E: Sand Box

The Sahara stretched on below Cyrus, an endless palette of browns and yellows swirling together. Eventually he would hit the Mediterranean, though he had no intention of making it that far. Though, would there be German steamships on those seas, preparing to invade Greece and North Africa, in dire need of a sudden storm to sink them? He blinked and shook his head, trusting the warning feeling in his gut as his mind wandered. His bubble of air, condensed to breathability even scraping the upper reaches of the atmosphere, cut through the early morning sky. Cyrus caught sight of a certain rock formation scoured by the winds and began his descent.

Cyrus. The name, one of his few intact long-term memories. Not his birth name, even that was lost to time, but a sign of respect. The man had broadened his world, irrevocably. The memory of his mother tongue slipped from his mind, the village turned city he had protected as a god for centuries returned to the dust, the faces blended together over and over and over, but the name stayed. The original would have known what to do, but all current Cyrus was left with was little else but an uplifting feeling, utterly devoid of details.

A threat, a dagger at the heart of man lay buried West, where he had just fled. The timing could not have been worse. The human mind could only hold so much, before the memories spilled over like an overflowing water jug filled by a greedy child. Soon it would slip from his grasp entirely and break upon the ground. Two hundred years, give or take. The memories, the count of years, were imperfect, but twenty-five repetitions of the process left its mark upon his psyche.

He landed deep in the Sahara, in the hard desert near no possible caravan routes. He had once saved an entire camel train of hundreds of pilgrims, flying night and day for a week to ferry them as much water as he could carry. Had that been yesterday or centuries? Regardless, this place held no real significance to anyone, no reason to visit, no reason to make an arduous climb up a cliff face, no reason to visit the cave at the top with a handful of creature comforts hardened by the dry heat against, though by no means immune to, the passage of time.

A century of dust coated the cave, save for a well-worn box beside a desk. He cleared the dust from the room with a thought and unlatched the carved lid. Within lay a thick, leather-bound journal. He opened it and leafed through the pages. He didn’t bother to read and absorb, it would be lost soon anyways. The journal would be for later, to read and interpret with fresh eyes.

He eyed the once rich rug in the center of the only true room of the cave, nearly returned to dust as all things did. The Chinese merchant who sold it might have been a dour man, made more so by the unfamiliar and unpleasant jungle climate of Bengal he found himself posted in for one of the Ming trade fleets, but his wife? The broad nosed woman with an easy and genuine smile, who viewed everything as an adventure worth savoring, even talks with a lowly Sultanate official such as Cyrus. Who knew how much of that merchant’s success stemmed from her charm and insight?

The howl of wind, naturally occurring, outside the cave brought him back to the present. Cyrus scrawled down all he could remember, all he could muster, of his plans and goals of the previous five years since he’d last visited his old haunt. There, of course, was no guarantee he could remember the language in which he wrote when he reached the other side, but the invention of writing had helped him immensely in the previous millennia, even if it took time to decipher.

With his task complete, he reclined on a spartan bed, little more than a few extra blankets over a slab of stone. The darkness of sleep took hold, stilling his writhing mind. Perhaps the night would bring recovery. Perhaps it would be a week.


Cyrus awoke with a splitting headache, in a claustrophobic cavern of stone. He lashed out instinctively at the unfamiliar environment, splitting the rock wall with a spear of air. His eyes took a moment of focus fully on the innocent red sandstone, and a few pebbles fell from the ceiling and bounced off of the rug below. The rug had some significance, that was obvious, but he could not recall where it came from. The ancient thing would certainly need replacing, however, faded and threadbare as it was.

This confusion, too, would pass, as all things did. He would heal, as he did all things. Grievous injuries closed within moments, entire removed limbs would regenerate. Whatever force was acting on him, granting him his powers, it would brook no exceptions. Even breaks in his mind, like the one upcoming, would be smoothed over. Devices meant to keep him constantly regenerating had been simply burned from his body, ceasing to function within minutes of the mad techie hooking him up.

Was he still human? Perhaps. The question occurred to him often in his lower points. But Cyrus lived, he loved, cried, and laughed. Leadership centuries ago had humbled him, badly, despite all of his power. If he could not lead, how could he set himself above others? So he lived as any other man, returning to this place whenever the memories grew too great. Perhaps this would be a waste of an extraordinary life. Perhaps a new calling would reveal itself to him in his wanderings. Perhaps.


It took him another full day for his full mental faculties to return, and another two to fully recall and interpret the contents of his journal. There were gaps, that he knew. Whatever cover story he had at the MHU he would never be able to maintain again for more than a few seconds of questioning. He could certainly lie, but those lies would almost never match up with whatever he had said on record before.

