!" Richard Sonnac's voice cut into her reverie. "Do come in, make yourself comfortable. We have much to discuss."
"That's an understatement," Medina mumbled under her breath as she took a seat opposite Sonnac's desk. He smiled wryly and steepelled his hands in front of him.
"Yes, I would imagine you have a lot of questions. Some I can answer, some I cannot, and some it would be best if you answered for yourself." She glared back at him angrily and allowed her growing frustration to show.
"Which category would telling everyone I know that I'm dead fall under?" she shot back at him.
"That I can answer," Sonnac replied thoughtfully. "But I don't think I have to. You can understand the reasoning of it just as well as I, even if you can't accept it yet." Her laser-like intensity wavered as she considered his words. He's right, she sighed and slumped slightly in the chair. They can't know what has happened to me, what I've become, what the world truly is. I'm alone in this. "But you aren't alone," he continued as if reading her thoughts. "The Templar is your family now. You will find all the support you need within our organization. That support is not without cost however. As you are now aware, there are dark forces moving in the world, and it is up to us to stop them." He stood up and began pacing the length of his office.
"Who..." Medina paused and reconsidered her response. "What are they?"
"That I cannot answer," he said, stopping his pacing and looking at her directly. "At least not in so many words, and at this point it would only confuse you further." He returned to his desk and punched up her profile. "We already have your first assignment, but there are two people you need to speak to before you depart. The first is our weapons master. You'll find him in the Crucible."
"Weapons? But I've never..." Medina began to protest.
"You're a soldier now, Ms. Zhon," Sonnac stated evenly. "You will find that much of being part of our organization is 'on the job training,' so take advantage of the safe environment while you can." The true gravity of the situation began to dawn on Medina just a bit more at that point. A soldier... in a war. If only I had listened to my mother... "The weapons master will give you a basic introduction to hand-to-hand combat, firearms training, and martial magic."
"Magic?" she gasped.
"Magic," Sonnac said. "What? Did you think only the things that go bump in the night were real? You have the capacity within you to 'bump' back, so to speak." He typed up some more commands on his computer and blinked slightly at the results. He composed himself so quickly that Medina almost didn't catch it. "When you are finished in the Crucible, report back to me and I will direct you to your second contact before you depart." She nodded and stood, leveling her emerald eyes on Sonnac.
"So what do I call you? Sir? Boss? Something more formal and imperious?" Sonnac chuckled softly.
"Mr. Sonnac will do, or just Sonnac. We may be a thousand year old organization, but not all of us are so pretentious." Medina turned on her heel and left the room, heading for the Crucible.
It was just a short walk from Sonnac's office and as she entered the chamber she was taken aback by the shackled demons throughout the room. Well if there was any doubt that this was real, that about takes care of that, Medina thought to herself. The surly weapons master stood in the center of the chamber and beckoned her over.
"Get a move on, lass!" he shouted. "Time and tide wait for no man, or no lady either." She quickly made her way down to the lower level and listened intently as the weapons master gave her information about all the weapons at her disposal. She glanced around the room at each weapon in turn as he described them, filing away the basics of each. For the first time since this bizarre ordeal began, her academic training came back to the forefront as she was able to easily categorize and memorize the basic training the weapons master was giving her. But one decision had already been made.
Her father had always wanted her to learn how to shoot, but the idea of holding a gun had always scared Medina too much. Being a woman of small stature, she was always afraid that if she carried one, it would just be taken and used against her, so she never learned. Well... now is my chance. As the weapons master concluded his presentation, she purposefully ignored the melee weapons and magic foci and strode directly to the firearms station. Glancing over the available options, she settled on the pump-action 12-gauge shotgun. Lifting it in her hands, she tucked it against her hip and smiled. This is for you, dad. And to all you things that go bump in the night... she closed her eyes and cocked the shotgun. I'm going to make you pay for taking my life away.
"Made your choice already, lass?" the weapons master shouted from behind her.
"I'm ready," Medina told him, strapping the gun to her back and confidently leaving the room.
"Well that didn't take long," Sonnac's mellow tones declared as Medina strode back into his office. "I was expecting you to be gone at least an hour, considering how little martial training you currently possess."
"Let's just say I had an... inspiration," she told him, placing the shotgun in her lap as she sat down in the same chair as before. "After all I've been through, there is something reassuring about a gun. Nothing supernatural about a bullet between the eyes." Sonnac regarded her thoughtfully.
"True enough, now let's talk about your second contact." He sat and turned his computer monitor to face her. On it was a single word, <ASYLUM>.
"Asylum? Is that a person?" Medina asked him. He closed his eyes and shook his head.
"No, it is... a society within a society, so to speak." He turned the monitor back to face himself and continued. "It is a group within the Templars made up of individuals with more unique talents than our typical 'foot soldiers.'" She began to question him but he continued over her. "Yes, yes, I know. The weapons master gave you the 'you are not special' speech. It is true, there are many with your talents, and many with talents that exceed yours. But there is something that sets you apart none the less. I cannot tell you what it is because I do not even know what it is." He cleared his computer screen and stood. "Compartmentalization of information is the name of the game in an organization such as ours. But for whatever reason, you have been assigned to the Asylum. They are based in an apartment complex not far from here. Your contact there is a Ms. Ainslee Simpson. Report to her and then we can discuss your first assignment. And do take your time, all jokes about 2012 aside, the apocalypse will still be waiting when you get back."
"Yes, sir Mr. Boss Sonnac," Medina said as she gave a mock salute and made her way out of the office.
"Oh and one last thing," Sonnac called as she placed her hand on the door. "Since Medina Zhon is 'dead' you'll need a new identity. Among the Templar you will simply be known as 'Xintia.'"
"Xintia?" she said, sounding confused. "Where did that come from?" Sonnac only smiled and shrugged.
"Compartmentalization of information, remember? But do remember, you are dead to the rest of the world. Xintia is who you are now. Medina... is gone." She took a moment to consider the impact of his words.
"Yes I suppose she is," Xintia said, turning her hand on the knob. "In more ways than one." Behind her Mr. Sonnac sighed softly.
Leaving the massive Templar complex, Xintia paused a moment and looked up into the evening London sky. I'm a scholar, not a soldier. I'm a seeker of knowledge, not a destroyer. She closed her eyes and wanted to scream. But all that knowledge was useless, empty, a lie. I need to know. She clenched her fists and her sides and let the frustration boil out of her.
"I NEED TO KNOW!" she screamed into the night air. I need to understand THIS world, the real world... the secret world. And with that she turned down the street to seek out the Asylum and one Ainslee Simpson.