The Apocalypse of Lir
General Reid held the phone in his hand, hesitantly. He was not sure if this would work. After a minute of contemplating the lack of alternatives, he dialed: #*. This would have done nothing on a normal phone, but this wasn't a normal phone, nor was the guy on the other end a normal guy.
"General Reid, what can I do for you?" The accent was distinctive, this was definitely who Reid intended to reach.
"Grenmezlir Devoy, I have a proposition for you," Reid pitched.
"...A proposition?" The tone was cold.
"I know that you're not exactly a fan of me or my methods, but our interests currently align," Reid explained. "I want to expose the Steward as a murderer, that poor archivist he allegedly killed was a family friend. You, obviously, stand to become Steward if the leaks reach the Duxburian people."
Bandon paused. "What is the catch?"
Reid laughed, "There is no catch, other than you agree not to immediately demote me the moment you are sworn in."
"Sounds reasonable. But, what about the gag order? I leak this and you know who comes for my head."
"I will protect whoever you choose to put a name to it. According to Grapevine, Mattheus Torgard would be a good candidate. He wants to speak the truth, but Senior Editor Whitney Larson will not budge. But, if you could convince the Sentinel to publish it, I will ensure that the whole building is protected."
"No matter what goes in that article?"
"No matter what goes in that article. They can publish literally anything about the leaks. You have my word, I NEED justice, Grenmezlir. Only you have the power to sway people like this, and you know it."
"Alright, I will do it. I have a final condition, that no harm will come to me or Mattheus from any of this," said Brandon.
"So be it."
"Swear it on HIM."
General Reid increased the severity of his voice. "I swear on Acennan Aelir that no harm shall come to Brandon Devoy or Mattheus Torgard as a result of this arrangement."
"Deal." Brandon hung up the phone.
Reid immediately dialed Illian Knight.
"Did you get a trace?"
"Yes sir, that call was placed out of a cafe in Europolis, 1 block from the European Council."
Reid knew why Brandon would have gone to Europolis.
"Alright, activate snatch teams E4 and E5, although if he does what I think he's going to do, he'll come right to you."
Reid had one more person to contact. He texted Speaker Elizabeth Hale.
Everything on schedule. Soon A will be D, B will be C, H will be S.
"PLEASE, I'M BEGGING YOU, LET ME WRITE THIS STORY!" Mattheus Torgard was red in the face. How could the senior editor not see how important it was that the people be informed? "THESE ARE THE KINDS OF STORIES THAT MADE THE SENTINEL GREAT!"
"Mattheus, I told you, we can't publish sensational and unsubstantiated claims. Where did you even get that story?" Whitney Larson asked, with a skeptical frown.
"My source was Edward Snowden…" Mattheus replied, a little sheepishly.
"EXACTLY! I mean, think about the implications of running a story accusing the Steward of the Duxburian Union as both a murderer and a usurper, and then claiming that the evidence has been systematically suppressed across the country? Imagine trying to explain this to the boss? This is dangerous stuff lacking hard evidence.
Mattheus, you are a good writer and have a bright future ahead of you. I'll give you some more exciting assignments, but please let this one go. This is the last I'll hear of it!"
Whitney's phone began to ring. Accepting that further protest was futile, Mattheus slowly shuffled over to the door.
"Good afternoon, Whitney Larson speaking."
"Hello Whitney, this line is now secure. I am Brandeus Lir Devoy am Harrison. I'm calling to convince you to let Mattheus publish his article."
"You're kidding, right? Is this some kind of prank? How stupid do I look?" She wasn't happy.
"I can prove that the Edward Snowden leaks are true. My brother Acwellan holds the genuine will of Avoldran Dehn, stamped with the Blackstone Seal. Look at your caller ID, this is his office phone in Europolis. I can also provide low level evidence that Edward's original story has been systematically censored by the Duxburian government."
Whitney motioned for Mattheus to come back in.