Cyrus sat cross legged at the base of the rock formation as the sun set and the night cooled, meditating with a newly cleared mind. He refused to break his inner peace, even as the sounds of helicopter blades approached. The trio approached him from across the valley, in full charcoal grey suits and red ties despite being in the middle of the Sahara Desert. He steadfastly ignored them, gaze fixed on the horizon in the distance until a figure stood directly in front of him.

“Agent Smith,” said the leading woman, with the most generic American accent possible, holding an official looking badge up for a brief moment before whisking it away into a breast pocket.

“What department would you happen to work for?” he asked, an unwilling smile playing on the corner of Cyrus’ lips.

“A great question. We have some questions for you as well.”

He held up a hand, interrupting her. “You are not the first to try to ambush me here. Nor the first to attempt to confuse me. It never ends well.”

“If we were here for a fight with a man who controls air, we wouldn’t have taken a helicopter here,” she said, her confident smile never wavering. “And you don’t seem too confused. It’s been almost a week since that power nap you took. I can’t imagine that’s a coincidence on our part.”

He conceded the point with a nod.

“Of course we have an old file on you, but we certainly weren’t expecting you to break cover so spectacularly. We’ll be needing to go through the Westward MHU with a fine-tooth comb when all of this is said and done.”

“What is it you are here for?” he asked, growing weary of beating around the bush.

“I have some questions for you about Overlord.”

Both eyes now gave her his full attention. “Such as?”

“Your own interest in him, for starters.”

“He is a grave threat to all humans.”

“Humans? He was a Yugoslav general and a techie. Not exactly a Siberian level threat.”

“Ah, ‘was’. You already know that his horizons have since expanded. What he plans would not leave a humanity worthy of the name.”

“Which is?”

He humored her. “Slavery. He would call it something else. Man freed of the shackles of flesh. And what a wonderful tale he would spin, of immortal beings striding the world like steel colossi. Of course, only he holds the key. If only we trust him and turn a blind eye to all those who would not fit this vision of his.”

“You have a poetic way with words,” she complimented him. He replied with a smile just as false.

“You knew this already,” he said.

She placed one hand on her hip. Her two companions remained utterly still and silent throughout the whole conversation, one never taking his eyes off of Cyrus, the other never ceasing his scan of the perimeter. “Your actions in Westward have left the Department in quite a pickle. We have our hands full with Overlord at the moment, we’d rather not put another super on our short list.”

“I killed no one, and harmed few,” he pointed out.

“You placed several agents at risk at MHU headquarters, even if you killed no one,” she replied, smile vanishing. “The Department is very curious about that coincidence.”

“How could I have known? I don’t even know which department you work for.”

“You are a several thousand-year-old super with a web of contacts, resources, and experiences to rival an entire government agency,” she pointed out.

He paused, considering his next words carefully. “Overlord has, over the last several years, begun creating and leveraging contacts across the underworld within the United States. Sanchez was the most relevant kingpin in Westward City.”

“We were aware. He’s dead now. Killed by a couple supers you had contact with. Another coincidence?”

“Oh? That was fast. Not a coincidence,” he said with a shake of his head. “I encouraged the young ones to investigate and, if possible, to capture or eliminate him.”

“Your young ones are suspect as well.”

Cyrus smiled,as a puzzle piece fell into place. “Then I will give you two gifts, instead of the one I was planning on. One, that your agents may not be as loyal as you believe them to be. Another is a name I suggest you begin investigating. Lock Corp, specifically the branch under Pierre Lafitte, has begun providing security for several unorthodox archaeological excavations throughout the Middle East. I stumbled upon one that was personal to me a few years ago.”

“And how do we corroborate any of this?”

“That is not my problem.”

She fixed him with a look, no doubt weighing how much further to push. “We’ll keep in touch.” With another toothy smile, she spun on her heels and began a brisk walk back to the helicopter. He watched and waited until it vanished over the horizon.

Perhaps the men in grey would fulfill their goal and Cyrus would be worried for nothing. Perhaps the seeds he had planted in Westward and elsewhere would bear fruit and Overlord would be stymied. Perhaps the Siberians would break through the Beijing line and render everything moot. Perhaps.


One thought on “E: Sand Box

  1. Thank you Syphax,
    Somewhat different to the original, but in my humble opinion, much better.

    We can now all but patiently wait, until you’ve had a good Xmas, and an even Happier New Year.

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