"How and why should I believe you? You don't even exist. Who really is this? One of Mattheus' friends? This is such a bad prank!"
"Unbroken, Unbending, Unending. This was the master password to the first network of connected computers that we would now call the internet. This was my password, as I invented the internet during my time as an apprentice to the legendary Jon Allen. It's also the motto of the House of Devoy. Those computers are still functional in the Great Library of Laatzalveria. Go and try that password, it will work.
If you still aren't convinced of my true identity, then here's another one for you: ΛK4ϟЖЖ ᙔxIIII8 ʎN2IO VЖh37H0∯ 5฿. This is yesterday's nuclear code, you know, the one that controls launch of the Dubxurian nuclear arsenal. I hacked the DSA encryption scheme protecting it via adiabatic quantum annealing, on a 2,048 qubit "Allen" quantum computer. There is only one in the world. I guarantee that only the real Brandon Devoy has the expertise and resources to carry out this level of attack, and I guarantee that the code is genuine. Call Dante Maximillian or Vincent Clarke and verify it with them!"
Whitney wasn't sure what to believe now. With her silence, Brandon continued,
"I've talked with General Reid, the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and he wants to break the media blackout. He wants this story published, he's the one who directed me to the Sentinel. He's agreed that no legal harm will come to the newspaper or its employees from publishing this story. I also know that Mattheus Torgard is standing in your office right now, listening to this. What I've just told you is ridiculously secret and must never be shared with anyone else. It's a high felony to tell you that, and it's a high felony for you to repeat any of it. Anyway, please let Mattheus publish. This line is no longer secure. Goodbye, and good luck."
Brandon hung up, leaving Whitney holding the phone listening to dial tone and Mattheus standing in silence, trying to process what he'd just heard.
"Well, you've got your article, Mattheus. You have very…interesting…friends."
Brandon Devoy stood on the shore of Stateus Island, admiring the mighty Verington skyline. The glass palaces of the financial district glistened across the river, the twin towers majestically pierced the endless blue sky, hulking bridges diced up the Great River, and the Statue of Liberty stood guard over it all. Brandon was in awe of this pinnacle of Duxburian civilization. He whipped out his smartphone to snap a picture.
The camera flash unexpectedly grew, consuming the harbor, the river, the skyline, the whole city, and everything in a blinding wave of white light. He dropped to the ground grasping his eyes in pain. The pain shot from his eyes down the rest of his body. It was intense, searing pain, like he'd just been lit on fire.
His hair was on fire, his skin was on fire, everything around him was on fire. In horror, he tried to roll around on the sand, but his entire body was engulfed in flame and even the water was on fire.
The glass towers disintegrated, the head of the Statue of Liberty blew off, the bridges unraveled like yarn, the air rippled like water. The skyscrapers of Midtown were replaced with skyscrapers of angry smoke, billowing into the shape of a mushroom.
Brandon was picked up by the blast and hurled into a parking lot. Writhing on the pavement in agony, surrounded by burning cars, he saw a dark shape emerge from the smoke and take flight. It solidified into a demon with wings the length of bridges and eyes wreathed in flame.
The Demon came right at him, accelerating down toward where he lay.
Brandon couldn't get away, he trained all his effort and thought on trying to, tried to wrench himself away, and finally…he was falling…everything was black…
He'd fallen backwards out of a chair and was now lying on a dusty floor in Acwellan's Europolis office. A clock ticked on the far wall, two huge cannabis plants flanked a chestnut executive desk, papers flapped in the light breeze from a half-open window, but everything was quiet. No nuclear blast, no fire, no demons.
Soaked in sweat, he got up and reset the chair. The strangest part about that nightmare is that he'd never experienced a dream before. Ever. That was the first of his entire life. What did it mean?
Voices in the hallway brought his attention back to the here and now. The door opened and Acwellan Devoy walked in.
"…Brandeus?…what are you doing here?" Acwellan was very puzzled to see him.